Why Repentance is like Football

What comes to mind when you hear the word “football”? Your answer to that question says a lot about where you come from. If you’re a fan of football and you travel the world you’ll often have conversations like this:

“So you like footy. Who’s your favorite team?”
“Collingwood.”
“Never heard of them. Do they play in the Bundesliga?”
“The Bundes-what-now?”

It’s a bit like that with the word “repentance.” Here on E2R there has been a lot of discussion lately regarding the purpose of repentance. Much of that discussion is like the conversation above. We’re all fans of repentance but we seem to be talking about completely different things.

So what is repentance? Like football, your answer to that question says a lot about where you’re coming from. If you’ve been raised under performance-based religion, repentance is something we must do to be saved. If you don’t repent, you’re not saved. What is the something we must we do? Turn from sin of course. But as I will explain, this is a limited and misleading interpretation of repentance.

What is repentance?

The Greek word commonly translated repentance (metanoia) literally means to change your mind. (You can check this out for yourself by looking up a Greek lexicon such as Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary or Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.) The Greek word for repent (metanoeo) is similar and both words are derived from the Greek word for mind (nous). So to repent is to change your mind. Nothing more, nothing less. Let’s look at an example from scripture:

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mar 1:15)

This is where the football confusion starts to kick in. The religious mind interprets Jesus’ words as “turn from sin and believe the good news.” But that is not what Jesus is saying. Jesus is addressing unbelievers. He is saying “change your unbelieving mind and believe the good news.” Repentance is not primarily a sin issue, it’s a faith issue. We are born walking by sight and trusting in the flesh. Jesus says, change the way you think and believe the good news.

Now that we know what repentance is (a change of mind), I want to address three common myths or misconceptions.

Myth 1: Repentance brings forgiveness

… repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Lk 24:47)

The religious mind reads this and thinks “I need to repent in order to be forgiven.” In other words, God will not forgive me unless I do something. This is pure hubris. It’s straight out of the old covenant. God is God and He has already forgiven in accordance with the riches of His grace (Eph 1:7). As I explain elsewhere, God does not need your permission to forgive you. We don’t repent to get forgiven; we repent because we are forgiven. Forgiveness is part of the good news: repent and believe it.

Myth 2: Repentance is turning from sin

Since repentance means changing your mind, it’s certainly possible that one can repent by turning from sin and there are plenty of people in the Bible who did so. But that’s only one kind of repentance and it is not the kind that leads to salvation. In the New Testament, repentance typically means turning to God.

I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. (Act 20:21)

Turning from versus turning to may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s the difference between life and death! Someone who turns to God automatically turns from sin and from their dead religious works, but someone who turns from sin does not automatically turn to God. This is why it is misleading and dangerous to preach repentance as “turning from sin.” Paul never did. “I preached that they should repent and turn to God” (Act 26:20). As usual, Paul took his lead from Jesus:

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luk 5:32)

Again, the religious mind interprets this as a call to turn from sin but turning from sin doesn’t make you righteous. An unbeliever who turns from sin remains an unbeliever. Consider the Pharisees. They ran away anytime sin appeared. If anyone knew how to turn from sin they did yet Jesus called them sons of hell (Mt 23:15). Turning from sin will make you a moral person, but it won’t make you righteous. Righteousness comes to us through faith in Christ alone.

what_is_repentanceI appreciate that what I am saying about repentance contradicts reputable commentaries. So let’s take a look at one. To the right is a screenshot taken from BibleStudyTools.com showing Thayer’s and Smith’s definition of the word “repent.” (Click on the image to see a larger version.) You will see that they provide two definitions: (1) to change one’s mind and (2) to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins. Abhorrence is a strong word. It sounds like the experts are defining repentance as turning from sin. But do you see the problem? It is logically impossible for both of these definitions to be fully true. If the second definition is true, and repentance does indeed mean turning from sin, then we should reject the first definition as misleading. It needs qualification. But if the first definition is true, then the second is incomplete. It is as if we had looked up the word “turn” in the dictionary and found that it simultaneously means (1) to change direction and (2) to change direction by always going left.

To sum up, repentance can mean turning from sin, but since turning from sin will not save you this is exactly the wrong sort of repentance to preach. I’ll discuss this point further in my next post.

