Fundamental Doctrines of the Bible - Repentance
Repentance - "to change one's mind."
Repentance is a rather old-fashioned sounding word that some Christians are uncomfortable with, and yet both the Lord Jesus and the Apostles used it frequently, over forty times in the New Testament! Its meaning is rather simple and uncomplicated.
We can define "Repentance", or "to Repent" as "to change one's mind", "to think differently", "to reconsider."
Here are some examples of its use in scripture:
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: REPENT ye, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:15
"The times of ignorance, indeed, God overlooked; but He now commandeth all men everywhere to REPENT." Acts 17:301
"...for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to REPENTANCE." Matthew 9:13
Repentance is the precondition for "all men" who come to God expecting salvation. The context in which the word is largely used makes it clear that the things people are being commanded to repent of are sins.
There is a heresy that states that God does not command people to repent of sins, but simply to repent of not believing in Jesus. This is easily refuted by observing Christ's own words in John 16:8-9 "And when He (the Holy Spirit) is come, He will reprove the world of sin... of sin, because they believe not on me." In other words, not believing in Jesus IS a sin!
In the light of the gospel, sins and ultimately sin as a principle are both revealed and reproved by God. This is as necessary as a doctor exposing a wound in order to remove the infected tissue and bring healing to the patient. Why do so few submit themselves to this inspection? Because they come to the knowledge that they cannot continue in their sins and serve God; they must repent of their sins or be condemned, "and this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." John 3:19-20
One of the main differences between truly spiritual Christianity and its manmade counterfeit "Religion," is that genuine Christianity requires both an inward, as well as outward repentance. This is perhaps most clearly seen in these words from Isaiah 55: 7, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."
The Christian is expected to "forsake" not only his outward actions, which have been, by turns perverse, selfish, dishonest, and indeed "wicked;" but he is also expected to "forsake" his unrighteous thoughts, since the thoughts of an "unrighteous man" are by definition "unrighteous."
Once we have repented from our wicked "way" and our unrighteous thoughts, indeed we must continue in an attitude of repentance "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5
Repentance is sometimes confused with salvation. An individual may repent of their sins, but this is not salvation. Repentance must be followed by faith in Jesus. This, ultimately, is the condition that God requires for salvation. Saving faith is God's gift, but it is His gift to a repentant heart.
Verses for Memorizing and Meditating Upon:
1. Wesley's updated A.V., Explanatory Notes on the New Testament - John Wesley, M.A.