This often-quoted phrase “repent of sin” does not even occur in the Bible. Most people are quite shocked to find that it does not appear in the Scripture. Nowhere does the Scripture use the phrase, “repent of sin” to be saved. Scripture does say in Acts 20:21, “repentance toward God” (change of mind), and “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Repentance is the translation of the Greek word “metanoia”. The literal meaning of “metanoia” is “a change of mind”. “Meta” means “change”. “Noia” means “mind”. So, therefore, “metanoia” means a “change of mind”. Before learning about metanoia, I am sure that you are already familiar with a Greek word with the prefix “meta”. That word is “metamorphosis”. “Meta” means “change”, and “morphosis” means “form or structure”. This word metamorphosis is used to describe the change a caterpillar goes through to become a beautiful butterfly. I am sure that you have studied about this change of form. Repentance, therefore, (metanoia) is a change of mind.
This misuse of the word repentance has caused untold confusion among believers and unbelievers alike. Satan, the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33), has delighted in this misuse of the word repentance. One of the counterfeits Satan is using today is the misuse of the word repentance. To insist upon a repentance that in any sense includes a demand for a change of conduct either toward God or man is to add an element of works or human effort to faith.
Let’s define. Penance is payment for sin. Penitence is sorrow for sin. Works and something of self is turning from sin. But repentance (metanoia) means a change of mind. Repentance in salvation means a change of mind from any idea of religion that man might have and accepting God’s way of salvation. Man’s great need is to understand God’s way of salvation and accept His sacrifice. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).”
Why do we have the problem? The problem has come about because “metanoia” should never have been translated into the English word “repent”. “Repent” (English word) does not mean the same thing as “metanoia” (Greek word). Perhaps what the translators should have done was a “transliteration” of the Greek word. For example: the translators of the King James Bible took the Greek word “baptizo”, dropped the “o”, and replaced it with an “e”. They brought the new word “baptize” into the English language. This is called transliteration. They should have done this with “metanoia”, and the problem would have been eliminated. Can you imagine preachers saying ‘METANOIA’ to their congregations? At least the correct meaning would be known.
Understanding the doctrine may relieve some of the confusion you or your friends may have had concerning repentance. Here is a way to get a handle on it. Remember this, “A person may ‘repent’ without ‘believing’, but a person cannot ‘believe’ without ‘repenting’.” A person may “repent” (change their mind) without “believing” (trusting Christ), but a person cannot “believe” (trust in Christ) without repenting (having changed their mind).
Repentance is necessary for salvation, but keep in mind that it means “a change of mind”. Dr. C.I. Scofield, in the Scofield Reference Bible (copyrighted in 1909), has the following footnote, “Repentance is the translation of a Greek word (metanoia-metanoeo) meaning “to have another mind”, “to change the mind”, and is used in the New Testament to indicate a change of mind in respect of sin, of God and of self. This change of mind may, especially in the case of Christians who have fallen into sin, be preceded by sorrow (II Corinthians 7:8-11), but sorrow for sin, though it may “work” repentance, is not repentance. The son in Matthew 21:28,29 illustrate true repentance. Saving faith includes and implies that change of mind, which is called repentance.”
Dr. Scofield clearly points out that “saving faith” includes and implies that change of mind which is called repentance.
One misunderstanding is to say that the word repentance must be used in order to be teaching repentance. If that were true, we would have thrown out the gospel of John from the New Testament. Think of this in light of why John’s gospel was written, “But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name (John 20:31).” Repentance, you see, is taught in John 3:16. A person cannot believe (trust) in Christ as taught in John 3:16 without repenting (changing his mind) in the process.
“Often the idea of believing is expressed by the word, repent (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20)…The word means to change one’s mind, and by its usage in the Book of Acts it means to change one’s mind about Jesus of Nazareth being the Messiah. This involves no longer thinking of Him as merely the carpenter’s son of Nazareth, an imposter, but now receiving Him as both Lord (Jehovah) and Messiah. Thus, repentance as preached by the apostles was not a prerequisite to nor a consequence of salvation but was actually the act of faith in Jesus which brought salvation to the one who repented” (Ryrie, Charles. Biblical Theology of New Testament. (p. 116,117).
“Repentance, as it relates to Christ, means to change our minds about Him, who He is and what He’s done to provide forgiveness, and deliverance from our sins. When we place faith in Jesus as having taken our place personally on the cross and borne the penalty due our sins, then we’re automatically repenting, because we couldn’t accept Him in this way without having to change or minds in some way concerning Him.” (From the Liberation of the Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsey. (p. 133).
Salvation is by faith and not by works according to the Scriptures (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:5). Let’s not become tools of the devil to add works to salvation in a subtle way by misuse of repentance. Let’s give out a clear message! (I Corinthians 14:8).