With this post, I conclude the response to Matthew Waymeyer's critique of Free Grace Theology on his blog Faith and Practice.
Thank you for your patience and support.
My next post will adddress repentance and the Day of the Lord as I have mentioned.
I do wish that some of Blogdom's Reformed/Calvinist/Traditionalist Players such as Matthew Waymeyer, Jonathan Moorhead, Daniel of Doulogos, or the Triabologue boys would have paid closer attention to these posts and responded accordingly.
I am still holding out for Matthew Waymeyer to respond to my posts, since now I am done considering his critique. We will see.
As Bud has pointed out, they may need the sovereign gift of hearing too!
The FG response at this point is to say that repentance is not a necessary prerequisite that is required before one can meet the sole condition for eternal life, which is faith. Instead, they would say, repentance is oftentimes a helpful way for some people to prepare their hearts to believe in Christ. Paul knew this, they would say, which is why he suggested that they first repent.
This is an accurate characterization except for the word “suggested”. Paul commanded repentance.
I have already touched upon the fact that Paul had used the universal command to repent (that has a purpose that we will visit shortly) as a specific application for the Athenians to repent of their idolatrous worship (in the context this specifically is what they are asked to repent of and not sinful practices) so that they would be better prepared to accept the exclusive claims of Christ.
The problem with this response is that Paul commanded
his hearers to repent, not suggested it as perhaps a helpful (but entirely optional) path to prepare their hearts to believe in Christ. Wilkin may deny that repentance is a necessary precursor to faith in Acts 17, but if the word “commanded” in verse 30 is taken seriously, the FG view makes it become just that.
Matthew stands impressed that Paul says that God “commands” repentance. Little does he know that I believe in a universal command to repent, which we will discuss lastly in this response.
As a short word on this matter: it is God’s desire that the whole world repent in light of the coming temporal
judgments of the Day of the Lord upon the world. Furthermore, God does not take pleasure in the physical death of the wicked, but desires that they repent of their evil deeds, and so by doing, live.
Third, the FG interpretation fails to recognize the universal nature of the command in Acts 17:30.
According to Hodges and other FG advocates, only certain unbelievers are commanded to repent in Scripture, specifically those for whom repentance would “prepare the way for faith” (Harmony with God, 86).
----------This is completely disingenuous
. Matthew: Provide a quote where Zane Hodges states that he believed that the universal command to repent is only for some!
See what Matthew has done here:
He quoted a small phrase and greatly intimates that on page 86 we will find that Zane and/or other Free Grace advocates believe that the universal command to repent is only for some. This is a completely false characterization!
In a recent email correspondence with Zane Hodges, he states:
“I have never said that Paul preached repentance only to certain people or only for one purpose. OF COURSE, God commands all men everywhere to repent. In Harmony, pp. 84-87, I am discussing its relevance to idolaters who need to come to faith in Christ.”
In other words, even though repentance is not necessary for salvation, and even though Paul did not command all unbelievers to repent when he presented the gospel, there was special reason to exhort these particular individuals to turn from their sin. These people were pagan idolaters, and Paul knew that this idolatry stood in the way of them fulfilling the sole condition of eternal life, which is faith. So he called them to repent of their idolatry so they could be properly prepared to believe in Christ.
The preaching of repentance and the preaching of the gospel message have different functions and purposes. They thus have their proper places, times, and circumstances in which they are given.
Since repentance is not a theologically necessary condition for eternal life, there is no need to preach it along with the gospel message, unless circumstances dictate.
Now, it is true that much of what Paul says in verses 22-29 is specifically geared to these particular individuals because of the nature of their idolatry… but the command to repent in verses 30-31 is universal.
Still Matthew is impressed with the fact that the command to repent is universal. So what I say? God desires men’s repentance is order to avert or postpone temporal judgment! And in the case of these Athenian’s idolatry, it significantly impared a considerate and open hearing of the gospel.
Too, the command to repent cannot be separated from the context of verses 22-29. It is impossible to see that Paul did not have idolatry as the specific content of the Athenian’s repentance. That was the whole gist
of the portion, the abridgement of the speech he gave that Luke relates to us!
If Paul preaches the gospel in Acts 17
Whoah, wait a second. Did Paul preach the
gospel? I don’t remember reading of the death and burial and sightings of Christ in Acts 17!
and tells his hearers that God is commanding all men everywhere to repent in response to the gospel (as a way to escape the eternal judgment of God),
How can Paul tell his hearers to repent in response to the gospel when Luke doesn’t relate that he gave it? You speak so much of critical loads of doctrinal information necessary for salvation, yet the elements of the gospel message (other than mention of resurrection itself) is not included here.
This is the problem with your whole argument.
You have gone to the wrong areas of Scripture to gain your theology. What we have is a 45 second fragmental sermon of Paul’s when it is both probable and conceivable that he spoke a substantially longer time than 45 seconds. You should have gone to the gospel of John which is expressly written for a purpose of evangelism, or Paul in Romans 3-5 or Galatians were he expounds his doctrine of justification by faith in great detail.
There is plainly no clear statement that repentance is a necessary condition for eternal life here. There is plainly no clear statement that conjoins repentance with a resultant of eternal life, eternal salvation, or justification.
You base your argument on the fact that Paul is preaching the gospel and that repentance is commanded in response
to the gospel, but the passage just does not bear this out. We have but a mere fragment of what Paul said, only the small portion that Luke deemed necessary for his literary purposes. We have Paul’s moving of spirit in light of his contemplation on the Athenian’s idolatry, a brief testimony to the resurrection, and a universal call to repent in light of the Day of the Lord.
It is most unwise for you to dogmatically assert so much from such an abridged text. The evidence is manifestly not in your favor.
Fourth, according to the FG view of Acts 17, Paul never does come to the punch line in his presentation of the gospel
. In other words, the FG view is that the necessary response to the gospel is not to repent, but rather to believe. The problem is that Paul finishes his sermon by exhorting his hearers to repent. In this way, FG teachers would have to admit that (in their view) Paul never did finish his sermon and tell his hearers how to be saved. Acts 17:22-31 is most certainly not a comprehensive account of what Paul said in his sermon, but are we really to believe that Luke (who recorded Paul’s words) left out this critical exhortation? This is a big pill to swallow and a significant problem for FG theology, for how can repentance be presented by Paul and Luke as a necessary and sufficient response to the gospel if it isn’t even a condition for salvation?
This is absurd reasoning. As I have noted, you are saying that Paul preached “the gospel” but the components of his gospel message (1 Cor 15:3ff) are absent.
Luke’s purpose was not an evangelistic treatise. Have you ever heard that it was? Did not Luke leave out the “critical” gospel message? I am sitting here amused with this line of argumentation.
Furthermore, if you are arguing using an appeal to the apparent ommission of the command to believe in Christ for eternal life, you are failing to recognize a glaring inconsistency.
Luke also does not relate that Paul preached the gospel you assert must be believed in its entirety in order to be saved
. Luke left out the critical message about Christ’s subsitutionary atonement. Therefore how can you say that repentance is therefore a response to the gospel when in fact for all intents and purposes of Luke within the text of Acts 17 the gospel was not presented?
If I am able to recognize that Paul preached the gospel yet Luke didn’t relate it, you surely must be able to recognize that Paul preached faith alone into Christ alone for eternal life, yet Luke didn’t relate it.
Furthermore, as I had pointed out before:
1) Luke has shown in his book of Acts that faith into Christ is the condition for eternal life, justification, eternal salvation, and its attendent blessing, the initial, positional forgiveness of sins
2) Luke does not expound a single other requirement other than faith that has the result of eternal life, justification, or eternal salvation
3) Luke said that after Paul’s message that “some men… believed” (Acts 17:34).
Lastly Matthew quotes Luke 24:46-47. Let us briefly examine it:
Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Here we have Luke's rendition of the Great Commission. Here the Lord said "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations
, beginning at Jerusalem." The Great Commission was not a commission to evangelize. This is taken for granted. In order to be an effective disciple of Christ, you must first be born again! The Great Commission was a commission to disciple those who believe. This ministry is to be done with reference to every nation.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations
, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
In Matt 28:18-20 the Lord told the disciples to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that He had taught them. We don't conclude from this that baptism and discipleship instruction are conditions of eternal life, do we? In the same way, the Great Commission in Luke concerns discipleship. Repentance is indeed a condition of on going fellowship with God and of the forgiveness associated with that fellowship (e.g., Luke 5:32; 15:4-32). We know from 1 John 1:9 as well that all believers need ongoing fellowship/familial forgiveness from God. While we are completely forgiven at the moment of regeneration positionally (Acts 10:43), we need ongoing forgiveness in our experience.
Evangelism is only part of the picture, the starting point. In both these commissions this is taken for granted. We must make people disciples! We do so by first giving the message of eternal life, of course, but then by preaching repentance, forgiveness of sins, and teaching the new believers from the nations
to observe all things that He has commanded.
The fact of the matter is that there is not ONE text in the New Testament that uses repentance or any of its cognates to denote a condition for the reception of eternal life and/or justification. Not one!
The verb used in Luke 24:47 and translated "preach" is the Greek verb kerusso, meaning "to proclaim aloud, announce, mention publicly, preach." Yet John certainly does not preach repentance (or any of its cognates) in his gospel, which was composed, by the way, for the express, written purpose of bringing people to faith in Christ and thus eternal life (John 20:30,31), the only explicitely evangelistic book in the canon
. You don't preach a doctrine by being silent about it. Compare this to how explicit Peter is on the subject (Acts 2:38; 3:19).
John was there when Jesus spoke those words in Luke 24! In light of Christ's command to preach repentance, John did not do so! It isn't as if he doesn't know about repentance. He uses the word "repent" some 10 times in the book of Revelation. Besides Luke, John mentions repentance more than any other New Testament writer (even Paul!). It is significant that John was commanded to preach repentance but does not in his gospel, which was written for evangelistic purposes. John had plenty of opportunities to preach repentance as well, starting with his discourse on John the Baptist.
You don't preach a doctrine by being silent about it. Compare this to how explicit Peter is on the subject (Acts 2:38; 3:19). John was there when Jesus spoke those words in Luke 24! In light of Christ's command to preach repentance, John did not do so in his gospel written for evangelistic purposes!
The Great Commission of Jesus Christ to His disciples communicated to them that they must be about the business of teaching the works and commandments that are required of born-again servants of the Lord, as well as doctrine vitally necessary to their growth.
The parallels of the Great Commision in Luke and in Matthew are striking and their message is complimentary.
So often in our readings of the Bible, we get caught up in lack of discernment. This happens to me frequently when I am not using the logical rules of hermeneutics.
One of the first principles of hermeneutics is the rule of affirmation. "Everything is identical with itself, or what it is, and we may affirm this of it."
Negatively stated, "It is erroneous to affirm the identity of two things unless Scripture does so". One must never say that two things are identical just because the reader finds them similar. In order for them to be identical, it must be affirmed that they are.
That is why one must distinguish between "like" or "similar" issues, for the understanding comes in the distinctions not in the similarities. This is "rightly dividing the word of truth".
So often, in my estimation, people use the words of Jesus or the writings of the New Testament authors in senses that are not warranted by the context. No greater danger in Bible exposition can occur than when this practice is used in soteriology. Jesus was definitely interested in getting people saved. Not doubt. But this was not his greatest emphasis. He desired that those who have received the free gift of eternal life would grow, mature, and be abundantly fruitful, to His and the Father's glory. The greatest emphasis in His teaching is discipleship/Christian life truth, not soteriological truth.
When theologians are not careful to abide by the law of affirmation, they fall into grievious error. This can be illustrated by the "biblical and theological mixologist": He throws a variety of scriptures and texts into a blender (a little of this, a dash of that, a pinch of this) and hits puree; the cocktail that is produced is a synthesis of soteriological and sanctification truth which is fatal, for eternal life is free, but discipleship truth expounds the hard nature and works of the servant of Christ. This cocktail is fatal.
The Water of Life is a pure and absolutely free gift. To add any other element to its reception (which is by simple and uncomplicated faith alone in Christ alone) is to subtly add poision to it.