Paul: Preaching Christ Means Teaching Repentance and Doing Works Meet for Repentance

In Acts 26, Paul stands before King Agrippa and relates his own First Vision account, an account of meeting the glorified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. As an aside, in Paul’s three accounts of this vision (Acts 9, 22, and 26), there are some differences and even arguably contradictions (e.g., compare Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9). However, his accounts, like the differing accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, can be integrated and understood to be different perspectives on a real experience.

In Paul’s last account, as in Joseph Smith’s later First Vision accounts, the emphasis is no longer on his status before the Lord, but on the big picture of his mission in taking the Gospel to the world. In Acts 26, verses 16-18 reveal that the Lord told Paul he had a mission as a witness to take the Gospel to many, including the nations of the Gentiles, that many might be turned to God and gain forgiveness. These words to Paul from the Lord represent important information that was not presented before. With that mission in mind, Paul speaks boldly to King Agrippa:

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

Paul was focused on preaching nothing but Christ, the Messiah prophesied by the ancient prophets and witnessed by living apostles and disciples in Paul’s day. And this message of Paul about the grace of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was this: that men should “repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (v. 20). That has been the message of God’s prophets throughout history. It was a key message of Christ, it was a key message of Paul, and it is a key message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Neither Paul nor we LDS folks mean that these “works meet for repentance” save you or earn your salvation, but they are part of what we need to do to really follow Jesus Christ and fully develop our faith in Him. It’s the kind of message that can get you branded as non-Christian in some quarters, but it’s core to true Christianity.

So let’s all strive to exercise faith in Christ by repenting of our sins, calling upon His forgiveness, and more earnestly following Him. He gives us power to do that if we will believe Him and trust Him.

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Author: Jeff Lindsay

0 thoughts on “Paul: Preaching Christ Means Teaching Repentance and Doing Works Meet for Repentance

  1. I am always astounded by the fact that my standing with God has never depended upon what I have done, but on what Jesus has done – through perfect obedience, propitiated God’s wrath so that through faith, I can be counted as righteous =)

    So, when God looks at me, He actually sees His Son…

    Good post Jeff, thank you.

  2. “Neither Paul nor we LDS folks mean that these “works meet for repentance” save you or earn your salvation, but they are part of what we need to do to really follow Jesus Christ and fully develop our faith in Him.”

    I agree 100%.

  3. Yes Anonymous. Grace is the most absurd news I have EVER heard =)

    A ‘free gift’ simply means: you cannot pay for it and ‘grace’ is a work of God meaning you cannot earn it.

    Our part (if at all) is simply to believe, (or to have faith). Notice, and as Kathleen pointed out to me in her blog, that it is God who even gives us this faith. He is involved in every step of salvation =)

    Faith is that weird substance of nothingness. It is what enables a baby, not to jump out of his mother’s arm, who might then go and prepare a meal or go and mow the lawn. Faith enables the baby to just nestle and coo.. because he knows that he does not have to work to gain his mother’s love =)

    Grace means there is nothing more that we can do for God to love us more, neither we do anything for God to love us less =)

    God loves us just the way we are, and how can we respond to that?!? We cannot. We can but praise Him =)

  4. Oh, and I guess all the ‘good works’ follows afterwards; not that our good works have any bearing on our salvation. Remember, ‘grace’ means we cannot earn it. Everything that we do after humbly receiving this ‘free gift’ is IN RESPONSE to it. Therefore ‘work’ on our part, is easy to accomplish because they are done with thanks-giving =)

  5. To put grace and works at opposite sides of each other is to create an endless problem to argue. Grace vs. Works becomes a chicken vs. egg argument…you’ll do the works if your saved, but the works don’t save you…around and around we go.
    Grace must work together with works to change our natures to that of Jesus Christ. Our works are necessary for salvation, but far from sufficient for it.
    As Nephi tells us, after all that we could possible ever DO…it is by grace that we are saved.

  6. “God loves us just the way we are, and how can we respond to that?!? We cannot. We can but praise Him =)”

    Uh, where does that come from? God is actually quite unhappy with where we fallen mortals are. If we love him, we certainly can respond by doing what the scriptures teach: exercise faith in Christ, repent of our sins, and follow him. And yes, that means striving to keep the commandments. It requires exertion of our agency to choose to obey the Gospel and to diligently avoid sin. That’s how we exercise and grow our faith in Christ. “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” – the words of Christ in Matthew 19.

  7. JayFlow,

    Please know that what I say to you is done with the utmost respect and my intention is not to be-little you. Please accept my apology if it comes across this way.

    I urge you to rethink about your ideas of ‘grace’. The way that we ‘think’ affects the way that we live and vice versa, right?

    What you have proposed above is this equation: grace + works = salvation. JayFlow, this is exactly what Paul is warning the Galatians about. Grace + Works is the false gospel

    The people of the church in Galatia were being enticed by false prophets who had sneaked their way in by the back door, and their message was this, “Accept Jesus – yes. But please notice all the other traditions we Israelites have; surely we need to adhere to these too?!”

    What is Paul’s answer? A resounding NO.

    Go back into the Old Testament when God, through Moses, gave the Ten Commandments to Israel. What were the peoples of Israel’s response? “Yes God, we will do it!”

    …as if the ten commandments was something to be worked for?! Instead of looking to God and saying, “God, we cannot do this, we need You!”, they looked to themselves. They then WORKED to make sure they did this – knowing fully well that they fail! And again, instead of looking to God, they turned to legalism.

    The Ten Commandments, as we have seen countless times throughout history is that man WILL FAIL. And it serves also to show God’s perfection! And that God’s standard IS perfection! God is basically saying, “To make it, you need to do ALL of what I have commanded to you”…

    What’s even worse, was that Jesus added the pressure in saying that it wasn’t about outwardly doing the ten commandments, but to make sure we keep the commandments inwardly! Do you remember what he said? Even if you think lustfully about a woman, you’ve commited adultery! Yipes! Pressure to perform even more? You bet.

    The thing is though: we can’t do it.

    Upon many occassions, notice that while Jesus lived on earth, He rebuked the Pharisees more so than anyone else! Why? Because Jesus saw their self-righteous actions. The Pharisees were the epitome of WORK – their motivation was not to please God, but to seek the approval of men. And JayFlow, I think that if we were to be truly honest with ourselves, we are driven more by the motivation to please men (our elders, our parents, our peers, certainly to please those who aren’t doing well) than anything else =/

    JayFlow, we are all guilty of the sin of idolatry – we are all guilty of the sin of not loving God more than anything else in our lives. With God out of the picture, our default idol is actually ourselves. The subject for Adam and Eve’s fall in believing the serpent’s lie about eating the fruit is that we might be like God. The fruit had no supernatural properties. The tree was put there to show our proper place – that is, to be under the Sovereign rule of our Creator =)

    So, by choosing to eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve effectively said, “God thank you very much, but from now on – I will be my own God”.

    I have digressed.

    It takes Divinity incarnate to absorb the punishment for eternity past and eternity future. Jesus, praise His name, is the one who has done all the work.

    So, for us to work on top of what Jesus has already done, actually brings insult to God. Who has ever done anything for God that we should repay Him? No-one! =D

    Acknowledge that you are bankrupt and that you have nothing to give. JayFlow, simply receive – and continue to receive until you pass away in this life, if you do this, you will be one of the most radical Christian Mormons the world has ever seen =)

  8. Sorry, it should have been:

    Who has ever done any work for God that He should repay us?!

    A little lapse in concentration there.

    *ahem*

  9. Tymoleus,

    BTW, thank you for taking up a handle =)

    I’ve seen this, “To enter into enternal life, keep my commandments” arguement by even my closest friends =) And you know what? I agree! Tymoleus, I whole-heartedly agree with you! We DO NEED TO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS =D

    All I ask is that you just need to keep a check on your motivation whilst trying to accomplish this 😉

    Time and time again, I hear (even from ministers) Christianity introduced as doing something contrary to what you want to do =(

    And if we take this line of thinking, Christianity is just about gritting your teeth whilst you witness or whilst you read your Bible etc. You don’t want to do it, but you do it anyway, because you know it’s good for you – or something like that.

    THIS IS NOT CHRISTIANITY.

    Christianity is actually about doing what you want to do! (?!?!?) Err..what?! But, I hear you say, this sounds more like hedonism that christianity!

    Here it is: Christianity is a transformation. And this transformation is God’s doing. It is about acknowledging that we are bankrupt and that all we can do is receive. This supernatural transformation is what enables us to do whatever we want to do. Because what we want to do is what God wants to do!

    Without this transformation, we just end up ‘working FOR our salvation’ instead of ‘working IN RESPONSE to our salvation’. =)

    To know that God has done ALL THE WORK makes it easy to fulfill the first and greatest commandment; and that is to love God with all our heart! =D Don’t you find that just absolutely amazing?!

    So, when Jesus said, To enter into eternal life, keep my commandments, we need to also to consider what is the greatest commandment. Because as long as we keep the greatest of these commandments, every other commandement WILL fall into its place. =)

    Nat

  10. Sounds like NM is creating a huge theology in order to read “Keep my commandments” to be something other than what he said.

    It is Christ’s role to be the Savior and to judge if we are worthy to be called his disciples.

    It is our job to follow the commandments and be the best disciples or followers of Christ that we can be.

    The exact nature of the atonement can be argued all day long, but the scriptures are painstakingly clear about the need for us to do certain things and live a certain way.

