Friday, April 28, 2006

Repentance and the Fourth Gospel: Part 4

Lamb of God: 1:29
When John the Baptist said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” does he insinuate the concept of repentance? The first problem with this verse is the expression “Lamb of God.” While it may refer to the apocalyptic lamb mentioned in Revelation 5 (Beasley-Murray, Dodd, Carson), or the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, it most likely is a reference to the Paschal lamb.

The connection to repentance can only be made if one understands the phrase “sin of the world” as a reference to forgiveness, and then points out the connection between repentance and forgiveness of sin in the NT (for example, see Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; 17:3–4; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 8:22). It should also be noted that there is one explicit mention of believing and forgiveness of sins in the NT: “everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). Evidence for “takes away” referring to forgiveness can be found in the LXX of 1 Sam 15:25 and 25:28 where the Greek verb (airo) refers to forgiveness. In this context, it could also take the meaning of “sin-bearing,” though this appears less likely. This text appears too distant from the concept of repentance to draw any strong conclusions.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Repentance and the Fourth Gospel: Part 3

John the Baptist and Baptism: 1:25ff 3:23 10:40

The author of the FG assumed some kind of knowledge of the general story about Jesus. This can be seen in a few places. In 1:40, Andrew is introduced to the reader as “Simon Peter’s brother.” However, Simon Peter has not yet been introduced; that occurs in the following verse (1:41). This does not necessitate a claim to Johannine literary dependence upon the Synoptics. Other examples are found at 3:24 (an analeptic reference to John the Baptist being thrown into prison); and 11:1–2 (an analeptic reference to Mary anointing Jesus’ feet). Therefore, familiarity with the general story about Jesus is assumed. It should also be mentioned that John the Baptist is always referred to as “John,” without the additional “the Baptist.” While this is frequently used to support evidence of apostolic authorship, it also demonstrates that the audience probably was already familiar with John (the Baptist’s) ministry.

If the above is true, and the emphasis of John’s ministry, as confirmed in the Synoptics, was repentance and baptism, then it may be the case that the author of the FG did not find it necessary to repeat much about John since knowledge about him was already assumed.
The words for “baptism” occur frequently with words for repentance in the NT (for example, see Matt 3:6–16; Mark 1:4–9; Luke 3:7–21; Acts 2:38–41; 8:12–38; 11:16; 19:3–5). In the FG, baptizo occurs thirteen times. The relationship of baptism to repentance may have been strong enough for the author of the FG to not find it necessary to make this link explicit.

Another connection, which could be made between John the Baptist and repentance, is the mention of “purification” in 3:25. While purification may refer to John’s baptism, Carson (more perceptively) connects this “purification” with the same word in 2:6 and thus Jewish purification rites are in mind. While more will be said about 2:6 later, Morris’ conclusion regarding this dispute is surely astute: “This verse is compressed to the point of obscurity.”

While the former text may allude (from a very distant perspective) to repentance, it surely is not strong enough to connect them tightly. The latter text does not meet the standards. Therefore, neither text adequately contain the concept of repentance.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Repentance and the Fourth Gospel: Part 2


The following texts were identified as possibilities and examined to test their merits:

(1) References to John the Baptist and baptism: 1:25ff.; 3:23ff; 10:40.
(2) Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”: 1:29.
(3) The Wedding at Cana: could the reference to the purification jars be a reference to repentance: 2:1–13.
(4) Born from above/anew and born of water and spirit: 3:3–7.
(5) The lifting up of the snake in the wilderness: 3:14 (see Num 21:4–9).
(6) Light and darkness motif throughout FG: 1:4–9; 3:19–21; 8:12; 9:5.
(7) The relationship of obedience and believing: 3:36.
(8) Jesus pointing out the Samaritan woman’s sinful life: 4:16–18.
(9) Jesus’ command to not sin: 5:14; 8:11.
(10) The motif of hearing and its relationship to obedience: 5:24; 12:47.
(11) The motif of “coming”: 5:40; 6:35.
(12) “die in sin”: 8:21.
(13) “continue to follow”: 8:31.
(14) obeying Jesus’ teaching equals never seeing death: 8:51; 17:6.
(15) “turn to me” from Isaiah: 12:40.
(16) obedience and love: 14:15, 21, 23–24.
(17) remain and bear fruit: 15:1–5.
(18) Peter’s restoration: 21:15–17, 19b.

The majority of these concepts and texts have not been analyzed in relationship to repentance in previous research. Some texts were found to provide no concrete evidence for the concept of repentance and others may provided only some weak evidence. The first group that will be discussed will include those texts that are not strong texts for repentance in the Fourth Gospel.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Repentance and the Fourth Gospel: Part 1

Now that the concept of repentance has been discussed, does this concept occur in the Fourth Gospel? Before discussing specific passages the may (or may not) allude to this concept ... what is the significance of the underlying Greek words to repentance (metanoia and metanoeo) not occuring in the Fourth Gospel?

In order to provide a small amount of evidence to the proposition that because something is not explicitly stated that it is not communicated, some items will now be brought forth to show that this idea is incorrect. The virgin birth is not mentioned in the FG, but that does not mean that the author did not know about it or intentionally left it out because he disagreed with it. The word (noun form) “faith” is absent from the FG. Hell (hades, gehenna, tartaroo) is not mentioned in the FG. Regarding other NT books, the verb “to believe” is absent from Revelation, and the noun form only occurs four times. While the verb “to save” occurs in Matthew fifteen times, Jesus is never called Savior. Similarly, the verb “to save” occurs in Mark fourteen times and “salvation” occurs once, but Jesus is never called Savior. If the absence of a word means de facto that the author purposefully left it out and/or the concept is not present then:

(1) The concept of Jesus as Savior is absent from Matthew, Mark, Romans, Colossians, Hebrews, and Revelation;
(2) The concept of grace is absent from Matthew and Mark;
(3) The concept of salvation is absent (in noun form) from Matthew and completely in Colossians;
(4) The verb pisteuo does not occur in Colossians or Revelation and the noun pistis does not occur in the FG;

These conclusions are unwarranted: the absence of a word does not necessitate the absence of the concept. This out-dated linguistic mindset is what led to so many problem with the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. The next post will list texts that may contain the concept of repentance in the Fourth Gospel.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Gospel of Judas

Two interesting (and short) thoughts on the Gospel of Judas: the first by Craig A. Evans and the second by Andreas J. Kostenberger. Good reads!

The Meaning of Repentance: Conclusion

The three main views on the definition of metanoia are: (1) an actual turning away from one’s sins (not just a willingness or resolve to do so); (2) the intention, resolve, or willingness to turn from sins; (3) to change one’s mind (about something). Metanoeo and metanoia do not mean “to be remorseful,” “to be sorry,” or “to regret;” that is the primary meaning of metamelomai. It is more than a “change of mind.” It is not simply “turning over a new leaf.” Rather repentance involves a change in the mind and conduct, which involves (at least) a resolve to turn away from sins that produces demonstrable results. Some have bemoaned that these words were translated by our English word repent. Dement says that the concept of repentance is “very difficult to express in other languages” (Dement, “Repent,” 136). Kümmel prefers the translation “conversion” or “convert.” Genuine repentance contains three elements: cognitive (understand some things about God and sin), emotional (abhor sin), and volitional (determination to forsake sins).

Some would accuse those viewing repentance this way as denying justification by grace through faith (alone). This understanding does not make repentance a work; rather Scripture clearly calls it a gift (so Richardson, Stagg). This is brought out specifically in Rom 2:4 and 2 Tim 2:25: repentance is not achieved, but received. It is not a work; it is not a way to merit or be rewarded salvation. Therefore, it is a God enabling human response.

Can the OT help to understand the NT meaning of metanoia? The data is agreed upon but conclusions differ. If anything, the idea of turning from sins may not have been dominant and changing one’s mind may have been. But conclusions are tenuous. This is the reason that the emphasis has remained on the evaluation of the data from the NT.

Two aspects of repentance need to be distinguished. The emphasis in Scripture is upon the initial act of an unbeliever turning away from his sins and coming to faith in Christ. However, repentance is also a part of progressive sanctification, whereby Christians continually confess and align their lives with God’s will (see Luke 22:31–32; Eph 4:22–23; Rev 2:5, 16; 3:3, 19). It exists throughout one’s Christian life.

Therefore, this study sides with definition (2) described above, while finding much sympathy for the first definition.

Summary of Findings
Matt 3:7–9__Genuine repentance includes good fruit
Mk 1:14–15__Repentance and faith are inseparable, linked; repentance precedes faith
Matt 12:41___Repentance linked to turning; also related to believing
Acts 3:19____Repenting and turning are related
Acts 10:43___Repentance, believing, and turning are all related to each other
___________and to forgiveness of sins
Acts 11:19___Believing and turning are related
Acts 20:20___Repentance is directed toward God; it precedes believing
Acts 26:20___Paul characterized his preaching ministry as a call to repent

Who believes what?
Those who side with the first definition above include:
James Montgomery Boice, James Graham, George Peters, Charles H. H. Scobie, A. W. Tozer, Bruce Demarest, William Barclay, F. C. Grant, Daniel Fuller, Mark R. Talbot, Walter Chantry, J. I. Packer, Robert N. Wilkin, and Zane Hodges, (who says repentance is turning, but that it has nothing to do with salvation, just a harmonious relationship with God).

