Getting the Gospel of Jesus Christ Right

John MacArthur, Grace to You

Until relatively recently, however, no one would have dared suggest a person can be saved while stubbornly refusing to bow to Christ's authority. Nearly all the major biblical passages calling for saving faith refer to Jesus as lord (cf. Acts 2:21, Acts 2:36; Romans 10:9-10). 

Is repentance from sin essential to salvation? Some say that turning from sin is a human work and therefore cannot be part of salvation. To accommodate the biblical call to repentance, they redefine repentance as nothing more than a change of mind about who Jesus is. 

Biblically, however, repentance is a total about face — turning away from sin and self and unto God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9). That is no more a result of human effort than faith itself. Nor is it in any sense a pre-salvation work required to prepare a sinner for salvation. Real repentance is inseparable from faith and, like faith, is the work of God in a human heart. It is the response God inevitably generates in the heart of one He is redeeming. 

What is faith? Some say faith is merely believing certain facts. One popular Bible teacher says saving faith is nothing more than confidence in the divine offer of eternal life. 

Biblically, however, the object of faith is not the divine offer; it is the Person of Jesus Christ. Faith in Him is what saves, not just believing His promises or accepting facts about Him. Saving faith has to be more than accepting facts. Even demons have that kind of faith (James 2:19). 

Believing in Jesus means receiving Him for all that He is (John 1:12). It means both confessing Him as Savior and yielding to Him as Lord. In fact, Scripture often uses the word obedience as a synonym for faith (cf. John 3:36; Acts 6:7; Hebrews 5:9). What is a disciple? In the past hundred years or so, it has become popular to speak of discipleship as a higher level of Christian experience. In the new terminology, a person becomes a believer at salvation; he becomes a disciple later, when he moves past faith to obedience. 

Such a view conveniently relegates the difficult demands of Jesus to a post-salvation experience. It maintains that when He challenged the multitudes to deny self, to take up a cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34); to forsake all (Luke 14:33); and to leave father and mother (Matthew 19:29), He was simply asking believers to step up to the second level and become disciples. 

But how does that square with Jesus' own words, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matt 9:13)? The heart of His ministry was evangelism, and those difficult demands are evangelistic appeals. 

Every believer is a disciple and vice versa. A careful reading of Acts shows that the word disciple has been a synonym for Christian from the earliest days of the church (cf. Acts 6:1-2). 

What is the evidence of salvation? In their zeal to eliminate good works as a requirement for salvation, some have gone to the extreme of arguing that good works are not even a valid evidence of salvation. They teach that a person may be genuinely saved yet never manifest the fruit of salvation — a changed life. 

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