Glorifying God on Mondays

Yesterday, Monday, was quite the day in my life. I am sure you have Mondays that are tough also, but this Monday was exceptionally difficult. I am continually amazed at the Grace of God. His strength is truly sufficient. I have encountered more during this first year plus that I have been a pastor then I ever imagined was possible. Issue after issue causes you to live in a state of dependence upon God. At times the full weight of all of it is just incredible and I find myself crying out to God for help—which is exactly where I glorify God most.

Saturday at the Upward soccer devotions I tried to make this point with the adults present during an extremely hot NC day, but I sensed I was not getting through. Perhaps it was the sun and heat, but I am not sure. I wonder how many different ways we can say life is NOT about me until His people get it. Blank stares and empty looks communicate a lot. Eternity is right around the corner and I am not sure we, 21st Century disciples of Christ, are doing enough to be ready for it.

The fact that I am not happy in life is really not that important. What matters most is whether I am glorifying God with my life. Does He get the praise? Am I in communion with Him? Am I living in a state of dependence? Am I relying on His strength because I know in and of myself I can't do this?

A first year teacher should be able to relate to this.

What does it mean to glorify God? Perhaps I throw that word around presuming that everyone knows what I mean. To glorify speaks to the idea of: honoring; praising, extolling adoration, and magnifying; to adorn with luster; to cause dignity and worth to be ascribed to someone or something.

There are many ways I can glorify God. Hopefully my actions glorify God. One man said to me last night—you really handled that well—that brings glory to God. When a disciple of Christ yields to the Holy Spirit and relies on the Grace of God to get through something or do something tough, God is most glorified.

I glorify God through my verbal praise of Him when my heart is right with Him. When my heart is not right and I continue to attempt to glorify God with words, God knows it and I am a hypocrite.

Mark 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

This is in reference to Isaiah 29 where God rebuked Israel for this same sin. Then Christ rebukes a different group of Jews for the same sin.

If I ascribe praise to God with my mouth but my heart isn't doing the same, I am not glorifying God. The heart and mouth must be synchronized. This is true everywhere and at all times. The choir, housewife, usher, teacher, ball player and all believers must be careful to keep the heart right. This is a moment by moment process in life. Proverbs 4.23 tells us to work hard at keeping our heart right for out of it are the issues of life.

I glorify God through my pre-event prayers and cries for help. During those times I ascribe to God all His attributes and remind Him of how awesome He is and how much I need Him to do something awesome in spite of me.

Please recognize that if a preacher's words spoke to you it is God who should get the glory not the preacher. It is the Holy Spirit of the Living God that makes that possible.

In my moments of anxiety I must reject that anxiety and lean upon God. Leaning upon God is called trust in the Bible.

Paul, in Ephesians chapter 1.12-14, links trusting in God and God being glorified in a most direct way:

 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14
who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.


God is most exceedingly glorified each time a sinner trusts in Christ. In this chapter, Paul makes it clear that even before the foundation of the world, God ordained that He would have a people whose belief or trust in Him would bring Him renown for all eternity.

I don't just want my dependence on Christ for salvation to bring Him renown but my entire life, and if things don't change, I am going to have to keep trusting in Him for strength each and every day, and somehow I think He wants it that way.





BBA Classrooms and its Future

Wednesday night Pam and I went through each of the classrooms and were just thrilled with all the effort that has been put into each of them. They absolutely look great. Each of the elementary rooms has a theme that the children will find appealing. They are clean, safe and so inviting. The parents are going to be very pleased. Each of you has worked so hard in preparing for Monday and you are to be commended for your efforts. We are building a team which is fully committed to honoring God through academic excellence and the proclamation of the supremacy of God in all things through Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am fully engaged in the Academy and am striving to provide the leadership that our students deserve.

