Main Article on Repentance

Notes on Repentance

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven: "We have transgressed and rebelled, and thou hast not forgiven. (Lamentations 3:40-42)

Repent is a rather disreputable word these days. It has lost its real meaning for most, and the word is not used much by Christians anymore. Repentance is however a very major topic in the Bible, worth tracking down.

The Dictionary

Repent, our English word, is derived from the Latin, paenitere which suggests the Biblical meaning may have something to do with penitence, but things are not as simple as that. Webster says the noun repent means, 1. To turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life. 2a. to feel regret and contrition, 2b. to change one's mind. The English-language verb "to repent" means 1. To cause to feel regret or contrition, 2. Arousing aversion or disgust, or contrition for.

The English word penitence is about sorrow or regret for sin; sorrow for sins or faults. The word is often associated with penance (as we shall see) Penance is an act of self-abasement, mortification, or devotion performed to show sorrow or repentance for sin. Penance is a sacrament in the Roman Catholic and Eastern orthodox churches. It includes (a) repentance or contrition for sin, b. confession to a priest, c. satisfaction as imposed by the confessor, and d. absolution.

In actuality, neither penitence or penance are concepts that are emphasized in the Bible. So much for the dictionary. The concept of what it means to repent in the Old and New Testaments is difficult to put into clear English. This is the reason for this short set of notes. It merely introduces the complexities of the Biblical subject of repentance and hopefully calls the reader's attention to the importance of this subject. Our English Bibles have not done a good job of translating the several Hebrew and Greek words that are relevant to what repentance is and how it works.

The Biblical Terms

The Hebrew word nacham (Strong's No. 5162) (Note 1) is onomatopoeic--the "ch" is breathed in the throat so the word sound like a sigh, a groan or a lament. The word can mean "to grieve, feel sorrow, lament." It also came to mean "to change one's mind," to "think better," turn, turn back, come back, or "learn one's lesson." In the OT nacham is used 35 times but only 5 of these refer to an action of man. The remaining uses refer to God. Shub is used far more often than nacham in the OT, obviously.

A major problem of theology arises when one reads in a passage of scripture that God has apparently repented, that is, changed his mind about something. The RSV does well to translate Genesis 6:6,7 using "sorry" instead "repented,"

"And the LORD was sorry (nacham) that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them."

A clearer idea of nacham used to suggest God stopping his course of action, "repenting" is found in the account of David's sin in taking a census of Israel (1 Chronicles 21):

"So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel; and there fell seventy thousand men of Israel. And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but when he was about to destroy it, the LORD saw, and he repented of the evil; and he said to the destroying angel, "It is enough; now stay your hand." And the angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. And David said to God, "Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done very wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Let thy hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be against me and against my father's house; but let not the plague be upon thy people." Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and rear an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. So David went up at Gad's word, which he had spoken in the name of the LORD."

The second Hebrew word often translated "repent" in the OT is shub (Strong's 7725) (Note 2) which means "return," "to go back," or "turn." The word is found 1060 times in the Hebrew of the OT. The prophets of Israel used this word when calling the people to a radical change in their attitude towards sin and God. Frequently the word suggests turning to God from righteousness my means of a conscious, moral separation and a personal decision to forsake a sinful behavior. Shub can mean "to reverse a direction," or it can mean to cease doing something. The word shub also is used of God.

When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the Tablets of the Law God announced his intention to destroy the people, but Moses' intercession caused God to "change his mind."

And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people; now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; but of you I will make a great nation." But Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, "O LORD, why does thy wrath burn hot against thy people, whom thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, `With evil intent did he bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou didst swear by thine own self, and didst say to them, `I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'" And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people. [Or, "the Lord relented from the harm which he said he would do to his people]. (Exodus 32:9-14)

Clearly God knows the beginning from the end and He is not caught off guard when his people act differently than appearances suggest. Who moved Moses to intercede? Who planned from the beginning to save Israel? Yet God does interact with His people and He takes our choices into account when He acts--or fails to act. The very notion that God changes his planned course of action because of man's prayers and man's repentance assures us that God is a personal God who has fully involved himself in our affairs. Our lives are not set in concrete, history moves by strange twists and turns--not by fate or chance. God responds to our choices and He has condescended to restrain himself to partnership with us in many situations! This is a far cry from the gods of the heathen who act arbitrarily and whimsically in total disregard for their subjects and their well being.

