• Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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The Necessity and Nature of Repentance

PreachingAn area in which Reformed churches are weak is the failure to explain the necessity and nature of repentance. The duty, nature, and fruits of repentance must be clearly preached to our congregations. According to Al Martin:

[M]uch contemporary preaching is defective in that it lacks solid doctrinal substance. We have suffered from a mentality that has regarded doctrine and theology as some form of a medieval hobgoblin! The fact of the matter is that truth is beautiful in its unity and symmetry. Doctrinal preaching is that preaching which is always disciplined by the framework of the whole counsel of God. It refuses imbalance and lopsidedness, and seeks to set every individual facet of truth into the context of the whole spectrum of divine truth. These first two factors must be fused together in an ever-increasing measure in the life of the true servant of Christ. Doctrinal preaching which is not exegetically founded and textually oriented, will lead to a philosophical orthodoxy. On the other hand, dealing with texts and the exegesis of those texts without showing the inter-relationship of truth, will lead to a disjointed and fragmented concept of divine truth.

[Another] area, in which the substance of contemporary preaching is marked by glaring weakness, is in the matter of practical application. In many ministries, there may be solid biblical content, a great measure of doctrinal substance, but very little practical application in which men are made to see the implications of the content and doctrine, so that they may know how to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. In regard to this general principle, I would like to suggest … areas in which Reformed circles are weak. What I now say applies to those of us who hold, without embarrassment, to that system of doctrine set forth in the great creeds that came out of the Reformation.

[O]ur preaching is weak because of its failure to spell out the necessity and nature of evangelical repentance. In Repentanceour overreaction against a form of ‘works-salvation’ and in our reaction against Arminian activism, I think that some of us have fallen into the philosophical habit of thinking, ‘How can I preach man’s responsibility to repent when I know he has no ability to do this?’ Apparently, this problem did not bother the Apostle Paul. No one spoke more dearly than he of man’s utter inability to do anything spiritually good apart from the direct sovereign work of God. Yet he spoke most dearly of man’s responsibility to repent. … I have had the very unhappy experience of preaching in churches that include the doctrine of repentance in their official creed, in their confessions and in their catechisms, but where it was obviously not a doctrine preached and believed in by the rank and file of the members of those churches. Often, at the conclusion of a series of sermons on the subject of repentance, I have had people come to me expressing great amazement, and saying that they had never heard such things, even though they had spent a number of years within the framework of a good, solid Reformed church. Now, it is not that they did not hear the word ‘repentance’. They had heard it, but because the duty, the nature, and fruits of that repentance were not clearly spelled out, they were not sufficiently convinced of its nature and necessity. All who listen to us preach for any measure of time should come to the conclusion after sitting under our ministries, that unless they repent and bring forth the fruits of repentance, they will perish even though their heads may be packed full of objective and correct orthodoxy. One of the dear marks of the ministries of the men whom God has used in past days is that they all, without exception, spelled out the necessity, the nature, and the fruits of evangelical repentance. (“What is Wrong with Preaching Today?”)

7 Responses

  1. Except this post does not lay out the nature and fruits of repentance! How ironic! I’m sure you have 100 others that do though…

    This subject is a difficult one. I have known a great number of people who have been spiritually crushed in Reformed Baptist churches like the Al Martin type – and it always happens because of heavy-handed law/duty preaching, yet with little in the way of gospel indicatives.

    I fear that when brother Martin preaches that people must bring forth the fruits of repentance or perish in hell, that within this message is condemnation and fear for the weaker, sinning sheep. I am counseling a brother who doubts his salvation Monday through Sunday because he sees how far short he comes of perfection, and so wonders constantly “have I made Jesus Lord of my life when I yet sin all day in thought, word, and deed?”

    I fear the ultra-Puritan Reformed types crack a whip of Law which the Savior never intended for His precious sheep.


    • Pastor Martin, like all Reformed ministers of the Gospel, believes that we are saved by grace alone but not by a grace that is alone. Works do not save anyone. Christians will never be perfect in this life. However, we should be concerned about our progressive sanctification in this life. The Christian life is one in which we strive to be more like Christ as a result of the grace that has been given us. This is done to the praise of His Glory and is made up of many tiny baby steps.

      Your friend’s sensitivity to sin is a sign that the Holy Spirit is working in Him. You must help him to find rest in the unmerited grace which has brought him salvation and to find purpose in living to the Glory of Christ. Therefore, get rid of his notion of perfection and help him to understand the concept of growing in grace.


  2. I prefer to allow God the right to decide doctrine. Like Paul I seek to find common ground on which to agree when presenting my relationship with Jesus to others. I am called to be a witness and give an answer for the hope that is in me as are all Christians. And although the issue of “doctrine” is interesting and informative when studied I found that doctrinal knowledge didn’t make me a kinder or more loving person. nor was I challenged to be transformed in the renewing of my mind by bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.. I shall take the time to reread this post and make further comments if necessary.Although I hold to a reformed theology I worship in a local church that does not hold a reformed tradition. New Birth brought about by a fundamental experience of confession, and repentance with a resulting belief in the ressurrection of Jesus from the dead and his atonement alone being sufficient to cleanse me, and everyone who calls on him, from sin and save us from death to eternal life is my focus.


    • Pat,

      I just read your article “A Message from God who alone transforms us” (good article, by the way) and I noticed it was full of doctrine.

      Thanks for commenting,


      • Thanks for reading my article. I’m glad you liked it.Of course it;s full of doctrine and that of a reformed nature but for me the study of theological doctrine became an academic activity and for a time I lost the essence of my spiritual awakening and found myself slidding a slippery slope that led towards becoming a pharasee..


  3. Reblogged this on Preacher12's Blog.


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