Christians throw around Bible jargon often, but do we stop to look closely how Scripture defines those words? So far we have considered: justification, sanctification, and redemption. We’ll do one more today: repentance.
As always, we must start with Scripture to construct a definition of the term. The very first person to use the term ‘repent’ in the New Testament was John the Baptist:
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” – Matthew 3:2
In Mark’s gospel, it was Jesus who spoke of this first:
“The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” – Mark 1:15
The call to repent is clear enough, but what does it mean?
When Peter was communicating the grand gospel story to onlookers in Jerusalem, he said…
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out…” – Acts 3:19
A little later, Peter again says…
“Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.” – Acts 8:22
The word “change” may be a good one to use to sum up the overarching trajectory of repentance. It means changing direction – away from wickedness – and turning to God. Closely linked with this is the forgiveness of sins. Turning away from godlessness and sin and turning to God and holiness.
In some other contexts, it conveys the idea of remorse – sorrow for sin (Ps. 51). The result is what Jesus exhorts us to in Luke 3:8: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
When you hear someone use the term ‘repent’, remember, it’s a summons to change direction – away from sin and godlessness – to Christ, the forgiveness he offers, and a life lived to honor him.