Jonah was reluctant when God sent him to Ninevah to preach to the wicked, evil, violent Assyrians.

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he cried, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. Then tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he made proclamation and published through Nineveh, "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?" When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:4-10.

Jonah in fact was very unhappy with the mercy God showed to the cruel and fierce Assyrians who were enemies of Israel. We are like Jonah, unfortunately, not wanting God to be kind to those we dislike and easily forgetting that we also are the objects of his mercy. We believers have been saved by grace alone apart from any merits of our own.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, "I pray thee, LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repentest of evil. Therefore now, O LORD, take my life from me, I beseech thee, for it is better for me to die than to live." And the LORD said, "Do you do well to be angry?" Then Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. And the LORD God appointed a plant, and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm which attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a sultry east wind, and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah so that he was faint; and he asked that he might die, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live." But God said to Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?" And he said, "I do well to be angry, angry enough to die." And the LORD said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4)

Mercy Prevails over Judgment

James, the brother of Jesus and pastor of the early church at Jerusalem said, "For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment." (James 2:13) He was urging them to remember that God's mercy is greater than his demands for justice. Scripture shows us that God is reluctant to judge--that he prefers mercy and healing and will always grant that first if he finds people willing to listen to him,

"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust-- there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men." (Lamentations 3:21-33)

The Opportunity to Repent is Not Always Offered

Esau, Jacob's brother found he had been given no opportunity to repent,

See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:15-17)

Neither did Achan have a chance to repent--and live--at the battle of Ai during the conquest of the Land. This was in spite of his admission of his sin. The sin was not only his own -- his family and the whole nation were implicated, (Joshua 7).

Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord and was struck dead on the spot--God offered this poor man no second chance, though he probably meant well in what he did, (2 Samuel 6).

A rebellion against Moses' leadership was initiated by the sons of Korah during the wilderness wanderings of Israel, (Numbers 16), but the perpetrators were swallowed alive into a great crack in the ground. They were not offered any opportunity to change their minds or life-styles first.

Ananias and Sapphira were less-than-totally honest with the church when reporting on their financial contributions, and for this sin they were struck dead without warning, (Acts 5).

Sudden physical death usually says nothing about a person's eternal destiny. Loss of one's salavtion is not usually in view. A whole generation of the people of Israel perished in the wilderness and did not enter the Pormised Land. But many individuals in this group surely died and went directly home to be with the Lord; they did not perish eternally.

The history of Israel tells us that there comes a time when repentance comes too late. God is slow to judge, but once he has begun the process of judgment, he is both thorough and relentless. Jeremiah watched the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, but God told the prophet not to pray for the people because he, God, would not listen. (Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14)

In general repentance delays judgment--pushing judgment into the future. God must judge His people, beause He is Just by nature. Persistent evil on the part of the king and the people makes the danger of judgment from God more imminent. This can be seen in the case of Israel's history after Solomon. The influence of the few good kings of Judah and Benjamin delayed the inevitable judgment of the two southern tribes for another 136 years after the fall of the Northern capital of Samaria. Periodic reforms by a few good kings were not enough to reverse the gradual downhill decline of the nation.

Repentance in the New Testament

The NT words: metanoia, (Strong 3341) the noun, can mean "an afterthought," "a change of mind," "repentance." The verb metanoeo (3340) is from meta, "after", implying change, and noeo, "to perceive", or nous, the "mind," the seat of the moral reflection, in contrast to pronoeo, "to perceive beforehand." Thus the verb means "to change one's mind for a purpose," an amendment always for the better. The verb occurs 7 times in Luke, 5 times in Acts, and 12 times in the book of the Revelation, of which 8 are in the letters to the Seven Churches. Metamelomai (3338) signifies regret, "to repent oneself," or "to care afterwards" but this word is found only 6 times in the NT. [The Greek melo means "care"]. Metanoia the noun means an "afterthought" "a change of mind," or "repentance." Altogether the two words occur 56 times in the NT, 24 times in Luke, 11 times in Acts, 12 times in Revelation, but only 5 times in the letters of Paul and not at all in the letters of John.

