Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Two Sides Of The Same Coin

Have you ever noticed that sometimes in the gospels Jesus commands people to repent...
"repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand... bear fruit in keeping with repentance... the men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here... I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance...unless you repent, you will all likewise perish... there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents"... etc... 

...and then at other times, he commands them to believe...
"do not fear, only believe... all things are possible for one who believes... o foolish ones and slow of heart to believe... whoever believes in the son has eternal life... woman, believe me... truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life... How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?... if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?... This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent... whoever believes in me shall never thirst... you have seen me and yet do not believe... For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life... Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life... Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins....etc... especially etc. in John!... 

Well, which is it?... Of course, it's both.  Repent & believe, in the gospel, are functional synonyms.  They are two sides of the same coin—the coin of conversion.

Repentance-filled faith & faith-filled repentance.

And you see this throughout the Bible, actually.  Sometimes people ask Peter how they can be saved & he tells them to repent.  On another occasion a man asks Paul how he can be saved & he tells the man to believe.

It seems that these two ideas in the gospel cannot be fully distinguished from one other.  They must always exist together.  To turn away from self & sin is to turn to Christ.  And to turn to Christ is to turn away from self & sin.

This also helps explain why the Bible indicates that if one hasn't turned away from sin at all—in the sense of living in continual, ongoing, careless, habitual defiance of God—then one has not yet truly believed.
"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'"
~Mark 1

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