Have you ever been personally sworn in as a witness in a court of law? If not, you have probably watched this happen in a movie, or even live television. Nevertheless, the witness, with one hand on a Bible and the other raised, swears to tell the “truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” This is a solemn, sobering oath, to say the least. An interesting part of the equation to me is the part about the “whole truth.” ‘Why?’you may ask. Because we live in a day of half truths, twisted truths and unfortunately, no truth at all. When it comes to something so important as the eternal destiny of the human soul, I believe we need to get to the whole truth of the matter of what God says about the matter of salvation. This topic deserves our utmost and careful deliberation.
In a time when pastors/preachers are hungry for numerical success and statistical progress, we find all kinds of trickery, gimmicks and “easy believism.” When it comes to offering the plan of salvation to a world in darkness, we must make it plain and simple. We have a Divine mandate to tell the whole truth when it comes to salvation according the Word of God. There are many verses in the Bible where the only condition to salvation is the word or act of believing. Probably the most familiar of these is the most famous verse in all the Bible, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Over one hundred places in the New Testament, we find the word or act of believing as the sole condition of salvation. However, there is more to being Scripturally saved than the intellectual act of believing. James says it is a good thing to believe but even the “devils also believe, and tremble” (James 1:19). So while believing the facts and accepting God’s word is a part of the salvation equation, that is not the whole truth. If a person says Jesus is my Lord and Savior and heaven is my home, I want to share with you what the Bible says must have happened to that person for this to be true.
There is a verse of Scripture in the Book of Acts to which I would like to direct our attention. Acts 20:21 says “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” (emphasis mine). I would like to point out the two sides of salvation indicated by this one verse. I like to refer to these two acts as two sides of the same coin. When you see the word believe in Scripture, in reference to salvation, you may not always think of the two separates acts of repentance and faith. But friends, make no mistake about it, when a person says they have believed to the saving of their soul, they have, of necessity, repented of their sin and placed personal faith in Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross of Calvary. I am not saying a lost person, under conviction of the Holy Spirit, must understand all these theological details at the time of their conversion. I do mean however, that these two acts must take place for one to experience genuine, Biblical salvation.
Someone might object to repentance as being too negative. Well if repentance is too negative, then Jesus is too negative, because it is His idea! Jesus’ forerunner and friend, John the Baptist, preached “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus himself said, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Without repentance there is no salvation. What is repentance? Repentance is the result of the Holy Spirit convicting a person of their personal sin to the point that they view themselves as a lost sinner, separated from a Holy God because of that sin. Repentance is experiencing godly sorrow for our life of sin, saying to God “I am sorry” for my sin, and then willfully turning from sin to the Savior. Repentance is not negative, but positive, in that it brings about the changes that lead us to Christ and eternal life. On the one side of the coin of salvation is repentance, and on the other is faith. Notice that repentance is toward God. Why? Because He is the One we have sinned against. Then our faith is toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because He is the One who died for us! So the salvation experience is composed, in part, of two acts of the human will, that actually are wrapped up in the one Bible term, “believe.”
When I was saved as a seventeen year-old boy, on a Sunday night in the little country church, I did not understand all these details at all. I simply knew God had done a work in my heart that caused me to see myself as a lost sinner and in need of a Savior. I asked God to forgive my sin that night and I placed personal faith in Jesus and my Lord and Savior. I am glad we do not have to understand it all to experience Biblical salvation. Has this ever happened to you personally? As a result of the Holy Spirit doing a work in your heart, have you ever repented of your sin and placed personal faith in Jesus alone as your Savior? If not, why not? Why not now?