Every effort within our budget is being made to improve the buildings and grounds. We are very excited about the new pre-school—five new classrooms will be awesome. Have you seen the new playground? This addition will give us great opportunities to increase our student enrollment to over 500. This will give us even greater resources to do so much more. The parents who pay for this private education deserve the best we can do and the entire team is committed to this end. The nearly complete office renovation will enhance the security of the entrance way and both hallways. The elementary side downstairs restrooms received a facelift of sorts and we will look at the upstairs restrooms as soon as the funds are available. One teacher went the extra mile in applying for a grant and now has a new projector for her classroom—great Job Connie! Two of our pastors will be involved in teaching this year and two will continue to coach. One family donated a beautiful TV and that teacher is thrilled. Wayne did an exceptional job with an office renovation and the construction of two storage sheds which look great and blend well with the exterior of the school in the back. Darren and company did the reception area and it too looks super.

The future is bright for BBA.

A team of principals is going to ensure that the best is yet to come. BBA will never be a private school that teaches Bible. We are and will remain a Baptist Academy. Our students will receive a 1st rate education, learn God's Word and be taught sound doctrine. Every effort is being made to ensure our students graduate with a Biblical Worldview. BBA will continue to be a reflection of the values of an independent fundamental Baptist church without the self-righteous, legalistic baggage that is often associated with our movement. Hundreds of parents are counting on us to get it right everyday and the faculty, administration, support staff and this pastor is committed to getting it right for them and their sons and daughters each and every day by God's all sufficient grace.

Drumbeat Comments

The comments concerning the music have been great. Many have been awesome and show such a level of spiritual maturity. Music is a hotbed issue in many, many Baptist churches. Some perceive that there is going to be wholesale change in the music, this is NOT the case. Some are concerned that I will eliminate one instrument a week until only the piano is left—this is absolutely NOT the case. We are not going through the songs we previously sang and throwing them out. The goal is still to honor God and prefer each other through a wide variety of wonderful God glorifying psalms, choruses and spiritual songs. Please continue to share your heart with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The greatest testimony Berean can have is our love one for another. One disciple of Christ recognizing that a particular song does not bless them but fully realizing that another may be blessed by it is clearly an example of love one for another. I pray that our attitudes on Sunday will reflect a love for Jesus and each other like never before. I hope that each will sing and play their instruments unto the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Only God knows the heart and our heart must be right to worship the Lord. Each must examine their heart and determine if their thoughts and attitude is pleasing to the Lord. If we have an issue or ought with a brother or sister in Christ we must get it right.

I am reading each comment carefully and appreciate your feedback. I am praying most especially that God will be glorified in all that we do as we strive to obey the great commandment and fulfill the great commission. On Sunday morning 400 adults all come together with a huge variance in preferences and likes concerning music. Our greatest concern must be: Is the worship that is—not audible—pleasing to God?

The Toughest Decision I have had to make YTD

On Monday, August 20th, the pastoral staff at Berean Baptist Church came to a unanimous decision after about two solid hours of discussion among the eight that were present—the drum set will not be used during corporate worship in the main auditorium.

The reason the discussion went so long is because the issue we discussed had nothing to do with sound doctrine. No, the issue we discussed falls in the category of a preference and dealing with preferences is so much harder. I began the discussion with this lead in:

Men, suppose with me for just a minute that each week we met we began with some singing and in the process of picking and singing songs we discovered that Steve Wilson was offended by one of the songs we were singing. Would we continue to sing that song each week in spite of the offense? Of course the group immediately concurred that: NO, we would not continue to offend that brother in Christ each week and the group would yield to the one brother. Then I asked if it is fair to apply that same principle to the inclusion of a drum set in our Sunday corporate worship?

We then spent two hours discussing the issue. All kinds of questions were asked. Every possible angle was considered. How will this affect future growth? Pastor Sean, what if another person tells you they are offended by the trumpet? And on and on, what does this mean about our music? Are we going to lose our young people? Will we become a church with dead music? We so wanted to find a verse that told us: “thou shalt not use a drum set in corporate worship,” but there isn’t such a verse.

So the decision came down to one simple thing, and it is the question that Christians must ask themselves anytime they are wrestling with such a decision: “What would Christ do?” Jesus said he came to provide for us an example (John 13.15). Christ is our example. Washing feet dirty nasty feet is a great example of preferring one another.

Berean Baptist Church is an independent fundamental Baptist church. We are not a community church. (Although there is nothing wrong with being a community church and God is certainly being most glorified in many Bible believing community churches all over the world; I refuse to stand in judgment of them.) We are a Baptist church. We are a very conservative Baptist church. Our doctrine is based exclusively on God’s word. My preaching is absolutely some of the most conservative in town. It should not be a surprise that conservative Baptist visitors moving into Fayetteville from another town may struggle with drums in the auditorium—we have now removed this struggle. (There are in fact some who would love to return to Berean but the drums have kept them away—we have removed this obstacle.)

Many of our members have spent decades in Berean or churches like Berean. Some have been saved out of a rebellious rock culture. For them, the drums and the associated beat are an icon of the world and all it represents. Personally, I was never involved in that rock world—AC/DC and all the rest never appealed to me so I struggle at relating to this, but I know for them their perception is reality and they believe it is based on conviction; not a preference. Something could be sin for one person and not another (see James 4.17).

I met with a family that shared with me that Berean was number 6 or 7 on their list of Baptist churches to visit because of the inclusion of the drums. From a pastoral perspective, this pains me. I don’t want to be number 6; I want to be number 1 on their list. When a preacher pours his life each week into preparing messages he wants to reach the largest possible audience. Furthermore, when he hears that the preaching was great but the music was too much that speaks to him over and over again.

Do I want dead music, absolutely not! Do I think that those who oppose the drums want dead music? No. If they did they would have left years ago. But these are people who have been involved in the church for decades and they love Berean and Berean is a major part of their lives. One person who is very concerned was a member of the church when it met on Bragg Blvd. But the music has become an incredible obstacle that is keeping them from connecting with God each week, and I know Jesus would instruct me to remove any obstacle that was keeping people from connecting with God.

This isn’t a decision that you vote about. This is a decision that the pastor who leads the church must make with the counsel of other wise men. The church constitution states, “The Pastor shall oversee and/or conduct all aspects of this Church” (paragraph 3, pg. 8). There can be no division in the church over this matter—division is disruptive and God expects unity in the body of Christ—he prayed for it three times in John 17. Those who enjoy the inclusion of drums in corporate worship please love your brothers in Christ more than the drums. Please understand how the drums could be an obstacle and respect that in Christ. Those who oppose the drums please don’t ask for more and more. Please recognize that many of your brothers and sisters in Christ love a more lively upbeat music and they personally connect exceptionally well with this kind of music. We must prefer one another.

For a year I have been struggling with this; for a year I have known that it would come down to this. I do not believe that the drums are inherently sinful. Drums are neither moral nor immoral, but for some they are an icon of the world and in respect for my brother and sister in Christ I directed that the drums be removed from the auditorium, but not from the campus.

Pastor Steve Rahn is going to continue to include the drums in teen music on Wednesdays and drum players will be able to continue to use their talents for the Lord in this venue and possibly others in the future. Steve knows that I do not believe that “rocking to Jesus” is glorifying to God. And we will NOT “rock to Jesus” in any venue anywhere on the campus. He is striving to combat the influence of MTV, the Disney channel, and the Internet on our youth, but pulling the drums out is not going to fix that problem. Only a heart for God will fix that. There are many, many Baptist churches that refuse to have drums and their youth are struggling at having a heart for God—don’t think for one minute that drums are an obstacle for our younger generation in connecting with God.

For me this decision has nothing to do with drums and everything to do with love. It pains me to think that I have members of the church who stay out in the parking lot until the music is over. That should pain every member of Berean unless “self “is in the way.

