Salvation: Is Repentance necessary?
This all depends on what you mean by repentance. This is a word that many people misunderstand. So often people assume it always involves sorrow and regret over sin. What is important to understand is that there are two words for repentance in the Greek text of the Bible from which this word comes. Even though there are some who foolishly reject this thinking, this is one of the many situations where it is extremely helpful to have some familiarity with the original languages of Scripture. This subject of repentance proves to be an excellent example of that. The word used most in the Bible for repentance is METANOEO. META is to do with change. NOEO is a word meaning mind. So, METANOEO means a change of mind. It is that simple! I could say I was not going to write this article but I repented. The other term used in Scripture for repentance is METAMELOMAI. Again, META speaks of change. MELO, to care for, is in the passive voice with a middle voice sense, meaning to regret or to have remorse over. Therefore, MATAMELOIMAI is a term used to express sorrow over a decision. For instance, we are told that Judas Iscariot “repented” after he had betrayed our Lord to the religious leaders of Israel. The use of this word there tells us he was sorry about what he had done.
3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, 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. [Emphasis added]
Regarding salvation, this kind of repentance is not required because it represents a form of works, and salvation does not come by works, but by faith alone in Jesus Christ.
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]
If you think feeling sorry has something to do with salvation you must ask the question: How sorry must one feel? Again, sorrow and remorse represent a form of works. A simple change of mind does not. In this case, we’re talking about a change of mind in the sense of going from unbelief to belief. The object of one’s faith for salvation must become the work of Christ, instead of one’s own works. The work of Christ for our salvation is His death, burial, and resurrection.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1Moreover, 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]
Therefore, there definitely is a form of repentance that is required for salvation. It is the changing of one’s mind, turning from trusting in one’s own works to that one work of Christ that truly does provide salvation. To trust in this is quite different from what people typically think about repentance, that being feeling regret or sorrow and exhibiting penitence. These things have absolutely nothing to do with the true means to salvation. Salvation is all about focusing on God’s work to provide it, not our own.
Time and time again I’ve seen people discouraged and getting all bogged down in their thinking about whether they’ve been sorry enough for their sins. They’ll often worry about whether they’ve “truly repented of their sins.” I assure you that the Bible doesn’t tell us salvation is dependent upon how we feel about our sins; it depends totally on our faith in what God has done about our sins through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Your remorseful feelings about your sins are no substitute for the work of Christ.
The repentance demanded for salvation is all about a decision, not any form of work on our part. There’s certainly nothing wrong with feeling sorry for one’s sins, but that sorrow doesn’t contribute anything at all to our salvation. Again, how you feel about your sins has nothing to do with the procurement of your salvation. When someone rejects works as a means to their salvation and instead accepts the work of Christ, that is the repentance that pleases God. So, yes, repentance IS necessary for salvation. But as I said at the start, it depends on what you mean by repentance.