“Jesus said, I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3
“And 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 be preached in His name to all nations, beginning out of Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46-47
There are churches all over from coast to coast of this country. Numerous different denominations, tons of different viewpoints on the Bible, where does one turn? What can be a test to see if these churches are biblical and truly have a pastor who is Saved and called by God to preach?
Doctrine is important, very important. There are numerous errors found throughout nearly every church across the United States, some more obvious than others. Some churches have some doctrines correct, others have other ones correct. While I am not speculating that anyone would find an absolutely perfect Church, the harsh reality is that a church where a biblical Salvation message is not preached, could simply not make sense regarding of how they are following Christ and adhering to doctrine.
The Bible is quite clear on doctrine and also provides some warnings to Believers regarding to check into what they hear, as well at times to go elsewhere, should you find yourself in the midst of wolves, or as often happens, a church changes slowly, becoming apostate (Rev. 18:4).
“Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” 1st Timothy 4:13
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will deliver both yourself and those who hear you.” 1st Timothy 4:16
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things are so.” Acts 17:11
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convict, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own lusts, desiring to hear pleasant things, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to myths. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 1st Timothy 4:1-5
“Therefore, Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” 2nd Corinthians 6:17
While there are good Churches out there that do not hold to an Independent Fundamental Baptist name, truly I have always found the Independent Fundamental Baptists to be by far the closest and best to preaching Gospel truth. Yet even nowadays there are warning signs and red flags that are everywhere, including Baptists. Myself I would certainly just consider to be a saint of Jesus Christ, a true born-again Believer who has repented and by faith believed into Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
I was Saved at the age of 9 in a Nazarene church in Alanson, Michigan. I do believe there are those who are Saved in numerous types of denominations. While the Roman Catholic Church certainly doesn’t preach the true Gospel, but rather a works based, idolatrous pagan religion, certainly it would be possible for someone to get Saved (Is. 55:11) and find themselves attending there. Though a babe in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1), one would think that sooner than later, the Holy Spirit would point out the error of the church they are in and they would be directed elsewhere.
The Bible is quite clear that repentance (more on this later) is necessary for Salvation. This used to be clearly indicated throughout Baptist churches way into the 1950’s and then started a massive decline, effecting even the Independent Fundamental Baptist churches. I’ve spoken with many Independent Fundamental Baptist pastors regarding this ordeal.
Last year I met a retired pastor who was with his former congregation in Kalispell, Montana, where they were preaching on the street corner and handing out tracks. I happened to walk up to him and simply asked what one must do to be Saved. His reply, to the best of my knowledge, as people can have a play on the meaning of words, was biblical. He simply stated that one must repent and by faith believe in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately the church is under direction of a new pastor and their articles of faith are absent of even the word repentance. Why? How could the articles of faith on their website, as well as a vast majority of so-called Independent Fundamental Baptist churches, not include even the word repent?
Some might give a basic meaning, such as ‘making a 180º turn’, but most won’t even do that. Certainly to tell a sinner that repentance, not simply faith, is necessary for Salvation won’t attract large crowds. The unknown truth to the matter is often businessmen are on the boards of these churches, who employ the pastor. The outlook is for church growth, so the watering-down of God’s Word, in order to not offend people, happens frequently. The idea behind such movements is that if they can get them into the church, they might be able to save them, but the truth is man doesn’t Save, God does. Some claim that repentance is works, such nonsense, as a condition of someone’s heart before God, could not be considered works, more than the mind working during prayer. Before we get more into this, taking a look from my old Webster’s University dictionary of the meaning of repent and its varieties would be useful.
1) To feel pain, sorrow, or regret for something one has done or left undone.
2.) To change the mind in consequence of the inconvenience or injury done by past conduct.
3.) In theology, to feel such sorrow for sin as leads to amendment of life; to be penitent; to grieve over one’s past life, and to seek forgiveness for sin, with a determination to lead a new life.
1.) To remember with sorrow, to feel contrition or remorse for; as, to repent rash words.
2.) To be sorry; to regret; used reflexively.
