If you look up the words in the dictionary, you find something like this (excerpted from dictionary.com):
Repentance: 1. deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like. 2. regret for any past action.
Repent: 1. to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc. 2. to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent. 3. to remember or regard with self-reproach or contrition. 4. to feel sorry for; regret.
Quoting the Online Etymology Dictionary, to find the word origin:
c.1300, “to feel such regret for sins or crimes as produces amendment of life,” from Old French repentir (11c.), from re-, here probably an intensive prefix (see re-), + Vulgar Latin *penitire “to regret,” from Latin poenitire “make sorry,” from poena (see penal). The distinction between regret (q.v.) and repent is made in many modern languages, but the differentiation is not present in older periods. Related: Repented; repenting.
c.1300, from Old French repentance “penitence” (12c.), from present participle stem of repentir (see repent).
Today “repentance” and “repent” are also loaded religious terms, where “repent” means that you must feel remorseful, very remorseful, very contrite, and commit to try very, very hard to never, ever sin again (usually in an old covenant mindset). This is often tied in with verbally confessing sins to someone. To various degrees, this is tied in as a requirement for “salvation,” that it must happen before, concurrent, and/or after “believing.”
The question is, how is the word defined in the Bible?
“Repentance/repent” is translated from the Koine Greek noun/verb “μετανοια/μετανοω” (Strong’s G3341/G3340, transliterated “metanoia/metanoO”), which is a compound of two other words.
The first word is “μετα” (Strong’s G3326, “meta”) which simply means a “change,” or a “transition” from one thing to another.
The second word is the noun/verb νους/νοεω (Strong’s G3563/G3539, “nous/noeO”). The noun means “mind” or “thinking” or “comprehension” or “understanding,” and the verb means to “have in the mind,” or “comprehend,” or “understand,” meaning a “way of thinking.”
A word derived from the above word is νοημα (Strong’s G3540, “noe-ma”). This adds the -μα (“-ma”) suffix which denotes an effect or manifestation of the root word, literally mind/thinking/comprehension-effect, i.e. the resulting thoughts or reasonings that are contrived by the mind.
The existence of this last word, “thought” = “thinking-effect,” is important, because it shows that the root word upon which it is based is concerned with the thing that produces the thoughts (i.e. the mind), rather than the thoughts themselves; in other words, the decisions and choices made by the mind, meaning a “way of thinking,” a mindset.
In the Koine Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, there are a couple of other related words. One is the adjective νοημων (“noemOn”), which means “intelligent,” i.e. the ability to think or comprehend. The other is the adverb νοητως (“noetOs”), which means intelligibly/comprehending-ly.
The compound is very simple, then. “Repentance” is a “change of mind/thinking” and to “repent” is to “change” one’s “mind/thinking.” It is not merely the thoughts and reasonings, but the mindset upon which the thoughts and reasonings are based.
Next, context must then be read to find out what it is that a person should change their mind/mindset/thinking about, or have a change of mind/mindset/thinking about.
But first, note that “sin” isn’t intrinsically implied by the word “repent” itself. This can be proven by citing instances where God is said to “repent.”
For example, in Jeremiah 18:8, 18:10, Joel 2:13-14, Amos 7:3, and Jonah 3:10 God talks about repenting, which is also that same Koine Greek word in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew text. It is also the same English word used in the King James Version. I’ll quote the KJV for that reason:
“If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them” (Jer 18:8, KJV)
“and if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” (Jer 18:10 KJV)
“And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him…” (Joel 2:13, KJV)
“The Lord repented for this: It shall not be, saith the Lord.” (Amos 7:3, KJV)
“And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (Jon 3:10, KJV)
You see that this proves that the word on its own can only refer to a change of mind/thinking, since God does not and cannot sin.
Now, here is another interesting point. In Jer 18:8, Joel 2:12-14, and Jon 3:9-10 above, the word “turn” is also used, which in the Septuagint translation is some variation of the word στρεφω (Strong’s G4762, “strepho”), such as αποστρεφω (Strong’s G654, “apo-strepho,” “turn-off/from”), meaning to turn away from something or someone, or επιστρεφω (Strong’s G1994, “epi-strepho,” “turn-upon”), meaning to turn around. These describe a change of direction, where thereafter there would be a change of action. These would be the words that could have been used the way people today typically use the word “repentance/repent,” which is to “turn from” sin/evil, or to “turn around” and endeavor to not do the former things. But that is not what the word “repent” means. “Repent” simply means to change your mind.
