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What Does Repent Mean

Before you read: This article is part of a larger series that builds on itself from the foundation up, with each study building on the last. If something in this article does not make sense to you or if you believe it to be incorrect please be sure you have read over the entire course before passing your final judgment. Also be sure to visit this page’s FAQ And Objections Page

There are five requirements for salvation. They include believe, repent, confession, baptism, and enduring to the end. We just covered the first topic, what it means to believe, in the last unit. Now it’s time to move on to the next requirement, repent.

Luke 13:3

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Acts 2:37-38

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 3:19

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.


It isn’t hard to see that the Bible says we must repent. But what does repent mean?

The word repent literally means “to turn.” Now we have a “newer” way that we define the word. In our day and time, we say that repentance is to “feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.”

Either way, there is a turning around. So the original Biblical definition of repent still stands firm. Our “newer” definition still requires us to turn from having no remorse for sin to feeling sincere regret for it. So again, either way, you want to look at it the word “repent” means “to turn.”

Turn to What

The real question we need to ask ourselves is what are we supposed to turn to, and from? The Bible says, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” It also says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” And, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.”

OK, we get it! The Bible is telling us that in order to be saved we must turn to something. But what are we supposed to turn to?

Mark 1:15

15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Acts 19:4

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.

Acts 20:21

21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 26:20

But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

The Bible is telling us that we need to turn around and believe the gospel. Believe on Jesus, and turn to Him. In short, the Bible tells us that when we repent we are supposed to be turning to is God. It’s really very simple.

Do you want to be saved? If so then you need to turn to Jesus.

Repent of Sins

You may have noticed something else in those verses above. “Do works meet for repentance.” That word “meet” means “right.” In other words, it says to do works that are only right for someone who has repented to be doing. So what should a person who has turned to God be acting like?

If you remember from the last unit we said that belief alone is not enough. We said that even the devils believe. So it isn’t enough to simply turn from unbelief to belief. What is it that the devil’s lack? They believe in God and know what He has done, … but they have not turned TO HIM. They have not turned to live for God.

Let’s think logically about this for a second. We know that we are to turn to God. But, what does that mean we are turning FROM?

Repent of sins

The answer is sin. We are to turn FROM our sins. You can not decide to turn to God without turning from sin at the same time. The two are in opposite directions!

To illustrate this I will tell you something that someone once said to me, which I found to be almost laughable. I had told them that the Bible says we must repent (turn) from our sins. They disagreed, saying that the Bible does not say that. It only says we must repent of unbelief.

As an example, they said, “What if I hated my husband and was having an affair? If I repented and stopped having the affair it doesn’t mean I have turned back to my husband. It only means I am not having the affair anymore.”

Now, this is true, but it is not the same issue. This person has repented (turned) from having the affair, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have turned back to their husband. But, let me ask this question: Can you turn back to your husband and not turn your back on the affair? In turning TO God we are turning FROM sin.

If we are not turning FROM sin then we are not turning TO God because the two are not compatible. You can be a “good person” and stay away from sin as much as you can, but that doesn’t mean you have turned TO God. It just means you only turned “half way” around. You need to do an 180 degree turn away from sin and TO God.

Ezekiel 18:30

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

Matthew 3:7-8

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

2 Corinthians 12:21

And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

Notice that it said, “repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.”

It is our sins we are turning from. Some may say, “we are just changing our minds and turning to God. We do not have to turn from sin for salvation.” There are even those who enjoy quoting the following verse, trying to say that the law is not of God:

John 1:17

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

But the law was given by God. He spoke those 10 commandments. They are a part of Him. He considers them holy and right. If you read the story of how those commands came then you will see that God GAVE the law to Moses. Then it was GIVEN to the people by Moses. But, Moses was just the delivery boy.

Now, let me ask you this: Where were you when you were separated from God? In sin. What must you change your mind about if you are to turn towards God? From sin to obedience to God. So yes, repentance is not just turning from unbelief to belief. It is also turning from sin to holiness.

Is That a Works Based Salvation

“OK, but isn’t that a works based salvation?” No, not at all. I know we talked about this in the last unit, but it must be brought up again. So let us go over this one more time.

To give an illustration, so that you can understand this, I want you to think about the last time you did something for someone because you love them. A husband who loves his wife may bring her flowers, do the dishes, and any other number of things. Does he do these things because he wants to be rewarded?

Sadly, many men do, … but not a man who truly knows how to love his wife. He isn’t doing these things for the “reward.” He is doing these things simply because he loves her.

Repenting is about love

As a married man, who loves his wife, I can tell you that I do things for her just because I want HER to be happy. It isn’t because I want to get something for my own reward.

Now, I do have a wonderful relationship with my wife. It isn’t because of what I do, though. It is because we love each other. So let me explain the chain reaction. I love my wife, therefore I do things that she is thankful for. My goal is to please her OUT OF LOVE ALONE. The effect is that she is happy and we have a good relationship.

Now, did I do these things FOR THE EFFECT? No, I did it for the CAUSE which is love.

Using the same chain reaction we can see how repenting of our sins is NOT a works based salvation.

I love God, therefore I do the things that please Him. My goal is to please Him OUT OF LOVE ALONE. The effect is that He is pleased. Did I do the things that please Him FOR THE EFFECT? No, I did it for the CAUSE which is love.

Therefore, it is not a “works based salvation.” It is a love based salvation that produces works naturally because of that love.

Imagine though if I came home and yelled at my wife, demanded dinner, and then started to hit her if it wasn‘t done. Would you say that I love her? No? Why not? Because the works of love are not there, right? So we can see how our works are not what our salvation is based on. But, they are proof of whether we have turned to God and love Him or not.

If you have read the earlier units then you already know that faith is a belief that results in action. So in repentance, we turn from unbelief to belief, from sin to holiness, from separation from God to walking with Him. This is what it means to repent.

As you can see, the first 4 of the 5 requirements can be summed up in this one. Because to repent you also have to believe, which results in works. Those works of true repentance in the Bible (which we will soon go into more detail on in other units) are a confession, baptism, and the turning from sin. It is all bundled together.

Continue To Unit 3:4a – What Does Being “Saved” Mean OR

Return To Christianity 101 Unit 3 – Repentance and Salvation

May 14, 2016 at 6:16 am | | 1 comment

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One response to “What Does Repent Mean”

  1. carmine d'agostino says:

    All the Praise and Worship and Glory to Our Lord and Savior Christ

Giving Praise

I met my husband on a phone site July 3 2014. 3 months after we met we got married. He was in work release and had a few months till he got out. When he got out we lived with a lady that had bone cancer and we moved in to help her out. Well, Continue Reading


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