Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992



When I was about ten I was commonly known as the cake and icing snitcher. I would break small pieces of icing off of the edge of the cake. As my memory serves me, I never cut a piece of cake to eat - only little snitches. One day my mother found a piece of cake missing! I was naturally the suspect of the hour, only I was innocent. My mother was bent on having me confess and repent of my crime. I told her multiplied millions of times that I had not done the nasty deed. Finally, after several hours of sitting in front of her, I admitted to the crime that I had not committed. I had many things to do, and one of them wasn't sitting in front of her.

I confessed, but there was no repentance - indeed, there could be no repentance because I had done nothing wrong. In God's eyes, He seeks people who are knowledgeable of their sin, and willing to repent.

Repentance according to Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary is ".....the action or process of repenting esp. for misdeeds or moral shortcomings....." (By permission. From Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary copyright 1991 by Merriam-Webster Inc., publisher of the Merriam-Webster (registered) Dictionaries.)

Vine mentions, "to perceive afterwards ('meta', after, implying change, 'noeo', to perceive; 'nous', the mind, the seat of moral reflection), in contrast to 'pronoeo', to perceive beforehand, hence signifies to change one's mind or purpose," (Vine, W. E.; "AN EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS"; Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., p 281-282)

Unger tells us "in the theological and ethical sense a fundamental and thorough change in the hearts of men from sin and toward God."

"Without some measure of faith no one can truly repent, and repentance never attains to its deepest character till the sinner realizes through saving faith how great is the grace of god against whom he has sinned."

"On the other hand there can be no saving faith without true repentance." (Taken from: "UNGER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY"; Unger, Merrill F.; Copyright 1957, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission.)

Repentance is a change of mind:

There should be a sense of dislike toward sin, as well as a desire, and decision not to do it again. When I was snitching the cake, I was not sorry, I was not going to stop doing it; unless the punishment made it repugnant. Even when confronted with the snitching, I was not sorry for my wrong, only for getting caught.

In the case of sin and repentance toward God, there needs to be a surrendering to His will and desire. In sin, we have set aside His will or commands. In repentance, we need to include the thought of a return to what He has commanded, and turn away from our desire to set Him aside.

Repentance is a gift of God: Acts 5:31 God set Christ as the one able and desirous to extend repentance and forgiveness to the Jews. The fact that they, for the most part, rejected this free offer does not negate the offer.

God, due to the rejection of the Jews, opened His program of grace to the gentiles (Acts 11:18). The gentile world knew of their need, and multitudes received this offer of grace, repentance and salvation.

Repentance is something that God leads us to:

Romans 2:4 Our salvation is based squarely on the goodness of God. He formed the plan, He executed the plan, and He draws us to the plan. Had He not acted, we would not have sought to please Him. We would not have sought to find Him. We certainly would not have sought to repent.

Repentance can have three stages: Chafer suggests these three stages for his reader's consideration.

1. Repentance comes from fear of the penalty. In this repentance there is no sorrow over what was done, just dread of the consequences.

2. The second stage of repentance comes when the person realizes the baseness of sin. It results in self condemnation, because the person is so vile and sinful. I suspect that this is the stage that David Brainard was in during much of his struggle.

3. Upon salvation the person can more fully understand the evilness of sin, and realize the fullness of God's grace. This moves the person to genuine repentance, which can give the peace that the person has been seeking.

Repentance is a change of mind:

This thought is seen in Matt. 21:28-29 where the son that would not go to work, later changed his mind and went. Within the idea of a change of mind, is the fact that the mind must consider and weigh the information, and then decide. Along with the change of mind in this case, is the act of the will to go.

In the case of sin, there needs to be a consideration of the information, a decision not to sin followed by a continuing action of the will, not to sin. To decide, and not to act is not the desired process. To decide followed by action is what God desires in His people.

This is also true in the lost person that is considering the claims of Christ. He can consider the information, he can even decide that the information is valid, but until he acts, there can be no salvation.