The Septuagint (LXX) the translation into Greek from Hebrew of the OT by some 70 rabbinical scholars in Alexandria in the late Second Century BC is helpful. The scholars had a perfect knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, the best manuscripts of Hebrew available and a thorough understanding of the interpretation of the OT text in their day. The Rabbis used metanoeo and metamelomai for the Hebrew naham. However metanoeo and metamelomai were never used in the LXX to translate shub. Shub was always translated using the Greek epistrepho (1994) (to return, to turn about, or turn towards) or apostrepho, (654) meaning "to cause to turn away return." (The root strepho [4762] means "to turn something"). In Hebrew naham and shub are sometimes used as parallelisms, so in the LXX metanoeo and epi- or apo- strepho were used together as synonyms in the LXX

The true idea of repentance in the NT is difficult to express in English and this situation is compounded in the Latin Bible. The Latin Bible rendered metanoeo by poenitentium agre ("exercise penitence"), and this came to mean "exercise penance," associated with expressing grief over sin, distress, sorrow. But this is a departure from the meaning of metanoeo which refers to a change of thought and purpose. The Latin Bible suggests that Jesus was telling the people "to do penance." This became the Roman Catholic doctrine of penance as a sacrament which consists materially of contrition, confession and satisfaction. The judicial pronouncement of absolution by the church is needed to give these elements validity. Thus a non-Biblical practice and tradition has come about simply because of the difficulty of capturing the complexity of the Greek and Hebrew words usually translated as "repent" or "repentance."


From the Old Testament we gain the idea that repentance involves a turning to God in the case of those who were not previously believers, and a return to God for those who do know God. A change of direction, conduct, attitude, and relationship with God is suggested.

The New Testament words show us that repentance involves a change of mind--and thereby a change in the way one lives--which is a result of discovering new knowledge of God, or realzing one has drifted from the kind of living which God approves of. Repentance is corrective--it is done when we are at fault, off course or in error.

C. S. Lewis says this:

"You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind. We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. Even on a biological level life is not like a pool but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes more different not only from evil but from other good. I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find your error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, 'with backwards mutters of dissevering power'-or else not. It is still 'either-or.' If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he has abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in 'the High Countries.'" (preface to The Great Divorce)

Repentance and Psychology

Repentance is not only an issue about how to respond to truth when it is made known to us and we are in the wrong, acting out of ignorance, or otherwise not in alignment with God's nature and Person. Repentance is a matter of deep significance to body, soul, and spirit--it is a subject that needs attention from the science of psychology (Note 4).

Confession of Sin

Confession of sin is an important aspect of prayer by which we agree with God about an issue he has made clear to us,

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (I John 1:5-10)

Psalms 51 and 32 are superb examples from the Old Testament prayers of repentance. Many of the Psalms show the response of God to the prayers of his people, which is in fact what repentance is concerned with.

Daniel's prayer when he foresaw the end of Israel's captivity in Babylon drawing to an end contains repentance on behalf of Israel. Daniel includes himself among those who needed to acknowledge that their lives needed correcting:

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, "O Lord, the great and terrible God, who keepest covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from thy commandments and ordinances; we have not listened to thy servants the prophets, who spoke in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To thee, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us confusion of face, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those that are near and those that are far away, in all the lands to which thou hast driven them, because of the treachery which they have committed against thee.

To us, O Lord, belongs confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness; because we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed thy law and turned aside, refusing to obey thy voice. And the curse and oath which are written in the law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done the like of what has been done against Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us, yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and giving heed to thy truth. Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.

And now, O Lord our God, who didst bring thy people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast made thee a name, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, according to all thy righteous acts, let thy anger and thy wrath turn away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy hill; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people have become a byword among all who are round about us. Now therefore, O our God, hearken to the prayer of thy servant and to his supplications, and for thy own sake, O Lord, cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline thy ear and hear; open thy eyes and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name; for we do not present our supplications before thee on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of thy great mercy. O LORD, hear; O LORD, forgive; O LORD, give heed and act; delay not, for thy own sake, O my God, because thy city and thy people are called by thy name." (Daniel 9:3-19)

While sin can most always be confessed directly to God, James (5:16-19) says,

"...confess your sins [faults and shortcomings] to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."


