ON THE IDEA OF PUNISHMENT AND PAYMENT IN THE ATONEMENT
CONDENSED FROM THE
ETERNAL SECURITY: A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE WEBSITE
If Jesus suffered, he was not punished. If
he was not punished, he was not sinful on the Cross. But what about 2 Cor. 5:21
“For he hath made him to be sin for us.”?
The Scriptures commonly use the singular term “sin” in the sense of a
sin-offering. In the Old Testament
we are told that the animal sacrifice was to become “sin” but yet it is
translated sin-offering. In Heb.
10:4, it is said that “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats
should take away sins.” If we say
that Jesus literally became sin, then we must go against the Scripture and say
that bull and goats were effectual offerings because they transferred sin.
1 Pet. 2:24, “Who his own self bare our
sins in his own body of the tree.” In
what sense did he bare our sins in his own body?
It is unfeasible that sins were transferred. He bore the weight of,
or, bore up our sins a way that
the responsibility for our burden was upon him as is the suffering for
them were his own. Note that
throughout the Epistles of Peter he is especially careful in emphasizing the suffering
and not the punishment of Jesus Christ.
Gal 3:13, “Christ hath redeemed us from
the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is
everyone that hangeth on a tree.” Are we to assume that everyone that
was ever crucified was guilty? History
disproves that notion. While it is
true that everyone that has ever been crucified was an object of a curse
or, cursed in the sense of
public disapproval and shame.
He endured this public rejection and shame for us.
He endured this public rejection and shame for us.
This Governmental theory looks at these
judicial statements of Scripture in light of Oriental Law. God as our moral
Governor, and thus, must maintain His moral government. The justice that is to
be maintained is to keep the believer in this moral realm. The
Death of Christ was necessary to justly maintain the integrity of His moral
Government. God and His Government are inseparable, so sin is an offense not
only against good law and order, but an offense against God.
Let me start with the observation that there are many theories of the atonement. Throughout history, the idea of what was the "orthodox" doctrine has been determined by the widespread acceptance of its day. With the transition of time, teaching on this subject has moved from a very broad and basic understanding, to the very specific and detailed model we have today. Any expansion of the doctrine apart from the Scriptures is theory. All theories of the atonement delve into the area of speculation. The problem is, that we buy into the theoretical and accept it as if it were Scripture itself. Now, I am not saying that theory is bad, but that it is dangerous to accept the Biblically unsubstantiated parts as absolute truth.
The theory that Charles Stanley holds to is what is called the Penal Satisfaction View of the atonement. It is no doubt the most widely accepted theory today. Few have heard anything else, and that is why what I am about to write will seem so shocking and outright blasphemous to most. The problem is that most have blindly accepted almost every element of this theory as Gospel truth apart from any clear consensus from the Scriptures.
Nowhere does the Scripture say that Jesus paid for sin, or that he was punished! By this statement, I have probably shocked most of my readers! Stanley’s theory of eternal security demands that sins are "paid for." This ensures the end result, the salvation of the one who’s sin debt has been paid. This theory is nothing more than a mere assumption. There is not a singular statement in all of Scripture that unambiguously states this, so why would anyone dogmatically claim it as Scripture fact unless their doctrinal idol were threatened? The belief that Christ was punished also has problems. These difficulties and more will be discussed in the next section.
Several questions must be answered. If these doctrines are carried to their logical end, then where do they lead us? The first issue will be whether Jesus paid for our sins. Stanley said, "How can I lose Christ’s payment for my sin? Can God declare me "guilty" after he has declared me "not guilty"?
When Christ died, which of your sins did he die for? Which sins were you forgiven of when you trusted Him as Savior? If the sins you commit after becoming a Christian can annul your relationship with the Savior, clearly those sins were not covered at Calvary."
With careful questioning and logic, Stanley hopes to lead you down the primrose path. This is known as the sins paid for, past, present, and future approach. If your sins were paid for at Calvary, which sins? All of your sins! In fact all of your sins were future sins 2000 years ago! If all future sins were paid for, then there can never be a possibility of being judged guilty in the future. The result of this? Eternal security of course! This sounds surprisingly logical on the surface, but leads to some difficult questions.