This isn’t a conviction for me. My convictions are based on the Word of God. My conviction is that I must love my brother and sister in Christ more than myself and lead the church to do the same.

The inclusion or exclusion of drums in corporate music is not a hill worthy of dying on. This isn’t a situation where the majority wins. This is a Romans 14 situation. “For none of us lives to himself” and “let’s resolve not to put a stumbling block—an obstacle—or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” and “I am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Read the entire chapter several times it speaks so clearly to this issue.

How will the world—Fayetteville—and the Baptist community know we are followers of Christ if we don’t have love one for another? Love your brother in spite of whether he wants or doesn’t want drums in the auditorium—love him or her anyway. Love him because Christ first loved you and gave his life for you. Love him because God is glorified when Christians prefer one another in spite of a significant difference of opinion. Let us all work hard at maintaining the unity of the body of Christ in the Spirit of Christ (Eph 4.3).

My Busy Week

This continues to be a very busy time in the life of the pastoral staff as we prepare for a new FAITH semester and the opening of school on August 27th. The entire staff is working together exceptionally well and I believe the church and students will feel that directly in the weeks and months to come.

I am very busy this week as I prepare for Sunday am and pm services as well as a FAITH team leader orientation meeting with all the ABFH teachers at 5pm on Sunday in the fellowship center.

And then on Monday morning, I will address the entire staff and faculty in preparation for the new school year. This year we will employ over 50 people—that is quite a team and we must see it as such.

Yesterday the pastoral staff had a great planning session for some minor changes we are making to FAITH for Wednesdays. I look forward to sharing them with you soon.

I believe these changes are going to significantly enhance our ministry. Wednesday Works. Wednesday works for AWANAs, FAITH, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship and prayer. Our Jr. and Sr. High departments are going to benefit from more adult coaches, teachers, and mentors working with them than in the past. More visitation teams will go out on Wednesdays ready to share the gospel, disciple converts and welcome potential new members to our community. If you don’t know how to share the gospel, FAITH 101 is just for you, and you can sign up for this class at the Welcome Center.

God is blessing at BBA and a new Standard of Excellence is being aggressively pursued by both principals and their teachers. Our enrollment numbers are moving up and up everyday and we look for more parents to realize that BBA is a great place for students to learn and grow in the faith while being challenged academically with 1st rate instruction by born-again teachers who love their students.

Last Sunday we had over 25 visitors see the hand of God Almighty working in our assembly.

Upward Soccer practice starts this week—Austin practices tonight.

I covet your prayers as I strive to do my best to lead this incredible organism called the church.

Repentance: An Absolutely Essential Aspect of Salvation


Within the evangelical church there has been and is significant debate concerning the requirement for man to repent in order to be saved or born-again. Zane C. Hodges and others represent the perspective that all that is required for salvation is faith, defined as belief and acceptance; whereas, repentance is a requirement to grow as a disciple. For example: current President of Tennessee Temple University, Dr. Danny Lovett’s book, Jesus is Awesome, contains an entire chapter on how to be saved and how to lead someone to Jesus, yet the word or concept of repentance or turning from sin is completely absent. In fact, Lovett uses the phrase “must know” five times in his gospel presentation. Lovett seems to distinguish between what one knows to be a Christian and what one does to be a disciple.

However, Millard J. Erickson and those who believe the scripture teaches repentance is necessary for salvation, believe that the “distinction between salvation and discipleship is very difficult to sustain.” One has to look only to the great commission to see that the church is charged with the responsibility to “go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28.19, NKJV, NIV, ESV, RSV, NASB, and NLT). Wayne Grudem states “Knowledge alone is not enough.