This is an important point worth repeating; “to repent” is popularly explained as “to turn from sin” or some such thing. Yes, there are expressions in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, about “turning from sin” and turning from other things, but that is not what “repent” or “repentance” means in the scriptures. It means to change your mind/thinking in a fundamental way about something.
Make a mental note of that word “epi-streph__” (“turn about”), because I will also highlight it later in several verses in the New Testament that have both that word and the word “repent/repentance” in it.
Let’s start with the first Christian, fully evangelical message, which was by Peter at Pentecost, to see how “repent/repentance” is used.
In Acts 2:37, the Jewish crowd at Pentecost, upon hearing Peter’s words about Jesus, said, “What shall we be doing? (present tense)” Peter’s response was, literally, “Repent (aorist tense, imperative mood, second person, plural number) and let-be-immersed (aorist tense, imperative mood, third person, singular number) each (singular) of you(-plural) upon the name of Jesus Christ into pardon of sins.”
First of all, these were Jews, considering themselves under the Law of Moses. That is why they asked “What shall we be doing?” But Peter did not tell them to “do” anything. He did not tell them to “turn from sins.” The command to “repent” is not a command to “turn from sins.” That is what the Law of Moses already told them to do: Abstain from wrong and do what is right. They already knew that, and if Peter had meant that, then he would have just been Christianizing the Law of Moses.
Instead, Peter tells them to change their way of thinking. About what? Getting immersed in water? No, it does not mention “water” anywhere here, either. Get it out of your mind that “immerse” (traditionally transliterated “baptize”) always, or only, or even by default, implies “water,” while you’re at it. It actually very specifically says what they are to be “immersed” “into,” where “into” is the preposition εις (Strong’s G1519, “eis,” “into”). They are to be “immersed” “into” “pardon of sins.” They had previously been “immersed into Moses,” which is what 1 Cor 10:2 literally says. The Law of Moses consisted of rules that exposed sin, based upon what people did and did not do. Again, they already knew that. So now Peter tells them to change their mindset and be immersed “into pardon of sins.” That is different.
This is completely logical and follows from what Jesus had just accomplished. Jesus paid for all sins, and that is the crux of the matter: If Jesus paid for all sins, then those who believe the good news aren’t guilty of sins anymore, at least not in the sight of God. They were to instead change their thinking and be immersed into pardon of sins. Those who did not accept this proposition would be guilty of their sins because of unbelief, which would prevent them from being immersed into pardon of sins. This brings us back to the faith proposition that has been woven through the whole Bible, even before the Law of Moses came about, which is that a man is justified in the sight of God by faith apart from works (Gen 15:6, Psalm 32:1-2, Rom 4:1-8).
Once they change their minds and become immersed into pardon of sins, they are promised the gift (literally, “gratuity”) of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39). It is all a faith proposition. They did not need to “do” anything. (And don’t worry. I am not implying that they weren’t all dipped in water very soon after, as well. But that is something the disciplers do to disciplees, not the what the disciplees do.) And with the indwelling and empowering of the Holy Spirit, they would thereafter not be inclined to sin. The whole mindset changes concerning sins, and the whole mindset changes concerning how they avoid sinning in the future. Whereas before they had in mind 613 rules, tried to not violate them, and tried to do what was right instead, now they by faith are immersed in the Spirit and pardon of sins, supernaturally living a life by the Spirit, who is not inclined to sin, or motivate them to sin.
(See Acts 2:38 “baptism” analysis where I elaborated in much more detail on the Acts 2:38 “baptism” issue.)
And we are back to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith that everyone agrees on in principle: That we are 100% justified by faith, and 0% justified by works in the sight of God, 100% saved by faith, and 0% saved by works.
Now, all that said, this is not a writing promoting “hyper-grace.” The Bible, including the New Testament, says in other places to “turn” from sin, wrongdoing, evil, and so on, and continue to do so as a way of life. Sin is bad. Evil is bad. You know what sin is, so don’t do it. Don’t be deceived into thinking that you can get away with sin, or that God winks at sin. Don’t even be deceived into thinking that you can just sit around and do nothing while the world around you goes to hell, either. This writing is not promoting that. This writing is showing how the original words for “repent” and “repentance” have been perverted so as to work sin, works, and remorse into the gospel (the “good news”) itself, complicating justification, conversion, salvation, and so on. Such notions are mostly characteristic of Roman Catholic dogma (although the Roman Catholic Church does not have a monopoly on error, of course).