If it was a payment, who was the payment made to? The Scripture does not tell us. So how can we build such seemingly conclusive doctrines based on this? In fact, I will state that the reason that the Bible does not tell us is because there was no such payment!
If it was a payment, who was paid for? The sins of the world! 1 Jn. 2:2, He gave Himself a ransom for all, 1 Timothy 2:5. Here is where the problem comes in. If this payment was real and absolute as Dr. Stanley argues, then we must ask some important questions. If the payment of sin is irrevocable, and the one who’s sin is paid for must infallibly make it to heaven, then we must accept Universalism. If Jesus paid for all, then all must be acquitted on Judgment Day. Since unbelief is sin, and all sin is paid for, then belief and faith are heretical additions to the Gospel! When were your sins paid for? Two thousand years ago! So, salvation is automatic, and the born-again experience is nothing more than waking up to the fact that you have been saved all this time! If you say that it does not come into effect until you have faith, then you have two problems. Show me where it is in Scripture that Jesus is an Indian giver and un-pays the sin in the unbeliever! If He can do this, then why can he not un-pay it for the one who falls away and ceases to believe? Secondly, if you are not saved before faith, then the payment cannot be real and absolute, it is figurative and cannot carry the guarantee eternal security.
Consistent Predestinarians' ( Augustine, Calvin and Beza, who took the existing commercial and ransom theories and developed them further to what we see today,) hold that the atonement is limited for only those who God has determined to save. If you believe that God is not willing that any should perish, and that salvation is available to all, you show your inconsistency with your use and application of this theory of the atonement.
If Jesus paid for all sin, then salvation cannot be of grace. The cause of salvation is by the merit of payment. Everyone therefore deserves to go to heaven!
If Jesus paid for sin, then there is no such thing as pardon or forgiveness! If I stand before a Judge, guilty of an infraction of the law, he has two options before him. He can pardon, and forgive me, or, he can levy a punishment or a fine. He cannot do both, it is one or the other. If he accepts payment for my violation from an outside source, then the interest of justice is satisfied, and I must be released without any further obligation. If my fine is paid, there is nothing to forgive! The opposite is also true. If he offers a pardon, he must forgo punishment. What the Penal theory must accept is, if it was paid, then God has never forgiven anything! The payment theory of the atonement voids the possibility of forgiveness.
The mercy of God is also voided by this theory. Mercy is the withholding of that which is due. But Stanley says that punishment was not withheld, that Jesus was punished for the world’s sins. This makes the concept of mercy within God nothing but cheap rhetoric. He is not merciful but demands His pound of flesh! We must conclude that this payment shows that mercy is nonexistent in the nature of God since He demands that every sin must be punished.
The conclusion of all of this is that in order for Stanley’s unconditional security to work, there must be a real and absolute payment at Calvary. If the death of Christ brought a legal satisfaction, then those who’s debt has been transferred at the cross, must from that point remain free from all obligation and punishment. If you believe the Scripture that Jesus "is the propitiation for our sins; and not for your only, but also for the sins of the whole world," then you must accept that there will be no one in hell but the devil and his demons. If all our sins are paid for, then everybody must be saved since unbelief is a sin! This is where Stanley's payment theory takes us! This conclusion can be ignored, but it cannot be escaped.
The idea that the atonement was a payment demands that Jesus was punished on the cross.
Charles Stanley boldly states that, "We trust that Christ was punished in our place." He can only "trust" this, since he does not have one unambiguous statement from Scripture to prove it!
The Bible never states even one time that Jesus was punished on the cross! So we must ask, what did happen on the cross? The Bible unequivocally and without exception reveals that Jesus suffered on the cross. Mark 8:31, The Son of man must suffer. Luke 22:15; 24:46; 17:25, Before I suffer. Acts 3:18; 26:23, That Christ should suffer. Hebrews 13:12, his own blood, suffered without the gate. 1 Peter 1:11; 2:21; 2:23; 3:18; 4:1; 5:1, because Jesus also suffered for us....suffered in the flesh. 2nd Corinthians 1:5, the sufferings of Christ.
Look them up for yourself, then try and find a statement of the "punishment" of Christ, that He was "punished" for our sins, or that the Son of man must be "punished." You will not find it because it is not true!
