It is the predicament sometimes that the person defending the Bible is the one who is wrong. This is the case in the article titled “Salvation is a Gift; Not a Reward” where a David J. Stewart says he believes one thing and then attacks someone else for saying the same thing. He says he believes in repentance, but attacks others who accurately portray the meaning of repentance.
To make his case, Stewart lays out his own position, saying: “In Matthew 21:32, Jesus plainly taught that repentance is synonymous with believing on Jesus. Who was it that believed?; the publicans and harlots. It was the self-righteous crowd who refused to repent and get saved. The Bible doesn’t tell us that the publicans and harlots gave up their sinful lifestyle. No, rather, the Bible simply states that they repented and believed on Jesus, i.e., they acknowledged their guilt of sin and wanted Jesus to save them. Eternal life is a free gift, freely given, and freely received. (Underlining added, DM)”
Here is what Stewart has said which goes beyond the Scriptures (compare the following with the underlined text):
- Repentance is synonymous with, the same as, believing.
- The publicans and harlots didn’t give up their sinful lifestyles when they “repented”, and
- Repentance is only the acknowledgment of sin and the desire to be saved.
- Repentance can’t include giving up the sin or the salvation wouldn’t be free.
What Mr. Stewart has done is to alter the meaning of repentance so it aligns with the popular and misguided doctrine of salvation by “faith alone” (James 2). Stewart goes beyond the Scriptures to say that it’s “plainly taught” that repentance and belief are synonymous. No they’re not. A person can believe and tremble, and still not repent. And Stewart goes too far to suggests that the the sinners in Matthew 21 didn’t put away their sin. It’s implied, that’s what made them different from the self-righteous. And Stewart waters down the sinners’ response to be only the acknowledgement of sin and the desire to be saved.
What led Mr. Stewart to mount this misguided defense of the Scriptures? He has a problem with the comments related to John 3:16 in THE EVIDENCE BIBLE which includes the following sample: “We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and until we forsake them through repentance, we cannot be made alive in Christ.” The Evidence Bible has it exactly right that something more than belief is required for salvation. My only concern with The Evidence Bible would be that it doesn’t go far enough and also require Baptism.1 The argument that requires repentance without nullifying grace is the same argument for requiring Baptism, immersion into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But at least the comments on John 3:16 are closer than Mr. Stewart to the Truth.
Stewart seems to have missed the point in the text that Jesus is showing who is the faithful son? Is it the one who says he will do the will of the father, but doesn’t or is it the one who says he won’t do the will of the father, but changes his mind and does? The Publicans and Harlots are the ones who did the will of the father (Mt. 21:31). If Stewart reduces the response of the sinners to little more than acknowledgment of the Truth, he diminishes the response of the son as well. The “will of God” is in the “doing” as when the tax-collectors quit stealing and when the prostitutes quit prostituting. To disassociate obedience from Jesus’ completely misses the point.
Stewart goes on to tell exactly what he thinks of Ray Comfort who compiled The Evidence Bible: “There is a large group of heretics in America today, most of them from California, who require lost sinners to literally forsake their sins to be saved.” I suppose this illustrates how far the religious community has departed from the Truth when requiring sinners to “literally” turn away from sin is considered to be heresy. It’s stunning when someone who is attempting to represent the Bible finds it strange that repentance is necessary for salvation.
Jesus taught the necessity of obedience for salvation. Jesus said, “unless you repent you shall likewise perish” (Lk.13:3). And 20 verses after John 3:16, Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:36). And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said it is those that do the will of the Father will enter the Kingdom, Mt. 7:21. Peter preached to thousands on the day of Pentecost. When they were pricked by the message that Jesus was risen and seated next to the Father, Peter commanded for them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins
There is no error in The Evidence Bible requiring belief with repentance. The error is by Mr. Stewart who has managed to watered down the meaning of repentance. Biblical repentance includes putting away sin.
Dear Mr. Stewart, I hope that I have not been too unpleasant in my analysis of your article. You are zealous to defend what you believe, and that is admirable. But I appeal to you to step back and read the Bible alone and see if you don’t come to a better conclusion. Faith is in a person’s heart and God knows if we are of faith or not. But faith is also seen. The example of the paralytic shows this. Jesus could see their faith. Faith is more than acknowledgment or trust, it is active and vibrant. The Bible teaches for man to obey God and to keep His commandments. God knows whether we are obeying by faith or whether it is by some misguided sense of self-justification. Please do not minimize the Scriptures to make people think they can be saved without repentance. Repentance is not the same thing as belief. Repentance is the next step after one hears and believes the Good News. I wish you well. DM
1. Necessity of Baptism: Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Romans 6:3,4,5; Gal. 3:26,27
Faith of a Paralytic
Meaning of EIS in Acts 2:38 and Matthew 12:41: prospective or retrospective?
Eternal life is for the obedient
Age of Ability and Accountability
Categories: John 3:16