(The writer, though totally unqualified to preach or teach, had a burden which led to an urge to stress the scriptural truth of “Repent and believe in order to be saved” rather than to just “ believe and be saved” as taught by many nowadays, which could easily be just taken out of the context of the Bible).
1. Ever since Adam committed high treason, because of God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS, God had to judge Adam and Eve who broke the Edenic covenant. Men became spiritually dead –“separation from God”; only the mind and body remained. But, because of God’s LOVE, God made another covenant, the Adamic covenant, to provide a salvation plan which worked in stages over a time-frame. Before salvation was completed by Lord Jesus’ shedding of blood at Calvary, the sins of people in the Old Testament (O.T.) time were only covered (not yet forgiven; see Psalm 32) through REPENTANCE. People in the O.T. time could not communicate with God directly, they could only do so through the High Priests, prophets and kings, etc., because men with sins would be struck dead the moment they faced God’s glory. Even for the High Priests, they also had to go through a series of cleansing (failing which he would also be struck dead) in the ceremonial procedure before going into the Holy of Holies to perform atonement for the people. The saints in the O.T. time could not go to heaven straight-away at the time of their death, due to the still-not-yet-forgiven sins which were temporarily covered up, as revealed in the Psalms and repeated in Acts 2: the speech by Peter). They were placed in a safe place in Hades. Not until Lord Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on the third day, after His crucifixion, were the saints taken up to heaven with the Lord as salvation process was then completed, and that God had fulfilled His last covenant with mankind, the New Testament (N.T.) with Lord Jesus’ shedding of His Holy Blood to redeem mankind followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and sealed with the New Covenant. (I have skipped a lot of details herein)
2. God cared for His people and made successive covenants with them every time people fell short of His glory in the O.T. time to pave way for their salvation. Far too many people were unrepentant and apparently did not get their sins covered. Adam appeared to have turned back to God. Cain, Adam’s son, was not repentant for killing his brother Abel. As time dragged on, when The Lord saw men’s wickedness and evil growing immensely (Ge 6:5), He continued to call on people to repent. We all know that at Noah’s time when the flood came, only Noah’s family of eight were saved, the others being unrepentant and unsaved. God’s patience for people to repent and be saved were symbolized in the life of Methuselah (see Genesis), who was the longest living human in history - he lived 969 years. He was the son of Enoch and was the 7th generation grandson of Adam. But, one thing unlike the Chinese who like to take up a name linking with longevity, fortune etc., no Jews took this Hebrew name “Methuselah” ever since. It was because Methuselah means:” When the man dies, God’s judgment comes”. So it was fulfilled. When Methuselah died, about 1,500 years from Adam’s time, God’s wrath came with the flood because of people’s non-repentance. God utilized
Methuselah’s life to signify that His patience was long enough for sinners to repent, by prolonging Methuselah’s life to buy time for them. It was just unfortunate that far too many people didn’t respond.
After the flood, Noah’s sons and their descendents became scattered around various geographical areas as recorded. Apart from a limited number, people still did evil in the eyes of the Lord. God called on Abraham to come out of his homeland of Ur, to be separate from the others, the non-repentant ones. Then came Issac and Jacob, who became Israel, with his twelve sons becoming the twelve tribes of Israel (as a nation), making up what was called God’s chosen people. (At that time, salvation was confined to the Israelites and not to the gentiles who got salvation only after Lord Jesus came (see the 4 Gospels)). After Joseph’s prosperous time in Egypt, the people became slaves to the Egyptians after another Pharoah came along and Moses was called to deliver them from Egypt. Then came the time in the wilderness with the Lord descending on Mount Sinai and laying down the Ten Commandments. A noteworthy point was many of the Israelites were also rebellious against God, worshipping idols. However, God’s salvation plan was fully depicted in the set-up in the Tabernacle. Various atonement ceremonies were set up, all pointing to the future coming of the Messiah. The state of the Israelites went on through the times of judges, King David, King Solomon and other Kings of the divided nations of Southern and Northern Kingdom. Most of the people were disobedient to the Lord, including the Kings. Then, after many warnings, God’ judgment came with the North and South Kingdoms being taken captives by Assyria and Babylon, in the years 721 B.C. and 606 B.C. respectively. Israel, as a nation was conquered and the people dispersed. (The punishments had all been prophesied prior to the occurrence) .God still loved His people and sent many prophets calling them to repent and turn back to the Lord. Again, many of His chosen people were disobedient. They continued worshipping idols (the most offensive sin in the eyes of the Lord) and doing other evil deeds .We saw many such incidents in the above-mentioned period. The above was just to stress the point that repentance and turning to God was the pre-requisite for salvation and such principles are all applicable when it came to the N.T. time.
Proof: Numbers 15:30 :’….But, anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the Lord, and that person must be cut off from his people…, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him’ (But his guilt remains on him, that person cannot have his sins covered. This is what the Lord said)
:Psalm 66:17:’…….If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened……………..’ (V.
20 continued to say God has not rejected David’s prayer or withheld his love from him, depicting that if he had cherished sin in his heart, the prayer would not have reached the Lord whose love would not flow to him, not because God didn’t love him but because he did not put himself into a state and position to receive the same.)
Isaiah 59:1-2: ‘Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too short to hear. But, your iniquities have separately you from the Lord’. (Non-repentance makes iniquities stay and that results in separation from God. This is self-explanatory)
There are many other scriptures in the O.T. that also illustrate this point.
To sum up, people in the O.T. time were saved by FAITH in anticipation of the coming Messiah (Lord Jesus) through REPENTANCE and turning to God, with their sins temporarily covered. The shedding of lamb’s blood was to symbolize the coming Saviour’s shedding of His Holy Blood once and for all to complete the salvation process. Then, in N.T. time (see below)
3. In N.T. time, through Lord Jesus’ shedding of His Holy Blood, salvation was completed (men’s spirit was put back to life again, i.e. ‘born again’ in its technical sense). But, God did not lower His standard of achieving salvation. God was the same yesterday, to-day and to-morrow. Sins were forgiven (Rev.1:5 ‘…..and from Jesus Christ,………, to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his precious blood………), and the Holy Spirit can dwell in us.
Repentance as a pre-requisite is clearly shown in the following scripture verses that run in chronological sequence:
(i) John the Baptist prepared the way:
Mark 1:3-4 (NIV): ‘, A voice of one calling in the desert, “ Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.’
So, it was emphasized ‘repentance for forgiveness’, the two being inseparably knitted, leading us to note that without repentance one cannot obtain forgiveness.
(ii) Lord Jesus preached many times in the 4 gospels on the same issue. Take one example:
‘He told them, ”This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’
(iii) Then came the Apostles with the follow-up work after Lord Jesus’ ascension to heaven, e.g.
‘Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins”.’
The early church’s time in the Acts stressed this important issue. How come some modern teachings could have an oversight on this or was it purposely chosen to be omitted so there is an easy way out for believers !!?
4. Repentance is not only of lip-service. It should be truly from the heart and one has to produce the fruit of repentance:
See 2 Cor. 7:10: _’Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death’. (Note that it requires Godly sorrow to obtain salvation)
David and Saul were good examples of Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow respectively. David committed grave sins. He coveted other’s wife, indirectly killed the husband. But, he truly repented subsequently and had his sins forgiven, though he had to pay the price and bear the consequence of sins (his infant son had to die as a form of judgment). Saul committed much less severe sin. He only didn’t kill the cattle as commanded by God. But, he didn’t truly show remorse and didn’t produce the fruit of repentance. He fell more and more to the devil’s side and even exalted himself. He didn’t wait for the prophet to come for the offering and gradually completely fell away from God. God understands whether there is true repentance or not, as God will judge men’s secrets through Lord Jesus Christ (See Rom. 2:16) and the Lord also said in 2 Tim 2:19 ’ Everyone who confess the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’
Why are we still having pastors preaching ‘just believe and be saved’?
5. Christians will face judgment (2 Cor. 5:10) and judgment will begin with the family of God. The judgment for Christians are for screening or eligibility for entrance into heaven. There is no automatic entrance by Christians into heaven except for those who experience the rapture at the right timing. See 1 Peter 4:17-18: ‘ For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God’, AND ‘if it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’
Peter told them, Christians, not unbelievers, that it is hard for the righteous to be saved. We should take note of this and ponder on what would become of us if one sticks to “just believe and be saved” or “once saved, forever saved” and find out later on that such doctrines are not true but it will become too late then.
The following scriptures are also relevant and self-explanatory:
Matt. 7: 21-23: ‘Not everyone who says to me, ’Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, ‘did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
It appears that those Christians who are left out included pastors.
(Read also Matt. 25 , the whole chapter)
6. Scriptures tell us that there is an unpardonable sin which can only be committed by Christians and once committed, there is no turning back.
Hebrews 6:4-6:’ It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying The Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace…….’
It is very clear from this scripture that the statement:’ you are saved once, you are forever saved’ is totally wrong. The sin referred in these verses can only be committed by mature Christians. This piece of biblical doctrine is quite profound. Not many Christians can commit such a sin. During Pastor Kenneth Hagin’s 60-plus-years of ministry, he had witnessed only 3 persons (who have had service for the Lord prior to their backsliding) who committed such a sin. Every time he prayed for these few people, the Lord told him there was no need and no use to pray for them. One may suggest that we do not rely on a certain Pastor’s personal experience to pursue the truth and reference can only be found in the Bible. Fine, true and OK. But then see in Hebrews 6:4-6, it tells us there is such a sin and once committed, there is no turning back because it is unpardonable. We believe in the Bible and this is quoted from the Bible.
7. The example of Ananias and Sapphire (in Acts 5) will give us more truthful elements. They cheated the Holy Spirit. Peter gave them a chance to repent. They didn’t repent and was struck dead by God. I am in no position to judge where they were heading the moment they became dead. But, does it make sense that the angels would say to them,’ Since you two are Christians, welcome to heaven. We are happy that you two clean ones joining us. Let us show you the way to see the Lord?’
8. Lord Jesus paid a high price for our salvation that we do not deserve. It was only by God’s grace. (We cannot obtain it by works.) But, treasure trove is not to be mixed with pig’s waste. Does it make sense, as some who are mistaken to say that Christians can continue to live in sins (they may not say this openly but they discreetly meant that) enjoy the pleasure of sins and continue in the wicked ways and as long as you say you believe in Christ, you can get the ticket to heaven. Yes, you have got the ticket. But, the ticket is voidable through an individual’s own efforts to void it. The Word teaches us that Christians should die to one’s old past, be like Lord Jesus. We made our oath in water baptism. Salvation is free through God’s love and grace. All that is required is the decision to repent and be born again to walk righteously towards the end by carrying our cross (which, I think, is lighter than Lord Jesus’). Read through the gospel of John to see God’s Word in teaching us and guiding in regard to entering the Kingdom. We have nobody but ourselves to blame if we miss it.
(Note: All Bible verses are quoted from the NIV version).