All sin can be forgiven, but one can not ignore the need for corrective action in some cases (restitution for damages). Sin often does real and tangible damage to other people and in some cases mere forgiveness may not suffice to show the good will of the offending party to the offended one. Moses prescribed the following,

"Say to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that men commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person is guilty, he shall confess his sin which he has committed; and he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it, and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no kinsman to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the LORD for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him." (Numbers 5:6-8)

False Guilt and True Guilt

"For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." (1 Cor. 7:10)

Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

Our enemy, the devil is great when it comes to heaping false guilt upon God's people. He is a master of intimidation and knows how to barrage a person with innuendo and vague assertions so as to incapacitate God's people for all practical purposes. Revelation 12:7-11 addresses this issue indirectly,

"Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death."

But, in many cases we feel no guilt for things we have done that are definitely wrong in God's eyes. In such matters we may have been overtaken by hardness of heart. Or our conscience may be malfunctioning or "seared." Sin's insidious blinding of our eyes and hardening of our hearts will often not come to our attention until we start to repent. If we talk to our Lord about what we do see regarding an area of sin in our lives, God will immediately respond with cleansing and forgiveness matching what we do see. The Lord will then "open our eyes" more so that we see that we have only touched the tip of the iceberg in our awareness of our personal evil. This process of ever-deeper, daily repentance is the very pathway to life. It is very dangerous for us to believe that we have "arrived" in our Christian life, (and therefore we need no further repentance). People who never repent are probaby not believers!

The Epistle to the Hebrews contains five powerful warnings against the ways we can lose sight of our Leader on the path ahead of us. In some churches it is soon obvious to an outside visitor that most of the congregation has adjusted his or her life-style to the lowest common denominator of holiness and outward behavior in that assembly. God is a Personal God and he desires that we each learn and grow regardless of how we think our neighbor is doing. God's character is absolute. It is we who must adjust so that we line ourselves up with Him.

Unless we know the Bible well, and spend time around more mature pilgrims, we will not know why we should change and we won't see the Divine standard clearly. In general, a Christian's awareness of his or her sin increases through his lifetime. God's grace also is greater, too.

There is, however, no need for despair! There is more than enough grace available for the worst of us. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." (Romans 5:8-11)

Pride is the worst blindfold of all because pride leads us to think too highly of ourselves so that we think of ourselves as better than others--and we act accordingly. Really humble people are not aware that they are humble, in fact they usually perceive themselves as very great sinners. Paul is a prime example,

"The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." (1 Timothy 1:15-16)


Genuine repentance often brings grief and sorrow as the penitent sees the hurt he or she has caused others, and God. Repentance is humbling and causes one to develop a healthy fear and respect for a God who is holy and just and impartial. However if one asks God for forgiveness from God, it is immediately given. Forgiveness of sin removes the penalty for the sin which has been confessed and the record of the sinner before God is wiped clean at that moment. It is therefore not honoring to God to either dwell on the former sin, nor to add self-punishment or undue accountability to a priest of pastor for a matter which is closed as far as the Lord is concerned. All sin has consequences, and this is perfectly clear, for example, by examining the account of David's sin of murder and adultery as recorded in 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and Psalms 32 and 51.

If sin remains unconfessed we find ourselves with serious unsettled business with the Lord, as David brings out in Psalm 32:

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. [Selah] I acknowledged my sin to thee, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"; then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin. [Selah] Therefore let every one who is godly offer prayer to thee; at a time of distress, in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. Thou art a hiding place for me, thou preservest me from trouble; thou dost encompass me with deliverance. [Selah] I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you. Many are the pangs of the wicked; but steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Acknowledging that we have made a grievous mistake which has brought harm and dishonor to the Lord is most always accompanied by remorse and sorrow, but following David's example we should take the forgiveness granted by the Lord and move forward. Our emotions may not lead us to believe that God has forgiven us and that we are restored, but by faith we can take God at His word on these matters.

To punish ourselves for our sins is to insult God because the sacrifice of Christ for us is the full, total, complete and perfect sacrifice for all our sins. There is no "merit" we can earn before God by acts of penance. This is not to deny the importance of accountability to others--we are weak in areas of past sins. Some sins are not overcome without the help of others--for instance an addiction recovery group may be helpful or even necessary.

God undertakes the task of raising each of us. He has no grandchildren--only sons and daughters. God disciplines every one of us:

"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:5-13)

The Final Test

A great warning about God's concern for us is found in the opening verses of Hebrews 6. Without discussing the details of this warning, the conclusion is that fruit bearing is the final proof that a person knows the Lord, has yielded to His Lordship--and finally born fruit. Professions of faith and professions of repentance are invalid if one's life does not show fruitful living as a result.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.

For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned. Though we speak thus, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (1-12)

The final proof of repentance, then, shows up over the long term because we begin to live fruitful lives before the Lord.

Jesus said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them. And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."(Mark 4:13-20)

Sorrow and Regret without Repentance

We often feel remorse, self-condemnation, anger or regret when we make mistakes. Such regret without a corresponding heart-felt, honest interaction with God does not constitute repentance. Simply admitting to God we have made a mistake and a vow not to repeat the same mistake again does not constitute repentance. The OT and NT definitions of repentance definitely imply a changed life-style, a new direction, deliberate steps take to cease from conduct displeasing to God.

All of us adjust our life-styles, demeanor, manner of speech and conduct so as to look better in the eyes of others, or to avoid consequences of socially unacceptable or illegal behavior. Such actions taken without regard to the motives of our heart and our relationship to God does not mean we have necessarily undergone any real repentance. We may merely have changed from openly obvious sinners to hypocrites, which is worse.

The Sermon on the Law intensifies the demands of the Law of Moses---"Unless your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." Usually we obey the traffic laws because tickets and penalties are expensive. We may be deterred from shoplifting knowing that if we were caught we could be badly embarrassed.

It is always a good thing to turn away from real sin regardless of the motive. Parents often restrict their children to keep them away from situation of temptation which they can not handle, and all Christians should maintain accountability. Since we are all weak in some areas, it is only wise to take all steps needed to stay away from situations where we could easily yield to temptation.

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

However real repentance calls us to deeper changes than simply adjusting our external behavior and life-styles. Genuine repentance allows us to glimpse the harm our sins have caused ourselves, others and God. "Godly grief" is the result--genuine contrition.

Each of us often treats his or her sins as not especially serious, though we can be quick to judge the same sins in others. That is we love our sin and abandon it only reluctantly in many cases. In this regard we do not usually have the same point of view that God has about our sins, and repentance is the process by which we come into deep inner agreement with God concerning the nature of our sins or faulty conduct. Thus, finally we come to hate our own sins, the attractiveness of sin is eliminated, and the devil's rationalizing lies to us are quickly detected and set aside.

The Importance of the New Covenant

Herein is the great difference between the Old Covenant and the New. Under the Old Covenant the rule was "do these things [required by the Law of Moses] and you will live." Doing the things that pleased God required God's power and help of course--His grace was as necessary then as it is now if believers were to live lives acceptable to God. The New Covenant, on the other hand, works by changing the very desires of our hearts so that we are genuinely made new in our innermost being:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13).

Our High Priest's Help and Role

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord. for every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary; for when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, "See that you make everything according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain." But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: "The days will come, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,' for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8)

Everyone Must Repent

One particular teaching of Jesus is very puzzling. It is found in Luke, Chapter 13:

There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, `Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?' And he answered him, `Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'" (Luke 13:1-9)

Bypassing the issue of the guilt or innocence of those who died in either of the two tragic incidents, Jesus turned instead to his listeners and gave them the strange, unexpected warning, "unless you repent you will all likewise perish." The real issue, evidently is not whether we live or die in the here-and-now, but whether we live eternally and escape the second death. If we have not repented and we are merely going about our daily lives like the rest of the world, we are in grave danger of perishing eternally. Repentance means we have come to terms with who God is and we have taken steps to line ourselves up with who he is and what he approves us. We can not understand all about God in one instance and therefore repentance must be a regular part of our lives before God. We grow up "into Christ" by making constant course corrections and changes in our lives as we see more of who God is and what his standards our.

John the Baptist called for repentance by Israel because Messiah was coming on the scene. Since that same Messiah is coming again this time to bring in world-wide judgment and righteousness, repentance is more important now than ever. Actually in the New Testament God does call all men everywhere to repent, not just those of us who know him. God's command to repent, if ignored or refused can only bring the most terrible of consequences for those who will not take God seriously,

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)


A correspondent, (, has called my attention to 1 John 3:4 which gives an excellent insight into repentance and its results:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous. He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:1-10)

Mere outward obedience to the Law makes us no better than the Pharisees, and "he who keeps the whole law but fails in one point is guilty of all of it." (James 2:10), but John reminds us that by God's grace, Christ is willing to live in and through us so that our right conduct comes from the heart.

