What Does The Bible Mean By Repentance?

It is something that every Christian has done. If you have not done this one thing then you may not a Christian but only think you are. Repentance. The Scriptures are clear and Jesus tells us that to be saved one needs to repent.

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 KJV)
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“But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?” (Matthew 9:12-14 KJV)
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“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5 KJV)
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Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

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It is well established that Jesus states very clearly that we must repent from Sin. However, there seems to be much confusion about what the Bible means when it tells us to Repent. Does that mean that we just stop all sins and then we can be saved? Does that mean we must do penance for our sins? Does it mean we need to turn from our sins to retain Salvation? Does it just mean we feel sorry for our sins?

John says, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10). And John was addressing believers here, not those who do not believe. So if he told believers with faith in Christ and the atonement for sins He provided on the cross, then we can also conclude that to ‘repent‘ is not to stop sinning. That is not to say we should try to not sin. However, the word ‘repent’ obviously does not mean to ‘not ever sin’ again.

Is ‘repenting‘ something that we must do after we accept faith in Christ? Is repenting something that we must do over and over again after our moment of belief in accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior? That is when we sin, do we have to do something to have the sins after our initial point of Salvation or risk losing our Salvation?

Clearing The Confusion Over Repentance

The confusion over what ‘repentance’ actually means is due to a misunderstanding over the Biblical verse the modern day definition of the English word repent. The modern day dictionaries do not define the word ‘repent’ in the same way that the Bible defines the word. The definition of the word has changed over time and no longer is defined to mean what it meant in the time that Jesus walked on the Earth 2000 years ago.

Dictionary defines the word ‘repent’ as “to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent. “ If this were the definition for ‘repent’ in the Bible then the entire Gospel and Salvation in Christ becomes a false Gospel based on works and our human effort.

In fact, we see in the Word of God that God Himself repents more than any, yet God has no sin to turn from!

A read through the book of Galatians shows that the word repent is not defined in the Bible as ‘turn from sin‘.

“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:3-8 KJV)

A review of the Gospel of Christ that Paul taught shows clearly that Salvation is not of human works or effort but that Salvation is a free gift from God. Salvation is not something we work towards receiving. It is a gift that we receive. If someone gives you a gift, do they expect you to work or they will take back the gift? If so, it is not a gift right?

Apparently there were some Jews who wanted to add works of the law as a requirement to be saved. (We see this happening today as well!) This is opposite to the Gospel of Christ. In fact, it is like telling Christ that His sacrifice in blood for remission of our sins was not enough and not sufficient. God forbid a person act like that toward such a loving God! It is such a seriously wrong belief that Paul says,

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8 KJV)

The True Biblical Meaning of Repentance

The word ‘repent’ in the Bible has a completely different meaning than today’s modern dictionary. Once you see the true Biblical meaning of ‘repentance’ you can see how good the good news of the Gospel of Christ really is!

The New Testament was originally written in the Greek. This is important information for interpreting the Scriptures to find the true meaning of passages used in context.

The Greek word for the English word ‘repent’ is ‘metanoia’ and is defined as “…a change of mind, change in the inner man”.

You can see clearly now that the Biblical meaning of ‘repent‘ is nothing like the dictionary definition (change one’s life for the better; be penitent. ) True repentance is not a work that WE DO to gain God’s acceptance and favor. God reached out to us first and provided a way for us sinners to be forgiven completely, but it is NOT from our own efforts. God gives Salvation to us as a free gift to be received. The Bible tells us that BEFORE God created the Earth He established the one and only way for us to be forgiven our sins and that way is by faith in the act of atonement provided by Jesus The Christ, God in the flesh, on the cross.

Repentance is changing our mind and thinking about how to be saved. We are NOT saved by our works, which is what the every religion in the world teaches. Even many ‘Christian organized religions’ are teaching falsely and misusing the word ‘repent’ and they add works as a requirement of Salvation. But that is NOT Biblical teaching. We need to change our thinking about how we are saved to the true way of Salvation. It is 100% the Grace Of God, through faith in Jesus Christ and the atonement He provided by His shed blood. By believing this we have repented and turned towards God while He is already reaching out to us!

You see this world system/world view is not God’s view and He wants us to turn from the world’s way of dealing with sin and instead accept His way of dealing with our sin. To repent is the first step to Salvation in Christ. Repentance does not save a person, but it leads to Salvation as you change your mind about God and your sin debt against Him.

Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.” (2 Corinthians 7:9 KJV)

There are Scriptures where it may seem like it is saying that to Repent is to turn away from and stop sinning but those are talking about the process of our sanctification and fellowship with God. It is not about turning from sin as a requirement of our justification in Salvation. However, the Bible is very clear that Salvation is not of works or human effort. Salvation comes by believing the Gospel, not by not sinning. And if you really think about it; if you change your mind (repent) about God and how to have your sins forgiven, you may very well change and stop a particular sin you practiced in your life before Salvation.

But the repenting is the change in your mind from the world’s way of dealing with sin and changing to God’s way of dealing with sin which is believing on Christ for Salvation apart from works of any kind (Ephesians 2:8-9). Stopping the practice of a particular sin is a result of repenting and changing your mind. That is, it is not the repenting itself.

The Main Books Of Salvation Proves This!

The book of John is all about how to be saved. Do you know that the word ‘repent’ nor ‘repentance’ does not even appear once! But the word ‘believe’ on Christ is seen all over the book many times!

The book of Galatians. This is the book fighting against the false Gospel based on works for Salvation right? Again, the word ‘repent’ is not found once in this book contending for the true Gospel! However the word ‘faith’ in Jesus Christ is found all through the book!

The book of Romans. Paul tells us again and again that Salvation is NOT OF WORKS IN ANY MANNER! And where the word ‘repent’ is found, it is not the same Greek word. It does not mean ‘turning from your sin’.

The Christian religions need to stop using the dictionary definition of the word ‘repent’ and start using the Bible definition.

Using The Biblical Definition

Understanding the Bible definition of the word REPENT as simply ‘change your mind’ we can replace the word with ‘change your mind‘ and then reread the passage and the context becomes more clear.

Example: Acts 3

“19 REPENT ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19 KJV)
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“19 CHANGE YOUR MIND ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19 KJV)

Acts 3 is about a Change of mind about how to eradicate sin. Not by the Law of Moses, but through Christ in faith.

What About Turning From Our Sin Then?

To be clear…I AM NOT SAYING BELIEVERS SHOULD NOT TURN FROM SIN. If someone has repented… they have basically turned to God in belief and confess that they are a sinful person with a sin nature. In remorse, they ask Christ to forgive them and have mercy on them because they realize that they cannot stop sinning perfectly. They see the Ten Commandments and realize they have broken many if not most of them. They TURN TO GOD for mercy.

Turning from sin alone does not save anyone. Turning to God in belief on Christ Crucified for the payment of our sins does.

Now, after Salvation, our mind begins to renew by the Word Of God (our sanctification – see John 17) and we start to change. We fight sinning. It is a REAL struggle! (Romans 7)

We turn from sinning because that is what our New Spirit wants. I believe strongly in turning from our sins to the best of our ability. But I recognise that with this sin nature still in us… I will fail and sin as well. When I do, guilt hits from the Holy Spirit and I tell God I am sorry and ask God to help me do better.

The point is turning from sin is not a requirement of our justification but we try not to sin after Salvation knowing that when we blow it… Jesus already paid for the sins committed. We still have consequences for the acts of sin – but loss of Salvation is not a consequence because Salvation is eternal and God keeps us saved by His grace.

World’s way of dealing with sin…

(a) There is no God.

(b) If I do good deeds it will make up for my sins and I will be in right standing with God. Or, I am full of sin and so I will run away from anything to do with God so my sin will not be revealed.

(c) I will make myself look like I am good on the outside and go to church everyday. I will assist in the church committees, I will be outstanding in religious things and these good deeds will make me walk in right standing with God.

God’s way of dealing with sin…

(a) God is Holy and He must punish someone that sins. The punishment for sinning is ETERNAL DEATH. (Romans 6:23)

(b) Everyone has sinned, regardless of how good they think they are and no good deeds can every make up for past sins committed.

(c) Jesus, the only Son of God, was born of the Virgin Mary (not born into sin as we are), lived a sinless life and freely gave His life on the cross to take the punishment for the sins that we commit and takes our place in punishment so we can be free from the punishment of sin.

(d) As a sinner you and I acknowledge that we have sinned against God. And we ask Jesus to forgive us all our sins (past,present and future) and accept the free gift of salvation from our debt of sin against God. You see the world’s way to God is through works. But the real way to God is by God’s grace through faith:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8 KJV)

This is what true repentance is. We turn from working away our sin debt, or out right ignoring it, (the World’s way) to accepting His love and forgiveness (God’s way). Jesus, the only son of God who existed before the universe was even created, of His own free will died on the cross and took our place and punishment for sin’s we have committed. On that cross He freed us from our sin debt and gave us God’s very righteousness, in Christ. Once you accept this gift from God through Jesus’ atonement on the cross you are now what the Bible calls “Righteous”. Not because of our works nor our sinless life, but because Christ bore the punishment for all of our sins. It is God who first loved us and reached out to us. Christ will return and set up His eternal Kingdom on Earth in the future. This is the Gospel message.

God is love and waits for you to return to a relationship with Him. This is the “Good News” of the Gospel. So when Jesus tells us that we need to repent it means we need to believe the Gospel message and to believe in God’s world view in how to deal with he sin debt we all have against a Perfectly Holy and Just God.

“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15 KJV)
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“Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14: 5-6 KJV)

Jesus did not tell Thomas that no one comes to the Father except he stops sinning. Jesus said “except through ME”. When a person asks for the forgiveness provided through Christ. When a person invites Jesus to take control of their life. When a person asks Jesus for forgiveness and invites God through the forgiveness provided, then that person become a new creature in the spirit. A new created being. They have repented by doing so. They believed on Christ for Salvation. In fact, God lives within every believer as Jesus said,

“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:19-20 KJV)

I can attest to this truth from my own personal experience in life. He makes it so clear to me in every circumstance in ways that I will know that it must be Him, within me and with me. And He does work through me as well, probably more than I know!

And after many years now I know, that I know, that Christ is with me through the Holy Spirit. It is a mystery – no doubt about it! But it is simply the truth. God gave us the free gift of Eternal life through Jesus, the Christ. And all we have to do is believe, feel sorry about our sin and ask for His forgiveness and He will forgive us, justify us and set us free. After the moment of a person’s Salvation in Christ the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within a believer. And over time the Holy Spirit will make Himself known to you and will teach you all things.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26 KJV)

The Parable of the Lost Son – Are You One?

And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
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And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
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But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
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And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:11-24 KJV)

If you have never had a change of mind about the truth that God exists...

…that the Bible is true with proof no other religious writing have,
…that He is perfect in every way,
…that He is Perfectly Holy and Perfectly Just,
…that He never changes,
…that He must punish sin (eternal death)
…and that the only way back to God is to admit you are a sinner
…and that the ONLY way back to the one true God of the universe is through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ, the Son Of God, for the remission of your sin,

THEN I SAY TO YOU… Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!

Today can be the day of your Salvation. Your Salvation is NOT of works. It is a pardon gift for your sins (past/present/future) TODAY. Come as you are – full of sin and regrets and hangups, guilty before God. God is waiting for you to accept His free GIFT OF SALVATION. It is a HOLY PARDON that is free to you but that Christ paid a heavy price in His blood to obtain for you eternal life with God through your Salvation. He longs to forgive you COMPLETELY for ALL the sins in your life.