Is Repentance A Work?

Man, Sin, & Salvation
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Othniel
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Is Repentance A Work?

Post by Othniel » Sun Dec 30, 2012 12:57 pm

So, I don't have time at the moment to list all the verses that talk about repentance, however I believe that it is very clearly taught in scripture that God "now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).

In Mark 1:15 John the baptist told the people to "repent and believe the gospel."

Jesus said in Luke 13:3,5 that "unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Acts 2:38 says we need to repent and be baptized. Acts 3:19 says "repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."

As Paul was describing what God called him to do in Acts 26:20 to King Agripa, he explained that he went to Damascus, Jerusalem, throughout all the region of Judea, eventually going to the gentiles, telling them this message "that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance."

Here's my question: considering that we're saved by grace through faith and not of works (Eph 2:8-9, Titus 3:5), how do we reconcile the fact that we need to turn and do works befitting repentance?

Could repentance be defined as a work? If so, does repentance save us, or grace, and what role does works play in our conversion?
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Bud
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Re: Is Repentance A Work?

Post by Bud » Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:40 pm

Hi Othniel,

I am thinking the answer to your question lies in James 2:18-26 where he explains how his faith is proven by his works.

Luke 3:8 has John the baptist saying to "bring forth fruits worthy of repentance"

So, IF bringing forth fruits is a work, and to me it sounds like it is (I'm ready to be corrected about that), then it is not a saving work, but a work that justifies us in that it proves or shows our faith that we receive grace for.

God bless you and yours,
Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard [it,] and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. (NASB) :)

dwilkins
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Re: Is Repentance A Work?

Post by dwilkins » Sun Dec 30, 2012 8:15 pm

The seeming crisis is because 1) the Reformed concept of grace is fatally flawed and 2) their ignorance of the proper use of righteousness and justification makes it impossible for them to see the topic clearly. Both of these points are clearly argued by N.T. Wright in "What Paul Really Said". On the first point, it's been long recognized that Reformed types use their mistaken understanding of the construction of v.8 in Eph. 2 to say that God gives you the faith to believe in him, and that he gives you this faith through grace. Instead, I'd suggest that the whole program of salvation from God is a gift of God to man (or, grace) and that you couldn't accomplish salvation without God making this provision. This is a far cry from saying that God gives you faith.

On the second point, which is far more important, Wright does an excellent job of pointing out that the term righteousness is based on Gr. dikaiosune, which can also mean justification. In fact, there is no reason for the term to be translated as one English word over the other besides translational bias. After this, you have to realize that justification is the critical quest of God's people all through Biblical history. The nation of Israelites had always been looking forward to, and their writings in that we call the Old Testament have always prophesied, the time that God would have a final judgment and declare them the good guys and fulfill his promise to Abraham to place his offspring (singular) over all peoples. The question is, "How do you join God's side (or, how do you become justified?)?" The only way is faith like Abraham's. The crisis of Galatians is that the Jews had come to believe it was membership in the Mosaic Covenant that made them justified. The confused Jewish Christians were telling the Gentiles that they had to join the Mosaic Covenant through acts like circumcision in order to be justified. Paul's use of "works of the law" are mixed in with "works", where "works of the law" are the point being made in context, so that people have mistaken the crisis and the point Paul's making. It wasn't about doing good to be righteous. It was about doing membership tasks of the Mosaic Covenant nation in order to be justified. When we get to Titus we have to realize that there is no reason for the term "righteousness" to be used instead of "justified", other than the translator's theological bias. In fact, an interesting study is to place both options into passages using either word and then try to examine why you'd choose one word over the other. For example, in Titus 3,

Titus 3:4-8 (NKJV)
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
5 not by works of (righteousness / justification) which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.

The passage in v.5 doesn't say righteousness or justification. It says dikaiosune. We decide which to choose. I'd suggest that Paul's argument throughout his epistles is that justification is through faith like Abraham's, not membership in the Mosaic nation. If we were to choose "justification" this passage cleanly lines up with the rest of his arguments and the seeming crisis between works and grace evaporate.

Doug

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Paidion
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Re: Is Repentance A Work?

Post by Paidion » Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:44 pm

Othniel wrote:Here's my question: considering that we're saved by grace through faith and not of works (Eph 2:8-9, Titus 3:5), how do we reconcile the fact that we need to turn and do works befitting repentance?
Could repentance be defined as a work? If so, does repentance save us, or grace, and what role does works play in our conversion?
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

In this passage, Paul seems to be saying that salvation from sin does not result from self-effort. This seems obvious because, without the enabling grace of God, no matter how much people struggle to be righteous, sooner or later they fail.

Repentance is certainly a work. For if a person repents, he changes his mind about how he has been living, and makes a complete turn away from it. This doesn't imply that he does it independently of God. For Paul also writes:

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. (2 Corinthians 6:1)

Eph 2:8 indicates that we won't be able to be saved from sin by self-effort. And the above verse indicates that even if we receive the grace of God in some way, it will be "in vain" unless we "work together with Him." The process of salvation is synergetic. Our part is to trust Christ, by faith, to deliver us from sin. God's part is to provide the enabling grace which we need to overcome sin. This grace has been made available to us through the supreme sacrifice of Christ when He died for our benefit. Paul wrote about this enabling grace in his letter to Titus:

For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all people, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and to live sensible, righteous, and devout lives in the present age, expecting the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; encourage and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Titus 2:11-15

Paul also wrote about the importance of our work in the whole salvation process. It is difficult to read this passage and still believe that works has nothing to do with salvation:

For He will render to everyone according to his works. To those who by perseverance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, He will give eternal life, but for those who are self-seeking and are not persuaded by the truth, but are persuaded by unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. Affliction and anguish for every person who does evil, but glory and honour and well-being for
every one who does good... for God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:6-10)
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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jriccitelli
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Re: Is Repentance A Work?

Post by jriccitelli » Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:58 pm

(I should stick to one thread at a time, I never double checked the post, and I am just getting used to a new (to me) Mac computer and the hair trigger finger pad picks up and moves things around without me noticing. Here is the rest of the post)
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; (Matt.3:8-9)

It seems repentance ‘leads’ to works, in the same way Faith and belief ‘lead’ to works. I think this is what is happening here in Rev 2, and Acts 26;

Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent.

Acts 26:20 but declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance.

I have to ‘decide’ if I am going to get up in the morning and go to work, the decision is not the work because they don’t pay me for just deciding to go to work. This is exactly what Jesus is talking about in the story of the two sons in Matt 21. Although repentance is different aspect of what we call Belief, it is similar to ‘belief’ in that I see it as ‘making a decision that God is right and we are sinners’. This may be why Matthew 21 reads as it does;

Matthew 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn't believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. When you saw it, you didn't even repent afterward, that you might believe him.

I think this is similar in nature to a question Jesus was asked by His disciples, and Jesus responded;

‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent" (John 6:29)
'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent" (John 6:29)
Last edited by jriccitelli on Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

dwilkins
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Re: Is Repentance A Work?

Post by dwilkins » Mon Dec 31, 2012 10:12 pm

jriccitelli wrote:'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent" (John 6:29)
Quoting a verse isn't making an argument. What are you trying to say?

Doug

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Paidion
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Re: Is Repentance A Work?

Post by Paidion » Mon Dec 31, 2012 10:42 pm

So why have you quoted this verse, JR? Is this verse supposed to render impotent all the passages which I quoted?
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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Homer
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Re: Is Repentance A Work?

Post by Homer » Mon Dec 31, 2012 11:41 pm

Hi Paidion,

You wrote:
This seems obvious because, without the enabling grace of God, no matter how much people struggle to be righteous, sooner or later they fail.
Wouldn't it also be accurate to say that with the enabling grace of God, sooner or later we fail?
Repentance is certainly a work.
If repentance is a work, why would faith not be classified as a work? Is not repentance located in the "heart", just as faith is?

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RICHinCHRIST
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Re: Is Repentance A Work?

Post by RICHinCHRIST » Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:16 pm

Homer wrote:
If repentance is a work, why would faith not be classified as a work? Is not repentance located in the "heart", just as faith is?
I agree, Homer. Repentance is a change of mind or heart, not a meritorious work. Paul said in Acts to do works befitting repentance. If repentance was a work itself then there would be no need for more works to be added to it to prove it's genuine; it could stand on it's own. Repentance and faith are closely related, for one cannot truly have saving faith without repenting first. If repentance was a work, it would mean we could earn our salvation.

Paidion, I appreciate the verses you have quoted about works, but I don't think we can imply that our salvation has any meritorious aspect to it. The works we commit will prove where our faith really lies, and whether it is genuine. I wouldn't imply that it is dependent upon them however, lest the cross of Christ be made of less effect.

dwilkins
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Re: Is Repentance A Work?

Post by dwilkins » Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:56 pm

RICHinCHRIST wrote:
Homer wrote:
If repentance is a work, why would faith not be classified as a work? Is not repentance located in the "heart", just as faith is?
I agree, Homer. Repentance is a change of mind or heart, not a meritorious work. Paul said in Acts to do works befitting repentance. If repentance was a work itself then there would be no need for more works to be added to it to prove it's genuine; it could stand on it's own. Repentance and faith are closely related, for one cannot truly have saving faith without repenting first. If repentance was a work, it would mean we could earn our salvation.

Paidion, I appreciate the verses you have quoted about works, but I don't think we can imply that our salvation has any meritorious aspect to it. The works we commit will prove where our faith really lies, and whether it is genuine. I wouldn't imply that it is dependent upon them however, lest the cross of Christ be made of less effect.
What scripture are you using to get your definition of works?

Doug

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