Repentance requires no sorrow:

Repentance requires no sorrow however sorrow may be an integrated part of the person's experience when coming to repentance. Technically sorrow may lead to repentance, but repentance seems to be separate from sorrow. (II Cor. 7:9-11)

Repentance is not separate from belief:

"repentance is essential to salvation and that none could be saved apart from repentance, but it is included in believing and could not be separated from it." (Chafer's Systematic Theology, p 373)

So why are there two terms? Why does the Bible speak of repentance and belief, if they are inseparable?

In Acts 16:31 the jailor was told that he needed to believe to be saved. The fact that he asked what he must do to be saved demands that he had already gone through a mental process of realizing he was wrong, and that God was right. He had already decided to follow God, rather than the world system. Thus, he was told to believe, rather than to repent.

Chafer mentions, "it is clear that the New Testament does not impose repentance upon the unsaved as a condition of salvation." (p 376)

I do not think that I can agree with his conclusion. How can you have salvation without having a change of mind, or repentance? You are lost, you are condemned, you are in the world system, you enjoy the world system, and you can't be saved without turning from that system, to God! THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! (See the following references to see that lost people are told to repent for their salvation and belief is not mentioned. Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20; II Pet. 3:9.)

I would have to disagree with anyone that states that repentance is not required for salvation. Belief and repentance are both involved in the process. You can believe, but not repent - resulting in no salvation. You can't repent unless you believe.

Repentance is based on the realization that what is (present life), is incorrect, and that what will be (salvation), is correct. It is a realization that God has truth, and is the answer. It is also a realization that the world has no truth, and that it is deception.

World Relief had a film that depicted an old Muslim man that had seen his sons come to know and embrace Christ. He knew in his own mind that what they had done was correct. He, however, would not leave his old ways. He had the belief, but there was no change of direction - repentance if you will.

Repentance is a work of the Spirit:

Chafer states that repentance is a work of the Spirit and lists Ephesians 2:8 for proof. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:"

I do not see that this is a proof text for his statement. The thought is wrapped up in the truth of this text, yet the text does not state this.

All that God does in man is a work of the Spirit, be it belief, repentance, or salvation. As the Spirit moves in lost man, he has the choice to respond or reject that work. When lost man responds and turns to God, then that repentance is truly a work of the Spirit.

Repentance is limited in the lost person:

"No individual can turn to Christ from some other confidence without a change of mind, and that, it should be noted, is all the repentance a spiritually dead individual can ever effect." (Chafer, p 374)

In his concluding paragraph Chafer states, "It is asserted that repentance, which is a change of mind, enters of necessity into the very act of believing on Christ, since one cannot turn to Christ from other objects of confidence without that change of mind. Upwards of 150 texts-including all of the greatest gospel invitations-limit the human responsibility in salvation to believing or to faith. To this simple requirement nothing could be added if the glories of grace are to be preserved."

This defines belief as a confidence in which requires a change of mind or repentance. He seems to bottle repentance and belief into one package. This is not an uncommon line of thinking, which follows quickly after Calvinistic thought.

PROBLEM: I believed in God - in Christ - long before I knew that I needed to be saved, long before ever committing myself to Him and His work on the cross for me.

I knew and believed many of the Bible stories, the miracles, etc. I knew that Christ lived, and died on the cross. I believed that Christ existed. I believed that God existed. I believed that God created the heaven and the earth.

I even, somewhere in my mind, knew that God was watching over me, yet I did not know the reason for the cross, nor did I know that I needed Christ. I had belief, but there was no knowledge that a change was needed.

Ultimately, through circumstances, I was confronted with the Gospel and knew that it was true. I still was lost as I could be as one born in Adam. Until I decided - an act of the will - there was no salvation, there was no repentance. Upon that belief, there was a decision made which turned me from the first Adam, to the second Adam, Christ.

Belief is possible without repentance, so I feel it is very hard to say they are one and the same.

It is of interest to note that the Gospel of John does not use the term repent, but only the term believe. This indicates that John felt that belief would automatically move the person to repentance and salvation. It does not mean that John was teaching that repentance was not needed.

