Updated: Oct 11, 2022
I don’t believe a more important issue exists today with all the gospel perversion concerning repentance and Christ’s Lordship. As noted here (Repentance Is Not Just a Change of Mind), many texts with “metanoeo,” “metanoia,” “epistrepho” and “metamelomai,” in the NT fit the Biblical position of a change of mind and will and emotions that results in a change of action (turning, contrite, self-denial, forsaking all, etc) and leads to a change of life (salvation and everything it comes with).
Thus, the burden of proof is on the “change of mind” position to prove that one can repent without a change of action and life following.
No single text in the NT speaks of a “repentance” that doesn’t result in a change of action and life. That false position is completely absent from the pages of the NT. Advocates of this false repentance, in light of the overwhelming case against them through the four Greek words in the NT and two Hebrew words in the OT, and from lexica, make several arguments for their position in hope they will overturn the crushing weight of its Biblical usage.
1. First, they argue that the Biblical position of change of the mind, the will and the emotions that results in a change of action (turning, broken, contrite, self-denial, forsaking all) is an affirmation of justification by works.
Only in the “change of mind” position is salvation allegedly by faith alone. Faith is affirmed to be an absolute synonym with repentance (which is absolutely heretical), and faith is said to exclude any change of action despite the fact Biblical faith or belief clearly involves surrender and commitment. The idea of committal or entrustment in the NT verb to believe (pisteuo) is exemplified in Lk 16:11 (committing or entrusting true riches to a person); Jn 2:24 (Christ not committing Himself to the unregenerate); Rom 3:2 (the Bible being entrusted or committed to Israel); 1 Cor 9:17; Gal 2:7; 1 Th 2:4; 1 Tim 1:11; Ti 1:3 (an administration of the gospel being committed or entrusted to Paul or associates). Furthermore, the common Biblical phrase for saving faith in Christ (“pisteuein eis auton”), entails submission and surrender. Read here for more on this: Lordship Salvation is the Only Salvation.
Supposedly one can trust Christ only as an escape from hell, not to get an immediate new heart and life. Christ is divided; He is not received as the Mediator who is at once Prophet, Priest, and King, one undivided Person who is both Lord and Saviour. Rather, faith allegedly picks and chooses among Christ’s offices and roles and receives only those of them that promise an escape from hell, not those that promise freedom from the dominion of sin.
Such a false argument of a “change of mind” is nonsensical, and worst, heretical.
The true repentance position does not affirm that the sinner is justified through the instrumentality of a “repentance” that is actually some sort of process of doing good deeds. On the contrary, Biblical repentance affirms that repentance is not good works, but that repentance results in good works. This Biblical position recognizes the Biblical fact that repentance and faith take place at the same moment in time, so that a sinner cannot savingly believe without repenting of his sins/self/stuff/people, which involves surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord, and a sinner cannot believe in Jesus Christ without repenting and trusting Christ for both deliverance from hell and a new heart no longer under the dominion of sin.
True salvation promises both the forgiveness of sin and freedom from sin’s dominion: “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb 8:10-12). All of Rom 6, 7 and 8 speak to this. The privilege of forgiveness of sins and of having God’s laws in one’s mind and heart are indissolubly connected.
Justification is certainly by faith alone (Rom 3:20-28), but saving faith is established upon saving repentance and that will always results in a change of action and heart (Ti 2:11-14; Jam 2:14-26). This true Biblical repentance is salvation by works only if Paul taught salvation by works when he included Eph 2:10 after Eph 2:8-9, Ti 3:8 after Ti 3:5-7, Rom 6-8 after Rom 3-5, or 2 Tim 1:9a before 2 Tim 1:9b. The false repentance of “change of mind” must not only ignore the NT usage of “metamelomai” and “metanoeo” and “metanoia” and “epistrepho” but also cut out of the Bible the context of many of the precious declarations that salvation is not based on works.
Indeed, this false teaching even needs to purge the very promises of the New Covenant itself (Heb 8:10-12). True Biblical repentance of a change of mind and the will and the emotions that results in a change of action (turning, contrite, self-denial, forsaking all) and thus change of life (salvation) is not salvation by works, but a glorious salvation by faith alone that does not leave the sinner in his sin but actually saves the sinner from sin by shattering sin’s dominion permanently. On the other hand, the false repentance actually is antinomianism and only produces false converts which we see so much of today.
2. Second, the “change of mind” false position points out that the word repentance doesn’t appear in John’s Gospel. Since, this position affirms, John promises salvation simply of belief, and belief allegedly does not involve repentance (turning from our sin and self and stuff and people to trust in Christ for deliverance from sins dominion and penalty), the other (the true) position must be an erroneous definition of repentance, all the lexical and Biblical evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. While it is true the word repent doesn’t appear in John’s Gospel, it is however filled with manifestations of repentance and evidence that saving faith always includes repentance and results in a changed life. Consider some examples:
(a) In Jn 3:19-21, Jesus expounds on regeneration and that it involves a coming to the light over one’s sin and evil in response to God’s reproof. This is no doubt repentance is implied, an expectation of turning from sin and evil, leading to a changed life (vv. 8, 21).
(b) In Jn 4 Jesus dealt with the woman at the well. He did not merely ask her to believe on Him, but dealt with her sin of adultery (vv 16-18) from whence she turned in repentance and faith. Then the Lord Jesus explained the nature of true worship (v 24). This also touches on the intellectual aspect of repentance (a person can’t repent without believing the truth). We see she repented by her actions which followed, immediate fruit (vv. 28-29; cf. Col 1:4-6).
(c) In the account of the blind man and of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 5 and 8), the Lord Jesus expected their salvation was based upon repentance when He said, “go and sin no more” (Jn 5:14 and 8:11 respectively). Implied in the statement is that they already turned from their sins and Christ made them whole.
(d) Jn 12:40 quotes from Is 6:9-10 which is illustrative of repentance.
(e) Furthermore, in Jn 12:40 the word repentance is directly inferred, translated as “converted” from one of the Greek words for repentance, “epistrepho.”
(f) In Jn 16:8-11, we are reminded by John that the Holy Spirit directly deals with the conviction of sin and judgment, which are fundamental elements or objects of repentance.
(a) In Jn 3:19-21, Jesus expounds on regeneration and that it involves a coming to the light over one’s sin and evil in response to God’s reproof. This is no doubt repentance is implied, an expectation of turning from sin and evil, leading to salvation and a changed life (vv. 8, 21). (vv. 8, 21). vv. 8, 21). v. 8, 21). . 8, 21). 8, 21). 8, 21). , 21). 21). 21). 1). ). . mentality that seeks to undermine the Word of God. The false argument actually reflects a rejection of the doctrine, and thus the true gospel. These are false teachers that do this, wolves in sheep’s clothing. No one part of the Bible can be isolated from the rest of the Bible. The entire Bible harmonizes and must be rightly divided. John does not mention the virgin birth salvation and of Christ either, but the other Gospels do. So is the virgin birth rejected as well? Though repentance is not mentioned by term in John (besides Jn 12:40), it is mentioned 27 times in the other Gospels.
The book of Acts describes how the apostles in the early churches preached the gospel, and they preached repentance (Ac 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 13:24; 17:30; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20). When Christ sent them out to peach His gospel (Lk 9:6), “they went out, and preached that men should repent.” (Matt 6:12). What gospel did Jesus peach? “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17). This is our example (Lk 12:47), regardless of what any one particular biblical book teaches. To base one’s doctrine and practice upon one isolated part of the Bible, while ignoring other parts, is the way that false teachers (mis)use Scripture.
