Wednesday, March 18, 2009


What Does Repent Mean?

Q. Below is an excerpt from another site I was studying. I have always considered “repenting” as going to God in prayer and seek his forgiveness for my sins, detailing those sins as best I can remember them, and express my sincere remorse and sorrow for disobeying Him. From what I read below, I have it all wrong. Can you please explain what this means in terms I can comprehend? I admit, I’m a bit slow grasping things at times. I appreciate your help in advance.

(The word in the New Testament usually translated “repent” is the Greek word “metanoeo,” and the word translated “repentance” is “metanoia.” Both of these Greek words have the same basic meaning: “to change your mind; reconsider; or, to think differently.”

Granted, if a person changes his mind (repents) toward certain sins in his life, he may become very sorrowful and may even stop those particular outward sins, but the sorrow and the ceasing from certain sins would be the RESULT of repenting, not repentance itself.

When God tells an unsaved man to repent, He means for that man to change his mind about how to reach God and accept GOD’S way of salvation. The person must CHANGE HIS MIND from any idea of religion he may have to save him, and trust Christ’s payment for everything he has done wrong.)

Is this what repent really means?

A. This is a great definition and the correct one. Thank you for sending it to me. Repent means to change your mind. If you already know you’re a sinner in need of a savior, you don’t need to repent to be saved, you just need to ask Jesus to save you. If you already know your behavior is a sin, you don’t have to repent, just confess.

Many of us were taught that repenting means to stop doing something, but if that was true we’d all have to stop sinning before we could ask Jesus to save us. Since we can’t stop sinning, none of us would ever be saved.

After we’re saved the Lord sends His Holy Spirit to dwell in us and help us change our behavior, but that happens after were saved, not before, and even then we really won’t ever stop sinning until we’re raptured or resurrected. That’s why we’ve been saved by grace through faith, not by works. (Ephes. 2:8-9)

Union Or Fellowship?

It has bothered me that the need for repentance is not mentioned in verses like John 3:16, 1 John 5:12-13, Romans 10:9-10. Would all the verses in Scripture telling us to repent and be saved be verses dealing with Fellowship rather than Union?

Q. I just finished reading your teaching on OSAS and had SO many questions answered. Thank you!

Toward the end of your message you wrote: “Those that stress belief, explain the permanent nature of our bond with God, and are directed toward eternity are Union verses. Those that involve grace and faith are Gift verses. Those that require work and are directed at the quality of our lives on Earth are Fellowship verses, and those that require work and involve eternal rewards are Prize verses.

I was thinking. It has bothered me that the need for repentance is not mentioned in verses like John 3:16, 1 John 5:12-13, Romans 10:9-10. Would all the verses in Scripture telling us to repent and be saved be verses dealing with Fellowship rather than Union since repentance involves a work? This is something I just can’t seem to get clear in my mind.

I’ve understood that repentance is a natural consequence of asking the Holy Spirit into our hearts. But wouldn’t it still be considered a work because we CAN choose to ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If we DO ignore them and make no changes in our lives but yet still believe in Jesus Christ and in the work He did for us on the cross, that he IS God, that He WAS resurrected, if we really believe these things which are necessary for salvation but still refuse to give up our worldly lives, are we still saved? WOULD repentance be along the lines of Fellowship and not Union?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for your continued service to our Lord Jesus Christ. I look forward to your response.

A. The word translated repent means to change one’s mind. In the context of salvation it means to change our mind about the need for a Savior and realize that without Jesus we’re hopelessly lost. When John the Baptist told people to repent and be saved, he wasn’t telling them to stop sinning so they could merit salvation. He was telling them to change their minds about the need for a Savior.

After we’re saved the Holy Spirit prompts us to change our mind about our behavior. So you’re correct. First comes salvation and then a change in behavior. That’s why salvation passages mention only belief, which brings us union with God.

Passages that admonish us to change our behavior are always written to people who’ve already been saved and refer to maintaining our fellowship with God. It helps to remember that all believers continue to sin and to varying degrees refuse to give up their worldly lives. It’s our belief that Jesus died for our sins and rose again that gets us saved and keeps us that way.

Believing And Repenting

Q. Regarding OSAS, I believe many people wonder. What about repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I read “I repented before I knew the meaning of the word. I have repented far more since than I did then”. How do you compare “Believe on the Lord Jesus” and “repentance”? That’s not talked about much.

A. To repent means to change our mind. We first repent when we change our mind about our behavior, and realize that it’s sinful. Then we change our mind about our need for a savior and ask Jesus to save us from our sins.

Since our salvation is based solely on our belief that Jesus died for our sins, that’s the only repentance that’s required for salvation. As soon as we ask Him, He agrees to save us and to keep us saved forever.

After we’re saved, the Holy Spirit helps us change our mind about how we’re living and we begin doing things that please Him out of our gratitude for having been saved.

What About Repentance?

Q. Great site, I am blessed by your insights.

Here’s a follow up question for you on “Are any homosexuals saved?”: You make good points on confession and asking forgiveness for sins, but how does repentance fit in in your view? I am thinking of specific scriptures such as “repent or perish”, “but unless you stop sinning, you too will perish”, “the one who continues to sin is not born of God”, etc.

A. Many in the Church today misunderstand the word repent. It comes from a Greek word that means “a change of opinion” not “a change of behavior.”

When John the Baptist told people to “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” (Matt. 3:2) he wasn’t telling them to change their behavior to be worthy to receive the kingdom, but to change their minds about their need for the Savior Who was coming. In other words he was warning them that even their best attempts to keep God’s Law would not suffice. Many subsequent passages warn us that our behavior can never meet God’s standards. We have a sin nature and without a Savior are hopelessly lost.

Someone who doesn’t think he’s sinning doesn’t ask for forgiveness, so asking for forgiveness is a sign that he’s changed his opinion about his behavior. That’s repentance, and that’s the standard I applied in my previous answer. At that point, the Holy Spirit can convict him and begin leading him toward the change in behavior God desires. But even the best of us still does things that we know are sin but can’t seem to stop doing. That’s why John said that the person who thinks he doesn’t sin is a liar and cautioned us to ask for forgiveness every time we sin (1 John 1:8-10).

As humans, we assign degrees of sinfulness to behavior. This allows us to condemn others whose behavior we think is worse than ours. But in God’s view all sin leads to death, and the Bible says that if we only break a single commandment, even if it’s only in our mind, we’ve broken them all. (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28 & James 2:10). That’s why there are no degrees of salvation. We were all equally lost, and now as believers we’re all equally saved.

None of this is meant to condone either our own sins or the sins of others. But each of us has plenty of sin in our own lives to keep us busy repenting and confessing without going around condemning others for theirs. A sinner, of whatever sort, who recognizes their behavior as sin and asks for forgiveness has a right to receive it, and to benefit from our heartfelt prayers that that Lord would complete the good work He’s begun in their lives.

As an extra credit assignment, I suggest we all read the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:10-14)


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