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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
LET US RECAP
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
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
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.