You may be thinking that I am splitting hairs here. Suffering or punishment, its all the same, right? No, it is not the same! In order for a man to be punished, he must be guilty. To inflict what is due for punishment upon an innocent man is an injustice. But if a man voluntarily suffers in another’s place to whom punishment is due, it is self-sacrifice and heroism. If it is inflicted by an arbitrary authority, it is injustice on one side, and martyrdom on the other. If I go to jail on the charge of murder, but I am innocent, then I am not punished, because I am not guilty. All I suffer is an injustice. Punishment is a legal term that presupposes guilt. It is an impossibility to punish the innocent.
But, you say, " Didn’t God transfer my sin to Jesus upon the cross?" Charles Stanley writes, God made a swap. Actually, the correct term is imputation. He imputed our sin to Christ and His righteousness to us. This doctrine may be popular, but it is pure theological fiction! Nowhere, I repeat NOWHERE! Is this hogwash found ANYWHERE in Scripture! Guilt and righteousness are personal and cannot be transferred. You can no more impute wisdom to a fool than you can impute courage to a coward. If you were a thief, I could not impute honesty to you anymore than you could impute or transfer your dishonesty to me. Impute means to "count" or "reckon." It never means to transfer character! Faith is imputed (counted) for righteousness. It does not say righteousness is imputed (transferred) because of faith. To get the transfer that Charles Stanley believes in, one must read that belief into the passages to come up with this.
Theologian, Richard S. Taylor comments on this theory saying, "This is the belief that God not only imputes our sins to Christ but transfers in His accounting all Christ's righteousness to us, so that God doesn't really see our sins; rather He sees us as spotlessly holy in Christ." (The Scandal of Pre-forgiveness) I have heard this theory propagated on more than one occasion that once we get saved, we are "covered" by the righteousness of Christ. So, when we sin, God looks at us but cannot see our sins because all He can see is the blood of Christ.
Charles Stanley and others who have adopted this fiction must ignore the fact that God is all knowing and cannot be fooled as to the true character of an individual. It ignores the fact that God is the God of all truth, He cannot lie. So how can it be said that God can be the all knowing God of truth and call that which is unholy something other than what it is? If we are to follow this logic, many try to extricate themselves from this difficulty by saying that God can see the sin but it only effects our fellowship and not our relationship. But the idea of broken fellowship cannot be reconciled with this doctrine of imputed righteousness. Taylor says, " If God sees not my sin but my position in Christ, if He views me as clothed in Christ's righteousness, then how could sin - which has been put to Christ's account - "break fellowship?" This mysticism and unscriptural idea that character can be transferred from one individual to another is the glue that holds Mr. Stanley's false assertions together.
The logical course of the Eternal Securist who cannot find a clear and decisive Scripture to defend their position is to fall back upon their twist on the atonement. If sins are "paid for" in the atonement, the logical end is inevitably the salvation of the one who is "paid for." The conclusion of such an atonement holds regardless of what the Bible may say or not say. It is a creation outside of the Bible and does not need the Bible for endorsement.
This view of the atonement was developed to support and defend the conclusions of the Calvinistic system. The difficulty I have with this "theory" is that it was created to fill a "theological void" within the Calvinistic system. I could understand that if this view of the atonement was the clear and established understanding throughout all Christian history. If it was the only view, it may have more merit, but Church history validates the newness of this thought within Christianity.
This idea of "payment for sins" is so essential to the Eternal Securists' argument that it is assumed to be the truth without any critical examination. What follows in this mode of arguing that they have is, if they cannot prove their point from Scripture, they move onto the next step in their theology which is payment for sins, and if they cannot prove that, the next step is punishment.
If Christ was punished, then we must explain why. We cannot imagine that this could occur without good reason. From this, they conclude that the punishment must be for the payment of sins, but this assumes too much. The idea of punishment does not prove in any way that sins were paid for. To have a payment however, we must assume that there was a punishment. This circular logic of theirs is dogmatically asserted without any critical examination.
When arguing this issue of unconditional security, we will find ourselves going down a predictable road. Scripture cannot prove Eternal Security, so they fall back on the idea of a payment for sins. If they are challenged to prove this assertion, which they cannot, then they fall back on the next best thing they believe that supports their notion, which is punishment.
