Repentance: What does this word mean when used in the Bible?
There are two words in the Greek text of the Bible that are translated with the English word repentance— METANOEO and METAMELOMAI. Here we have two quite different words that have different meanings but in the King James Version of the Bible they are both translated the exact same way with the word repentance. What are we to think of that? For one thing it just goes to show there is the need for you or someone who helps you with your studies of the Bible to understand the Greek text. Otherwise, you will be subject to misunderstanding this and many other passages of Scripture. METANOEO is a compound word. META means to change and NOEO comes from the word NOUS which means mind. Therefore, it simply means to change one’s mind about something. It is a word that is all about one’s thinking, not at all about one’s feelings or emotions. It also doesn’t necessarily mean to give up doing something, as it is sometimes taught. On the other hand, METAMELOMAI IS about feelings and emotions. It, too, is a compound word with META and the word MELO. It is a word that came to mean to regret or to feel sorry about something. Quite unlike METANOEO that is used thirty-four times, it is a word that is used only five times in the Bible. When the old English of the King James Version of the Bible [and often other translations of the Bible] says someone repented it sometimes, therefore, means they regretted. Let’s look at a couple of those passages where it means that.
28 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 [METAMELOMAI = regretted], 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 [METAMELOMAI = regretted] not afterward, that ye might believe him. [Emphasis added]
Then we have this passage.
1 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:
2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself [METAMELOMAI = regretted], and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. [Emphasis added]
The other two passages where we find this word are 2 Corinthians 7:8 and Hebrews 7:21. There also it is used to express regret.
Again, we find numerous other passages where this word repent is used, but there we find the word METANOEO and it always simply means a change of mind, nothing more and nothing less!
One of the main reasons I’m writing this article on this subject is that people are often told they need to repent to be saved, but what that means is often misunderstood by the one saying it and/or the one hearing it. In salvation, no regret at all about sin or anything else is needed. There’s not one word of Scripture that says that form of “repentance” is required for salvation. What we always see in those passages is the word METANOEO. The requirement for salvation is simply a change of mind in that someone must go from unbelief to belief about what God has done to provide a way for it. As believers, we have all had a change of mind in that we went from unbelief to belief, meaning we went from not putting our faith in Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection to believing in that as the sole basis for our salvation. Again, we simply had a change of mind in the matter. But if we had to feel sorry for sins to be saved, we then must ask HOW sorry must we FEEL? It is this that would make it a salvation by works and there is no salvation that is ever achieved through any expression of works. Salvation comes strictly by grace through faith alone.
8 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. [Emphasis added]
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [Emphasis added]
Again, if you must feel sorry about your sins to get saved, how sorry would you have to feel? This is like asking how much in works would you have to do to earn your salvation. As we just noted, the answer to that is none at all. Salvation is not at all dependent upon our works, but the one work of Jesus Christ in what He did to make a way for it. As I often point out, there are certain passages we all need to be familiar with that make this clear.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
Before our time and the revelation given to us through the apostle Paul, works were required as the way one expressed their faith, but that is not the case today. If you want more information about that, please go to my other articles on this website where I’ve addressed that subject. Here are the names of those articles. Just put key words in the search box and press your enter key. These should then come up.
Salvation: Does it have to be earned by good works?
Works: What about verses that seem to demand them for salvation?
Works: How important is it to perform good works?
If instead you’d like to watch a video, there are many that address this. Here is the title of one of them.
#24 ~ Ephesians 2:4-9 God’s grace, not our works provide for our secure salvation
A passage that clearly explains what actually happened at the cross to provide the way of salvation for us is given in this next one we’ll note.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
It is by believing in this which He did for you that you can be saved immediately and permanently.
Salvation has nothing at all to do with how you feel about your sins but has everything to do with what you believe about what God has done about your sins through Jesus Christ. Even tears of remorse have nothing to do with it. You may feel very bad about things you’ve thought, said, and done, but none of that merits the salvation God offers freely to anyone, even the worst of sinners. Salvation to all comes by grace through faith in Christ alone.
Before his salvation the apostle Paul was a “religious” but evil man. He was very much like those our Lord speaks of in Matthew 23. Note Paul’s own testimony about his condition. As “religious” as he was, this is how He described himself.
1 Timothy 1:14-16
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. [Emphasis added]
If you believe you have to do something that will make you worthy of salvation, you’ll never do enough. It is only through accepting by faith what Christ has done that will give you everlasting life and ultimately a home in Heaven. Please never be so foolish as to believe otherwise!