1999 James A. Fowler
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I. Representative Biblical references to "repentance"
Matt. 4:17 - "Repent, for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand"
Mk. 1:15 - "Repent, and believe
Lk. 24:47 - "repentance for forgiveness
of sins should be proclaimed in His name"
Acts 2:38 - "Repent and be baptized
for the remission of sins"
Acts 3:19 - "repent and be converted,
that your sins might be wiped away"
Acts 5:31 - "to grant repentance
to Israel, and forgiveness of sins"
Acts 11:18 - "granted to the Gentiles
also the repentance unto life"
Acts 17:30 - "God is declaring to
men that all everywhere should repent"
Acts 20:21 - "repentance toward
God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ"
Acts 26:20 - "repent and turn to
God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance"
II Cor. 7:9,10 - "sorrowful to point
of repentance...sorrow according to God produces repentance without
regret, leading to salvation"
II Cor. 12:21 - "have not repented
of impurity, immorality and sensuality"
II Tim. 2:25 - "God may grant them
repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth"
Heb. 6:1 - "repentance from dead
works and faith toward God"
II Pet. 3:9 - "Lord...not wishing
for any to perish but for all to come to repentance"
Rev. 2:5,16,21,22; 3:3,19 - "repent"
II. Developing a definition of "repentance"
A. Greek words
metanoeo (all of the references cited above)
from meta=with; nous=mind
meaning - "change of mind"
from meta=with; melei=to care
meaning - "remorse, regret" (cf. Matt. 27:3; II Cor.
B. English word "repentance"
derived from Latin repaenitere
from re=again; paenitere=to be sorry, penitent,
meaning - "to be sorry, grieving, penitent, remorseful
emphasis more on grief over sin, rather than change from (or
abandonment) of sin
word is not an exact equivalent to the meaning of the Greek word,
thus creating imprecise
of penitence later led to concept of penance in Roman Catholic
acts of confession, restitution, mortification, self-abasement
to demonstrate remorse, sorrow, regret
in order to receive forgiveness and absolution of guilt
C. Repentance is best defined as "a
change of mind that leads to a change of action" -
Acts 26:20; Matt. 3:8
"change of mind"
cognitive change of opinion; "second-thoughts"
emotional abhorrence, contrition, sorrow, regret, remorse
self-reproach; must "die to self"
"change of action"
self-generated activation of character and activity
resolution to amendment of activities; to do better
behavior modification; reformation
of the "changes" in "repentance"
"change of mind"
about sin - "I have contravened His character"
about oneself -"I am unworthy before God" -Lk. 18:13
about our attitudes and mind-set - "My thoughts are inconsistent
with His thoughts" (cf.
about our course of action - "I am unable to generate and
enact the character of God;"
about Christ - "He can express His worthy character through
my attitudes and behavior;"
"change of action"
"Henceforth I want Christ to express His character in my
behavior;" "I will let Him."
Desire and determination to allow for the receptivity of His
activity in our lives - Faith
repentance and faith are indivisibly and integrally connected.
Mk. 1:15; Acts 20:21; 26:18,20; Heb. 6:1)
repentance and faith are so interdependent upon the other that
the use of one implies
the other. There is no faith without repentance, and there is
repentance and faith are two sides of one coin
internal, psychological dynamics of such "changes"
Mind - change of attitude, opinion, belief
Emotions - godly sorrow, remorse, regret
Will - decision, determination or disposition that invokes God's
deity; not mere human
resolve or effort
The combination of the above constitute repentance/faith
completeness of such "change"
repentance is decisive and determinative
repentance is a radical, total break, a 180 degree turn
disallows for repetitiveness
not constant reoccurring change of mind; second-thoughts; fickleness;
that;" ask forgiveness and gloss over
regenerative repentance cannot reoccur (Heb. 6:6)
Many O.T. references to "repentance" refer to God (KJV)
32:14 - "the Lord repented of the evil He thought to do"
26:13,19 - "the Lord repented of the evil He pronounced"
3:10 - "God repented of the evil that He would do"
Can God have a change of mind that leads to a change of action?
God is immutable - His character never changes.
God is not fickle - changing His mind and reneging
23:19 - "God is not a son of man, that He should repent"
Sam 15:29 - "He is not a man that He should repent"
God can, has, and does change His mind about His course of action,
upon His character.
III. Contexts of "repentance"
A. Regenerative repentance - initial
1. Is repentance
a necessary or essential condition for regeneration or conversion?
believing gospel - Mk. 1:15
forgiveness of sins - Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31
spiritual life - Acts 11:18
knowledge of the truth - II Tim. 2:25
is not a human "work" or achievement that creates any
causal contingencies upon
God, or has any meritorious benefit before God.
To avoid any possible acceptance of misdefined repentance, some
have over-reacted by denying
that repentance is in any way a condition of regeneration.
This led to the "Lordship salvation" controversy in
evangelical theological circles.
argument over insertions in ordo salutis
both sides misunderstand dynamic of gospel
repentance viewed as either just a "change of mind"
or as a psychological reaction leading
to behavior modification.
faith viewed as either just cognitive mental assent and belief
of facts, or as commitment
and dedication leading to pietistic behavior change.
is an essential condition of Christian conversion and regeneration.
A convert changes his mind and rejects the world's ways, in order
to receive the way of
In some Christian groups a new convert is identified as a "repenter"
Is it possible that some who call themselves "Christians"
have assented to Christ
on), but have never repented?
B. Sanctifying repentance - continual
process of repentance in Christian life
within the Christian life
Cor. 7:9,10 - "repentance without regret, leading to salvation"
Cor. 12:21 - "repented of impurity, immorality and sensuality"
Pet. 3:9 - "God wishes all to come to repentance"
2:5,16,21,22; 3:3,19 - "repent"
necessity for decisive repentance
In the "renewing of the mind" process we allow for
the grace-prompting of God unto repentance
(cf. Rom. 12:2)
change of mind and action concerning our pride, prejudices, self-protection,
transformation of mind-set and behavior
Thereby the Spirit overcomes the flesh (cf. Gal. 5:16-24)
C. Collective ecclesiastical repentance?
- cf. II Chron. 7:14