What is…

Meaning: change of mind and heart —as in “Oh no, what have I done?!!”

also known as: contrition, sincere penitence, true remorse

True repentance is to turn away from sin and have a change of heart.

The words repentance or repent (or variations thereof) appear 73 times in the New American Standard Bible (NASB). It is a very important term, particularly appearing over and over again in the Gospels and the book of Revelation. Jesus Christ and His Apostles called sinners to repent of their many sins and believe in Christ and the Gospel.

There are 2 Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance.

  1. metamelomai

    Greek: μεταμέλομαι —transliteration: metamelomai

    This verb is used of a change of mind, such as to produce regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. This word is used with reference to the remorse of Judas (Matthew 27:3).

    Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See [to that] yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. —Matthew 27:3-5 NASB

  2. metanoeó —true repentance

    Greek: μετανοέω —transliteration: metanoeó or metanoeo

    This means to change one’s mind and purpose, a change of the inner man. This verb, with the cognate noun metanoiaμετάνοια, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised.

Key points for understanding repentance

So, what is true repentance—sincere remorse?

According to Scripture’s teaching of the Gospel, repentance consists of…

  1. a true sense of one’s own guilt and sinfulness

  2. an apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ

  3. an actual hatred of sin (Psalm 119:128; Job 42:5,6; 2 Corinthians 7:10) and turning from it to God

  4. a persistent endeavour to live a holy life—walking with God in the way of His instruction

The true penitent is conscious of…

Thus, he realizes that he is just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be—a lost sinner who desperately needs God’s mercy. Repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also of his Creator’s pure holiness and an understanding of His mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Psalm 51:1; 130:4).

Do you think you are NOT a sinner, and that you are good enough to be admitted to God’s Holy presence for eternity? Think again. None of us are even close.

Good enough?

How good is good enough? Answer

Even God’s righteous man Job, after coming face to face with God—His pure holiness, omnipotence, wisdom and love—humbly confessed, in essence, “…I realize the truth… I am vile… I repent in dust and ashes…” (paraphrase from Job 40-42).

And then, God instantly came to Job’s rescue and restored and rewarded him.

Is repentance a one time event in one’s life?

Streaming video— 
The whole of the Christian life is repentance
Scottish theologian Dr. Sinclair Buchanan, Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary Ferguson
Length: 1 minutes
Streaming video— 
Don’t expect a perfect repentance
Paul Washer, HeartCry Missionary Society, M.Div. from Southwestern Theological Seminary
Length: 13 minutes

More information

Article Version: June 6, 2019