What is meant by repentance?
In the Old Testament for God to have grace on an individual or a nation like Israel they needed to repent. Meaning to change their direction and ways. Heb – shuwb, a primitive root; to turn back (New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary)
2 Chron. 30:9 "For if you return to the LORD, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive, so that they may come back to this land; for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him."
Grace was under the law in the Old Testament but in the new covenant grace is above the law, it is reversed. It was especially offered to Israel whom God covenanted with.
Joel 2:12-13 "Now, therefore," says the LORD, "Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”
Jer 18:7-10 "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,"if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. "And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, "if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.”
We have a great example of this principle, the Lord relented on Nineveh using Jonah to bring the message of repentance.
There are some today that are popularizing a new interpretation, that repentance has nothing to do with the new covenant.
In the New Testament it says both John the baptizer, and Jesus came preaching repentance.
Matt 3:8 "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,” meaning they show a change of life that agrees with their confession.
"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).
"But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Matthew 9:13).
The disciples did the same, "And they went out, and preached that men should repent" (Mark 6:12).
The Greek word for “repentance” metanoia, basically means “to change one's mind.” Repentance is often used as a synonym for belief, (over thirty times). It is not a separate act from faith or believing when it is for salvation. However there are some exceptions on how it is used elsewhere.
Lk 24:47 “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
In the generation that Jesus ministered to, a Jew had to change one's mind about who the Messiah is in order to be saved. They as a nation they rejected their Messiah and were the perverse generation Peter mentions in Acts 2. Here we see Repentance is used as a synonym for belief and faith, for salvation. Peter told the Jews in Acts 2 to repent from following their leaders that led them to reject Jesus by calling him demon possessed, so they had to repent of their rejection to believe he was their Messiah, they had to change their mind on him. Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Repentance was used for believing unto for salvation, and “they were baptized” showing publicly they now believed in the one they formerly rejected; it resulted in an action, by baptism. And the promise of receiving the Holy Spirit like those in the upper room would take place.
This declaration to repentance is repeated for salvation for the Jews who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah , "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).
The declaration to repent was not always accepted.
Acts 5:31-33"Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.”
Peter reiterates the same but gives us the Lords perspective… “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).
Repentance is a necessary element for those who are both unsaved and saved.
Paul did teach repentance Acts17:30 “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” God commands ALL, not a suggestion.
Paul spoke to Jews and gentiles of their repentance; it is shown by a changed life.
Act 26:19-20 "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.”
This means we change our mind and our direction, exercising faith, we now follow the Lord. Paul preached in Acts 20:20-21: “how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Paul preached repentance. See 2 Cor. 7:2-12; Eph 4:17-24; 2 Tim 2:19-21; Titus 2:11-15).
Rom. 2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” This verse is heard more than any other on repentance, this goodness is his grace and mercy, for the grace of God has appeared to all men. God withholding his judgment brings you to that place of decision.
Paul writes to the church 2 Cor. 12:21: “lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.” Here Paul wants the believers behavior changed so they prove they are saved..
Paul also spoke of repentance on behavior to the believers in the church
2 Cor. 7:8-10 “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
Paul writing to the church is speaking of a sorrow of doing wrong and sinning after one is saved that will change their direction and bring deliverance.
Heb. 6:1 “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God”
Repentance of our religious works without faith; this is a basic foundation of those who believe to understand it does not bring any fruit or rewards.
It is also not necessary to see the word repentance in Scripture, as the principle is seen it in responding in an action in numerous examples. Paul writes Col 3:8-10: “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” In other words turn from these, stop doing them.
A teaching being popularized is that repentance has nothing to do with a believer’s life, it only is the Old Testament period.
Here Jesus is speaking to the churches in Asia to repent – but not just of unbelief, but their actions.
Rev. 2:5: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-- unless you repent."
Rev. 2:16 “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
Rev. 2:21 Pergamos – “And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.”
Rev. 2:22 “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds."
Rev. 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
The way we know of someone’s spiritual maturity is how quick they repent when it is told to them of their wrong and offense to another. This is not just good for the believer, but is also good for the pastor.