What Is Repentance?
Question: What is repentance?
Answer: Repentance is turning from sin to God, as a result of a change of mind and heart about sin.
1. The necessity of repentance
- God commands it of all people everywhere (Acts 17:30).
- Unless we repent, we will perish (Luke 13:3, 5).
- Repentance is the first response demanded of us if we are to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38).
- Repentance is the first condition God imposes if we are to find Him (Zech. 1:3, 4; Acts 20:21).
- Repentance is a condition of cleansing (Isa. 6:5-7).
- Repentance is a condition of forgiveness (Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19).
- Repentance is a condition of entry into the kingdom of heaven (Matt.4:17).
- Repentance is a condition of eternal life (Acts 11:18).
- Repentance is a condition of escaping the judgment of God upon sin (Acts 17:30, 31).
2. Repentance is turning from sin to God
- Repentance is the result of the eyes of the mind being opened to understand our need as sinners before God (Acts 26:17, 18).
- Repentance is associated with the idea of turning (Acts 3:19; 26:20).
- Repentance is turning away from acts that lead to death (Heb. 6:1); it is turning from wicked ways (2 Chron. 7:14); it is turning from our sins and giving attention to God's truth (Dan. 9:13); it is turning away from our evil ways to God (Ezek. 33:11).
- Repentance involves the recognition of sin as failure to keep God's decrees or laws (Mal. 3:7).
- Repentance means seeing how awful sin is in God's sight (Ps. 51:4), and recognising the afflictions of our own heart (1 Kings 8:38).
- Conviction of sin is necessary for repentance to take place (Acts 2:37, 38).
- Repentance involves a real sorrow and grief because of sin (Luke 22:62; 2 Cor. 7:8-10).
- Repentance brings such a sense of shame (Ezra 9:6-15; Jer. 31:19) that we despise ourselves for our sin (Job 42:6).
- Repentance is the wicked forsaking their evil ways and thoughts and returning to the Lord, that He may have mercy on them and freely pardon them (Isa. 55:7).
- Repentance means inevitably a fundamental break with the past (Luke 9:23, 24; 14:26, 27, 33).
3. Characteristics of true repentance
- Unfortunately false repentance is a possibility: Saul (1 Sam. 15:24-30) and Ahab (1 Kings 21:27-29) provide examples of false repentance.
- True repentance springs from a recognition of God as the Lord (Jer. 3:22).
- It is seen in sorrow for sin (Joel 2:12; 2 Cor. 7:9).
- It is rational and openly declared (Hos. 14:2).
- It is accompanied by confession, renunciation and dedication (Hos. 14:1-3).
- It is wholehearted (Joel 2:12, 13).
- It is humble (Jonah 3:6; 2 Chron. 7:14; Jas. 4:9, 10).
- It is a work and a gift of God (Acts 11:18).
4. Motives for repentance
- God's character is a tremendous encouragement to repentance. He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Joel 2:13).
- God's patience with us should lead us towards repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
- God's kindness is meant to lead us to a change of heart about sin (Rom. 2:4).
- God pleads with us to repent (Isa. 30:15).
- God never despises repentance (Jonah 3:9; Luke 15:7, 10).
- Christ came to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).
- Repentance is called for in the light of what God has accomplished for sinners through Christ's saving work (Acts 3:18, 19; 5:31).
- Repentance is the first part of conversion, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the second (Acts 20:21; Mark 1:15).
5. Evidences of repentance
- True repentance brings no regret but leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10).
- Practical reformation is to be expected (Judg. 6:25-27; Luke 19:8).
- Actions follow that give proof of a change of mind about sin (Joel 2:12; Acts 26:20), especially restitution where necessary (Ezek.33:14-16).
- Repentance produces appropriate fruit (Matt. 3:8; Luke 13:6-9).