Personal saving faith involves more than mere knowledge.” However, the absence of the word “repent” in the Gospel of John and the belief that repentance is a work are two of the arguments used to justify a rejection that man must repent in order to be saved. As Zane Hodges writes, "Faith alone (not repentance and faith) is the sole condition for justification and eternal life." Typically, the large number of verses that present faith alone as the means whereby man is saved are used to declare that repentance is not required. However, the clear words of Jesus, “Except you repent you shall all likewise perish” as recorded by the historian Luke unequivocally communicate the necessity of repentance as a part of God’s plan of salvation (Luke 3:3). Therefore, it is imperative that one correctly understand what it means to repent in order to not perish or be saved. The relationship between repentance and faith must be understood and accurately communicated by disciples of Christ. Additionally, it cannot be so complicated that a child cannot be saved and it must be possible to preach the gospel without using the exact word repent in so much as the word repent must represent a concept or expectation. According to Millard J. Erickson, an examination of repentance will produce an impression of “its importance as a prerequisite for salvation. The large number of verses and the variety of contexts in which repentance is stressed make clear that it is not optional but indispensable.” In so much as man is saved in the New Covenant, an examination of repentance and salvation must begin with the New Testament and more specifically the gospels.


The Gospel of Mark records that Jesus the Christ began His adult preaching ministry with a call to Jews: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (1:15). William D. Chamberlain in his book, The Meaning of Repentance, emphasizes the importance of recognizing the significance of the first and last notes struck in the New Testament being a call to repentance. In Matthew 3.1, John the Baptist, the forerunner to the Messiah, began his preaching ministry with the word “repent.” Dwight Pentecost believes the use of the word repent was designed to remind the people of God’s expectation that his people turn from disobedience to obedience. According to Pentecost, John was communicating that “before the Messiah’s blessings could come, the people must turn from their sin to God.” Thus in verse eight he insisted that the Jews bring forth “fruits worthy of repentance” (NKJV). The change in behavior would be a sign—fruit—that an inward change had taken place—repentance.

Then in Matthew 9.13, Jesus states that his purpose is to call “sinners to repentance.” In Mark 6, the twelve apostles are sent out by our Lord to preach that men “should repent.” In Luke 15, the reader of Luke’s gospel learns that there is joy in heaven when a sinner repents. Luke also records Christ’s simple but clear and powerful statement that unless one repents, he or she will perish (Luke 13.3 and 5). Jesus also taught that those in hell desire more than anything that their unsaved brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and parents be warned about the torments and flames. A close examination of this sermon reveals that the understanding as taught by Christ is that if one were to repent, they would avoid hell. “It is not wealth, not poverty, not alms, not influence, but repentance that is needed.” According to Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson, the text is clear that it is repentance that is needed by all to avoid the torment or wrath of God.
Luke 24:46-47 is of paramount importance in deciding the role of repentance in the salvation of man. “Then He said to them, thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” In response to this verse, Anthony A. Hoekema writes, “the preaching of repentance then is the purpose of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection.” C.G. Kromminga states it like this, “the preaching of repentance and remission of sins must be joined to the proclamation of the cross and the resurrection.” The easiest way to determine how the apostles understood these instructions is to examine what they preached in the remainder of the New Testament.


There can be no question as to whether repentance was a part of the Apostle Peter’s preaching ministry—it was. When the Jews were pricked in their hearts, Peter did not respond with pray or believe; instead, Luke records the first word spoken by Peter was “repent” (Acts 2.42). Then, one chapter later, Peter points out the wickedness of killing “the Prince of life”; he describes the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. When nothing more can be said he commands them to “repent therefore, and be converted” (Acts 3.19). After more days of preaching, the apostles defend their message in front of the council (Acts 5.27), and the high priest learns from the apostles that Christ was crucified and rose again in order to “give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (vs. 31). Repentance is a gift.

Therefore, repentance cannot be something that man does in order to earn or contribute to his salvation. When Gentiles were saved in Acts 11.18, the apostles concluded that God “granted repentance unto life.” “The meaning of this is simply that repentance is wrought in man by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit.” Yet all people everywhere are commanded to repent in Acts 17.30—“truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” “There can be no doubt, then, that repentance is an ineradicable part of the gospel message.” Man is commanded to repent; yet, he cannot repent until it is granted by a sovereign God. Hoekema describes repentance as both the work of God and the work of man. Referencing 2 Timothy 2.25, Paul teaches that any believer may hope that God grants repentance. Furthermore, Hoekema understands God granting repentance as enablement to repent. This is worthy of further attention—the paradox between a grant and a requirement.

