Repentance from a Positive Viewpoint – Wendell Winkler

Repentance from a Positive Viewpoint – Wendell Winkler

Repentance has been called “the hardest command”; yet, what wonderful blessings attend the command, “Repent” (Acts 2:38). Yes, and what notable sources we have to motivate us to repent (Rom. 2:4). Jesus had difficulty getting people to repent (Matt. 11:20-22). It is not hard to get a man to believe; in fact, it is far more difficult to overthrow the testimony and evidence that produces faith. It is not hard to get a genuine penitent to consent to baptism. But repentance is different. Noah could not get the antediluvians to repent (2 Pet. 2:5). Jeremiah largely failed in pleading for Israel to repent. John the Baptist preached repentance to Herod, but Herod did not repent (Matt. 14:3-12). Repentance is the most difficult command in the Bible because it strikes at the very taproot of our troubles—pride. It is hard for a man to say, “I’ve sinned”; and this is involved in repentance. Now, in more detail, and from a positive viewpoint, what is repentance?

1. Repentance is the making up of one’s mind to cease doing evil and to do good, to stop serving Satan to begin serving God, to do an about-face, to stop going in the wrong direction and turn again and start going in the right direction.

Thayer, in his monumental lexicon, defines the word as “to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.” Matthew 12:41 states that the Ninevites repented; and Jonah 3:10 says, “They turned from their evil way.” Therefore, repentance is turning from evil. In Matthew 21:29, we read of one who said he would not go, but afterwards became regretful and went. Therefore, repentance is a change of mind, prompted by godly sorrow, resulting in a change of life. Impenitence is to say “No” to God. The prodigal (Luke 15:11-24) repented and, in so doing, he made an about-face, turned again, and went home. In 1 Kings 8:47-49, we read that when the people would repent, they would return unto the Lord with all of their heart and with all of their soul. Therefore, repentance is turning again. In Ezekiel 18:30-32, God’s people were called upon to “repent and turn yourselves.” In so doing, they would cast away their transgressions and make themselves a new heart and a new spirit. This is repentance. Marshall Keeble used to tell of a little dog snapping at his heels. He said he tapped him on his head with his walking cane and “he repented”; that is, the dog turned and went in the opposite direction. From these observations, we can see why repentance and turning are so often mentioned together in the Lord’s Word (Acts 26:20; Ezek. 14:6; 18:30). Too, we can understand why Hebrews 6:1 speaks of “repentance from dead works.”

2. Repentance is a privilege granted from the Lord after one believes.

“Him did God exalt…to give repentance to Israel” (Acts 5:31). “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). (See also 2 Peter 3:9 and Revelation 2:21). When God shut the door of paradise, he opened the door of repentance. Now, as far as we know, God never granted “repentance unto life” to the fallen angels. It appears that when they sinned, they were lost forever
(2 Pet. 2:4). Thank God for the blessing of repentance! Indeed, repentance is a privilege granted from the Lord to each of us.

3. A brief study of the original words translated “repentance.”

In the New Testament, when the word “repent” is used as a command to an alien sinner (Luke 14:47; Acts 2:38; 3:9), which he must obey to obtain forgiveness of sins, it always conveys the thought of a change of mind resulting in a change of life, preceded by a sorrow for the past. In such cases, it is always a translation of the Greek word metanoeo. When the word “repent” is used to indicate sorrow or regret, it is a translation of the word metamelomai, a different word. By a reading of 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (KJV), the difference in these words can be seen:

For thought I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent [metamelomai, regret], though I did repent [metamelomen, regret]: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry thought it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance [metanoian, reformation]: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance [metanoian, reformation] to salvation not to be repented [metameleton, regretted] of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

4. Deductions:

It can be seen readily that repentance relates itself to the mind, the will of man. Yes, it involves the getting of a new mind (Phil. 2:5). And, since the mind controls the actions (Prov. 4:23; 2:7), one can readily see how important repentance really is! In fact, when one genuinely repents, the battle is 90 percent over! Yes, and when one genuinely repents, he does not (1) try to rationalize himself out of sin by saying, “It’s not so bad,” nor (2) does he offer God an apology for his sin by saying, “It’s not my fault,” nor (3) does he blame someone for his sin by saying, “If it had not been for him.” Have you genuinely repented?