The Gospel According To John (MacArthur)—Part 20

The formal question of the Protestant Reformation was that of authority: What is the principal source of authority for the Christian faith and the Christian life? The Roman communion claimed that the church produced the Scriptures and thus the authority of the visible, institutional church—the Roman Catholic Church—is prior to that of Scripture. The Protestant Reformers argued that, no, Holy Scripture, since it is God’s Word, is prior to the church. It is the Scripture that forms and norms the church. Their shorthand expression for this doctrine is sola Scriptura. The material issue of the Reformation, however, was the doctrine of justification. That doctrine, according to the Reformed theologian J. H. Alsted (1588–1638), is “the article of the standing or falling of the church.”198 The two slogans that came to symbolize these questions were sola gratia (by divine favor alone), and sola fide (through faith alone).

How is a person justified before God, and what is faith? These questions were at the heart of the Reformation. The medieval consensus was that we are justified before God to the degree we are sanctified. Ordinarily, no one is sufficiently sanctified in this life. Therefore, in this life, no one is righteous before God. Justification was said to be God’s recognition of “inherent righteousness” formed in the Christian by grace (divine favor and medicine) infused within the sinner by the sacraments, and formed by grace and by cooperation with grace (i.e., good works). Faith was conceived of as fidelity or faithfulness.

In the Reformation, the Protestants declared that justification is not God’s recognition that saints are inherently righteousness, but is his free declaration that sinners are justified by divine favor alone (sola gratia). The ground of our free acceptance with God, they taught, is the imputation of Christ’s merits for us (pro nobis), and not a combination of our merit (condign and congruent) with Christ’s as the medieval and Roman churches had come to say. The Reformation churches confessed that Christ and his benefits are received not through our faithfulness but through faith alone (sola fide)—understood as knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia).

These two positions were and remain irreconcilable, but that has not prevented Evangelicals from seeking to give them away in negotiations with various Roman Catholic bishops and committees (e.g., Evangelicals and Catholics Together) as part of the attempt to form a cultural alliance against the rising tide of unbelief.199 It has long been a temptation on the part of Protestants to give up the Reformation. Richard Baxter did it in the seventeenth century in his 1649 Aphorisms of Justification.200 In the eighteenth century the majority of the Scottish Kirk abandoned the Reformation doctrine of justification, leaving the Marrow Men (Thomas Boston, the Erskines, et al.) to stand up for justification sola gratia, sola fide.201 So it has gone. In the late twentieth century, the confessional and conservative Presbyterian and Reformed world was rocked as it debated for nearly eight years whether a professor of theology in a conservative Presbyterian seminary had the right to teach his students that we are justified “through faith and works,” or “through faithfulness.”202

Baxter and Shepherd are examples of nomism, which, whether in the seventeenth century or the twentieth, is often a response to antinomianism. Antinomianism flourished during the English Civil War and has flourished again in Dispensational evangelicalism. In response to nomism (real or perceived or both), figures such as Tobias Crisp (1600–1643) and John Saltmarsh (d. 1647) took refuge in antinomianism in the seventeenth century. In the twentieth century, some Dispensationalists such as Charles Ryrie (1925–2016) and Zane Hodges (1932–2008), both of whom taught at Dallas Theological Seminary, reacted to nomism (real or perceived or both) by retreating into antinomianism. In his response to that antinomianism in The Gospel According to Jesus (GAJ), John MacArthur has sometimes strayed into neonomianism.

Thus, chapters 18 and 19 of GAJ are of great interest. Chapter 18 addresses “the nature of true faith.” It begins well enough by affirming “a glorious biblical reality: sinners may come to Christ just as they are . . .”203 But as soon as this bit of good news escaped his keyboard, MacArthur qualified it in a way that would have been right at home in Richard Baxter’s study or on the floor of the eighteenth-century Scottish General Assembly: “. . . —solely on the basis of repentant faith—and he will save them.”204

According to MacArthur, a failure to qualify the scandal of the gospel with “solely on the basis of repentant faith” constitutes an “erosion of the gospel.”205 For one steeped in the Reformation way of thinking about justification, such language necessarily raises very serious questions. How much repentance is enough to make faith sufficiently repentant? How is this language materially different from the medieval and Roman doctrine of “faith formed by love”?206 According to the Reformation, it is not the intrinsic qualities of our faith (e.g., whether it is sufficiently repentant) that forms it. Rather, it is the object of our faith (i.e., Christ) who makes faith powerful.

