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Does the Bible Teach that Sinners Must Repent of Their Sin to be Saved?

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

Yes, is the short answer, and below you will find Biblical support why this is so. Specifically throughout the Bible the lost are commanded to repent of sin, which means to willfully turn from all sin in general and all known sin in particular.

Repenting is NOT just a change of mind about sin or God or unbelief. This is heresy, explained at that link if you click on it, and produces a "another gospel" (2 Cor 11:4). Repentance is also NOT synonymous with faith, which is likewise heresy and a false gospel (Gal 1:6-9). Repentance is furthermore NOT just repenting in general and not from all known sin. These and other arguments are debunked in the report, Debunking False Arguments of the False “Change of Mind” Repentance Position.

True repentance, that is a willful, intellectual, turning from sin (covered below) and self (Lk 14:26-33; 15:1-32; Matt 10:32-39; Jn 12:24-25) and stuff (Mk 10:21; 8:34-38; Lk 12:16-21; Ac 19:18-19) with godly sorrow (2 Cor 7:8-10), in surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord (Lk 14:15-33 and 15:1-32; 19:11-27; Phil 2:10-11; Jon 3:5-10) is a major component of the gospel (Mk 1:1-4; Lk 24:44-48; Ac 20:21, 24).

When "God . . . commandeth all men every where to repent:“ (Ac 17:30b), He means that sinners "Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin” (Ezk 18:30). “[T]urn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” (Ezk 33:11). The Lord Jesus warns that the unsaved who do not “repent of their deeds,” deeds such as “murders . . . sorceries . . . fornication . . . thefts . . . [and] worship [of] devils, and idols,” will suffer great tribulation (Rev 2:22) and be slaughtered by Him at His second coming (Rev 9:20-21; 16:9-11; 14:18-20; 19:11-21; 2 Th 1:7-9).

Repentant faith in Christ involves losing one’s life, that is, turning from our own way of living, exaltation of self and comfort, to surrender to Christ as unconditional Lord (Mk 8:35; Matt 10:32-39; Lk 9:23-24; 14:25-33). It’s an exchange of masters (Matt 6:24). Repentance involves turning from all known sins/idols: from general sin (Is. 55:6-7; 1 Th. 1:9; Ac. 26:20) and from specific sins (Ezk. 18:20-23, 28-32; Ac. 3:19, 26), which is the change of action wrought from a change of mind and will. The major issue with lost people unwilling to repent is because of wilful rebellion and love for sin and self. We see that in Pr 1:20-32, Jn 3:19-21 and Rom 1, where lost people “hold the truth in unrighteousness;” (Rom. 1:18-23). What is “unrighteousness”? Sin of course. In other words, the unsaved know but will not turn from their sin. The rest of the Bible agrees with that. Read for instance Pr 1:20-32.

John the Baptist preached to the lost that they need to turn from their sin, to repent (Matt 3:2; Mk 1:1-4), which will result in bringing forth good fruit, and those who do not repent and as a result bring forth good fruit are hewn down at the root with the Lord's axe and cast into unquenchable fire (Matt 3:7-11). Jesus Christ preached the same message of repentance (Matt 4:17; Mk 1:15-20; 8:34-38; Lk 14:25-15:32) and commanded His apostles to preach the same message (Mk 6:12) and His saints to continue to preach the same message of the gospel (Lk 24:47).

There is no such things as “easy-repentism.” It's actually impossible for someone to repent without the goodness of God granting the ability unto life (Rom 2:4; Ac 5:31; 11:18). In other words, it's not easy to repent of all your sins (cf. Lk 13:23-24).

False repentance doesn’t make it easier, because it doesn’t save. It is a false way. To love God and His Word is to hate every false way:

“Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” (Ps 119:127-128)

It is true that repentance is always from sin in salvation, and from all sin and sinful ways, not just from some sin. There are many Biblical examples and proofs, some of which will be explored below.

First of all, Some False Arguments to Deny or Reject Repentance of Sin for Salvation

1. False argument: if salvation is turning from all sin, a sinner then must recount every single sin he has ever committed and repent of each one of them.

This is a straw man argument. But the very statement alone is amazing. You don't have to repent of all your sins to be saved? Alright, so what sin do you get to keep and still be saved? It is often one or a few particular sins that is the issue in repentance.

With that said, the Bible doesn’t give the idea that all the sinners past sins must be remembered. The message of repentance isn't, “in order to be saved, you must remember every single sin you have ever committed and then consciously turn from every single one.” But repentance does necessitate all sins that one does remember will be turned from (which is typically what we would consider pet sins, favourites in particular), and those not remembered—turned from in principle. Sin will be turned from in general and then specific sins that are particularly loved by the sinner. The idea is that the sinner does so come to an end of living for self, for wickedness, for sin, that there is nothing, no sin, no idol, no thing, no person, that will continue to hold affection in the sinners heart and hold him back from turning to God. He abhors it all, and receives the love of the truth, that he might be saved (2 Th 2:10). Even here in 2 Th 2, the love of the truth for salvation is intricately linked to repentance from sin: “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. . . . That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (vv. 10, 12). When someone wants to be saved, and thus loves the truth, he will turn from the unrighteousness he had pleasure in. There are two paths at the crossroads that the sinner under conviction finds himself, (1) love and believe the truth or, (2) love and follow after unrighteousness. To embrace the former, requires turning from the latter. 180.

2. False argument: if salvation is turning from all sin, a sinner must then stopping sinning or ceasing from sinning.

The message of repentance isn't "in order to be saved, you must discontinue all sinning.” That would be a works salvation. We're not saved by trying not to sin. Repentance is, however, an admission that even though we can't stop sinning, by the grace of God we want to and we turn from all known sin to God for deliverance and victory. Jesus' sheep hear His voice and follow Him (Jn 10). He doesn't lead them to sin. You can't have Jesus and your sin — no man can serve two Masters (Matt 6:24). This is why the churches are a havoc now days. They are full of people that have never truly repented and surrendered to Christ's Lordship, and that is evident in their living and affections and allegiance.

3. False argument: we must repent of our sins, but not ALL our sins.

Some argue that it is not necessary that a person must repent of, that is turn away, from ALL his or her sins to be saved. That very statement alone is amazing. You don't have to repent of all of your sins to be saved? Alright, so what sin do you get to keep and still be saved? It is often one or a few particular sins that is the issue in repentance. The same people would argue that teaching repentance from all your sin or turning away from all your sin for salvation, would be a works salvation and a false gospel. These are quite the statements to make, seeing that the Bible teaches something different, that we do indeed turn from all our sins and sinful ways, in order to be saved. It is not a “false gospel” for repentance to be turning away from all your sin, since that is exactly what the Bible teaches.

Biblical Examples of Repentance of Sin for Salvation

1. Luke 5:31-32. The Bible calls who to repentance? Sinners (Lk 5:31-32; 13: 1-5; 15:1-32). Jesus said,

"I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Lk 5:32).

What are these sinners, Jesus speaks of, repenting from? Are they repenting of only unbelief or some of their sins or something else? They are repenting of sin, of all their sins—certainly not just some of them.

Salvation requires repentance and repentance requires not only turning from all your sin, but also from yourself, from your stuff and from your people, all of which are idols before God, thus sin, taking the place of the worship of God, made abundantly clear throughout the NT, including and especially Matt 10:32-39; 16:24-26; 19:18-30; Lk 9:23-26, 57-62; 13:1-5, 23-30; 14:25-15:32; 19:1-10; Mk 8:34-38; Ac 3:19; 26:20; etc. Read these passages carefully before you grow logical fallacies or other unscriptural arguments in your mind and mouth, and remember that the four gospels are exactly that: four books on salvation, NOT sanctification. Furthermore, know also that unsaved people are not taught in the gospels, or anywhere else for that matter, how to be better Christians or disciples. The gospel/salvation is being preached to them, and almost everything from Matthew to John is about soteriology, with brief references to practical sanctification, so that the unsaved may come to a saving knowledge of repentance and faith. That was why Jesus came. To seek and to save that which was lost.

The Bible also doesn’t have to tell us every time that repentance is from sin. It’s many times very plainly implied in the words used, such as the above example out of Lk 5:32, and taking the Bible as a whole it is obvious that this is a large part of what repentance means.