  11. My comment was written while NM was making his last comment, so I’ll try again.

    Now it sounds like he agrees with the original post: “He gives us power to do that (faith, repentance, etc) if we will believe Him and trust Him.”

    There are lots of other points in the comments to discuss (which probably would just recover ground these discussions have covered 1000’s of times), but I did want to acknowledge that comment.

  12. NM,

    Here are a couple of honest questions for you. Hopefully they come across as respectfully as I mean them, because I would really like to know what your thoughts are:

    1. Why did we come to earth? I ask because I believe that we existed — and God loved us unconditionally — before we ever came here. At the simplest extreme (which I doubt you believe), if our only purpose in life was to lose God’s love through sin and (hopefully) receive it back through grace, it seems like this life would serve only to risk the souls God cares so much about.

    2. What will “saved” people spend the eternities doing, and being, after this life? Why does God want to save them? Again, if it is simply a matter of receiving His love, we had that before we ever came to earth.

    I would be more than happy to give you my answers to these two questions in return, if you would like them.

  13. Hi Alan,

    Thank you for your response. I sincerely hope that I haven’t gone off the wall with this kind of theology =) Although most of my peers, even my wife – tell me to ‘come back down to earth’.

    Can I just add though, that this ‘Sovereign Grace’ theology is nothing new. People like Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon, AW Pink, the puritans etc. have been commenting on just how absurd, yet wonderful it all is =)

    Again, I must agree with you on all counts. Jesus – through the gospel writers, Paul, the apostles and other writers did give the saints commands for which to live by =)

    Ryan,

    Thank you for these two points. I really appreciate your honesty.

    Hmm, I will of course need time to mull over these two questions, but I think that my first observation would be to say that: we seem to understand the Bible in two different paradigms.

    (I think) you approach a different perspective to what I view the Bible. How can this be? I hear you ask. Dave D made a wise observation when he said that we are guilty of coming to the Bible with differing pre-conceptions. And (I think) we discussed) how difficult this is to manage. To stay ‘true’ to the text, we need to understand the Bible in its entirety – not just little bits here and there which also seem to happily correlate with our pre-conceived ideas of who God is and who we are etc.

    It might also be useful for me to state this: that God, irrespective of how we feel about Him, about how we think about Him and how we think we might want to respond/not respond to Him, exists. He simply is.

    So, I guess our part is to try and understand who He is as revealed in His word. =)

    I think that from reading even the first of your two questions is that you have presupposed that we have eternally existed before time.

    It might come as a surprise to you that nowhere in the bible does it say that human-beings have ever existed before time. I think the Bible seems to show that human beings had a beginning… and that it is only God who has existed from eternity to eternity…

    Ryan, could you point me to where it says that we as humans have eternally existed? My guess is that you have found this ‘paradigm’ in the Book of Mormon.

    So, I must take issue that we are already engaging in two separate paradigms and anything that I might say to answer your two questions will result in either a false-positive or mis-communication =)

    Please know – I don’t really know my Bible that well either (let alone the Book of Mormon!). And if you could point to something in Scripture that implies that we have existed before time, then I could hopefully learn more from you… =)

    I think your two questions have led to other questions to be openned. And if Jeff might be kind enough to open a new topic to look at the validity of the Book of Mormon and it’s relation to the Bible with regard to man’s eternal existence, I’d be VERY grateful =)

    And yes, someone define ‘salvation’?!

  14. Num 16:22, Eccl 12:7, Jer 1:5, Acts 17:28, are a few to get started with and let us know what you think. there are of coarse several in the other scriptures we use, including the Book of Mormon, but to get started there are references in the Bible.

    Just to put in my two cents on the work thing. Whether you call it working out your salvation or not, there are certain things that must be done for our salvation. Baptism comes to mind as well as keeping commandments. So don’t call it working out your salvation but call it the fruits of belief, you still must “do” them for salvation. In the end we will be judged according to our works, whether they be good or bad, and it is biblically taught.

  15. Here is a link to the definition of salvation according to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. I will attempt to summarize my understanding, but I think the Enclyclopedia of Mormonism offers a more concise definition.

    In Mormonism, it is a somewhat complicated topic because there are different degrees and kinds of salvation. There is physical salvation, wherein we are freed from death, since we will each receive resurrected bodies regardless of whether we accept Christ or not. That is a free gift. Then there is salvation which refers to our inheritance in Heaven. This will vary according to our faithfullness, and everyone, except for the sons of perdition (which will be comparatively few), will receive a degree of glory, even the vilest of sinners. I think this is where a lot of the confusion lies. True, we don’t have to do anything to be saved, because it is through the grace of Christ that we are saved, and we will each receive a measure of salvation regardless, but our devotion to Christ through our actions will determine the degree of salvation we are worthy to receive.