There are various definitions out there for the word ‘repent’. Webster’s 1968 College edition defines it this way; “to feel sorry or self-reproachful for what one has done or not done.” But that does not meet the definition of Biblical repentance. One modern day popular pastor defines repentance “as a radical turning from sin that inevitably became manifest in the fruit of righteousness.” He adds that “true repentance cannot occur apart from such a sorrow over one’s sin. Repentance is at the very heart of and proves one’s salvation…” If the latter definition is accurate, then it is my turning from sin that assures my salvation… it depends on me. I’m afraid I’m doomed if this is the case.
Fortunately when it comes to salvation, the phrase ‘to repent of sins’ is not found in the New Testament. To many it comes as a surprise that it just is not there. It is alluded to for believers to repent in regards to sin. However, it is misleading when one tells a person that he must repent of sins (meaning turning from sins, feeling sorry for sins, etc.) to be saved.
According to Strong’s Greek dictionary, the meaning of the word repent literally means ‘to think differently’. The word in the Greek for repentance is “metanoia’. It has a different meaning than our English dictionaries. It means to change one’s mind.
To receive Christ as Savior does not require one to stop sinning or even promising to stop sinning. That would be impossible. Salvation is not an exchange – my promise to be better for God’s gift. Sin does have consequences, but it doesn’t keep us from receiving the free gift of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Eternal life is received when one believes (trusts) in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Romans 6:23
Certainly one must recognize himself as a sinner, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 However, promising to sin less, to turn from sin, and/or even to feel sorry for one’s sin has nothing to do with saving you from the penalty of sin. What ultimately condemns a person is one’s rejection of Jesus Christ. “He who does not believe is condemned already; because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:17
So how does repentance fit in with the message of salvation? More on this next time.