Myth 3: Repentance means feeling sorry for sin

what_does_repentance_meanLet’s look at another reputable source. To the right is a screenshot taken from the Blue Letter Bible showing F.F. Bruce’s definition of repentance: “Repentance… involves a turning with contrition from sin to God.” My problem here is with the qualifier contrition. Apparently it is not enough that you turn to God, you must turn with remorse, regret, and feelings of guilt. If you don’t have these feelings then you’ve not really repented and therefore you’re not saved. So go away, ponder your sins, and come back when you’re ready to have a good cry about them.

This is pure emotionalism. This is old covenant sackcloth and ashes. This is Judas killing himself with grief. The good news is supposed to release great joy, not great sorrow. When you’ve heard that God loves you and has forgiven you and carried all your infirmities and has provided everything you need for life and godliness, why would you be sad? It’s truly bizarre.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Cor 7:10)

Religious people read this scripture backwards: “Repentance brings godly sorrow.” Or they say “repentance is godly sorrow.” But Paul says no such thing. In KJVese he says godly sorrow worketh repentance. In other words, godly sorrow and repentance are different things. And if you read the context you will see that Paul was not referring to the repentance that leads salvation but the relational strain between him and his beloved Corinthians. They had given him the cold shoulder, he rebuked them, they felt bad about it and repented.

Godly sorrow can and does lead to repentance but it’s unlikely that you will cry every time you change your mind about the Lord. In truth, it doesn’t really matter how your emotions respond when you learn about the good news of God’s grace. It only matters that you believe it.

Repentance, like football, means different things to different people. But only one code of the game is played in heaven (rugby!). Similarly, there’s only one kind of repentance that matters to God and that’s the kind that leads you to Him. His heart’s desire is for you to come to Him. You can come happy or come sad but the main thing is that you come.
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Related posts:
– What is the unforgiveable sin?
– 3 reasons why I don’t preach on repentance
– Psalm 51: The badness of David vs the goodness of God

Comments

  1. Very good discussion on repentance!

  2. BTW… the only real football is played in the States….. 🙂

  3. including verse 46 in Myth 1

    46 “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
    and would rise from the dead on the third day,
    47 and repentance and the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed” – luke 24:46-47 (LEB)

    – Forgiveness(Aphesis) – “Remission” has to do with the cleansing of sin by the blood of Jesus
    – Forgive(Aphiemi) – pardon of sin for sinner through confession (agreeing with God) after repentance (change of mind)

    * Forgive and Forgiveness are the not same
    * Forgiven and Cleansed are not the same

    After Jesus death, All our sins has been forgiven already

    —–

    I confess, long post🙂

    grace and peace to you all

  4. Great post, love how you go deep into the true meaning of words.

  5. Bro. Paul,
    another excellent post… my wife and I have been discussing the subject of true repentance the last couple weeks and how it cannot simply mean “turning from sin” because as easily as one can turn from sin they certainly can turn back to it. so this cannot be the true definition of repentance. we agree that true repentance is to change one’s mind, so the “turning” is what happens in the mind, which then can lead to behavioral modification. Further, we agree that it has to be a change of mind about Jesus and the forgiveness provided under the New Covenant. Namely, that He has already forgiven us, removed our sins from us and blessed us with the righteousness which is from God through faith. It is knowing that we stand perfectly blameless in his sight and will never face condemnation or double jeopardy for our sin.

    The picture of true repentance flashed in my mind this week as I saw the thief on the cross next to Jesus. At first he joined in with the other thief at the mocking and railing of Christ our Lord. Then, he “changed his mind” about who Jesus was and what He was even doing “dying a criminals death”. He simply asked the Lord, to be a part of His future kingdom, which then our Lord described being with Him in paradise. This repentant thief had no ability to demonstrate ANY works whatsoever. He simply changed his heart/mind about Jesus and believed (put his faith on) Him. Thank you for all you do in helping to understand the true message of the gospel, the good news of his grace which leads people to see the kindness of our Lord toward them so they can “repent and believe the good news.” It really is Good News!

  6. Collingwood suck🙂

    • You don’t have to tell me Fiona – I’m an Eagles’ supporter. But when I wrote “West Coast Eagles” in the conversation above, it just didn’t have the same ring to it. “Collingwood” sounds both very Aussie and like it could be a team from just about anywhere in any sport.

  7. Some last days I am sort of thinking that “to repent” means to change one´s mind … about God as you have written, Paul, but as an addition to it also to change your mind not only about God, but also about yourself. To change you mind and stop thinking about yourself as a sinner but to believe and accept that you are a beloved son and daughter, priestly nation and everything else God says about you. When we repent and change our mind about ourselves according what God’s mind abut us is … we will be actually living that life God intends for us.

    Just some sharing of mine lately walk with God … Thanks Paul for your work.

  8. Keep shedding some light Paul, just like your namesake.

  9. Just came from a WOF church where we had communion and our pastor said from Hebrews that God forgives all of our sin when we repent so I’m thinking how much “repenting” or turning away from or feeling sorry or whatever rings God’s bell to where He is satisified

    These various concepts of God that He has forgivenus and then He is not satisfied with us when we sin and then is satisfied with us when we repent and confess and then is not when we “re-sin” and so on-I’m trying to picture God keeping a running tab on all the millions of people who are being obedient enough and confessing enough and relenting enough it’s just such a religiously roller coaster view of God and frustrating to hear and see it so prevalent in the Church particularly in the “uncompromising” word of faith message-

  10. Thanks, Paul. Another beauty. When in the past I mistook repentance for performance, what poor results followed: Self condemnation, distancing myself from our Father in the belief that my genuinely tortured remorse would (I’d hoped) make him approve of me all over again, and ultimately no growth being experienced. I started listening to Joseph Prince a couple of years ago, but I really should credit you and Cornel for the revelation of grace. Or rather, the Holy Spirit for leading me to you guys.
    I would be staggered by the opposition in some posts were it not for the fact that I too once believed in that misery. With a lot less passion, though! Now when my behaviour is less than great, I’m drawn to Him – not away. And it’s a whole better life. Dependance on grace does not lead to sin; it demolishes it. Thanks, Jesus – the greatest mate I never knew I had until recently.
    Cheers, Paul. And go Tigers! (Aussie Rules footy joke for those not in NZ or Australia! And Collingwood really does suck)
    Paul H.

  11. And John, I’ve got to thank you for your post that mentions the crucified thief – it’s always lingered in my mind as something significant to study. Here goes, then! As Joseph Prince says, nothing in the Bible is without meaning. Here we have a sinner who in an instant, with few more left in his life, “changed his mind”. No chance to perform, or join the Pharisees, and given a beautifully sound promise to be in Jesus’ presence THAT DAY in heaven. Which has just now prompted this query:
    Does anyone have any thoughts on the omnipresence of God in Christ – seeing that His flesh was to lie in the tomb for three days, Jesus was yet to witness to the captives, etc? No, as I’m typing I’m receiving understanding: something I’ve been slow to get about the trinity: Yes, three – but One! Doh!
    With love in Him,
    Paul H

    • Hmmm Paul on building on your thief on the cross when he said “remember me”,I wonder if that goes along with all the memorial stones that were placed in the old testament.could be very significant teaching.I think I will investicate it.Your right, lots there.

  12. Good for you for exposing those myths. Sad to say they are prevalent, but…the GOOD news is that, in time, He who is Lord of ALL will open their understanding…which comes from writings such as you have printed here.
    Thank you!!

  13. Awsome Teaching Bro!!…….I was saved in The 1970’s “Jesus Movement” in the So Calif Beach area , all the Hippies were getting saved by the droves & then Came the Big Megachurches . It wasnt long before our focus went from JESUS to US & “Repentance” I used to be a counselor at one of their “Crusades” at a Stadium the had every year & realized 90% of the people coming forward for prayer : were already born again & were being “Guilted”into Repentance (not understanding What repentance Really is!)………Now im Free from the Guilt trap…..In Jesus & HIS finished Work!!! (True Repentance)

    • Thanks for writing Big Al. I too lived in southern Calif in the 1970s, but my Mum wouldn’t let me grow my hair long. I was six years old. Sounds like you’ve been around. I’ll bet you’ve got some good stories.

