Proof of Authenticity- Validating the Faith in 2 Corinthians 6.3-4

July 31, 2009

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way.” (2 Corinthians 6.3-4a)

One of the toughest challenges in Christian apologetics is proving the truth and reliability of our message.  Men may agree that what we say is in line with Scripture, but then dismiss Scripture as being false and so leave us with nothing.  However, the power of a faithful Christian witness can defend us against this.

I am not talking about a witness in the popular evangelical way.  In this way it is just another word we have coopted to mean yelling a cold, lifeless, ineffectual spiel at someone.  No.  By witness we should mean a life lived.  It is not the evangelist who is witnessing; it is the lost who are witnessing him!  They witness how what he does backs up what he says.  They witness a breathing example of the message being fulfilled.  Paul stakes the whole call upon his faithful witness, knowing that the commendation of his life will only give that much more evidence for the gospel that in 2 Corinthians 6.2 he claims is so urgent.

How and Why- Evangelism Cues in 2 Corinthians 5.20

July 30, 2009

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5.20)

Two things stand out to me here: “God making his appeal through us” and “On behalf of Christ.”

First, we hear that the evangelism of Paul and his partners is not the words of a man trying to get people saved.  It is God’s appeal through human instruments.  God has chosen to make his message known by the preaching of the gospel (cf. Romans 10.17).  Thus, our preaching is of necessity while at the same time being guaranteed.  God will get his message heard, his appeal made, and it will be by human messengers.

But, this preaching is neither man powered nor solely obedience.  Once again, return to Galatians 2.20:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

The man that is crucified to self, living in the flesh by faith in Christ and Christ through him, willbe moved to evangelism.  Nothing is sheer will, everything is by the heart.  And God will guarantee the making of his appeal by controlling the heart of his evangelist.

Second, the call to reconciliation is made “on behalf of Christ.”  By the power of God I may love my neighbor and weep, if necessary, over his lostness, but the drive to evangelize him is not wrought of my own benevolence and love but of the will of Christ to reconcile them to God.  I alone dictate nothing.  God works sovereignly, either sovereignly with me or sovereignly against me.  Whichever way, it gets done, even is this may be by way of exposing my own pride.

Salesmen for Jesus? – Questions Arising from 2 Corinthians 2.17

July 21, 2009

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2.17)

Let it never be said that I am a “peddler of God’s word.”  What an awful thought, that God’s word could be to me as some means of gain or as some gimmick to promote a human agenda!

Are there yet ways that I could be a peddler while still desiring to see men saved?  What of my theology of salvation?  Am I a peddler if I use persuasive means to “get decisions”?

Where is it that I stop and God starts?  Is that not right from the beginning?  If I am “speak[ing] in Christ,” then at no time is my dependence upon my own skills or means.  yet clearly methodology matters.  Peter spoke differently between Acts 2 and Acts 11.  So did Paul from Acts 13 to Acts 17.  How do I discern what is and is not appropriate?

How do I not become a peddler?

Sunday Devotions- Characteristics of Reliance on Grace in 2 Corinthians 1.12

July 12, 2009

For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” (2 Corinthians 1.12)

Can I boast that I have done as Paul?  Am I as cautious as he to avoid living “by earthly wisdom”?  At times I know this not to be the case, falling victim to the prophets of this age.  This is not self-reliance he is describing; it is sovereign-reliance!  I must rest upon the sovereign that he will line up everything by grace and that nothing will befall me that is not ultimately for my good in being sanctified into the image of Christ (cf. Romans 8.28-29).

What then are these characteristics that Paul embraces?  Simplicity and godly sincerity.  Simplicity, or holiness.  This is a sort of transparency and uprightness which avoids lurking in the shadows of sin to protect oneself or to elevate one’s own fame.  And godly sincerity is the earnestness with which he acts, knowing that he possesses the only message which gives life and thus is compelled to make it known.  There is no conjured emotion or cold obedience here.  Paul discharges his call out of love for the Father and love for the Elect (cf. 2 Timothy 2.10).  Would that these were also the traits of my life.  That my actions and heart could be described in such ways.  That through such a frame God’s glory might be praised all the more because, and not in spite of, me.