Again, as I have said throughout this extended review, MacArthur’s concerns about antinomianism are legitimate. It is heterodox. The problem is that both MacArthur and his antinomian opponents are insufficiently shaped by the Reformation understanding of justification and sanctification. MacArthur, at points, seeks to include sanctification in the definition of faith, without clearly distinguishing between justification and sanctification. And his opponents seem not to understand that new life and true faith necessarily gives rise to progressive sanctification, which leads to good works as fruit and evidence of that new life. He is correct to complain that the antinomianism of Hodges et al. is content to imply or even say to sinners “not only that Christ will receive them as they are, but also that he will let them stay that way!”207

Nevertheless, the Marrow Men, those defenders of the Reformation gospel against the nomism of the majority in the Scottish Kirk, have a question for MacArthur and the followers of Lordship Salvation. Is it “sound and orthodox to teach that we forsake sin in order to our coming to Christ”?208 The Marrow Men said no. That is why they formed the Auchterarder Creed as they did.209 We do not forsake sin “in order to our coming to Christ.”210 We forsake sin because we have been given new life and true faith, because we have come to Christ. The nomist temptation is always to try to get the desired outcome (sanctification) by loading good works into faith rather than allowing them to be the consequence of new life, true faith, and union with Christ.

Walter Marshall (1628–1680) was right. Sanctification is a gospel mystery, not a legal mystery. This distinction is difficult for MacArthur, however, because he does not seem to accept the Reformation distinction between law and gospel. The confusion of these two principles has been observed repeatedly in this work. Marshall explained that it is those who have been “reconciled to God” and “justified by the remission of our sins and the imputation of righteousness, before any sincere obedience to the law; that we may be enabled for the practice of it.”211 The nomists argue that “this doctrine tends to the subversion of a holy practice, and is a great pillar of Antinomianism; and that the only way to establish sincere obedience, is to make it rather a condition to be performed before our actual justification, and reconciliation before God.”212 This very objection was at the heart of the Reformation complaint against the medieval doctrine of justification and the Roman confession. For Rome, we are justified because and to the degree we are sanctified. For the Protestants, we are sanctified because we are already justified. Marshall was defending the Reformation ordo salutis (the order of the application of redemption).

Marshall saw that what was at stake was the Reformation doctrine of justification:

Therefore some late divines have thought fit to bring the doctrine of former Protestants concerning justification, to their anvil, and to hammer it into another form, that it might be more free of Antinomianism, and effectual to secure a holy practice. But their labor is vain and pernicious, tending to Antinomian profaneness, or painted hypocrisy at best; neither can the true practice of holiness be secure, except the persuasion of our justification, and reconciliation with God, be first obtained without works of the law.213

The Reformation doctrine does not need to be fixed to prevent antinomianism. Zane Hodges et al. are antinomian, but the Reformation doctrine is not.

Thus, MacArthur is quite wrong to claim that “the modern definition of faith eliminates repentance.”214 The Reformation theologians, churches, and confessions always excluded repentance from the definition of faith per se. Just as he has ignored the Reformation distinction between law and gospel, so too, here, he ignores the distinction between faith and faithfulness.215 Heidelberg Catechism 21 is a near perfect distillation of what the Reformation churches said about the nature and role of faith in justification and salvation:

True faith is not only a certain knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word; but also a hearty trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

This is not an antinomian account of faith. This is the Reformation account of faith. It retains the scandal of the gospel—that God freely accepts filthy sinners solely for the sake of Christ’s righteousness alone, and that faith looks away from oneself to Christ and his righteousness. Faith apprehends Christ. That is what makes faith powerful. To qualify faith as MacArthur does in chapter 18 is unintentionally to give away the Reformation.


  1. “articulus iustificationis dicitur articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae.” J. H. Alsted, Theologia scholastica didactica (Hanover, 1618), 711.
  2. RSC, “Resources on Evangelicals And Catholics Together.”
  3. On Baxter, see R. Scott Clark, “How We Got Here,” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, ed. R. Scott Clark (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007), 15–16; RSC, “Richard Baxter On Initial and Final Justification Through Faith and Works.” That Baxter had corrupted the gospel and rejected the Reformation was well known in the classical period of Reformed theology. John Owen published an entire volume of criticism of Baxter ( Works, vol. 5) against his errors. See John Owen, Faith and Its Evidences, vol. 5 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1967). In 1654, John Crandon complained that, in Baxter’s doctrine of justification, “our righteousness must go cheek by cheek with the righteousness of Christ to justification.” See RSC, “Baxter’s ‘Hot Peppercorn’ Of Justification And Salvation Through Good Works
  4. RSC, “Heidelcast Series: Nomism And Antinomianism.”
  5. This was the case of Norman Shepherd, who was finally dismissed in 1981 by Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia). The consequences of that debate continue to reverberate in the Reformed world in the self-described Federal Vision theology, which is what Shepherd’s doctrine came to be called in 2004. See RSC, “Resources On Norman Shepherd.”
  6. GAJ, 185.
  7. GAJ, 185.
  8. GAJ, 185.
  9. W. Robert Godfrey, “Faith Formed By Love Or Faith Alone? The Instrument Of Justification,” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, ed. R. Scott Clark (Phillipsburg: P R Publishing, 2007) 267–84.
  10. GAJ, 185.
  11. Andy Wilson, “A Righteousness Apart from the Law That Is Not against the Law: The Story and Message of The Marrow of Modern Divinity,” Ordained Servant (October 2015),
  12. Wilson, “Message of The Marrow of Modern Divinity,
  13. Wilson,
  14. Walter Marshall, Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Lafayette: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001), 14.
  15. Marshall, Gospel Mystery, 14.
  16. Marshall, 14.
  17. GAJ, 187.
  18. We will come shortly to his discussion of justification.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.

The series so far.


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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Most stimulating!
    WCF 15.1, 15.3
    Repentance is not spirit enabled? It is a grace, no? And how would one turn to Christ (hear, assent, trust) without turning away from sin? Prior to their Baptism, do you ask someone “Has the Holy Spirit enabled you to believe?” No, we ask “Do you believe and trust in Jesus”? ”
    It is a given that faith is a gift. Same with repentance, no?
    And what of all the calls to repentance?
    Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32)
    Jesus told his disciples to proclaim “repentance and forgiveness of sins” in his name to all the nations (Luke 24:47).
    When the apostles preached in Acts, they called people to repent of their sins in order to be forgiven (See Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:32, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20).
    The apostle Paul makes it clear that those whose lives are characterized by sin “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10; see also Rom. 8:12-13, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:5).

    • Repentance and good works are all necessary as FRUIT and EVIDENCE that one is regenerate. Repentance and good works are not part of the faith in Christ through which we are justified. When you make them part of faith, and therefore necessary for justification and salvation, as something we contribute, it is no longer through faith in Christ alone. That is the fatal flaw in not understanding that justification is faith ALONE. That is the problem with MacArthur’s teaching.

      • Thanks for replying. Let me be clear that I understand Justification as the Heidelblog would have it. In fact, I have agreed with you all. I know faith + works is not how it goes.
        Many verses make it seem as though repentance accompanies saving faith. Nothing in my Bible makes it seem like a fruit. And even the Divines of the Westminster Confession of Faith, while dealing with Repentance right after the section on Saving Faith, write:
        CHAPTER 15
        Of Repentance unto Life
        1. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.

        2. By it, A SINNER, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, AS TO TURN FROM THEM all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments.

        3. Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that NONE MAY EXPECT PARDON WITHOUT IT.

        But we can leave it now.

        • Michael,

          Please go back and re-read (perhaps a little more slowly) what I wrote.

          Repentance does accompany faith. That’s my major point. That isn’t, however, what MacArthur wrote.

          Again, I’m genuinely curious about what you’ve seen in what I’ve written about repentance that suggests to you that I’m saying anything other than what the Confession says or what the Heidelberg says?

    • Michael,

      What did I write or what have I written in any of the previous 19 parts of this series to stimulate your questions?

