Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Free Grace Theology and Repentance -- A Reply To Matthew Waymeyer Part 4

Matthew writes:
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In his book Confident in Christ, Bob Wilkin says there are four different reasons why individuals are exhorted to repent of their sins in the Bible. The first reason is “for believers and unbelievers to escape temporal judgment” (Confident in Christ, 207). This couldn’t be the case in Acts 17:30, because verse 31 tells us clearly that repentance was needed to escape eternal judgment, not temporal judgment.
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It is obvious that Matthew has begged the question. He is all assertion and no proof. Has he made the case that eternal judgment is in view? We will show in this response that the judgment here is indeed temporal.

Keep in mind that unrepented of sin may bring the judgment/wrath of God in time upon those guilty of it. We must remember that repentance will avert temporal judment of sin for as long as the repentance perseveres. I will make a case for this further along in the response.

At this point let us make this for certain:

Matthew has based the whole of his argument upon an alleged fact that the repentance here is commanded in light of eternal judgment.

What is equally apparent is this:

Matthew has not given even a sentence or shred of proof that the judgment spoken about in Acts 17:30 is indeed eternal, IOW, the final judgment.

This is quite telling. The Traditionalist cannot go to a single text in the whole of the Bible that conjoins a command to repent with a resultant of eternal salvation, eternal life or justification. Therefore he must work his magic, stringing together texts and arguments, pulling what he can out of his hat. This text nor any other in the Bible conditions eternal salvation with an act of repentance.

Matthew’s argument contends that the reason repentance is commanded in this text is because a purpose clause associates it with eternal judgment. He then adds the secondary assumption, that if this is talking about eternal judgment, repentance must be necessary for eternal salvation.

There are two great assumptions being made here that he does not seek to support:

1) the judgment in view here is eternal judgment
2) the purpose statement associating the command to repent with judgment conclusively maintains that the purpose for repentance is to avoid hell.

It is a progression of assumption and bald assertion without a single argument offered in support of it!

Matthew writes:
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According to Wilkin, the fourth reason that individuals were exhorted to repent in Scripture is “for unbelievers to get right with God” (ibid., 208). As Wilkin writes, “If an unbeliever decides to turn from his sins in order to get right with God, then he will be more open to the gospel” (ibid., 209). In other words, even though repentance is not a necessary condition of eternal life, repentance “may make a person more receptive to the gospel” (ibid., 208). Stated another way, repentance may prepare someone to believe in Christ.
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I will not argue with this assessment.

Paul stated in the very same sermon in

Acts 17:26-27
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth… so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

There are many subjective elements resident in the mind that could potentially preclude one from faith. Pride and arrogance, self-sufficiency, atheism, and idolotry are just a few off the top of my head. When men, by an act of their will, turn from these things in order to search after the living God, they are placing themselves in a greater position and environment for faith.

Obviously it is through God’s grace that we seek Him, but our wills are involved. We can all look back on our lives and see how we were prepared through our own volitional actions in response to God-wrought circumstances.

Emptiness inside is what motivated me to seek the Lord. Lack of meaning and purpose and being in a seemingly worthless existence prompted me to search for fulfillment in the God I knew existed. Often when people come to the end of their rope, sensing their sinful condition in contrast to a holy God who they know exists from the innate knowledge that is within them, turn from their sins in repentance, setting their face on finding the Lord.

Not everyone has the same subjective elements that can hinder faith. Ever since I can remember I have believed in God and was convinced that there was a heaven and hell. I remember at various times fearing death because of a dreadful uncertainty about my eternal well-being. Certain times of my life were characterized by seeking truth. It is interesting to note that it wasn’t until I was 22 that I first heard the gospel message.

People come from different backgrounds. Some from very religious ones, and others from atheistic, humanistic, and worldly upbringings. I remember a helpful device that I was introduced to in a missions textbook. It is called the Engels Scale (if memory serves me right). It was a scale from –10 to 0 to +10, ranging from rank atheist (-10) to regeneration (0) to mature Christian (+10).

Often, in our relational and friendship evangelism with those who we work with, our neighbors, friends, etc, we must deal with certain subjective issues that reside in their minds. We do this by means of what is commonly considered “pre-evangelism”. In many of my dealings with college age men and women at my work, origins discussions have been very fruitful. They have been so indoctrinated by an evolutionary mindset that it is difficult for them to consider that God (if there is a God) has personal concerns and affections toward them.

Because each person comes to the table with a different array of personality traits and beliefs, varying pre-evangelism methods may have to be employed to bring the mind to a subjective state prepared for faith.

Still, there may be some in whom no actice preparation is necessary. Think for instance of a child. They don’t have a mind to change, nor resistances built up. They hear the Word of God in a sort of theological vacuum.

Repentance may be a positive step in the life of an unbeliever, through which he seeks God. As well it may place him in a position of being more open and considerate to the gospel.

When we seek God, we will find Him! "He is not far from each one of us" and “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6).

Matthew writes:
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In his book, Harmony with God: A Fresh Look at Repentance, Hodges writes this about the unbelievers in Acts 17:

Obviously, the pagan idolatry of Paul’s hearers stood in the way of their turning to the true and living God in faith. No one who believed in the worship of images was properly prepared to accept the exclusive claims of the Creator and of His Son, Jesus Christ” (Harmony with God, 84-85).
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Matthew doesn’t refute or disagree with this point. As Zane has well put it, “obviously” the Athenian’s idolotry would significantly prevent many of them from being persuaded as to Christ’s exclusive claims.

Matthew writes:
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As Hodges explains further, this illustrates “how repentance can prepare the way for faith,” (ibid., 86) which is the sole condition for eternal life. And that, he says, is why Paul exhorted his unbelieving hearers to repent even though repentance is not necessary for salvation.
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You have either misunderstood or you do mischaracterize Zane’s position. He never said that this is the exclusive reason Paul exhorts his hearers to repent.

There is a two-fold reason, Matthew, that Paul exhorts the Athenians to repent. Paul took from the general and universal aspect of the call to the world unto repentance and made a specific application from it for another benefit to the Greeks.

The universal call to repentance and its purpose will be discussed later in this response. Paul knew that the idolotry of the Athenians significantly impaired the prospects of these people accepting “the exclusive claims of the Creator and of His Son, Jesus Christ” (Zane Hodges). Therefore as an application of the universal aspect of the call to repentance, Paul calls upon the Athenians to turn from their idolatry, for they “ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising” (Acts 17:29). They needed to think long and hard about the error of their idolatry so they can beneficially examine the exclusive claims and gospel offer of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew writes:
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First, this interpretation makes me wonder: how exactly does an unbeliever “get right with God” prior to his conversion?… So in what sense can FG people speak of unbelievers “getting right with God” apart from coming to Christ for salvation?
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Fair enough question.

This is simple. The one who is seeking God is endeavoring to “get right with God”. It is from the perspective of the unbeliever who is repenting and seeking after God. He is “groping” after God in the attempt to be in harmony with God.

Acts 10:35
But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

Cornelius was not yet born again. However, he did fear God and work righteousness:

Acts 10:1-2
Cornelius [was] a devout man and one who feared God… who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

Cornelius feared God (text explicitly says that) and worked righteousness (he gave alms generously to the people). He fulfilled Acts 10:35 and as a result this unbeliever was accepted (see what I mean by this below) by God. He was seeking after God and praying that he might be shown the way. Cornelius diligently sought the Lord and prayed to God to show him how he might be saved:

Cross-reference:

Acts 10:30-31
Cornelius said, "Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.

with

Acts 11:13-14
And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.'

According to my biblical view, people in any nation can seek God and incite Him to send them the good news of Jesus Christ whereby they can and will be saved. It is in this way that they are “accepted” by God.

For a great treatment on Acts 10:35, see Bob Wilkin’s article in the Grace Evangelical Society’s Newsletter

God will reward the unsaved who diligently seek Him by bringing them the gospel message whereby they will be saved.

Cornelius is a vivid illustration of this principle!

8 Comments:

Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Very well thought out.

August 21, 2006 12:29 AM  
Blogger Jon Lee said...

Awesome stuff Antonio! I reread Wilkin's exposition on Acts 10:35. I had held tightly to C. Gordon Olson's view on John 6:44. However, in light of John 12:32 - it is clear that the result of Christ being raised is that ALL men are drawn to Him. As always, being engaged in discussion and supplementing that with being in the word sheds new light on what God has revealed. What a blessing!

August 21, 2006 6:16 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Matthew and Jon,

Thanks for the comments.

It is telling that I am getting 65 hits a day but no Calvinists are commenting.

Bless you guys!

Antonio

August 21, 2006 8:18 PM  
Anonymous Bud said...

Antonio, you said...

It is a progression of assumption and bald assertion without a single argument offered in support of it!

You've caught on to the way that all Calvinists do their theology. Their theology is neither inductive nor exegetical, because their prior intellectual commitment to the pagan Greek doctrine of double-predestination, prohibits a clear view of the biblical text.

Do you ever feel like you're spitting into the wind with these people? It seems like everything falls on deaf ears with them.

August 22, 2006 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Bud said...

I put a shameless plug in for you.

Keep up the good work.

August 23, 2006 9:00 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Dr. Brown,

thanks for your confidence.

You make good points in your post.

I also wish to share with all my next article will be up soon.

Antonio

August 23, 2006 9:44 AM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Antonio,
I finally read this, the last fourth part in your series. I have a question about this:

According to my biblical view, people in any nation can seek God and incite Him to send them the good news of Jesus Christ whereby they can and will be saved

I think the story of Cornelius exemplifies this very well. I wonder how your opponents could argue with you about that example. You don't mean to say, though, that this is the only way the gospel will come someone's way, right? IOW, a person can be surprised by the gospel when they were not seeking anything of the sort?

... people in any nation can seek ...

Is "can" the operative word?

August 23, 2006 6:34 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Rose,

you are correct in understanding my point.

Therefore, it is imperative that men passionately, and by all means, seek to fulfill the Great Commission.

For the Calvinist, every heathen that dies without hearing the gospel was not elect.

For the Biblicist, every heathen that dies without hearing the gospel JESUS NEVERTHELESS DIED FOR. The heathen NEED to hear the gospel!

But to answer your question, yes, seeking God is not the only way the gospel will come to a person.

Men must go out and preach the gospel! We must fulfill Christ's 2000 year old mandate!

August 23, 2006 7:36 PM  

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