Then, when someone does truly repent and is converted/saved, he has a new relationship to sin, one that Paul and Peter call being "dead to sin." (Rom 6:1-2; 1 Pet 2:24). Paul counted his former life as "dung." (Phil 3). All of it, not just some of it. He loved righteousness and hated sin, just like his Lord who indwelled him, “But unto the Son he saith, . . . Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity;” (Heb 1:8-9). Paul did that and could do that because in his repentance unto salvation he turned from all sin and idols. He didn’t hold on to any sin of sinful way. So God delivered him from his sin, cast it away as far as the east is from the west, and gave him victory over it, so that he was “freed from sin” just like every person that is truly regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God:

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. . . . What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? . . . For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Rom 6:7, 14, 1-2, 20-22)

This is every born again believers new relationship to sin from the very moment of conversion, but that wouldn’t be the case if the professor of Christ had not genuinely repented, that is turned from all his sins and sinful ways, for he would yet remain unsaved and henceforth continue to struggle with sin, worldliness and error. And so we see the cause of the churches being loaded with false professors. They love the world, but profess Christ, evident by the way they dress and the music they listen to, including the syncopating fleshly emotion-inducing voices. They love their error, and refuse to turn from it. They won’t have any conflict in their lives because their faith is not even skin deep.

Scripture teaches this. The main reason why people will continue to harbour a false faith and false profession, like those in Jn 2:23-25, is because of what Jesus says in Jn 3:19-21, which is all about repentance:

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

And many times we can know their false profession simply through their false doctrine, which they hold to unrepentantly, not embracing “sound doctrine” but “gainsaying” (Ti 1:10) “vain talkers and deceivers,” (v. 11), “Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. . . alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." (vv. 12-16)

2. Ezekiel 14:6; 18:21, 23, 30-31; 33:9, 11 declares,

“Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent. and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. . . . But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. . . . Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? . . . 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. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, . . . Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn (shub) from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. . . . Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn (shub) ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

Though this passage is geared towards the Israelites, it equally applies to Gentiles as noted in the same language used throughout Scripture for salvation of all.

Ezekiel’s call to the “wicked” to turn from their evil ways proves that the prophet exhorts the lost to turn from their sins in order to be saved. Ezekiel never employs the word “wicked” for a saved person (Ezk E3:18-19; 7:21; 13:22; 18:20-27; 21:3-4, 25, 29; 33:8-15,19) but only for the lost, such as the idolatrous Babylonians who destroyed the Jerusalem temple (Ezk 7:21). Indeed, not one reference to either the Hebrew or Greek word for “wicked” is referred to a saved person—the wicked are uniformly those headed to damnation, who are “turned into hell” (Ps 9:17) under the curse and wrath of God, in contrast to those who trust in the Lord, (by grace) are righteous, and thus saved.

3. Jonah 3 and the Ninevites. A good summary of the three faculties of man in repentance (intellect, will and emotions) is noted in the salvation of the Ninevites:

"So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. [6] For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. [7] And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: [8] But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. [9] Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? [10] And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." (Jon 3:5-10).

The Ninevites repentance is noted in the intellect in that they believed what Jonah had proclaimed about Gods coming judgment and their sinful estate (vv. 4-5). The emotions are noted in their sorrow for their sin exhibited in a very striking way by humbling themselves, “cry[ing] mightily unto God” (v. 8), “in sackcloth and ashes” (vv. 5-6). Then the volition is noted, the purposed turning away from their evil ways and violence unto God in such humble contrition that even their cows wore sackcloth and ashes (vv. 6-8). They turned from their sin. “Evil ways” contain the idea that its worse than mere common sin, though all sin has element of evilness.

This is the benchmark of repentance, God’s expectation of repentance for salvation, according to the very words of God the Son (Matt 12:41; Lk 11:32), though all words in the Word of God are equally important. Jesus said the Biblical standard of repentance is this repentance of the Ninevites:

"The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here." (Matt 12:41).

When the Lord Jesus spoke of repentance of the lost, he spoke of the kind of change of mind and heart and will that brings a change of action and life that took place at Nineveh (Matt 12:41; Lk 11:32), and that crucially included turning from all our sin, from our evil ways which are very sinful ways, noted by the Ninevites who “believed God . . . and . . . turn[ed] every one from his evil way,” where “their works” were fruitful evidence (cf. Ac 26:20), “that they had “turned” from sin, from their “evil ways.” Jesus said that is true repentance.

