Ordo Salutis The Order of Salvation Part IV

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August 16, 2014 by directorfsm

Conversion

For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything.

9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

1 Thessalonians1:8-9

    In 1980 I went forward to an alter call after listening to the pleas of a preacher telling me of the horrors of Hell. I was smart enough to understand that Hell was a place I wanted no part of. If, my going forward and saying some small prayer was all it took to avoid it I was all for that.

    Sound familiar to anyone? It should, in the intervening years I have met hundreds of if not thousands who say, “Yeah that’s how I got saved”. Really because I am here to tell you I was not saved that day. The only thing I accomplished was appeasing my conscience for the next 16 years while I ran amuck in direct defiance of God.

    I am not saying this is true for everyone. No I am just pointing out that going forward at an alter call and praying a prayer is not what converts you. It is God and His Grace working through the conviction of the Holy Spirit that brings about a true conversion. My experience in 1980 was all about me, “I” made the decision because “I” did not like the sounds of hell. Hear anything missing from that process? How about God?

    So far we have spoken about the first three steps in the Order of Salvation. They are: 1) Election, we are chosen of God 2) Effectual Calling; God’s call is always effective 3) Regeneration or Rebirth, where God changes our heart from that of desiring evil to desiring Him. Today we will look at Conversion.

    In its simplest terms Conversion means turning from one thing to another. In context of the scripture above the Apostle Paul says Biblical Conversion is turning to God from idols to serve the living and true God. Biblical conversion demands a change. That change is brought about by a two-step process, repentance and faith. It is only after we have been given a new heart (regenerated) that we are capable of and desire to respond by acknowledging our sins, confessing them before God and trusting in Christ and Lord and Savior.

Tim Challies, whose Visual Theology we have been using as our outline says of Conversion: We willingly respond to the Gospel call, repenting of sin and placing faith in Christ for Salvation.

    As noted this part of the Ordo Salutis involves two key components; repentance and faith. While two completely separate ideas repentance and faith are inseparably linked in the process of Salvation. Both must be preached so much so in fact John Calvin stated one could not call men to Christ by separating them.

Repentance

John Murray said: The question has been discussed: which is prior, faith or repentance? It is an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other is futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance…It is impossible to disentangle faith and repentance. Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith (John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 113).

The Westminster Confession emphasizes the importance of preaching repentance as well as faith: Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ. By it a sinner, out of sight and sense, not only of danger, but also of filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XV, Sections I and II. Cited in A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (Edinburgh: Banner, 1958), p. 210).

Smith’s Bible Dictionary defines Repentance in this manner:

There are three Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance.

(1.) The verb _metamelomai_ is used of a change of mind, such as to produce regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. This word is used with reference to the repentance of Judas (Matt. 27:3).

(2.) Metanoeo, meaning to change one’s mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge. This verb, with (3) the cognate noun _metanoia_, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised.

Evangelical repentance consists of

(1) a true sense of one’s own guilt and sinfulness;

(2) an apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ;

(3) an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God; and

(4) a persistent endeavor after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments.

The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4).

    I like the definition by William Webster I found online: Repentance means turning from sin. It does not mean a mere acknowledgment of sin or remorse, but a turning from it with a purpose to forsake it altogether.

    In closing out this section I would like to quote from William S. Plumer D.D. (Theology for the People or Biblical Doctrine Plainly Stated, Chap XX Section III):

True Repentance is not a transient (or short-lived) act of the mind nor a temporary emotion. (as my alter call experience was) It is a glorious habit of the soul. It implies a fixed principle in the renewed mind. It is the hypocrite and self-deceiver who repent and sin, sin and repent. Genuine repentance produces a permanent change in men’s characters.

In Section IV Plumer states: Two kinds of repentance are often spoken of, legal and evangelical. In legal repentance the motives are chiefly drawn from the law and the consequences of sin (again my alter call experience). In evangelical repentance they are drawn from the gospel and the nature if sin. The latter would turn from sin, if there were no hell; the former would sin on, if there was no fear of wrath. The goodness of God leads the latter to repentance; but the former despises the riches of His goodness and forbearance (or mercy) and long-suffering. Rom 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

    No evidence of change equals no genuine repentance. Salvation demands genuine repentance. When it is genuine it is always the work of the Holy Spirit not of man and always results in true saving faith.

    So what is “Faith”? I think Martian Luther’s excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 gives us excellent insight:

Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this `faith,’ either.

Instead, faith is God’s work in us that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.

    If I ask you where the bible defines faith most every believer will quote Hebrews 11:1. But I believe the definition begins back Chapter 10 verse 38:

38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

    Can you see the connection? The first word in Hebrews 11 is “Now” it is a conjunction, same as But, Moreover, Furthermore, etc. It requires us to connect the preceding verse(s) to what we are reading now. So what is saving faith? It is the foundation (substance) of our belief (hope) the proof (evidence) that God is real. It is so sure a foundation that those who have it can never lose (fall back) into eternal damnation (perdition).

    The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) was composed in the city of Heidelberg, Germany, at the request of Elector Frederick III, who ruled the province of the Palatinate from 1559 to 1576. The new catechism was intended as a tool for teaching young people, a guide for preaching in the provincial churches, and a form of confessional unity among the several Protestant factions in the Palatinate. It is still appropriate today for those same purposes.

Q & A 21

What is true faith? A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; 1it is also a wholehearted trust,2 which the Holy Spirit creates in me3 by the gospel,4 that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also,5 forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.6 These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.7

1 John 17:3, 17; Heb. 11:1-3; James 2:19

2 Rom. 4:18-21; 5:1; 10:10; Heb. 4:14-16

3 Matt. 16:15-17; John 3:5; Acts 16:14

4 Rom. 1:16; 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21

5 Gal. 2:20

6 Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:10

7 Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10

Q & A 22

What then must a Christian believe? A. All that is promised us in the gospel, 1a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.

1 Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:30-31

Probably the most often quoted New Testament verse referring to repentance is 2 Cor 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

    But the most prolific references are found in the book of Acts. I have listed a few below.

Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted , that your sins may be blotted out , when the times ofrefreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me

Going back to our initial text we read:

For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything.

9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

1 Thessalonians1:8-9

I would like to close with this thought. Verse 9 as we saw defines conversion but I would be remiss if I failed to point out what Paul notes in verse 8. Just as conversion demands repentance and faith to be complete. The completed act of conversion demands action on the part of those converted. Paul says you sounded out the word of the Lord that is you shared the Gospel of Christ. Not just in a few places but in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad, that is, everywhere you go.

Next week we will look at part V Justification. Until then may God greatly bless you and yours.

In HIS Service

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