What Repentance Means

What Repentance Means

A man recently told us, “I can’t repent because I haven’t done anything I need to repent of!” That statement shows ignorance of what repentance means and what we individually should do about it. 

The Hebrew word translated as “repent” in the Old Testament isnacham,” which means to rue or be sorry, as with a sigh. Genesis 6:6-7 tells us that God repented that He made man, and Exodus 32:14, Judges 2:18, and 1 Samuel 15:11 use the same word as God changes His mind about His intents. The Greek word used in the New Testament is “metanoeo” meaning “to have another mind.” We see “metanoia” used many times, including in Matthew 3:2, 4:17,11:20,12:41, Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30, 26:20, and 2 Corinthians 12:21.

As the world sinks deeper and deeper into war, violence, ethnic cleansing, sexism, racism, and immorality, the need for a change of mind among the leaders of all nations is evident. The Old Testament tells us many instances when there was no change of mind, and the results were disastrous. At the same time, It shows that good things can happen when leaders change their thinking. In 2 Kings 23:25, we learn this about King Josiah: “…there was no king before him which turned (repented – changed his thinking) with all his soul and with all his might.” The good that came from that change contrasts with the results of the evil leaders, which is one of the primary messages of the Old Testament.

What repentance means is a change in how we think that will positively influence all we do. Matthew 3:8 tells us to “bring forth fruits which prove your repentance.” In Acts 26:20, Paul tells King Agrippa that all men “should repent and turn to God and live lives consistent with repentance.” Ephesians 4:22-25 urges humanity to learn from their former ways of living by casting off their old nature that produces “deluded passions that grow corrupt” and be “mentally and spiritually remade, clothed with a new nature made by God’s design…”

The call for all of us to repent is not about becoming a ‘goody two shoes’ or claiming to be better than anyone else. It’s about accepting a way of life that leads to peace, confidence, and the best of what life has to offer. This is why repentance is a fundamental part of every biblical call to change ourselves. Acts 2:38, for instance, tells us to REPENT and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you WILL receive the GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. It’s a call to change how we think, and the benefits of that change are immense and eternal.

— John N. Clayton © 2024