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Jonah 3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

If you look up the word "repent" in a modern English dictionary, you are likely to get a false idea of what the word really means. Please notice that God repents several times in the Bible, including in the above verse. Most modern dictionaries and even pastors and preachers will tell you "repent" means to" turn from your sin" or "be sorry for your sin."  However, this definition cannot be true because God repents some 35 times in the Bible and God has no sin to turn from. Also notice that God calls turning from evil ways works, and the Bible says salvation is not of works. (Eph. 2:8-9)  

The word "repent" simply means to "change your mind."  The same Latin root can be seen in the English word pensive (meaning quietly thoughtful), or the Spanish word pensar, (which means to think). Thus, REpent just means to REthink. God repented concerning the evil he planned on doing to Nineveh in the above verse; that is he changed his mind and didn’t do it. Likewise, people need to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15), meaning change their mind from what they believe and believe the gospel instead.  The Greek word "metanoia" means the same thing.  The King James translators actually knew Greek and Hebrew, unlike modern pastors who constantly want to go "back to the Greek" but can't even speak the language.

Repentance, in the context of salvation, means a person must repent of whatever they are believing in besides the gospel, and believe the gospel instead.  When the Bible talks about people repenting in the context of salvation it always says the result is believing.  (See below under John the Baptist)

In Hebrews 6:1, it talks about the foundation of repentance from dead works.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Dead works is what most people are trusting in to get them to heaven, including many professing Christians. If you ask most people in the world if they think they would go to heaven when they died, they usually answer with some form of works.  They may say "I live a good life," or "I try to keep the ten commandments" or something similar.  But notice closely what Jesus says below:

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Notice, just calling Jesus “Lord” isn’t enough to get a person to heaven.  Simply acknowledging Jesus existed or even naming him as your God is not enough to be saved.  A person must do the will of the father. And what is the will of the father concerning salvation?

John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

The will of the father is to believe on the Son, according to John 6:40.  

Now notice what all these people who call Jesus “Lord, Lord” are trusting in to get them to heaven:

Matthew 7:22-23 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Many wonderful works, that’s what these people are trusting in. These people did not say “Lord, Lord, we just believed on you.” No; instead they all brought up their works. And Jesus said "never knew you" (not "I used to know you"), and called them workers of iniquity because their works were all just filthy rags.   

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Repenting of your sins is works. Jonah 3:10 clearly demonstrates that. And we know we are not saved by works:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Over and over again the question is asked me, "Is repentance necessary for salvation?" Of course, this is of utmost importance. Anything that deals with the way a person can escape the fires of eternal Hell and go to Heaven to live forever is of vital importance. In this chapter, we will address this most important question.

First, we need to find what makes one lost. Please notice John 3:18, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." It is very plain in this verse what makes a person lost. Notice the words, "he that believeth not is condemned already." A person who does not believe is condemned, so not believing is what makes a person lost. 

Bear in mind, the word "believing" is the Greek word which means "to rely upon." When one believes on Christ, he simply relies on Him to save him and take him to Heaven when he dies. It is very plain here that what condemns a person is believing not. Then notice it says, "because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Once again, we are told what makes a person lost - because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. It is as simple as that. 

Now look at John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Again, we are trying to decide and determine what makes one lost. It is very plain here. Notice the word believeth, "and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." What keeps a person from seeing life? Believing not! What makes the wrath of God abide on a person? Believing not! So, from what must a person repent in order to be saved? He must repent of that which makes him lost. Since "believing not" makes him lost, "believing" makes him saved. The repentance there is a turning from the thing that keeps him from being saved to the thing that saves him. So, yes, there is a repentance from unbelief in order to believe. It is simply a change of direction. It means a turning around. You are going away from believing, and you decide to turn around and believe. You change your direction; you change your mind. With your will you believe and rely upon Christ to save you. In order to believe, you have to repent of unbelief. That which makes a man lost must be corrected. 

Now turn to John 5:40, "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Oh, how simple this is, and yet how plain! Why does a person not have life, according to this verse? Because he will not come to Christ. So, if a person is going away from Christ, he must turn around and come to Christ, which is a change of direction or a change of mind. This is repentance - repenting of the thing that keeps one from being saved, repenting from "going away" to "coming to." 

