TRUE vs FALSE GOSPEL OF SALVATION
FALSE: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shale be saved!
TRUE: Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!
Unbelievers should tremble at the immense holiness of God. The reality of their sin should frighten and sicken them. And the redemptive work of Christ should thrill them to the core.
Together the truth of those biblical doctrines should provoke a desperate question in the sinner’s heart. It’s the same question that plagued those who heard Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost: “They were pierced to the heart, and said . . . ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37).
The truth of the gospel demands a response from the sinner. Passive indifference isn’t an option. Either unbelievers will reject the facts of the gospel, carrying on with their rebellious lives, or they will desperately cry out for the salvation found only in Christ.
We need to repent (change their minds about how we can enter the kingdom) and believe in the gospel now, because the kingdom of God was close at hand.
Scripture makes no mention of:
- walking an aisle
- praying a prayer
- or signing a card.
In fact, God’s Word never points back to an isolated event or an emotional decision for assurance of salvation.
There is no biblical basis for that kind of decisional regeneration. Moreover, Jesus isn’t knocking on the door of the sinner’s heart, hoping he will let Him in.
He doesn’t need sinful man’s acceptance—we actually need His!
Instead, the gospel call to the sinner throughout Scripture is a simple, succinct command—repent and believe.
If we are to faithfully and accurately proclaim the gospel, our message must culminate in a call for the sinner to put his faith in Christ and repent from his sin.
True saving faith is the sinner recognizing his own hopeless condition and trusting Christ as his righteous and sacrificial substitute—the only possible means of escape from God’s just wrath.
The apostle Paul referred to the gospel as “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
Salvation is not merely professing to be a Christian, nor is it baptism, moral reform, going to church, receiving sacraments, or living a life of self-discipline and sacrifice. Salvation is believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Salvation comes through giving up on one’s own goodness, works, knowledge, and wisdom and trusting in the finished, perfect work of Christ.
There’s nothing sinners can do to gain a right relationship with God—Paul made that very point in Ephesians 2:8-9. “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (emphasis added). Not only does God provide the means of salvation, He bestows the very ability to lay hold of that salvation through faith in His Son.
When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, a high-ranking Jewish scholar, He pointed out “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
When the Philippian jailer cried out to Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). Paul and Silas were already observing that the jailer had repented from his world view and beliefs and who was publicly and openly seeking the truth that he knew that he was not in possession of – clearly being drawn into truth by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote that God is both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). John’s specific purpose for writing his gospel was “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
God’s Word is clear: Salvation apart from faith in Christ is impossible.
As Peter and John declared under trial before the Sanhedrin, “There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Faith is not simply an acknowledgment of Christ; it is an active dependence on Him, borne out in the life of the believer in the form of repentance.
Scripture often refers to faith and repentance in tandem, and the two correspond closely in the life of the believer. Turning away from sin in repentance is the natural extension of turning to Christ in faith.
The Greek word for “repentance” is metanoia . . . Literally it means “afterthought” or “change of mind,” but biblically its meaning does not stop there. As metanoia is used in the New Testament, it always speaks of a change of purpose, and specifically a turning from sin. In the sense Jesus used it, repentance calls for a repudiation of the old life and a turning to God for salvation.
Such a change of purpose is what Paul had in mind when he described the repentance of the Thessalonians: “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
Throughout Scripture we see the call to repent from sin and turn to God. Christ warned His followers of the eternal consequences of sinful rebellion, saying “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). Paul concluded his sermon on Mars Hill with a command to repent in light of God’s judgment. “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:30–31).
Some argue that calling sinners to repent is adding works to the gospel. But God’s Word is clear that true repentance cannot be mustered up from the unregenerate soul. Instead, like faith, repentance is a gift from God (cf. Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25).
Throughout church history, there have been those who preached a gospel of easy-believism and cheap grace—one that required no repentance on the part of the converts. That pseudo-gospel is thriving in churches today, giving false assurance of faith to people who have no interest in obedience, holiness, or sanctification. This unbiblical notion of faith apart from repentance would be laughable if it weren’t tragically leading deceived men and women to hell.
Clearly, the biblical concept of faith must lead to obedience. “Believe” is treated as if it were synonymous with “obey” in John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life.” Acts 6:7 shows how salvation was understood in the early church: “A great many . . . were becoming obedient to the faith.” Obedience is so closely related to saving faith that Hebrews 5:9 uses it as a synonym: “Having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”
Obedience is the inevitable manifestation of true faith. Paul recognized this when he wrote to Titus about “those who are defiled and unbelieving. . . . They profess to know God but by their deeds they deny Him” (Titus 1:15–16). To Paul, their perpetual disobedience proved their disbelief. Their actions denied God more loudly than their words proclaimed him. This is characteristic of unbelief, not faith, for true faith always produces righteous works. As the Reformers were fond of saying, we are justified by faith alone, but justifying faith is never alone.
The biblical testimony is clear. The gospel call is a call to repent and believe. You can’t have one without the other, and you can’t do either without God empowering those responses.
One day Jesus will return to the earth as King (Revelation 19—20), and, because of what the Bible tells us about the future, we know that we also need to “repent and believe in the gospel for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
We need to change our minds from unbelief to belief and recognize that we are saved by grace through faith and not by our own works (Ephesians 2:8–9).
If we are to faithfully proclaim the message of salvation, we must establish the problem of God’s holiness in contrast to man’s depravity. We must present the solution to that humanly insurmountable problem by preaching the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is at that point that we are to issue the exhortation to repent and believe, and leave the miraculous work of conversion in God’s sovereign hands.
There are signs that you can read in your heart that will confirm that you are in a relationship with Jesus and that you have assurance of salvation. If you are a conscience and discerning person without a mental impairment to review this list, then the following eight items can serve as your mirror. You will either come away with confidence in your salvation, or you will understand that you are an unregenerate soul that is in danger of eternal conscience torment in separation from God.
1. Desire a relationship with Jesus?
2. Practice confession of sin?
3. Do you have a deepening commitment to God’s Word?
4. Do you have a LOVE for your fellow believers?
5. Do you see a growing change in your INTERNAL desires? – love what you once hated and hate what you once loved?
6. Do you seek a deeper comprehension of the TRUTH?
7. Increasing conformity to Christ likeness?
8. A growing confidence in PRAYER?
If these eight statements do not define your relationship with God and others, then CRY OUT to JESUS and confess that this is NOT YOU and that you seek HIM and ONLY HIM so that you may ABIDE in Him and He in you. So that at the moment when you meet Jesus face-to-face – he will confirm that He knew you and He knows you!