Those who side with the second definition above include:
Billy Graham, George Ladd, John R. W. Stott, and A. W. Pink (at times Pink seems to say it is an actual turning, at other times a determination to turn).

Those who side with the third definition above include:
Lewis Sperry Chafer, G. Michael Cocoris, H. A. Ironside, and Charles C. Ryrie.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

News story

Another news story that was interesting ...


The Meaning of Repentance: Part 5

Regret vs. Repentance
While metanoeo and metanoia are frequent in the New Testament, metamelomai is not; it only occurs six times (Matt 21:29, 32; 27:3; 2 Cor 7:8 (twice); Heb 7:21). Wilkin is correct when he says that “there are no uses of metamelomai in the NT where ‘repentance’ is a good translation. It always refers to regret, remorse, or to a change of mind. It never refers to turning from one’s sins” (Wilkin, “New Testament Repentance,” 19). In fact, only one scholar could be located who referred to these terms as synonymous, but all the rest saw some level of distinction between them. However, the discussion was not altogether clear in the lexicons. For example, Thayer says that metamelomai refers to an emotional change, regret even remorse and metanoeo to a change of choice, entire life. He then proceeds to reject this distinction. He concludes by saying that metanoeo “is the fuller and nobler term, expressive of moral action and issues” (Thayer, Lexicon of the New Testament, 405). Similarly, Abbott-Smith is the lone example of believing in the synonymy of these words. He says that the terms are “synonymous,” and cites Thayer for support (who actually distinguished between the two words)(Abbott-Smith, Lexicon of the New Testament, 287).

Wilkin begins most of his discussions on the meaning of repentance from the meaning metanoia had in Classical Greek, as if that meaning would naturally carry over and should be the assumed meaning. In fact, at one point he refers, etymologically, to “after thought” or “second thoughts.” This can also be seen in Abbott-Smith when he defines metanoia as “after-thought, change of mind, repentance.” Anderson correctly refers to this as the root fallacy and counters this by saying that in the contexts in which metanoeo occur, it must mean more than both “after thought” and “change your mind” (Anderson, “Repentance,” 17). This kind of dependence upon etymology has long been abandoned by scholarship, but it continues to rear its ugly head from time to time.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Meaning of Repentance: Part 4

Repentance in the Acts of the Apostles

The relationship between repentance and believing continues to be developed in Acts. For example, while 3:19 says “repent and return (epistrefo), so that your sins may be wiped away,” 11:21 says, “a large number who believed turned (epistrefo) to the Lord.” From this, it can be seen that repenting and turning are related (3:19) and believing and turning are related (11:21). Those verses (especially 3:19) combined with 10:43 (“everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins”) shows that repentance, believing, and turning are all related to each other and to forgiveness of sins. Therefore, repentance is understood as “turning” in a salvific context.

The order and description in 20:20 is revealing. Paul says that he testified to both Jews and Greeks “of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Repentance is directed toward God and (if any order were pressed) precedes believing; faith is not some ephemeral feeling in some undeterminate “thing,” but directed toward Christ. Finally, Paul describes his preaching ministry as calling people everywhere to “repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (26:20). Similarly, 2 Pet 3:9 says that the opposite of people perishing is that they come to repentance. This is in a salvific context and should be considered the first act of believing by turning away from sins and to God. Here the term repent should be viewed as the initial act of coming to faith; it contains the idea of turning and will produce good deeds which demonstrate that the repentance was genuine, not simply sorrow or grief. Luter (“Repentance,” 673) mentions that Acts 26:20 with Luke 3:8 (“bear fruits in keeping with repentance”) essentially proves that a changed life is the “expected” result of repentance. More on the distinction between metanoeo and metamelomai will be said later.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Meaning of Repentance: Part 3

Matthew 12:41 is another important passage (but often overlooked) for understanding the New Testament concept of repentance. Jesus is discussing Jonah and the Ninevites. His description of the Ninevites includes that they “repented at the preaching of Jonah.” Jesus uses metanoeo to describe their actions; what does the book of Jonah say? “Then the people of Nineveh believed in God” (Jon 3:5). (The LXX used empisteuo.) This belief of the Ninevites was then demonstrated by a call for a fast and putting on sackcloth (3:6) and ashes (3:7), followed by a declaration by the king for people to turn from their wicked ways. (The word used for "turn" in the LXX was not metanoeo but apostrefo.) Therefore, what Jesus calls “repenting,” the book of Jonah describes as believing and turning. This provides more evidence that Jesus’ use of metanoeo includes more than a change of mind, but includes a turning and relates to believing.

Furthermore, this linking and interdependence of believing and repenting can also be seen in Luke 5:32: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” The idea of turning can also be seen in Luke 17:4: “And if he sins against you seven times a day and seven times returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ (then) forgive him.”