Does it really matter if the Scriptures disprove the idea of Eternal Security and payment for sins? Does it really matter if that which we believe is nothing more than a baseless and unproven theory? I think it does!
By now you have probably started to flip through your Bible and started to catalog the verses that you believe disprove my statements. This is good, and I hope to address some of these issues.
Payment: Let me state that propitiation, reconciliation, justification, redemption, being brought near, putting away sin, suffering, dying for sin, and offering oneself up, is not payment. This I hope will narrow the field to the more important passages.
Doesn’t the Bible say that we were "bought" with a price? That we are a "purchased" possession? That were "redeemed" and there was a "ransom?" This is without a doubt true! But none of the above statements say, show, or prove in any way that Jesus was punished or that there was a "payment for sins."
In what way were we bought with a price? This is in reference to the high "cost" that the Son of God took upon himself in order for us to be saved. The same terminology is mentioned every Veterans Day. Much talk occurs about the high "cost" of freedom, and how many "paid the price." Ask yourself, if only one person died on our side in World War Two, could we not still say that the individual that died "paid the price"? It is not that 200,000 deaths "purchased" freedom in any way. If only199,999 died, would we have lost the war? You see, it is not a mathematical equation, one Christ does not equal the value of "X" number of sinners. There was a cost, but it was not the payment for sins.
We are His "purchase." This also says nothing of a fictitious payment of sins. By the self-sacrifice of Jesus, that which was hopelessly lost on it’s own, became savable because of His death. Anyone that is ultimately saved is due to His atonement. His death on the cross gives Him the rights to whatever fruit it bears.
Some see the term of "redeem" as positing the necessity of a payment. The fact that the exchange of His life for those that believe explains this redemption. There was a cost, and it was not a payment for sins. Payment for sins can be assumed if it is read into this passage, but it cannot be drawn from it. Ransom can also be seen as an exchange without interjecting non-Biblical ideas of payment into it.
Punishment: This will take a little more detail. First, I want to cover a few arguments before we look at the Biblical passages.
If sin is personal, and as shown, cannot be transferred to another, then wouldn’t that make God the Father unjust by punishing the innocent? It certainly would!
Also, what would the punishment of the Son do to our concept of the Oneness of the Trinity? You see, if we go by Charles Stanley’s understanding, God the Father is seen as a Holy Being that must punish sin, and by necessity, desires that we would be the subject of His wrath. The Son on the other hand, is desirous of interceding and saving us. So by some strange imagination, God the Father is placated by "whooping up" on the Son. Can you see the absurdity of the Godhead punishing itself? It is tantamount to slapping yourself around and saying that makes forgiving others a possibility now.
According to Stanley, the Second person of the Godhead was separated from the First and Third while on the cross. Can you see the impossible contradiction here? The Trinity is One. If you can separate the Trinity, or take one Person from it, then you no longer have God. God is the Trinity at all times! The Oneness of the Trinity cannot exist if the other Two punished the Son. What we end up with are three Gods instead of One! How could Jesus be God if He were not part of the Trinity? This difficulty vanishes if we believe the Biblical data that Jesus voluntarily suffered for our sins instead of the absurdity of saying that He was punished.
How do we then reconcile the words of God who's voice burst out from heaven saying, "this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" and just before he went to the cross Jesus said, "not my will but thy will" and followed through with faithful obedience. How can we believe that the Son, who is the object of blessing could moments later become the subject of wrath while he was in full obedience?
I find it much more tenable to believe that the entire Trinity was at work providing our salvation upon the cross and that God the Father was always well pleased with the Son. The cross was not the scene of the Father hurling the thunderbolts of wrath down upon the Son, but Calvary was the scene of wondrous mercy and love.
Another problem for this theory of punishment is that it pretends to believe in the necessity of retributive justice. The belief is that God must punish sin, and that this punishment must be eternal separation from His presence is the basis in which they believe the punishment of Christ is a necessity. The difficulty arises when we consider that the rules are unbending, and that Jesus is not being tortured in hell as we speak! If He is bore the punishment that is due to the whole world for sin, then he must be forever separated from God. Absolute, unbending justice demands this! Keep in mind, if He "paid" for just one person, this would be the result!
