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, January 01, 2006

Acts 11:18 Commentary (Zane Hodges)

Repentance is truly a misunderstood doctrine. Many well-intentioned people blur the critical distinctions between the doctrines of soteriology and repentance. This can have tragic and fatal results both for the unsaved and the saved.

I disagree that repentance is merely "a change of mind" as some in Free Grace theology have advocated. I believe repentance is a radical turning from sin unto righteous activities (Like John the Baptist preached: The low made high and the high low so that they are on the same level ground, the crooked made straight, and the rough ways smooth).

Yet, repentance is not a condition for eternal life! Please view my comments here that provide an airtight defense and argument for this assertion : Repentance and the Soteriology of the Apostles John and Paul.

Repentance when added as a condition for salvation brings with it fatality and anguish:

1) If one is told that He must repent in order to be saved, this repentance then becomes a condition for eternal life. It is now become impossible for this man to trust fully in Christ for eternal life, for he is told that repentance is a condition! What this does is make salvation contingent partially on him and not fully on Jesus Christ! This leads us to the "You can't be saved unless:" gospel of Lordship Salvation. It becomes one of many personal requirements made necessary for eternal life. To repentance is added commitment, surrender, giving of all, paying the cost, etc. What these do is to take one's eyes off of Jesus and put them on self! This can be fatal, for when the man should be exercising faith and reliance upon Jesus alone for his eternal well-being, he now necessarily considers his own self and actions as necessary provisos in order to attain eternal life.

2) When repentance is taught as a necessary requirement to salvation it can have drastic effects on Christian assurance of salvation. "What if I didn't repent enough?" James Boice says that the least we can give is "all"! This understanding can create debilitating doubts in the regenerate one who was told that salvation is contingent upon us paying the cost and giving everything up for Jesus. When he realizes new areas in his life that he hadn't repented of, he wonders if there are even more areas that he must turn over to Christ as well, and thus is a endless regress of doubts. He was told he had to give all, but he keeps learning how much more of himself he must give and wonders either if he repented enough at his "conversion" or if God had really granted unto him the required repentance.

Doubts of one's salvation can shut down true and meaningful Christian service. I beleive that the foundation for all service to God in the Christian life is the bedrock certainty of one's possesion of eternal life. And when "commitment"/Lordship salvation is preached, it necessarily brings with it fatal blows to certain Christian assurance.

Following is an article on Acts 11:18 from Zane Hodges' book "Harmony with God: A Fresh Look at Repentance" (Redencion Viva 2001, pgs 117-119). This book in its entirety can be found in 3 installments Chafer Theological Seminary Journal - Back Issues

Begin Hodges:
Finally, it is worth considering the observation made by the believers at Jerusalem after they heard Peter’s account of his visit with Cornelius. Their comment was: Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life (Acts 11:18).

Needless to say this text has been read as if it meant “repentance to eternal life”! It has then been urged that this shows that repentance is necessary for eternal salvation. But this view will not bear scrutiny.

To begin with, the word “eternal” is not really here. Although eternal life can be referred to by the word “life” alone (very notably in John 20:31 and elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel), we cannot make this assumption automatically. The word is a perfectly good Greek word for “life” in the various senses in which the language could use it. We must always interpret in context.

Secondly, if we thought that the reference in Acts 11:18 was a reference to eternal life, then we are left with a surprising and implausible idea in this context. We must infer in that case that the Jerusalem Christians just now realized that Gentiles could be eternally saved! But this is so unlikely as to be almost fantastic.

After all, had not the Lord Himself commanded the Gentile mission in His Great Commission to the apostles (Matthew. 28:19; Mark 16:15)? In fact, even the Old Testament taught that Gentiles could be saved (see the quotations in Romans 15:8–11). In the Jerusalem church, of all places, this truth must surely have been known. Indeed, before he spoke, Peter is not criticized for preaching to Gentiles, but for eating with them (Acts 11:3)!

Peter had treated these Gentiles as though he found them fully acceptable since, apparently after his sermon, he had sat down to eat with them. But this implied that they were also fully acceptable to God, and yet all they had done was to repent of their paganism and believe in Christ. They had not become Jewish proselytes!

But the fact that they were indeed fully accepted by God had been signaled by His giving them, says Peter, the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 11:17). In this respect, they were more readily blessed than the Palestinian Jews had been!

We must remember that the Jews at Pentecost did not get the gift of the Spirit until after baptism. But God did not require even this of Cornelius in order for him to be baptized by God’s Spirit. It was thus evident that the Gentiles had entered the same “life experience” that believing Jews enjoyed, that is, they were fully blessed by the God with whom they were now obviously in harmony. We might say, “They entered into the Christian life.”

Here we need to recall the words of the father of the Prodigal Son. Upon his son’s return home, the experiential separation of father and son had ended, so that his dad can say to his unhappy older boy, Your brother was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found (Luke 15:32, underlining added).

Repentance, we may say, is the wayward sinner’s first step toward “coming to life” after his experience of alienation and separation from God. Experientially this is true both for the unsaved sinner and for the saved sinner. Coming home to God, and enjoying His presence, is a form of resurrection and it is a true and vivid experience of life! As Paul would put it later, For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Rom. 8:13, underlining added).

The believers at Jerusalem knew to what the father of the Prodigal Son was referring. But they were surprised that “life” in this sense could be enjoyed totally apart from any conditions related to the Mosaic law. The truth they acknowledged here, however, was later to come under challenge (see the view of the believing Pharisees in Acts 15:5), and it was to be officially resolved by the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:4–29). But at this moment, the believers are delighted and they glorified God (Acts 11:18) because the Gentiles had entered into full and genuine Christian living.


Blogger Bhedr said...

Repentance does not save you. It is the prepatory work in order to recieve the gospel.

You cannot understand the message of Mt Calvary without first being broken at Mt. Sinai.

If you have been broken there in earnest truth in conscience and not intellect then you will flee to Mt Calvary and the hope that lies in the blood of Christ and gladly recieve him as your Lord.

January 01, 2006 7:36 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...


I'm glad to see I agree with you that repentence is not merely a "change of mind" as the normal Free Gracers say. That's good news!!!

I do agree with Brian as well that repentence is to be taught with the gospel presentation to those who are lost. I can't seem to see the examples in the bible where we shouldn't preach repentence when telling people about the Lord. Also if there are some examples, does that mean teaching repentence alongside teaching hope only in Christ for salvation is sinful. Not at all. The bible clearly teaches example of how God uses this calling of repentence for people to come to faith and hope only in Christ alone.

To me it would be foreign to me to say we shouldn't teach repentence "until" after someone comes to faith as it will lead people to look at their own works to save them.

January 01, 2006 8:01 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...


Another thought with repentence..

When God works in a soul after hearing about repentence and turning to Christ for hope, he convicts the sinner of sin when taught to turn from his sinful ways.

They are then taught and know they they can't find mercy until they find Christ. I think they begin struggling with the conviction and feel shame and hatred for their sin. At least that is what I remember when being saved seeing the utter depravity of my sin....and need for Christ alone.

They see that they can only find Christ for hope and hope for eternal life. They then hunger and thirst for God. Their desires will be to turn from sin and their heart is bent toward Christ and holiness.

January 01, 2006 8:03 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Shawn and Bhedr, have you guys yet read my treatise on repentance found HERE ?

If repentance is not necessary for eternal life, why preach it? It will only confuse people!

You write:
I can't seem to see the examples in the bible where we shouldn't preach repentence when telling people about the Lord.
The whole gospel of John, which is a treatise on evangelism (John 20:31) has not even ONE reference to repentance!

You guys need to read my argument on the link above.

Brian, however you cut it up, you have conditioned eternal life on one's repentance and not solely on faith alone in Christ alone.

Jesus Christ has a wonderful gift called eternal life which comes with many attendent blessings. This gift is much desired. And Christ says that one only has to merely believe in His name for its reception.

Jesus says "Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 6:47)

This can be widely understood without a single reference to "Mt. Sinai".

Jesus has a precious gift that he offers to those who simply trust in Him for it.

That is GRACE.

Yet grace just does not sit with most.


January 01, 2006 8:10 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...


Repentance can happen and people can still not be saved. Repentance can happen weeks or years before regeneration. It can happen simultaneously with regeneration.

But repentance is NEVER under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES a condition for eternal life!

To preach it in evangelism is to point people to the wrong thing and will confuse the potential convert concerning just what is required of Him for eternal life.

If John the Apostle doesn't preach it in his book that was written for the express purpose of evangelism, I will not preach it either there. For I would rather follow God's word then a theology.


January 01, 2006 8:14 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Yes following the bible is good, but there are so many examples of the gospel presentation with repentance to people including this. God hating, blind, deaf and dumb sinners are told to turn from their sin and repent. (Paul : God calls all men everywhere to repent). Was Paul wrong in this because the people didn't repent?

I agree the whole council of God is important in this matter.

Forgive me for saying this Antonio, but the way you protray yourself is that you protray following a theology more than the bible. I try so very hard to follow the bible and live it as do you.

For example, if I posted everything with a picture of a john piper book it would like I was following Piper wouldn't it.

January 01, 2006 8:27 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

I can't find even a knat to strain at here. ;-)

January 01, 2006 9:45 PM  
Blogger carson said...

I love Jesus Christ! He has given to me the most wonderful gift: eternal life


These are your own words in your profile about yourself. How can you honsttly say Jesus has given you a most wonderful gift. My friend had you not used your almighty powerful free will! you would never have recieved this gift. The only pearson you have to thank is yourself.

If the sovereign power of the Almighty cannot change a pearson's will for deat to life from slave to fee, then please tell me what can it do?

I just want to know. Thank You


January 02, 2006 3:58 AM  
Blogger Matthew Celestine said...

Antonio, a very interesting post. I think you have consistently made a good case for repentance not being a condition for receiving eternal life.

Is repentance however a single act or a change of attitude that might occur in stages, beginning with conviction of sin?

Every Blessing in Christ


January 02, 2006 4:44 AM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Repentence is part of our whole life of a Christian

January 02, 2006 5:56 AM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Oh I forgot you were asking Antonio

January 02, 2006 5:56 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

If repentance is nothing but turning from sin, then it is not even a part of salvation, because it represents works for salvation.

If repentance is simply changing your mind, then is cannot be a part of salvation, because there is nothing there to keep you from changing your mind again.

But if repentance is changing your mind about who Jesus is and what He has done for you, then it a work of the Holy Spirit and is a part of the gift of salvation.

Does that work at all?

January 02, 2006 9:44 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...


that works for most Free Grace people.

Thank you for your input!


January 02, 2006 4:14 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Matthew, i reckon it could be both, no?

As God reveals to us our sinfulness in areas, we repent. Here it is a single act. But it is in stages as we apply that mindset to our lives.

I muddied the waters!


January 02, 2006 4:17 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...


your fight is with the Bible and not me.

Jesus says that you receive eternal life by believing in Him.

To Him and Him alone be the glory.

Faith is merely receiving a free gift and there is no bragging rights, for the gift is equally offered to all.


January 02, 2006 4:19 PM  
Blogger Pastor Jim said...

Mark 6:
11 And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”
12 So they went out and preached that people should REPENT. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.

Matthew 11:
20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not REPENT: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have REPENTED long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Luke 2:
2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you REPENT you will all likewise perish.

Acts 17:
29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to REPENT, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Revelations 2:
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; REPENT and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you REPENT. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

2 Peter 2:
20)If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21)It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22)Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit,"and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."

Hebrews 10:
26)If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27)but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

James 2:
14)What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15)Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16)If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17)In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18)But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19)You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20)You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21)Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22)You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23)And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. 24)You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. 25)In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26)As the body without the spirit is dead, SO FAITH WITHOUT DEEDS IS DEAD.

Just a few scriptures to show the importance of repentance.

January 03, 2006 7:31 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

"Acts 11:18 Commentary (Zane Hodges)" 01 Jan 2006 06:40 PM.

I am going through the jump to Zane's book on repentance at CTS you provided in this post, and have finished the first of the three parts, and the Luke 15 discussion in part two, a natural stopping place.

The description of the older brother of Luke 15 is priceless and is worth the price of the book by itself.

Here is a summary of Zane's discussion of John's use of repentance and of Luke 15.

1. There are calls to repent in five of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3.

2. These calls to repent are contextually shown to be regarding sinful attitudes or actions of some duration, without repenting of which there will be (temporal) judgments on these Christians.

3. The other churches can be assumed to have nothing of standing duration needing repentance.

3. The four other instances of repenting in Revelation refer also to things which not repented from would result in (temporal) judgments, in this case, upon unbelievers.

4. In Luke 15, the repentance described in the parables is of a sheep and coin which belong to their respective owners, and of a son who is son of his father although prodigal. This is the repentance of a believer in all three stories.

5. The words of the older brother to the prodigal returned is very instructive concerning self-righteous attitudes.

I would like to point out that Zane's concept that two of the churches of Rev 2-3 needed no repentance is supported by Luke 15:7, although he doesn't explictly say so. But it's an unanticipated conclusion from a conflagration of ideas that we should make explicit. Here is my try.

A. From the what John writes concerning repentance, all in Revelation, we can rightly conclude that it is something that urgently needs to be done in light of existing or threatened judgments for sins.

B. In the four examples of unbelievers and repentance in Rv 9(:20-21) and 16(:9,11), it is not said that they repented, but that they did not.

C. The three parables go from lesser to greater detail in Luke 15, regarding details of repentance. In particular, the idea that repentance is appropriate to a lost sheep, coin, and son, is further explained by the description of the son by the father: "this brother of yours was dead (Lk 15:32)."

D. The idea that there are righteous persons who need no repentance (Lk 15:7) goes against the definition that repentance is merely the forsaking of individual sin(s). Righteous persons also need to forsake individual sins, but repentance is "bigger" than that. In Luke 15, it is coupled with being found in the first two parables (6-7, 9-10). The third parable elaborates extensively on being found, comparing it to having life instead of being dead (15:32).

What should we make of the fact that Jesus does not use the word repentance in the third parable, of the prodigal son? We should realize, as Zane does, that all three stories are about repentance. Since Jesus expressly announces the connection to repentance of the first two stories (15:7, 10), the narration of the third story is asking us, by its explicit teaching, to see what it says about repentance too.

The first two parables do not explain what repentance is from the inside, but only show what is being done by the finders. That of course, should not be minimized, as if repentance is an act that is in isolation from being found by those who are seeking what is lost. That may be one of the major points of the chapter, the real explanation Jesus is giving of Lk 15:2.

But the third parable elaborates greatly. It shows what repentance is from the inside. All three parables show what repentance is to the owner of the sheep, the owner of the coin, and the father of the prodigal son, but only the third parable shows what repentance is to the prodigal son.

What is the dramatic point in time of the story of the parable of the prodigal son in which the tide turns? It is 15:17. It is there, with all the dramatic emphasis that the sequence of narration can give it, that we read "But when he came to his senses."

All the rest of what follows internally, with the prodigal, is subsequent to that. Repentance, in Luke 15, internally speaking, is coming to one's senses.

December 28, 2006 8:20 AM  

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