Repentance is a key truth taught throughout scripture. You cannot obtain salvation without it.
Despite the confusion that can arise surrounding the topic, the Bible is clear on the matter if you commit to searching the scripture to find the truth. This article elucidates what God’s Word says about repentance and how a person can express it sincerely.
Repentance means feeling sincere sorrow for one’s actions, behaviors, or thoughts. Paul explained this in 2 Corinthians 7: 9-10 by saying, “ Sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.”
Another definition would be to turn around, or to turn from your sin. You could picture a “U-Turn” sign on the road that tells drivers to turn around. A person that is living in sin will need to turn from their life of sin and go a different direction.
The Bible says, “I f My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways , then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV). Moreover, Proverbs says to “depart from evil” (16:17). Another example is found in Ezekiel where he says, “ Repent and turn away from all your transgressions ” (18:30).
Isaiah too encouraged Israel to repent by saying, “A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression ” (Isaiah 59:20). Lastly, Peter quoted David when he wrote, “turn away from evil and do good” (1 Peter 3:11). Expressing sincere repentance is to turn from wickedness and pursue righteousness.
Repentance in the heart and mind
Repentance is a decision. A decision in the heart and mind must be made first before a person can repent. As shown in the previous section, repentance is the act of turning from sin and pursuing righteousness. You must make the decision in your heart that you are going to change.
Repentance starts with changing the way you think. Paul taught this to the church in Rome by saying, “ And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind ” (Romans 12:2). Paul emphasized this to the Ephesian church as well in teaching “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind , and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. ” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
As Tim Lewis wrote in his book The Domino Effect , “Your decisions make the difference.”
Repentance with words
You must do more than change your mind. Once you have decided to do it, you must confess with your mouth to express sincere repentance. Proverbs 28:13
You may recall a mother who made her children apologize to one another after an argument. Old Testament law established this. As Leviticus 5:5 says, “ And it shall be, when he is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing.”
Perhaps the greatest example was given by John when he said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) True repentance must be expressed with the mouth.
Repentance in the Body
Lastly, repentance requires action in the physical body. Authentic repentance is proven by a changed life. The Bible says to “ bear fruits worthy of repentance, ” (Matthew 3:8). In other words, live your life in a way that shows you have repented.
Your words are important, but they are powerless if they are never met with any action. You must also pursue righteousness to express sincere repentance. Jesus told the church in Ephesus to “repent and do the first works ” (Revelation 2:5). James also taught this by saying that “faith by itself, if it does not have works , is dead.” (James 2:17).
Repentance is demonstrated by good works.
Another action that is required in repentance is baptism. While often overlooked, the Bible is clear that you should express repentance through baptism. As Peter declared at Pentecost, “ Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Paul said, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27).
Often people look to the thief on the cross, whom they alleged is an example of someone who repented, but was not baptized. However, as David Gibson maintains that this man was under the old covenant. Now that the new covenant has been ushered in by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, everyone should be baptized upon their true repentance of sin. Acts 2:38.
Your relationship with God
The Bible says that it is the “ goodness of God [that] leads you to repentance ” (Romans 2:4). God does not wish to force people into a relationship with Him. He desires deeply that you would choose Him today. He wants you to be blessed, favored, and full of joy. So today let it be said, “Repent, and be converted that your sins be blotted out.” Acts 3:19
If you have questions about what God’s Word says about repentance, then consider taking one of our free Bible courses online . There you can listen to the word of God, find scriptures on salvation, and discover the plan God has for your life.