What is repentance? This question concerns many people, but very few are able to give an answer. Many confuse repentance with the feeling of being sorry or remorse. It took me a long time to understand what repentance means and what meaning this word has in the Holy Scriptures. I want to share what I have understood regarding this subject as a result of studying the Holy Scriptures for many years.
1. Repentance is the change of mind
The Greek word translated into English “repentance” is metanoia from [meta ] – to change, and [noia] – mind, thinking. Hence, repentance is a change of thinking about the concept of life. Man lives in accordance to the way he thinks. That is why Solomon, in all his wisdom, wrote:
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Since man accepts something in his mind, sooner or later, he does it. Jesus says:
… the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man. (Matthew 15:17-20)
(Here I think it is necessary to mention that in ancient times people believed that the heart was the place of thinking and senses). A true change can occur in a man’s life only when he changes his mind.
2. Repentance is produced by God in the life of the one who enters the New Covenant
The period of Babylonian bondage was a very heavy one for the people of Israel. Many believed God would destroy them as a nation. In this context God proclaims that the days will come when He will make with them a New Covenant and according to this covenant He will give them a new heart. In Jeremiah 31:33 it says,
‘’I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it.’’
In Ezekiel 11:19-20 it is written,
‘’And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.’’
(Do not forget that any reference to the heart means the thinking of man). The same is written in Ezekiel 36:25-27. Therefore, in the New Covenant, God promises to change man’s thinking. Hence, this, in turn, will help man to live a life of obedience to God.
3. Repentance takes place in man’s life when he enters the New Covenant
In order to better understand when a person enters the New Covenant, it is important to understand what the “Covenant” means. The Hebrew word used for the “covenant” is “berit” which means “a solemn understanding made by passing through the pieces of the sacrificed animal.” In the old days when a covenant was made, an animal was offered as a sacrifice, which was split in two pieces. The people who entered the covenant had to pass through these two halves of animal. This procedure was also called “walking through death”. Through this, the partners of the covenant swore each other to faithfulness; that is they chose to die to themselves and live to fulfill the conditions of the covenant. On the other hand, they seemed to say: so do to me (like to this animal) God, if I break the terms of the covenant. That is why the Lord Jesus tells everyone in Luke 9:23-24:
‘’If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.’’
Maybe you would say that the New Covenant was promised to the people of Israel, but we are not Jews! What is the part of the non-Jews (or the Gentiles) in this covenant … This will be the subject of another article.
Translated by Marcela Tasca