Indeed, in the Latin Vulgate, the translation of St. Jerome for the Roman Catholic church, completed in 405 AD, we read,
Petrus vero ad illos paenitentiam inquit agite et baptizetur unusquisque vestrum in nomine Iesu Christi in remissionem peccatorum vestrorum et accipietis donum Sancti Spiritus (Acts 2:38)
“Paenitentiam” is penance, a noun, and the object of the verb “agite,” which means do or perform, a verb in the imperative mood. So, the Latin translation is saying “do penance.” In fact, both John Wycliffe in 1382-1395 and the Douay-Rheims English translation of the Roman Catholic Church in 1582 translated the Latin Vulgate into English, rendering it “do penance.” John Wycliffe was an early protestant reformer but did not know Greek, so used the Latin Vulgate exclusively in his English translation. The Douay-Rheims was a translation meant to uphold the doctrines and dogma of the Roman Catholic Church as part of a “counter-reformation” in reaction to the protestant reformation of the 1500’s.
Now let’s look at all the other places “repent” and “repentance” are used, starting with John the Baptist.
But, in doing that, let’s first jump forward to Acts 18. A Jew named Apollos was teaching in Ephesus about Jesus, based only on the “immersion-effect of John” (Acts 18:24-25). (βαπτισ-μα: It is “immersion-effect” because of the μα “-effect” morpheme suffix.) Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained to him the way of God more exactly. Apollos then went to Corinth, and then Paul arrived in Ephesus, where he found some disciples, obviously taught by Apollos. Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit upon believing. They responded that they did not hear that there was a Holy Spirit. Paul asked them, “into what are you immersed.” The verb “immerse” here is aorist tense, which is time indefinite, fact, not act, not perfect tense, which would have denoted action completed, if the perfect tense was used, which it wasn’t. Water is not mentioned here. They were “immersed” into the message, teaching, and way of thinking of John the Baptist, by Apollos.
So, they responded, “into the immersion-effect (βαπτισ-μα) of John.” Paul then said that John “indeed” (μεν, Strong’s G3303, a word affirming and introducing a contrasting clause) immerses an immersion-effect (βαπτισ-μα) of repentance (change of mind) to the people, speaking into the one coming “after” (μετ, Strong’s G3326, “meta,” meaning a change or transition) him, that they should be believing into Jesus Christ. Hearing this, they are immersed into the name of the Lord Jesus (again, water is not cited here; the text says they are immersed “into the name of the Lord Jesus”). “Then Paul, placing his hands on them, the Holy Spirit comes upon them, they have been speaking in tongues and prophesying,” as a result.
So, clearly there are two messages here: The first is of John the Baptist, who prepared the way, and the second is of Jesus. The latter built upon the former. Both messages have messages of “repentance” (i.e. change of mind). So, let’s look at exactly what John the Baptist did (and did not) say concerning that.
“Repent, for the Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt 3:2)
Why were they to change their way of thinking? The answer is simple: Because the Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.
Again, here the “Kingdom of the heavens” has nothing directly to do with sin. Did they have a sin problem? Yes, of course they did. The whole Law of Moses was designed to make them continually aware of sins. They did not need John the Baptist to tell them that. And in the timeline of history, Jesus had not even paid for sins yet, so they were still under the Law of Moses. In fact, they did “confess” (literally, εξ-ομο-λογεω, the verb form of Strong’s G1537-G3674-G3506, “ex-[h]omo-logos,” “out-same-word,” meaning to speak out in agreement concerning) their sins (Matt 3:6). In fact, John said, “Progeny of vipers! Who warns you to flee from the impending wrath? Produce, then, fruits worthy of the repentance.” (Matt 3:7-8)
Notice carefully: John the Baptist did not tell them to confess (or “out-same-word”) their sins. That’s just what scripture says that they did. It was out of their own volition.
Remember Acts 18-19 cited previously: John the Baptist was before the cross, and before the empowering of the Holy Spirit. You could say that they were “confessing their sins” because they were “repenting.” But they were already required by the Law of Moses to acknowledge their sins, so it is in a sense moot to the point. In any case, if they changed their way of thinking, their mindsets, you would expect a change of action.
Ironically, this is how a large number of professing Christians still operate. They have a change of mind/thinking about the Kingdom, about Jesus, and then endeavor to “turn from sin,” do good, and not do evil. They are, in effect, disciples of John the Baptist, like Apollos and his disciples first were in Ephesus in Acts 18-19. They operate under an Old Covenant mindset. They are in need of a more adequate explanation of the gospel (i.e. “good news”), like that given Apollos by Priscilla and Aquila, and like that given to the Ephesians in his wake by Paul.
“I indeed (μεν, introducing a contrasting clause) am immersing you in water into repentance, yet the one behind me coming…” (Matt 3:9)
So John the Baptist immerses people in the Jordan River, “into change of mind/thinking,” introducing the one coming after him, who is the Messiah, the Christ. He “immerses” them “into change of mind/thinking.” He dips them “in” the Jordan River. The come out of the Jordan River unchanged by the water, which soon dries off. They remain immersed “into change of mind/thinking.” This is an important distinction.
Then comes Jesus to John. Does he need to “repent”? Why should John immerse him in the Jordan River “into repentance”? He has not sinned, right? He does not even need a “change of mind/thinking.” It is because Jesus acknowledges John and publicly affirms by doing so that the Kingdom is at hand. But something does happen to Jesus. He is “immersed in the Holy Spirit.” And he would be the only one “immersed in the Holy Spirit” until the day of Pentecost, over three years later. Jesus then goes forth in the power of the Spirit, like he would grant his disciples to do, on the day of Pentecost over three years later.
That was Matthew’s account. Now on to Mark’s account.
“John came immersing in the wilderness and proclaiming an immersion-effect (βαπτισ-μα) of repentance into the pardon of sins.” (Mark 1:4)
Note he does not say “into guilt of sins.” He does not even say “into pardon of sins.” He says “into the pardon of sins.” Remember Acts 2:38? So the change of mind/thinking is in the direction of (the) pardon, not guilt.
They confessed (“out-same-worded”) their sins according to Mark 1:5, too. Again, this was of their own volition, not because John told them to do that.
Luke’s account says much the same thing, as would be expected:
“And came into every region of the Jordan proclaiming immersion-effect (βαπτισ-μα) of repentance into the pardon of sins…” (Luke 3:3)
Now what follows this is instructive:
“…as it has been written in the scroll of the word of Isaiah the prophet, saying, “A voice of one imploring in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight the highways of him. Every ravine shall be being filled and every mountain and hill shall be being made low and the crooked shall be into straight and the rough into ways smooth’ and all flesh shall be seeing the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:4-6)
Since he is quoting from Isaiah, we should look there for more context and information:
40 “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.
2 “Speak kindly to Jerusalem;
And call out to her, that her warfare has ended,
That her iniquity has been removed,
That she has received of the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”
3 A voice is calling,
“Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
4 “Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Call out.”
Then he answered, “What shall I call out?”
All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.
9 Get yourself up on a high mountain,
O Zion, bearer of good news,
Lift up your voice mightily,
O Jerusalem, bearer of good news;
Lift it up, do not fear.
Say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord God will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.
Behold, His reward is with Him
And His recompense before Him.
11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (NASB’95)
As can be seen, this is a message of good news and redemption, which John the Baptist was proclaiming and preparing the way for. It is not about raising sin and guilt consciousness, confessing sins, threat of being condemned or cursed, and such; they already had plenty of that with the Law of Moses.
After the “progeny of vipers” and “produce fruits worthy of the repentance” passage that follows, Luke’s account adds the information about the throngs asking of him, “What then shall we be doing?”
This brings us full circle with what the Jews asked Peter at Pentecost (“What shall we be doing?”), except that John the Baptist is obviously not going to have a message that finishes with “…and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
But notice that John did not say, “Obey the Law of Moses.” or “stop sinning,” or even, “turn from your sins.” He said, “The one having two tunics must share with the one not having, and the one who has food must do likewise.” To the tax collectors, he said “Do not impose more than what has been prescribed to you.” To the solders, he said, “Do not intimidate nor blackmail, and be sufficed with your rations.” Every one of these directives has to do with how you treat others.
