Repentance is NOT a condition of eternal salvation: An argument
Many people believe that repentance is a condition for eternal life. Ron Shea posted something to this effect on Lou Martuneac's blog. The following is an argument that was made by your humble co-host of Unashamed of Grace some 2 years ago and still has not been answered by the critics of consistent Free Grace Theology. It is here again provided as another opportunity for those who believe that repentance is a God-ordained condition to give us a scripture that conjoins a command to repent with a resultant of eternal life, eternal salvation, or justification, or a cause of repentance with a resultant effect of eternal salvation.
Example: John 6:47 - Most assuredly I say to you (promise), he who believes in Me (cause) has everlasting life (effect).
[Taken from the 7 part article on Repentance and Free Grace Theology. You can find links to all 7 articles here: Free Grace Theology Blog]
As a preliminary consideration, the reader must be aware of a cogent biblical fact that necessarily places a huge burden of proof upon the Traditionalists:
Nowhere in the Bible is the reception of eternal salvation, eternal life, or justification conditioned on an act of repentance.
The Traditionalist must string together texts and arguments in order to support his unbiblical assertion that repentance is a theologically binding requirement for the possession of eternal salvation. In his arguments, the fallacy of special pleading is a common trait, for there is no clear text that makes his point.
He cannot point to even one text that explicitely commands repentance for the express purpose of the appropriation of eternal life. There is no such verse or passage.
If this is such an important element in the discussion of the critical components of the gospel message it is odd – no, it is incredible – that not a single verse clearly conjoins a command to repent with a resultant appropriation of: eternal salvation, eternal life, or justification.
Isn’t the reception of eternal life/justification of utmost importance to a lost sinner on his way to hell? I mean, listen – the information on how a person is initiated into a relationship with God is of dire necessity! Wouldn’t you think that an issue of such great import would be properly clarified by the God who “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4)? Isn’t it unbelievable that in the whole canon of scripture, that if eternal well-being is contingent partly on an act of repentance, that no text whatsoever conditions a result of eternal salvation on such an act?
The apostle John, who is not unfamiliar with the doctrine of repentance, as he presents it more than any other New Testament writer other than Luke (10 mentions in Revelation), whose gospel was written for an express purpose of evangelism (John 20:30-31), nevertheless is conspicuously silent on repentance as a condition for the appropriation of eternal life.
Would it not be a major error of inestimable proportions that if repentance is indeed a necessary requirement for eternal life that John the apostle would not include a single reference to it as a condition for salvation, yeah, even further, fail to mention it even once in the whole of his gospel written so that men could have eternal life?
This would be like writing a book on “Major Treatments for Heart Disease” and yet fail to mention open heart surgery (an illustration borrowed from Zane Hodges).
The evidence in regard to this chilling and absolute silence of the fourth gospel in mentioning repentance in conjunction with the indisputable instrument of eternal life’s appropriation, faith into Jesus for it, can have only 1 of 3 possible ramifications:
1) John, the disciple who leaned “on Jesus' bosom”, the apostle “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), was not aware that the free reception of eternal life was in someway conditioned upon an act of repentance by the unsaved and thus presented an inadequate and therefore faulty testimony in this matter.
2) John, the apostle “who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24), purposely omitted a crucial component of the promise of eternal life for reasons that could only be speculated upon (the first one that would come to mind is some form of mal-intent).
3) John, who knew that “which was from the beginning”, who declared what he “heard” and saw with his “eyes”, who revealed that which he “looked upon” and his hands “handled, concerning the Word of life”, who bore “witness” and declared to us “that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to” him (1 John 1:1-2) did not consider, did not believe, and was not under the conviction that repentance was a necessary requirement for the appropriation of eternal well-being.
If we agree to the following:
1) John told the truth
2) John wrote his gospel with a purpose of evangelism
and admit to the following (which cannot be denied):
3) John did not require repentance in his Gospel as a condition for the appropriation of eternal life, as he did not even mention it once in the whole of his discourse; repentance being shockingly absent from its whole.
We must necessarily come to this conclusion:
4) Repentance is not a theological necessary condition for the reception of eternal life.
Furthermore, we must consider our dear brother, the apostle Paul. The idea of repentance is a category strikingly absent from him. In his whole discussion of justification by faith in Romans 3-5, there is not even one mention of repentance as a condition for eternal salvation. It is also noteworthy to share that Paul only mentions repentance 5 times in his epistles (half as many as John), although he wrote 13 (possibly 14) out of the 27 New Testament books. And none of these passages in which he speaks of this doctrine does he regard repentance as a condition for the reception of eternal salvation.
In addition, what is even more damaging to the Traditionalist position is the utter absence of repentance in the book of Galatians. This epistle is Paul’s defense of his gospel wherein he heralds clear and loud the essential tenet that righteousness is imparted through faith alone in Jesus. It is indeed significant that repentance is absent in a book where Paul is presenting and defending the gospel message he received directly from the Lord. For Paul, faith alone into Christ is the sole theological requirement for justification and eternal salvation.
What we are faced with is dozens upon dozens of clear and unambiguous statements of scripture that condition eternal life/justification through faith alone in Christ alone.
For thoroughness, I feel I ought to at least refer us to some of these clear and unambiguous statements that conjoin the requirement of faith/belief with the result – eternal salvation, eternal life, or justification:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life
And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.
that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ
knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
1 Tim 1:16-17
16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
We are equally confronted by the striking absence of a single verse in the whole of the Bible that conjoins a command to repent with a stated purpose of the appropriation of eternal salvation.
Can the Traditionalists produce even ONE clear and unambiguous verse that conditions eternal life, justification, or eternal salvation with a requirement of repentance?