Notice Isaiah 53:6, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Especially notice the words, "we have turned every one to his own way." That's what not being saved is - turning to our own way. Now if we turn to God's way, which is putting our faith and trust in Jesus, we turn around from going our own way to going His way, from unbelief to belief. This is Bible repentance. Bear in mind, it is the faith that saves. The turning around is necessary in order to put our faith in Christ. One must repent from that thing that keeps him from being saved in order to be saved. 

Source: Enemies of Soul Winning, Dr. Jack Hyles


“John the Baptist preached repentance.”

Very true. But what was the repentance that he preached?  

Acts 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 

Matthew 21:28-32 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 
29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

Did Jesus say the publicans and harlots quit being publicans and harlots? No! He said that they believed him. Once again demonstrating that repentance had to do with what they were believing, not what they were doing. Notice that Jesus said the Pharisees did not repent afterward that they might believe him. In other words, the repentance they needed to do was to believe what was being preached. When you get the right definition of "repentance", this makes perfect sense.

"Repentance just means you have to be willing to stop sinning."

Where is that in the Bible? Was David willing to stop sinning when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered Uriah? Were you willing to give up all of your worldly activities when you got saved? (Ephesians 5:11) Repentance, as demonstrated above, is a change of mind. And since salvation is all about what you believe, the repentance that brings salvation is changing what you believe, not changing your “willingness to sin”.

"'Repent of your sins' just means realize you are a sinner"

I can see where someone may say that changing your mind about your sins means just realizing that they are a sinner. But the Bible never uses the phrase "repent of your sins." The problem is that it is so easy to misunderstand this to mean you need to stop sinning, thus making this phrase very deceptive.

Why would you insist on using this phrase, when it is not in the Bible? Why not use a more Biblical phrase, like “repent of your dead works” (Heb. 6:1) if you feel you have to say “repent” somewhere? But in reality, this is all summed up in believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, which is why that is what the Apostles and Jesus emphasized. When asked "what must I do to be saved" they answered "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." When the Ethiopian Eunuch wanted to get baptized, Phillip asked if he believed with all of his heart. That's what the Bible emphasizes about salvation, not repentance.

"A person that is truly saved will repent of their sins"

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

No one who understands the Bible can say they don't sin anymore. And anyone who says they don't sin is a liar. The thought of foolishness is sin. (Proverbs 24:9) Who would say they never have a foolish thought? The Bible commands us to have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness, yet how many Christians turn on the TV and watch all the filth and grabage. People that are saved are still in the flesh. Even Paul struggled with sin:

Romans 7:19-24 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (20) Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (21) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. (22) For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: (23) But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (24) O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

"Repentance from sins isn't works because God gives you the repentance" (2 Tim. 2:25)

Let's take a look at this verse:

2 Timothy 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

First of all, notice what the result of repentance is: acknowledging of the truth. Thus, we can see that repentance here again has to do with what this person is believing. This has nothing to with repenting of sin, this has to do with repenting of false beliefs.  

False prophets like the Pharisees are often blinded to the point that they can no longer believe the gospel (John 12). However, peradventure, God might grant them repentance to acknowledge the truth. That's what this verse is talking about. Those that oppose themselves could be people that claim to be Christian, are perhaps pastors themselves, but still say you have to live a clean life to go to heaven. They don't understand the vast difference between their idea of clean, and God's idea of clean, obviously; but the point is they are deceived and they oppose themselves because they actually oppose the doctrine of salvation by grace alone that is able to save them. It's possible God might grant them repentance, but according to John 12, it's also possible he might not.

John 12:37-40 But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: (38) That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? (39) Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, (40) He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Furthermore, it's ridiculous to say that you can only clean up your life if God grants you the ability. Unsaved people clean up their lives every day. Drug addicts check in to rehab, drunks go to AA, people clean up their act all the time.  

But it makes perfect sense to understand this verse in light of accepting Christ. Not everyone in the world is able to believe.


Salvation is by believing on Jesus Christ alone for your salvation.   You must repent of anything else you are trusting in to save you and place all of your faith in Christ.

John 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

Audio Sermon "Repentance and Salvation"