Election Empowers Evangelism- Mark Dever on God’s Sovereignty and Soul-Winning

June 19, 2009

I love unconditional election.  I love evangelism.  At this point, I have now confused about 80% of Southern Baptists.  Thanks to the years of ignorance taught through sermons by revered Southern Baptist leaders most of the SBC pew sitters only know of election (no need of calling it unconditional since conditional election is clearly not what Scripture teaches) as ‘that doctrine that says we can’t do anything.’  Honestly, I have trouble finding Southern Baptist’s who both (1) disagree with election, and (2) know what the doctrine of unconditional election says in accord with the whole of Calvinist soteriology– and that is a problem.  (Note: see here for Grudem’s handling of the misunderstandings.)

With this in mind, I want to turn to a quote from Mark Dever in his excellent book The Gospel & Personal Evangelism to deal with the question, Are a zeal for election and a zeal for evangelism mutually exclusive?

Have you heard it said that the doctrine of God’s choosing some for salvation (the doctrine of election) undercuts evangelism?  It didn’t in Paul’s life.  As he . . . wrote to Timothy, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2.10).  Romans 10 contains Paul’s clearest and most impassioned plea for Christians to send out people to preach the gospel because it is the only way people are saved; but this impassioned plea comes after what many consider Paul’s plainest teaching about the doctrine of election in Romans 9.  He didn’t see any inconsistency that a sovereign God is also a saving God.

Somehow, Paul found the doctrine of God’s sovereignty an encouragement in his evangelism.  Do we need to recover this confidence in a day of increasing opposition to the public preaching of the gospel?  I think we do.  I fear that much of today’s evangelism will soon end.  As evangelism becomes more and more unpopular, I fear that some Christians will simply dilute it, water it down, alter it, or even stop sharing the good news altogether.  I think a better understanding of the Bible’s teaching on God’s election would help them.  I think it would give them confidence and joy in their evangelism. (pp.104-105)

Interesting.  He calls the doctrine of election a thing which can give “confidence” to our evangelism.  What could that ever mean?  Well, elsewhere Dever notes how when Paul was in Corinth, he became so frustrated in his gospel preaching with some who “opposed and reviled him” to the point that he “shook out his garments” and left them (Acts 18.6).  However, that night the Lord came to Paul in a dream and said to him,

Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people” (vv.9-10)

This in turn encouraged Paul and empowered him to spend the next 18 months sharing the gospel message with the Corinthians (v.11).

Yep, the knowledge that God had elected “many in [Corinth as his] people” really sent Paul packing didn’t it?  He just threw up his hands and said, “Well, if God’s chosen them then there’s no need for me to preach,” didn’t he?  No!  This charged him.  He knew that God had chosen people to be saved and that he would be faithful to save them through the preaching of his word.  Paul understood that this meant, regardless of the opposition, God had fruit that he was going to bring forth.

In fact, without an understanding of election, there is no confidence!  If it’s all on you then there is no hope that your preaching is not in vain.  How could there be?  If God cannot awaken men’s hearts to repentance and faith, if it is solely up to them to choose faith in Christ, then nothing is guaranteed and all of your labor in the fields of evangelism might be useless.  It is only this promise that God already “[has] many . . . who are [his] people” and that he is powerful enough to “[cause them] to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1.3) that we can have any hope whatsoever in our evangelism!

Article on Post-Christianity Posted at SBC Voices

June 6, 2009

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” -1 Corinthians 9.19-23

Over the past few months I have written several posts concerning the rise of a post-Christian culture in America and how this affects the way we must view completing the Missio Dei (1, 2, and 3).  This is an issue which I see all around me and which I strongly believe is necessitating reform in the way we tend to be doing business as usual within the church.  I came to find out Friday, however, that not everyone agrees with this position (see here).

Thus, in response I have composed a post defining post-Christian, showing that this term does indeed describe our current situation, and then arguing my views on the new evangelistic and missiological challenges being presented by it.   This article has been posted at SBC Voices (here).  I encourage anyone who is interested in the theories of how to reach the lost in America today to check it out and join in the discussion.

Something is Still Missing, part 2- Wandering Dazed and Confused

April 8, 2009

Following up on yesterday’s post about the failure of pluralism in America to satisfy the spiritual need of the people over the last 60 years, I have two illustrations arguing that the religious exploration we have engaged in has actually led to more confusion and ambiguity, not the higher enlightenment it had promised.

The first piece is a new article in Newsweek magazine entitled “The End of Christian America.” (Funny note- in Bobos in Paradise, David Brooks  comments on how every book coming out of this generation declares the “End” of something.)  This article is an elaboration on a recent finding in the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey which said that the percentage of Americans claiming no religious affiliation has doubled in the last 20 years, going from 8% to 15% of the general population.  This finding alarmed Dr. Mohler of Southern seminary, and in following awakened the people at Newsweek to an opportunity to write an eye-catching cover story.

The article itself looks at current attitudes towards Christian involvement in personal life, and more particularly at peoples views on the relationship between Christianity and government.  Honestly, I found the article to be more of an extended Op-Ed on the separation of church and state than a good look at contemporary trends, but still the point was made that Americans are becoming increasingly more comfortable with relinquishing their Christian heritage.  More than that, they seem to be going from Christianity and into nothing else in particular.  This is what I see (and Dr. Mohler appears to see as well) as the problem.  People aren’t being converted away from Christianity, they are simply losing Christianity, and in turn losing the Christian memory associated with this that has protected morality in our country for 400 years.  The article writer didn’t seem to get this (which is not surprising) but for a Christian I think it is really what the take-home message should be.  You can read the article here.

The second thing I want to show you is a quote from 50′s beat writer Jack Kerouac.  Jack Kerouac is well-known for his novel On the Road, but is also highly regarded as a pioneering American writer who was captured by the influence of Buddhism.  Kerouac’s second most famous novel, The Dharma Bums, focuses specifically on this eastern religion and how his views on it developed while stationed in California over a span of several years.  He also wrote several other novels and poems on Buddhism, and even a recently released memoir of the Buddha himself.  

However, before being a Buddhist, Kerouac was raised Catholic, and the tinges of this upbringing continually pop in throughout all of his work.  This is one of the reasons I find him so interesting, because you can honestly see him struggle as he tries to reconcile everything through his writing.  Many people don’t realize this about him, and even believe he was always a devout Buddhist, but the Catholic memory lingered with him all along, and appears to eventually even have won out.  In the introduction to his anthology on Buddhism entitled Some of the Dharma, there is quoted a note that he sent to Philip Whalen towards the end of his journey with Buddhism.  It says,

Myself, the dharma is slipping away fro my conciousness and I cant think of anything to say about it any more.  I still read the diamond sutra, but as in a dream now.  Dont know what to do.  Cant see the purpose of human or terrestrial or any kinda life without heaven to reward the poor suffering [people].  The Buddhist notion that Ignorance caused the world leaves me cold now, because I feel the presence of angels.  Maybe rebirth is simply HAVING KIDS.

Wading through this soup of feeling and philosophy that is characteristic Kerouac, one encounters a man who has tried to find the truth, tried through hedonism and drugs and Buddhism, and yet in the comes to see that it all is nothing and that something else must be out there.  Just like the Bobos and our current generation, he isn’t finding the Christian truth; instead he is finding an emptiness where nothing else he has tried seems to fit.

Once again I say this, that our question is how to witness effectively to these type of people?  How do we effectively reach out to those who have denied Chrsit because philosophically they deemed him too restricting, too demanding, too unintelligent, and yet years later after seeking completion elsewhere and never quite finding it, are now stuck in a heap of ambiguous nothing?  More and more people are arriving at this destination and so it is increasingly important that we are able to provide them with a sufficient witness for the hope that we have and that they so desperately want.

What We Believe- Article XI, Evangelism and Missions

April 3, 2009

This week we are starting to head into articles dealing with more practical matters for the church and how it operates and views the world.  The first of these articles is article XI concerning evangelism and missions:

XI. Evangelism and Missions

It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.

Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 6:1-8; Matthew 9:37-38; 10:5-15; 13:18-30, 37-43; 16:19; 22:9-10; 24:14; 28:18-20; Luke 10:1-18; 24:46-53; John 14:11-12; 15:7-8,16; 17:15; 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2; 8:26-40; 10:42-48; 13:2-3; Romans 10:13-15; Ephesians 3:1-11; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Timothy 4:5; Hebrews 2:1-3; 11:39-12:2; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 22:17.

Given that the major emphasis in most (all?) Southern Baptist churches is on missions and evangelism, one would expect this to be a very solid article.  And reading it over, it doesn’t seem to disappoint.  The one thing that we have to be careful of is checking to see if they actually say too much and overreach on what the Scriptures actuallt call us to in sharing the message of the gospel.

The opening statement is very bold: “It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations.”  Many will dispute this and say that Jesus’ commands in Matthew 28.18-20 and Acts 1.8 were directed only to the apostles, but this fails to account for why many who weren’t there, say like Timothy or Titus or Apollos, felt inclined to fulfill it as well.  Instead we see that everywhere the apostles go they not only preach the word of God but that also encourage others to do it as well.  So, unless they missed the interpretation of Jesus’ commands right from the start I think it is safe to say that the Great Commission(s) is meant for all believers.  

The statement that it is a privilege echoes Peter’s sentiments that we are a chosen people that now “may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2.9).

After making such a strong declaration of our calling to do evangelism and missions, I am very impressed by the way that the BF&M then proceeds to say, in so many words, “But still, evangelism and missions is not to be done out of plain obedience.”  This is important.  A lot of people, even a lot of great theologians (RC Sproul comes to mind right away) will argue that the reason why we do missions is because Christ commands us to.  That is a good reason, but I think it falls short of what the Bible actually says.  Now, I know that RC comes from this angle because he is arguing for why we should do evangelism and missions if God has already set out to save all and only the elect who have been chosen unconditionally from before time, but hear me out: if our gospel witness comes just from pure obedience then we are missing the point.  When we are regenerated we are adopted into God’s family.  This then should produce a love in us for the family and thus a desire to see all of the members of the family (i.e. the elect) brought home and reconciled with the Father.  So, we have this longing and the Scriptures tell us that the only way to see it happen, to see them reconciled, is through their hearing and receiving the message of the gospel (cf. Acts 4.12, Romans 10.9ff).  Viewing our participation in evangelism and missions as simply fulfilling an obligation sets it up as an item on a checklist that we can cross off eventually without having completely sold ourselves out to doing it, which of course is the breeding grounds of legalism.  Viewing it as our internal desire to see the whole family reconciled makes it a lot more personal and more accurately conveys the spirit of him who called us (cf. Galatians 4.1-7).

Finally, we are hit with the question of how we should go about doing evangelism and missions.  This again is a place where I think the BF&M gets it just right.  It says that we are to try and ”win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ. ”  Of course, I am not a huge fan of the language of us “winning people to Christ” since I think this puts too high a value on our actually abilities, but the principle expressed is absolutely correct.  Our first weapon is a verbal witness, for “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10.14b), and then this is to be followed up with a consistent Christian lifestyle and all other means of witness which do not contradict the commands of Scripture.  I think we have all been guilty at one time or another of witnessing only through “lifestyle evangelism,” whether we meant to or not, and I like the fact that the BF&M takes a clear stance that this is not the proper type of biblical witness.  Of course, we shouldn’t expect all of the people in the church to be George Whitefield, especially right out of the gates, but that is why the SBC has invested so much through LifeWay into evangelism training courses and through NAMB and IMB for missionary training.  This is far and away one of the biggest advantages of being in the SBC.

So, going in there was a concern that maybe the BF&M would go too far in its assessment of the Scriptural writings on evangelism and missions, but honestly, I think they did an excellent job in staying true to the word here; and even though this is not a popular way to live– I know I struggle with placing enough focus on evangelism myself– we would all do better at fulfilling God’s call on our lives if we truly embraced what this article says.

Stuck at Go- A Case Study in the Failure of Modern Evangelism

March 31, 2009

Since deciding to take this past year as a period of casual learning before jumping into seminary and formal pastoral education, I have found myself taking part in several church and generally “Christian” activities.  One of these is an evangelism group in which people are meeting weekly to learn a system of evangelism and then heading out to use it in attempt to reach people who have indicated an interest in our church.  To be honest, I am excited to be going out for evangelism and trying to take people the message of the cross every week, but I could give or take the particular system we are being trained in.

The system isn’t one of the fancy named deals like F.A.I.T.H. or Evangelism Explosion, but is a mixture of the general principles involved in these, all centered around the “Bridge to Life” tract put out by The Navigators.  I would imagine many Christians are familiar with this illustration; it is the one where man and God are separated over a chasm caused by sin and the only way for man to make it to God’s side is by the cross of Jesus, which allows him to choose eternal life over eternal destruction.  Now aside from the fact that this is an unabashedly Arminian presentation and that it utterly abuses passages such as 1 Timothy 2.5, Revelation 3.20, and John 6.47, this system does attempt to teach reconciliation with a righteous God through the grace of the cross and so I stomach going through it, even if I won’t necessarily plan on using it once on the field.

However, this past week, instead of being with my usual evangelism partner I teamed with another highly active member of my church, a slightly older guy (late 30′s-early 40′s), who serves as a deacon and teaches children’s Sunday School.  We had one prospect to visit, a Korean family who had come to our church the day before and who my partner casually knew through involvment in the public schools.  What happened during our visit was indicative of my greatest fears in the style of evangelism we have been taught, a style not that different from most other evangelical congregations, and served to further bolster in my mind the weakness of the modern Christian church’s view of salvation.

So we arrive at this person’s house, knock on the door, introduce ourselves, and get invited in.  We sit and make small talk for a minute, finding out what they thought of our church and how it was that they came to visit us.  Then, since my partner had a previous rapport with the family, I let him lead in with a testimony about his salvation experience and follow that up with the “key” question: “If you were to be in front of God for judgment tonight, what would you say to him about why he should let you into heaven?”  This, in some variation or another, is the basic first or second question in most contemporary evangelism schemes (the other being, “If you were to die tonight do you know where you would spend eternity?”), and their response is then used to lead into the gospel presentation if anything other than a “faith” answer is given.  However, on this night, the question was short circuited right from the start when our prospect told us that he is not particularly concerned with the afterlife but prefers to focus on how he lives his life today.  You could tell it from my partners eyes– our system has no ability to respond to that– and that is a problem.

Honestly, the objection that this man raised is (a) not in itself a bad train of thought, and (b) increasingly common in our postmodern culture.  Heck, I even find myself in this place often times, not that I don’t care about the afterlife, but that I find my motivation in living for God being more focused on how I serve him practically day-to-day and less in where I’ll go when I die.  The problem is, if a person really doesn’t invest too much in thinking about heaven and hell, what good does the “key” question do?  Moreover, why is it that we have left our congregations so inadequately prepared to deal with a very simple and prevalent kink in their system?  

This is one area of agreement that I have with the emerging/postmodern mindset.  We cannot just focus on trying to automatize evangelism and teaching God.  There are many legitimate variations on Christian thinking and experience that the modern evangelical framework is impotent at addressing, but that the church should not have any trouble dealing with.  Unless we train our people solidly in the Bible, and not just in some cute, 5-page presentation intended to astonish unbelievers into submission, there is no way that they will be able to stand a chance in the well read, broadly spiritual age we are living in, and their ignorance will continue the stigma against the church as being a simple-minded, anti-intellectual hot bed of judgmental radicals.  

