Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 11, 1958

Foolish Preaching On Repentance And Faith

James E. Cooper, Campbellsville, Kentucky

Those who teach salvation by faith only apparently really do not believe it. They teach that it is necessary to love God. They teach that repentance is necessary. They teach that it is essential to hate sin and every false way. What makes them say that salvation is "by faith only" then? Perhaps it would more correctly express their convictions in these terms, "the alien sinner is saved at faith before and without water baptism." This is the main idea, anyway. They are trying to get around the plain, simple language of our Lord: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned."

False teachers try to reconcile the doctrine of salvation by faith only and the fact that Jesus said, "Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish." No sectarian preacher will deny that repentance is necessary to salvation; hence, they do not believe that salvation is by "faith only." They try to reconcile their theory by placing repentance before faith. However, the very nature of faith and repentance would necessitate their appearing in the order of (1) faith, and (2) repentance.

On page 50 of J. M. Pendleton's Church Manual Designed for the use of Baptist Churches, this statement appears: "We believe 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 and mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour." Notice that the declaration of faith says that repentance and faith are . . . inseparable graces. Sectarianism thinks that repentance and faith both come in a flash of insight miraculously given by God. They think it is impossible to believe without repenting. This creed book also says that repentance and faith are "sacred duties." And, it goes ahead and asserts that they are "wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God." First they say it is a duty, then they say that it is wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God. How can repentance and faith be duties of man, and at the same time, be something that is done for him without effort of his own? It is the duty of citizens to pay State and Federal taxes. Suppose these taxes were paid for us by the government. If the government took care of them, it would no longer be our duty to pay them. Thus, you can see that it is impossible for repentance and faith to be duties of man, and at the same time something God does for man. If God gives repentance and faith, they are not duties of man. If they are duties, they are not given of God without effort on man's part.

Again, these sectarian preachers think that repentance must come before faith. To a person who has studied the Bible and knows how to rightly divide the Word of Truth, it sounds strange to hear these people talk about repentance coming before faith. Some people, however, just take it for granted that the proof texts prove what they want them to prove. The Church Manual lists Mark 1:15 in proof of the theory. The verse says, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel." Beginning with verse 14, we read, "Now after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." Under the limited commission the Jews had been taught to "repent and believe the gospel." To "repent" for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. To repent and believe on him who was to come. Remember, that these Jews were God's children, under the Old Covenant, and John was sent to preach repentance unto them. They had become unfaithful to the law and their responsibilities under it. They were believers in God, but had ceased being faithful to Him. That is the reason why Jesus preached "repent ye, and believe the gospel." To apply this passage to alien sinners is to pervert the Scriptures.

Over in Acts 20:21 we find Paul saying that he had been "testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Notice the order is "repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." In these passages where repentance is listed before faith, they are not directed toward the same thing. What false teachers need to find, and cannot, is the passage that says we are to repent toward Jesus Christ before we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such cannot be found. How can a person repent toward Jesus Christ before he believes in Him? The gospel must first be preached to a man before he can believe in Christ; and he would have nothing on which to base his repentance until he believes in Christ.

In the Old Testament we find the story of Jonah preaching to the people of Nineveh, declaring that God would overthrow the city in forty days. Matthew 12:41 tells us that "the men of Nineveh . . . repented at the preaching of Jonah." As a result of this, "God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way" and did not destroy the city. Notice the order: (1) Jonah preached, (2) the people of Nineveh believed, because "faith comes by hearing" (Rom. 10:17), (3) they turned from their evil ways. But, Jesus said they repented at the preaching of Jonah. This case helps us to see the essentiality of faith before repentance. In the very nature of the case it was impossible for the people of Nineveh to repent until they had heard and believed the message of Jonah.

There is not one passage in all the Bible that indicates that a person was told to repent toward God before he believed in God, nor a single passage that teaches one to repent toward Christ before he believes in Christ. You can see that false teachers misapply the Word of God to try to sustain their false doctrine. If they were to preach to an infidel, they would have to change their conception of repentance and faith. Necessity would demand it. That shows that they are guilty of "foolish preaching."