Although the concept of faith and repentance is the same for salvation and the Spirit-filled life, the purpose for each differs. The former relates to what you receive. The latter relates to what you do with what you have received. The earthly goal of a decision of faith/repentance for salvation is to get to faith/repentance for a Spirit-filled life of sanctification and service. The two concepts are not totally separate and yet are distinguishable as one based upon the other. Salvation is the platform and necessary provision for the Spirit-filled life.
Faith/repentance for salvation is a once-for-all transaction whereby one transfers his dependence for a new position. Faith/repentance for sanctification and service is a repeated transfer of dependence for a new practice. The former has its purpose in a new standing while the latter is for new walking. The former is for positional or credited (imputed) righteousness. The latter is for practical or enabled (imparted) righteousness. The former is for new life; the latter is for new living. The former is for Christ in you. The latter is for Christ to you and through you. Faith/repentance for salvation is for what you receive (i.e., forgiveness of sins, credited righteousness, eternal life). Faith/repentance for the Spirit-filled life is for what you do (i.e., obedience in the Christian walk and warfare). Therefore, care must be taken to identify whether a particular biblical passage is dealing with salvation or sanctification.
Herein lies a key difference. The new position or standing of salvation involved no movement on the part of the one who has been saved (unless the “receiving” is called movement). However, engaging in a new practice (walking) clearly involves movement. Faith/repentance for salvation is for that which is received without movement. Faith/repentance for a Spirit-filled life of sanctification and service is for enabling activities that do require movement—and walking is movement. The church at Ephesus was reminded of the concept when commanded in Revelation 2:5 to “repent, and do the first works.”
The walk of the Spirit-filled life demands movement, the taking of steps in thought, word, and deed. The purpose of faith/repentance for the Spirit-filled life is seen in the repeated transfer of dependence that enables obedience. Simply put, it is one’s God-dependence for Spirit-enabling to obey in all areas. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking and acting on a present provision or fact. In other cases, it’s a matter of asking for a specific promise, taking as God gives it, and then acting on it.
For example, it is one thing for someone to say he believes God can give him victory. That by itself is acknowledgment-only (easy-believism on sanctification). It is another thing to take the provision of the victorious life of the indwelling Christ and then act on it as the Spirit imparts that very life. Similarly, it is one thing to merely say God can bless witnessing, but it is another thing entirely to depend on God to bless as one takes the steps of asking for the Spirit’s power, taking that power, and then declaring the gospel.
Faith for sanctification and service accesses the Spirit’s power for the purpose of obedience in the Christian walk and warfare. When dependence is tied to the appropriate step, the Spirit enables to obedience. Life, then, is no more a matter of hollow, flesh-dependent motions but rather steps of God-dependent activity that access Spirit-enablement. The dynamic of the walk of faith shows that this life of faith is anything but a life of passivity.
Next week, we will discuss the importance of clearly keeping this distinction of purpose.
John Van Gelderen