Friday, May 26, 2017

Repentance and the Baptist Church Constitution

Does your church constitution have a statement carefully defining repentance?  If your current church leadership went on to their eternal reward suddenly in an accident or other unplanned situation, would your church constitution be an effective guard against having a new pastor or pastors who teach a heretical gospel?  (Of course, not even the best constitutional statement is a substitute for a regenerate and spiritually mature church membership and church leadership that understand and regularly preach the gospel to the lost and agree wholeheartedly with the need to separate from even "Baptist" proponents of a false repentance-less "gospel.")

If your church does not currently have a statement on repentance, simply putting in one that is found in a classic Baptist confession, such as those discussed here, where one can also find sound exegesis on Biblical repentance, is a good start.  Perhaps the following suggested one would be a worthwhile addition to your church constitution and, consequently, something worth reviewing with all who seek to unite themselves to Christ's church in your area:



A Suggested Constitutional Statement on Repentance

   
Unfeigned repentance is an inward and true sorrow of heart for sin, with sincere confession of the same to God, especially that we have offended so gracious a God and so loving a Father, together with a settled purpose of heart and a careful endeavor to leave all our sins, and to live a more holy and sanctified life according to all God’s commands.[1] [Note: this is simply a quotation from a very widespread Baptist confession on repentance. Obviously, do not include this parenthetical statement.]  When the lost repent, they turn to God from their idols with the intention of serving the living and true God and waiting for His Son from heaven (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).  God commands: “Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin” (Ezekiel 18:30). “[T]urn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” (Ezekiel 33:11).  John the Baptist preached to the lost that repentance results in bringing forth good fruit, and those who do not repent and as a result bring forth good fruit are cast into unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:7-11), while Jesus Christ preached the same message of repentance as the first Baptist (Matthew 3:2; 4:17) and commanded His church to continue to preach the same message (Luke 24:47).  The Lord Jesus warns that the unsaved who do not “repent of their deeds,” deeds such as “murders . . . sorceries . . . fornication . . . thefts . . . [and] worship [of] devils, and idols,” will not be saved but will miss the Rapture and enter the “great tribulation” (Revelation 2:22; 9:20-21; 16:9-11; Matthew 24:21).  Standard lexica correctly define “repentance” when they affirm the word means: “[A] complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness . . . [a] total change, both in thought and behavior, with respect to how one should both think and act. . . . [T]he focal semantic feature of these terms is clearly behavioral rather than [only] intellectual . . . [resulting in a] change [in] one’s way of life.”[2]  The conclusion is clear that “[i]n the New Testament, metanoeo and metanoia [the Greek words for “repentance”] . . . are never used to indicate merely intellectual action. . . . [T]hey are always used to express volitional action . . . the change of purpose . . . from evil to good. . . . [T]hey always express internal change . . . [and] they require change in the outward expression of life as a necessary consequent . . . [t]he fullest content [is] found in the . . . radical change in the primary choice by which the whole soul is turned away from evil to good.”[3]

Both the words for “faith” or “belief” and the words for “repentance” in describing the response of the lost sinner to the gospel involve receiving Jesus Christ Himself (John 1:12).  The lost recognize that Jesus is the Christ—the Messiah, the Ruler and Redeemer who is the only One who can save (John 20:31).  Since Jesus Christ is God (John 20:28), Lord (Philippians 2:11), King (John 12:13), and Savior (2 Peter 3:18), the lost receive Him as God, Lord, King, and Savior from both the penalty and power of their sin—they receive Him as both Ruler and Redeemer.  The lost cannot receive a divided “Christ” who is only a Savior from the penalty of sin while the sinner continues to reject, rebel against, and refuse the Messiah as God, Lord, and King.  When the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is received, the dominating power of indwelling sin is broken (Ephesians 2; Romans 6) and, while indwelling sin is still present (Galatians 5:17), the lost receive a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17) at the moment of their new birth (John 3), so that God’s holy laws are in their hearts and minds (Hebrews 8:10-12) and they become servants (Romans 1:1) of the King in the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

When the gospel is explained to the lost orally, the Biblical doctrine of repentance should be proclaimed, and when it is explained through written preaching, gospel literature that explains Biblical repentance should be employed.

