On Sunday nights we are working through the church’s doctrinal statement; these are my notes from last Sunday. I hope you enjoy them.
―Justification, Regeneration, Repentance, and Faith―
V. Of Justification
We believe that the great Gospel blessing which Christ secures to such as believe in Him is Justification; that Justification includes the pardon of sin, and the promise of eternal life on principles of righteousness; that it is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in the Redeemer’s blood; by virtue of which faith His perfect righteousness is freely imputed to us of God; that it brings us into a state of most blessed peace and favor with God, and secures every other blessing needful for time and eternity.
VII. Of Grace In Regeneration
We believe that, in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated, or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel; and that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, and faith, and newness of life.
VIII. Of Repentance And Faith
We believe that Repentance and Faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest and King, and relying on Him alone as the only and all sufficient Savior.
A Humbling Reminder ― I Corinthians 6:9-11
I think it is helpful to begin any discussion of salvation with the realization that we are in desperate need of it and that it is not something which we can carry out for ourselves; rather, salvation is something which has been carried out on our behalf, it is both divine in origin and accomplishment. God has, is, and will save us.
The Order of Salvation ― Beginning with the order of salvation helps us in several respects.
- It results in praise.
- It fosters humility.
- It guards against error.
Next to each term is the Roman numeral to which it corresponds in our doctrinal statement. These topics are covered in both Community Training and in Wayne Grudem’s Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know which you read for community training.
Gospel Call (VI)
Effectual Call (VI) ― Regeneration (VII)
Repentance and Faith (VIII) ― Justification (V) ― Adoption ― Sanctification (X) ― Perseverance (XI)
Regenerating is the act of God by which the spiritually dead are brought to life, “thus restoring the person’s intellectual, volitional, moral, emotional, and relational capacities to know, love, and serve God.” Within scripture this is often spoken of in terms of new life or new birth.
- First and foremost regeneration is a monergistic act (Ezekiel 36:26; John 1:13).
- Second, regeneration is wholly an act of grace (Ephesians 2:1-10).
- Third, regeneration is a result of the gospel (I Peter 1:23).
- Fourth, regeneration is mysterious (John 3:8).
- Fifth, regeneration is inextricably connected with our union with Christ (I Corinthians 15:23).
- Sixth, regeneration results in faith, repentance, and obedience (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 2:10; I John 3:9, 5:1).
C. Regeneration and the Effectual Call
Regeneration and effectual calling are two sides of the same coin. One speaks to the divine call (John 6:44) and the other to the divine enablement to respond to that call (John 6:65). “Effective calling is thus God the father speaking powerfully to us, and regeneration is God the Father and God the Holy Spirit working powerfully in us.”
II. Repentance and Faith
A. Preliminary Considerations
Repentance and faith are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin. Grudem explains that they are both related to the word “turning;” we turn from sin (repentance) and turn towards Christ (faith). In such a sequence neither precedes the other; this is simultaneously a turning to and a turning from.
1. Old Testament Terminology
- nacham – “to become remorseful . . . to regret something” (Job 42:5-6)
- shub – “to turn around, repent” (II Coronicles 7:14)
2. New Testament Terminology
- metamelomai – “to regret” (Matthew 21:32)
- metanoeo – “to change one’s mind or purpose, hence, to repent” (Matthew 3:2)
At the most basic level repentance “involves a change in the outward life because such a change is a result of the change of inward opinions.”
Repentance is therefore the abandonment of sin which results from godly sorrow over one’s sin.
Biblical repentance has intellectual, emotional and physical properties. It requires a radical change in both our way of thinking, feeling, and living.
- First, repentance is a voluntary act enabled by regeneration; therefore maintaining both divine sovereignty and human responsibility (See “Regeneration” above).
- Second, repentance is necessary for salvation (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 3:18-20; see Romans 2:4-5 for a description of the unrepentant).
- Third, while repentance marks the beginning of new life it must also continue throughout life (Matthew 6:12).
- Fourth, repentance is a result of hearing the gospel.
Within the New Testament there are two terms used to express the idea of faith; the verb, pisteuo, and the noun, pistis. They carry the basic meaning of faith, trust, confidence, or belief.
A biblical definition of faith has three aspects an action, a content, and an object. With this in mind I think it is best to define faith as a confidence (action) that Jesus Christ (object) has accomplished what He has promised in the gospel (content).
- First, faith is a voluntary act enabled by regeneration; therefore maintaining both divine sovereignty and human responsibility (See “Regeneration” above).
- Second, faith is necessary for salvation (John 3:16).
- Third, while faith marks the beginning of new life it must also continue throughout life (Galatians 2:20).
- Fourth, faith is a result of hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:2).
A. Old Testament Terminology
- sadaq (hiphil form) – “declare righteous, justify . . . vindicate the cause of . . . make righteous, turn to righteousness.”
B. New Testament Terminology
- dikaioo – “to declare, pronounce righteous.”
“Justification is God’s action pronouncing sinners righteous in his sight. We have been forgiven and declared to have fulfilled all that God’s law requires of us.”
I want to take this definition and break it down into several smaller statements which we can clearly see in Romans 3:20-26.
- First, justification is a declarative act of God (Romans 3:20).
- Second, justification is possible because of Christ’s propitiatory work (Romans 3:22, 24, 25) not because of personal merit. Furthermore, this maintains God’s justice as the sentence for our rebellion has been carried out on Christ.
- Third, in justification God imputes Christ righteousness to us (Romans 3:22).
II Corinthians 5:21 also illustrates the link between justification and imputation. Would someone please read that for us? How does this relate to Romans 3?
Colossians 2:13-14 illustrates another stunning fact about justification, would someone read that for us?
- Fourth, in justification God cancels our record of debt and its sentence of condemnation (Colossians 2:13-14). We read that He has canceled the record of debt that opposed us as well as its legal demands. Debtors would usually write their own records of indebtedness. Here Paul uses the word χειρόγραφον which is a combination of two words “χειρ” meaning hand and “γραφή” meaning writing. So we have this handwritten record which actively opposes us. Paul also mentions the legal demands of this record. The word here is δόγμα, which is where we get the word dogmatic. A dogmatic position is one which you are unwilling to give up. The legal demands which Paul is describing are unwavering and fixed. God has canceled this debt and these demands. Ancient scribes would write upon paper made of papyrus or vellum and unlike modern ink, ancient ink did not absorb into the paper but rather sat on top of the paper. As paper was expensive, scribes would often wipe this ink off and reuse the paper. That is what the word “canceling” means God has literally wiped our slate clean.
Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1997), 293.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Bible Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 700.
Ludwig Koehler and Walters Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. and trans. Johann Jakob Stamm, Benedikt Hartmann, Ze’Ev Ben-Hayyim, Eduard Yechezkel Kutscher, Philippe Reymond, and M. E. J. Richardson (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers, 2001), s.v. “נחם.”
Ibid., s.v. “שׁוב.”
G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (New York: T & T Clark, 1999), s.v. “μεταμέλομαι.”
Ibid., s.v. “μετανοέω.”
James P. Boice, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1887), 383.
Koehler and Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, s.v. “צָדֵק.”
Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, s.v. “δικαιόω.”
Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 968.