Then as the transition occurs between Peter to Paul, the reader of Acts sees Paul continuing to preach a message of repentance. Hoekema is convinced that Paul was just as committed to bringing people to repentance and received this commission on the road to Damascus as described in Acts 26.17-18. Paul had a mission to turn Gentiles from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to the power of God. This is a very important point that must be examined to determine how one reconciles the absence of the word “repent” in the Gospel of John. In this case, Paul describes the change repentance brings about as turning. This is very clear in Acts 26:20 where Paul describes his preaching ministry to those in “Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Paul understands turning from darkness to light as “works befitting repentance.” In this verse, Paul uses the two chief New Testament words for repentance: metanoia and epistrepho.


Paul’s statement concerning repentance in the introduction of the letter to the Romans is powerful. In Romans 2.4, Paul states that God’s kindness is meant to lead sinners to repentance. Therefore the message and necessity to repent is a message of kindness from God. This can only be the case if repentance is necessary for and leads to eternal life. “God’s purpose is to lead people toward repentance—a return to Him—through His kindness.” Paul’s next use of the word repentance in his second epistle to the Corinthians is just as strong in its link to salvation. Paul writes that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7.10). Regardless of one’s understanding of the order of salvation, Paul clearly links repentance to salvation in this verse. Those who reject repentance as a requirement for salvation reject the idea that the salvation Paul refers to here is eternal. The student of the Bible must ask: “What then does godly sorrow lead to, if it is not repentance toward eternal salvation?” Peter’s sorrow led to repentance and forgiveness which demonstrated he was saved even before he denied the Lord. Judas “repented himself”, but it was not led by God and thus did not result in salvation (Mt. 27:3).

The apostle Peter expresses a similar understanding in 2 Peter 3.9 where he wrote, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (ESV). Repentance is the means of avoiding perishing; those who do not repent will perish. A failure to give evidence of repentance is an indication that one’s faith in Christ is not salvific. Reformed Theologian Packer expresses this concept in this way:

Repentance is a fruit of faith, which is itself a fruit of regeneration. But in actual life, repentance is inseparable from faith, being the negative aspect (faith is the positive aspect) of turning to Christ as Lord and Savior. The idea that there can be saving faith without repentance, and that one can be justified by embracing Christ as Savior while refusing him as Lord, is a destructive delusion.

It is this understanding of repentance and faith that makes it possible to present God’s plan of salvation without the express use of the word “repent”. This is what the Apostle John does in his gospel; he expresses the concept of repentance in numerous ways without using the word repent. James does the same.

James articulates the same idea, only slightly modified, when he states that his faith produces works that can be seen (James 2). Faith without works is a dead faith; likewise, faith without repentance is no faith at all. Repentance does not precede belief but accompanies it. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2.18). Repentance is the evidence that man has been born from above. Grudem writes, “When we realize that genuine saving faith must be accompanied by genuine repentance for sin, it helps us to understand why some preaching of the gospel has such inadequate results.” No man can serve two masters; when one believes in Christ, he turns to God from idolatry or all forms of sin (Matthew 6.24; 1 Thessalonians 1.9). Man’s desire to think in a linear manner makes fully grasping the relationship of repentance in salvation a difficult concept. Concerning this idea, Grudem reminds his reader that although one often thinks of the initial time of repentance and faith, it is also important to recognize faith and repentance are not confined to the beginning of the Christian life. In the book of Revelation, five of the seven churches are told to repent: Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea (Revelation 2-3). For the some people in these five churches, it is reasonable to conclude that this is a post-salvation experience. Hoekema believes “the Christian life in its totality is a life of repentance.”