Illustrations from Scripture:

The following examples will help us gain a better understanding of what is involved in the Biblical concept of repentance:

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God

Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Matthew 3:7-10 But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 3:11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Mark 1:4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 3:3 and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 3:8 Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

Luke 5: 30-32 And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 24:44-48 Then Jesus said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Acts 5:30-32 The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."

Acts 11:18 When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life."

2 Timothy 2: 23-26 Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Hebrews 12:17 For you know that afterward, when he [Esau] desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

Luke 16:19-31 "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"

Luke 17:1-5 And Jesus said to his disciples, "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, `I repent,' you must forgive him." The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 3:12-26 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled.

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.

Moses said, `The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul that does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.' And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came afterwards, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God gave to your fathers, saying to Abraham, `And in your posterity shall all the families of the earth be blessed.' 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness."

Acts 8:22 [to Simon the magician in Samaria] Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.

Acts 17:21-32 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, `To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for `In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.' Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead." Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, "We will hear you again about this."

Acts 26:19-23 "Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles."

Ezekiel 14:4-11 Thus says the Lord GOD: Any man of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him myself because of the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols. "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Repent and turn away from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to inquire for himself of me, I the LORD will answer him myself; and I will set my face against that man, I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people; and you shall know that I am the LORD. And if the prophet be deceived and speak a word, I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear their punishment --the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike--that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, nor defile themselves any more with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, says the Lord GOD."

Ezekiel 18:30 "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.

Ezekiel 24:14 I the LORD have spoken; it shall come to pass, I will do it; I will not go back, I will not spare, I will not repent; according to your ways and your doings I will judge you, says the Lord GOD."

Joel 2:14 Who knows whether he [God] will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, a cereal offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God?

Jonah 3:4-10 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he cried, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. Then tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he made proclamation and published through Nineveh, "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?" When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.

Matthew 3:2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." [John the Baptist}.

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Matthew 11:20-24 Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."

Matthew 21:31-32 Jesus said to them [the chief priests and elders], "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.

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

Psalms 7: 8-17 The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish thou the righteous, thou who triest the minds and hearts, thou righteous God. My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and strung his bow; he has prepared his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. Behold, the wicked man conceives evil, and is pregnant with mischief, and brings forth lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole which he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own pate his violence descends. I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

Isaiah 1:27 Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness.

Jeremiah 5:3 O LORD, do not thy eyes look for truth? Thou hast smitten them, but they felt no anguish; thou hast consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.

Jeremiah 9:5 Every one deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they commit iniquity and are too weary to repent.

Jeremiah 18:6-11 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will repent of the good which I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: `Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.'

Jeremiah 26:2-6 "Thus says the LORD [to Jeremiah]: Stand in the court of the LORD's house, and speak to all the cities of Judah which come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may repent of the evil which I intend to do to them because of their evil doings. You shall say to them, `Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law which I have set before you, and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not heeded, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.'"

Jeremiah 26:13 Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will repent of the evil which he has pronounced against you.

Jeremiah 26:19 Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and entreat the favor of the LORD, and did not the LORD repent of the evil which he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great evil upon ourselves."

Jeremiah 42:10 If you will remain in this land [Babylon], then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I repent of the evil which I did to you.

Exodus 13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest the people repent when they see war, and return to Egypt."

Exodus 32:12 Why should the Egyptians say, `With evil intent did he bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?

1 Samuel 15:11 [God speaking] "I repent that I have made Saul king; for he has turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments." And Samuel was angry; and he cried to the LORD all night.

1 Samuel 15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent."

1 Kings 8:47-53 yet if they lay it to heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to thee in the land of their captors, saying, `We have sinned, and have acted perversely and wickedly'; if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to thee toward their land, which thou gavest to their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name; then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause and forgive thy people who have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions which they have committed against thee; and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are thy people, and thy heritage, which thou didst bring out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace). Let thy eyes be open to the supplication of thy servant, and to the supplication of thy people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to thee. For thou didst separate them from among all the peoples of the earth, to be thy heritage, as thou didst declare through Moses, thy servant, when thou didst bring our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord GOD."[from Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the First temple].

