The Repentance Factor

The Battle Lines Drawn

For several decades (if not centuries) there has been two main thoughts or "camps" concerning repentance. One is called the "Lordship Salvation" (LS) faction by their opponents who in turn are branded as "Free Gracers" (FG). The Lordship Salvationists are said to link works to salvation because they insist repentance means to "turn from your sins and serve Christ as Lord" while the Free Gracers are said to teach "Easy Believism" because they demand no remorse, turning from sin, or obedience; only belief. There are moderates and extremists in both camps and the bickering between them is ongoing with each insisting only they really "believe the Bible" and are on the "higher ground." Sometimes the rhetoric is so intense that members of one group will blast those in the other for "preaching a false gospel," call them heretics, and even declare them as lost. There is no lack of pride or arrogance in either group (while espousing the most humble humility, of course). 

Your author has found that once one gets past the rhetoric and vitriol, there is often little difference in their understanding of salvation among those who are not at the very fringes of their respective faction. The differences usually boil down to semantics and how individuals understand the terms used. 

We need to make a distinction between the true Lordship Salvation proponents and those who are only called the same. The true proponents openly state that a sustained change of life in serving Christ is required for one to claim salvation (John MacArthur, etc.), however, many who deny this demand for visible "fruits" and insist salvation is through faith alone are still branded as Lordship Salvationists because they believe there is more to repentance that just a change of mind. Much like how the Calvinists call every believer that is not among them an Armenian, many Free Gracers call everyone who doesn't see repentance as they do a Lordship Salvationist. 

At the heart of the controversy is how repentance is defined, which is pivotal to understanding personal salvation. The more extreme Free Grace proponents insist a mere "change of mind" is pretty much the sole meaning of repent in every context in either testament, and a large segment of them insist it is essentially synonymous with faith. Repentance and faith are "two sides of the same coin" they like to say. Their Lordship Salvation counterparts disagree and insist a change in life is required. But as is often the case with extreme opposing views the truth is somewhere in the middle, and truth is what we intend to seek in this article.

Your author contends there are no less than three aspects and meanings to repentance in the Scriptures with all three usually manifested in varying degree with each instance. To say it has a static, single meaning without variation is a highly restrictive and subjective position.  As with any other word in the Bible, a word's meaning is determined by its definition within its context, with context often being the key determiner. As any Bible reader knows, several Bible words have more that one meaning, or various shades of a primary meaning, and no word stands apart from its contextual surroundings.

To clarify, your author believes salvation is by "free grace" apart from any works of righteousness, but he is not considered part of the Free Grace group because he insists repentance is more than a mere mind change. He also believes in the Lordship of Christ, but does not believe one must physically manifest this belief to become a Christian. He contends salvation is by faith alone, but true repentance is required before it is possible for anyone to exercise that saving faith.

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