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)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On the Verge of Groundbreaking Theological Formulation

I have been studying the Bible alot lately. I have been doing word studies on repentance and forgiveness of sins in the New Testament. It has been very mind-blowing to say the least. I have been developing some thoughts that I want to share with you all in order to get some feedback. The following is a jumble of a mess trying to articulate what I have been coming to grips with, and here submitted for your approval.

In a nutshell, I am becoming convinced that "forgiveness of sins" is not at all an eternal consideration of God, but ONLY a temporal one. I do not believe it is correct to say that when one believes in Jesus that he has an eternal forgiveness of sins (nor is it correct to state that there is a "forensic" forgiveness, which is an illegitimate confusing of categories), but rather is forgiven of all the sins that he has ever committed (in the past) and has the privilege, right, and opportunity to come to the Father, through the name of Jesus Christ, to have any and all future sins forgiven (1 John 1:9).

People are not careful enough, in my estimation, when reading and studying the word of God, to make critical distinctions in the bible. Redemption does not equal justification does not equal forgiveness of sins does not equal eternal life, etc. They are all distinct, even if they come in the salvific package. Justification is a legal declaration from God. It is the verdict of "not guilty" by way of imputation of Christ's righteousness.

Forgiveness IS NOT a legal issue! Think about it for a second. A judge is not in the business of dispensing forgiveness! He hands down judgements of guilty or not guilty. Judicially, a judge only deals with that issue. Now personally, the judge can forgive, just not in the context of jurisprudence. Lets say that you stole the judge's car and were in front of him for that charge. He could find you guilty and then come down off the bench, take off his robe, and upon your contrition offer you forgiveness. Forgiveness is a personal issue. I did a word study in the last 3 days on all the occurrences of the 2 Greek words aphiemi (to forgive) and aphesis (forgiveness) and I could not find one that clearly denotes an eternal forgiveness of sins; but many CLEARLY denoting temporal forgiveness for the benefit of restoring or continuing fellowship with God. My thinking was started when I realized that forgiveness is not judicial, but relational. Then came the thought, "Why would God have to forgive us temporally for what has already been forgiven eternally, if what is given to us at the moment of salvation is eternal forgiveness?" This consideration alone jarred me from my previous belief concerning forgiveness of sins!

This may seem like some intellectual exercise to most, but I am concerned about rightly dividing the word of truth. Jesus, when evangelizing, almost used exclusively the term "eternal life". Forgiveness of sins IS given when one believes in Jesus for eternal life (see Peter's preaching to Cornelius in Acts 10:43), but it is past sins that are in view (see 2 Peter 1:9); and also in view is the ability to be forgiven of future sins by confessing them to the Father (1 John 1:9) -- the privilege and forgiveness being received apart from converting to Judaism, providing the appropriate sacrifices, and maintaining fidelity to corporate, covenant Israeli ordinances. The sins of the believer, if not confessed when they are brought to his consciousness, will cause an estrangement between God and man that can only be repaired by forgiveness. Eternal life that can never be taken away is the main concern and priority in the gospel of Jesus and His apostles. He offers unending life, resurrection and physical immortality, and eternal participation in the world to come (and by corollary, experience of the eternal life in abundance and ever increasing measure in the life now). In evangelism, we are to prefer the use of eternal life, rather than eternal forgiveness of sins, because there is no clear passage offering an eternal forgiveness of sins by grace through faith. Forgiveness of sins is actually conditioned on two things: 1) not being unforgiving (Mt 6:15) and 2) confessing our sins (1 Jn 1:9), both works. Furthermore, forgiveness of sins does not clearly convey a basic consideration of the "gift of God," received by faith in Jesus, viz., eternality and/or irrevocability -- core, necessary, salvific content (see Jn 4:10, where condition is placed on knowing the gift of God, in order that one may have correct purposeful faith -- we aren't believing in Jesus for provisional life, but eternal life; we aren't believing in Him for a donkey or a Cadillac!).

Future forgiveness of sins is not granted like an indulgence giving assurance that all future, temporal, personal fellowship with God will be maintained despite what one's future actions and attitudes may be. And an all-encompassing eternal decree of forgiveness is both confusing to thought (see above) and completely unnecessary to eternal felicity (see below).

Some may also confuse and or confound forgiveness of sins with justification, which are to be distinguished!

An objection may be stated that apart from some sense of eternal forgiveness of sins that one could not be assured of heaven upon death. My answer to that is that forgiveness is a temporal issue! When eternity comes for the believer, eternal life (God's kind of life, necessary if one is to live with God) and justification (acquittal at God's bar of justice, because of Christ's imputed righteousness) are operative. These considerations assure heaven, the forgiveness of sins (which is always temporal) does not. A believer may die with unforgiven sin, no? Yet he is certainly assured heaven! His unforgiven sin will, in all probability, be a subject at the Judgement Seat of Christ!

This is a work in progress. Your comments and questions are welcomed and entreated, as I would really like feedback in this to either discard this position once and for all (with a persuasive argument against it) or help in pursuing and sharpening this view.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Repentance and the Illustration of the "Stadium Event"

The illustration of the "Stadium Event": From the stadium owner's standpoint, the only necessary requirement for entrance into the stadium event is a ticket, nothing more, nothing less. From the fan's perspective, many other requirements may be involved, but usually none exactly the same as another fan. For examples: he will have to appropriate money in order to buy the ticket, or aquire the ticket in any other number of ways. The fan will have to get himself to the vicinity of the stadium's gate entrance through gaining access to a form of transportation and using it. You get the idea. Objectively, all that is needed is a ticket. But subjectively, from the perspective of the fan, other necessities will have to be fulfilled.

In the spiritual realm, to which I would now like to correspond this illustration to, the only condition for everlasting life is to believe in Jesus for it. Eternal life comes simply by faith alone in Christ alone. God requires nothing more! But from the perspective of the lost, Jesus could say to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24). One may have to work through many issues to get to the subjective mindset that will be open to the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ. A helpful scale was formulated by a Missiologist (one who studies missions), named the Engel's Scale. At the far spectrum referenced by a (-10) is Atheist, (0) is regeneration and (+10) is completely sold out for Jesus, with many distinct level in between all this. Work may be needed at each step of the way to get the mind prepared to consider openly the message of eternal life. Yet at any point before (0) that a person believes in Jesus for eternal life he has it and is at (0) on the scale. Eternal life is an absolutely free gift received (like the empty hand of a beggar) simply through faith in Jesus.

Please do your own study of the word "repent" and its cognate "repentance" in the New Testament. There are 3 Greek words used: metamelomai (5 uses), metanoeo (34 uses), and metanoia (24 uses). Repentance is used in these 2 complimentary ways 1) as a requirement for people already related to God covenantally (Israel or the Church) to maintain or re-aquire harmonious relations with God -- it is a relationship issue!! and 2) to prevent or stop God's temporal wrath and judgement on sins, with a view toward harmony with God (in the unsaved) or the aquiring/maintaining of harmony with God (in the area of covenant relations with God).

Repentance is never used in a text as a requirement for eternal life, eternal salvation, or justification. Never! We are never met with any text that conditions the appropriation of eternal salvation on an act of repentance, there just isn't one, not even in Luke or Acts.

The Gospel of John, which has as its explicit statement of purpose evangelism (see John 20:31), does not contain "repent" in any form within it. Imagine writing a book on "Significant Treatments for Heart Disease" and failing to mention open heart surgery! If repentance is necessary for eternal life, the silence of the 4th gospel is defeaning. One may only conclude the following in light of John's purposeful ommision of repentance within his book: 1) He did not consider repentance as a condition for eternal life, 2) He failed in fulfilling the purpose of his treatise by ommitting repentance. There is no other option!

The book of Romans, in its section on justification, chapters 3-5, is deafly silent, not even giving a hint of repentance as a condition for justification, but ONLY FAITH. The book of Galatians, speaking about Paul's gospel, does not include a single reference to repentance.

In the light of the facts that the Gospel of John, and Galatians thoroughly omit any reference to repentance, and Romans discludes it in any discussion of justification, in conjunction with the fact that no text conditions eternal life, eternal salvation, or justification on repentance, there is simply no exegetical proof that God requires repentance for eternal life! If God does not require repentance for everlasting life, why do we?

Let the Gospel of John argument first sink in deep. How can you account for the total absence of repentance within the confines of his book which was written so that people could have everlasting life? Then let Romans and Galatians speak to you. Then TRY to find even ONE clear text that conditions eternal salvation on repentance... There is no verse that states something like this, "Most assuredly I say to you, whoever repents has eternal life" (c.f. John 6:47).

Please prove me wrong. Show me with the well-reasoned, exegetical argument of a text, that God requires repentance for eternal salvation. And please don't just reference or quote a text! Prove from the text itself that eternal salvation is CONDITIONED on repentance, or something more than faith in Christ!

This is a very important topic. Please do the footwork yourself, and don't rely on your commentaries and theology books. Do the textual work yourself. If your life depended on you proving to a court and jury that repentance was necessary for eternal life from God's perspective in the New Testament, how would you go about making your solid case and argument? Would you simply quote a scripture out of context and state, "Aha! See!?" Or would you even attempt to show in the historical, literary context that a scripture text certainly conditions eternal life on repentance? I would hope, that if your life is on the line, you would do more than give a few verses that may appear to state what you are saying. I would hope that you would make a well-reasoned argument using the time-tested principles of biblical interpretation of the pertinent texts.

I am open to your comments and questions. If you bring up a text, make sure you take the above suggestion to heart. People's lives are on the line! Eternal life through faith alone is not the same thing as eternal life through faith and repentance! One or both are wrong! Both cannot be right at the same time! We will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ oneday to give an account for our teachings. And beware! Teachers will incur a stricter judgement (James 3:1)!