In the most literal sense repentance means a change of mind. Grudem defines repentance as “a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.” Moreover, Grudem points to the idea that this is something that occurs at a particular time. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, evangelical repentance “consists of (1) a true sense of one’s own guilt and sinfulness; (2) an apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ; (3) an actual hatred of sin and turning from it to God; and (4) a persistent endeavor after a holy life in walking with God in the way of his commandments.”

Packer defines repentance as:
The New Testament word for repentance means changing one’s mind so that one’s views, values, goals, and ways are changed and one’s whole life is lived differently. The change is radical, both inwardly and outwardly; mind and judgment, will and affections, behavior and life-style, motives and purposes are all involved.

Hoekema describes repentance “as the conscious turning of the regenerate person away from sin and toward God in a complete change of living, which reveals itself in a new way of thinking, feeling and willing.” Only Hoekema is careful to call the person repenting “regenerate” which implies that the repentance is a result of salvation as opposed to a pre-salvation event. Hoekema admits that this is a paradox and addresses the paradox.

If one’s soteriology forces salvation to be viewed in a linear manner, then repentance as defined by Easton’s Bible Dictionary could be seen as a “clean yourself up first concept” and then God saves. To suggest anything that destroys the Protestant Reformation tenant of justification by faith alone is completely unacceptable. Therefore salvation cannot be viewed as linear, and repentance must be seen as an event that occurs over and over again with a clear starting point of being born from above or regenerated. Only by defining repentance can one determine whether the concept of repentance is present in the Gospel of John and thus decide whether repentance is or is not a requirement of conversion. If the student of the Bible cannot find the concept of repentance in the Gospel of John then the argument that repentance is necessary for salvation is not near as strong. However, if repentance manifests itself outwardly after one is born-again by an inward change wrought by the Holy Spirit, then it is fair to conclude that repentance is not a meritorious work contributing to salvation.


The argument against repentance being necessary for the salvation of a person is based on the explicit evangelistic purpose of the Gospel of John (20.31) and the absence of either of the Greek words often translated repent in the New Testament. John MacArthur articulates the opposition’s position, “If repentance were so crucial to the gospel message, don’t you suppose John would have included a call to repent?” This is precisely the point. Zane Hodges writes, “One of the most striking facts about the doctrine of repentance in the Bible is that this doctrine is totally absent from John’s gospel.” Is Hodges correct? Is this doctrine totally absent in the Gospel of John? MacArthur believes “repentance is woven into the very fabric” of the Gospel of John in spite of the fact that the word is not used. The concept is there.

MacArthur writes:
To say that John called for a faith that excluded repentance is to grossly misconstrue the apostle’s concept of what it means to be a believer. Although John never uses repent as a verb, the verbs he does employ are even stronger. He teaches that all true believers love the light (3.19), come to the light (3.20–21), obey the Son (3.36), practice the truth (3.21), worship in spirit and truth (4.23–24), honor God (5.22–24), do good deeds (5.29), eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood (6.48–66), love God (8.42 , cf. 1 John 2.15), follow Jesus (10.26–28), and keep Jesus’ commandments (14:15).

In John 10.27, John quotes Jesus as saying, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me; and I give them eternal life” [emphasis mine]. Certainly “follow me” clearly communicates to an even greater degree what Hoekema defined as repentance. D.A. Carson believes that the fourth gospel was written late into the first century with an express purpose of evangelizing Jews and Jewish proselytes. If this is correct, it certainly is reasonable to conclude that his targeted audience would be very familiar with the Biblical expectation of repentance toward God; moreover, it is even more reasonable to conclude that the Holy Spirit led John to communicate the concept of repentance to further clarify what it means to believe in Jesus.