      FWIW, here’s what the Reformed churches confess regarding the necessity of repentance:

      88. In how many things does true repentance or conversion consist? In two things: the dying of the old man and the quickening of the new.1

      1 Rom 6:4-6. Eph 4:22-24. Col 3:5-10. 1 Cor 5:7

      89. What is the dying of the old man?

      Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to hate and turn from it always more and more.1

      1 Rom 8:13. Joel 2:13.

      90. What is the quickening of the new man?

      Heartfelt joy in God through Christ,1 causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.2

      1 Rom 5:1. Rom 14:17. Isa 57:15. 2 Rom 8:10,11. Gal 2:20. * Rom 7:22.

      87. Can they then not be saved who do not turn to God from their unthankful, impenitent life?

      By no means, for, as the Scripture says, no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like shall inherit the Kingdom of God.1

      1 1 Cor 6:9,10. Eph 5:5,6. I John 3:14,15.

      • Can not tell you specifically what you have written that made me question my understanding. I understood “Repent and be saved” plus No works can save you = Repent is not a work but is as Faith is.
        Please don’t give my comments another thought. And you all have directly answered the question Repent is a work.
        Thank you.

  2. My reference to baptism assumes someone who comes to Christ at a time when they can profess faith.

  3. Hello Michael, you might check your references ( Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:32, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20) and see what you added as your interpretive addition in your comment “they called people to repent of their sins.”

    • Except for Acts 8:32 I don’t see how these verses don’t support the notion that turning away from our former sinful life (not to be sinless but to mentally and in the heart change “direction”) to Jesus through faith are possible at the same time. Maybe our definitions of “repentance” are different. It’s no more an action than professing faith is an action. Even the WCF says one wouldn’t be saved without repenting. And it says that it is an evangelical grace. That is its own section. It doesn’t fall under Sanctification. Why would anyone profess your definition of faith in Jesus for reconciliation with God through the mediation of Him unless they had some degree of owning their sin and wanting to “be right with God.” What Reformed pastor would Baptize an adult with a testimony that didn’t include repentance.

  4. Michael,
    My I ask a question in a more practical manner? Does a person addicted to drugs have to give up his addiction before he can exhibit justifing faith in Christ?

    • I don’t know Frank. Let me just say this one more time there’s no earning salvation there’s no action or mental conviction that convinces God to justify the sinner. But when you read the reformers the Puritans whomever, there is a stress (and in the Bible there is a stress) on repentance that shows me that there is a difference in significance between repentance (whatever that means – I’m not qualified to say that it it does not have degrees related to it). There is a difference in significance to the start of the Christian life between repentance and patience or love or loving kindness etc. No writer prior to 1900 who I have read does not say or imply that one won’t believe without some acceptance that they need a savior. Even if it is only nascent sorrow for their particular sins, the are looking toward Jesus and away from darkness. Please show me the writer pre-1900 who says that there’s no faith and and I mean talking about the beginning of salvation, there’s no faith without loving the brethren. Then show me one old reformed writer who doesn’t say “there’s no faith without repentance.” One writer.

    • Hi Frank,

      There are Christians who struggle with addictions of various kinds, e.g., drugs, alcohol, food, and porn are four major addictions. For some reason, we tend to focus on three of these (as though gluttony were not really sin).

      In the 18th century there was a big fight over the principle embedded in your question. Richard Baxter (1615–91) had affected the teaching of a lot Reformed people. The Scottish Church became dominated by his view of salvation. Thomas Boston (1676–1732) republished an orthodox work on justification and sanctification (The Marrow of Modern Divinity) from the 1640s. It became hotly controversial because it re-stated the Reformation view that we are justified sola gratia, sola fide, and that sanctification is the work of God’s grace (as the Westminster Standards confess). Boston et al., the Marrow Men, were accused of antinomianism. As part of the controversy the Auchterarder Creed was articulated in defense of the Marrow:

      It is not sound and orthodox to teach that we forsake sin in order to our coming to Christ.

      This confession was condemned by the General Assembly but it is the biblical and Reformation view.

      The most important phrase here is “in order to.” The Reformation way is to speak of forsaking sin as a consequence. The pre-Reformation church taught that we must become sanctified in order to be justified. The Reformation rejected that as a false gospel. It is sinners whom God justifies, we confessed. We are being graciously and gradually sanctified because we are justified and because we are united to Christ by the Spirit.

      So, the short answer to your question is, following the Aucherarder Creed, no, a person need not be entirely clean and sober in order to come to Christ or to exhibit true faith. I have known many Christians who struggled with addiction. I have never known a perfected Christian in this life.

      By God’s grace, people do get clean and sober, they do diet, they are delivered from addiction to porn but it is not easy. Of these porn may be the hardest although with the advent of the new drugs (e.g., Fentanyl, where addiction is virtually instantaneous and where the brain chemistry is significantly changed almost immediately) even that pattern is changing.

      It used to be that someone could go to detox for 2 days and to treatment for 28 days and perhaps get clean. Fentanyl has changed that. Porn changes brain chemistry and detox and “getting clean” can be very difficult. Imagine if Fentanyl were available via your smartphone for free? That’s what the porn industry is: drug pushers giving away Fentanyl and then selling it to the addicts.

      Grace is powerful but it is gradual in its sanctifying effects. Is a person struggling? Is he seeking help? Is there any sorrow for sin (not just sorrow for the consequences) and desire to grow in Christlikeness? Those are things for which we should look.

      A proper, Augustinian-Calvinist reading of Romans 7 helps here.

      Take a listen to the Romans series on chapter seven.

      One last thing: the believing addict is being sanctified by the Spirit. We confess that because God’s Word says (e.g., Rom 6) it even when we don’t see what we would like to see. A decisive break with sin has been made by Christ. A believer is united to the risen Christ. The Spirit is at work in him.

      The tax collector was justified though sinful. The thief on the cross was justified though sinful. How much fruit did they have? The evidence we have is that they knew the greatness of their sin and misery and, by grace alone, they trusted in Christ alone for their salvation.

      Ps. I dealt with the relation between the Aucherarder Creed & the Lordship Salvation doctrine here.

  5. This article about the Marrow Controversy by Andy Wilson that Dr. Clark refers to is excellant. Thank you, Dr. Clark. While the whole article is great, I thought these were pertinent to the some of the discussion.
    “Presbytery of Auchterarder required ministerial candidates to affirm that “it is not sound and orthodox to teach that we forsake sin in order to our coming to Christ.” While poorly worded, this statement was formulated in response to a hyper-Calvinist idea that said a person needed to demonstrate their election by showing sufficient evidence of repentance before they could know that they were eligible to receive the salvation offered in the gospel. The Presbytery of Auchterarder confronted this distortion of Calvinism by insisting that repentance does not qualify a person for God’s grace but is the fruit of God’s gracious work in a person’s life. In other words, while repentance is necessary for salvation in an evidentiary sense, it is not necessary for salvation in an instrumental sense.”
    “This section of The Marrow explains that repentance cannot precede our coming to Christ because we have to go to Christ to receive the gift of repentance. In Boston’s words, “Sinners not only may, but ought to go to [Christ] for true repentance; and not stand far off from him until they get it to bring along with them; especially since repentance, as well as remission of sin, is a part of that salvation” (Boston, 159). While it is true that both John the Baptist and Jesus summoned people to “repent and believe,” they did not say this because repentance precedes faith but only because repentance is seen and evidenced before faith. Christ came to save sinners, not those who have already gotten rid of their sins through repentance. This is why Evangelista says, “Your sins should rather drive you to Christ than keep you from him” (151

    The “repent and believe” statements in the Gospels can take on the appearance of an order of events, and can throw off a lot of folks. However, Paul makes it clear, the unbeliever cannot submit to the Law.

    • Frank, thank you for quoting these excellent points from the Presbytery of Auchterarder, about repentance being necessary as evidence of having saving faith, and not as a requirement for salvation. Faith alone is the instrument that grasps salvation. There seems to be always so much confusion about the place of repentance and good works in relation to salvation. We repent and do good works as a necessary consequence of salvation, not as if they were instrumental with faith in order to qualify ourselves to be saved. It seems to me, that is the core teaching of the Reformers.

  6. Frank, I think the full verse of Mark 1:15 itself gives us the context of its “repent and believe in the gospel,” namely, the preceding clause, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” The repenting commanded is regarding the truth of those two assertions, and not some other ad hoc (inserted) context, such as when repentance is about other things. This is full square with the mission of John the Baptist that Mark quoted from the prophets, which is announcement-oriented: it is to do something to prepare God’s way, to make His highway straight. It is outside work, not inside work (Mark 1:1,2,5). John wasn’t waiting for them to do inside work about themselves before telling about who was coming, but gave them news. As you say, “Christ came to save sinners, not those who have already gotten rid of their sins through repentance.” Even if they were “sort of” addressing those kinds of things, the announcement / preaching / news was about Christ!

    I think there is a common denominator among theories that insert steps of dealing with our own sins as a pre- or co-condition for approaching Christ: some sort of “I don’t mean all of them, just … … ….,” (!) We all have, from moral law, the obligation at all times to deal with our own sins, and not just partially. And on top of that, if it involves the sin of wanting to pay, some, for our salvation, to that extent, it’s a taking away from Christ’s work as the sole savior, I think. But the condemnation of the moral law includes the condemnation for not fulfilling our obligation to deal with our sins, by actions toward them, and attitudes toward them, and even doing warfare against them that is only mental! When the Law points out obligation, it’s not watered down, and can’t be cut down to the size of our attempts. I don’t mean to sound dogmatic … more, vociferous 😉

  7. Thank you, let me ask this question in regard to repentence. In my own experience, I was raised a Roman Catholic. Catechism, Catholic schools, etc. until high school. At some point as a teenager, the Lord began to show me what a sinner I was and that I needed to “really be serious” in following Him. I started doing all the things a good Catholic should do. It only ended in frustration and condemnation. I met some Christians that introduced me to the Gospel. I left the Catholic denomination and began going to evangelical churches and groups. I still did not understand and had many doubts of what and how it was to be justified by faith. Eventually I came to understand more of the atonement. At that point, many years later, justification by faith made sense to me and I was able to believe in the Gospel. As I slowly unlearned Roman Catholicism, and replaced it with Biblical truth before my conversion, would that be considered repentance? In a similiar manner, did the first century Jews have to come to a better understanding of the Christ and the Kingdom of God? Is this the type of repentence He is speaking of? I am thinking of an earlier post where Dr. Clark distinguishes between the Christian message and the Gospel. The Christian message involving not just issues regarding sanctification, but, perhaps also, preliminary information that one needs to understand before the Gospel makes sense to the elect so they can believe?

    • That is a very thoughtful question. Repentance, as turning away from one’s former understanding of righteousness and accepting the gospel of righteousness through faith in Christ, instead of as sorrow for sin, makes better sense of the call to “repent and believe.” You have to understand your desperate need of a Saviour before the gospel can make any sense. Until you see the futility of trying to gain acceptance with God by obeying the law, you will not seek salvation by trusting in the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is at the point that you understand your utter sinfulness and misery, and need of the atonement, so you believe and trust in the Saviour, and are grateful for this amazing salvation, that you want to obey God and are sorry for your sins of the past and those that remain. Faith in the Saviour produces repentance as sorrow for sins, past and remaining, which comes as it’s consequence and fruit.

  8. Thanks for good stuff, Angela and Frank. As for “preliminary information that one needs to understand before the Gospel makes sense” — thinkers often confuse receiving the gospel with finally having enough information to understand the gospel’s value to degree x. Christ is the Savior, is not the same as saying certain good information preceding conversion is the savior. Saved people have been saved who are, or who decline to, or never reach, any particular intellectual level. Can people be saved whose own minds never developed to hardly anything, or deteriorated to hardly anything, for medical reasons? Salvation is the act of God alone, which will eventually bring all its own co-blessings, but not always there in all of us now, I would think.

    • “Salvation is the act of God alone.” That is so true, Larry. Although hearing the Word and the use of the sacraments are the ordinary means of grace that God uses to bring His elect to saving faith, their salvation was determined before the foundation of the world. Can God use other means to bring His elect to saving faith that we do not know about? I certainly think so. After all, John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother’s womb at the news that the Saviour would be born. Salvation is not determined by our abilities but by God’s grace. “With God all things are possible.” Matt. 19

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