  14. Hey bro, awesome article🙂 Quick question? I see you using wordpress, but what commenting system are using? Is a wordpress plugin, cause it looks and works really well.

    • Hi Andrew, E2R is hosted on WP.com (not WP.org), so I just use whatever they give me. I’ve had some experience with self-hosting (where you can install plugins of your choosing) but generally prefer the hassle-free alternative of WP.com for E2R. It seems to work.

  15. Hi there, I hope you can get this, as most Christians don’t. When Jesus died on the cross, he fulfilled the requirement of the old covenant, in regard to sacrifice for sin. We know that there is now no more sacrifice for sin. How-ever, the sin that was paid for, was under the old covenant , when we come to God, we are still under the Old covenant, when we accept the sacrifice of His Son as ours, we die to sin and we, by full water baptism, are baptized into His death. The sins that are forgiven, are those that were previously committed, Rom. 3:25, Heb. 9:15, 2 Peter 1:9, under the Old Covenant … We are called to suffer in the flesh, that is, to come against the flesh and put to those desires to death, by the Spirit, even if it means we endure against sin til death, we are called to battle. If those that don’t want to enter this battle, and allow sin to reign in their life, then as Paul says in Rom. 8: 13, that if you live according to the flesh, (he’s talking to believers here), you must die, but if you put the deeds of the body to death, you will live. If you are being led by the Spirit, you are a son of God. In Gal.5:21, Paul warns them again and again, (talking to believers again), if you do these things, eg sin, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God, We are called to walk in righteousness, 1John 3:7, not to just claim it!…So, come on you Aussies, we are among the best warriors in the world, step up to the mark, get on with it… Lift your game, people!

  16. Hi Paul, duly noted, cheers.

  17. We are now under a new Covenant, where God puts His law into our minds and into our hearts that we would walk in His ways.
    Repentance is a gift from God, where we now, knowing God’s will, and if we make a mistake, can come boldly to the throne of Grace and confess the sin and be forgiven, as we now have a high Priest in Jesus who appears before God for us.
    We are called to walk in righteousness, to strive against sin, which, according to Ephesians 6:12, we struggle not against our flesh, but against spiritual forces of darkness.
    It also says that those who sin, practice lawlessness, verse 4, and you know what Jesus said to those who claimed to have prophesied, cast out demons and performed miracles in His name, in Mathew 7:21-23.
    In Peter 1 5:6-12, he says that after we have resisted the devil and stood firm in our faith, eg, put sin to death in our flesh, by the Spirit, not by good works, but by our love for God, then He will perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
    In verse 12, he says that “This is the TRUE GRACE of God”
    So, strive against sin, Heb.12 and begin the race set before us.
    So many Christians are still milling around the starting line, probably drinking milk instead of a good meat pie, with sauce of course.🙂

    • Peter, this is a little off the post, but I must ask: What happens to the Christian who neglects to confess a sin?

      • Hi again, it is the responsibility of the shepherds, (Pastors) to teach and warn those under their care, to be aware of sin and recognize what it is.
        It saysin Gal. 6:1, that those who are spiritual, eg, led by the Spirit, or those who are mature, who because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14
        Satan cannot touch us, if we walk in the Spirit, as then, we are not under law, how-ever, if you sin, then you are under the law, and Satan has a legal right to bring a curse according to whatever sin was committed, that is, according to God’s law.
        The sting of Death is sin and the power of sin is the law, we can also see this in Satans discourse with God over Job, he can only do what he is allowed to by God’s word.
        In James, it says that if we show partiality, we sin, even if you judge some-one, you will be judged, what-ever is not of faith is sin and if you know the right thing to do and not do it, this is sin.
        Best to keep short accounts when the Holy Spirit brings something to your conscience.

      • Peter, speaking on behalf of all pastors, I have to tell you that the sin-management business is deathly tiresome. Plus it doesn’t work. I have never seen anyone set free – and I mean permanently free, not pretend-free on Sundays when everyone’s watching – by the kind of behavior management programme you are advocating. Carrots and sticks such as you recommend are carnal. It’s standing at the foot of Mt Sinai shouting, “Yes, we will do everything you say.” Well, I tried that and it doesn’t work. That way lies religious pride. Grace is the only remedy for sin recommended in the new covenant. And I mean real grace, the kind rec’d by faith from first to last. Not some unholy concoction of pseudo-grace and “ifs” and “buts.”

