Repentance in Christianity
Repentance is a theological term that describes a stage in salvation where the believer turns away from sin. As a distinct stage in the ordo salutis its position is disputed, with some theological traditions arguing it occurs prior to faith and the Reformed theological tradition arguing it occurs after faith. In Roman Catholic theology repentance is a secondary part of the larger theological concept of penance. Generally in the Old Testament the term ‘repentance’ comes from the Hebrew word group that means “turn away from.” Sometimes this word group is employed to request a turning from sinful activity (Jeremiah 8:6). In the New Testament the metanoeo word group can mean remorse but is generally translated as a turning away from sin (Matthew 3:2). Theologically ‘repentance’, the turning away from sin is linked to a corresponding turn to faith in God.
The doctrine of Repentance in the Scriptures appears to be very prominent. In the New Testament, John the Baptist began his public ministry, as did Jesus, with a call to repentance (Matthew 3:1–2; Matthew 4:17). In the Acts 2 sermon on Pentecost, Peter commands repentance. In the Acts 3 sermon at the Beautiful gate of the Temple, Peter interchanges the phrase “turn again” at a similar place in his presentation. When Jesus sent forth messengers to proclaim his gospel, he commanded them to preach repentance (Luke 24:47; Mark 6:12). Teachings on repentance are found in the New Testament in Peter, (Acts 2:38); Paul, (Acts 20:21). God wants everyone to repent (2 Pet. 3:9; Acts 17:30). Indeed, failure on the part of man to heed God’s call to repentance means that he shall utterly perish (Luke 13:3).
The constant references to repentance in Peter’s preaching to his fellow countrymen in the early part of the book of Acts may indicate an exceptional need for repentance amongst those who had recently been party to the crucifixion of Christ, see Responsibility for the death of Jesus. Paul is emphatic that change take place amongst those whom he taught (see the Bible references to “turning to a true and living God”). This aversion to the Greek or idolatrous lifestyle may have come from the intense patriotism to Jewish ideals held by the well educated former Pharisee. Saint Isaac of Syria said, “This life has been given to you for repentance. Do not waste it on vain pursuits.”
The Augsburg Confession divides repentance into two parts:
“One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors.”
There is a three-fold idea involved in true repentance in the Protestant conception. The Protestant reformer John Calvin said that repentance “may be justly defined to be “a true conversion of our life to God, proceeding from a serious fear of God, and consisting in the mortification of the flesh and of the old man, and in the vivification of the Spirit.” He further said that “it will be useful to amplify and explain the definition we have given; in which there are three points to be particularly considered.” “In the first place, when we call repentance “a conversion of the life to God, we require a transformation, not only in the external actions, but in the soul itself; which, after having put off the old nature, should produce the fruits of actions corresponding to its renovation. . . .In the second place, we represented repentance as proceeding from a serious fear of God. For before the mind of a sinner can be inclined to repentance, it must be excited by the knowledge of the Divine judgment.
“It remains for us, in the third place, to explain our position, that repentance consists of two parts—the mortification of the flesh and the vivification of the spirit. . . . Both these branches of repentance effects our participation of Christ. For if we truly partake of his death, our old man is crucified by its power, and the body of sin expires, so that the corruption of our former nature loses all its vigor. . . .If we are partakers of his resurrection, we are raised by it to a newness of life, which corresponds with the righteousness of God.” [Quotes from A Compend of the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin edited by Hugh T. Kerr, The Westminster Press-Philadelphia 1939.]
Matthew 21:29: “He answered and said: I will not; but afterward he repented, and went“. The word here used for “repent” means to change one’s mind, thought, purpose, views regarding a matter; it is to have another mind about a thing. This change is well illustrated in the action of the Prodigal Son, and of the Publican in the well-known story of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 15 and 18). 2 Cor. 7:9–“Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.” See also Luke 10:13; cf. Gen. 6:6. The Greek word for repentance in this connection means “to be a care to one afterwards,” to cause one great concern. This meaning is exemplified by the repentant person who not only has profound regret for his past but also the fulfilled hope in the potential of God’s grace to continually bear the fruit of healing and true reconciliation in himself, with others, and most especially with God. The Hebrew equivalent is strong as well, and it means to pant, to sigh, or to moan. So the publican “beat upon his breast,” indicating sorrow of heart. See also Psalms 38:18.