2 Chronicles 6:37-38 "...yet if they lay it to heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to thee in the land of their captivity, saying, `We have sinned, and have acted perversely and wickedly'; if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity, to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which thou gavest to their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name..."

Job 42:1-6 Then Job answered the LORD: "I know that thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of thine can be thwarted. `Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. `Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.' I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

Deuteronomy 30:1-20 "And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you this day, with all your heart and with all your soul; then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes, and have compassion upon you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will fetch you; and the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, that you may possess it; and he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. And the LORD your God will put all these curses upon your foes and enemies who persecuted you. And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD, and keep all his commandments which I command you this day. The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your ground; for the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. "For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, `Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, `Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. "See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."

1 Samuel 15:22-31 And Samuel said [to Saul], "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king." And Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD." And Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel." As Samuel turned to go away, Saul laid hold upon the skirt of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent." Then he said, "I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD your God." So Samuel turned back after Saul; and Saul worshiped the LORD.

Lam. 3: 22-42 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust-- there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men. To crush under foot all the prisoners of the earth, to turn aside the right of a man in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his cause, the Lord does not approve. Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven: "We have transgressed and rebelled, and thou hast not forgiven.

Hosea 2:7 She [Israel] shall pursue her lovers, but not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them. Then she shall say, `I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now.'

Hosea 3:5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.

Hosea 5:4 Their deeds do not permit them [Israel] to return to their God. For the spirit of harlotry is within them, and they know not the LORD.

Hosea 5:15-6:3 {God speaking] I will return again to my place, until they [Israel] acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress they seek me, saying, "Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn, that he may heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the LORD; his going forth is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth."

Hosea 12:6 "So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God."

Hosea 14:1-2 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, "Take away all iniquity; accept that which is good and we will render the fruit of our lips.

Hosea 14:7 They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom as the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Joel 2:12 "Yet even now," says the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil.

Amos 4:6-13 "I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me," says the LORD. "And I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain upon one city, and send no rain upon another city; one field would be rained upon, and the field on which it did not rain withered; so two or three cities wandered to one city to drink water, and were not satisfied; yet you did not return to me," says the LORD. "I smote you with blight and mildew; I laid waste your gardens and your vineyards; your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me," says the LORD. "I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men with the sword; I carried away your horses; and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me," says the LORD. "I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me," says the LORD. "Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" For lo, he who forms the mountains, and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought; who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth --the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name!

2 Chronicles 7:11-14 Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king's house; all that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished. Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Haggai 2:17 I smote you and all the products of your toil with blight and mildew and hail; yet you did not return to me, says the LORD.

Zechariah. 1:3-4 Therefore say to them, Thus says the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. 4 Be not like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, `Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.' But they did not hear or heed me, says the LORD.


1. nacham (Strong's 5162): Exodus 13:17, 32:12, Nu. 23:19, Deut. 32:36, Job 42. 6, Ps 90:13; 110:4, 135:14; Jeremiah 4:28; 18:8, 10; 26: 3:, 13; 42:10, Ezekiel 24:14, Joel 2:14, Jonah 3:9, ; Hos. 13:14, Gen. 6:6,7, Exodus 32:14, Jud. 2:18, 21:6, 15; 1 Sam. 15:35; 2 Sam. 24:16; 1 Chr. 21;15; Psalms 106:45, Jeremiah 8:6, 20:16, 26:19, 31:19; Amos 7: 3, 6; Jonah 3:10, Zech. 8:14. Jonah 4:2, I Sam 15:1l, Joel 2:13, Jeremiah 15:6, Hosea 11:8.

2. shub (7725) found 1060 times in the Old Testament. See Strong's concordance for listings.

3. metanoia, (3341) Mt. 3:8, 11; 9:13, Mark 1:4, 2:17, Luke 3:3, 8; 5:32, 15:7; 24:47, Acts 5:31, 11:18, 13:24, 19:4, 20:21, 26:20; ROM. 2:4, 11:29, 2 COR. 7:9, 10; 2 Tim. 2:25, Heb 6:1, 6; 12:17; 2 Peter 3:9

metanoeo (3340) Mt. 3:2; 4:17, Mark 1:15, 6:12; Luke 13, 3, 5; 16:30, 17:3, 4'; Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:22, 17:30, 2620; Rev. 2:5, 2:16, 2:21, 2:22, :3:3, 3:19,

metamelomai (3338) 2 Cor. 7:8, Heb. 7:21, Mt. 12:29, 32; 27:3.

