Repentance is Not
Turning Away from One's Sins
By David J. Stewart | March 2008 | Updated June 2016
"Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." —Acts 20:21
Repentance is not ceasing from sinful bad habits, nor even being willing to turn from one's sins; Repentance is turning to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved from one's sins (Romans 4:5). Salvation is receiving; NOT giving. Eternal life is the free gift of God (Romans 5:15;6:23), paid for by Jesus' precious literal blood (1st Peter 1:18,19). To be saved we simply need to come as a guilty sinner to Jesus Christ to have our sins washed away by His redeeming blood (1st John 1:7). Salvation is turning to Jesus to be forgiven of one's sins; NOT turning from one's sins in order to be forgiven by Jesus.
You Are Not Saved By Repenting, You Are Saved By Your Faith In Jesus Christ (Pastor Danny Castle—a quote from the 2016 sermon titled, “Acting Responsibly”). The man who believes has repented, and the man who repents has believed. God promises “TO SAVE THEM THAT BELIEVE” (1st Corinthians 1:21). Repentance and faith happen together, at the same time, like flipping a coin. One side of the coin is “heads” and the other side “tails.” You cannot turn one side over without also turning the other side over. Repentance is NOT a separate act from believing. It's not the same thing as believing, but it is inherently related to it. “Repentance” is thinking differently (Greek verb: metanoeo) toward God. Thus, we repent and believe the Gospel to be saved.
Repeatedly in the Holy Scriptures we are taught to simply “believe” on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved (John 3:16; John 3:36; John 6:28-29; John 6:40; John 11:25; John 20:31). The apostle John mentions the words “believe” and “believed” 85 times in the Gospel of John, but he never mentions the word “repent,” not even once. This tells us that the man who believes has also repented. Thus, repentance is not a separate act required to be saved, as minister's David Cloud, Ray Comfort, Paul Washer, John MacArthur and other false prophets errantly teach. If a man didn't change his mind (i.e. repent), then he wouldn't believe (John 3:20). Hence, we don't need to tell people to repent AND believe to be saved. Just teach them to BELIEVE THE GOSPEL, which is, “THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION TO EVERY ONE THAT BELIEVETH” (Romans 1:16).
The Gospel according to 1st Corinthians 15:1-4 is that Jesus DIED on the cross for our sins, He was BURIED, and then He bodily RESURRECTED three days later. There is no mention of the need for repentance. This is “the Gospel.” The Gospel is not accepting Jesus as one's “Lord,” nor is it inviting Him into one's life, nor following Jesus. False Gospels abound today in the churches. Salvation is by grace through faith in the Gospel, plus nothing! You don't have to “surrender control of your life to Christ” to be saved. That is entirely a matter of discipleship, not the gift of salvation.
The Great Meaning Of “METANOIA”
Since the word “metanoia” (a noun) simply means “to change one's mind” (the verb form is metanoeo), it requires supplemental information, because we don't know what to change our mind about. Whereas the English word “repent” definitely means to turn away from sins, the Greek word metanoia doesn't give us any specifics. The Word of God gives us the needed supplemental information in our text verse from Mark 1:15b, “repent ye, and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.” Hence, repentance is unto the Gospel itself. The Gospel is what the change of mind is about. The great meaning of the word metanoia is that is applies to anything and everything that hinders a person from believing the Gospel. In the case of John 3:20, the Bible tells us that evil itself hinders men from believing the Gospel. Whatever it is that has been hindering a sinner from believing the Gospel, the Scriptures command us to think differently toward God (Acts 20:21) and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL. The Gospel is what the change of mind is about.
The ONLY thing that you need to repent of to be saved is whatever it is that's been keeping you from coming to Christ to be saved. Repentance is TOWARD GOD!
Yes, a sinner DOES need to repent to be saved, but Biblical repentance is always mentioned as being TOWARD GOD (Acts 20:21), and never from sins. You cannot show me even one place in the Bible where we are commanded to cease from our sins to be saved. Salvation is the free gift of God (Romans 5:15; 6:23); and a good thing, because there's nothing we could have done to save our sorry selves from the Lake of Fire (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jonah 2:9 testifies that Salvation is of the Lord. We have no genuine righteous to offer God. Our best efforts are self-righteous hypocrisy (Isaiah 64:6).
To repent concerning salvation in the Bible means “a change of mind.” It's a CHANGE OF MIND. When you acknowledge that you're a sinner in God's eyes and TURN TOWARD GOD to be saved by faith in the Gospel, you are saved by Jesus' precious blood (1st Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 9:12,22-24; Revelation 1:5; 7:14). When you turn toward God YOU HAVE also turned your back against sin. To turn to Christ for forgiveness is to turn from sin in your heart. One only need admit their guilt of sin to be saved. If a sinner were required to cease from sinful bad habits to be saved, think about the near impossible heavy burden this would lay upon the sinner's shoulders! Christ bore our burdens upon Himself at Calvary, because we could not bear the weight of our own sins.
Where the Burden Rests in Salvation
To turn your face toward Jesus is to turn your back against sin, whether you're willing to stop committing sins at that particular moment in your life or not. Regardless, eternal life is a free gift and has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with one's willingness to clean up their life of sin. Romans 4:5-6 makes this extremely clear. Salvation is a gift. Our part is simply to believe on the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Whatever changes God wants to be made comes later, as we grow in the milk of the Word (1st Peter 2:2).
Most Christians require YEARS before they are willing to seriously commit their lives to God in holy living, and of course, many never even get to that point, as evidenced by the children of Israel who wandered in the Wilderness of Zin for 40-years (yes it is spelled “Zin” with a “z”). They had complained 10-times, one time too many for God, and He had had enough when they refused to enter The Promised Land. God is loving, longsuffering, and patient; but there is a line that you can cross with God where He changes His plans for your life. Malachi 3:6 is correct... God never changes. However, God does sometimes change His plans because MAN DOES CHANGE. The Lord repented (changed His mind) in the Old Testament on numerous occasions because MEN CHANGED. It wasn't God who changed, but sinful men who changed. So, yes, God's mind can be changed.
We are saved eternally by turning in our heart TOWARD Jesus to be forgiven of our sins. That is faith. That's not to say that you're willing to cease from committing any of those sins at the time of salvation; but you have turned, i.e., REPENTED, toward God to be forgiven of those sins, which you recognize now as sin.
God is Working in the Life of a Born-Again Believer
Once you're a born-again Christian, the Holy Spirit moves into your body (indwells) immediately (Romans 8:9). A changed life is the FRUIT of the indwelling Holy Spirit, NOT a part of the ROOT of saving-faith. We live right because WE ARE saved, not to GET SAVED. This is a Heaven and Hell difference. Ephesians 2:10 teaches that God saves us “UNTO GOOD WORKS”! We are not saved BY GOOD WORKS! TRYING to get to Heaven is a works-based false religion; but TRUSTING Jesus Christ completely is Biblical Christianity.
Once saved, God's Holy Spirit will work on a believer day-by-day. 2nd Corinthians 5:17 teaches that a believer is a “NEW CREATURE.” The “new creature” is Jesus Christ in us, that is, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9 - All Scriptures references are ONLY from the trustworthy, KING JAMES BIBLE). The “new creature” is our precious Lord. Amen! YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOURSELF! If you do, it is mere REFORMATION and not Biblical REGENERATION!!! You need God's Holy Spirit to renew your mind and heart (Ephesians 4:23). We don't merely need God's help to live the Christian life; but rather, Jesus lives the Christian life through us. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” We allow the Lord Jesus to live through us, as we yield to the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, in obedience to the inspired Words of God. Jesus taught this in John 14:18, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
That's another wonderful thing about getting saved, i.e., God didn't leave us as an orphan to fend for ourselves. No Sir! Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” God never does a half-job. God finishes what He starts! Hebrews 12:2a, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” 1st Thessalonians 5:24, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” If you're a genuine born-again Christian, then God is working in your life. Most often God works behind-the-scenes where we cannot see what He's doing, which tests our faith. If God made His workings visible, then everyone would become a Christian for the wrong reasons, i.e., for selfish gain. Instead, the Christians of this world are often the poorest, most despised, most hated, most ridiculed and most afflicted people (1st Peter 4:12). God tests and strengthens His people's faith (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). God never changes (Malachi 3:6).
Remember that Hebrews 11:6 proclaims that faith pleases God. It takes a much greater faith to keep praying when it doesn't seem like God is answering. We must learn to trust the Scriptures and NOT our feelings. 1st Peter 5:7 instructs us to cast our cares upon Him because God cares about us. That is a powerful, meaningful, and a precious invitation from our God to bring our burdens to Him in prayer. It is easy to develop the sinful attitude of “why waste my time praying if it doesn't work for me?” I have a question for you my friend: Do you believe that the Bible is God's inspired Words? If so, then it doesn't matter if you feel like God is not hearing or answering your prayers, because you KNOW that 1st Peter 5:7 proclaims that GOD CARES! We live in an uncaring world. Hardly anyone cares about anyone, except a few Christians who are yielding to the Spirit of Christ.
We must keep in mind Scriptures like John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” God never promised us that we wouldn't be fed to the hungry lions. In fact, 2nd Timothy 3:12 foretold that all Christ-honoring believers who live Godly in this world SHALL SUFFER PERSECUTION. Guaranteed!!! Noah preached for 120-years while building the ark and not even ONE PERSON cared about the Gospel message and got saved. The whole world went to Hell. You cannot escape the agendas of the New World Order that are destroying families everywhere. In these Last Days, our only hope is to cling in desperation to the Word of God.
The most powerful force in this universe and beyond are the PROMISES of God. Titus 1:2 tells us that eternal life is a PROMISE from God. Amen! I KNOW I am going to Heaven. I KNOW because my salvation rests in Jesus' righteousness (2nd Corinthians 5:21), and not my own inadequate self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). Jesus told us to BE OF GOOD CHEER in John 16:33 because He has overcome the world. Every believer needs to ponder over this precious Scripture and grasp its meaning. Do you know why Jesus said we can rejoice and be of good cheer? It's because we HAVE A HOPE in Jesus Christ that all the demonic hordes of Hell, all the greedy evil people in this world, all the hateful enemies that want to destroy us... cannot take away from us! We are on the winning side in Christ Jesus! Jesus has PROMISED to share all His kingdom with us when we get to Heaven, preparing for us an inheritance in Heaven. 1st Peter 1:4, “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for you.”
Anyway, I just wanted to share a few thoughts on the believer's walk with God. Jesus is the truth and our life (John 6:63).
Faithfully Exposing False Teachers Who Corrupt the Gospel
I have written quite a few articles lately exposing numerous contemporary false prophets, who teach that a person MUST forsake their sinful bad habits to be saved. There is NO such teaching found in the Bible. I triple-dog dare you to show me anywhere in the Word of God were a sinner is required to “turn away from sins” to be saved. You cannot! The desire to turn from one's sin is the FRUIT of the indwelling Holy Spirit. When you change your mind, God changes your heart! It is ridiculous to expect a person, who has not yet been indwelt with the Holy Spirit, to turn from personal sins as a requirement to be saved. That is “another Gospel” (2nd Corinthians 11:3-4). Galatians 1:6-9 teaches that there is a “curse” upon anyone who teaches another Gospel! 1st Corinthians 15:1-4 defines “the Gospel” as Christ DIED on the cross for our sins, He was BURIED, and Jesus bodily RESURRECTED three days later for our justification. Those three elements constitute “the Gospel.” There is no additional requirement to “ask Jesus to take control of your life” as “Lord,” which is what Jack Chick associate Will Cosby teaches. (Beware Of 'Operation Somebody Cares' And Chick Tracts.)
John MacArthur plainly states: “Submission to the will of God, to Christ’s lordship, and to the guiding of the Spirit is an essential, not an optional, part of saving faith” (EPHESIANS, p. 249). MacArthur is a false prophet. He further states: “There's no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile ... The life we live, not the words we speak, determines our eternal destiny” [emphasis added] (Hard to Believe, p. 93). What blasphemy! MacArthur sinfully teaches that the life we live determines our eternal destiny. This is works salvation!
Some false prophets, such as David Cloud, teach that a person who is not willing to forsake their sins cannot get saved. Mr. Cloud deceitfully states that he does not believe in Lordship Salvation; while simultaneously teaching that a person who is “not ready” for the drastic changes which salvation brings cannot be saved. Cloud's teaching on repentance is that you cannot come to Christ for salvation unless you first intend not to walk in sin after you receive Him. This is "qualification by works" as a prerequisite for receiving Christ as Savior.
Other false prophets, such as Jack Chick, teach that a person must “be willing to turn from sin (Repent)” in order to be saved. Mr. Jack added this “extra step” to the Gospel. This is the heresy of Lordship Salvation (i.e., the false doctrine that a person must surrender control of their life to Jesus as “Lord” to be saved). Jack Chick makes the deadly mistake of misinterpreting the Biblical meaning of the word “repent.” Repentance is not a willingness to turn from sin. Biblical repentance means turning to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. As we observed earlier, the English dictionary provides a very different meaning for the word “repent” than the Greek language of the Bible does. The English word for “repent” means “to turn away from sin; to feel sorrow over sins.” In sharp contrast, the Greek word for “metanoia” means “a change of mind.” We change our mind to believe the Gospel. This has nothing to do with cleaning up one's life of sinful bad habits, or changing one's attitude toward their sinful ways. It means thinking differently toward God and believing the Gospel to be saved.
Dr. John R. Rice (1895-1980) taught that repentance and faith are not two separate steps to salvation; but rather, two parts of one step. Being born-again is not a process! Repentance and faith are like a coin. That is, you have one coin with two sides. When a man looks up to a holy God, seeing himself as an unholy sinner in need of a Savior, and believes the Gospel (Good News) of the Lord Jesus Christ, He is forever saved. The person who has believed has repented. And the person who repents has believed. They are inseparable!
Dr. Aiden W. Tozer was a false prophet concerning the Gospel. Mr. Tozer unquestionably taught Lordship Salvation—teaching, “In the Bible the offer of pardon on the part of God is conditioned upon intention to reform on the part of man. There can be no spiritual regeneration till there has been a moral reformation” (The Best of A.W. Tozer, Book 2, pg. 115-117; Compiled by Warren W. Wiersbe). Wrong! Salvation is receiving, not giving. It is receiving, not achieving! Salvation is a take proposition, not a give proposition. Salvation is not doing your best, it is having Christ's best put to your account through receiving Him by faith. God will not save anyone who is trying to be saved, He will only save those who are trusting to be saved. Mr. Tozer requires sinners to “reform” themselves before they can be saved. How ridiculous! This goes contrary to the plainest teachings in the Bible. Again, Romans 4:5 states: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Mr. Tozer is teaching works salvation!!! Neither education, nor reformation, nor rehabilitation can get a man to Heaven, nor permanently change Him for God; he must first be regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God through the incorruptible Seed of God's Word. 1st Peter 1:23, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
The Salvation Army teaches damnable heresy. I was greatly saddened recently as I read the official doctrinal statement of the Salvation Army. If you look at the Salvation Army's list of doctrines, you'll come down to doctrine # 9, which reads as follows: “We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ” [emphasis added]. Doctrine # 9 is a lie of the Devil, which is certainly NOT based upon the Word of God. Lordship Salvation necessitates the doctrine of losing one's salvation. The Salvation Army is teaching the damnable heresy of works salvation. They clearly believe that one's salvation is conditional upon works. The Salvation Army exists today solely based upon the doctrinal beliefs and creed of General William Booth and his avowed rebel feminist wife. IF saved, ALWAYS saved!
Ray Comfort is another false prophet who states: “We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and until we forsake them through repentance, we cannot be made alive in Christ” [emphasis added] (THE EVIDENCE BIBLE; Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?). Mr. Comfort clearly denies that believing on Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation... he states: “If belief is all that is necessary for salvation, then the logical conclusion is that one need never repent.” Clearly, Ray Comfort believes that repentance means to forsake one's sins as a prerequisite to placing one's faith in Jesus. In sharp contrast, Romans 4:5 says... “But to him that WORKETH NOT, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is COUNTED for righteousness.” The only type of person that Jesus justifies is the UNGODLY, i.e., those ungodly sinners who believe on Jesus Christ to be forgiven of their sins. Shame on those ministers who corrupt the simplicity of the Gospel, by placing the heavy burden of departing from one's sins as a prerequisite to be saved.
Joyce Meyer's website makes the following statement, saying that their mission is to teach non-Christians how to enjoy life without being born-again...
“We provide global humanitarian aid to hurting people and teach Christians and non-Christians alike how to enjoy everyday life by applying biblical principles in all they do.”
What a heretic! That is blatant heresy! There is no way for anyone to enjoy everyday life by applying Biblical principles as a Christ-rejecter!!! Meyer's mission is to teach Biblical principles to non-Christians, so they can enjoy everyday life?
Conclusion of This Important Matter
It is false doctrine to make repenting of one's sins an event in itself to be saved. Again, repentance is not turning from one's sins; Repentance is turning to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved from one's sins (Romans 4:5). Jack Chick, David Cloud, Ray Comfort, Aiden Tozer, John MacArthur and the Salvation Army all make repentance an isolated act by itself. The Bible stands against them for perverting the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The word “believe” is mentioned 85 times in the Gospel of John; YET the word “repent” is not mentioned even ONCE!!! Clearly, the sinner who believes on Jesus as the Christ to forgive his sins has repented.
False prophets today define repentance as merely turning from one's sins. This misunderstanding of repentance has spawned multiple false gospels. Repentance is turning TO THE LORD from the condemnation of sin, as guilty sinners, to have those sins washed away by the precious literal blood of Jesus Christ (1st Peter 1:18,19; 1st John 1:7, Revelation 1:5). To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness of one's sins is repentance. To merely turn from sin is nothing more than “turning over a new leaf,” which is the false gospel of Perry Stone.
Judas repented (Matthew 27:3), but it is a different Greek word than the word used for repentance elsewhere in the New Testament. Judas was only sorry that He got caught; but He had no faith toward God. When Judas saw Jesus was condemned, Judas brought back the 30 pieces of silver. The false accusing, hypocritical Pharisees refused to take the money back. So Judas threw the money on the floor. You see, Judas wanted to clean up his act now and undo the wrong he had done. He was sorry; but Judas went straight to Hell in His sins. Judas had Lordship Salvation and went to Hell, just as the religious hypocrites in Matthew 7:21-23.
Eternal life is a free gift from God, and you had better stop trusting in your self-righteous ways or else you'll go to Hell with Judas. Turning over a new leaf is not repentance. Ceasing from sins is not repentance. Giving up the sinful world is not repentance. Making a commitment or surrendering one's life to Christ (Catholic doctrine) is not repentance. Genuine Biblical repentance is turning TOWARD GOD by faith in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to have all your sins forgiven. The very moment you are saved, you become a born-again child of God, spiritually, and there is absolutely no way you can ever, ever, ever lose God's salvation. It is THY SALVATION as king David said repeatedly; meaning, it is God's salvation, in God's hands alone, it is the precious gift of God, and we have no part in God's salvation except to BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST (Acts 16:30-31).
Philippians 2:12, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Notice that the Apostle Paul said to work out YOUR own salvation. Paul didn't say to work out GOD'S salvation. After God saves us, then there is a lifelong growing in grace process of acknowledging the Lord in all our ways, and He shall direct our paths (Proverb 3:5-7).
I hear so many people talking about seeking God's will; but we already have God's will written in the Bible. I couldn't find even one Scripture that commands believers to seek God's will; but rather, to understand God's will and do it. Ephesians 5:17, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
I found the phrase “will of God” mentioned 23-times in the Bible, and not one reference instructed believers to go search and find God's will. Instead, the Bible tells us to DO God's will. We already have God's will, in the Scriptures, which is exactly why Jesus commanded us to SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES in John 5:39. The Bible tells us how to think, talk and behave as Christians. By yielding to the Holy Spirit and obeying the Scriptures we can think, talk and live RIGHT for God; but only through the precious physical blood of Jesus Christ could we ever have been made RIGHT WITH GOD.
Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are MADE NIGH BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST.” Amen! I love the Bible and Jesus so much!!! We are not worthy of such wondrous love and generosity. Thank you God for being patient and understanding (Psalm 103:10-14), for sending your Son to make a way of escape from the curse of the Law. Seeing how awesome God is, and how much opportunity He gives us to freely obtain the gift of eternal life; only a total fool and ingrate would reject so great a gift from God. What a precious offer! And it's all FREE to us, paid for by the Lord! Wow!!!
True Biblical repentance means turning to Jesus Christ by faith to be forgiven of one's sins. The “turning” is not from the act of sin itself; but rather, TURNING TOWARD GOD (Acts 20:21). Sin has brought condemnation upon all mankind (Romans 3:19-23; 5:12). Lordship Salvationists pervert the Gospel. They teach that repentance and faith are two separate steps to salvation, and that faith alone in Christ is insufficient to save anyone, unless they've turned from their sinful lifestyle. That is exactly what Ray Comfort teaches, i.e., that faith alone in Jesus Christ is insufficient to save a sinner. Ray Comfort recognizes repentance (which he defines as ceasing from one's sins) as an entirely additional requirement to placing one's belief in Christ. Theologically, it is correct to say that we repent TO believe. We don't repent AND believe! This matter of repentance is one of the biggest battles in churches today.
Sadly, Mr. Comfort and his sidekick, Kirk Cameron, are doctrinally corrupted and confused, likely because they are followers of heretic Dr. John MacArthur (evidenced by Kirk Cameron promoting the John MacArthur Study Bible on his website). They are WRONG to teach that repentance unto salvation means ceasing from deliberate sin. They are also wrong to teach that repentance is a completely separate act from believing the Gospel to be saved. THE TRUTH is that you simply BELIEVE THE GOSPEL to receive the gift of forgiveness of sins. Jesus doesn't forgive sins! That's right. Jesus paid for our sins on the cross. Our sins have already been paid for with Jesus' precious blood. The very moment that you believe the Gospel, you have received the gift of forgiveness and eternal life. You are saved eternally. It's that simple.
Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abram was justified by faith in the Lord. Abram's faith was counted (imputed) for righteousness. The Gospel of John mentions the word “believe” 85-times without ever mentioning the word “repent” even once. This is because the person who has believed on the Lord to be forgiven of their sins has repented of their sins. Salvation is turning to Jesus to be forgiven of one's sins; NOT turning from one's sins in order to be forgiven by Jesus.
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