Copyright © 2013 by Wayne Stegall
Probably the most feared word spoken by God is repent. Unbelievers stop their ears; many Christians shudder. How many times have I heard that true repentance is to turn, yet to many this seems to be works rather than grace. As a young Christian, I reasoned that grace required a definition of repentance that was not a work. At the time that I learned Greek, the literal meaning of the repentance seemed superficial. Metanoia literally means a change of heart and mind. However, Bible words are usually reinvented from their secular meanings and are often defined by their context instead.
When the time came to resolve this issue, I decided to find out for sure. If Holiness believers were right in defining repent as to turn, the words for turn, variations of strepho such as epistrepho and apostrepho,1 would be used would be used in the same contexts as the word for repent. In particular, if strepho and its variants and metanoia were derived from same Hebrew words they would share similar meaning. Examining the use of these words throughout the Septuagint, the ancient Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures, seemed the way to find out the answer to this dilemma to my mind.
As it turned out the Greek and Hebrew words for repentance and turn do not run together but have different meanings. What importance does this have? First repentance is not contrary to grace, and therefore expecting it as a part of conversion is not inconsistent. Indeed, Jesus's plan of salvation included repentance with faith. Consider Mark 1:15.
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Salvation is from sin, therefore grace cannot pave a way around it, but must deal with it directly. As a result, you cannot have Christ and a determination to continue in sin as well. Instead, willful sin is the mark of reprobation instead. A repentant heart is indeed an important part of a normal Christian life and those who have one purpose therein to refuse sin and obey God's commands. Consider too that repentance is the road to sanctification.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
It is unfortunate that defining repentance as the work of turning has caused many who cannot refute that logic to exclude it from plan of salvation altogether. By doing so, apostasy has been enabled to spread widely and many have been turned aside from finishing the work God began in their lives.
Do not fear to repent.
March 13, 2013 Created.