Bible Basics: What Is Repentance?

Earl E. Robertson
Tompkinsville, Kentucky

In Acts 17:30 Luke records a statement made by the apostle Paul to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers on Mars Hill which, without doubt, has turned many souls from sin to a fife with God. He said, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent ... .. To repent" translates the present infinitive metanoein, and is defined "to change one's mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins."

Since God's ways and man's ways are not alike (Isa. 55:8, 9) but God's ways are right, it is necessary that man make the change in order to be right in his thinking and living. It is unthinkable that man can honestly and intelligently change his mind without evidence. The gospel of Christ is the evidence which leads to one changing his mind.

Repentance is not something God gives directly to a sinner. God grants repentance but it is through the process of teaching (Acts 11:14-18). There is not the slightest possibility for any one to repent, having never heard the gospel of Christ. Every case of conversion fully impresses one with the fact that one's ability to repent is based upon the evidence presented in the preaching of the gospel. Let none tell you that you can repent if you do not know the reasons for making such a change in your mind.

Hearing some of the denominational preachers one would think repentance is convulsion. They seem to think if they are able to manipulate one into screaming, jerking, going into emotional spells, to gibber, and foam at the mouth, they have caused repentance in that individual's life! Such is not true. Repentance is a change of one's mind, not the personification of ignorance. Since repentance is a change of one's mind it then is an intellectual action: one is taught the truth and is thereby led to an abandonment of his own thoughts and an acceptance of God's word. It is then a change in one's mind that leads to a change in life to be acceptable to God (cf. the incestuous brother at Corinth, 1 Cor. 5:1-5; 2 Cor. 2:1-9; 7:712). The case of Jonah illustrates the same thing (Jonah 3; Matt. 12:41). One cannot do any better than one knows; therefore, what one knows is the basis which leads to a change in life. When one changes his mind, that one will not refuse to obey God. "Repent and be baptized" is the command in Acts 2:38! Have you repented?

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 9, p. 274
May 3, 1984