Notes on Repentance and Salvation of the Soul
In scripture, the word 'repent' and its various cognates appear a total of one hundred and six times in ninety nine verses. In the Old Testament, 'repent' appears forty-one times. Both biblical languages have two main words for 'repent'. In Hebrew, the words are transliterated as "naw-kham" and "shoob". "Naw-kham" is used in the majority of the verses in the Old Testament and it literally means "to be sorry, to pity, console oneself, rue; or, to avenge (oneself). The other, "shoob", means to turn back (hence, away) and it is translated as repent only three times in the Old testament.
In the New testament there are two words that are used for the verb form of repent and one for the noun form. The two verbs are "metanoeo" and "metamelomai". The first is very much like "shoob" of the OT. It also has to do with a change of mind and would be considered to be the intellectual aspect of repentance. The second word, "metamelomai", is used significantly less in the New Testament and implies feelings of guilt. It is the emotional aspect of repentance but does not necessarily mean one is truly repentant. It is used in Matthew 27:3 of Judas: "Then Judas which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented of himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,". Judas himself repented of his treachery but it was not true repentance as he did not seek forgiveness for his sin.
Often times believers and non-believers alike can get confused on the meaning of 'repentance for salvation'. People tend to think that that when the word 'repentance' is used in this way it means to turn away from a sinful lifestyle. This thinking leads some to believe in works-based salvation or lordship salvation. Of course, this is not how the Gospels and the New testament uses the term 'repentance' in reference to salvation and justification.
Because of the confusion, believers who are ignorant of how repentance is used in the New testament tend to go to one of two extremes. They will either preach a works-based gospel which states that a person must stop committing sin in order to be saved, or they will leave repentance out of the gospel altogether. The latter route is known as the "feel good gospel" because according to those who preach this "we just need to show the love of Jesus." By looking at how repentance is used in the gospels, we will see that neither option is scriptural.
In the New testament, the verb 'metaneo' is primarily used for 'repentance'. The first time it is used is in Matt. 3:2: "And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Luke uses 'metaneo' for repentance in recording the Lord's great commission to His disciples (Luke 24:47). It is also used in Revelation 2:5,16,21,22 and Rev. 3:3,19. Each of these six verses that 'repent' is used in the letters to the seven churches it means "to turn away from." Verse 5 makes use of 'metaneo' twice:"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Here, the Lord is commanding the saints at Ephesus to repent, or turn away from, of their having departed their first love, Himself.
Notice that in the gospels Christ never exhorted publicans and harlots to feel a sense of guilt for their sinful behavior and lifestyle. Of the five churches that were commanded to repent, none of them were commanded to feel a sense of guilt, neither. A sense of guilt is important yes, it has its place, but not in preaching the gospel, or in restoring a backslidden brother in Christ. Remorse, sorrowful feelings for sins committed must come from within an individual. You cannot force such feelings upon another person, you can only preach the awfulness of sin and the depravity of man. The Spirit will work in the person if they have not hardened their hearts and they will feel remorse in time.
If Christ, John the Baptist, and all the apostles commanded sinners everywhere to repentance, but did not pressure men and women into feeling remorseful for sins committed, what did they preach repentance from? Quite simply, they preached repentance from the sin of unbelief. It is unbelief that keeps a person from accepting Christ as their Savior, and it is this that everyone must turn away from.
All men and women are born with a flawed view of who Christ is and what He has done for us. Some of us are raised thinking that while Christ died for the whole world, He hasn't died for me personally. Others are raised with the belief that Christ was just a good man but not God. There are many other views that people of the world have about Christ. Views that separate one from receiving forgiveness and a relationship with God. Every one must turn away from and reject these misconceptions and false views, and every Christian must preach true repentance which can only result in a turning away from such views!