The word “conditional” means “works” in the minds of many religious people to whom any effort beyond faith is a sign of “legalism.” To be involved in works and legalism means that one is not “under grace.” If one ever was under grace, then doing works and committing legalism means that one has “fallen from grace.” The common concept of grace is that it is something one has as a free gift from God that is awarded without conditions. Does God agree with this concept?
Recall the words of John when he was baptizing people in the Jordan River: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat. 3:2). When he saw a number of Pharisees and Saducees coming to be baptized he ordered them to “… bear fruits worthy of (to prove your) repentance” (vs 8). John was telling them that they had to provide proof that they had repented of their sins–had turned from them and were obeying God. Jesus said in Luke 13:3,5 that unless a man repents, he will perish. Both Jesus and John were telling us that, though grace is free, there are certain conditions that must be met before we can receive it, repenting being first and foremost. Webster’s dictionary defines the word repent as: to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life; to feel regret; … to change one’s mind. Notice that turning, dedicating and amending is to be a singular act, not something that is repeated time and again throughout life. In the Scriptures we can find no reference to the sin-repent, sin-repent teaching that is so popular within church circles.
Repentance means to conquer sin, just as God told Cain that he could and must do to avoid sinning in the future. Let us pay close attention God’s exact Words. In Genesis 4:1-7 we find God chastising Cain for presenting to him a less-than-acceptable offering. Though displeased, God did not punish him for this failure, but simply expressed His displeasure with it. Then He issued Cain a warning, noting that: “IF YOU DO WELL (obey Him from that point on), you will be accepted. And IF YOU DO NOT DO WELL, SIN (SATAN) WILL TAKE CONTROL OF YOU.” To be accepted by God, Cain had to repent of his error and present a proper offering from that time on. If he did so he would return to his former good relationship with God. However, if he maintained his rebellious mindset, Satan would take control of him. God then tells Cain how to prevent that from happening: “… you must rule over him.” In order for Cain to receive grace from God he had to repent of his error (turn from it), present “fruits of repentance” (obey Him) and resist Satan’s call to sin. Four thousand years later that same God–known as Jesus of Nazareth–told the Apostle John that in order to join Him in the Kingdom of God man must “… overcome (Satan) even as I overcame (him) ….” (Rev. 3:21).
God’s rules of engagement that must be met have never changed–MAN MUST OBEY HIM. All men have sinned. All must repent of his sins of the past (Rom. 3:25) and reverse course–produce acts, thoughts and words of righteousness. This is the “fruits of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11) required for entrance into Paradise. True repentance is proven by conquering sin (Satan). Jesus told His Apostles: “Behold, I give you power over all the power of the enemy (Satan)” (Lk. 10:19). God does not respect persons; what He gave to the 12 He gives of all of His disciples (followers). That Holy Spirit power is to be used to overcome Satan’s siren call to sin.
Before one comes to believe God’s Word, one lives in sin. Upon believing, one then receives God’s grace by repenting of his sins of the past, turning in the opposite direction and producing fruits of repentance (righteousness). True repentance means that one does not get involved in Satan’s sin-repent, sin-repent cycle that the church has embraced. The serial sin-repentance system the church advocates is not true repentance. To repent of stealing means that one stops stealing, period. Such a one does not continue in his former steal-repent, steal-repent cycle. King David shows us how to truly repent in Psalm 51:1,2: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your lovingkindness. According to your tender mercies blot out my sin.” David was begging God to extend His grace to him–to forgive him of his past sins. DAVID DID NOT MERELY REPENT OF HIS PAST SINS, HE REVERSED THE COURSE OF HIS LIFE. DAVID CONVERTED TO GOD’S WAY OF LIFE, THEREBY LEAVING HIS PAST IN THE PAST AND STAYING GOD’S COURSE UNTIL HIS DEATH.
In Acts 3:19 we find the Apostle Peter telling God seekers: “Repent and be converted, (so) that your sins can be forgiven ….” Having our past sins forgiven–receiving God’s grace–can come ONLY AFTER TRUE REPENTANCE AND CONVERSION TO GOD’S WAY. This requires a 180 degree turn of life. The Apostle Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ (converted), he is a new creation; old things (the old self/man) have passed away; behold all things have been made new.” Note that “ALL things”–every aspect of the God seeker’s life–must be made new. This necessitates the total death of the old. EVERY ASPECT OF ONE’S PAST LIFE MUST DIE. Repentance and conversion must be total. Then and only then will God issue His grace.
According to the Scriptures, prior to baptism we must repent, convert to another way of life and accept Christ’s shed blood as payment for our death penalty (Acts 2:38). At that point God extends His grace by washing away our past sins as baptism symbolizes. God washes away our sins and imparts His Holy Spirit to the convert which empowers him to overcome Satan and “walk as Jesus walked” (1 Jn. 2:6). L.J.