Preaching: Faith and Repentance

Do you hear the clear call to faith in Christ and repentance from sin frequently in your church’s preaching?  If not, why not?  Christian preaching should have frequent and clear calls to faith in Jesus as well as repentance from the wickedness in our hearts.  I love how Herman Bavinck said this.  Notice how he says the call to faith and repentance has everything to do with the covenant of grace.

“For this reason [the truth of the covenant of grace] congregational preaching ought never to omit the serious summons to faith and repentance.  Proceeding on the basis of the covenant [of grace] does not exempt the preacher from that, but rather it is precisely this that obligates him to issue such a summons.  That obligation is derived not first of all from the presumption that all elect persons already in their first days of life even before baptism have been regenerated, and this obligation applies not only with reference to those who in their childhood are supposedly regenerate.  But this obligation is grounded in the covenant of grace, as it has spread historically throughout the human race under God’s leading, and includes all Christians and their children, and it applies with reference to them all together, whether or not they were already regenerated in the earliest days of life.”

“For no matter how inestimably great the blessings already are that God bestows upon us when from our birth we are included in the covenant, born in a Christian church to Christian parents, baptized with holy baptism, and nurtured in a Christian family – all these blessings are still not enough.  Each person is confronted with the obligation of personal, saving faith; only one who believes in the Son has eternal life.”

“Whether the church already presumes that all its members are believers, or, being unable to judge the human heart, the church must be satisfied with an outward confession and walk and base its response on all these – all of this in no way detracts from the truth that each must examine and test himself, and that no one, whether inside or outside the church, will enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again of water and Spirit.  Not the church, and not the minister of the Word, but only God in heaven brings about salvation.”

“[A pastor’s] sermons should continue…warning of the need for self-examination, so that people do not deceive themselves for eternity.  Biblical sermons seriously summon church members to faith and conversion both initially and continually, for only those who believe will be saved.”

I realize such preaching can sound offensive so many American churches will not preach it.  The rationale is that telling people they are hell worthy sinners who must repent of the deep sins in their heart and flee to Jesus in faith – telling people harsh things like that will certainly anger the larger donors and make quite a few people leave.  But the truth of the matter is this: if a church doesn’t preach repentance and faith, she is not a loving church, for she does not care enough about people to tell them life-and-death truth.  If a church doesn’t preach repentance and faith, she can call herself many things, but she cannot call herself an apostolic, biblical church.  Please, if your church doesn’t preach clear and consistent calls to repentance and faith, prayerfully approach the leadership.  If that doesn’t work over time, you really need to find a church that preaches these things clearly and consistently.  It is not about preferences and likes; it is not a matter of putting up with some church deficiencies for denominational reasons; it is a matter of eternal life or death.  If your pastor cannot look his congregation in the eye and tell them that they will go to hell if they do not repent and believe in Jesus, he is not worthy of the title “pastor.”

(The great quote from Bavinck is found in his excellent book, Saved by Grace, pages 126-7.)

shane lems

sunnyside wa

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