Repentance (along with faith) is a covenant requirement of both the Old Covenant (Nacham, BDB 636, KB 688,  e.g., Exod. 13:17; 32:12,14; Shuv, BDB 996, KB 1427, e.g., 1 Kgs. 8:47; Ezek. 14:6; 18:30; see Special Topic: Repentance [OT]) and the New Covenant.

1. John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3,8)

2. Jesus (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32; 13:3,5; 15:7; 17:3)

3. Peter (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 11:18; 2 Pet. 3:9)

4. Paul (Acts 13:24; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20; Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 2:9-10)


But what is repentance?  Is it spiritual sorrow?  Is it a cessation of sinning?  The best place in the NT for understanding the different connotations of this concept is 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, where three related, but different, Greek terms are used. 

1. "sorrow" (lupeō, cf. vv. 8 [twice], 9 [thrice], 10 [twice], 11).  It means grief or distress and has a theologically neutral connotation.

2. "repentance" (metanoeō, cf. vv. 9,10).  It is a compound of "after" and "mind," which implies a new mind, a new way of thinking, a new attitude toward life and God.  This is true repentance.

3. "regret" (metamelomai, cf. vv. 8 [twice], 10).  It is a compound of "after" and "care."  It is used of Judas in Matt. 27:3 and Esau in Heb. 12:16-17.  It implies sorrow over the consequences, not over the acts.


Repentance and faith are the required covenant acts (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38,41; 3:16,19; 20:21). There are some texts which imply that God gives repentance (cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25).  But most of the texts see this as a necessary human covenantal response to God's offer of a free salvation.

The definitions of both the Hebrew and Greek terms are required to grasp the full meaning of repentance.  The Hebrew term demands "a change of action," while the Greek term demands "a change of mind."  The saved person receives a new mind and heart (cf. Ezek. 36:26-27).  He thinks differently and lives differently.  Instead of "What's in it for me?" the question is now "What is God's will?"  Repentance is not an emotion that fades or a total sinlessness, but a new relationship with the Holy One that transforms the believer progressively into a holy one.  It is not so much what one ceases doing or gives up, but a new focus or direction in life.  The Fall causes us all to face self but the gospel allows us to face God.  Repentance is the turning from and faith is the turning to!


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