Justification by works? YES!
“Testifying to both Jews and Greeks repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).
Shallow preaching that does not grapple with the terrible fact of man’s sinfulness and guilt, calling on “all men everywhere to repent,” results in shallow conversions; and so we have myriads of glib-tongued professors today who give no evidence of regeneration whatever. Prating of salvation by grace, they manifest no grace in their lives. Loudly declaring they are justified by faith alone, they fail to remember that “Faith without works is dead,” and that justification by works before men is not to be ignored as though it were in contradiction to justification by faith before God. We need to reread James 2 and let its serious message sink deep into our hearts, that it may control our lives. “Had I regarded iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not hear” (Ps. 66:18).
No man can truly believe in Christ who does not first repent. Nor will his repentance end when he has saving faith, but the more he knows God as he goes on through the years, the deeper will that repentance become.
A servant of Christ once said: “I repented before I knew the meaning of the word. I have repented far more since than I did then.”
Undoubtedly one great reason why some earnest gospel preachers are almost afraid of, and generally ignore, the terms “repent” and “repentance” in their evangelizing is that they fear lest their hearers misunderstand these terms and think of them as implying something meritorious on the part of the sinner. But nothing could be wider of the mark. There is no saving merit in owning my true condition. There is no healing in acknowledging the nature of my illness. And repentance, as we have seen, is just this very thing.