Man - His Sinfulness and Need for Repentance and Faith
It is one of the most observable, and so irrefutable, facts of life that sin is universally present within human society. Wherever we are, and wherever we may go upon the face of the earth, sin in every aspect of its ugly nature is in evidence. That man is a sinner, condemned by his own conscience and the group consciousness of society, is a grim reality, and this is recognised in the Word of God. "For there is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Eccl 7.20). And Scripture further teaches that ultimately all sin is an offence against God. David in penitential prayer to God says, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight" (Ps 51.4). In fact David had sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, and Joab, but he recognised that in its deepest guilt and ultimate accountability, his sin was against God. The sin of David, and the sin of every man today, may be traced up to its polluted source in the disobedience of our first parent, Adam in paradise. His sin was against the commandment of God (Gen 2.17), and our sin today is still a disobedience and rebellion against that same Creator God and His holy law. When Adam sinned, he sinned as the father and representative head of all his race, and his sin therefore affected all his descendants. Sin's effects were carried like a poisoned stream from Adam down through the following generations of mankind polluting and ruining the race, until today we are all, without exception, not only sinners by our inherited nature, but sinners by practice and choice.
But not only were the effects of Adam's sin transmitted to his descendants, his guilt too was imputed to them, and his judgment is their judgment also! This is precisely what the Apostle Paul meant when he taught, "Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned" (Rom 5.12, RV). As a sinner man is subject to the judgment of God, the same judgment Adam was subject to, and that judgment being death (Rom 6.23), man must pay the penalty! His plight is therefore hopeless and desperate unless another steps in to settle his account with God. This is the point to which man must come if he is ever to be saved! He must see his state of sin before God, confess his guilt and need, and cry out in desperation of soul, "God, be merciful to me a sinner" (Lk 18.13).
His need for repentance and faith
There are many who desire the comfort of knowing the forgiveness and pardon of God but they want it on their own terms. They want the forgiveness of sins it is true, but at the same time they are unwilling to forsake the continuing pleasures of sin! The plain and fundamental truth of the gospel is that God has made repentance a necessary element in conversion. It is the plain command of the Creator God, who now "commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17.30). It was an integral part of the preaching of the Apostle Paul, "Testifying both to the Jews, and also the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20.21).
Repentance is that attitude of mind and heart that recognises sin for what it is, an offence and affront to God, and, turning from it, willingly receives God's remedy in the gift of life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Repentance has been described as, "A change of mind, leading to a change of affections, and manifesting itself in a change of actions". It is a turning from sin unto God and His service.
Repentance is not of itself salvation, neither are we forgiven because we repent, but it is a necessary condition of heart before we can sincerely and truly receive Christ as Saviour. There is no salvation that is apart from a prior work of repentance in the soul. But true repentance never exists apart from saving faith, and once the soul repents toward God, its vision is filled with Christ, and, believing in Him as a present and personal Saviour, receives the forgiveness of sins. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (Jn 1.12). "Your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake" (1 Jn 2.12).
To the question, "What then is saving faith?", Charles Spurgeon used to reply that there were three basic elements in saving faith. First, a knowledge of and assent to the truth that God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the sinner's Substitute. That He suffered in our place and stead, satisfied God's justice, and finished the work of salvation in the shedding of His blood (Is 53.5-6), and to agree with all our hearts to this way of salvation. Second, self-renunciation of any hope or merit of being saved by works of our own doing (Tit 3.5). Third, appropriation of or personal trust in Christ. First comes assent to the truth; then acceptance of that truth for yourself; and then a simple trusting of yourself wholly on Christ as a Substitute. The essence of faith is trust, reliance, and dependence. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16.31).
The Holy Scriptures - Their Inspiration and Inerrancy
All of the truths mentioned thus far have validity only as they are derived from an absolutely reliable source. That source is the written Word of God. We say that Holy Scripture is the written Word of God because behind its human authorship is the authorship of Heaven. God is the inspiration behind the holy men of old through whose agency the books of the Bible came into being.
This has to do with the actual mechanics of writing Scripture. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1.21). Using chosen men (that is, elect or specially separated men for this particular task, which is the import of "holy men") as His channel, and speaking through their individual and unique personalities (what has been termed "truth through personality"), the Spirit of God so guided their thoughts that they wrote what He directed them to write "without excess or error". They wrote as borne along by the current of inspiration the force and source of which was the Holy Spirit of God. What flowed out from their pens as sacred Scripture was that which had first been God-breathed into their minds and consciousness by Divine agency. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim 3.16). All sixty-six books of the Bible are alike and equally God-breathed and Spirit-directed. Thus the record from whence comes our fundamental truth is fully inspired, and thus fully authentic and authoritative.
This guarantees the factual, historical record of the Word of God. It is without error. That is, in the original manuscripts (the autographs) there is no suspicion whatsoever of error or mistake in the facts, histories, doctrines, or affirmations of any part of the Bible. Man was created from the dust of the earth, the Garden of Eden was a fact, Noah's flood swept across the globe, Israel walked dry-shod across the Red Sea, the walls of Jericho fell flat, and Jonah was swallowed by a great fish! It is in its fullest extent from Genesis to Revelation totally inerrant. Thus the truths we have presented as fundamental are completely and eternally valid because of the indisputable reliability of their source in God's inspired and inerrant Word.
These are the truths and principles fundamental to the message of the Christian gospel, and apart from which there can be no valid gospel. We are living through days of apostasy when many are falling away from the faith (1 Tim 4.1), and "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Tim 3.5). From these we turn away! Our ambition on the other hand is to cleave more and more to the Word of God, and find our highest wisdom in following with tenacity and courage Paul's great exhortation to Timothy: "Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee guard through the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us" (2 Tim 1.13-14, RV). Maranatha! Amen.