Friday, January 09, 2009

Except Ye Repent!

Recently at a Crossless Gospel blog I saw a post that featured writing from HA Ironside with the title "Christ is not just necessary -- He is enough!" Of course I could find nothing to disagree with in that title, it is the rest of the message of the blog that I disagree with. They claim that some "add" repentance, and the facts of the Gospel to the Salvation Message. Of course when I saw this article I couldn't help but smile. A version of HA Ironside's "Except Ye Repent!" updated with modern English transformed my walk with Christ.

They may quote Ironside, but they can't change what the man really preached. Read the full book at Wholesome Words. Here's a sample of the introduction;

Fully convinced in my own mind that the doctrine of repentance is the missing note in many otherwise orthodox and fundamentally sound circles today, I have penned this volume out of a full heart. I hope and pray that God will be pleased to use it to awaken many of His servants to the importance of seeking so to present His truth as to bring men to the only place where He can meet them in blessing. That place is the recognition of their own demerit and absolute unworthiness of His least mercies and a new conception of His saving power for all who come to Christ as lost sinners, resting alone upon His redemptive work for salvation, and depending upon the indwelling Holy Spirit to make them victorious over sin's power in daily life.

The pages have been written during a busy summer, as I have gone from place to place trying to preach and teach the very truths herein emphasized. Most of the book was scribbled out in Pullman cars while speeding from one appointment to another. If there seems at times to be lack of continuity of thought, I hope the manifest defects of the treatise may not hinder the reader from getting the message I have endeavored to set forth as clearly as possible, under difficult circumstances.

I have not written for literary critics or for theological quibblers, but for earnest people who desire to know the will of God and to do it. And so I send forth this book, in dependence on Him who has said, "Cast thy bread upon the waters: and thou shalt find it after many days." If He be pleased to use it to arouse some at least to a deeper sense of the importance of reality in dealing with souls, I shall be grateful.

—Harry A. Ironside


Lou Martuneac said...


I have this article by Ironside in the appendix of my book. Anyway, I have some thoughts to share, but they'll have to wait until later in the weekend.

I do appreciate your use of and discussion of Ironside's article.


Jan said...

I have this book and began to read it. Being distracted by other things I haven't finished it. Just last week I was telling myself that I have to get back to it and promptly forgot again!:(

Thanks for reminding me!


Kevl said...

I went through a period where I believed the Lordship interpretation of Repentance and I started to think that it must not have anything to do with Salvation and I really got messed up...

It was this book that got my head straightened out. It's incredibly valuable for study.

I'm glad the Lord has used this little blog post to prompt you Jan. :)


Jan said...

I have been reading it this afternoon and it has been such a blessing! I so agree with a great deal of what Ironside says (he was SUCH a good teacher!)

I really appreciate the following statements quite a lot:

"Repentance is not opposed to grace; it is the recognition of the need of grace." p.10

"Repentance is the sinner's recognition of and acknowledgment of his lost estate and, thus, of his need of grace." p.11

"There is no saving merit in owning my true condition. There is no healing in acknowledging the nature of my illness. And repentance, as we have seen, is just this very thing." p.12

"Nowhere is man exhorted to feel a certain amount of sorrow for his sins in order to come to Christ. When the Spirit of God applies the truth [of their lost condition], penitence is the immediate result and this leads on to repentance, but should not be confounded with it." p.12

"To turn over a new leaf, to attempt to supplant bad habits with good ones, to try to live well instead of evilly, may not be the outcome of repentance at all and should never be confounded with it. Reformation is merely an outward change. Repentance is a work of God in the soul." p.14

" is the Greek word...metanoia, which is translated 'repentance' in our English Bibles, and literally means a change of mind. This is not simply the acceptance of new ideas in place of old notions. But it actually implies a complete reversal of one's inward attitude." p.15

" man repents until the Holy Spirit produces repentance in his soul through the truth. No man believes the gospel and rests for his own salvation until he has judged himself as a needy sinner before God. And this is repentance." p. 16

I think he is absolutely right. And for this last quote, it is not necessarily a big stinking emotional deal to find oneself in such a position. When I heard the gospel I was told that I was "sinful and separated from God." That was about the extent to which my sin was dealt with. There was a certain amount of alarm, but no real "sorrow" for sins committed. The specific expressions of the sin nature (lying, stealing, whatever) were not discussed. There were no specific sins I was required to give up. The recognition of the truth of being sinful and separated from God was enough for me to see I had a need. I was young enough to still have a childlike trust that help for my needs must come from an outside source. So I was able to see my trouble and condemnation before God and then to see Christ as my sufficient Savior that met my need. I would never have been able to articulate it then, but that is how it was and God knew it. He recognized my recognition of my sin and its consequence as repentance, which, according to Ironside, it was.

I have no problem with preaching repentance as part of the gospel message if this is what is meant. The problem comes when it is the FRUIT of repentance that is preached AS repentance. It is made worse when a commitment to discipleship in order to be saved is required. And worse still when that commitment is preached INSTEAD of placing your trust in Christ's finished work on the cross.

But to see yourself as a sinner in need of a Savior and having that Savior in Jesus- that is grace!


Jan said...

Here is one more from a poem or something:

"All the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him." p. 17


Kevl said...

Great comments Jan!

It is so true, if we let the Bible define repentance it clearly refutes Lordship Salvation and the Crossless Gospel as well.

That a drowning man knows he's drowning and wanting to be saved doesn't make him a better swimmer. Nor does the fact that he's not going to want to be saved unless he knows he's drowning constitute work.


Lou Martuneac said...
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Lou Martuneac said...
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Lou Martuneac said...


You know, the ironic part of a discussion of repentance is what the position of the late Zane Hodges was. Ron Shea contributed a two-part series at my blog titled, Drifting Far Off the Marker. In part two Shea discussed Hodges's actual position on repentance. There is an aspect of Hodges's view on repentance, in relation to Lordship Salvation that the GES seldom discloses.

You can go to Drifting Far Off the Marker, Part 2 for this discussion.

Here is an excerpt…

And now we come to the great circular logic of Zane Hodges, former heir apparent of the Free Grace mantel . . . “John doesn’t teach repentance to be saved, and John is sufficient for salvation, therefore, repentance is not needed for salvation.” Hmmmmm? Does that depend, perhaps . . . on your definition of “repent?”

Hodges has come to believe, against the full body of Greek literature, that repentance is turning from one’s sins. There are nuances where honest theologians can disagree. This is not one of them. The belief that repentance somehow takes sin as its automatic object is indefensible from Greek. It is bluntly contradicted by a mass of secular literature as well as Scriptural usage.

Because Hodges has retained his commitment against Lordship Salvation, the only way he is able to teach a Reformed definition of repentance (a turning from sin) while preserving grace is to claim that “repentance” is never presented as a requirement for salvation in the New Testament….

For Hodges position to be sustainable, he must be able to demonstrate by the preponderance of the evidence that NONE of these passages (seen in the full article) are directed to the question of eternal salvation. Five verses would require exegetical gymnastics. Thirty six requires an exegetical contortionist. And it clearly requires an agenda . . . reaching the conclusion, and then hammering the Scriptures to fit that conclusion.

The argument that John never speaks of “repentance” is akin to the argument that the rapture is not a biblical doctrine because the word “rapture” is not in the Bible. That is indeed true. But the question is more accurately “is the doctrine of the rapture taught in the Bible?”

Jan said...


I have just come from reading the archives at the Pulpit Magazine blog where Nathan Busenitz reviewed your book. ("Lou and Lordship Part 1", 10/30/06) I found his initial definition of repentance interesting:

"...the lordship camp answers that repentance is a change of heart (from love for sin and self to love for Christ) which results in a change of behavior.

Because of his parenthetical statement, I see NB saying that the result of repentance is repentance itself, which leads to the result of repentance. He has love for Christ as part of his definition of repentance. Turning from love of sin to love of Christ sounds very tidy and symmetrical. But it isn't exactly the way it works. It's like saying you hadn't repented of being dirty until you were actually clean. He doesn't make any allowance for process and time to yield results. He just lumps it all together and doesn't seem to notice he does so.

Compare NB's definition with Ironside's:

“Repentance is the sinner's recognition of and acknowledgment of his lost estate and, thus, his need for grace.”

I see these definitions to be quite different. NB does not seem to be satisfied with the idea that it is an attitude change as Ironside says. He doesn't just want the inner disposition changed, he wants love and allegiance (as he mentioned in the comment thread) as part of the definition of repentance. The difference is subtle but important. To say that repentance is a change of allegiance, or a turning from loving one thing to being in the same relationship with someone or something else is to add what I can only call a work of some sort. It goes way beyond a recognition of the truth of a condition all the way to the ultimate outcome of having repented, if you see what I mean. The definition is far too broad and inclusive. This is why it has been so often said that repentance is a change on one level (inward) that leads to a change on another level (outward), and is not the outward change itself. NB does say this, but he adds something else first, which he evidently intends to be a clarifying statement but actually causes much confusion.


Lou Martuneac said...

Hi Jan:

Glad you brought this up on NB's definition of repentance. Some other comments on repentance by NB found its way into the revised edition of my book.

More to follow.