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About Doctrines

Repentance



Repentance is an often misunderstood term, although it is the clear message of all of Scripture. John the Baptist came preaching repentance,

Matthew 3:1-2
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

As did Jesus.

Mark 1:15
and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

The idea of repentance is one of doing an about face. The Hebrew and Greek words translated as repentance are frequent in Scripture, although not always translated as "repent." The Hebrew sub occurs about 1050 times in the Old Testament, but only a handful of times is it translated as "to repent." More often the term is translated with the meaning of "to turn" or "to return." This demonstrates clearly the meaning of the term.

The Greek term translated "repentance" (metanoia) is a compound word that has the root meanings of "after" and "to understand." To "after understand" is to literally have an "afterthought" or a "change of mind." This flow right along with the Hebrew concept of turning. To have a change of mind, is to turn from one thought or position to another. In the New Testament, this turning is away from sin. But, it is more. It is turning with a new purpose.

Repentance is not just a turning away from sin, it is a turning to God. One must turn their life around to repent. This type of turning was a typical message of the prophets (Isa 45:22; 55:7; Ezek 14:6; 18:30; Joel 2:12-13). As is indicated above, John the Baptist picked up this same theme as did Jesus.

Repentance demands a drastic change of lifestyle and moral outlook. Motive and conduct must both change. One must move from evil to good. For example, Isaiah 1:16-17:

16 "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.

There is the free sovereign act of God's mercy, and a conscious decision to turn to God (a turning that goes beyond sorrow and contrition).

But, it is clear that repentance is not just a presalvation effort on man's part to "get right" so he can be saved. Sadly, this is the attitude of too many sinners. Repentance is the call to recognize one's sinfulness and to flee to the arms of God for salvation. This fleeing involves the attitude of hate and fear, so as one flees to the shelter of God, one is fleeing from the enemy.

Confession of sins is both commanded and frequently illustrated (e.g., in the penitential prayers, as Ps 25 and 51). When one is guilty of various sins, "he must confess in what way he has sinned" in order to receive atonement and forgiveness (Lev 5:5; 26:40-42). Thus, confession belongs to repentance, and is needed for divine forgiveness (cf. 1 John 1:9). The promise is that: "The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins" (Isa 59:20).

To repent and to convert involve obedience to God's revealed will, placing trust in him, turning away from all evil and ungodliness.

All Scriptures taken from the NKJV, unless noted

 

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