The word repent is used 23 times in the NT. The word repentance is used 25 times. Repented is used 15 times and repenteth is used 2 times.
In these 65 times only four different English words are used and only four different Greek words are used. In 58 times the Greek noun metanoia or the verb metanoeo are used.
Metanoia means a change of mind. The prefix meta means change. When a caterpillar turns into a butterfly we say that it has gone through a metamorphosis. Note that the prefix meta means change. The word noia means mind. We’ve all heard of the word paranoia. Paranoia refers to problems of the mind. Therefore, today the root meanings for the Greek word for repentance means a change of mind. But at the time the New Testament was written, there was no distinction between the mind and the heart, so the correct meaning today would be, a change of heart. It should be noted that in Biblical usage repentance is always followed by a change in action…a change of direction.
Five times repentance is the Greek word metamellomai, which means to change one’s feelings.
Two times repentance is translated from the Greek word ametameltos. It means not to be repented of, or to not change one’s mind. The word repentance, therefore, means to change one’s mind. (a = not, for example, amillenialist means one who does not believe in the millennium.)
Often times we hear someone say that repentance means to be sorry for your sins. The expression “repent of your sins” does not appear anywhere in the bible. Matt 3:2, “And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” At the time of John the Baptist’s preaching the Jews had become self-righteous and were trusting in their works and their position as sons of Abraham for their salvation instead of simply having faith in God. Mankind is born as a God rejector and must change his heart and become a God believer. To repent one must change his heart about one thing, and that is to stop rejecting God and start believing in God. The proof of repentance is when we stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting in God, then verbally ask God to save us.
If repentance meant to turn from our sins: lying, stealing, looking at others with lust in our hearts, etc., then salvation would require a work.
Over 35 times the word repent is used as an act of God. Genesis 6:6, “And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the Earth, and it grieved Him at His heart.”
Exodus 32:14, “And the LORD repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people.”
I Samuel 15:35b, “…the Lord repented that He had made Saul king over Israel.”
We serve a sinless God. If repentance meant turning from sin, then it would mean that God had been guilty of sin.
II Cor. 7: 8,9. (Read it) Although sorrow may lead to repentance, sorrow and repentance are not the same thing. Notice “…Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation…” Worldly sorrow will cause some people to turn over a new leaf; instead of looking to Jesus for the answer they look to themselves. But Godly sorrow leads to repentance, which leads to salvation.
This leads us to another interesting question. When should we forgive someone when they trespass against us? Jesus said we should forgive a person seventy times seven (Matt 18: 22). And we should forgive others as Christ forgave us; but when, or at what point in time, should we forgive them? Should we forgive and forget when a person says, “I’m sorry?” Did Jesus forgive us when we said, “I’m sorry?” No! Jesus said in Matthew 3:8, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” He is asking for proof of repentance. Paul said in Acts 26:20, “…that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” Being sorry is not the same as repentance. He saves us after we repent, and that’s when we should forgive someone when they sin against us: after they repent.
For example, let’s say someone got caught stealing money out of the offering plate. Then he says he’s sorry. So we forgive him and forget about it. But next Sunday he’s caught again stealing money from the collection plate. Again he says he’s sorry and again he’s forgiven. Next Sunday he’s caught again. Has this person repented of his stealing? No! It was wrong to forgive him when he only said he was sorry. When he said he was sorry we should have at least put him on some kind of unspoken probation until he had demonstrated that he had changed his mind about stealing. After he has demonstrated that he has changed his mind about stealing, then he should be forgiven.
Repentance and salvation are not the same thing. To say that they are the same thing would be to say that God got saved because the Bible says that God repented of something. To need salvation He would have had to commit some sin.
The origin of the idea that repentance means to be sorry for your sin is in the similarity of the words repentance, penitence and penance. Penitence means: A state of being penitent.
The word penitent means: 1. Contrite, sorry for sin or fault and disposed to atonement and amendment. 2. A penitent person. 3. Roman Catholic Church: one who confesses sin and submits to penance. (From the word penitent we get the word penitentiary.)
The word penance means: 1. Punishment undergone in token of penitence for sin. 2. A penitent discipline imposed by church authority. 3. A sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church, consisting of a confession of sin and sorrow followed by the forgiveness of sin.
(Note: this is a Roman Catholic word. It is not a Baptist word.)
To be saved the bible doesn’t say we have to be penitent, but we must be repentant. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation.” Or to say it a different way, “Godly penitence causes a change of heart which leads to salvation.”
We have seen that repentance is translated from the Greek words for a change of heart, but Biblical usage dictates that it means a change of direction as well.