Repentance; It doesn’t Mean What You Think

I was heading down the highway one day when I passed and old beat up pick-up truck with a camper. It was loaded down and had Bible verses written all over it. On the top of the cab there was a one word sign, “REPENT”. I wondered if the occupants knew what that meant. I know what it implies. It sends the message that you must stop the bad things that you are doing or God’s going to zap you. It’s the word that often makes Christians appear self-righteous when used incorrectly.

Two Words for Repent

There are basically two words used in the New Testament for repent. The first one, ‘metamelomai’ carries the meaning of regret. It’s similar to our English definition. It’s used six times in the New Testament. Judas was remorseful after he betrayed Jesus (Matt. 27:3).

The second word, ‘metanoeo’ is used more often. It has the main meaning of changing your mind. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to the people of Israel. He said that they should believe on the One who would come after him, that is, on Jesus Christ (Acts 19:4).  It would require the Jewish people to change their minds about believing they had favor with God simply because of their ethnicity; because they were His chosen people. Each individual Jewish person needed to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. That required a significant change in their thinking; in their belief.

Do You Have to Repent of your Sins?

Many folks use the phrase, ‘repent of your sins’, even though that phrase is not in the Bible. It makes an unbeliever think that they have to stop some bad behavior (sin) in order for God to accept them. Stopping bad behavior is simply reformation. It may be a good thing to do, but it cannot save you from the penalty of sin.

A Change of Mind

Repenting when it comes to being saved from the penalty of sin is a change of mind. As a helpless sinner one must transfer his/her trust from themselves to the person and work of Christ. As a sinner I stop thinking that I am a good person; or that my religious activity can gain favor with God; or that my good behavior will make God accept me. Then I believe (place my confidence) in Jesus as the only way to God. His death on the cross paid my sin debt. His resurrection proves He has the power over sin and death.

In the end, it’s not good people who go to heaven; it’s bad people (sinners). It’s those who have repented (changed their mind from trusting in themselves, their personal goodness, and/or religion) to trusting in Jesus Christ alone to save them from their sins.

Chapter 6, Front Loading the Gospel, in Assurance of Heaven discusses repentance in more detail. You can read more at:

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