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Repent! What does it mean?

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament. To understand what repent means it is essential to refer to the original languages. The word repent is an old English word and was not found in the Bible until the King James version of the Bible was translated from the original texts in the year 1611. The word had a meaning to the people of that time but today it really has no meaning or common usage in our modern English.

Many churches teach that it means to feel sorry for sins. Others teach that it means to turn away from sin. Actually, the word repent has nothing whatever to do with sin. It is found in many places in the Bible but I will take two examples to demonstrate it’s meaning.

First of all there are two different Greek words which have different meanings that have been translated “repent”. It should be noted that when the Bible is translated into other languages the translators, being human, are subject to making errors. Only the original languages were inspired writings. Yes, I am saying that the King James Bible and other versions have translation errors in them. In addition, the English language has changed greatly in the 400 years since the King James was translated. Many words are no longer used and some have taken on a different meaning. In Luke 13:2 Jesus is speaking to sinners. Sinners here are not just people who sin but rather unbelievers. Saints on the other hand were the believers. In 13:3 Jesus says ” Except ye repent you will likewise perish” Does this mean unless they repent of their sins they will go to Hell? This question cannot be answered unless we know what repent means. The Greek word used here is “Metanoeo.” It is a compound word which means; Meta (change)noeo (thinking). It means to have a change of thinking or as we would say today a change of mind. In other words Jesus was saying ,You unbelievers unless you change your mind (about me) you will wind up in hell also. The word sin is not even found in this passage. When an unbeliever goes from an unbelieving mind to a believing mind he is repenting. He repents and at the same time believes. You cant believe without repenting and you cant repent with out believing. Personal sins have nothing to do with the word repent. Personal sorrow can lead to repentance and often does. For example, a person who habitually commits adultery can become sorrowful of it when he hits bottom and decide to turn to Christ. However, it is the changing of the mind about Christ which is salvation not the changing of the mind about sin. If the person changes his mind about his adultery and not about Christ he is not saved even though he has repented of his sins.

If he suddenly changes his mind about Christ and goes back to his adultery later he is saved. In either scenario a person continues to sin after salvation. God deals with believers who sin as a father would a child. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Heb 12:6-7) Notice that even in punishment God still loves us and we are still sons. After salvation it may be a different sin or he may sin less than before but he will sin because we all have the sin nature which we inherited from Adam. Absolutely no sin is acceptable to God. Jesus is the only human who ever lived who did not posses the sin nature. We are told to confess our sins to God as believers. (1 Jn. 1:9) “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We do not simply ask for forgiveness of our sins. Confessing is naming each sin. It is a self examination of our soul. God knows what our sins are. The benefit is ours. We acknowledge to ourselves and God what our sin is. It forces us to search our soul for evil and disobedient deeds.

The verse says “If we confess…He will forgive. If we do confess our sins we can avoid punishment from God. However, if we continue in sin divine discipline will surely come. God knows that we will all sin from time to time because of temptation but He hates habitual sin even more because it is intentional and keep us out of fellowship with him and we become useless to his purpose on earth. The sin nature is passed down from Adam through the male. Jesus was born of a virgin and had no human father from which to inherit a sin nature. Our other word for repent is found in Matthew 27:3. Judas, who betrayed Jesus by taking a bribe of thirty pieces of silver from the religious leaders, is now feeling bad because he realizes Jesus is innocent and he is going to be put to death. “Then Judas, who had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented, and gave back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood. And he cast down the thirty pieces of silver in the temple, and departed and went and hanged himself.”

The word repent here is translated from the Greek word Metamellamai. Again it is a compound word. Meta (change) mellamai (emotions). He became emotional. Notice also that Judas did the three things that many churches teach as salvation yet he was never saved. Judas Repented of his sin (felt sorry), he confessed his sin “I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood” and he made restitution “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple.” True repentance is when an unbeliever changes his mind about Christ and decides to accept him as his savior. We can do nothing about our sin as human beings. That’s why we must have a qualified person who is without sin to be our substitute. Salvation is belief in the God/Man. Jesus Christ was true humanity and undiminished Deity in one person. Simply believing that Jesus existed or believing that there is a God is not salvation. Salvation is believing in the person and the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes…