What does Repentance mean?
This work presents an exhaustive examination of every verse in Scripture in which the word “repent” occurs. But after all the ink has dried, the lessons contained herein can probably be summed up in eight or so basic truths.
- Repentance has no intrinsic subject. Anyone can repent, even God!
- Repentance has no intrinsic object. It is not automatically directed toward sin. One can repent about virtually anything. One can even repent from good to evil!
- Repentance has no intrinsic consequence. It does not automatically result in eternal salvation. It can result in result in any consequence that naturally follows the exercise God’s free will, or man’s free will.
- The actual phrase “repent of your sins” never occurs in Scripture. NEVER!
- The Bible never teaches that one must repent of their sins to be saved.
- Whenever sin is the object of repentance, the consequence of repentance is never eternal salvation.
- Whenever eternal salvation is the consequence of repentance, the object of repentance is never sin.
- In every passage on repentance relating to eternal salvation, the object of repentance is, in some way or another, the person of Jesus Christ, his eternal divinity, his atoning death, His resurrection, or the freeness of the eternal salvation he provides. The object of saving repentance is no different than the elements of saving faith described in other terms throughout Scripture:
If you are able to remember these simple truths about biblical repentance, you will know more about repentance, and more about the doctrine of salvation, than 99.9% of the ministers filling the pulpits of Christian churches across the land. In the pages of this work, you will hopefully come to appreciate how deeply confused the church is over the very message of salvation, even at the pastoral level. With this dawning realization hopefully, you will develop a renewed sense of purpose in your Christian life . . . perhaps a purpose in your life that you have never before experienced.
The church will never fulfill the Great Commission as long as it is confused on the very message of the gospel! Certainly not while it continues to proclaim salvation by faith plus. And the church will never be lifted from its confusion unless each of those who understand the truth of the gospel labor to change it.
After reading the pages of this book, as you look at the elite pulpits across our land, you should realize the depth of this crisis. May God rouse you from your slumber, and impress upon you how deeply God covets your labor as a faithful witness of His grace. Perhaps you will acknowledge a long ignored call to vocational Christian work in the Gospel ministry. If not, perhaps you will seek the opportunity to teach Sunday school, or a youth ministry or Bible Study, and strengthen the focus of the church through those venues. But regardless of the hilltop on which God may or may not place you, whenever you walk out the front door of your home, you are entering your mission field. To whom much is given, much will be expected.
Confusion Over Repentance
The phrase “repent of your sins,” is so embedded in Christian culture that it is hard to hear the word “repent” without mentally adding on the three words “from your sins.” And since the word “repent” is often associated with eternal salvation, this leads to further adding on, either mentally, or verbally from the pulpit, the words “to be saved” to the end of the sentence. Together, they form the greatest myth in the history of Christianity . . . “You must repent of your sins to be saved.”
This belief is not only wrong, it is an error that threatens the eternal destiny of every man, woman and child on the planet. For it reduces the gospel of grace to a gospel of works. Scripture teaches with unmistakable clarity that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law, (Romans 3:28) and that to entrust one’s eternal salvation to one’s own obedience to God’s laws is to frustrate God’s offer of the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and make void the promise (Romans 4:4-5, 24; 11:6-7, Galatians 5:1-4).
The command “repent from your sins to be saved” is wrong on any level, but because there is so much confusion surrounding the word “repentance,” multiple distinct errorssurround the concept of repentance.
- Some believe one must have some transcendent experience of emotional remorse over one’s sins to be saved.
- Others believe that a sinner must actually begin living in obedience to the laws of God before they can be saved.
- Most frequently, however, the phrase “repent of your sins” is understood to mean that a lost sinner resolve (determine, internally promise, commit) to “turn from his sins” in order to be saved from hell.
This first view necessarily means that one is beyond redemption simply because he suffers from autism, a schizotypal disorder, or some other medical disorder that suppresses personal emotion.
The second view requires the actual works of the law to be saved. It is seldom taught to its logical conclusion simply because most people are not in the middle of some overtly sinful act at any one time. Although, by Biblical standards, it is doubtful that any of us have perfectly pure motives at any moment, few of us are engaged in an overtly sinful act very often. A drug dealer is not dealing drugs between deals.
Because of this, the third view is the most pervasive form of confusion over repentance, and has truly become the staple of confused Christendom. It is a cancer on the Christian community. In this view, eternal salvation is not dependent on the performance of a work, but only the promise of future works. In the minds of those determined to adhere to salvation by works, this distinction supposedly allows the works of the law to be somehowadded to the equation of salvation without annulling the doctrine of grace. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans would disagree. “For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is of none effect.“
At law, an exchange of promises is known as a bilateral contract. If you have already read the previous section on “Bilateral Contract Salvation” (also know as “Lordship Salvation), you will recognize that the third expression of “saving repentance” is nothing more than a specific form or expression of Bilateral Contract Salvation . . . “a promisefor a promise.” The lost sinner “promises” future obedience in exchange for God’s “promise” of eternal life. This errant understanding of the term “repentance” is the most common and pervasive form of “Lordship Salvation” taught within Christendom throughout the world.