By David J. Stewart
"Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." —Luke 24:47
Michael Marcavage is the director of REPENT AMERICA. I admire their ministry and efforts to call America to repentance. Certainly, America needs to repent and turn back to God. Please read, The Philadelphia Eleven.
However, I wrote this article to explain to my web visitors that I do NOT agree with Paul Washer nor Ray Comfort, who are promoted on Repent America's website. There's a common misunderstanding of what Biblical repentance means. I agree with Dr. Harry Ironside, former pastor of Moody Memorial Church, who stated . . .
“The Gospel is not a call to repentance, or to amendment of our ways, to make restitution for past sins, or to promise to do better in the future. These things are proper in their place, but they do not constitute the Gospel; for the Gospel is not good advice to be obeyed, it is good news to be believed. Do not make the mistake then of thinking that the Gospel is a call to duty or a call to reformation, a call to better your condition, to behave yourself in a more perfect way than you have been doing in the past …
Nor is the Gospel a demand that you give up the world, that you give up your sins, that you break off bad habits, and try to cultivate good ones. You may do all these things, and yet never believe the Gospel and consequently never be saved at all.”
SOURCE: Pastor Harry A. Ironside, from the sermon: What Is The Gospel?
Pastor Ironside teaches that repentance is not a call to repentance. Pastor Ironside is speaking of repentance in the sense of amending one's ways. This is one meaning of “repentance” in the Bible. The Bible does not require a person to forsake the world nor the act of sin to be saved, for that would be self-righteousness. Eternal life is a gift freely given to those who receive Jesus as the Christ (John 1:12).
The Bible says that Judas “repented” (Greek: metamellomaiin, meaning, “to regret”) in Matthew 27:3. Yet, Jesus said Judas had a devil (John 6:70). Judas didn't repent toward God in faith to be saved; but rather, he felt regret that he got caught for betraying the Lord. Judas brought the 30 pieces of silver back to the Pharisees, but they refused it. Judas cast down the coins on the floor and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). Turning from the act of sin is not salvation. The false repentance of Judas evidences this truth.
The false prophets in Matthew 7:21-22 said “Lord, Lord,” but they were not saved. They had amended their ways... speaking in Jesus' name, performing good works and miracles; but they were unsaved and went to Hell forever in their sins. They failed to do God's will concerning salvation. John 6:40 tells us God's will, “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” Lordship Salvationists are not saved because they think repentance means to change your lifestyle to be saved, which is self-righteousness. If you're wrong on repentance, you're not saved (just like Judas)!
Concerning salvation, the Bible uses a different meaning for repentance, which is simply “a change of mind.” Repentance in this sense is necessary for salvation. Mark 1:15, “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” The word “repent” here in mark 1:15 is the Greek metanoeo, meaning, “to think differently.” Hebrews 6:1, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.” Lordship Salvationists need to repent from their dead works of religious self-righteousness and trust the simple gospel of Jesus Christ.
Do you know that Islam and Lordship Salvation are both rooted in self-righteous works? I witnessed once to a Muslim who thought I was arrogant to say that I KNEW I was saved. You see, in Islam you do your best and hope for the rest. Muslims fear Allah and at best can only hope that they are accepted when they die. Paul Washer teaches the same exact religious garbage as the Muslims...
“But if you profess to have gone through the narrow gate, and yet you live in the broad way ... just like all the other people who are carnal and wicked ... the Bible wants you to know that you should be terribly, terribly afraid — you know not God.” (time: 24:37 in video)
Fear? Is that the salvation that God has promised to us... that we should FEAR? What happened to the “hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2)? Paul Washer is a false prophet. The Christian's salvation is based upon God's PROMISE of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Jesus plainly taught in John 3:1-7 that the spiritual birth is as irreversible as the physical birth. Oh how evil is the false teaching of Lordship Salvation.
I wish I could give Paul Washer the benefit of the doubt, that he simply means that a sinful churchgoer may never have been truly saved to begin with. The Bible does teach in 1st John 3:8 that whosever committeth sin is of the Devil. Albeit, Mr. Washer attacks the sinner's prayer for salvation...
“...stupid evangelists walking around telling men after they've made some little prayer ...”
SOURCE: Paul Washer Sermonette
Clearly, Paul Washer errantly believes that a person is not saved unless they try really hard to stop sinning. Paul Washer is a heretic!!! God saves the vilest sinner who cries out even with the faintest and smallest of prayers, believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31). Ray Comfort attacks soul-winners for practicing what he calls, “quick-Fix” evangelism. They despise the idea of showing a person some Scriptures from the Bible and then leading them in a sinner's prayer to be saved. Paul Washer calls such preachers of the gospel “STUPID EVANGELISTS.” Isn't that terrible? Paul Washer should be ashamed of himself. If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches that the gospel is simple, and it's very easy to be saved. You simply come as a SINNER and you believe upon the SAVIOR. It's that simple!
Please understand that I'm not saying that a preacher who uses the word “Lord” in the gospel is teaching heresy. We ought to receive Christ as our Lord and Savior. I'm talking about those who falsely teach that a person must declare “Jesus is Lord” to be saved (as the corrupt New International Version of the Bible teaches in Romans 10:9). The King James Bible correctly says to confess the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead to be saved. You don't make Jesus Lord, He is Lord! You receive Jesus and believe upon Him as the Christ to be saved; knowing that He died, was buried and rose again for our sins. Jesus paid for our sins with His precious blood (1st Peter 1:18-19).
In Islam, salvation is conditional upon one's faithfulness to Islam. In sharp contrast, our salvation as Christians is rooted in the PROMISES of God. That's why we can KNOW that we are saved as Christians. God has PROMISED to save them which believe (John 3:16).
Please understand that the true gospel is based upon the love of God which sent Christ to Calvary to bleed and die for our sins. Thus, eternal life is a free gift, which we receive by faith and can confidently say... I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVETH! I KNOW I AM SAVED! (1st John 5:13).
I am appalled when I read THE EVIDENCE BIBLE by Ray Comfort and THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE by John MacArthur and they MISQUOTE Charles H. Spurgeon extensively, deceitfully leading people to believe that Pastor Spurgeon taught Lordship Salvation. The teaching of Lordship Salvation unbiblically requires a person to amend their ways to be saved. This is a false understanding of Biblical repentance unto salvation. Kirk Cameron promotes The MacArthur Study Bible on his website. Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron are followers of John MacArthur. They're all Calvinist in their core doctrines, which is unbiblical.
John MacArthur often misquotes Charles Spurgeon on the radio in his sermons. John MacArthur and Ray Comfort horribly take Charles Spurgeon's words out of context, claiming that Spurgeon taught the same heresy of Lordship Salvation as taught today. Nothing could be further from the truth, as this quote by Spurgeon himself plainly reveals. Notice that Charles Spurgeon teaches the EXACT same thing as Pastor Harry Ironside, that is, that repentance is not a condition of salvation...
"You must not expect that you will be perfect in 'repentance' before you are saved. No Christian can be perfect. "Repentance" is a grace. Some people preach it as a condition of salvation. Condition of nonsense! There are no conditions of salvation. God gives the salvation himself..."
— Charles Spurgeon
SOURCE: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0044.htm (Charles Spurgeon, from a sermon titled, REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE, preached at the New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, on September 23, 1855)
Why doesn't MacArthur quote that in his commentaries and sermons? It is clear from Spurgeon's own statement here that he DIDN'T believe in Lordship Salvation at all and MacArthur is barking up an empty tree.
Please don't misunderstand... both Spurgeon and Ironside taught repentance of the mind to be saved, as the Bible teaches; but they strongly denied the notion that a person must repent from sinful living and clean up their ways as a prerequisite to be saved. We are discussing two very different Biblical meanings of what it means to repent.
Ray Comfort unbiblically states that a sinner cannot continue in sin and be saved . . .
“The forgiveness that is in Jesus Christ is conditional upon ‘repentance towards God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21). It is a gift that God offers to everyone, but individuals must receive it by repenting and trusting in Christ, or they will remain dead in their sins. No one has Biblical grounds to continue in sin, assuming that they are safe just because Jesus died on the cross. See 1 John 3:4-6.” [Emphasis added]
SOURCE: THE EVIDENCE BIBLE, by Ray Comfort, pg. 1513; 2003, Bridge-Logos Publishers, Orlando, Florida
In Ray Comfort's gospel, the burden rests upon the sinner's shoulder, pressuring sinners to try really hard to stop sinning in order to qualify for salvation. What an evil teaching! In Biblical salvation, the burden rests 100% completely on Jesus Christ Who bore our sins at Calvary!!!
In his comments on Matthew 7:22-23, Ray Comfort says professed believers who still lust and tell lies are not saved . . .
"These are perhaps the most frightening verses in the Bible. Vast multitudes of professing Christians fit into the category spoken of here. They call Jesus 'Lord,' but they practice lawlessness. They profess faith in Jesus, but have no regard for the divine law. They tell 'fibs' or 'white' lies, take things that belong to others, have a roaming eye for the opposite sex, etc. They are liars, thieves, and adulterers at heart, who will be cast from the gates of heaven into the jaws of hell."
SOURCE: THE EVIDENCE BIBLE, by Ray Comfort, pg. 1197; 2003, Bridge-Logos Publishers, Orlando, Florida
The Bible does not agree with Ray Comfort.
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out..." -Acts 3:19
These are Two Very Different Gospels
It is not merely a matter of semantics (I wish it were). There is a clear-cut dividing line between truth and heresy concerning repentance from sins concerning the gospel. Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose again. Whosoever believes this, trusting Christ to forgive their sins on that basis will be saved. That is the gospel.
In sharp contrast, Ray Comfort is teaching that you must try really hard to stop sinning as a prerequisite to placing your faith in Jesus Christ. It's a backwards gospel of works-salvation.
The Biblical gospel places the entire burden of salvation upon Jesus Christ alone, because He bore our sins at Calvary. Man's part is only to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as Acts 16:30-31 teaches. That's it! The Holy Spirit indwells each person at the time of salvation (Romans 8:9). Whatever changes need to be made in a person's life is God's department and He will attend to that as a new convert grows in the Lord, by nourishing on the milk of the Word (1st Peter 2:2).
Ray Comfort's and Paul Washer's gospel is false, placing a heavy burden upon the sinner to clean up his or her act in order to be saved. According to the false gospel of Ray Comfort, a sinner cannot be saved unless willing to reform, give up the sinful world, surrender one's life to Christ as Lord and Master with the intention of obeying His every command. Their gospel is about consecrating one's life to Christ; but God does NOT require living a consecrated holy life as part of saving-faith.
A new convert cannot reasonably be expected to live a surrendered Christian life, anymore than a baby could run a marathon or do cartwheels at birth. The second part of The Great Commission by our Lord in Matthew 28:19-20 is to teach new converts... “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” New converts need to be mentored if they are to be reasonably expected to grow into mature, decent and soul-winning Christians.
Semantics Verses a False Gospel
Pastor Texe Marrs says to repent of your sins and receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior to be saved. I know that Dr. Marrs is correct on salvation and does NOT teach Lordship Salvation. It's not wrong to use the term “Lord” in the plan of salvation, for even the Bible uses the word in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” But notice how the New International Version (NIV) perverts the Bible and says something different...
“That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
That's not what the King James Bible says. It's the exact opposite. Do you see how Modernists (lost people who pretend to be Christians) corrupt the Bible to fit their agendas? The Bible teaches to confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus; not proclaim “Jesus is Lord.” You don't make Jesus Lord... HE IS LORD!!! Jesus asked Peter, whom do men say I am? Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.
I've never heard Pastor Marrs say that a person must cease from a lifestyle of sin as a requirement to be saved. That is what Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron teach. I know a lot of people want to give Ray Comfort the benefit of the doubt, but his teachings are very clear in The Evidence Bible.
The truth is that a changed life is the FRUIT (result) of genuine Biblical repentance. A changed life is not repentance. This is where Ray Comfort and Paul Washer are confused theologically. They confuse the ROOT of faith with the FRUIT of faith, and consequently pervert the Gospel message of free grace.
Paul Washer states . . .
“3,000 kids came forward… It was just a bunch of kids doing what they’d been trained to do ever since they were in Sunday School. No tears, no repentance, no broken-hearts, no weeping over sin, no self-hatred, no realization of offenses against God given, nothing. A move of God? … I think not. Because when God moves, and particularly when God moves to save, there is repentance. Now what is repentance? The word means to change. Let me ask you a question … Have you changed?”
SOURCE: Repent and Believe, Part 4
Paul Washer wrongly defines repentance to mean “to change.” Washer is incorrect. The change is the FRUIT, the result, of repentance; not repentance itself. Someone wrote Dr. John R. Rice (1895-1980), founder of the Sword of the Lord, and asked him if worldly teenagers in the church need to be saved... Please read Dr. Rice's Response.
So what, then, is repentance? Pastor Ironside explains repentance well and he is 100% Biblically correct . . .
"Repentance is the very opposite of meritorious experience. It is the confession that one is utterly without merit, and if he is ever saved at all it can only be through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, 'who gave himself a ransom for all.' Here is firm footing for the soul who realizes that all self-effort is but sinking sand. Christ alone is the Rock of our salvation." (Harry A. Ironside; Except Ye Repent, pg. 36)
Clearly, Ironside taught a Free Grace view of the Gospel. Harry A. Ironside correctly recognized repentance as the confession that "one is utterly without merit" and that if one is "ever saved at all it can only be through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ." Salvation is without works of self-righteousness. Romans 4:5 plainly teaches that a man's faith is COUNTED for righteousness, i.e., the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to one's heavenly record by faith.
"Repentance is the recognition of my sinnership — the owning before God that I am as vile as He has declared me to be in His holy Word."
SOURCE: Except Ye Repent, by Dr. Harry Ironside, chapter 3
Now that is what Biblical repentance means. I did not write this article to criticize Repent America; but rather, to make sure that all my web visitors know the truth about Biblical repentance. I have nothing personally against Ray Comfort nor Paul Washer, but they are teaching a false view of the Gospel when they say that a sinner must reform, change and mend his ways as part of saving-faith.
In closing, I'd like to once again quote the mighty man of God, Dr. John R. Rice, who correctly stated . . .
“The change in your heart, sinner, is God's part and you may be sure He will attend to that. Your part is to simply believe in Him. Whatever else is necessary in your eternal salvation, the Lord attends to when you trust in Him, or believe in Him.”
SOURCE: What Must I DO To Be Saved, by Dr. John R. Rice
Salvation is of the Lord. Man's part is simply to acknowledge his guilt of sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Acts 10:43, "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins."