|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
There are three Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance.
(1.) The verb metamelomai 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 repentance of Judas (Matthew 27:3).
(2.) Metanoeo, meaning to change one's mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge. This verb, with (3) the cognate noun metanoia, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised.
Evangelical 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; and (4) a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments.
The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Psalm 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Psalm 51:1; 130:4).
Noah Webster's Dictionary
(n.) The act of turning around an improper behavior; sorrow for what one has done; especially, contrition for sin.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
I. OLD TESTAMENT TERMS
1. To Repent-"to Pant," "to Sigh"
2. To Repent-"to Turn" or "Return"
II. NEW TESTAMENT TERMS
1. Repent-"to Care," "Be Concerned"
2. Repent-"to Change the Mind"
3. Repent-"to Turn Over," "to Turn Upon," "to Turn Unto"
III. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ELEMENTS
1. The Intellectual Element
2. The Emotional Element
3. The Volitional Element
To get an accurate idea of the precise New Testament meaning of this highly important word it is necessary to consider its approximate synonyms in the original Hebrew and Greek The psychological elements of repentance should be considered in the light of the general teaching of Scripture.
I. Old Testament Terms.
1. To Repent-"to Pant," "to Sigh":
The Hebrew word naham, is an onomatopoetic term which implies difficulty in breathing, hence, "to pant," "to sigh," "to groan." Naturally it came to signify "to lament" or "to grieve," and when the emotion was produced by the desire of good for others, it merged into compassion and sympathy, and when incited by a consideration of one's own character and deeds it means "to rue," "to repent." To adapt language to our understanding, God is represented as repenting when delayed penalties are at last to be inflicted, or when threatened evils have been averted by genuine reformation (Genesis 6:6 Jonah 3:10). This word is translated "repent" about 40 times in the Old Testament, and in nearly all cases it refers to God. The principal idea is not personal relation to sin, either in its experience of grief or in turning from an evil course. Yet the results of sin are manifest in its use. God's heart is grieved at man's iniquity, and in love He bestows His grace, or in justice He terminates His mercy. It indicates the aroused emotions of God which prompt Him to a different course of dealing with the people. Similarly when used with reference to man, only in this case the consciousness of personal transgression is evident. This distinction in the application of the word is intended by such declarations as God "is not a man, that he should repent" (1 Samuel 15:29 Job 42:6 Jeremiah 8:6).
2. To Repent-"to Turn" or "Return":
The term shubh, is most generally employed to express the Scriptural idea of genuine repentance. It is used extensively by the prophets, and makes prominent the idea of a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God. It implies a conscious, moral separation, and a personal decision to forsake sin and to enter into fellowship with God. It is employed extensively with reference to man's turning away from sin to righteousness (Deuteronomy 4:30 Nehemiah 1:9 Psalm 7:12 Jeremiah 3:14). It quite often refers to God in His relation to man (Exodus 32:12 Joshua 7:26). It is employed to indicate the thorough spiritual change which God alone can effect (Psalm 85:4). When the term is translated by "return" it has reference either to man, to God, or to God and man (1 Samuel 7:3 Psalm 90:13 (both terms, nacham and shubh; Isaiah 21:12; Isaiah 55:7). Both terms are also sometimes employed when the twofold idea of grief and altered relation is expressed, and are translated by "repent" and "return" (Ezekiel 14:6 Hosea 12:6 Jonah 3:8).
II. New Testament Terms.
1. Repent-"to Care," "Be Concerned":
The term metamelomai, literally signifies to have a feeling or care, concern or regret; like nacham, it expresses the emotional aspect of repentance. The feeling indicated by the word may issue in genuine repentance, or it may degenerate into mere remorse (Matthew 21:29, 32; Matthew 27:3). Judas repented only in the sense of regret, remorse, and not in the sense of the abandonment of sin. The word is used with reference to Paul's feeling concerning a certain course of conduct, and with reference to God in His attitude toward His purposes of grace (2 Corinthians 7:8 the King James Version; Hebrews 7:21).
2. Repent-"to Change the Mind":
The word metanoeo, expresses the true New Testament idea of the spiritual change implied in a sinner's return to God. The term signifies "to have another mind," to change the opinion or purpose with regard to sin. It is equivalent to the Old Testament word "turn." Thus, it is employed by John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles (Matthew 3:2 Mark 1:15 Acts 2:38). The idea expressed by the word is intimately associated with different aspects of spiritual transformation and of Christian life, with the process in which the agency of man is prominent, as faith (Acts 20:21), and as conversion (Acts 3:19); also with those experiences and blessings of which God alone is the author, as remission and forgiveness of sin (Luke 24:47 Acts 5:31). It is sometimes conjoined with baptism, which as an overt public act proclaims a changed relation to sin and God (Mark 1:4 Luke 3:3 Acts 13:24; Acts 19:4). As a vital experience, repentance is to manifest its reality by producing good fruits appropriate to the new spiritual life (Matthew 3:8).
3. Repent-"to Turn Over," "to Turn Upon," "to Turn Unto":
The word epistrepho, is used to bring out more clearly the distinct change wrought in repentance. It is employed quite frequently in Acts to express the positive side of a change involved in New Testament repentance, or to indicate the return to God of which the turning from sin is the negative aspect. The two conceptions are inseparable and complementary. The word is used to express the spiritual transition from sin to God (Acts 9:35 1 Thessalonians 1:9); to strengthen the idea of faith (Acts 11:21); and to complete and emphasize the change required by New Testament repentance (Acts 26:20).
There is great difficulty in expressing the true idea of a change of thought with reference to sin when we translate the New Testament "repentance" into other languages. The Latin version renders it "exercise penitence" (poenitentiam agere). But "penitence" etymologically signifies pain, grief, distress, rather than a change of thought and purpose. Thus Latin Christianity has been corrupted by the pernicious error of presenting grief over sin rather than abandonment of sin as the primary idea of New Testament repentance. It was easy to make the transition from penitence to penance, consequently the Romanists represent Jesus and the apostles as urging people to do penance (poenitentiam agite). The English word "repent" is derived from the Latin repoenitere, and inherits the fault of the Latin, making grief the principal idea and keeping it in the background, if not altogether out of sight, the fundamental New Testament conception of a change of mind with reference to sin. But the exhortations of the ancient prophets, of Jesus, and of the apostles show that the change of mind is the dominant idea of the words employed, while the accompanying grief and consequent reformation enter into one's experience from the very nature of the case.
III. The Psychological Elements.
1. The Intellectual Element:
Repentance is that change of a sinner's mind which leads him to turn from his evil ways and live. The change wrought in repentance is so deep and radical as to affect the whole spiritual nature and to involve the entire personality. The intellect must function, the emotions must be aroused, and the will must act. Psychology shows repentance to be profound, personal and all-pervasive. The intellectual element is manifest from the nature of man as an intelligent being, and from the demands of God who desires only rational service. Man must apprehend sin as unutterably heinous, the divine law as perfect and inexorable, and himself as coming short or falling below the requirements of a holy God (Job 42:5, 6 Psalm 51:3 Romans 3:20).
2. The Emotional Element:
There may be a knowledge of sin without turning from it as an awful thing which dishonors God and ruins man. The change of view may lead only to a dread of punishment and not to the hatred and abandonment of sin (Exodus 9:27 Numbers 22:34 Joshua 7:20 1 Samuel 15:24 Matthew 27:4). An emotional element is necessarily involved in repentance. While feeling is not the equivalent of repentance, it nevertheless may be a powerful impulse to a genuine turning from sin. A penitent cannot from the nature of the case be stolid and indifferent. The emotional attitude must be altered if New Testament repentance be experienced. There is a type of grief that issues in repentance and another which plunges into remorse. There is a godly sorrow and also a sorrow of the world. The former brings life; the latter, death (Matthew 27:3 Luke 18:23 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10). There must be a consciousness of sin in its effect on man and in its relation to God before there can be a hearty turning away from unrighteousness. The feeling naturally accompanying repentance implies a conviction of personal sin and sinfulness and an earnest appeal to God to forgive according to His mercy (Psalm 51:1, 2, 10-14).
3. The Volitional Element:
The most prominent element in the psychology of repentance is the voluntary, or volitional. This aspect of the penitent's experience is expressed in the Old Testament by "turn", or "return," and in the New Testament by "repent" or "turn." The words employed in the Hebrew and Greek place chief emphasis on the will, the change of mind, or of purpose, because a complete and sincere turning to God involves both the apprehension of the nature of sin and the consciousness of personal guilt (Jeremiah 25:5 Mark 1:15 Acts 2:38 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10). The demand for repentance implies free will and individual responsibility. That men are called upon to repent there can be no doubt, and that God is represented as taking the initiative in repentance is equally clear. The solution of the problem belongs to the spiritual sphere. The psychical phenomena have their origin in the mysterious relations of the human and the divine personalities. There can be no external substitute for the internal change. Sackcloth for the body and remorse for the soul are not to be confused with a determined abandonment of sin and return to God. Not material sacrifice, but a spiritual change, is the inexorable demand of God in both dispensations (Psalm 51:17 Isaiah 1:11 Jeremiah 6:20 Hosea 6:6).
Repentance is only a condition of salvation and not its meritorious ground. The motives for repentance are chiefly found in the goodness of God, in divine love, in the pleading desire to have sinners saved, in the inevitable consequences of sin, in the universal demands of the gospel, and in the hope of spiritual life and membership in the kingdom of heaven (Ezekiel 33:11 Mark 1:15 Luke 13:1-5 John 3:16 Acts 17:30 Romans 2:4 1 Timothy 2:4). The first four beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-6) form a heavenly ladder by which penitent souls pass from the dominion of Satan into the Kingdom of God. A consciousness of spiritual poverty dethroning pride, a sense of personal unworthiness producing grief, a willingness to surrender to God in genuine humility, and a strong spiritual desire developing into hunger and thirst, enter into the experience of one who wholly abandons sin and heartily turns to Him who grants repentance unto life.
Various theological works and commentaries Note especially Strong, Systematic Theology, III, 832-36; Broadus on Matthew 3:2, American Comm.; article "Busse" (Penance). Hauck-Herzog, Realencyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirche.
Byron H. Dement
Repentance (28 Occurrences)
Matthew 3:8 Therefore bring forth fruit worthy of repentance! (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 9:13 But you go and learn what this means:'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. " (WEB KJV WBS)
Mark 1:4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 2:17 When Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (WEB KJV WBS)
Luke 3:3 He came into all the region around the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for remission of sins. (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and don't begin to say among yourselves,'We have Abraham for our father;' for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones! (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 15:7 I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV)
Luke 24:47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 5:31 God exalted him with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life!" (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 13:24 before his coming, when John had first preached the baptism of repentance to Israel. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 19:4 Paul said, "John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe in the one who would come after him, that is, in Jesus." (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 20:21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus. (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 26:20 but declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance. a perverse and crooked generation. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Romans 2:4 Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and patience, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (KJV DBY WBS)
2 Corinthians 7:9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you were made sorry to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly way, that you might suffer loss by us in nothing. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS NIV)
2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation, which brings no regret. But the sorrow of the world works death. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY NAS RSV NIV)
2 Timothy 2:25 in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth, (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the teaching of the first principles of Christ, let us press on to perfection-not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, of faith toward God, (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible to renew again to repentance those once enlightened, and who have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, (DBY RSV)
Hebrews 6:6 and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify the Son of God for themselves again, and put him to open shame. (WEB KJV WEY ASV WBS NAS NIV)
Hebrews 12:17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. (KJV DBY WBS NAS)
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Isaiah 30:15 For the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, said, In quiet and rest is your salvation: peace and hope are your strength: but you would not have it so. (See NAS NIV)
Hosea 13:14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. (KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT)