What Does ‘Repent’ Mean?

The word “repent” appears in both the Old Testament and New Testament, in its different variants, hundreds of times. The transliteration of the word (as it relates to sin) is “metanoeō.”

what does it mean to repentIn all cases, this word refers to a “turning away from” and “regretting” sin. If you break the word down, you will get a literal translation of “after” (meta) “consider” (noeo), which would be stated in English as “rethink” or “reconsider.” So when this word relates to sin, as it does in Mark 1:14,15 (for example), it means “rethink your sin,” and turn away from it. Obviously God doesn’t want us to rethink sin and then continue to embrace it. He wants us to rethink sin and then turn away from it.

(Sidenote: If you don’t think you’ve ever embraced sin, click here to take a short quiz in order to find out whether you’re right or not.)

“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

So what the Lord Jesus was saying here, and what the many writers are saying when they refer to repentance of sin, is “Rethink your sin and turn away from it! Take God at His Word and hate sin as God hates sin. Once you’ve done that, Trust in Me, the Only One who can take away your sin!” That is what faith is: repenting from sin and fully trusting that Jesus Christ paid your sin debt in full.

If a person has truly repented of his sin, he WILL desire to stop sinning. Any who says he repents of his sin, but doesn’t have a real desire in his heart to stop sinning, should seriously consider whether he was ever really saved to begin with. Bible repentance always results in a changed heart toward sin.

Above all, God wants your heart. He wants you to desire what is right because it is right. He wants you to reject what is wrong because it is wrong. He wants you to agree with Him that you are a sinner… already condemned (John 3:18). He wants you to trust alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary! (John 19:30, Heb. 10:12)

If a person’s salvation were based on never sinning there would be no hope. Every person would end up in hell, each one a guilty sinner by God’s perfect/Holy standard. Even if we never sinned again we would still be guilty and condemned before God. We would still be sinners by nature and we would still have the records blotted by our past sins.

Our only hope is to repent of sin and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

The fact that we still sin is a heavy burden, especially when we are raw, new believers who have embraced sin for so long. But as the Holy Spirit helps (Romans 8:26) a believer to reject sin and to be more like Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), having a clear conscience, that burden is lifted. As we constantly work to reject sin (Philippians 2:12) we are transformed with His help. When we do sin and our hearts are grieved by it we confess it a sin. Then He is faithful to forgive us our sin because we agree with Him regarding our sin and we do not try to hide it from Him (1 John 1:9).

So, to summarize, the word “repent” means to agree with God and to hate our sin and turn away from it. When you repent of your sin it does not mean that you never sin again, but you hate your sin and turn from it (Romans 5-6).

Image Credit: Jordan Nielsen
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