Question [composite of a number of letters]: We are appalled at your lack of discernment on the issue of repentance in the January 2000 Berean Call. You said clearly, “...the Bible doesn’t specify repentance as part of the gospel whereby sinners are saved.” Any Christian knows that without repentance there is no salvation. It is the sort of teaching you have promoted that is destroying churches today and I will no longer endorse or use your materials plus will warn others of this heresy. Any presentation of the gospel must be as explicit about the need for repentance as the whole of Scripture itself is....Are we to understand you do not believe in a literal hell with actual flames? Again, another heresy! Please publicly renounce these errors; otherwise remove us immediately from your mailing list.
Answer: Thank you for your letter. I must confess, however, that I don’t quite understand it. I have not denied the value of repentance. In fact, I quoted a number of verses concerning the preaching of repentance. You fault me for saying, “the Bible doesn’t specify repentance as part of the gospel whereby sinners are saved.” If it does, please show me where repentance is declared to be part of the gospel. In 1 Corinthians:15:1-4, Paul does not summarize the gospel to the Corinthians and leave something out; he says, “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you...by which also ye are saved,...how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures....” This declaration of the gospel that saves has no mention of repentance. I am only trying to be true to God’s Holy Spirit-inspired Word.
There are dozens of gospel verses in the Bible promising salvation without any mention of repentance (Mk 16:16; Jn:1:12, 3:16, 3:36, 5:24; Acts:16:31; Rom:10:9, etc.). If there must be a call to repent as part of the gospel, then Paul failed to present the gospel to the Philippian jailor and to many others. When it says what Paul’s “manner was” of preaching (Acts:17:2-3), there is no mention of repentance. That does not mean that he never preached repentance, because he did; but it was clearly not the essential element you insist upon or surely it would have had prominent mention. Nor, if I understand you correctly, did John the Apostle and the Holy Spirit present the gospel in his entire Gospel. If you are right, Jesus did not present the gospel to Nicodemus, or to the woman at the well, or to the blind men, or to Zacchaeus, et al. Zacchaeus, by the way, repented without Jesus telling him to do so. As I tried to say, I believe repentance is inherent in the gospel for those who believe it.
As for a literal hell with literal flames, that is exactly what I believe. Are those flames physical—or something even more horrible? Must something be physical to be real? Is that what you mean by “literal”? Are the soul and spirit real? The rich man said he was “tormented in this flame” and asked that Lazarus might “dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue” (Lk 16:24). There was literal flame and burning thirst. Was it physical, or worse? His physical body was decaying in the grave and only his soul and spirit were in hell.
I am trying to stick with what the Bible declares. How does that make me a heretic, and “destroyer of churches”? I hope this has helped you to understand what I mean and believe.