4. Psychological Elements. Psychology snows repentance to be profound, personal, and all-pervasive. The change wrought in repentance is so deep and radical as to affect the whole spiritual nature and involve the entire personality, including the intellect, the emotions, and the will.

A. Intellect. Repentance is that change of a sinner's mind that leads him or her to turn from evil ways and live. Intellectually, human beings must apprehend sin as unutterably heinous, the divine law as perfect and binding, and themselves as failing short of the requirements of a holy God (cf. Job 42:5f.; Psalms 51:3f. [Matthew 5f.]; Romans 3:20).

B. Emotions. It is possible to have a knowledge of sin without abhorring it as something that dishonors God and ruins humanity: the change of view may lead only to a dread of punishment and not to the hatred and abandonment of sin (cf. Exodus 9:27; Numbers 22:34; 1 Samuel 15:24f.; Matthew. 27:4). A change in emotional attitude is necessarily involved in genuine repentance. A penitent cannot be emotionally indifferent to sin. Before there can be a hearty turning away from unrighteousness, there must be a consciousness of sin's effect on humanity and its offensiveness to God. While sorrow for sin is not the equivalent of repentance, it may be a powerful impulse to a genuine turning from sin. But the type of grief that issues in repentance must be distinguished from that which simply plunges into remorse. There is a godly sorrow and a worldly sorrow: the former brings life, the latter death (cf. Matthew 27:3-5; Luke 18:23; 2 Corinthians 7:9f.). True repentance involves not only a conviction of personal sinfulness but also an earnest appeal to God to forgive according to His mercy (Psalms 5 1:1 f., 10-14 [Matthew 3f., 12-16]).

C. Will. The most prominent element in the psychology of repentance is the volitional. This aspect of the penitent's experience is expressed in the OT by Hebrew, shub (usually translated "turn" or "return") and in the NT by Gk. metanoeo ("repent") or epistrepho ("turn"). These terms chiefly emphasize the will, the change of mind or of purpose (cf. Jeremiah 25:5; Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 7:9f.). The demand for repentance clearly implies human free will and individual responsibility, but it is equally clear that God is represented as taking the initiative in repentance. This paradox reflects the mysterious relationship between the human and the divine personalities. God will accept no external substitute for the necessary internal change. Sackcloth for the body and remorse for the soul are not to be confused with a determined abandonment of sin and a return to God. Not material sacrifice, but a spiritual change, is the inexorable demand of God (cf. Psalms 51:17 1 MT 191 Isaiah 1: 11; Jeremiah 6:20; Hosea. 6:6).

IV. Relation to Salvation. Repentance is only a condition of salvation and not its meritorious ground. The motives for repentance are found chiefly in the sinner's experience of God's kindness (Romans. 2:4), love (John. 3:16), and earnest desire that sinners be saved (Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Tim. 2:4), of the inevitable consequences of sin (Luke 13:1-5), of the universal demands of the gospel (Acts 17:30), and of the hope of spiritual life (John 3:16) and membership in the kingdom of heaven (Mark 1:15). The first four Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-6) describe the steps by which penitent souls pass from the dominion of Satan into the kingdom of God. A consciousness of spiritual poverty dethroning pride, a sense of personal unworthiness producing grief, a willingness to surrender to God in genuine humility, and a strong desire developing into spiritual hunger and thirst, are all part of the experience of one who wholly abandons sin and heartily turns to the God who is able to grant eternal life. (ISBE. 1988 Wm. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids)

Related Article: A Few Notes on Repentance

Other Helpful Messages:

Is Our Repentance for Real?, by Doug Goins
Faith and Repentance, by Doug Goins
Sinful Morality, by Ray Stedman
The Ruthlessness of God, by Lambert Dolphin
The Man Who Denies Sin, by Ray Stedman
How To Repent, by Ray Stedman
The Scars of Sin, by Ray Stedman

February 28, 1999. Updated February 5, 2008, November 23, 2009. March 30, 2020.

spelling and punctuation checked 12July02 RPS