Is repentance a work?

Since we're saved through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), and the NT links repentance (i.e. change of mind/spirit in the original sense; not in the sense of "turning from sin") to salvation in multiple places (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20 for example), my view is: Repentance is not a work. It is part of faith, a gift from God offered to all people (1 Timothy 2:4), which we have the freedom to choose or reject.

Comments

  • Dave_LDave_L Posts: 2,328

    I believe true biblical repentance is a change of mind that is impossible apart from the new birth. When God gives us a new heart and places his Spirit within it, we cannot help but think differently and over time, correctly.

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,487

    @Jan said:
    Since we're saved through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), and the NT links repentance (i.e. change of mind/spirit in the original sense; not in the sense of "turning from sin") to salvation in multiple places (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20 for example), my view is: Repentance is not a work. It is part of faith, a gift from God offered to all people (1 Timothy 2:4), which we have the freedom to choose or reject.

    Jan, I'm curious about your conclusion that the NT links repentance to a change of mind/spirit rather than to turning from sin. I read your observation to mean that you believe those two outcomes are mutually exclusive - that in the NT, repentance either means a changed mind/spirit OR it means a turn from sin, but it doesn't mean both. IF I'm reading your post correctly, I wonder how you interpret certain verses:

    • Luke 3.8: Jesus calls people to "bear fruits in keeping with repentance," a sentiment that seems to suggest a connection between repentance and actions.
    • Acts 19.4: The verse refers to the "repentance from sin," a clear connection between repentance and behavior.
    • Acts 26.20: The verse refers to the result of repentance being the performance of "deeds in keeping with (one's) repentance" - again, a suggestion that repentance is defined - or at least identified - by changed behavior.
    • Revelation 2.5: The verse refers to repentance as the Ephesians' doing "the works (they) did at first." See my previous note.
    • Revelation 2.21-22: The verses refer to the repentance "of her sexual immorality" and "of her works." Two more references that seem to connect repentance to changed conduct.
    • Revelation 9.21: The language of the verse refers to the failure of people to repent. "of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts," which seems to identify changed behavior as evidence of one's repentance.
    • Revelation 16.11: The language of the verse refers to the failure of people to repent "of their deeds." Ditto.

    My point is that in several NT passages, repentance seems to be identified by, if not also defined in terms of, changed behavior. i.e. To repent means to change your ways, to "turn around," as I have always defined the term. I understand that the Greek word used in the NT means change of heart. But the application and implementation of that Greek word in its various contexts sure seem to conflate changes of mind with changes in conduct.

    I hope you'll offer your views on the matters I raise.

  • JanJan Posts: 250

    Bill, the connection between changing one's mind and turning from sin is definitely there. One can't change their mind, and continue sinning as if nothing had happened. At a minimum, if someone repents, they come to realize their sin, and have willingness to turn from it.

    Repentance, as change of mind, is still possible on the deathbed, when there is no more possibility to change one's actual ways. The thief crucified next to Jesus did that, and was forgiven.

    The NBD defines repentance beautifully:

    In the NT the words translated ‘repent’ are metanoeō and metamelomai. In Gk. they usually mean ‘to change one’s mind’, and so also ‘to regret, feel remorse’ (i.e. over the view previously held). This note of remorse is present in the parable of the tax collector (Lk. 18:13), probably in Mt. 21:29, 32; 27:3 and Lk. 17:4 (‘I am sorry’), and most explicitly in 2 Cor. 7:8–10.

    Dunn, J. D. G. (1996). Repentance. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Hrsg.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., S. 1007). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

    The notion that repentance is an actual action seems to be at the root cause that it is sometimes defined as a "work", and therefore unnecessary for salvation.

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 1,833

    @Jan said:
    Since we're saved through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), and the NT links repentance (i.e. change of mind/spirit in the original sense; not in the sense of "turning from sin") to salvation in multiple places (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20 for example), my view is: Repentance is not a work. It is part of faith, a gift from God offered to all people (1 Timothy 2:4), which we have the freedom to choose or reject.

    Some observations in reference to the above:
    (a) Eph 2:8-9 is not speaking about "faith" is a gift, but about "being saved/salvation" is God's gift of grace.
    (b) Faith/believing is an action of the mind and heart (cp Rom 10:9,10)
    (c) "repentance" is also an action of the mind and heart, specifically a change of direction in one's thinking and in one's heart, specifically a turning away from "old man sinful thinking" to "new man righteous thinking".

    Thus, repentance is actually the "turn on the inside" away from old to new, which will result in a person's "works" following suit and no longer being works of the flesh but works of faith producing the fruit of the spirit.

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,487

    @Jan said:

    The notion that repentance is an actual action seems to be at the root cause that it is sometimes defined as a "work", and therefore unnecessary for salvation.

    The issue of what constitutes an "action" has arisen in other threads, never to consensus agreement, I think.

    In my view, the decision to accept Christ is an action - NOT a physical action, of course, but an action. The dictionary defines "action" as the process of doing something. I contend that the decision to accept Christ is doing something - establishing a relationship with Jesus as Lord of one's life. Without such a decision - without that action - there is no relationship established. In most circumstances, results require actions.

    Consider the experience of temptation. In a scene the Gospels place immediately after his baptism, Jesus showed us that temptation is real. Three times Satan placed a choice before Jesus: Would he surrender to temptation? Three times he refused. I contend that each of those decisions was an act - an act of will or faith or whatever we wish to call it. Could Jesus - can we - refuse to give in to temptation without making a decision? In my view, no. And also in my view, each time we decide not to give in to temptation, we take an action.

    For me, the whole issue of works righteousness is complicated because though Paul is clear about the necessity of grace through faith, Jesus preaches works far more than faith. Four of the many examples I could cite:

    • Matthew 5.17-20: In the Sermon on the Mount, he forbids listeners from relaxing any of the law's commandments, and declares that those who follow the commandments will be called great in the Kingdom, while those whose righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees "will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
    • Matthew 5.27-30: An excerpt from the iconic "You have heard... but I say" segment of the Sermon on the Mount. In this passage, Jesus contends that the loss of offending (sinning) members of one's body is better than one's whole body going to hell. The clear suggestion is that righteous actions - or refraining from unrighteous actions - are needed to avoid hell.
    • Matthew 25.14-30: Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to the experience of three servants to whom their employer/master gives talents to manage in his absence. The outcome each servant faces is directly related to how he handled his talent allotment - that is, the actions he took.
    • Matthew 25.31-36: The well known "to the least of these" parable, which depicts the return of the Son of Man. Those who feed, give drink, welcome, clothe, and visit - all of which are actions - inherit the kingdom. Those who do not take those actions are commanded to leave his presence and are destined for an eternal fire.

    I think this is a challenging issue that requires serious, thoughtful, spiritually rooted engagement with Scripture.

  • YourTruthGodYourTruthGod Posts: 118

    Yes, repentance is a work and so is believing because it is obedience.

    Read here how many Jews were cut off because they didn't have faith.

    The Jews not having faith in this scripture is called 'obedience'.

    Romans 11:31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.

     Paul says the Jews who did not believe in Jesus were DISOBEDIENT.

    That means believing is obedience which is a work.

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