According to MacArthur, “repentance underlies all John’s writings. It is understood, not necessarily explicit.” Another example of the concept of repentance being taught by Jesus is found in John 8.11 where Jesus tells the women at the well to “go and sin no more.” A second example occurs in John 9.36-38 where Jesus heals the blind man and then asks if the man believes in the Son of God?” The man responds with “Lord, I believe” which is fair to assume is salvific faith and then John includes a critical detail—“and he worshipped him.” In Luke 19, Jesus told the Pharisees that if the people did not worship Him, God would raise up stones to worship Him. Previously in Luke 3:8, Jesus told these same Jews to bring “forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance” and that if they failed to do so “that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” to do what is expected of children of God. Worship is an example of the fruit of repentance; therefore, John’s simple additional words “and he worshipped him” reinforce that John understood that salvific faith always includes the repentance. Mark Dever in a chapter titled A Biblical Understanding of Conversion writes about repentance, “The real change that we need is this conversion from worshipping ourselves to worshipping God, from being guilty in ourselves before God to being forgiven in Christ.”

One would have great difficulty substantiating the message that change is not part of conversion from the gospel of John with the number of people who are radically changed in John. Charles Ryrie states, “To repent is to change your mind. However, this only defines the word, not the concept, for you need to ask, “change your mind about what?” Depending on how you answer that question, repentance might be a synonymous concept to believing in Christ or it might become an additional requirement for salvation.” Repentance cannot be another requirement for salvation, but it must be required to follow the Lord and Apostolic example previously outlined.


Regardless of how difficult it is to understand how repentance is required for salvation yet requires regeneration to become a reality, the preacher, missionary and evangelist all must insist that the potential convert repent. Hoekema writes, “Sinners must repent, to be sure, but God must enable them to do so” and discusses the apparent paradox.

The preacher must call people to repentance and conversion; yet only God can empower them to repent. We must always keep both aspects of the truth in mind: (1) it is the preacher’s solemn duty to urge people to repent; (2) it is God who sovereignly bestows on people the gift of repentance, enabling them to turn to him.

This is difficult to rationalize, but the disciple of Christ is not called upon to rationalize his theology; he or she must first be faithful to the Bible. Man is both commanded to repent (Acts 17.30) and granted repentance (2 Timothy 2.25). To be commanded to do something one is not capable of doing alone requires faith or trust in the entity commanding what is impossible. When this kind of faith is placed in the Lord Jesus Christ it results in salvation and always involves repentance. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7.21). Repentance is doing the will of the Father as the Father enables His will to be done. The Apostle Paul said it like this, “I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 1.10).


The New Hampshire Confession of Faith, Article VIII, refers to repentance as both a sacred duty and a grace. This is an excellent way of thinking and describes the biblical paradox present when one studies repentance as it relates to soteriology. Furthermore, the confession refers to faith and repentance as “inseparable.” It states that:

Repentance and Faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest and King.

The importance of a proper understanding of biblical repentance as it relates to salvation cannot be overstated as the consequences are eternal. Erickson writes “the Bible’s repeated emphasis on the necessity of repentance is a conclusive argument against what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called ‘cheap grace.’ ”

This is not primarily an intellectual debate between two groups of scholars in the Evangelical Church; instead, it is a matter of life and death. If the watchman must sound the alarm and warn the people to avoid being held accountable for the blood of those who die without a warning, he must sound the right alarm. A proper understanding of biblical repentance ensures the right warning is given (Ezekiel 33). The word repent is consistently presented as a command. Just as belief in Christ is not optional to avoid the wrath to come; neither is repentance. “It is inconsistent and unintelligible to suppose that anyone could believe in Christ yet not repent.”

Preachers, evangelists, missionaries and disciples of Christ should follow their Lord’s example when He preached “repent ye and believe the gospel” (Mark 1.15) and then expect that God will be faithful and do the work that only the Spirit of God can do in and through man. John Murray, Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania said, “It is impossible to disentangle faith and repentance. Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith.”

PS I was unable to transfer the footnotes when I copied this document onto the blog, if you are interested in the references and bibliography I can send you a digitial copy.