Repentance

Even though I do have a couple of regular readers I have never expected to have many readers. This blog helps me to collect all of the websites and good information that I have found, and keep finding, on the internet. It also forces me to focus on topics that I want to post about which helps me to learn the scriptures in greater depth than I would be able to otherwise.

The topic that I have been thinking about lately has been repentance. Every Christian has heard the word but we don’t all use it in the same way. In fact, if you tell me how you define repentance I will know a lot about what you believe. It is one of those magic questions that seem to work as a guide to many of our other beliefs.

As far as I can tell there are basically two definitions of repentance:

  1. Repentance is a change of mind. Those who use this definition do not believe that it holds any emotional connotation.
    or 

     

  2. Repentance is a turning away from something (usually sin). The people I know who hold to this definition usually do include an emotional component. The example that comes to mind is that to repent of your sins means to feel sorry for them.

So, which definition do I use? I have always been taught, and hold to, the first definition.

I have been thinking about this because I have recently read a post written by one of the people involved in what I call the “free grace wars” of the past couple of years (free grace holds that we can accept the gospel of our own free will and that accepting the gospel involves no works). If you don’t know what the “free grace wars” are then count your blessings. Much of the unpleasantness of the free grace wars has its roots in that different groups of “free gracers” hold to different definitions of repentance.

When Christians hold to the second definition of repentance above it tends to foster a need to show that they are truly saved by showing a strong aversion to sin. This can also lead to Christians performing a lot of good works to prove their salvation to themselves. What is even worse is that this can lead to Christians believing that true repentance must show itself by good works (the “fruit of the spirit”) and this becomes intertwined with the gospel itself.

What happens when Christians who hold to free grace also believe that repentance means to turn away from sin? What I have seen happen is that those “free gracers” must deny that repentance has anything to do with salvation. Yes, that is correct; they deny that repentance has anything to do with our personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as savior. They do this to protect the gospel from works but I think that it causes many other problems.

Dr. Harry Ironside was a great teacher (R.B. Thieme, Jr. always spoke highly of him) and I think he summarized the point well:

Grace is God’s unmerited favor to those who have merited the very opposite. Repentance is the sinner’s recognition of and acknowledgment of his lost estate and, thus, of his need of grace. Yet there are not wanting professed preachers of grace who, like the antinomians of old, decry the necessity of repentance lest it seem to invalidate the freedom of grace. As well might one object to a man’s acknowledgment of illness when seeking help and healing from a physician, on the ground that all he needed was a doctor’s prescription.

Except Ye Repent
by Harry A. Ironside

I haven’t read Dr. Ironside’s entire book and, at times, he seems to come closer to a Calvinist understanding of salvation than I am comfortable with. That being said he does seem to have a much clearer understanding of the issues surrounding repentance than most people I know.

A few months ago I heard as part of a bible study that there are two Koine Greek words translated as repent in the English bible and that one of those words does have an emotional connotation and one doesn’t. Of course that started me thinking and I decided to do as much research as the internet would allow. I ended out finding Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and a series of word studies by the late Earl Traut. You can find details by following these links:

There are three Koine Greek words translated as repent:

  • Metamelomai (Strong’s G3338).
  • Metanoeō (Strong’s G3340).
  • Metanoia (Strong’s G3341). The root of this word is metanoeō so I don’t know if it counts as a separate word.

I have heard, and have been interested to verify, that metamelomai does have an emotional connotation but is not used in a salvation context while metanoeō/metanoia does not have an emotional context and is not used in a salvation context. I am only part way into my personal study but I decided to look at the New Testament verses containing the word metamelomai and see if it’s used jives with what I have been told. I am going to list the five NT verses that use metamelomai and leave off at this point. However I do plan on returning to this at some point.

Translations of Metamelomai (NIV)

29″ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
Matthew 21:29 (New International Version)

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Matthew 21:32 (New International Version)

3When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders.
Matthew 27:3 (New International Version)

8Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—
2 Corinthians 7:8 (New International Version)

21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’ ”
Hebrews 7:21 (New International Version)

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2 Comments on “Repentance”

  1. Sam Says:

    Hi,

    When thinking about the two definitions you gave, the text “repentance from dead works” came to mind.

    This seems to be a combination of
    1. “a change of mind” and
    2. “turning away from…”

    i.e. they change their mind and turn away from dead works. They are tied together in this example.

    Your thoughts?

  2. Glenn Says:

    Sam,

    I don’t see any reason why repentance can’t mean to turn away from dead works in some cases. When I read your definition of “repentance from dead works” the book of James came to mind. James did hit the subject of dead works very hard but since I believe that epistle was written to believers I don’t view that repentance as being for salvation but as part of a Christian’s spiritual maturing.

    What I am thinking is that there is no single definition for metamelomai and no single definition for metanoeō/metanoia. Why can’t these words be like most words and have several similar meanings that are contingent on the context? I don’t know if this would make it impossible to interpret some passages in the New Testament (I would think not).

    Like I said I am still early on in looking at this and I don’t know if I will even be able to come to any conclusion. I doubt I am going to find something that a lot of very smart people have missed all of these years.

    By the way, it’s nice to meet you Sam and please feel free to stop by and comment whenever you feel like it.

    Glenn


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