What Is Repentance?

Kevin Zuber
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Here are some key passages of Scripture about repentance:

Matthew 3:1-2
“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

Luke 5:32
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Acts 2:38
“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”

Acts 3:19
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

Acts 26:19-20
“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”

2 Timothy 2:25
With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.

The importance of repentance (and the preaching of repentance) is seen in the many passages that speak of repentance and the record of those in the narratives of the New Testament who preached repentance—John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others. The two Greek terms for repentance are metanoia and epistrephō. The term metanoia has the notion of a “change of mind,” and epistrephō has the notion of a “change of behavior.”[1] In Acts 3:19 Peter uses both terms in the same sentence—“repent [Greek metanoēsate] and return [Greek epistrepsate].” Also, in Acts 26:20, in the same sentence, Paul uses both terms: “repent [Greek metanoein] and turn [Greek epistrephein] to God.” Thus, it seems, “the meanings of these two words . . . overlap.”[2] Thus, true repentance is both a change of mind and a change of behavior. God is the One who grants or gives repentance.

Repentance is not merely shame or sorrow for sin, although genuine repentance always involves an element of remorse. It is a redirection of the human will, a purposeful decision to forsake all unrighteousness and pursue righteousness instead.[3]

[1] Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 124–27.

[2] Ibid., 127.

[3] John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 179.

For Further Reading:

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