A Look at "REPENTANCE"
Various Other Terms Related to Salvation
(Terms found within the context of the word "repentance")
PART 1 -
Background and Need for Repentance
A. God and his part in repentance: God relates to humans in
Some verses focus on God's relationship to us as the Sovereign
Creator. This "behind the scenes" perspective - the
Creator's view - can be seen in Scripture, but is difficult for us to
understand, since we can only comprehend reality from the perspective
of created beings. (This perspective is probably the basis for the
verses listed in Section A-3, below.)
- Other verses focus on God as coming down to our own level and
interacting with us in ways that we can understand - and
which leave us, therefore, accountable for our response. This is the
more "visible" way that God relates to us. It is on this
level that God gives us his Word, and that Jesus died and rose again.
It is on this level that he shows us his kindness and offers us
salvation. Also on this level, we will one day bow down before him,
as our Savior, King and Judge. (This perspective is probably the
basis for the verses listed in Sections A-4, A-5, and A-6.)
- God grants, or gives, repentance to people -
Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25.
- God commands us to repent - Acts 17:30. [Those
who are willing to obey God will choose to obey this command.]
- God patiently holds back the day of judgment, because he desires
for us to repent (rather than perish) - 2 Peter 3:9. [Verse 10 - He
will not hold it back forever; judgment will eventually come.]
- God shows kindness to us, for the purpose of leading us toward
repentance - Romans 2:4. (Of course, this doesn't guarantee that we
will pay attention to his leading.)
B. Why should a person repent?
Because of the coming of God's kingdom - Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark
1:15. [Note: In one sense, God's kingdom has already come: It is now
present in the heart of everyone who turns to God in repentance and
faith. In another sense, it has not yet come: When Jesus returns, it
will be visibly, physically present; Jesus himself will rule over the earth.]
- Because God commands it; because we have sinned, and judgment is
coming - Acts 17:30-31; 2 Peter 3:7, 9-10, etc.
C. Before a person can repent, he must be made aware of his need
Through someone preaching or proclaiming the good news - Matthew
4:17; Mark 1:4; 6:12; Luke 3:3; 24:47; Acts 13:24; 19:4; 20:21;
- By paying attention to what was learned in the past - Revelation
3:3. (This would apply if the person already knew the truth.)
- Under certain conditions, miracles could apparently help make a
person aware of his needs - Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13. But miraculous
events are of no value to anyone who has rejected God's Word
- Luke 16:30.
- [Note that repentance is one of the "basic teachings"
of the faith - Hebrews 6:1.]
- EXAMPLE - Jesus came to call sinners to repentance - Luke 5:32.
He came to proclaim repentance to people who needed it and who were
willing to admit they needed it. (This is also found, in some
translations, in Matthew 9:13 and Mark 2:17.)
- NOTE: Jesus didn't come to spend his time with those who wouldn't
admit that they had any need for repentance, and who wouldn't pay
attention to what he said - Luke 5:32. After all, righteous people
don't need to repent, according to Luke 15:7! [Actually these people
(in Luke 5:32) who refused to repent could probably be better
described as "self-righteous," for apart from
Jesus, nobody is righteous!]
- Comment #1: Some passages focus on people who need to repent, who
have never done so in the past. Other passages focus on
people who have already turned to the truth, but who have fallen into
sin. A person must repent (and believe) when he wants to receive
salvation. But he must also have a continuing attitude of repentance,
every time he discovers sin in his life. (None of us are totally
sinless, and we will not be totally sinless, until the day we see
Christ in person, and he completes the changes he has begun in our lives.)
- Comment #2: It is possible for a person to have a shallow,
temporary "repentance." Such a person may appear to accept
the truth (and salvation), but it never really takes hold in his
heart. Many of these people eventually turn away from the truth, and
never come back. A verse that illustrates this can be found in Section
D. A person must know that repentance involves turning "away
from" one thing, and going "to" (or "into")
Away from evil deeds and wickedness, etc. - Acts 8:22; 2 Corinthians
12:21; Hebrews 6:1; Revelation 2:21; 9:20-21; 16:11.
- To God, to the knowledge of the truth, into a lifestyle that is
characterized by actions that please God, etc. - Acts 3:19; 20:21.
E. A person must respond to the call for repentance.
He may accept the truth and repent. [Go to the verses in PART
- He may reject the truth and refuse to repent. [Go to the verses
in Section F.]
- A special situation: a person may temporarily
accept the truth, and then totally reject it. A person who has
totally rejected the truth he was once exposed to, will never again
turn back to it - Hebrews 6:4-6. (He will never want to turn
back to the truth.) [NOTE: We won't always know when this has
happened. God knows, however, for he sees the heart clearly.]
F. What about those who refuse to repent?
Some of the verses in this section were written about people who claimed
to be "Christian," yet had never turned away from
their sins. They may have convinced themselves (and even other
people) that they were saved, but God knew they were fakes.
- Concerning those who have unrepentant hearts: This unrepentant
attitude is associated with numerous other sins. A few examples
include: not paying attention to God's Word - Luke 16:30-31;
stubbornness - Romans 2:5; a list of various sins - 2 Corinthians
12:21; and cursing God - Revelation 16:9, 11.
- A general statement about these people: They are storing-up wrath
against themselves; they will perish - Luke 13:3, 5; Romans 2:5.
- What Jesus said about people who rejected him: A horrible
judgment would one day come upon them - Matthew 11:20-22; 12:41; Luke
- What Jesus says to people who claim to be "Christian,"
yet remain unrepentant: Jesus himself will oppose them; when he
returns, they will not be ready - Revelation 2:5 (he will remove
their "lamp stand" from his presence); 2:16 (he will fight
against them); 2:21-22 (they will be punished); 3:3 (he will catch
them unprepared for his return; he will be like a thief sneaking up
- An effect such people have on genuine Christians: They are often
a cause for grief, to genuine Christians - 2 Corinthians 12:21. (The
genuine Christians would be concerned over the unrepentant person's
condition and potential fate.)
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PART 2 -
Things That Are Directly Associated with Repentance
A. What else happens, when a person repents?
The things in this section are closely connected with repentance.
Some appear to occur immediately before repentance, some during, and
some immediately after one's repentance.
- There are many dimensions to the act (or process) of salvation.
There are things that God does, to make it possible; there are things
that we do, in response to God's call. Logically, what God
does must come first, but chronologically, from our
perspective, many of these things seem to occur simultaneously. (Part
of what God does occurs "behind the scenes," and we
wouldn't know about it, except that God has told us about it.)
- From our perspective, some aspects of salvation, such as the
beginning of a new life united with Christ, occurred at the moment
that we put our trust in him. Some aspects, such as becoming more
"Christ-like," are an on-going process. Finally, other
aspects, such as the completion of all that God has begun in us
(Philippians 1:6), are reserved for the future.
- Some aspects of salvation occurred when Jesus died and rose again.
- From God's perspective, there is even an aspect of salvation that
occurred before the world ever existed!
- The concepts mentioned below are mainly those that are found in
context with the word "repentance." These will, more often
than not, focus on the "human responsibility" aspect
of salvation, and are not intended to deny the role God has
in salvation. This study does not give a complete picture of
everything related to salvation. (Many other verses focus on the
issue of salvation, but they do not contain the word
"repentance," which is the focus of this study.)
- For things we do, that seem to occur at the beginning of repentance
- Section B.
- For things we do, that seem to occur at the same time as repentance
- Section C.
- For things we do, that appear to be the immediate result of repentance
(or a response to it) - Sections D and E.
- [See PART 3 for the benefits (and responsibilities) of having repented.]
B. Things we do that appear to be associated with
the beginning of repentance.
A person must come to his senses (he must "wake-up" to the
truth of his condition) - Revelation 3:3.
- He must do something (be "earnest") rather than
passively doing nothing - Revelation 3:19.
- Godly sorrow - 2 Corinthians 7:9-10.
- Obeying the message that was received - Revelation 3:3.
C. Things we do that appear to occur
simultaneously with repentance.
Turning to God - Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:20.
- Believing the good news, trusting God, etc. - Mark 1:15; Acts
19:4; 20:21. [Note: Along with repentance, faith (trust) in God is
one of the basic teachings of Christianity - Hebrews 6:1.]
- "Opening the door" to Jesus - Revelation 3:19-20.
[Note: These people were claiming that they were already saved and
had no spiritual needs.]
D. Things we do that are closely connected to
repentance, but which appear to be an immediate (and often ongoing)
response to it.
Praying - Acts 8:22 [Note: In this specific instance, repentance and
prayer were commanded, but it appears that neither occurred.]
- The "fruit of repentance" - works (deeds) that please
God - Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20 (deeds appropriate for
repentance); Revelation 2:5 (about people who had become lazy in
their obedience - they needed to return to the obedience they
originally had, as an expression of love to Jesus Christ).
- Baptism - see Section E.
E. Baptism and repentance
Note #1: In Jesus' day, when a person turned to God, he didn't wait
months or years before he was baptized. Nor did he take "baptism
classes." Instead, baptism was considered to be one of the
first expressions of repentance and turning to God. (This would
be followed, of course, by additional expressions of life, such as
the "fruit of repentance.") Repentance and baptism were
closely associated - though, technically, baptism (if it really meant
anything) could not occur until the person had repented. [If
the repentance didn't occur, then the baptism really didn't have any
value. It doesn't guarantee salvation. Acts 8:13, 20-23
records an instance in which a person believed something about the
truth and was baptized - yet he still had a wicked, unrepentant heart.]
- Note #2: The initial act of repentance must come before
baptism. But from another perspective, if we look at repentance as an ongoing
attitude, we could say it comes after baptism. This assumes
that the baptism is being viewed as one of the first expressions of
the new life a person receives, when he turns to God. Both of these
perspectives can be seen in various verses, below. [Today, since many
churches place a large time gap between these two actions, the
connection between them is much less evident.]
- A baptism "of" repentance - a baptism that expresses
(or symbolizes) the repentance that has occurred in one's heart -
Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4.
- Baptism "for" repentance - a baptism that is meant for
those who have become repentant or which symbolizes one's entrance
into a repentant lifestyle - Matthew 3:11. (The word "for"
is not used in the sense of "in order to get" repentance.)
- Repent "and" be baptized - do the one, followed by the
other - Acts 2:38. [Note: The people being addressed had already
accepted the truth which Peter preached (v. 37). This shows that the
"believing" aspect of salvation was already present,
though not directly mentioned in v. 38.]
- Water baptism (associated with repentance) is contrasted with
Sprit baptism (associated with salvation) - Matthew 3:11. This
reminds us that merely changing our lifestyle does not result
in salvation. We must trust (believe in) Jesus, and what he did, for
our salvation. It is because of what Jesus did (and does),
that we can receive (be baptized by) the Holy Spirit. [The water
baptism focuses on our response - what we do. It
has significance only because of what Jesus did (and does).]
- [For further information, a study is available on the topic of
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PART 3 -
The Benefits (and Responsibilities) of Having Repented
A. What happens to the person who has repented?
Comment #1: As mentioned previously (in PART 2),
salvation has many dimensions. There are things that God does
for us and in us. There are also things that God requires us to
do - many of which are made possible because of what God has done.
The verses that use the word "repentance" tend to focus on
what the person is required to do (or what happens to him
because of his repentance). However, this focus does not
imply a denial of the other dimensions of salvation, such as what God
does in salvation.
- Comment #2: Repentance focuses on the human responsibility.
But that alone, without the other dimensions of salvation, will not
bring about the following results. An in-depth study of the following
concepts would show that God is also very much involved. In
fact, it would lead us to conclude that we ought to give God the
credit and glory for our salvation, rather than taking it ourselves.
[We won't deny the fact that we did the repenting, but when
we realize how terribly enslaved we once were to sin, we would want
to give God the credit, even for what we did! We would say
that what he did made our repentance possible.]
- Removal of one's sins; forgiveness of sins - Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3;
24:47 (repentance and forgiveness will be preached...); Acts 2:38;
3:19 (sins wiped out); 5:31; 8:22.
- Knowledge of the truth (a life-giving knowledge, not mere
superficial acceptance of a list of facts and teachings) - 2 Timothy
2:25. [Note: These people may have considered themselves to be part
of the church; they may have thought they were saved. But the fact
that they did not accept the truth showed differently.]
- Salvation and life - 2 Corinthians 7:10 (salvation); Acts 11:18 (life).
- Fellowship with God - Revelation 3:19-20. [Note: These people did
not have this fellowship. They claimed they were
"Christians," and had no need of anything, but Jesus
claimed that they had a need for everything!]
- No regret for having repented - 2 Corinthians 7:10.
B. What impact does one's repentance and salvation have on others?
Joy in heaven - Luke 15:7, 10.
- God is glorified - Revelation 16:9 (implied - these specific
people refused to glorify God).
- Happiness on the part of other Christians - 2
Corinthians 7:9 (an example).
C. The need to follow God's example
Those who claim that they are God's children must be willing to
follow God's example. If, instead, they continue to follow the
devil's example, there are good reasons to doubt the genuineness of
their "repentance." Remember that the genuineness of our
repentance is shown by our deeds - Acts 26:20.
- We must forgive others who sin against us, when they repent -
Luke 17:3-4. (God forgave our sins against him, when we repented. We must
follow God's example. See Matthew 6:12, 14-15.)
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Dennis Hinks © 2001