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What Is Repentance?


Joe McBride

Definition: Repentance means a sincere turning away, in both the mind and heart, from self to God.

In a biblical context, repentance is recognizing that our sin is offensive to God. Repentance can be shallow, such as the remorse we feel because of fear of punishment (like Cain) or it can be deep, such as realizing how much our sins cost Jesus Christ and how his saving grace washes us clean (like the conversion of Paul).

Calls for repentance are found throughout the Old Testament, such as Ezekiel 18:30:

"Therefore,O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall." (NIV)

Jesus also calls for repentance:

"The time has come," Jesus said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15, NIV)

Repentance is an essential part of salvation, requiring a turning away from the sin-ruled life to a life characterized by obedience to God. The Holy Spirit leads a person to repent, but repentance itself cannot be seen as a "good work" that adds to our salvation.

The Bible states that people are saved by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, there can be no faith in Christ without repentance and no repentance without faith. The two are inseparable.

Pronunciation: ree PENT unce

Also Known As: change of mind, turning away, turn from.

Example: Repentance means turning away from sin to God.

(Sources: Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, edited by Chad Brand, Charles Draper, and Archie England; The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F. Unger)

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