The teaching of grace
Published 9:25 am Friday, July 9, 2010
Many times the greatest hurdles to cross in communication are those which come with the changes in vocabulary. Certain words seem to come and go in language. This reality is often vividly displayed in the interaction between generations. For instance, there are many reading this article who can remember when cool described the weather, and a bite was what you received from an angry dog.
This challenge is observed in Christian circles as well. Some terms that once were commonly heard are now rarely, if ever, used. This change can be explained by the fact that language is fluid, even in the world of theology. On the other hand, it is evident that some words have been abandoned, because the concepts have been neglected. Two such words are “repentance” and “conversion.” These biblical concepts need to be rescued from the archives and reintroduced to the conversation and practice of believers.
The Bible speaks clearly concerning the need for repentance and conversion. The Lord Jesus Christ declared, “Verily, I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). The Apostle Peter echoed those words in his sermon recorded in Acts 3:19 where we read, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted that your sins be blotted out.” Understanding that repentance and conversion are inseparable and necessary conditions for true salvation brings the honest reader to the undeniable conclusion that, without conversion, the sinner remains in condemnation.
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Scripture teaches that conversion is an integral part of genuine salvation and will have a visible manifestation in the life of the soul who is truly saved. There is a very popular idea afloat today which contends that, because salvation is by grace and not through the works of men, one can be regenerated and yet not give any external evidence of that new life. Such folly is contrary to the clear and consistent teaching of the Scriptures and is a gross misrepresentation of the doctrine of the grace of God. The Apostle Paul wrote of the grace of God in Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” To argue in favor of a salvation devoid of personal holiness is to reveal either ignorance of, or denial of, the Word of God.
Following the Great Awakening the general lack of visible holiness led some of that day to conclude that the Awakening was nothing more than an emotional stirring void of true salvation. This led Jonathan Edwards to write his masterful work, “A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections,” in which he contended that the supreme manifestation of genuine salvation was what he referred to as “holy affections.” In other words, according to Edwards, those who have received Christ as Savior are characterized by a zeal for the things of God and a disciplined pursuit of personal holiness.
A century later Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, “Another proof of the conquest of the soul for Christ will be found in a real change of life. If the man does not live differently from what he did before, both at home and abroad, his repentance needs to be repented of and his conversion is a fiction. True regeneration implants a hatred of all evil; and where one sin is delighted in, the evidence is fatal to a sound hope. There must be a harmony between the life and the profession. A Christian professes to renounce sin; and if he does not do so, his very name is an imposture.”
The challenge is quite clear. The question is very simple. You who name the name of Christ, is there proof for what you profess to be? You who wear the label “Christian,” is there evidence for the conversion you claim to have experienced? We must not be mistaken; genuine faith produces genuine fruit.