Does grace make light of repentance

Does the Grace Message Make Light of Repentance?

Many people accuse me of making light of repentance.

They say I don’t think repentance is essential.

This is an accusation thrown against most proponents of the “grace message”.

Let me set the record straight.

I believe that…

But…

I do not think that what most people call repentance is essential.

Most people think that repentance means “to change their actions to please God.”

And they could be forgiven for thinking that. I mean that’s what the English dictionary says as well!

But they are wrong.

Greek 101

The Greek word we’ve translated to mean “repent” means something quite different.

It’s the word “metanoia.”

It comes from two words:

1) Meta – which means “change”
2) Nois – which means “mind”

Metanoia means quite literally “change mind.”

Repentance is not about changing our actions to please God.

Now don’t get me wrong, when we change our minds our actions will in turn follow suit.

Let’s not put the cart before the horse

But we must not focus on the fruit of repentance lest we ignore repentance itself.

The message of grace does not ignore repentance or deminish it’s importance. Rather it is the one message that puts the focus solely on true repentance!

It is those who focus on this false idea of repentance (changing our actions) that we need to be very wary of.

While their hearts are good and they desire the same fruit – holy living. They fail to realise they are leading people away from the one thing that can cause a holy lifestyle.

True repentance.

A focus on our beliefs not our actions.

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14 Comments

  1. Phil, i am inordinately grateful for touching this and other topics in your article. I am discovering more about God’s goodness. Your are answering some questions in my heart that i have not fully grasped in light of what the sacrifice of Jesus has done. I have downloaded your free ebook: You don’t have a sinful nature and downloaded several audio resources from your website… Thanks for being a blessing to me!

    • You are so welcome Emmanuel – I’m glad it helped you.

      I hope the other resources you’ve downloaded bless you too. Please do get in touch if there is anything I can do to help :)

  2. “Fellowship with God leads straight to obedience and good works. This is the divine order and it can never be reversed.” So, Tozer sounds like a “hyper-grace” teacher, doesn’t he? What about Paul? Talk about hyper-grace, he jumped all over the Galatians for thinking that their works could or would make them righteous, even called them stupid! Even the term hyper-grace is nonsensical, kind of like para-church. How can you possibly have to much grace? That same grace that actually makes us righteous, empowers us to become what the Father says we are? Personally, I’d love to OD on that, bring it on.

  3. Dear Phil,

    I like how you seem to give more significance to repentance than others might be willing to, but I do have one pushback. There are several different nuances of the modern “grace movement,” and the major teachers along with the followers of this movement are certainly not monolithic. Its a difficult thing to document, too, as the majority seems to be writing things online as opposed to academic books and journals. Many, if not all, use the umbrella “grace movement” to identify there since of belonging, yet some do make light of the importance and necessity of the apostolic doctrine of repentance from dead works (Heb. 6). How would you account for this?

    • Hi Troy,

      Great question.

      Honestly I know of very few people who would associate with the “grace movement” who would neglect the repentance of dead works. In fact I can’t think of one right now!

      I think it’s important that we remember the repentance from dead works is not talking about doing good works… rather it’s talking about us stepping out of “works” and into faith. A faith that allows God to produce work through us. Good or Bad work if produced in our own strength is a dead work as Paul talks about throughout his different epistles.

      So again, I’m just not sure how many people are focusing on this issue – again I’d say this is more of an issue in those movements outside this “Grace movement”.

      Honestly though I hate the term “grace movement” I use it solely to bring the right people to this message and help set the story straight.

      While I agree that most people aren’t writing theological books or journals on the topic I would say that is true of every movement in the body today. With the spread of self-publishing and blogging. There are more people in every area of the church writing that the “academics” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t academics dealing with these issues. N.T. Wright, C. Baxter Kruger and Robert F. Capon would be a few great examples that spring to mind.

      Thanks again for the question – hope that helps a little.

        • Thanks Jordan – those are some great examples although I’m personally only very familiar with the Torrance brothers. I’ve not had time to acquaint myself with Jersak or Hardin.

  4. Hi Phil,
    I love your writing, and agree 100% with your explanation of repentance.
    I think sometimes the confusion around this concept stems from the message of John the Baptist of repentance from sin (Matthew 3: 2). Could you expound on what John was speaking of and explain the difference?
    Blessings,
    Bryan

    • Hi Bryan,

      The key here is that what some translations choose to translate as “repent from your sins for the kingdom is at hand” actually only says “repent for the kingdom is at hand”.

      Again we read our interpretation into the Bible rather than the other way around.

      John is merely crying out to God’s children…

      “Change the way you think because the Kingdom is here”

  5. It’s amazing how simple it really is … change your thinking to agree with God … and the behavior will follow! But oh how difficult it is to get someone who believes that we are wrong to see it for what it truly is. Keep running your race Phil … you are giving joy to Father’s heart by proclaiming His true nature!

  6. Keep shouting about it Phil! I think people get stuck when they feel guilty about not feeling guilty, because that is what they believe repentance is. I do wonder if the sorrow people talk about comes occasionally as we mature in Christ, but the most common reaction should be joy and thankfulness – Jesus has risen and we are forgiven :-D

    • Absolutely Mark – I think it’s very healthy to feel sorrow sometimes when we change our mind and realise we’ve messed up… but it should be for a moment as we continue to repent and realise that there is joy sitting right there as He turns it all to good!

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