3.) To cause to have regret; used impersonally. (Obs.)
Capable of being repented of; admitting of repentance.
The act of repenting; the state of being penitent; sorrow or regret for what has been done or left undone by oneself; especially, sorrow and contrition for sin; such sorrow for the past as leads to amendment of life; penitence; contrition.
1.) Feeling or experiencing repentance or sorrow for past conduct or words; contrite; penitent.
2.) Expressive of or indicating repentance or sorrow for the past; springing from or caused by repentance.
Webster’s Universities Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1942
Now, if one just simply pauses and comprehends what repentance is, then we will brush up on this in regards to sin. Quite simply put, repentance is realizing that one is worthy of God’s Judgment for their sins, feeling sorrow and regret for their past sins and no longer wanting to do those things. Simply turning away from ones sins, changing their mind regarding sin and realizing that through the blood of Christ, Christ having paid their penalty for their sins, that they by faith believe into Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We will brush up a bit more on Salvation in the end of this article, but first let’s take a look at what the Bible says about repentance, for it is not silent, not in the least bit.
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing; and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked; I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:15-21
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it happened that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, nor can those from there pass to us. Then he said, I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, that they not also come to this place of torment. Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. And he said, No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent. But he said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one should rise from the dead.” Luke 16:19-31
“And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, and commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts; but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. And He said to them, In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Truly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. So they went out and preached that people should repent.” Mark 6:7-12
“Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ to the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
“But those things which God foretold through the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom Heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, of which God has spoken through the mouth of all His holy prophets since the past ages.” Acts 3:18-21
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has established a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has appointed. He has given assurance of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31
“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the Heavenly vision, but declared first 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.” Acts 26:19-20
“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost! Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:7-10
“But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 9:13
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you laid hands on, hanging Him on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give to Israel repentance and remission of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:30-32
“When they heard these things they kept silent; and they glorified God, saying, Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life.” Acts 11:18
“And when they had come to him, he said to them: You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I lived among you all the time, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying both to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:18-21
“But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth upon those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judges those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But according to your hardness and impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his works: eternal life to those who steadfastly doing good, seek for glory, honor, and incorruptibility; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness; anger and wrath, trouble and anguish, on every soul of man who produces evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.” Romans 2:2-11
“Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you were made sorry unto repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vengeance! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” 2nd Corinthians 7:9-11
“But, beloved, do not be unaware of this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness, but is longsuffering toward us, not purposing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with intense burning; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” 2nd Peter 3:8-10
Clearly it can be seen that the Bible is not silent on repentance. Repentance is part of Salvation, just as faith in Jesus Christ whom died on the Cross for our sins and rose again (Eph. 1:20). By faith believing in Jesus, who is the Son of God, God in the flesh, whom God the Father sent, the free gift to all who will accept it.
“For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no one should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was accounted to him, but also for us, to whom it shall be accounted, believing in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.” Romans 4:23-25
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone believing into Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. The one believing into Him is not judged; but the one not believing is judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But the one doing the truth comes to the Light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been worked in God.” John 3:16-21
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men that is required for us to be saved.” Acts 4:12
“Jesus said to him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
“And he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? So they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31
“But what does it say? The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the Word of Faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:8-10
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, without sin, unto salvation.” Hebrews 9:27-28
Understand that men water down the Word of God, but the Bible is quite clear regarding Salvation. Do not be deceived, while repentance might have gone missing from most pulpits around this country, certainly it hasn’t gone missing from His Word.
Our job as Believers is to preach the Gospel, to tell people about Salvation, in a manner that is accurate in regards to the Holy Scriptures. Certainly we tell people that by faith that they are Saved (Eph. 2:8-9), but we also tell them about repentance (Acts 17:30-31) or at least teach the essence of repentance, whether or not we use the word repent anywhere.
“Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ to the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
“The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness, but is longsuffering toward us, not purposing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2nd Peter 3:9
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”… Acts 3:19
I have scoured tons of web pages of IFB churches and often look at their beliefs, as well as their Salvation message. While I am thankful that there are some here and there that preach Salvation as repent and believe, they are the minority. If it wasn’t for preachers and ministries, like that of A Voice in the Wilderness (www.a-voice.org), Way of Life (www.wayoflife.org) and others, I myself would question whether or not I was wrong on the issue. As many pastors I have talked to will either brush the topic or simply not give a clear answer, others will just say that repenting is not necessary.
There may be those pastors who are being carried away with such an apostate doctrine and are not even aware of what they are doing, despite the fact they themselves are Saved. Perhaps if they strongly considered it, they would realize that when they accepted Christ, they in essence repented, not by turning from unbelief to belief, but rather by realizing that they were a sinner (Ro. 3:23) and that they were guilty before a Holy and Almighty God (Ro. 6:23) and acknowledging that in their hearts, they also desired to change and no longer want to do those things (Ro. 10:9), but they wanted to accept the free gift of Salvation (Ro. 5:15) and believed into Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Ro. 10:10). For certainly one can not say that someone can not be Saved with a sinner’s prayer, as it is a heart issue, a matter of the individual before God almighty. Though the ‘sinner’s prayer’ is not found anywhere in the Bible and I personally would never recommend using it, but dealing with each individual, as an individual.
Recall it is repentance towards God and faith in Christ Jesus. So let’s just cut to the chase regarding this matter of believe only.
“You believe that God is One. You do well. Even the demons believe, and shudder.” Jacob (James) 2:19
So why not take it to the full extreme. Let’s just go ahead and go with what many churches teach:
“So they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31
So we will ignore the fact that the text of the passage would very strongly suggest that the jailer had repented in his heart towards God prior to asking about how to be Saved. I’ve been in the South Side of Chicago off and on for years and know that there are some churches around there that simply state:
“For everyone, whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13
They ignore the verses right before that verse:
“But what does it say? The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the Word of Faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, Everyone believing on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich toward all who call upon Him.” Romans 10:8-12
So why make things so complex. While some pastors would shy away from going door to door with a weak Gospel message and trying to get someone to repeat a prayer, instantly stating that they are Saved, many others will not. Is it really that simple? Well Salvation is simple (Acts. 20:21), but the problem is men don’t want to repent (Rev. 9:21). So taking away that mandate I ask this: Why not simply take and go out there and just briefly explain to people who Jesus was and is (John 1:1), telling them that if they believe in Him (Acts 16:31), that He is the Son of God (John 20:31), who died on the Cross for their sins (1 Pet. 2:24) and rose again from the dead (Ro. 6:4), that they also can be Saved.
Simply put, you explain it to someone, tell them that they can know for sure where they go when they die and ask them if they believe. Why even have them pray about it? At that point, as long as they seemed to sincerely believe, what difference would it make if they continued on their lives living in absolute sin and never once contemplated the things of God?
Well you see, that is exactly what most are going to do, because they haven’t repented. While from time to time they might think about the things of God, they are going to live their life, without surrendering to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And far be it from me to be one who tells such a person that they are for sure (giving them assurance when I do not know the heart) going to go to Heaven when they die, despite their lives not having any evidence of being changed!
Imagine watching as someone who you witnessed to and proclaimed to be Saved stands before the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15), being cast into the Lake of Fire for all eternity! What sorrow and despair, for but a moment, as you stand at the judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), knowing that that man who will stand before the Creator (Ro. 14:12) is doomed for all eternity and you assured him that he was not! This is serious business! Is it any wonder that Jesus said the following:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many entering in through it. Because narrow is the gate and distressing is the way which leads unto life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them from their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree produces excellent fruit, but a corrupt tree produces evil fruit. A good tree is not able to produce evil fruit, nor is a corrupt tree able to produce excellent fruit. Every tree that does not produce excellent fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore from their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many works of power in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work out lawlessness!” Matthew 7:13-23
So I ask you, which of these didn’t believe! Those who cast out demons, those who did works of power in His name or those who prophesied in His name? Answer me that.