Sunday, April 09, 2006

News Story

Fascinating news story from Canada on the Salvation Army. Check it out ... let me know what you think!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Meaning of Repentance: Part 2

In the last post, the relationship between repentance and fruit was discussed. This post focus' on repentance and belief: “The time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). The decisive moment (kairos) had arrived and Jesus was now proclaiming the gospel. This twofold description, repent and believe, is the basis for discipleship in the Synoptic Gospels.

Jesus' call to believe is more than mere intellectual assent (especially in the Fourth Gospel), but is a call to accept the good news AND respond in commitment. This narrative (Mark 1:15) should be understood as paradigmatic for Mark's entire Gospel: every time Jesus is described as teaching or preaching, the desired response is faith and repentance; every time the mystery of the kingdom is discussed, it is to be viewed through repentance and faith (though both are not always mentioned).

For example, when the twelve were sent out (6:7–13), their message was for all to repent (6:12); faith is not mentioned, but implicitly included. So, what is the relationship between faith and repentance? They are inseparable! Pink has said it well: “Repentance is the heart’s acknowledgement of the justice of God’s sentence of condemnation; faith is the heart’s acceptance of the grace and mercy which are extended to us through Christ.” Spurgeon likened them to two spokes on a wheel; debates over which are first are misdirected. Therefore, repentance must lead to faith; faith cannot exist without repentance.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Meaning of Repentance: Part 1

Over the next few posts, a few passages that contain the Greek words for repentance will be examined to aid in coming to an idea of what the underlying Greek words referred to ...

The beginning cry of John the Baptist's ministry, as found in Matthew 3, was: “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near.” Similarly, in Mark 1:15, Jesus’ first words in the Gospel are: “The time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus’ first words include the idea of repenting and believing, and his first command is to repent. The call to repent is prominent in both Jesus' and John the Baptist's ministry.

One significant passage for determining the meaning of repentance in the New Testament is Matthew 3:7–9. The Pharisees and Sadducees came to where John was baptizing and upon seeing them, John scolds them saying: “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath about to come? Therefore, bear fruit worthy of repentance.” This final phrase, “bear fruit worthy of repentance,” is significant enough to take a closer look at.

First of all, John is not actually declaring that they in fact are fleeing from the wrath to come; it is sarcasm. This can be seen in that he just referred to them as the “offspring” or brood of vipers, a negative reference to their character. By first pointing out their poor character and then calling for fruit worthy of repentance before they would be allowed to be baptized, John is essentially asking for “concrete evidence of repentance” (Hagner, 50). What does concrete evidence of repentance look like? When someone has repented, it will be demonstrated in their life-style and behavior; it will flow from a heart that has been changed.

Is there a specific referent to “fruit” or is it a general term? Newman and Stine correctly note that fruit is a general term, referring to what grows out of a heart that has been changed. Kümmel said, “Only he who produces such fruit shows thereby that he is converted.” In order to escape the coming wrath the repentance needs to be genuine; it will be reflected by a persons entire lifestyle being “in harmony with our oral repentance” (Carson). Blomberg said, “(W)ithout the evidence of a changed life and perseverance in belief, all such grounds of trust prove futile.”

In 3:9, John the Baptist warns them not to rely upon their ancestry; they must produce good works (fruit) to demonstrate that they have repented. Therefore, a connection between repenting and that repentance having some evidence, good fruit, is present. While this passage definitely connects the concepts of "repentance" and the results, "good fruit," it also separates them. If the term "repentance" itself includes the concept of good fruit, then the phrase becomes redundant. Therefore, there is a strong connection between repentance and fruit, but there is also a separation.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Repentance and the Fourth Gospel

What is the place of "repentance" in the gospel presentation? Some would have us do away with any reference to sin or changing or turning altogether. Some would tell a sinner to stop sinning first, then he can be saved.

This next series of posts will focus on one small aspect of this debate. Robert Wilkin actually invites those who are studying the doctrine of repentance to read the Fourth Gospel to “discover what, if anything, John tells us about the role of repentance in salvation.” That is the challenge these next few posts will take.

First, a few posts will explore the meaning of metanoeo and metanoia. Then various texts from the FG will be presented and analyzed on whether or not they contain the concept of repentance. While it is true that the Greek words metanoeo and metanoia do not occur, that is irrelevant to whether the concept occurs. Many have missed this.

The goal is not to "solve" the old Lordship debate; however, the argument from the FG and its (supposed) lack of reference to repentance is the focus.

So, what does repentance mean? The three most common meanings given are: (1) a turning away from one’s sins (not just a willingness or resolve to do so); (2) the intention, resolve, or willingness to turn from sins; (3) to change one’s mind (about something). Which of these is correct? Or, is more than one correct?