Faith alone in Christ alone? #2

Our first stop on our journey through Acts is the 2nd chapter. Peter, along with the others has obediently waited as Jesus instructed until he was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Everyone present has seen the signs and wonders, heard men speak miraculously in their own languages, and have been told by Peter that this is the promised Holy Spirit as foretold by the prophet Joel. Peter then rises to preach the first gospel message on record after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. He accuses the hearers of being murderers and gives a powerful witness to the deity of Jesus, that He was the promised Messiah, and of His bodily resurrection. After telling this mainly Jewish audience this Jesus has been made both Lord and Christ, they were “cut to the heart” and cried out “what shall we do?” Peter’s reply is at the heart of the theology of the modern Restoration Movement churches. Acts 2:38 is without question the most often quoted verse in coC class rooms and pulpits.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” Then the Bible says in verses 40 and 41 “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”

This text raises some questions that I believe have been answered incorrectly. Will you agree with me to see what the Bible says about this important subject? Will you put aside presuppositions and heritage and take God’s word as final authority? If not, you are wasting your time reading further. The Bible is its own best commentary. When we allow it to interpret itself we find the truth. We all agree that “about three thousand” people were saved that day. The questions arise concerning when and how.

  1. Were they saved when they repented, when they were baptized, or when they “received his word”?
  2. When did they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, when they repented, when they were baptized, or when they “received his word”?

I believe these “about 3,000” people were saved by faith in Christ. When they heard Peter’s testimony about Jesus their faith is implied when they asked “What must we do?” How did they “receive his word”? They received it by faith, by believing in and trusting on Christ. Romans 10 is crystal clear on this matter.

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

One “believes with the heart” is how one is saved. That is the response Phillip preached to the Ethiopian. When he asked if he could be baptized he was told “If you believe with all your heart, you may”. (Acts 8:37) The Bible continues in Acts 2:44 saying “Now all who believed were together..” The common denominator for Christians is belief, or faith, not baptism. When did these new believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? Was it when they were baptized or when they believed? This is really the crux of the matter isn’t it? A whole movement of Christendom stands of falls on this answer. I will not answer the question. Peter is the man who said , “

and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”

lets let him answer the question.

In Acts 10 Peter arrives at the house of Cornelius having been sent by the Lord to the Gentiles. Peter boldly preached Christ to them and verses 44-48 we find this chain of events.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.
Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit
just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days”.

These people received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized. While Peter was still speaking He fell on those who “heard the word”. Then Peter asks an important question. “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Just as we have! They had just received the Holy Spirit by hearing and believing the word and Peter says he and the others received the Holy Spirit the exact same way! They did not receive the Holy Spirit when they were baptized but before when they believed. Let’s allow Peter to confirm this once more. When speaking to the counsel at Jerusalem Peter said of the Gentiles

So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” (Acts 17:8-11)

Peter leaves no doubt; these Gentiles were saved just like he was. There is “no distinction between them and us”. He purified their hearts by faith. He expected to be saved “in the same manner as they”.

Still not convinced? Let’s hear Peter say it once more. In Acts 11:17 Peter defended his message to the Jewish brothers in Judea and when telling them about the Gentiles being saved and receiving the Holy Spirit he said to them,

If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”(Acts 11:17)

This is the same Peter who is quoted in Acts 2:38 and he says he and the others received the gift of the Holy Spirit “when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ”. I am not teaching a “faith only heresy”, I am teaching the Bible. Peter’s own inspired words stand in stark disagreement with those who have misunderstood the meaning of Acts 2:38. Acts 2:38 says in part

and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.

If I have a party “for” my wife’s birthday, does the party cause the birth, or the birthday? No, the party celebrates her birthday and confirms that she was born on that day. It is not in any remote way the cause of it.The key word in Acts 2:38 is “Repent”, not “be baptized”. When one hears the message about Christ and changes his mind, turns in his heart toward Christ, he trusts Christ and is saved, and according to Peter, receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I am not demeaning baptism. It is a command to be obeyed by a child of God. It does not make one a child of God. Peter could have said “Repent” and do any number of good things and “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. The efficaous act is the obedience of faith, not the obedience of submission to baptism. Should we tell people they will be lost if they do not obey the gospel? Absolutely we should, but first make sure you know what it means. Romans 10 states it plainly enough for anyone to understand. In Romans 10:16a the scriptures say

But they have not all obeyed the gospel”.

Then, in the last part of the verse we find what it means to obey the gospel;

For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?”

Those who don’t believe the report have not obeyed the gospel. Further, in verse 17 the Bible says

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

The Bible is consistent and clear that to obey the gospel is to believe it. In my next post I will go into more detail about what it means to “Obey the gospel”. I don’t intend to impose my view on anyone. It is my purpose to teach what the Bible clearly says.

Until next time Grace and Peace,

Royce Ogle

Faith alone in Christ alone?

Did Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, Phillip, Apollos and others preach a “systematic salvation” or a Saviour? Did they peach  a “pattern” or a Person? The answer is clear.

And, does the Word of God record the response to the message clearly, consisely, and constantly? It does.

The gospel, (good news) is not “If you do these several things, then live a faithful life you will be saved. The gospel is the good news that Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law, lived a perfect life, became a perfect sacrifice, died in my place and yours, and completely paid in full the penalty due for our sins, was buried and after 3 days, was resurrected, defeating death, hell, and the grave. By His perfect living and dying, His burial and resurrection, we are now saved by His life. He freely gives forgiveness of sins and eternal life to those who come to Him by faith (beliving on, or trusting in Him).

I know of no other way to make clear what the Bible teaches about salvation but to go to the scriptures and discover what it consistently teaches. In the next post of this series I will begin in Acts 2 and begin plowing through that great narritave beginning with Peter’s message at Pentecost, and then every other passage where Christ was preached and people were saved.

Some of you might be surprised to learn that the Apostle Peter, who is perhaps quoted more than every other Bible character by Restoration folks, (Acts 2:38) would not have been welcome in the Jerusalem church of Christ if they had the same doctrinal critera that most do in 2007.

There is a pattern but not the one you know by heart.

Grace and Peace,

Royce Ogle

Except ye repent

“Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5 NKJV) In a recent post I attempted to explain saving faith. I unashamedly preach that salvation is by grace through faith. I suppose I would fall into the category of ones who preach” faith only” for salvation. I will gladly confess to that, but only if I am able to define the faith. Repentance is linked to faith almost like conjoined twins; one’s life depends on the other. Faith without repentance in the Bible is never implied or taught. The consistent message of the Bible is that sinners must repent. This truth is especially true of the New Testament. John the Baptist preached “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” His baptism was one of repentance. That is those who were baptized by him identified with his message of changing one’s mind about his sins and were saying to onlookers, “I have turned away from my sin to God”. Jesus then came with the same message, “Repent, for the kingdom of
God is at hand
”. The disciples went about demanding repentance. Peter’s invitation after his great sermon when he and the others were empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was “Repent and be baptized.” God commands “All men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 NKJV)
 While the Bible is replete with passages demanding repentance, repentance never stands alone. No sinner can by himself repent in a way that is acceptable to God. Just as faith is given by God to the sinner who hears the word of God (Romans 10) so repentance is also given by God to the hopeless sinner. When the believers learned that the Gentiles had been saved by faith (Acts 11:17) they exclaimed in the following verse “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life”. So they understood that those who are saved by faith by necessity must also repent. Then in II Timothy 2 Paul said these words, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” Notice carefully what he says. First he hopes God “will grant them repentance”; Secondly “that they may know the truth”; then thirdly “that they may come to their senses”. A man is given by God the ability to know the truth and then to come to his senses. There is no repentance without knowledge of the truth about God and the sinful condition. A sinner hears the good news and God the Holy Spirit “pricks” his heart as in Acts 2. Then that man is able to repent. It is impossible to repent without saving faith and it is impossible to have saving faith without repentance. When one turns to God he must at the same time turn away from sin. The heart turns from its own sinful way toward God and throws itself upon Christ’s mercy and grace. 

Repentance without faith will only produce self righteousness. And, faith without repentance will only produce a hypocrite. Neither is fit for heaven and is surely bound for hell. Repentance is not being sorry for our sinful condition. Godly sorrow can lead one to repent but sorrow is not repentance. Trying to make amends for wrongs done is also not repentance. Restitution is Biblical and ought to be carried out but that alone is not repentance. Reforming one’s life is also not repentance. I remind you that the Pharisees lived righteous lives, as well as anyone of their day. But Jesus said that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees you will perish. 

In I Thessalonians chapter one Paul greeted the believers and praised them for their faith and their faithfulness to get the gospel out to others and in verse 9 he says about them “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”. They turned from idols to God. That is faith and that is repentance.  Those who put their trust in Christ alone for salvation and forgiveness of sins will at the same time “come to their senses” and change their minds about their way of living. How could a person possibly turn toward God and not turn away from sin? 

Our message of the saving sacrifice of Jesus will likely fall on deaf ears until the hearer knows there is something to be saved from. Unless a person knows he is lost what would be his motive for coming to God for mercy. We must always allow God the Holy Spirit to do His blessed work in the lives of those we hope to win. He alone can do the work in the heart of wicked sinners that must be done before they come to their senses and put their trust in Jesus. 


Next post:  Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized; 5 steps or conditions to be saved. Isn’t it interesting that not one preacher in the Bible taught any group of people, at any one time, that they must do these 5 things to be saved? If it is the Bible plan of salvation why did they not preach it?

Lucado needs our prayers **Update**

I just learned that bro’ Max Lucado has some health issues severe enough that he must step down as senior minister at Oak Hills Church. He will still be able to do some teaching and writing but can no longer handle all the duties he has up to now.

He, his family, and the Oak Hills congregation need our prayers.

The following letter is from Max to the church:

Dear Oak Hills Family,

I pray this letter finds you in the midst of the greatest day and sweetest season of your life! Our God is indeed faithful.I’d like to update you on some recent health developments and a resulting decision from the Oak Hills elders. While my spiritual heart is in a wonderful state, my physical heart has developed some irregularities. We have high hopes for complete healing; yet, I need to make some lifestyle adjustments. I have already begun reducing my leadership responsibilities. I still plan to bring the weekend messages, but will opt out of some of the weekly meetings.My health concerns have also prompted a decision to inaugurate a succession plan. Though I have always known that, at some point my responsibilities would change, I had envisioned this happening years from now. However, these health concerns have moved up the timetable. I wholeheartedly (excuse the pun) feel it is time to identify and invite the next Senior Minister. Oak Hills needs a healthy, full-time servant in this position. Upon his selection, I will turn my attention to doing more what I love to do the most: writing and preaching. I have no intention of leaving this great church, but simply altering my role in it. Yes, this is a major step, but one that will benefit the health of us all. Would you pray for God’s guidance in this process? I know you will. Of course, we will keep you apprised of any developments. Thank you for being a lighthouse to
San Antonio. May God bless you richly.

Your brother,

Max Lucado 

Grace and Peace,

Royce Ogle