Securists claim that the "quality" of Christ was sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world, and to release Him from the obligation of eternal separation. This is pure invention and nonsense! No Scripture explains this problem away, and the fact that they admit a compromise in the rules they imposed upon God, proves that He was not sufficiently punished in order to atone for our sin! This requirement would render Christ’s work as questionable at best.
Now to the question of the Biblical verses. Doesn’t Isaiah 53:4-5, state that while Jesus was on the cross, God was going to punish Him? "Surely our grief's He himself bore, And our sorrows he carried: Yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken, Smitten of God and afflicted, But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed." This is without a doubt the clearest prophecy about the nature of the atonement the Messiah was to suffer. Most who see a penal theme to this have not ever read the prophecy without a preconceived bias. Notice that it says, we did esteemed him as stricken, smitten by God. Those who saw Christ suffer, instead of understanding that he was bearing the weight of the sins of others in a mediatorial capacity, imagined that he was suffering at God’s hands for his own sins. God knew that people would misconceive what was transpiring on the cross. The passage does not state implicitly or indirectly that God was to smite him in any way.
Many see the term of chastisement as carrying the idea of punishment. It can carry the idea of discipline and correction. Keep in mind that if someone bears the "chastisement" for you, does not mean that they were punished. Punishment requires guilt. To suffer the consequences of the penalty for another is not strictly punishment.
Verse 10 states that "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him." In what way was God active in bruising the Son? Genesis 3:14, 15, says, "And the Lord God said to the serpent....I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heal." It states clearly that the devil will do the bruising. But the crucifixion could not have occurred apart from God willing, and allowing it happen. In view of this, and that God foreknew the result that atonement would bring, it can be said that God was pleased to bruise him. It brought the desired result; reconciliation between God and man. The Trinity, working as One to reconcile the world to himself.
" God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." 2 Cor. 5:19
In Isaiah 53:4, God said that unbelievers would misinterpret the Son’s work on the cross, confusing it with the wrath of God falling upon Him. Today, false teachers misinterpret the work of Christ in the same way!
"For he hath made him to be sin for us." Many interpret this as sin-offering as most Bibles footnote this. This avoids the absurdity of saying that God is the cause of sin in Himself. The Father making the Son sinful in order to punish him. It is preferable to view Jesus as the sin-offering or sin-bearer for us. Whatever sense the becoming of sin is, it cannot be literally becoming sin, or sinful in any way.
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." Some equate being a "curse" for us substantiates that he was punished for us. This statement by Paul is from Deuteronomy 21:23, in which he purposely leaves off part of the verse, "accursed by God" in reference to Christ.
If that applied to Christ on the cross, Paul would have said so! So in what way was Jesus a curse? Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree. Anyone condemned and executed before men is the object of this curse whether they are guilty or not. If they are innocent, they are still the subject of ridicule and shame, and thereby accursed by men. If guilty or possessing sin, they are considered accursed of God. By this passage, Jesus was not.
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." This can be taken as a literal baring of our sins, but because of the afore mentioned difficulties, it would be more prudent to interpret this as bearing the responsibility of our sins. The Greek term can, and should be translated as "bare up" our sins. This is the preferable translation. This agrees with the prophecy of the atonement in Isaiah 53:12 where we are told that he Himself "bore up" the sins of many. We cannot support the literal idea of becoming "sin" when there is not any other passage that demands such a literal interpretation.
I have given you many reasons as to why this punishment and payment theory cannot work as Charles Stanley supposes. As I mentioned early on in this chapter, there are many theories as to how the atonement of Christ works, most of which do not make any reference to payment or punishment. Almost all have one thing in common, the death of Christ is the sole means by which we may be saved. So, to deny the Penal Substitutionary theory of the atonement is not a denial of the Gospel.
" God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." 2 Cor. 5:19
There was no separation of God on the cross, just a united purpose of saving mankind. The atonement is a provision, and not a payment. With this we can still say that the atonement is for all, based upon the conditions of faith and repentance. If there are conditions attached to receiving salvation, then those same conditions must exist to remain saved.
"If Jesus paid for my sins on the cross 2,000 years ago, weren’t all of my sins future sins when He paid them? Doesn’t this mean that all my future sins are already forgiven"?
The largest flaw in this logic is the fact that it presupposes that someone’s sin was paid for on the cross of Calvary! This is one of those examples where we see that in the absence of any unambiguous statement of Scripture to prove their point, that many will bolster their cause by using a man-made theory and elevate it to the level of inspiration!
By following this theory and its logic, let’s see where it leads us. Who’s sin was paid for according to this theory? The whole world? All men? (1 Jn. 2:2.) If "all men" and the "whole world’s " sin has been paid for, is it not logical to say that everyone will be in heaven? Did he not "pay" for ALL future sin? Will Jesus be robbed of His right to what He has paid for? Where in the Scriptures does it say that anyone was ever un-atoned for? If anyone ends up in hell, where does it say Jesus is an Indian-giver and un-pays what He has already paid? Isn’t unbelief a sin? If this is so, and All sin was paid for, then ALL unbelievers are saved!
To have the unconditional security that Eternal Security proponents contend for there must be a real payment of our sins. If the payment is real and absolute, the one who has been paid for cannot be judged before God. If payment has been made for the guilty, the guilty must be acquitted in order for God to be just. Payment cannot be turned off and on, it either occurred and was "finished" on the cross or it was not! A payment made in previous time cannot be activated by faith or belief because that implies that this payment would be conditional, denying that the believers sin was actually "paid for" on Calvary! If Jesus "paid for" sin, it was completed at Calvary. Sin that has been paid cannot ever be punished again in the future. If Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world, the whole world must be saved! Salvation therefore, cannot be contingent upon faith and belief according to this theory. Belief is nothing! It is merely a matter if your sins were paid for on the cross!
The Penal (payment) theory of the atonement was developed to bolster the fatalistic notions of Calvinism. The only logical conclusion of Calvinistic predestination is that the atonement is limited if it is a payment. Only the saved were paid for on the cross and no one else. Belief is therefore only waking up to the fact that you have been saved all this time! Unbelief cannot hinder one from becoming saved, nor can believing assist it. According to the theory of payment, it has been completed in the past, and nothing that we can do in the present can make it ours. This fatalism reduces the Gospel into bad news for the individuals that God does not love, and has predetermined that Christ would not atone for their sins. There can be no way to be sure if you are one of the "elect" since you cannot know for sure whether your sins have been paid for or not. The fatalism of pure Calvinism may be consistent with its theory of the atonement, but fails to give the believer any true knowledge of personal assurance whatsoever.
The atonement is a provision that requires conditions to be met in order for the benefits to be applied. In Scripture, atonement is never presented as a blanket for future sins. It covers only our "sins past" (Rom. 3:25, 1 Peter 1:9), and requires confession of any failures in order for there to be any continued forgiveness and cleansing (1 Jn. 1:9). If Christ has already paid all our future fines in court, we would not need Him as our present Advocate before the Judge! (1 Jn.2:1)
Logic proves that it is impossible to reconcile the payment theory of the atonement with the universal offer of salvation and the possibility that anyone could be lost. Logic also proves that if we limit the atonement, it does not help us any in this matter of the assurance of anyone who thinks they are saved by believing, since present belief does not have anything to do with God's decision of making someone elect in the past. According to this theory, we cannot know whether our faith and trust in God, or our believing that we have salvation, is anything more than wishful thinking and a fiction! Assurance can only be truly known after death!
The conclusion is that since there are no unambiguous statements in the Scripture that say explicitly that through the death of Jesus that our sins were "paid for", we are justified in avoiding such deceitful terminology in favor of the idea that the atonement is a "provision" which makes the Gospel the good news, truly good news for all. A provision is not a payment and thereby is not for the limited few, but is for the whole world. As a provision it can and does demand conditions in order to receive its benefits. A provision is conditional, a payment is not. A provision is made for ALL, and a payment is made for FEW. If we admit that some will not be saved, and we believe that Jesus died for "every man" and the "whole world," we should be able to see that it must be a provisional atonement and not a payment in times past, for a payment is denied by the fact that some are lost. A provision commands us to repent and believe the gospel as a condition (not a merit) of receiving the application of its benefits. This is not a "works" salvation, it is genuine saving faith!