      • John Graham says:

        Paul, you asked Peter “what happens to the Christian who neglects to confess a sin.”
        And, I don’t see where he answered your question. And I have to ask myself, why did he avoid directly answering your question?

        If you asked many Pentecostal church members the same question, they would more than likely tell you that if a born again Christian has committed a sin and doesn’t confess that sin before he dies, then he’s going to hell. I personally don’t agree with that, but at least they’re being frank and honest and not being deceptive about what they believe. Because they have heard that preached from the pulpit over and over.

        But if you ask those who belong to an Inter-denominational church, or a non-denominational church many probably wouldn’t be able to give you an answer that they believe to be true. Because it has been my experience that many of the pastors of those churches believe that a born again Christian can lose their salvation, not through the curse of the law, but by “FALLING AWAY FROM THE FAITH.” But, intentionally, and deceptively, they don’t preach that from the pulpit because they know that they would probably lose many of their members. Which is why many of their members would mistakenly assume that their pastor believes in “IF ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAVED.”

  18. Hi again, I guess you don’t agree with Paul then, when a great deal of his letters are imploring the church to stop sinning, (1Cor.15:34 for one,),
    if you want to teach people to dis-regard their sin and trust that grace will save them, then that is on your head.
    There are many Christians that have divorced for no better reason than, “we didn’t get on together”, and now are dating and getting married again.
    I don’t know about you, but I see this as adultery and not in God’s plan for his children.
    There are many young guys caught up in pornography, covered by grace I guess?
    Christians swear, curse get drunk, all covered by grace?
    Christians slander , gossip, judge, hold people in contempt?
    All covered by grace?
    No need to restore them or turn a sinner from the error of his way, he’s under grace!
    In Gal 5:21, it says that those who practice such things, will not inherit the kingdom of God, but don’t tell them this, tell them that they are under grace,
    it makes it sound better.
    Sorry for the sarcasm, but I was never good at words.

    • Sin is something I take very seriously. My strong view is that those who live and breathe grace are the only ones seeing victory over sin. Those who preach conditional-salvation or performance-based religion merely drive it underground. The law (do this, don’t do that) actually inflames sin (Rm 7:5). That is it’s purpose. You may think you’re enforcing God’s standards, but you’re actually empowering sin.

      Sarcastic attempts to discredit grace are nothing new. Paul was accused of the same thing (Rm 6:1). It is the scandalous nature of grace that leads to questions of this kind: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” My answer is Paul’s: “By no means.” I would love to discuss this further, but this is a post on the place of repentance in our preaching, not overcoming sin.

      • If we walk in the Spirit we won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh does not mean that not walking in sin means we are walking in the Spirit. Paul gave a good meaning to the works of the flesh in Philippians 3: 4-9. This is a perfect example that if we don’t look at scripture from the view of being accepted by God through the blood of Jesus, then everything we look at will be from a works based view, 2 timothy 2:15 ( the emphasis is on the word approved, not the word study). We really must have correct definitions of words!!!! One more question for thought, what is the Kingdom of God ?

      • Adam Tanti says:

        I have experienced this Paul first hand over the last two years reading your posts. I can say my mind is truly changing. I used to be hounded by lusts of the flesh many moments of my days struggling with sin’s of the flesh daily, trying not to sin, with a heap of condemnation on my head. Only by God’s grace alone in Jesus I am forgiven! I am free! My mind is renewed by His Grace. Sin is something I take very seriously now. Before this change sin and turning from sin was destroying me. That which I sort to turn from just became bigger and engulfed me. Today I walk in the Spirit, my heart and mind are fixed on Jesus. Thank your for you ministry. Paul you are a blessing.

      • That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing, Adam. God’s grace truly changes us.

    • Deborah Spro says:

      If I have to repent to be in right standing with God. If I have to repent (change my mind) in order to be forgiven than I am going right straight to hell. I can’t see myself ever changing my mind about divorcing a phyically abuse man who beat, threaten with guns and knives to kill me and our children and even threaten our pastor, his wife, and their six children all the while professing he was born again. I cannot ask God to forgive me for something I haven’t change my mind about, I would not change divorcing it even if I could. Because I believed I had to repent I walked away from my Lord for almost 30 years. Then because of a dear christian friend who kept bugging me to pray for other people I started talking to God again. I talked to Him about everything and I did not repent of that divorce but somehow I knew I was OK with God. This happened over a matter of months. The joy and love of God filled me each and every day. About six months later while looking through the christian channels I decided to listen to Joseph Prince before this I had just flipped right past him. I’v been listening to him ever since. At first I didn’t believe him. I got out my Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Matthew Henry Commentary, Strong’s Concordence, King James, NKJ, Dake’s, and the internet. I prayed diligently for the Holy Spirit to teach me and guide my understanding always telling Him I only wanted the truth whether I liked it or not. When I finally gave up and believed how much God loves me I was so humbled in the presence of my Lord and Savior that all I could do was praise His holy name. Our God is a Awesome God!
      He doesn’t want behavior modification, He wants heart transformation. He’s got mine.

      May Jesus Bless You and Keep You in His Loving Care,
      Deborah

  19. Peter, our righteousness can’t be compared to the Stock Exchange – it’s by Jesus’ cross, and nothing else: it never fluctuates, it’s established, full, given freely and completely. I am most certainly forever seated with Him, and never tipped out of that position whilst shortcomings remain unconfessed. Where is it that I’d land? On the floor of the Throne Room? No, He fully keeps me, and doesn’t need my effort, because of His. When I miss the mark, I apologize to our Dad – and give thanks for the already provided forgiveness. Worship and love follows; not further sin. That’s the nature of love; it responds in kind.
    Here’s a parting image: if you ever find yourself considering that your confession of sin adds to the work of the Cross, then climb back off it; don’t crowd it. It’s the greatest event in history, and there was only ever room enough for One on it.
    I hope for you a soon discovery of His incredible love towards us, His desire for so long. And it’s only Christ’s work that has actuated that potential. Not yours, not mine.
    Paul Harding.

  20. Paul,
    I don’t follow your posts, but I received this from a friend. I actually have just finished a book that I’m going to be putting out on Amazon as an ebook. The title of my book: “Recovering the message of repentance”. In this I take issue with a number of things that you bring forth. You are correct in that repentance is a change of mind coming from the Greek word “metanoew”. But if we look at all that our mind changes on, the fruit of this change in mind is a change in behavior. John the baptist & the Apostle Paul clearly pointed this out (Luke 3:8, Acts 26:20). Secondly, if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land (II Chron. 16:9). This is the heart of the prophetic voice of the Old Testament – God’s people coming in humility and “turning from their sin” that forgiveness of sin & healing would come. In the New covenant, Jesus never contradicted this message. In fact he came as a prophet with the same focus (Acts 3:26). True repentance understands that true grace is not God’s overlooking our sin, but giving us power to overcome bondages and addictions. Saved by grace and the fruit of repentance are on and the same thing. Anyway, I’ll stop here, hopefully this brings a little change of mind.

    • I agree that a change of mind will always be evident in the way we think and act. My problem is with the old covenant mentality that says we have to change the way we act in order to get God to do something. “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray…” is a classic example of this. It’s an if-then statement. God is saying forgiveness and healing are conditional on our performance. That’s pure law, not grace. It appeals to religious flesh and has us shouting like the Israelites at Sinai, “Yes, we will do everything you say.” But if we are honest, we are soon silenced by defeat. We cannot overcome sin. Who will deliver me from this wretched body of death? Grace declares the good news – you are forgiven; by His stripes we are healed – and dares you to believe it. Repentance is not about us acting as co-saviors; true repentance is a positive response to what God has done. It is grace alone that empowers us to say no to ungodliness.

  21. Paul, one further thought, and I explain it further in my book. When Paul (The Apostle Paul that is) was talking about works in Eph. 2, that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works, he was not referring to repentance at all in this verse. If you do a word study of “works” in Paul’s writings, he interchangeably uses “works” and “works” of the law. The issue Paul was dealing with was the propensity of the Jewish believers to feel that not only did they need to come to Christ in repentance and faith, but they needed fulfill the whole law! In other words when Zachaeus showed great repentance and was going to make everything right and pay back this and that, the Judaizers would have disagreed with Jesus’ pronouncement of salvation. They would have said, yes but, “He also needs to fulfill all the works of the law!” None of this healing on a Sabbath stuff, etc etc. This was the major issue facing the early church (see Acts 15). Eph. 2 saved by grace through faith and not by works has nothing to do with Godly sorrow that brings repentance. It’s all about fulfilling all the strict requirements of the law. Furthermore, and I don’t have space here but if you look at the primary Greek word epistrepho that is used in the Septuagint to describe the II Chron. 7:14 repentance. This epistrepho word is used in parallel with metanoew in the New Testament. In Acts 3:19 when Peter said repent (metanoew) and turn (epistrepho), the “turn” here is the same word used in numerous accounts in the OT. Acts 26:20 holds it all together as well. “I preached that they should repent (metanoew) and turn (epistrepho – same greek word of II Chron 7:14 of the Septuagint) and prove their repentance by their deeds. One further point, the great Old Testament example of the Ninevites turning in repentance and being spared from judgment is described as metanoew (Matt. 12:41) In conclusion, a deeper study and comparison of repentance in OT and repentance in the New will shIow a far greater harmony than what you propose. Simply taking metanoew as a change of mind is not a deep enough study to truly get the proper feel for what John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, & Paul meant when they said “Repent/metanoew”. Repentance is not a fulfilling of the law, but it’s a laying down of our life on the altar. It’s a death to self that brings resurrection life.

    • If you can sacrifice yourself on some altar, why did Jesus die?

      Their is no “death to self” or “die to self” teaching in the scripture. The one time Paul says “I die daily” he is using hyperbole, since immediately prior to that he speaks about all the dangers he faces in sharing the gospel, in that he literally almost dies every day because of physical danger.

      The reality is that when we believe on Christ, we are crucified with him. We don’t lay ourselves down on an altar and offer ourselves up to God in order to be saved. We believe the gospel, and Galatians 2:20 says

      I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

      Then after we are saved, we offer ourselves a living sacrifice to God – not dying on some altar again daily, but a living sacrifice – the life of Christ in us.

      Please pardon me if I have misunderstood your post.

      • True faith follows. If I believe in a surgeon who says I need radical surgery, I will follow. Otherwise I will get a 2nd opinion. If I believe in my mechanic who says I need a new transmission, then I will follow, otherwise I will get a 2nd opinion. If I’m an Israelite who trusts in Moses (Exod. 14:31) I will follow him to the promised land. Similarly, if I believe in the Jesus Christ, the very son of God and know that this whole entire world has been created by Him and through him, how can I possibly not follow him? Faith follows, plain and simple. If you don’t believe, you don’t follow. Thus when Jesus said, if any man follow me, he wasn’t addressing a graduate level group of believers, he was addressing all who would believe. And he said for those who follow/believe that we are to deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). How do I deny myself and pick up my cross daily? Well, when I’m really hurt by a close friend and feel entirely disgusted and betrayed and yet I choose to forgive and bless BY THE GRACE OF GOD, I am denying myself and picking up my cross daily. When I have just lost my job and I’m not sure how I’m going to pay the bills and I’m feeling very anxious and scared, and yet BY THE GRACE OF GOD, I choose to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4), I am denying myself and picking up my cross. When a person in authority has betrayed his people and I want so much to speak critically behind his back, but yet I choose to hold my tongue, I deny myself and pick up my cross. Having been in a few situations like these, it certainly has felt to me like death. But after all, isn’t that the cross?

  22. Jeff,

    There is something within that says: let it go, don’t dwell on it, leave it with me, hold your tongue etc. & at times it’s been difficult but many times there is a Peace that follows that is well worth it. . Eventually it becomes more & more a habit or way of life rather than an effort leaving you feeling at Peace with things that at one time may have felt like death but now they just seem to pass with ease.
    If you’re not finding that Peace , look to the Lord in humble sincerity for his strength and these things will get easier for you. (At least that has been my experience)

    Lean on him & he’ll be your strength and peace.

    Merry Christmas Jeff

  23. HMm does this explain Exodus 32:14KJV? “And the LORD repented(changed His mind) of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.”?🙂

  24. A friend of mine illustrated it like after seeing the ambulances at all the automobile wrecks he concluded that ambulances cause wrecks.

  25. Most Christians pick and choose what scriptures they want to believe and discard the rest. First address the Greek meaning of repent: This is what is found in Strong’s : 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

    Evidently it has a lot to do with changing your mind about your sinning. Peter said it in Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost….The repentance was a means of receiving the forgiveness that Jesus bought and paid for at Calvary through his precious blood…..Without a repentant heart of turning from your ways of sinning the receiving of forgiveness of sins is not possible according to what Peter said. Even the thief on the cross had a repentant heart knowing he had done wrong and asked Jesus to remember him…..by the way John was with him when he said that…..He was also with him in Acts 3:19 when he said the exact same thing…..

  26. It is interesting that there is a Greek word that has the meaning that most of the church believes repentance to be (crying over your sins) the word metamalomi means to care afterward and is translated as to repentance in the New Testament . It is the repentance that judas had after he betrayed Jesus and before he hung himself. By their fruits you shall know them……..

  27. Hello I was wondering if you can explain what Paul meant by 2nd Corinthians 12:21- I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. Is this verse saying to turn from sin?

  28. Care to explain Luke 17:3—“if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him”

    The above is the instruction of Jesus given to the disciples. Whether this is a Old Covenant or New Covenant thinking, i am not too sure but what i know is Jesus himself is the epitome of the New Covenant. According to Dr. B. H. Carroll, this remark by Jesus invariably links repentance to forgiveness, particularly since the conditional clause “if” is used.

  29. Warren (South Carolina, USA) says:

    Awesome post Saint Paul.

    I came here to read this post (Why Repentance is like Football) after I had read the follow up post dated November 28, 2011 titled “3 Reasons Why I Don’t Preach on Repentance (“Turn from Sin”).

    Based on the true definition of repentance, I wonder if I / we will be repenting for eternity as obviously God is infinite? I do find myself repenting all the time the more of God’s truth I see and know thru the lens of grace (which for me has only been in the past 3 or 4 years, due to Jim Richards and Andrew Wommack opening my eyes).

    THAT post is awesome also, and a great follow up to this one. The reason I searched for “3 Reasons Why I Don’t Preach on Repentance (“Turn from Sin”) is due to the sermon I heard in church today. It didn’t take me long to recognize the “Repent = Turn From Sin” message, because in the fill in the blank sermon outline, at the very beginning was “Repent of Sin” as the answer to fill in. Immediately I said to myself “I can’t listen to this” and started doing further study and making a few notes. As soon as I got home I found thru a search of the archives 3 Reason Why I don’t Preach on Repentance (“Turn from Sin”).

    Posting here, as both are on repentance and the true meaning of it, which I heartily agree with you is to Change Your Mind. I agree with both posts Paul, and THANK YOU for them and your patient endurance. You obviously RAN to God throne of Grace to have been able to endure as you did, after reading some of the comments.

    One question, I noticed that there was no place to comment on 3 Reasons Why I Don’t Preach on Repentance (“Turn from Sin”). Why is that? Most likely, after reading thru some of the comments everything that could have been said most likely was said and any further comments would be useless? If the comments are “off” for a reason, and it’s not just a glitch somewhere, please consider turning comments for that post back on. That’s the only way I know of that on this website (E2R), that I can bring people’s attention the this most excellent post (I don’t do facebook).

    Blessings!!!
    Warren (South Carolina, USA)

    • Hi Warren, I turned the comments off on that one because I grew weary of having to deal with the hate-filled comments from people who evidently think we need more preaching on Old Covenant repentance. As you know, I am used to criticism and occasional abuse, but that article attracted more than it’s fair share of haters and stone-throwers.

  30. Warren (South Carolina, USA) says:

    Hey Paul,
    I understand not wanting to endure more of the haters and stone throwers. Especially if it was starting to affect you. I would venture to say that due to the amount of haters and stone-throwers that the article attracted, it somehow hit close to home as far as exposing a deep seated lie of the enemy and he does NOT like it. Thanks for enduring as long as you were able, I and many others do appreciate it.
    Blessings,
    Warren (South Carolina, USA)

  31. Why don’t you finish quoting the rest of the verse? Acts 26:20 “…that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”…

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