The Saare-Turner Debate

Part Two

Proposition: “The New Testament Scriptures teach that unregenerated sinners are saved by grace through faith alone, before and without water baptism.” Keith Saare affirms; Allan Turner denies.

Saare’s Third Affirmative (posted 11/29/06): As I understand Mr. Turner on Romans 5:9, he wants to equate salvation with justification so the two must occur at the same time. But the verse states, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” By using grammatico-historical hermeneutics, two points of grammar refute his claim. First, the justification spoken of occurred in past time (“having now been justified”). This is the aorist participle of antecedent action. Secondly, the salvation spoken of here is yet future (“we shall be saved”). This is eschatological salvation. Grammatically there a gap of an unspecified amount of time taking place between justification and salvation in Romans 5:9. However, Mr. Turner wants to place these events at the same time—this is because he makes no effort to interpret literally or to distinguish the different tenses of salvation (past, present & future). Maybe a different verse will show these two actions occurring at the same time, but it is not the case in Romans 5:9.

This said, I want to offer a fresh look at the issues discussed so far. Below is an essay I recently submitted for a theology course in seminary. It is modified to fit the format of this debate. Please enjoy reading!


The proper response of man for salvation is of grave importance. The difference between orthodoxy and heresy is at stake, and an eternity in heaven or hell (Gal 1:6-9). Three terms in Scripture stand out defining man’s response to the gospel resulting in salvation—namely, faith, believe and repentance. Man’s works are explicitly excluded (Eph 2:8-9), although the work of Christ is the grounds for securing such salvation (cf. 1 Cor 1:30). Hence, the purpose of this essay is to define, compare and contrast the three words faith, believe and repentance as used for man’s response unto salvation. My focus will be  primarily on the New Testament attention devoted to it.


Crucially important is faith. Scripture states, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6). As it is, the entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is known as the “Faith Hall of Fame” and provides a concise definition in 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

The English term faith derives from the Latin fides, meaning “trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief.” It was this word fides which Jerome used for the Greek pistis when translating the Vulgate in Ephesians 2:8a: Gratia enim estis salvati per fidem, whereas the Greek tēi gar chariti este sesōismenoi dia pisteōs and the King James “For by grace are ye saved through faith.” While highlighting distinctions of pistis, W.E. Vines observed:

The main elements of “faith” in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from “faith” in man, are especially brought out in the use of this noun and the corresponding verb, pisteuō; they are (1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God’s revelation or truth, e.g., 2 Thess. 2:11-12; (2) a personal surrender to Him, John 1:12; (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender,  2 Cor. 5:7. Prominence is given to one or other of these elements according to the context (Expository Dictionary, 222).

In what sense does faith pertain to salvation and conversion? In Ephesians 2:8 salvation is dia pisteōs, “through faith.” That is, faith is the channel in which salvation comes to the believing heart. It is like a conveyer belt bringing items from the assembly line to the packaging department, or like cars traveling down a street from one location to another.

It is significant that works are explicitly excluded from saving faith. Sinners are saved “through faith…not as a result of works” in the words of Ephesians 2:8-9. However, though the efficacy of works is explicitly denied, Paul goes on to add that works do come into play, but only after one has come into a saving relationship with the Lord. Per Ephesians 2:10 they are a result of salvation, not a prerequisite. Hence, “faith without works is dead.”


This term as a response unto salvation is most popular in John’s gospel which he uses 99 times. Undoubtedly the emphasis of his soteriological theme is upon the necessity of believing as stated in John 20:30-31:

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Like pistis examined above, the Greek term pisteuō—translated “to believe”—shares in the same pist- word group, though the difference being between noun and verb. According to W.E. Vines, it means: “ ‘to believe,’ also ‘to be persuaded of,’ and hence, ‘to place confidence in, to trust,’ signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence” (Ibid., 61). By this definition, its close affinity with faith is apparent since faith in Hebrews 11:1 is a “conviction,” or very strong belief.

A key soteriological passage using the verb pisteuō is John 5:24 in which Jesus stated, “He who hears my word and believes…has eternal life.” Because the verb has in John 5:24 is the present active indicative, the very moment one begins to believe he receives eternal life. There is no lapse of time taking place between the moment of belief and the reception of eternal life; the two coincide through time from the initial moment of faith.          

Clearly the comparisons of faith and believing are closely aligned and the contrasts minimal. Both involve an exercise of the will, and both result in salvation. One may conclude that they are basically “two sides of the same coin.”


Since faith and believing are essentially the same, repentance differs in that metanoia, from meta and nous, signifies a change of mind which results in a change of lifestyle. Yet, one changes his mind by believing something new, so that the two go hand-in-hand. Bruce Demarest observes “three essential aspects” of repentance as (1) intellectual, (2) emotional, (3) and volitional elements. These include an understanding of God’s holiness, and abhorrence of sin, and a determination to forsakes sins (The Cross and Salvation, 254). My opponent, Mr. Turner, has stated: “It is quite clear that the Bible teaches that repentance (or turning from sin) is a condition that must be met before one is granted the remission of sins by God (cf. Acts 2:38; 3:19; 14:15; 26:18; 26:20).” To his observation I give my hearty approval. Millard Erickson explains it this way:

As we examine this matter of repentance, we cannot avoid being impressed with its importance as a prerequisite for salvation. The large number of verses and the variety of contexts in which repentance is stressed make clear that it is not optional but indispensable. That people in many different cultural settings were urged to repent shows that it is not a message meant only for a few specific local situations. Rather, repentance is an essential part of the Christian gospel (Christian Theology, 949).

Perhaps the clearest statement regarding the conditional nature of repentance is the words of the Lord in Luke 15:32: “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” It is here seen that repentance turns away the wrath of God, as also in Revelation 2:22: “Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.” One cannot deny that these words are quite similar to the necessity of belief given in John 3:18a-b: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already.”

Additional Thoughts

Two, points are in order. First, faith, believing and repentance are actions which man must do (see Lk 13:3 and Act 3:19). However, though these three are human responsibility, they are freely given to man by God according to Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 1:29 and Acts 11:18. In this sense, salvation is wholly of God since even faith is given to man so he may believe. How can they be the responsibility of man and yet gifts from God? This is a great paradox, but it ought not to be denied—God does not disclose everything for man’s understanding.

Secondly, any of these terms alone is sufficient for salvation. Faith or believing stand alone (Jn 3:16), at other times repentance is alone and sufficient (Act 17:30). When these terms are conjoined, repentance always stands first (e.g. Mark 1:15: “repent and believe in the gospel”). The biblical evidence is therefore in stark contrast with the popular creed of the Restoration Movement in which faith precedes repentance in the five step plan for salvation: “(1) hear, (2) believe, (3) repent, (4) confess, (5) baptism.” Wherefore, Restoration Movement doctrine should be rejected.

Turner’s Third Negative
Turner’s Second Negative
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