'Repent' in our dictionaries is defined as a verb meaning ‘to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin; to feel remorse, regret, be sorry, rue, reproach oneself, be ashamed, feel contrite; view or think of (an action or omission) with deep regret or remorse’.
While this is accurate, it is not how the Bible talks of repentance. The Bible has a different definition for repentance. The New Testament was originally written in Greek and the word typically translated as ‘repent’ is the Greek word “metanoia”.
It consists of two parts, first ‘meta’ which means ‘to change’. We get our word metamorphosis from this word. Like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon.
The second part, ‘noia’ means to think or to know. Think ‘knowledge’.
Combined, it means ‘to change how we think or what we know’. I think that is interesting! It’s not about not sinning or even being sorry when we do wrong. It’s about thinking differently. But thinking differently about what?
It means “to change your mind; reconsider; or, to think differently.” Granted, if a person changes his mind (repents) toward certain behaviors in his life, he may become very sorrowful and may even stop committing those sins, but this would be a result of repenting, not repentance itself. So it’s not about thinking differently about wrongdoing in our lives.
Many understand the term repentance to mean “turning from sin.” This is not the biblical definition of repentance. Many of us were taught that repenting means to stop doing something, but if that was true we’d all have to stop sinning before we could ask Jesus to save us. Since we can’t stop sinning, none of us would ever be saved.
When God tells an unsaved man to repent, He means for that man to change his mind about how to reach God and accept His way of salvation. The person must change his mind from any idea of saving himself through religion or good works, and trust Jesus’s death as payment for everything he has done wrong. That’s it!
Repent means to change your mind. ABOUT JESUS.
If you already know you need of a savior, you don’t need to repent to be saved, you just need to ask Jesus to save you. If you know your behavior is wrong, you don’t have to repent, just confess.
After we’re saved, then, Jesus sends His Holy Spirit to dwell in us and help us change our behavior, but that happens AFTER, not before, and even then, we really never get it completely right until Christ returns. That’s why we are saved by grace through faith, not by being or doing good.,
The Book of Acts seems to especially focus on repentance regarding salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). To repent is to change your mind regarding Jesus. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38). Repent from what?
Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change their minds about Him, to recognize that He is indeed “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as the Messiah to faith in Him as both Messiah and Savior.
Repentance and Faith
Repentance and faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to place your faith [think trust] in Jesus Christ as your Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to believing in Christ.
It is important that we understand repentance is not something we do to earn salvation. The Bible tells us that repentance is something God gives—it is only possible because of His grace. No one can repent unless God grants repentance. All of salvation, including repentance and faith, is a result of God drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. Put another way, it is the Holy Spirit that reveals Jesus to us for who He is and then invites us to change our thinking about Him.
While repentance is not something that earns us salvation, it should result in different behavior. It is hard to change your mind without changing how you feel about things and changing your actions. If we truly change our minds and agree that Jesus is who He says He is, and believe what He did for us, our actions will change. Hopefully out of gratitude and not out of duty, obligation, ritual and religion.
Repentance, properly defined, is necessary for salvation. Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts 3:19). Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.