The issue of repentance is also discussed in connection with the will and disposition. One of the Hebrew words for repent means “to turn.” The Prodigal Son said, “I will arise… and he arose” (Luke 15:18, 20). The part of the will and disposition in repentance is shown in the Confession of sin to God: Psa. 38:18 — “For I will declare mine iniquity: I will be sorry for my sin.” The publican beat upon his breast, and said, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The prodigal said, “I have sinned against heaven” (Luke 15:21). There must be confession to man also in so far as man has been wronged in and by our sin (Matthew 5:23–24); James 5:16). Isa. 55:7 Prov. 28:13 (“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”); Matthew 3:8–10 (“Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:… And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”). It is not enough to turn away from sin; we must turn unto God. 1 Thessalonians 1:9; Acts 26:18.
According to Christians, acts of repentance do not earn God’s forgiveness from one’s sin; rather, forgiveness is given as a gift from God to those whom he saves. Acts 11:18–“Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” 2 Tim. 2:25 — “If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Acts 5:30, 31. In this view, people are called upon to repent in order that we may feel our own inability to do so, and consequently be thrown upon God and petition Him to perform this work of grace in our hearts. Many church fathers have made reference to it as the “gift of repentance” or as the “gift of tears”. God calls all to repent through the hearing of the Gospel. God grants total repentance as each individual responds to repentance through faith in the expiating sacrifice of Jesus for all sin. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17). Repentance is given before anything else by definition. One cannot show true change in his life before he himself has changed [repented] to bring about manifestations of that change/repentance.
Acts 2:37, 38, 41. The very Gospel which calls for repentance produces it. When the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5-10) heard the preaching of the word of God by Jonah they believed the message and turned unto God. Not any message, but the Gospel is the instrument that God uses to bring about this desired end. Furthermore, this message must be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 1:5-10). Rev. 3:19; Heb. 12:6, 10-11. The chastisements of God are sometimes for the purpose of bringing His wandering children back to repentance. 2 Tim. 2:24-25. God often uses the loving, Christian reproof of a fellow believer to be the means of bringing Christians back to God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Faith in Jesus Christ naturally leads to repentance. Latter-day Saints do not subscribe to the notion of “Original Sin,” We believe men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression (Joseph Smith Article of Faith No. 2.) Mankind may be fallen and cursed, but not doomed for being human. Sin is all manner of wickedness (1 John 5:17,) transgression of the Laws of God (1 John 3:4,) to know good and not do it (James 4:17,) and anything not done in faith (Romans 14:23.) From these passages we find different degrees of severity in sin, some being outright cruelty and visciousness and some being against written commandments. All people sin, sometimes in ignorance, or weakness, or willful disobedience. The principles of repentance are 1) recognizing the sin, 2) sorrow for the sin, 3) forsaking the sin, 4) Confessing the sin, 5) make restitution if possible, 6) forgive others, and 7) keep the commandments of God. Repentance is not a sudden change or decision in life in which a person confesses the name of Jesus Christ and then no longer is a sinner. Repentance is a life long process applied to each wrong doing a person becomes aware of. Latter-day Saints do not believe that God has given any commandment that a person cannot fully live up to and that repentance is a real and practical means to live up to those commandments. There is personal responsibility in salvation and it is a duty to repent of sin, Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence (Moses 6:57.) Repentance wasn’t meant to be vague, but the Lord has made it plain and practical, so people can understand what is required of them. This is how men are able to literally work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil. 2:12)
Adapted From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia