I want to strongly disagree with something true …
because it is in the wrong context.
At this moment, God commands all men to repent and believe that today is the day of salvation, that you are to flee from the wrath to come, from the Law of Moses that condemns you, into the city of refuge who is Jesus Christ our Lord. Run to him.
Repentance is simply giving up: to stop fighting against God and to stop attempting to gain your own salvation through your own works; to literally give up and fall upon Christ. That is salvation.
I’m not going to tell you who said this, but he is famous. I like him, so I’m not mentioning his name. Some of you will know who said this, please avoid naming him in your comments.
Let’s analyze these statements by the Scripture.
“God is commanding all men everywhere to repent.” That is true. It’s even preached by an apostle as part of the Gospel (Acts 17:30).
But this preacher’s definition of repentance? Good heavens, where did it come from? Certainly not from Jesus or his apostles.
God commands us to flee from the law of Moses that condemns us? What apostle ever preached this? Paul did tell the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia that Jesus could justify them from everything that the Law of Moses could not justify them from (Acts 13:39), but can this really be interpreted as “flee from the Law of Moses”?
Paul himself was not fleeing from the Law of Moses. In fact, he kept the Law most of the time along with most Jewish Christians (Acts 21:21-26).
When this preacher gets to his definition of repentance, he gets even less Biblical.
Paul said that he preached everywhere that people should repent and do works worthy of repentance (Acts 26:20). I don’t know how you interpret that statement, but I certainly wouldn’t interpret it as “give up and stop attempting to gain your own salvation through your works.”
Search your way through the sermons in Acts. Only these messages are preached to the lost about salvation and the kingdom of God. The letters that we love to quote, and rightly so, are written to Christians, not to the lost. In the apostles’ proclamation of the Gospel to the lost, you are not going to find anything remotely resembling “stop attempting to gain your own salvation through your works.”
Here’s a better summation: “There is a new King, anointed of God and proven to be God’s anointed by rising from the dead, a resurrection we [apostles] witnessed. Repent, wash your sins away in baptism, and enter his kingdom.” (Shameless plug here for my booklet, The Apostles’ Gospel.)
The message is that Jesus, God’s Anointed, the King of God’s Kingdom, is now going to rule over you. One does not begin that message by telling people that they can’t obey him!
You most certainly can obey him! You need to repent and start obeying him because he is the author of eternal salvation to all who will obey him (Heb. 5:9). Those who do not obey the Gospel will see wrath and indignation and fiery vengeance (Rom. 2:8-9; 2 Thes. 1:8).
In the right context, we do need to be told “apart from [Jesus] you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). This should be told to people who have agreed to leave everything because they have believed, not that they should flee from the law of Moses, but that they should believe the Gospel of the kingdom, that God has raised up a King, overthrowing death in the process, and we must repent before him.
Once you have submitted and agreed to obey him and entered his kingdom by washing away your sins and rejecting your old life in baptism, then you will encounter the wonderful news that in this new kingdom, everyone receives the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17-21; 38). The grace that comes from the Holy Spirit transforms you into a new person, an entirely new creation that is formed by God to do good works (Eph. 2:10).
This is the Gospel. This is salvation. Don’t believe all that stuff about your inabilities. The reason God is commanding you and everyone else to repent (Acts 17:30) is because you, and everyone else, CAN REPENT. Not only can you repent, but you can do works befitting repentance.
Unless of course you think the apostle Paul was wasting his time telling everyone to do works befitting repentance.
Enter in! You are not going to accidentally fall upon salvation. As Justin the martyr put it a couple thousand years ago, “The demons subdue all who do not make a strong opposing effort for their own salvation.”
Jesus said the same in different words: “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force” (Matt. 11:12).
Count the Cost
Count the cost (Luke 14:26-33). Decide whether you can pay the cost of everything to purchase the kingdom of God.
Everything is a remarkably cheap price. Ask the pearl merchant what he thinks (Matt. 13:45-46). Ask the farmer turned treasure hunter what he thinks (Matt. 13:44;).
Note: I don’t actually know the guy who found the treasure was previously a farmer. I took poetic license.
Talk about your Passover discounts! This Passover discount is that you get the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, life everlasting in the kingdom of God, and favor with both God and his Anointed King, all for the low, low price of everything you own and your life.
I’m being humorous—without promising that the humor is actually funny—but the message is absolutely true, and it is the one taught by Jesus and the apostles. “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into the King were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3).
Paul was puzzled by a Christian who had not yet figured out the cost, much less paid it. “Your life’s over, man,” he was saying.
In what context? The context, from the verse before, is, “How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer in it?”
So don’t be deceived. God isn’t calling you to flee the Law of Moses. He isn’t saying anything about the Law of Moses. He is telling you that you had better get on your knee before the King of all eternity because one day he is going to judge you and every other person, living or dead. He is going to strike the nations and terrify the rulers and governments of this world, and God highly recommends (well, no, he commands) that you be on the side of the Son before that day arrives (Ps. 2).
When you do, you will find out that you no longer have to flee the Law of Moses. By the Spirit of God you will fulfill the Law of Moses (Rom. 8:4), just as Jesus called you to (Matt. 5:17-20).
Note: For those of you that might think I just gave a plug for the false teaching of the Seventh Day Adventists and other sabbatarians, please see Law of Moses or yesterday’s post, The Law and Sound Doctrine.