WHAT IS REPENTANCE?

I often ask, when sharing the gospel with people, what does repentance mean? I normally get about three answers. Someone has said repentance means “To ask for forgiveness.” Others have said, “To say you’re sorry or to turn around.” I suppose these can be considered correct although the root meaning goes a little further and means “To think differently i.e. reconsider.” You see any of us can say we’re sorry and even ask for forgiveness but it is only upon thinking about our sin differently that there will be real change of direction.

Paul had to deal with an issue in the Corinthian church that required repentance. He wrote them telling them how to deal with a man that was having an affair with his father’s wife. He told them to “deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” In other words, they were to remove him from the fellowship until he came to his senses and changed his mind about his sinful behavior. It seems as though this sinful behavior was going on in their midst with everyone’s full knowledge so Paul told them they had to take drastic measures in order to keep everyone else from being damaged by his behavior. Of course the ultimate goal was for the man to repent and for the church to forgive and restore him to fellowship. This type of discipline should never be implemented without reconciliation being the goal. This is a form of tough love on behalf of Paul and the Corinthian church, sort of an intervention if you will.

If you read the second letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians you’ll discover the rest of the story. In 2 Corinthians 7 after Paul finds out they corrected the man and allowed him back into fellowship he writes, “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” He goes on to list a few things this true repentance caused. He said, “What vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong!” Once they had their mind changed about this it stirred them in a good way and the behavior changed.

In my own life I think of repentance in terms of drugs and alcohol. If I still thought alcohol or drugs were the answer to my problems I wouldn’t have repented. On the other hand, if I have truly repented (changed my mind), about drugs and alcohol, I won’t want to do them anymore. So you see repentance is really God’s gift to us. If he didn’t grant us the ability to change our minds we couldn’t be saved. The Bible tells us, as believers, we have the mind of Christ. I guess it’s really an exchange of minds. Of course for most of us we have to go through a significant amount of pain and frustration before this takes place don’t we? Aren’t you glad Jesus Christ has given us the grace and mercy to receive his mind in order to have his point of view on these things?

Written by Louie

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