In this installment I will define scriptural repentance so that we can see it clearly. Remember, I noted previously that repentance is not ‘turning and going the other way.’ Turning and going the other way may be the result of repentance, or it may signify false repentance, but it is not in and of itself repentance. So how do the scriptures define repentance? The word translated as ‘repent’ in Mark 1:14 is used over 30 times in the NT.
3210. μετανοέω metanoeō verb, To repent, change one’s mind, be converted.
The most extensive repentance is a thoroughgoing change in one’s thinking, attitudes, and purpose. This is the deep-seated repentance spoken of in passages like Matthew 3:2 and Acts 3:19 where a thorough change of mind is urged. When compared to metamelomai (3208) (used 5 times), metanoeō (used over 30 times) is much more prevalent, especially when referring to repentance linked to salvation. This repentance is stronger than remorse or emotional regret. Metanoeō portrays a change of mind so effective that Luke 15:7,10 assumes salvation for a sinner who has “repented.”
This “repentance” is required for entrance into the kingdom of heaven and is a subject of the apostolic preaching in Acts.
The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary.
So, if we look at the definition from this Greek-English dictionary we see the critical importance of repentance. The definition begins by saying, “repentance is a thoroughgoing change in one’s thinking, attitudes, and purpose.” An important point is that the precondition for repentance is the conviction of the Holy Spirit and His drawing our heart to Jesus.
When we see conviction and repentance as necessary to salvation how does it compare to the idea in our culture that we are supposedly saved by surreptitiously slipping up a hand with no one looking or repeating a prayer we don’t understand? This has more in common with a magic incantation than biblical salvation. If there is genuine conviction some people will be genuinely converted through this process, however the foundation we will have laid in their lives is that they need to be ashamed of Jesus.
My goal here is to discern rather than judge but if we have been ‘converted’ and there is no change in our “thinking, attitudes, and purpose” has anything really happened? Have we been converted to Jesus or instead to a congregation, denomination or social group? One leads to a change in purpose manifested as a change in behaviour and one leads to moderating our behaviour to fit in with the new culture we have now joined. This may go a long way toward explaining how difficult it is to engage many ‘believers’ in giving, evangelism and other scriptural activities.
While repentance is not a change in behaviour, if there is no change in behaviour to scriptural beliefs and practices there has been no repentance. At the same time it is rather difficult to change our thinking, attitudes and purpose if we see nothing wrong with the current ones we hold. Coming to Jesus is not adding something to our life, it is recognizing that our goal and focus in life is wrong and needs to change. It is putting to death an old way of thinking and acting and seeing the need for new life. If this sounds hard or judgmental consider what Paul had to say when he addressed the ongoing issues with the church at Corinth.
5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified. 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 (NKJV)
When he did not see the heart contrition, behaviour change and commitment to his teaching that he expected from believers Paul questioned the genuineness of their conversion. In a similar manner, while we are not called to be judges, we are called to be fruit inspectors. Jesus taught this clearly in Matt. 7:15-23. If we are walking with Him the evidence will be there in our lives, not based on what we say, but based on the actions that flow from repentant hearts. If we are wise we will heed Jesus teaching and apply it first to our own hearts in the way Paul advised the Corinthians.
So, I have touched on the first half of my first point below and trust there is some understanding of scriptural repentance. I will continue to address these points in my next installment.
- What is the role of repentance in conversion and after conversion?
- Is repentance after conversion qualitatively different than repentance leading to conversion?
- Do we repent of our behaviour, nature or both?