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By Curtis Pugh

What did New Testament era preachers tell lost individuals that God required of them in the matter of salvation? What was the message, i.e. the gospel preached by them? Paul summed up his preaching in these few words: “...I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Acts 20:20-21). Here we have what must be testified to if we would spread the true gospel message. Paul's hearers were “Jews” and “Greeks” (non-Jews): i.e. the totality of the population. Paul preached a message directed to his hearers regarding two persons: “God” and “the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Jews knew about God, but the non-Jews required instruction concerning the true God.

Paul's message involved specific relationships between the sinner and both God and Christ. First he testified “repentance toward God.” Paul understood what works repentance for he wrote, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death,” (2 Corinthians 7:10). The cause of repentance (which is a turning from sin to God in confession and contrition) is godly sorrow. The “sorrow of the world” will not produce true repentance. Surely sinners must be warned that ungodly sorrow does not produce “repentance to salvation,” but rather it produces “death.”

Second, Paul testified “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” The kind of faith he preached as being necessary was not a faith produced by sinners. He wrote, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that [faith] not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since Paul preached that only a godly sorrow produces true repentance and that saving faith is the gift of God, he did not preach “making a decision,” or “opening your heart's door,” or “accepting the Lord” - all works of men. His was not the shallow gospel of popular easy believe-ism as is often preached today. His was the true gospel.

In once sense those who are saved must learn Christ. Again we quote Paul: “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus,” (Ephesians 4:20-21). This learning Christ involves hearing Him and being “taught by him” [Christ]. Those who witness the true gospel can only reach the mind of sinners. Christ Himself must work through the Holy Spirit in bringing sinners to true “repentance toward God” and “faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ.” If your experience lacks either “godly sorrow,” “repentance toward God,” or “faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ” it is a defective experience. Your experience is not that which God requires and which He works in sinners in saving them. You must not trust in what you have done, but rather in what Christ has done!

Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726

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