The Scriptures really are sufficient, but unfortunately modern evangelism is neglecting a great portion of them in trying to advance easy believism, turn-or-burn Christianity.  This was one example how.

Confronted by Glory- Two Practical Questions from the Experience of Isaiah

March 9, 2009

Yesterday I recounted for us the story of Isaiah’s vision in chapter six of his prophetic writings and discussed how this illustrates for us the basic process of salvation for an individual, particularly giving legs to the middle events described in Romans 8.30 (i.e. the effectual call and justification).  When I closed it I said that we were left with two important questions, which is where I want to focus today.

The first question I asked was if a person can be confronted with the glory of God and yet not be led to repentance and a saving belief?  Is it possible that someone could see God for what he really is and walk away without being saved?  I think the first place to approach this from would be specifically from the account of people being confronted with the person of Christ during his incarnation on earth.  In John 14.8-9 we see this exchange between Philip and Christ:

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

So, from this exchange, one would seemingly take it to mean that whoever has seen Christ (incarnate in the flesh) has seen the Father.  And, if the account in Isaiah, as well as with Moses, are true, then to see the Father would be to see his glory.  But what are we told in John 6.66?  ”After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”  Thus, it appears that there were many who saw Christ, and by extension saw the glory of God, and yet were not compelled to follow him in repentance and belief.

Not so fast though.  Look what Paul says in his second epistle to the Corinthians:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4.3-6)

We see that there are those who “the god of this world has blinded [their] minds . . . to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  So, some have been blinded by Satan, kept from seeing the glory of God.  It is these who could walk with Christ, see him in the flesh, and yet still trun away.  They saw him but did not see the glory of God because Satan had blinded their minds.  And what is the word attached here to those who are blind to God’s glory?  ”Unbelievers.”  It is “the minds of the unbelievers” which have been blinded from seeing God’s glory, which in turn means that those who are not blind, those who are able to see the glory of God, are believers.  There is no room to accomodate an unbeliever who is not blinded, who has been confronted with the glory of God and simply chosen to walk away.

(Note, this would seem to accord with the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace, that all those whom God has chosen he will reveal himself to and they will unerringly follow him in repentance and belief– the human part of our salvation.)

The second question we have arising from our analysis of Isaiah 6 is whether it is possible for one to truly repent and believe who has never been confronted with the glory of God?  Before we get into it I want to discuss the practical significance of this question.  If one can repent and believe without having been confronted with God’s glory, then it is reasonable to assume that I might convince them to come to salvation myself, wholly apart from the work of God.  However, if it turns out that being convicted through an encounter with the Holy God is necessary for true repentance and belief, then no matter what I do, I have no power to save a man apart from the special work of the Spirit in that persons life.  This distinction means the world in how we practice evangelism and what we try to attain by it.

That said, let’s look at this.  A passage that seems to emphasize what the person does without referencing an encounter with God is Romans 10.9, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  It is not a stretch to say this shows human action apart from divine intervention.  But, on the other side, look back at the 2 Corinthians passage from above and see that it says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” which appears to imply that first God revealed his glory and then the gospel was unveiled (v.3), without which unveiling we would never have truly known to repent and believe.

To settle this matter, I would turn back to John 6, this time in verse 44.  Here it says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”  Again in verse 65, “And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’”  This ‘drawing’ or ‘granting’, in light of what we have already said, I would argue must be taken to be God’s confronting us with his glory.  God grants that we can come to him by showing off his glory to us, by showing us our own moral repugnance and deservedness of condemnation in contraposition to his holiness.  Peter spells this out even more when he says we are “a people for [God's] own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  That marvelous light is his glory, is “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” and is what allows us to demonstrate true repentance and belief that coincide with salvation.

Therefore, we have concluded that no man may truly repent and belief unless he has been confronted with the holiness of God in opposition to his own filth, and that any man who is confronted in such a way will surely be led to repentance and belief.  Such is the wonderful God we serve!