These are “fruits worthy of the repentance” (worthy of the change of mind). A person who has “repented” (i.e. changed his mind) about the Kingdom of God, and “repented” “into” “pardon of sins” (i.e. change his mind concerning pardon of sins) will do these things because he has “repented” (i.e. changed his mind). It is not striving to do something (like “turn from sin”) that is the “repentance” (i.e. change of mind). We are indeed to “turn from sin,” but that is not what “repenting” is. It is “repentance” (i.e. change of mind) that causes one to change their resultant thoughts, reasoning, and actions.
John preached this message urging repentance (i.e. change of mind), good news, not bad, and predicted the coming of Jesus, the one after him. Then Jesus preached the same thing, good news, not bad, and predicted the coming fulfillment, where he would pay for sins, rise from the dead, and about the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Peter preached, and those who followed after Acts 2 preach the past fulfillment, where Jesus paid for sins, rose from the dead, and God poured out his Spirit. This is all good news upon good news, not bad.
Let’s examine all the other scriptures that use the word “repent” and “repentance,” substituting “change their mind” (verb) or “change of thinking” (noun) to make sure it works. I’ll try to be as literal as I can while still keeping it readable:
“Then he begins to denounce the cities in which occurred his most powerful works, that they do not change their minds…” (Matt 11:20)
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the powerful works occurring in you ever occurred in Tyre and Sidon long ago they would change their minds in sackcloth and ashes.” (Matt 11:21, Luke 10:13)
Note what is supposed to cause them to “change their minds/thinking”: The “powerful works” (i.e. healings, deliverances, other miracles). Not Jesus delivering “fire and brimstone” threats to them (i.e. “repent of your sins or you will be damned.”) Jesus is not an Old Testament prophet like Jonah saying “40 days and your city will be destroyed.” In fact, in Luke 9:53-55 the disciples of Jesus suggested calling fire down upon those who rejected Jesus, and Jesus rebuked them. The powerful works of Jesus demonstrated that the Kingdom of God was near unto them, and revealed the goodness and glory of God, God’s favor, not God’s wrath. They are to change their minds in view of that. He denounced them afterward because, although they saw all these awesome things in their favor and to their benefit, they did not “change their minds.”
“Men, Ninevites, will be rising in the judgment with this generation and shall be condemning the same, that they change their minds into the heralding of Jonah, and behold! more of Jonah here.” (Matt 12:41, Luke 11:32)
Note that Jonah, an Old Testament prophet, did indeed preach “fire and brimstone” to Nineveh. He told them that in 40 days their city would be destroyed. He did not even give them a way out. He just told them that they were doomed. So now how much more is this “generation,” that Jesus speaks of, guilty for not changing their minds upon seeing the demonstration of the goodness and grace of God.
“and saying that the era has been fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has neared. Change your minds and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15)
Here again, it says, “…believe the good news.” Not the “bad news.”
“And going out, they have been proclaiming that they should be changing their minds.” (Mark 6:12)
This was the preaching of the 12 who were sent out. Their commission was to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, and preach that the Kingdom of God has come near to the same. Good news, not bad.
“I have not come to call just ones, but sinners into change of thinking.” (Luke 5:32)
Note that there is an implication that some are “just.” How can this be, when all have sinned? The answer is simple. Ever since the beginning, men have been justified by faith. What is the message to “sinners” now? “Turn or be damned”? No, the new message is about “pardon of sins,” as prophesied by Isaiah 40, and that proclaimed by John, and that to be fulfilled by Jesus.
“No! I am saying to you, but if ever you may not be changing your minds you will all likewise be perishing.” (Luke 13:3, Luke 13:5)
Note that this statement by Jesus is concerning people victimized by, in one case, Pilate, and in the other case, a natural disaster. Jesus says, “Are you supposing that these Galileans came to be sinful beyond all the Galileans, that they have suffered such? No!…”
Jesus follows this with the parable of the fig tree, where the owner wants to cut it down because it has produced no fruit, but the one tending it makes his appeal to cultivate it another year to try to get it to produce fruit. This is consistent with the message of John in the first place: “Produce fruit worthy of the repentance… the axe is lying at the root of the trees….” But again, it is a message of God giving people more time.
And if they are to “change their thinking,” what are they to “change their thinking about”? Jesus gives the answer to that question twice, right there in verses 2 and 4: They were thinking that those people (the victims) were worse sinners than the rest. That is what they were “supposing,” and that is what they needed to change their minds about.
“…joy shall be in the heaven upon one sinner changing his mind than upon ninety-nine just who are having no need of change of mind” (Luke 15:7).
“…there is coming to be joy in view of the messengers of God upon one sinner changing his mind.” (Luke 15:10)
In both of the above instances, the implication is that some do not need to “change their minds,” because they have already. This does not work with the “feel sorry about past sins” idea, because that would mean that everyone would always need to “feel sorry about past sins,” since there is no changing the past, and everyone has committed past sins.
Luke 15:7,10 are also both in the context of the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the prodigal son. The whole discourse by Jesus was instigated by the Pharisees and Scribes grumbling about Jesus receiving sinners and eating with them. It was the Pharisees and the Scribes pointing out that these were sinners. It was Jesus rebuking them about that. The discourse ends with the older brother of the prodigal son being indignant that the prodigal son was received back by his father with celebration, not rebuke.
“Yet he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if ever any may be being gone from the dead ones toward them, they shall be changing their minds.” (Luke 16:30)
This parable is indeed about changing one’s mind to avoid ending up in a place of torment. There is no question about that. But notice who the person talking is: It is the rich man. So these are the words of a fool, not a wise man. Of course, in the previous verse, it cites that “they have Moses and the Prophets,” and if they didn’t listen to them, they wouldn’t be convinced even if someone rose from the dead. This is not a parable about the “gospel.” It is a parable about the religious Jewish leaders who would not even listen to “Moses and the Prophets,” and were the leaders that John the Baptist said were a “brood of vipers.” It was the religious Jewish leaders who were like the rich man of the parable, whereas Lazarus represented the common folks that they would not lift a finger to help, because they figured that the “Lazarus” type was the way he was because of sin, whereas they were prosperous because they weren’t sinners. So in the parable they end up in torment and Lazarus ends up in paradise, the opposite of what they think. As predicted, they did not even repent (i.e. change their minds) when Jesus rose from the dead.
“…yet if ever your brother may sin into you, rebuke him, and if ever he should change his mind, let it go [i.e. pardon/forgive].” (Luke 17:3)
“…and should he be turning about (επιστρεψη, “epistrepse”) seven times a day upon you, saying ‘I am changing my mind,’ you shall be letting it go [i.e. pardon/forgive]…” (Luke 17:4)
Here also it is speaking of a brother changing his mind about his sins; in this case, his sins against you. So there can be no dispute here; the sinning brother is “repenting” about his sins. But wait! Who is Jesus speaking to? The one committing the sins, or the one being sinned against? It is the one being sinned against! So the message, once again, is one of pardon of sins, not guilt of sins.
“thus it has been written and thus it has been being binding to be suffering the Christ and to rise from the dead on the third day, and to be proclaimed upon the name of him change of thinking and pardon of sins” (Luke 24:46-47)
Here again, the change of thinking is about Jesus did and “pardon of sins,” not guilt of sins.
“Yet what God announces before through the mouth of all his prophets, the Christ to be suffering, he fulfills. Change your minds (μετανοησατε, “metanoesate”) then and turn around (επιστρεψατε, “epistrepsate”) into the erased sins of you, so that ever may be coming seasons of refreshing from the face of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19-19)
Here both the biblical word for “repent” (“metanoesate” = “change your minds”) and the equivalent of what is more like the English word for “repent” (“epistrepsate” = “turn about”) are used together in the same exhortation. Yet even here, it is “turn around into the erased sins.” It does not say “turn around into the your guilt of sins.” It does not say “turn around so that your sins can be erased.” It doesn’t even actually say “turn around and stop sinning” (at least not here). Also, it is “seasons of refreshing,” not “seasons of introspection and remorse.” Why? Because Jesus paid for sins.
“the inaugerator and savior exalts to his right to give change of thinking to Israel and pardon of sins” (Acts 5:31)
Same issue: “Change of thinking…pardon of sins.”
“Change your mind, then, from this evil of yours, and petition of the God if consequently the upon-thinking (επινοια, Strong’s G1963, “epi-noia”) of your heart shall be let go.” (Acts 8:22)
Now in this situation it cannot be disputed that a person (Simon the ex-magician) is told, “change your mind” “from” “this evil of yours.” What was the “‘thinking upon’ of his heart?” It was the thinking that he could buy the Holy Spirit with money.
“and glorify God, saying, ‘surely then also to the nations God gives change of thinking into life” (Acts 11:18)
This is reflecting about the conversion of Cornelius and his household upon the preaching of Peter to them. What did Peter preach? Read Acts 10:34-43 and find out. It was all good news, ending with the proclamation about “pardon of sins” in verse 43. As a result, and while Peter was still speaking to these Gentiles about this, the Holy Spirit fell upon them (verse 44). The only thing they could “change their thinking” about was what Peter specifically said, which did not include anything about being remorseful, or even “turning from sin.” It was all good news about redemption. The “change of thinking” was “into life,” not “into” something having to do with “sin.”
This is a very important point: Cornelius and his household were clueless before Peter came, and Peter’s entire speech, up to the point they were converted during it, is documented. That is all they had to go by, all the information they had to change their mind/thinking/mindset about, and there is no specific talk of “repentance” in Peter’s speech to them, let alone the traditional English language definition of “repentance.”
“of before-proclaiming of John before his personal entrance was the immersion-effect (βαπτισ-μα) of change of thinking to all the people Israel.” (Acts 13:24)
Here Paul is speaking to Jews in a synagogue. The situation is the same as described previously with Peter at the feast of Pentecost in Acts 2:37-28. They needed to change their thinking/mindset from the Old Covenant Law of Moses (exposure of sins) to the New Covenant (pardon of sins).
“…God is now charging to all men everywhere to change their minds.” (Acts 17:30)
Here Paul is at Athens speaking to Greeks. Again, you can read what Paul told them that they needed to change their minds about in verses 22-31: Worthless man-made idols everywhere, that the Divine is not like the idols, that God will someday judge the earth in justice by the man whom he specifies, Jesus, who he raised from the dead.
“testifying to both Jews and Greeks change of thinking into God and faith into our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21)
Here Paul is speaking to the Christians in Ephesus. “Change of mind/thinking/mindset” into what? Into God. Not “into guilt of sins.”
“…and I have been conveying to the nations to be changing their minds (μετανοειν, “metanoein”) and to be turning around (επιστρεφειν, “epistrephein”) upon the God, practicing works worthy of the change of mind (μετανοιας, “metanoias”).” (Acts 26:20)
Here Paul is speaking to Herod Agrippa II, testifying about how he has been telling people to “change their minds” and “turn to God.” Note again that the change happens first, then the works follow the change.
“or are you despising the riches of his goodness and of the forbearance and of the patience, being ignorant that the goodness of God is leading you into change of thinking.” (Rom 2:4)
Here it is the “goodness” of God, not the “wrath of God” that leads men into change of thinking. This follows the whole Rom 1:18-2:3 discourse about men being without excuse for what they have done. But it is not that, but the “goodness” of God that leads to “repentance.”
“Now I am rejoicing not that you were sorrowed but that you were sorrowed into change of thinking…” (2 Cor 7:9)
“For sorrow according to God is producing change of mind into unregretted salvation, yet the sorrow of the world is producing death.” (2 Cor 7:10)
These are indeed talking about “sorrow” (i.e. remorse) that caused the Corinthians to change their thinking, between his first letter, where he rebuked them for their sexual immorality, including the man who had his father’s wife, and his second letter, where he follows up on their apparent change with words of reconciliation.
Note that in verse 9 he was never asking them to feel “sorry.” He was highlighting the change of mind that their sorrow produced. This is an important point, because it is not required for someone to feel “sorrow.” It is required that they change their minds/thinking. Whether they experienced remorse beforehand is aside from the point. In verse 10, he contrasts “unregretted salvation” with the world’s “sorrow” that produces “death.”
“…and I shall be mourning many of those having sinned before and aren’t changing their minds upon the uncleanness and sexual immorality and wantonness which they practice.” (2 Cor 12:21)
Here again he is telling those practicing sin to change their minds. They are to change their minds about their practices of immorality.
Notice in the last three verses Paul is talking to the Corinthian Christians. These messages concerning repentance are not directed at unbelievers!
“with meekness training the antagonizing, whether God may be giving to them change of thinking into realization of truth” (2 Tim 2:25)
Here he speaks of Christians who are being antagonistic. They should “change their minds” about being antagonistic.
“…we should be being brought upon the maturity, not again casting down the foundation of change of thinking from dead works and of faith upon God.” (Heb 6:1)
“[not able:…] and falling aside, to be renewing again into change of thinking, crucifying anew to themselves the son of God…” (Heb 6:6)
Here he is talking to believers again, telling them not to “cast down” the foundation with which they had a change of mind in the first place, and go back to teach these elementary things all over again, as if they needed to be converted again, which they don’t. (See this article on Heb 6:4-6.)
“…for [Esau] is rejected, for he does not find place of change of thinking, even seeking the same out with tears” (Heb 12:17)
Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew, considering the birthright worth as much (Gen 25:29-34). He should have had a change of thinking about that.
“…but is being patient into us not intending any to be perishing but all to make room into change of thinking” (2 Pet 3:9)
Here is another scripture about the patience of God, not the wrath of God, which follows scriptures about the wrath of God that God is withholding to allow more to be saved.
“Remember then whence you have fallen out and change your minds and do the first works. Yet if not, I am coming to you swiftly and shall be moving your lampstand out of its place, if ever you should not change your minds.” (Rev 2:5)
What should they “change their minds” about here is to go back to their “first love” and “do the first works.”
“Thus you are having and holding the teaching of the Nicolatians which I am hating. Change your minds! If yet not, I am coming to you swiftly…” (Rev 2:15-16)
What they should “change their minds” about here is to forsake the teachings of the Nicolatians.
“And I give her time that she should change her mind out of her sexual immorality and she does not change her mind.” (Rev 2:21)
This speaks of “Jezebel,” who should change her mind about her sexual immorality.
“…and those committing adultery with her into great tribulation if ever they should not be changing their minds out of their works.” (Rev 2:22)
This speaks of those committing adultery with “Jezebel,” who should change their minds and do otherwise.
“Remember, then how you have obtained and you hear, and be keeping and change your minds.” (Rev 3:3)
This speaks of how they should remember how they obtained and change their minds, acting accordingly.
“If ever as many as I may be being fond I am exposing and I am training. Be zealous then and change your minds.” (Rev 3:19)
These are the “lukewarm” Laodiceans who should change their minds about their lukewarmness and presumption.
“And the reset of the men who were not killed in these calamities do not change their minds out of the works of their hands, that they should not be worshipping the demons and idols and gold and silver and copper and stone and…” (Rev 9:20)
“They don’t change their minds out of their murders nor out of their drugs nor out of their sexual immorality nor out of their thefts” (Rev 9:21)
“…and they blaspheme the name of God, the one having authority upon these calamities and they do not change their minds to give him glory.” (Rev 16:9)
“and blaspheme the God of heaven out of their miseries and out of their ulcers and do not change their minds out of their acts.” (Rev 16:11)
In the above four passages we are in the midst of the wrath of God being poured out upon unbelievers (who refused to change their minds up to this point), and yet even now they still do not change their minds about their idolatry and wickedness.
So, now every single “repent/repentance” scripture has been cited. As can be seen, there are many different things that are pointed to for people in various circumstances to change their minds/mindset/thinking about, some of which are sinful acts and behavior.
In several instances above you can see calls for “repentance” (“change of mind”) to people who are sinning. The categories for this, however, target “believers,” such as Simon the ex-sorcerer, or the Corinthians allowing sexual immorality, or the exhortations by Jesus to the seven specific out-callings in the first few chapters of Revelation, or the behavior of those unbelievers experiencing the wrath of God in the final days in the latter chapters of Revelation.
What is important to see is that “repentance,” as it is defined in the English language, is not tied in with the gospel (the “good news”) that we believers preach to unbelievers. We preach “change of thinking” that has to do with “pardon of sin,” not “guilt of sin.” Obviously, there is the implication that all have sinned, if we preach “pardon of sin.” So we are not removing “sin” from the equation. It is just that redemption is in the “good news” and not the “bad news.” The “bad news” is that all are condemned by default, until such time as they believe the “good news.” Consequently, there is nothing wrong with pointing out that “bad news” basis that comes before the “good news.” The point again is that it isn’t part of the “good news,” which is what the word “gospel” (an Old English word “gōd”+”spel” = “good+news”) means.
To make sure there is no misconstruing what I have written here, such that anyone might think that I am trying to remove sin or personal responsibility from the message that we preach, see my online gospel tract, entitled No-nonsense Christianity: The bad news and the good news. And to remove any possibility that I might be trying to make the message more socially palatable to the worldly masses, see my parody gospel tract, How to get your head chopped off.