Repent & Baptize

"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Acts 2:38
Unless You Repent, You Shall Also Perish

At no time before the 20th century did a minister teach that going forward and receiving prayer would save you. The vast majority who came forward were not "saved" on the spot. They travailed in prayer, came back to every meeting, asked the minister to pray for them and hopefully, eventually were saved. But it was obvious to ministers and penitents alike that God was sovereign.

An account from 1822 illustrates this understanding:
" The invitation was given and four came forward....An old man of sixty, and very dissipated and profane, came in a state of intoxication...That next week he was at meeting again, perfectly sober, and a deeply convicted man. When mourners were called for, he was one of the number. In four or five weeks he was soundly converted." 30

Penitents were prayed for and hopefully, eventually saved, in God's time....perhaps in four or five weeks.

Why all the fuss this fuss about Repentance?

The definition of repentance is somewhat alien to modern American understanding. After 100 years of modern theology, most Americans have a "sloppy agape" understanding of serving God. The bumper sticker "I'M NOT PERFECT- JUST FORGIVEN," sums up American pop Christianity.

Elvis, Willie Nelson and Bill Clinton are considered saved because they said a salvation prayer and can sing the words to Amazing Grace. Unless Calvinist churches start teaching the other side of the eternal security doctrine, ( if you don't have the fruits of repentance, you probably were never saved) the needed reformation in modern evangelism is unlikely.

Spurgeon warned us: "Brethren, are any of you that profess to be God's servants living for yourselves? Then you are not God's servants; for he that is really born again lives unto God: the object of his life is the glory of God and the good of his fellow-men."

"You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" John The Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, "Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham." Matt 3:7-9

When John the Baptist saw the religious leaders coming to "get in" on the forgiveness his baptism symbolized, he warned them not to be deceived. He was aware of the importance of repentance, and understood it wasn't possible for these Religious leaders to repent, lacking God-given faith.

Many of these Pharisees and Sadducees believed John The Baptist was a true prophet. They wanted to be baptized. But something was wrong. The prophet would not baptize them. Why? He discerned the hearts of the Pharisees and Sadducees were not right, not repentant.

" But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds:" Rom 2:5-6 The Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to flee from the wrath to come. They knew the baptism of John was God's symbol of submission. But they didn't have saving faith, so repentance was impossible.

Over 50% of Americans have said an ineffective salvation prayer. Most have less illumination than the Pharisees and Sadducees. If John the Baptist refused the Pharisees and Sadducees out of concern for their souls, (not wanting them to have the false hope that God had forgiven them) how much more should the modern evangelist be concerned.

Why is repentance necessary?

Repentance is the cross, the intersection where God's law and God's mercy work together to bring about the ultimate goal of reconciling man to God.

Repentance can only occur if God illuminates the seeker to his true condition. In fact, repentance without God-given faith to overcome the sin being repented of is a mockery of true salvation. It's like a harlot walking down the aisle with a holy man. She wears a white dress to symbolize imaginary purity, accepts a ring symbolizing imaginary submission, and says a marriage vow to an imaginary husband. "Through sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, till death do us part." The symbolism is there, but it's mockery. How much more tragic is the salvation prayer uttered by over 50% of Americans who don't know the meaning of the words.

I remember vividly leading a young Mexican man in a salvation prayer. I can still see the joy on his face after he yielded to God. He was ecstatic and went on his way rejoicing while I continued ministering to other penitents. Later that day, he came up to me with a sad face. He looked like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. I asked him what was the matter. He said, "Take it back. Take it back. " I didn't know what he was talking about. "What? Take what back?" I asked. "Take back what you did. I can't do this because my priest will not like it. Take it back." I assured the young man that his priest would be happy that he had given his heart to God and insisted that he go immediately to inform him.

Whether a person gets saved or not depends on repentance. This young man was most likely not saved. If the young man had repented, he would have known the cost of discipleship. As it was, he was like the seed that fell on rocky soil.

"And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no {firm} root in himself, but is {only} temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away." Matt 13:20-21

True repentance is evident when the penitent knows he cannot live without God's personal help. This help is called "grace". Grace is not forgiveness of past sin only - it is the power of God to not sin again - hence the possibility of repentance depends on the grace of God. The power of God to forgive sin and the power of God to keep the penitent out of the very sin he repented of is the evidence of salvation. This is the 'Good News" of the Gospel.

The vast majority of Americans who've said a formula "salvation prayer" did not have the necessary heart for repentance to take place. In the parable of the seed, the condition of the soil (men's hearts) determined whether the seed would bear fruit. When we cast the seed, we should expect that only a small percentage will be able to immediately bear fruit. Nevertheless, we must continue to teach them about the fear of the Lord, sin, judgment, the law, and the way of salvation while we encourage them to seek the Lord. "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." 2 Pet 3:9

It's our job as evangelists and pastors to prepare the soil with God's Word until God saves them.

"Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" Rom 10:13-14

If the penitent is not informed as to what it means to "call upon the name of the Lord," his "conversion" will be a mockery. For more on this subject, please read the next chapter.

Go to the Chapter, What Does It Mean To Believe On Jesus?

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