Thus, when Jesus spoke of repentance such as in Lk 13, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish", He was speaking of the same sort of repentance as the Ninevites demonstrated (Matt 12:41; Lk 11:32).

So if we want to understand what repentance is, we need to study Jon 3. And what happened in Jon 3:5-10 is not unfamiliar to the OT (or NT for that matter), the same terminology used for instance by the preacher Jeremiah repeatedly, who called on the Israelites to,

“Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings,” (Jer 18:11; 25:5; 36:7).

Also noted in this account of salvation of the Ninevites is Christ’s Lordship, which dovetails with true repentance. The king of Nineveh “arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.” (v. 6). He, the king of a very powerful and ever growing in power Gentile nation (Assyria), stepped off his throne so Christ could get on it — he set aside his kingly robes, took upon himself the garb of affliction and humility, and turned from all his evil ways with humbleness before Almighty God in acquiescence and contrition while crying out to God for mercy. This earthly king recognized his subservience to God, his evil towards Him and that God was God and he was not, and thus forsook all that he had in humble surrender to the King of kings and Lord of lords (Lk 14:31-34, 26-27). Surrender to the King derives from a repentant heart,

We also see God’s repentance here, a change of the mind and will (“God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them”) which resulted in a change of action (“and he did it not”) (v. 10), but His repentance is never about sin or changing life, so that aspect of repentance is not illustrated in God’s repentance, because He doesn’t sin or change.

4. Isaiah 55:1-7 is one of my favourite passages in the Bible on salvation. The last two verses read:

“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

This is loaded with repentance and what it means. Forsaking and returning are referring to repentance. Return and turn mean the same thing and are translated interchangeably. The sinner that is seeking the Lord and wants to find Him, must turn from his wicked sinful ways and thoughts and God will have mercy upon him, and abundantly pardon him. The praying publican in Lk 18 did that. The repentant thief on the cross. And all others in scripture.

5. Revelation 9:20-21. What are the types of sin that God says the men in the Tribulation will not repent of? Idolatrous sins (Rev 9:20) and immoral sins (Rev 9:21).

“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the WORKS of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.” (Rev 9:20-21)

“Works of their hands” is referring to sin here, sinful idols in v. 20, and then immoral sins v. 21, as the word “works” is translated frequently from “ergon” in relation to sin.

For instance, Gal 5:19-21,

“Now the WORKS [ergon] of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Eph 5:11,

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful WORKS [ergon] of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

Same word, “ergon,” in Heb 6:1,

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead WORKS [ergon], and of faith toward God,”

The idea here is moving on from basic, foundational doctrines of Christ, unto perfection, and salvation is basic and foundational, where it starts and obviously for a reason first in this list. “Dead works” is not merely works-salvation related but specifically repentance from sin, which is what the word means additionally.

6. Jesus addressed sins with the rich young ruler in Matt 19; Mk 10; Lk 18, that were no stumbling block to him from turning, as it seemed, except a particular one. Christ exposed that he loved that sin of covetousness more than Him, and was not willing to turn from it surrender to Him, to submit himself to his Maker and God and King (I address this case here). Authority is always an issue with unrepentant sinners, hence the fact that there is no salvation outside of Lordship salvation. The fruit of true repentance would have been him forsaking all his riches and glory and following after Christ. Like Zacchaeus, given in the same context of Luke’s account.

7. Concerning Zacchaeus, he is a wonderful example of true repentance from sin in salvation. In Lk 19:6 we read,

“And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.”

It is evident that at some point between the tree and the ground he was converted through turning from his sin and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. A truly repentant sinner—and he was a sinner indeed being a greedy corrupt publican—will “come to the light” so that his evil “deeds should be reproved” as Jn 3:19-21 indicates, a wonderful passage of scripture on repentance, even though the word is not used there (nor does it have to be).

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (Jn 3:19-21)

Though we don’t read of his specific repentance and faith, we know it occurred because he came to Christ and received Him joyfully, what Jn 1:12 says. The coming to God language is always indicative of conversion (cf. Jn 14:6, “cometh unto the Father”; Lk 14:26, “If any man come to me”; Mk 8:34, “Whosoever will come after me”; etc).

But it’s the fruit of true Biblical repentance, the “works meet for repentance” of someone that “repent[ed] and turn[ed] to God” (Ac 26:20) that demonstrates that he had indeed Biblically repented, that is turned from his sin and sinful ways, and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul, as we see here tested immediately when his sin is exposed (v. 7):

“And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” (v. 8).

It’s obvious that he turned from all sins when he was repentantly believing, or he wouldn’t have had this fruit of repentance concerning something that was all about sin. He did what the unrepentant, nonsubmissive, rich young ruler wouldn’t do, and it’s at this point that Christ confirmed that he had been wonderfully converted/ saved:

“And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (vv. 9-10).

8. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 is another good example of repentance from sin for salvation,

“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;”

What is it that the Thessalonians turned from in their repentance? From “idols.” What are idols? Sin. Always. An idol is never not sin. So when the lost repent, they turn to God from their sin and their idols with the intention of serving the living and true God and waiting for His Son from heaven.

9. Luke 13:1-5,

“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

In Christ’s warning here on “except ye repent” (vv. 1-5), who and what is He referring to in his illustrations? Sinners excusing and perishing due to their sin. The command “repent” is tied directly to the object, “sinners,” so its pretty obvious what these sinners need to repent of when they do repent.

10. Acts 3:19, 26;

“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; . . . Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”

The whole of repentance is addressed here, a change of mind and will about sin, about God, about His judgment and righteousness, about the gospel, about the sinful and evil path they are on, and then to turn from these things, turning from sin (“converted” which is “epistrepho,” a word for repentance meaning to turn)

11. Acts 14:15,

“And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:”

Vanities here are in direct reference to the animal sacrifices the people at Lystra were about to do in the name of Paul and Barnabas, idol worship, which is greatly sinful,

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Ex 20:3-6)

Paul was telling them to turn from these sins, vanities, unto the living God. That is repentance, and that is turning from sin.

12. Revelation 16:9-11,

“And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”

They “repented not of their deeds.” What are their “deeds”? Sin of course, which relates to what Rev 9:20-21 says, and Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:11 and other places, “ergon” referring to sinful works and deeds in this context.

13. Luke 15. In the single parable (v. 3) of Lk 15, Christ illustrates the conversion of publicans and sinners (vv. 1-2, 11-24) by the restoration of a lost sheep, coin, and son, while the unconverted and self-righteous Pharisees who thought they did not need to repent (v. 2; cf. 5:31-32; 19:7-10) are illustrated by another son (Ex 4:22; Hos 11:1; Rom 9:4), who was not willing to enter his father’s house (vv. 25-32) but greatly dishonoured his father because of his perceived superiority to the restored lost son (vv. 25-32). In this chapter that is all about repentance, the answer to what Christ had just preached in Lk 14:15-33, Christ spoke of the attitude expressed by the words of the son that was lost and then found: “I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (vv. 18-19). He then turned from his sin and fled to the Father in humbleness and godly sorrow for his evil deeds and ways. Such an attitude expresses the change of will/heart that results in a change of action (turning from his evil sins, himself, and unto the Father) and change of life doctrine of repentance.

14. There are four Greek words and two Hebrew words that are translated as repent (and metonyms) or define and describe repentance or the principles of repentance, and these clearly implicate sin as the major element in repentance.

Of the four words that are used in the Greek gospels to describe the process of repentance, one, metamelomai, emphasizes the emotional element of repentance/regret, sorrow over the past evil course of life (noted in Matt 21:28-32; 27:3; 2 Cor 7:8; Heb 7:21); two, metanoeo/metanoia expresses reversal of the entire mental attitude (noted in such passages as Matt 12:41, Lk 11:32; 15:7, 10); and three, epistrepho, denotes a volitional change in the direction of life, turning, one goal or master being substituted for another (noted in passages such as Matt 13:15 [and parallels); Lk 17;4, 22:32). Repentance is not limited to any single faculty of the mind: it engages the entire man, intellect, will and affections. In the new life which follows repentance the absolute supremacy of God is the controlling principle. He who repents turns away from the service of self and mammon to the service of God.

The verbs “shub” and “nacham” are used in the OT for the doctrine of repentance. (a) “Shub,” means to turn away from sin/self/stuff/people and around to God and be converted, to abandon a course of action to desist from doing wrong (e.g. Is 55:7; Ezk 14:6; Hos 12:6; Jon 3:8). "Shub" is employed to indicate the thorough spiritual change which God alone can effect (Ps 85:4). Its two sister words in the Greek NT are "epistrepho” and "metanoia.” It is a common verb and most generally utilized to express the Scriptural idea of genuine repentance, a conscious response to forsake all (sin, self, stuff, people) and to turn to the righteousness only available and provided through Christ (De 4:30; Neh 1:9; Ps 7:12; Jer 3:14). It typically refers to God in His relation to man (Ex 32:12; Jos 7:26). "Shub" is the word for repentance in passages such as Ezk 14:6; 18:21, 23, 30-31; 33:9, 11, quoted under # 2, in the words "turn" and "turn away" and "turn yourselves." (b) “Nacham” emphasizes the emotional aspect of repentance, conveying the expressive idea and deep feeling of sorrowfully sorry, to regret something, and is found with reference to human repentance in texts such as Jer 31:19 and Job 42:6: “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” It literally means "to pant; to sigh; or to groan" (Vines). Its sister word in the NT is “metamelomai.”

Its not difficult to note the sin aspect of NT and OT repentance. For further detail on these words, please see:

More examples could be given but this should suffice.

The Bible overwhelmingly teaches that repentance is turning from sin.

No one had to tell me that when I read of the need to repent in the scriptures before my conversion, that it was sin that I needed to turn from. It was obvious, though I wasn’t too interested in doing that. Thankfully, one day that did occur and God gloriously saved me.

True salvation that involved true repentance always has substance and evidence and fruit that require an examination of ones experience, noted in passages such as Ezk 36:25-27; Jer 23:3; Ps 1:1-3; 92:12-15; Pr 11:30; 12:12b; Matt 3:1-12; 7:15-26; 13:8-23; 21:28-32, 41-44; Mk 4:20-29; Lk 8:15-16; Jn 4:35-38; 15:1-16; Rom 11:16; 2 Cor 5:18-20; 9:10; Col 1:4-6; Jam 1:18; 2:14-26; 3:17; etc, hence the command to “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Pet 1:10). Sinners are called to “repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Ac 26:20), but that will not occur if a sinner does not turn from his sin.

Some Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB) that Corrupt Repentance and Teach a Perverted Gospel

The no repentance of sin, no turning from all of ones sins is absolute heresy and is essentially the false gospel of easy believism that is preached by majority of Revivalists-type IFB churches, which are Hyles-types, like pastor Michael Sullivant and Rick Flanders. According to these men, a person wasn't trusting in Christ and when he starts trusting, he has repented in his mind of that lack of trust. Whereas he wasn't believing before, now he is, and that's repentance among those who preach what the Hyles-types preach, like Michael Sullivant, Rick Flanders, Caleb Garraway, S.M. Davis, Gordon Conner, Bob Gray, Curtis Hutson, of course Jack Hyles himself, and so many others. They abhor the idea of turning from ones sins for salvation, even though that is the true gospel found in the Scriptures.

Of course neo-evangelicalism and reformed theology is absolutely loaded with gospel perversion, almost without exception, so we won't even go there.

Here are a few quotes from the more prominent of these men:

Bob Gray:

10,446 professions of faith in 1995. . . . Repentance is not a doctrine. The word "repent" is not even found in the book of John. It is obviously assumed by God that "repentance" is a part of "believing." . . . Repentance is not turning from your sins. . . . Repentance is to change one's mind from unbelief to belief in Christ” (“A Message from the Pastor,” The Soulwinner, Jan 1996, Longview Baptist Temple, Longview, Texas).

Jack Hyles:

What makes the wrath of God abide on a person? Believing not! So, from what must a person repent in order to be saved? He must repent of that which makes him lost. Since "believing not" makes him lost, "believing" makes him saved. In repentance there is a turning from the thing that keeps him from being saved to the thing that saves him. So, yes, there is a repentance from unbelief in order to believe. It is simply a change of direction. It means a turning around. You are going away from believing, and you decide to turn around and believe. You change your direction; you change your mind. With your will you believe and rely upon Christ to save you. In order to believe, you have to repent of unbelief. That which makes a man lost must be corrected” ("Enemies of Soulwinning").

Curtis Hutson:

The problem and confusion is not preaching repentance but attaching the wrong definition to the word. For instance, to say that repentance means to turn from sin, or to say that repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action, is to give a wrong definition to the word” ("Repentance: What Does the Bible Teach?" Sword of the Lord, p. 16).

The Biggest Issue with Those Not Teaching True Repentance

I think people that preach a different repentance than found in Scripture, like their repentant-less "plan of salvation" and they like how people like what they say, but I don't believe many of these (not all) like the true gospel which includes saving repentance. I believe these people are turned off by the actual true gospel, which is why they leave parts and words out, the parts and words that won't work for them, and that they think will ruin their presentation, such as true Biblical repentance which includes turning from sin, and the Lordship of Christ (His Messiahship and Authority as King). Either that, or they just don't know what they’re talking about. The latter is a more merciful analysis than the former. Maybe it is some combination of purposeful and ignorant deceit.

I would always question as to whether someone is truly converted that professes to be a Christian but rejects the truth of repentance from sin, knowing there is no true Biblical repentance without repenting of sin. I always want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but wilful perversion of repentance is very bad since it is corruption of the gospel whereby men are saved. Repentance is what it is, there is no confusion of ambiguity with the doctrine in Scripture, and it’s critically important in salvation, it’s very foundation.

A big issue with those who reject true repentance from sin is the very real possibility they have never been actually born again. That question must be there because of what the Bible teaches. Repentance is the very foundation of salvation, and the most important element of repentance is turning from sin—intellectually, emotionally and volitionally, because we are sinners separated from God because of our sin. Sin is the problem and man must be willing to turn from it all in order to be saved. Since repentance is the foundation of salvation (e.g., Matt 4:17; Mk 6:12; Lk 24:44-48) and the gospel includes the critical element of repentance (Mk 1:1-4; Lk 24:45-48; Ac 20:21, 24), so that all who corrupt the gospel in any fashion are accursed (Gal 1:6-9), I am let with no choice but to say what Paul would say,

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” (2 Cor 13:5a)

Not only for this reason but also because of what Heb 6:1 teaches, that the truly regenerated believer “leav[es] the principles of the doctrine of Christ,” which foundationally includes “repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (and “dead works” doesn’t just merely refer to vain, useless, dead labour in attempt to earn merit with God as a lost sinner, which on its own is sinful as well, but also refers to sin in general and specifically, noting the same Greek word and translation for “dead works” is used for instance in places such as Col 1:21; Eph 5:11; 2 Tim 4:14 and Gal 5:19 where the latter references the “works of the flesh” as a long list of sins that condemn the sinner to hell, and thus once again implies repentance from sin — in essence it refers to anything that exalts itself against the righteousness of God). So the true born again believer “leav[es] the principles of the doctrine of Christ,” and “go[es] on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God…” (Heb 6:1).

Every true born again believer repented of their sin. So they know this to be true because they did it since it was required and thus experienced the new birth secondary to true repentance and faith. That is why they move on from this basic and foundational teaching, since they experienced it, know it Biblically and don’t reject it, and grow in deeper knowledge of it. This is what Heb 6 has in mind. Those that deny or reject elements of the true gospel are false teachers (Gal 1:6-9). False brethren (Gal 2:5). The context (Heb 5:12-6:11) clearly implies that the individual not growing or maturing is unregenerate (vv. 4-8). The rest of the Bible would correspond to that.

The Damage of the Repentant-Less Gospel

A gospel that doesn’t include true repentance, at bare minimum turning from sin, reeks of quick prayerism and easy believism. I would vouch this being a major reason for all the "decisions" of most churches today (which is unBiblical terminology). This "repentance" that leaves out turning from sin is not Scriptural repentance and will not genuinely save anyone. Even worse, it will create false converts and make them two-fold children of hell and inoculate them to the true gospel. And these false teachers are helping with that process.

Repentance that does not include turning from sin, is a false gospel of which Paul warned in Gal 1:6-9,

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 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."

People that are doing this, guilty of this, need to earnestly repent for the salvation of their souls and concur with the first half of Jer. 6:16,

"Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."

One of the very important old paths is the path of preaching true repentance (cf. Ezk 14; 18; 33; Is 55:6-7; etc) and not easy believism or quick prayerism.

But sadly, most will agree with the last half of Jer 6:16:

"But they said, We will not walk therein."


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