The Bible warns that corruptions of the gospel are not to be tolerated, “no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue” (Galatians 2:5; 1:8-9), and Scripture is very clear on the necessity of practicing separation from those who corrupt the gospel and other Biblical teachings (1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; 2 John 7-11).  Consequently, ----- Baptist Church will not allow anyone to preach from its pulpit, teach in its Sunday School classes, or preach and teach in any other of its ministries who cannot wholeheartedly and without mental reservation agree with the truths of Scripture summarized in the statement on repentance above.  Nor will ------ Baptist Church support financially any evangelist, missionary, or any other person or persons who do not both personally agree with, and whose sending churches also agree with, the statement on repentance above, wholeheartedly and without mental reservation.  Nor will ------ Baptist Church partner with any Bible college, seminary, institute, or other training institution, nor recommend its church members attend any Bible college, seminary, institute, or other training institution that does not wholeheartedly and without mental reservation agree with the Biblical teaching summarized above on repentance.


I believe that a statement of this sort  can help protect a Biblical Baptist church from the extremely dangerous heresy on that doctrine that has infected a frightening percentage of independent Baptist congregations today, and pass a pure and uncorrupted gospel on to future generations, so that they can both be saved themselves rather than not be saved but be hell-bound people who have just said the sinner’s prayer, and also so that our community and the lost world can continue to hear from independent Baptist churches the pure gospel as proclaimed by Christ, His Apostles, and the New Testament churches, instead of a watered-down corruption that will not save or that is less powerful to save because of crucial aspects that are left out.



[1]           The Orthodox Creed, Baptist, 1679.
[2]           Louw, J. P & E. A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament:  Based on Semantic Domains (New York:  United Bible Societies, 1996), 41:52.
[3]           Thompson, Effie Freeman, Metanoeo and metamelei in Greek Literature until 100 A. D., Including Discussion of Their Cognates and of their Hebrew Equivalents: Historical and Linguistic Studies in Literature Related to the New Testament Issued Under the Direction of the Department of Biblical and Patristic Greek, 2nd series, vol. 1 (Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago, 1908) 376-377.

16 comments:

Lance Ketchum said...

Very good!

Jeremy Puckett said...

Amen.

Tyler Robbins said...

Very good.

KJB1611 said...

Thanks--I'm glad it is a blessing, and I believe it will help protect churches from error.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I'm glad for the statement. I hope many read it and inculcate it.

Philip Rains said...

The gospel is not complicated. Repentance is problem oriented and faith is solution oriented. It is a sick person seeing their need and going to the Doctor to heal them as beautifully and simply stated by Christ in Luke 5:31-32. Repentance is critical to salvation, and when the Spirit of God is drawing a lost sinner to Himself, it really is not a complicated matter to navigate. I am all for repentance, my only fear is something like this complicates the simple gospel, and in turn makes it more difficult for people to get saved.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Philip,

When you say, "this," do you mean statements like Thomas has here? If you are "all for" repentance, then you won't fear what he wrote, because it is repentance. Are you saying that it isn't the gospel, because the gospel is less complicated than this, so it couldn't be the gospel?

I don't know what you are saying.

Jim Peet said...

Very good and appreciated. Used on S/I here

Thanks

KJB1611 said...

Dear Philip,

Thanks for the comment. Do you think that carefully explaining what sin is makes it more difficult for people to get saved, or carefully explaining who God is makes it more difficult for people to get saved, or carefully explaining the work of Christ on the cross makes it more difficult for people to get saved, or carefully explaining what faith is makes it more difficult for people to get saved? If not, how could carefully explaining what repentance is make it more difficult for people to get saved?

Of course, nobody is saying that when a person is explaining the gospel to a lost sinner he needs to go through everything that is in one's church constitution. It would be sufficient, for example, to preach like the first Baptist did in Matthew 3 that the lost need to repent (Mt 3::2), and to warn the lost like the first Baptist did that "every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matt 3:10) because repentance results in good fruit. Or we could join Ezekiel and call on the “wicked” to “Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.” Or we could join Christ in explaining that when “one sinner . . . repenteth” his attitude is “I have sinned . . . make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15).

Obviously, preaching the way Christ and the apostles did in the Gospels in the book of Acts leads to more true conversions, not less, so I trust we would agree that carefully explaining what repentance is to the lost is something we should be afraid not to do, rather than something we should be afraid of doing.

I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, and I also was a bit confused by what you're saying. Do you think the statement in the post is Biblical and something you wholeheartedly agree with, and are you just saying that when explaining the gospel it is not necessary to go through one’s church constitution chapter by chapter, or are you saying something different?

Thanks.

Tyler Robbins said...

How I've explained repentance to little kids in bible club:

1. you realize you’ve broken God's law by the bad things you think about and do
2. you’re sorry,
3. you truly mean it,
4. you prove it by stopping your sinful behavior

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Tyler,

Thanks for the comment.

I've thought that I would write a post explaining how I explain this simple thing, repentance. For a doctrinal statement, I think it's helpful to give a detailed explanation. I'm not sure I would be a complex as what Thomas has here, but it gives a lot of talking points someone could use. It's nice that it is thorough here. (I in part write that for those at SI who thought this was too complicated.)

KJB1611 said...

In relation to what Mr. Blumer said at SI, I would agree that too many churches do not pay attention to what is in their constitution. The answer to that, however, is not to refrain from defining the gospel carefully in one's constitution, but to start paying attention to what is in the constitution. I like the fact that in our church the pastor personally goes through the church constitution with every prospective member. That is a good thing, IMO, and deals with Mr. Blumer's objection on that score.

I do not agree with Mr. Blumer that three paragraphs and one sentence on repentance is too verbose. People can read a few paragraphs for the ingredients of an apple pie in a church meal. People can read a thread at SI that is much, much longer than the few paragraphs above on repentance. We are talking about something here that, contrary to every historic Baptist confession and (obviously most importantly) contrary to the Bible, has corrupted a significant percentage of those who call themselves independent Baptists. This is the difference between heaven and hell for millions, and churches that get repentance wrong will almost surely completely capitulate to an unconverted membership and total apostasy (beyond the apostasy of rejecting repentance, which is itself plenty of apostasy) in not that long, if Christ tarries. Is a few paragraphs too much to keep such IFB wolves from corrupting the flock? Was Paul's epistle to the Galatians--which is a lot longer than the statement above--too verbose?

By the way, I do not think that at Nicea, Constantinople, etc. in A. D. 325 & 381 a big doctrinal statement, followed by specific and detailed anathemas, or a big debate that took many years over "homoousios" and "homoiousios," was not worth it or too verbose.

Finally, as I already mentioned, nobody is arguing that one should go paragraph by paragraph through a doctrinal statement when explaining the gospel to a lost person. Howver, I would also say that the most widely used evangelistic work of a bygone day, Alleine's An Alarm to the Unconverted, with its very detailed explanation of the difference between true and false repentance over the course of numbers of pages (much of which I have used in my evangelistic Bible study #5 at http://faithsaves.net/Bible-studies/), did not seem to hinder true conversion in the way that leaving repentance out and using "1-2-3, pray after me, 4-5-6, hope it sticks" gospel tracts hinders true conversion every single day in the modern USA.

Thanks.

KJB1611 said...

I also disagree with Mr. Perry's affirmation at SI that a church constitution needs to follow the "KISS" principle and keep it simple (for the) stupid/ignorant. Make sure people can understand when explaining the gospel to the lost--yes, of course. Make your doctrinal statement simple and stupid and you let the wolves in, and you have a congregation of people who are not wise in Christ, but are simple and stupid in essential doctrine.

Tyler Robbins said...

I've come to learn that you don't really understand a topic if you can't explain it accurately to elementary school kids! You can't hide behind vague buzzwords there!

Kent Brandenburg said...

I agree with everything in our constitution doctrinal statement, but I would like to rewrite it in a way that would communicate exactly what we think about each individual doctrine. I thought that Thomas's statement here gave talking points. It doesn't mean someone has to use the whole statement to get across what he wants, but everything in it is right. If someone used it, it wouldn't be wrong. I don't think I would use it, because it would be so long that I would then have to get everything else to the same extent to match, and I don't want to do that.

KJB1611 said...

Our church constitution is large, and has sections that are larger than the other ones on topics of the day. We even have a section on piercings, earrings, etc., while other sections that are not controversial are shorter. I am not saying that everyone needs to do this, nor that the statement in the post is the be-all-and-end-all by any means.