Cambron is quite clear in his belief that repentance is an integrated part of salvation. "To those who say that repentance is not to be preached today, and that it is not essential for salvation, we point out that repentance was preached by John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostle Paul. Repentance was proclaimed before Pentecost, at Pentecost, and after Pentecost." (Cambron, Mark G. D.D.; "BIBLE DOCTRINES"; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954, p 188)

Repentance in not reformation: Man, in his lost estate, can reform himself. He can clean up his life and live like a Christian. Many of these people probably lead a better Christian life than many Christians.

The sad fact is that this reformation leads only to reformation. It does not bring salvation, nor does it bring the peace these people often seek.

Reformation is great. It helps in the person's family, in his social relations, and may even help in the person's life. It can never result directly in eternal changes however.

Repentance is not contrition: It is not being sorry for your sin. Being sorry is great, but it alone can never bring salvation. Repentance requires a change of mind. Sorrow is an emotional response to information. Repentance is an act of the will in response to information and belief in that information.

Repentance is not penance: This is an expression of sorrow by some act. Penance is giving up of something in response to guilt or sorrow over doing something.

Repentance is a change of mind: It is a response of the mind that has been given information which the mind labels truth. It is a decision to move from one mind-set to another. The world is our natural mind-set. The lost person is motivated and directed by this mind-set. When the mind set is changed the life that mind controls, changes to the new direction.

Repentance is a part of faith: Faith is that which allows the person to turn from the world to God. God reveals Himself to all of mankind, according to Romans one. When someone responds to that revelation, further information is given. When there is enough information to confront the person with the Gospel, faith or belief in that information will move the person to a conscious decision. That decision will shift them from the earthy, to the heavenly.


1. Repentance is a change of mind (the heart and life).

2. Belief is an acceptance of facts (the brain).

3. Salvation is a result of both repentance and belief. Without repentance there is no salvation. Without belief there is no salvation. Without repentance there can be no belief and thus no salvation. Without repentance, belief cannot save you.

4. Sorrow may lead to repentance.

5. Sorrow may accompany repentance, but is not the same as repentance.

6. Repentance may come without sorrow.


Repentance comes from the goodness of God Rom. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9

Repentance can come from hearing the Gospel. Acts 2:37-41

Repentance can come through teaching. II Tim. 2:24,25

Repentance can come through chastisements of God. Rev. 2:16; 2:5; 3:3; (Heb. 12:6-11; Rev. 3:19 may relate - "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent.")

Repentance is a gift of God. It was a gift to the Jews, Acts 5:31 and to the Gentiles Acts 11:18.

Repentance is something that God leads us to. Romans 2:4

Repentance is a change of mind. Matt. 21:28-29

Repentance requires no sorrow.

Repentance is a work of the Spirit.

Repentance is limited in the lost person.

Repentance is not reformation.

Repentance is not contrition.

Repentance is not penance.

Repentance is a part of faith.

Repentance primarily is for the lost and is part of bringing them to Christ.

Repentance is sometimes used of the believer and his need to return to something. See Rev. 2:5,16; 3:3,19.


1. This should give flight to the easy believism so prevalent today in our evangelism. If you want to say, "Believe and thou shalt be saved" be sure that they have had a change of mind first, else you had better explain very carefully what you mean by believe.

2. In our own lives - when we became a Christian did we have a REAL change of mind - from trusting in ............, TO trusting in Christ? Many "Christians" have never seen repentance in their lives! This may well be why our churches are as they are.

3. As we witness - we need to show the person that they need to make a conscious choice to turn from ........, to Christ!

At times the person will know that changes are needed. I witnessed to a man years ago that was not living a proper life. He was a motorcycle nut. He knew what I had told him was true. He also knew that he needed to accept Christ. His problem was that he knew there would need to be changes. His first question after realizing this was, "But will I have to give up my motorcycle?"

As lost people repentance is needed for salvation. As believers, we do not normally deal with repentance. It is wrapped up in confession, in that we need to agree with God as to the terribleness of our sin, and decide not to sin again.

There are some believers that for one reason or another walks in the world. They are carnal. They are not walking with God. Again, in a sense repentance is required of them. They need to change their course.

Repentance - a simple change of mind that brings salvation. Repentance - a simple change of mind that brings restoration of fellowship.