3. Third, the “change of mind” false repentance advocate will argue that it can only be a change of mind because God repented. This is commonly heard but it’s likewise heretical. Repentance attributed to God is found in 30 or so places: e.g. Gen 6:6-7; Ex 32:10-14; 1 Ch 21:15; Jer 15:6; 18:8, 10; 26:3; 42:10; Am 7:3, 6; Jon 3:9-10; Ze 8:14-15. Since God is sinless and does not need to turn from sin and self and stuff and people, the proponent of this false position avers that the other view is an error and repentance is simply a change of mind without a change of action (turning, contrition, self-denial, surrender), claiming that these actions follow salvation, not for salvation. That is a straw man argument and neglects to understand what true repentance is.
Most of the above passages refer to God repenting or promising to repent, that is change His mind and will which produces a change of action (not doing what He threatened to do), if man would repent (noted in Jer 18:8-10; 26:3; 42:10; Joel 2:12-13 for instance). God cannot sin. And His counsel is immutable. But He can repent which doesn’t change Him or His character or His nature, but there are no examples in Scripture where God repented and nothing changed. Gods repentance is not from sin obviously, but of a decision He had made and then subsequently changed His mind and will and thus plan towards man because of man's genuine repentance of their sin.
An example is that of the Ninevites. God repented, He changed His mind and will (“God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them”) because the Ninevites repented of their sin and evil ways (Jon 3:5-9) which resulted in His change of action (“and he did it not”) (Jon 3:10). When God repented of the evil He said He was planning to do to His people, the Christ-rejecting Israelites in the wilderness, His corresponding action was not to destroy them (Ex 32:9-14). When God repented of making the human race, He changed His gracious ways towards humanity and destroyed mankind with a flood (Gen 6:6-7). When the Lord repented of the bondage to foreign powers He had laid upon Israel for the nation’s sins, He delivered Israel by raising up judges (Ju 2:18-19). When God repented of making Saul king, He changed His actions toward Saul, deposed him, and set up David (1 Sam 15:35-16:1). No place in Scripture where God repented was there not a corresponding change of action.
The “change of mind” repentance is a faith of intellectual assent only, which is a false gospel (Gal 1:6-9; 2 Cor 11:4). The overwhelming Scriptural and grammatical evidence for the true Biblical position remains untouched, and is actually strongly supplemented by theological support from invalid “change of mind” only argumentation.
Interestingly, the “change of mind” only “repentance” confined to sheer intellectualism, is so defined in a word that is not found to be translated as repentance or its metonyms or in principle, but “metaballo” found once in the NT in that of Ac 28:6 where the pagan people on the island of Melita (today Malta) “changed their minds, and said that he [Paul] was a god” when they “saw no harm come to him,” after a viper had latched onto his hand from out of the fire, and thinking “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.” (v. 4). They who witnessed the event “changed their minds” from thinking he was “a murderer” to that of “a god.” “Metaballo” means to turn about in opinion; a changed mind. Thats what occurred in the minds of the Maltans. It’s purely of the intellect, nothing volitional. This is in fact the word that is being described by these repentance rejectors of the “change of mind” persuasion. It has nothing to do with repentance, yet its meaning is used to describe “repentance” by repentance rejectors.
The Bible clearly teaches repentance is a change of mind and will and emotion that always results in a change of action and then life. The idea that repentance is a change of mind that may or may not result in a change of action and life, the false “change of mind” only position, is totally unbiblical. It is a serious, dangerous and Satanic corruption of the saving gospel of Christ. Its advocates should consider the warning of Gal 1:8-9 and tremble:
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
This heresy and false gospel must be immediately confronted and true believers should not give place to such false teachers, “no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue” (Gal 2:5). Professing Christians who are being led astray and confused by such attacks on the gospel should be immediately confronted. True churches must warn against such assaults on the gospel and maintain strict and total ecclesiastical separation from its advocates (Rom 16:17; Ti 3:10; 2 Jn 1:7-11). They must also boldly preach repentance and faith to every creature, so that they not only negatively oppose error, but by their true doctrine and practice adorn the truth (Matt 28:18-20; Lk 24:47; Ac 20:21).