The answer is a resounding “YES”! However the word “repent”means something entirely different than what Christians have made of it today.
Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding, California, has often explained repentance in his own view as follows: Re means “again” or to “go back to”. Pent means the top (like a penthouse). Thus combined this means to “go back to the top”.
This implies that when we make a mistake, all we simply have to do is change our thoughts and go back to God’s thoughts towards us.
And what are God’s thoughts? Unconditional love and acceptance because Jesus paid the full price on our behalf. Let’s journey together and endeavor to defuse the bomb that has been crafted from this word by the modern church.
The actual Greek word for repentance, Μετάνοια (met-an’-oy-ah), denotes a simple change of mind that brings about a change of outward behavior.
It does not however imply that we need to constantly remind ourselves of our mistakes and try to stop doing this or that deed. Doing this would only turn it into a sin management program, which is exactly what many Christians have turned their entire lives into. No, good conduct is the result of having been changed from the inside out and not something that we do in order to try to be changed. Repentance has different implications for believers than for non-believers.
Basically it comes down to this: When a Christian is told to repent, it means to change their thinking about their position in Christ, or change their theology to line up with the truths of having been eternally forgiven, justified, made righteous, etc. Whenever a non-believer is told to repent, it means they need to change their thinking about what Jesus means to them and come to a place where they admit they need Him as their Lord and Savior. Let’s take a look at a few examples of where the word “repent”or “repentance”was used in the New Testament.
The Bible is God’s love letter to His children. Let’s take the sting out of “repentance”today and see it for the beautiful thing it actually is.
Before the cross, Jesus and John the Baptist told people to repent and to be baptized, but they were both preaching under the Old Covenant to people that were still under the law (remember the New Covenant only began after the cross). John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, pointing non-believers to Jesus: Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus”. (Acts 19: 4 NKJV)
For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your 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, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Cor 7: 8-10 NKJV, emphasis added) Paul was writing his second epistle to the church in Corinth (which means they were Christians) and after his severe rebuke to them in his first letter, he was exceedingly glad they had taken his words to heart, turning away from the wicked ways in which they had previously been conducting themselves. In his previous letter he reprimanded them for practicing such wickedness as were not even known among non-believers: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles –that a man has his father’s wife! (1 Cor 5: 1 NKJV) Let’s look at the Greek word used for “salvation”in 2 Corinthians 7: 10: G4991 σωτηρία (so-tay-ree’-ah) Feminine of a derivative of G4990 as (properly abstract) noun; rescue or safety (physically or morally): – deliver, health, salvation, save, saving. Paul wasn’t saying that these believers were going to lose their salvation if they persisted with these evil works; he was saying that their turning away from these things actually saved them from a whole heap of heartache, pain and dire consequences later on. Just imagine the conflict that would exist in a church if it became known that a boy was sleeping with his mother! But because these people changed their thinking and realized that their conduct was actually not in line with their identity as purified, cleansed and forgiven believers, they were motivated to change their ways, hence Paul’s praise for them in this, his second letter: Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation. (2 Cor 7: 4 NKJV) It’s worth noting that their motivation to change their behavior was neither a threat of punishment nor the danger of losing their salvation: it was the revelation that they were unconditionally loved by God in spite of their evil conduct! God’s promises and love to them remained true in spite of their conduct and this brought about their change of heart. Look at the opening words of this same chapter: Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh… (2 Cor 7: 1a NKJV, emphasis added) Paul told them that because they had God’s promises (of love, blessing, eternal life, etc.) they should get their act together, not that God was going to reject or punish them for their transgressions.
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent. (Act 17: 30 NKJV, emphasis added) In this chapter Paul was preaching to non-believers in Athens: Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. (Act 17: 16-17 NKJV) Paul was telling these people who were wholly given to idolatry, to repent and be saved. He urged them to place their trust in the “unknown”God in verse 23. They had so many gods and temples and statues in their city that someone had even erected an altar that had been dedicated to the “Unknown God”. Paul then used this as an opportunity to tell them about Jesus Christ and the resurrection, whereof they had no prior knowledge. And by God’s grace, some were born again that day!
“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. (Act 26: 19-20 NKJV, emphasis added) Here Paul explained how he told the Gentiles (unbelievers) to repent (become born again) and then, just as in our example 2, he motivated them to afterwards do works that corresponded with who they would become after they had repented: Sanctified, forgiven, holy born again believers. These two verses therefore pertain to non-believers and then also to believers.
…how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Act 20: 20-21 NKJV, emphasis added) Again Paul was telling non-believers to put their faith in Christ (as in example 2), calling it “repentance toward God”. Repentance From Dead Works Probably one of the most important verses concerning repentance is found in Hebrews 6. This book was written to Jews who had become born again, but they were still holding on to some of their traditions and law abiding customs. They were however Christians. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God. (Heb 6: 1 NKJV, emphasis added) The writer of Hebrews was listing a few basic foundations of the Christian faith, amongst others “repentance from dead works”. When we try to earn God’s approval by reading more Bible, tithing, praying long prayers, joining outreach ministries or even giving all that we have away, it is called “dead works”, because our security and feeling of belonging is based on what we do and not on what Jesus has done for us. In broad terms the book of Hebrews is a summary of the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old, with the New Covenant based on the finished work of the cross and us simply believing in what God has already done for us and the Old Covenant based on ceremonious law keeping and religion, based on inferior promises and the traditions of men. Therefore in Hebrews 6: 1 above, the writer was not talking about us having to repent of our sins, but instead to stop trying to earn our salvation and to stop trying so hard to please God, because He is already pleased with us since we are His children! To summarize, when a non-believer repents it means they put their faith in God and become born again.
When a believer repents it simply means they change their thinking to line up with God’s thoughts, turning away from deeds that do not portray their true identity as a forgiven, purified believer. It also means turning away from dead works, which means to quit trying to be justified through their own level of obedience and beginning to rely on the finished work of the cross and the blood of Jesus, which grants believers unrestricted access to God’s favor and acceptance.
To repent does not mean to sit in sackcloth and ash and plead with God for forgiveness every time we make a mistake, as this would be disregarding the once for all, 100% perfect sacrifice of Christ and believing that our sin is more powerful than the blood of Christ: By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb 10: 10 NKJV)