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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A TTUF LOOK at REPENTANCE – WHAT IS IT and IS IT NECESSARY?


~ by James Fire

In this day and age, sound doctrine is not being tolerated by the professing/apostate church in startlingly increasing degrees (2 TIM 4:3); likewise, there are legitimate and necessary contentions for “the faith” in our stand for the truth that must happen (JUDE 1:3). Additionally, left and right there are disputes between Dispensationalists and Covenant Theologians (TTUF will be doing an article or possibly a three-part series on Dispensationalism in the near future); between Calvinists and Armenians, between Baptismal Regenerationists and strict Blood atonement salvationists, Baptists (Cessationists) and Pentecostals (Non-Cessationists) and so on and so forth.

Then we have this issue of repentance – some say that a soul cannot be saved until they repent, while others say the Gospel doesn’t contain the pre-requisite of repentance. What is the truth of the matter?

While I hold no pretentions that I will solve this debate for everyone, I will share my views on what I believe the Scriptures teach, in the hopes that those who are uncertain and need instruction will find this article useful and encourage them in their own study of this doctrine.

Firstly, let’s examine what we mean when we talk about “repentance” by looking at key words in both the Hebrew (for the OT Scriptures) and the Greek (for the NT).
We have different words in the Bible: “repent, repentance, repented, repenting” and others in the KJV Bible. 
The Hebrew uses different words for these; the Greek, as well. We will examine the meanings of these words and go over some of the verses throughout Scripture that employ them as to get a better grasp of how they are used in context.

Note: the numbers you see are references from the Strong’s Concordance. These numbers are hyper-linked so that you can read the meanings for yourself.

Some examples where these words are used in the Old and New Testaments

In the Old Testament, the word for “repent” as well as for “repentest, repenteth and repenting” in the Hebrew is “nacham (5162) – to sigh, to breath strongly, to be sorry (in a favorable sense), pity, console, rue/regret, avenge oneself, comfort, repent – it is a strong turning in a new course of action, a positive course of action, exerting strength to change.
Ø  This word is mostly used to describe God’s repentance – (GEN 6:6; JER 18:8,10; JOEL 2:13).

In the reference to GENESIS 6, God is expressing His grief, and His sorrow, His rueful feelings (“strong regret”) regarding the rebellious and sinful attitudes and action of mankind. In light of the plan of salvation that He determined since before the foundation of the Earth (EPH 1:3-6), we know that ultimately, this strong regret was overshadowed by the cross of Christ, that would bring satisfaction to the heart of GOD and restoration with His creation. Repentance here, in regards to the LORD, signifies regret not a turning away from sin.

In the account of Jonah, preaching doom in the city of Nineveh, the word was “forty days and comes destruction.” No elaboration, no specifics on how this destruction would happen, just the pronouncement by a just and holy GOD that this city was toast! 

Yet we read what happened – the people mourned in sackcloth – even their animals were draped in sackcloth, and hoped for the best, and GOD in His mercy, spared them. He changed His mind, not because He didn’t see the outcome and when the people repented, He obliged them – He knew already that the people would do this, and so, the LORD changed the course of that city’s destiny and spared them, just as Jonah suspected He would (JONAH 4:2).

In JEREMIAH 18, the LORD expresses His response to any nation that repents just as He responded in Nineveh. The word for repent here, indicates a change – of mind, of attitude, of action. It’s very much the same in these other references as well.

In the following verse, as well as the previous references in Psalms and Jeremiah, the word applies in the majority of cases to God. In this verse from EXODUS 32, Moses is imploring with GOD, not to destroy the nation as He seemed to intend, and further, He was going to raise up through Moses “a great nation” instead. Again, the LORD knows all things, and He knew that Moses would suggest the following for the sake of GOD’s Holy Name:

EXODUS 32:12-14
12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Thy fierce wrath and repent of this evil against Thy people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever. 
14 And the Lord repented of the evil [tribulation, turmoil, trouble, catastrophe] which he thought to do unto his people. See also PSALM 90:13; 110:4; JER 26:13.

In PSALM 110, GOD declares He will not repent (change His mind, or course of action) regarding the Son, making His priesthood of the order of Melchizedek.

In the reference to JEREMIAH 26, the LORD is admonishing His people to amend their ways, as well as their doings by obedience to Him – and He will change His mind regarding “the evil [the tribulation, trouble, hardships, calamities] that He has pronounced”.
Ø  Then we have the alternate rendering of this word nacham, where it involves people repenting, rather than GOD.

EZEKIEL 14:4-6
Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged
(“no longer close or affectionate to someone; alienated, intentionally distant and aloof from another’s love”.) from me through their idols. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus, saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

Also, EZEK 18:30
30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, everyone according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin
.

The people here are called upon to change their minds, and their deeds in these transgressions that they committed.
Here we have both God and man turning/turning away (repenting) in their respective manners.

JOEL 2:12-14
12 Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. 14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God
?

The Hebrew word for “repentance” is “nocham” (5164) meaning “ruefulness/regret, desistance (to stop doing something, cease ,abstain), repentance, closely associated with nacham (the previously defined word). This Hebrew word for “repentance” is found in the following verse from the Old Testament:

HOSEA 13:14
14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes
.

We know that death is the last enemy that the LORD will destroy (1 COR 15:26), and here, speaking idiomatically of the “grave” He addresses His plan of action without any alteration or ‘last minute’ change of heart – death will be destroyed and there is no changing GOD’s mind about it! Hallelujah!

And “repentings” is nichum” (5150) – to be consoled, solace, comforted, repentings.
“Repentings” found in the OT:

HOSEA 11:8
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together
.

Even while pronouncing severe judgments upon His people: two thirds of them being wiped out by the war with Assyria, and the resulting plagues and diseases and famines and the majority that was left being dragged off to the foreign land, here in the midst of all that, His heart is moved with compassion and is intending on turning the fate of Israel away from utter ruin by “the fierceness of [His] anger”.

The New Testament rendition of repentance has a greater emphasis on a changing of one’s mind and involves turning from sin and towards God (the prodigal son parable is striking in its example of this). Christ began His ministry with a call to repentance (MATT 4:17); yet opposite of the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), John’s gospel has no mention of repentance, but rather the effects of repentance are stressed in this fourth Gospel account – the new birth and generally in the active turning from sin to God by the exercise of faith (JOHN 3:3; 9:38; 1 JOHN 1:9). 

This is why those who deny repentance as something that GOD requires will often quote verses from John’s Gospel rather from the others.

In the New Testament, the word for “repent” as well as “repented, repenteth” is (3340) “metanoeo” meaning, “to think differently or afterwards, reconsider, to morally feel compunction [“a feeling of guilt or moral scruple that either prevents or follows the doing of something bad”]. To change one’s mind, the seat of moral reflection, a change for the better, an amendment, repentance from sin. The word is used in the synoptic Gospels (9x in Luke alone); also, 5x in Acts, 12x in Revelation and 8 of those times in the messages to the seven churches.

There are three steps in metanoeo:

1) receiving of new knowledge*,
2) regret for the previous course of action and displeasure with self
**, and then
3) a change of action, has reference to particulars, to the entire life, signifies nothing but regret even amounting to remorse, that reversal of moral purpose known as repentance
***.

*Receiving new knowledge entails discovering the offense of GOD by our breaking His Holy Laws and the judgment for such sin that’s in store for all unrepentant sinners. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love of GOD expressed in the crucifixion of Christ, the atonement purchased by it and cleansing us of sin and offering new life and a new nature through the Spirit of GOD are all realized by the unredeemed sinner when GOD so chooses to reveal these truths to him. This leads a soul to change their mind regarding the Person of Jesus, their attitude towards sin, and their desire for a relationship with GOD.

**Regret for offending GOD in light of His good will towards us in the offering up of His Son for our salvation and understanding how, by our own willful sin, we have broken more than His Law, we have broken His heart – and this results in “displeasure” – even the despising of self. This work in the heart of the sinner is not initiated by the sinner – because no one of themselves, desires or seeks after or understands GOD (ROM 3:10-12); rather this is the work of the Holy Spirit upon such a heart, and He seeks for the wayward soul to yield to such conviction of sin:

JOHN 16:7-11
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged
.

***Any change of action on the part of the sinner, cannot be understood as a self-righteous work, but the inner work of the Holy Spirit acting upon such a one and leading them to repentance (ACTS 5:31; 11:18; 2 TIM 2:25). There is only so much that a sinner can do before he finds himself helpless to perform that he knows is right in his mind, what he knows would be pleasing to the LORD, but unable to perform in his own power. 

This is the dilemma that Paul elaborates on in ROMANS 7: in the weakness of his own flesh, in light of his conscience which knows right from wrong and such light granted and augmented by the Holy Spirit, but the inability to live righteously (ROM 7:18 "for to will is present with me; but how to perform [ability] that which is good I find not").

Think of the man with the withered hand in MATT 12: his hand, or more precisely, his arm from elbow to fingertips was entirely paralyzed. Yet the LORD commanded him to stretch his arm out. It was paralyzed! How could he obey this command, any more than a sinner could truly repent in action and not just thought and intent alone? As this man had a willingness of heart to obey, GOD provided the ability to obey – and he stretched forth his arm, and it was no longer paralyzed!

It’s by GOD’s grace and power, that when a sinner repents in heart and intent, that the LORD provides the Gospel truth and by faith, salvation occurs for the sinner turned saint, and now they are able to repent in action.

Repentance leads us to the cross, and the cross to salvation. Repentance in itself can never provide salvation but is the means of delivering the sinner to the mercies of GOD via Calvary.

Repentance is not

• Penance or restitution; what works could we possibly do that would earn us salvation?
• Mere tears and trembling (ACTS 24:25; HEB 12:17)
• Fear of judgment. There are multitudes who desire to be saved from hell (it’s the natural instinct of self-preservation) but these multitudes are quite unwilling to be saved from or turn away from sin.
Yes, there are tens of thousands who have been deluded into thinking that they have ‘accepted Christ as their Savior’ whose lives plainly show a lack of fruit or growing in spiritual likeness to Christ, and that they have rejected Him as their Lord (LUKE 6:46). Genuine salvation brings about genuine change, and genuine fruit.
• Remorse ...we must all learn to distinguish between the sorrow that comes from being caught & the sorrow that comes from a deep, inward hatred of sin and longing for the glory of God;

2 COR 7:8-11
8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

MATTHEW 5:3-4
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted
.

Repentance is not

• Confession or admission of sin. Salvation is never promised to those who only confess their sin (1 JOHN 1:9 is a promise to Christians). Prisons are full of people who have confessed their sins – but have they by faith received the LORD Jesus Christ and His Gospel?
• Reformation or turning over a new leaf. Rehab centers have scores of individuals who ‘kicked the habit’; people who prey on other family members with physical abuse receive help and learn to refrain from such sinful conduct – these have succeeded in stopping – but this doesn’t qualify as repentance.

MATTHEW 3:1-2
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand
.

MATTHEW 4:17
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand
.

Also, LUKE 13:3-5
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish
.

See also ACTS 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 26:20 and various verses as found in REV 2:5,16,21,22; and REV 3:3,19.

Godly sorrow leads to repentance (change of mind about Christ, about sin, about self, accompanied by conviction of the Holy Spirit that we are in the wrong and need to turn around) and repentance leads to faith in Christ. Godly sorrow does not save a soul, nor does repentance save a soul, but these leads a person to faith in Christ, and professing Christ and belief in the finished work of the cross, according to the Gospel, and that IS what saves a soul!

There is another word used for “repent” which is “metamelomai” (3338) and it refers to caring afterwards, to regret, repent (self) – stresses a change of the will which results in change in single individual actions – as mentioned in 2 COR 7:8. Whereas metanoeo refers to a change of mind, metamelomai refers to a change of emotional state. 
The word for “repentance” has two different Greek words used; (3341) “metanoia is the more common word:
[“ametameletos” (278) used in only these instances (And “repented” also uses the same uncommon Greek word, ametameletos): “ametameletos” – irrevocable, without repentance, found in these two references (ROM 11:29; 2 COR 7:10).]
ACTS 11:18
18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life
.

metanoia” – compunction (for guilt including reformation); by implication, a reversal; an afterthought, change of mind, repentance, repentance from sin or evil, except in HEB 12:17, where the word seems to mean, not simply a change of mind but such a change as would reverse the effects of his own previous state of mind; the mercy of God in giving repentance or leading men to it is set forth in ACTS 5:31; 11:18; ROM 2:4; 2 TIM 2:25.

The Greek word for “repentance” – metanoia is found in the following verses:

MATTHEW 3:7-8,11
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits
[acceptable] for repentance:
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire
:

MATTHEW 9:13
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance
. (See also MARK 2:17)
So, can sinners truly repent? The LORD Jesus expects this of them, otherwise He wouldn’t make such a call.

LUKE 15:7
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance
.

LUKE 24:47
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem
.

ACTS 5:31
31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins
.

So, to summarize all of this, let’s make it very clear: both the Old Testament and New express it plainly that repentance, not merely belief, but repentance and belief – in the Word of GOD, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ – is necessary.

Repentance, which is granted by the LORD, by itself doesn’t save us, but prepares us for salvation
It is “the good soil” that we see in the parables of the sower – the other three examples were examples of hard heartedness, a love and care for the things of this world, and demonic interference – but the good soil is that which receives the seed and brings forth good fruit (not tares – false converts that are planted by Satan) which demonstrates genuine salvation.

Scripture seems to indicate that repentance is indeed a change of mind and a change of our emotional state, a regret and even a godly sorrow for our sin and self-loathing for having committed sin against the LORD and for hurting Him. Repentance is not salvation but leads to salvation.

LUKE 15:7
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance
.

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