What is Repentance?

What is Repentance?

Wrong Way Imagine the horrifying experience of driving on the wrong side of a busy road, and then to be confronted with a sign, “Wrong Way, Go Back”. The sign is designed to warn you of the potential danger ahead and the necessary action to be done so as to avoid the potential harm. Though such a sign may be startling, it is actually very gracious and helpful.

Such an illustration reveals a real danger, but there is a greater danger than going the wrong way on a busy road that every human being faces. What is it? It is the danger of dying without your sins being forgiven. We have all sinned (Rom. 3:23) and the consequence of such treason against our Creator is to receive eternal judgment from Him (John 3:36). However, in His great grace, God has made it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins and to become His children. Our only hope is the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. The means in which we take hold of salvation in Christ is by the God’s gift of repentance and faith. Repentance and faith belong together in the conversion experience – they are two sides of a single coin. In the words of Sinclair Ferguson,

“We cannot separate turning from sin in repentance and coming to Christ in faith. They describe the same person in the same action, but from different perspectives.” [1]

So then, what is repentance? Repentance is a gift that God grants a sinner, by means of the Holy Spirit, in which the individual comes to the realization that they have sinned; they are filled with remorse and repulsion concerning that sin, and then they renounce the sin by turning from it to God. Repentance is necessary for salvation and is to be practiced throughout the Christian life. In a series of future posts, I would like to look in the matters concerning the components of genuine repentance, the necessity of repentance, the freedom of repentance and the practice of daily repentance.

[1] Faith and Repentance by Sinclair Ferguson


  1. Liberty

    The definition of the Greek word Metanoia is a ‘change of mind’.

    Biblical repentance is not ‘turning from sin’ as this article suggests, but rather is a change of mind about who God and the facts of the Gospel.

    Nowhere in Scripture is the term ‘turn from sin’ found in the context of salvation. The only requirement is to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”.

    If the Bible teaches an unbeliever needs to ‘turn from sin’ in order to be saved (which it clearly does not), I’m wondering how can one quantify how many sins need to be turned from in order to gain assurance of salvation?

    As you’re aware, the Christian still sins as their flesh nature exists.

    Did they ‘turn from sin’? as they are still sinning?

    • Andrew Courtis (Author)

      Hi Liberty. Thank you for taking time to visit our blog.

      You commented that “Biblical repentance is not ‘turning from sin’…but rather is a change of mind about who God and the facts of the Gospel”. For a sinner to change their mind about God and the facts of the gospel, is to turn from a mindset that is the source of sinful actions. What is involved in a changed mindset? Paul reminds the Colossian believers in 1:21 that before they were saved they were “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds”. For them to change their mind meant that their minds are no longer hostile toward God, it is changing their rebellious rejection of God and of the gospel. This act of changing their mind is a turning from sin (hostility toward God is sin). However, to suggest that repentance is a mere change of mind and of facts – separate from sin, this is not in harmony with what the Scripture says concerning repentance (as will be pointed out throughout this series).

      Also, you said that “Nowhere in Scripture is the term ‘turn from sin’ found in the context of salvation. The only requirement is to ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ'”. Genuine saving faith will include repentance – you can’t separate them. Turning from sin to God was a part of Paul’s gospel message in the book of Acts (26:18, 20). A message coming from the very words of Jesus to Paul.

      The prophet Isaiah said, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (55:6-7).

      Matters pertaining to the need for Christian’s to daily repent will be covered later in this series as stated at the end of the post you commented on.

      In the meantime, I would encourage you to read an excellent sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon on this topic: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0106.htm

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *