What Is Repentance?

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Many understand the term repentance (from the Greek word metanoia) to mean “turning from sin.” This is not the biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, the word repent means “to change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.
What, then, is the connection between repentance and salvation? The Book of Acts seems to especially focus on repentance in regards to salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18;17:30; 20:21; 26:20). To repent, in relation to salvation, is to change your mind in regard to Jesus Christ. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38). Repent from what? Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change their minds about Him, to recognize that He is indeed “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as the Messiah to faith in Him as both Messiah and Savior.

Repentance and faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ.

It is crucially important that we understand repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation. No one can repent and come to God unless God pulls that person to Himself (John 6:44). Acts 5:31 and 11:18 indicate that repentance is something God gives—it is only possible because of His grace. No one can repent unless God grants repentance. All of salvation, including repentance and faith, is a result of God drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. God’s longsuffering leads us to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), as does His kindness (Romans 2:4).

While repentance is not a work that earns salvation, repentance unto salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly and fully change your mind without that causing a change in action. In the Bible, repentance results in a change in behavior. That is why John the Baptist called people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). A person who has truly repented from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ will give evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:19-23; James 2:14-26). Repentance, properly defined, is necessary for salvation. Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts3:19). Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post.

    I agree in general. Thus, the word that is used here in greek is NOT Metanoeo.
    .. but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,..

    transformed:
    from Metanoeo
    1. to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent
    2. to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins
    (from Meta:
    with, after, behind
    & Noeo
    1. to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding
    2. to think upon, heed, ponder, consider)

    renewing:
    from Anakainosis
    1. a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better
    (from Anakainoo:
    1. to cause to grow up, new, to make new
    a. new strength and vigour is given to one
    b. to be changed into a new kind of life as opposed to the former corrupt state)

    of your mind:
    Nous
    1. the mind, comprising alike the faculties of perceiving and understanding and those of feeling, judging, determining
    a. the intellectual faculty, the understanding
    b. reason in the narrower sense, as the capacity for spiritual truth, the higher powers of the soul, the faculty of perceiving divine things, of recognising goodness and of hating evil
    c. the power of considering and judging soberly, calmly and impartially
    2. a particular mode of thinking and judging, i.e thoughts, feelings, purposes, desires
    (probably from the base of Ginosko:
    to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel
    to become known
    to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of
    to understand
    to know
    Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman
    to become acquainted with, to know)

    Even I agree with your theology, there is a difference in the text. why?

    Like

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