Repentance (Christianity)

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Close up of a 17th-century depiction of one of the 28 articles of the Augsburg Confession by Wenceslas Hollar, with repentance depicted as being a combination of contrition and faith

Repentance is a stage in Christian salvation where the believer turns away from sin. As a distinct stage in the ordo salutis its position is disputed, with some theological traditions arguing it occurs prior to faith and the Reformed theological tradition arguing it occurs after faith.[1] In Roman Catholic theology repentance is part of the larger theological concept of penance.[2] Generally in the Old Testament the term repentance comes from the Hebrew word group that means "turn away from".[3]:1007 Sometimes this word group is employed to request a turning from sinful activity (Jeremiah 8:6). In the New Testament the μετανοέω/metanoeo word group can mean remorse but is generally translated as a turning away from sin (Matthew 3:2).[3]:1007 Theologically 'repentance', the turning away from sin is linked to a corresponding turn to faith in God.[3]:1008

Emanuel Swedenborg , and Jonathan S. Rose explain how repentance in the church as a whole is used to take away the serious evils that God cannot overlook. [4]Swedenborg and Rose explain how “acts of repentance include any and all actions that result in our not willing, and consequently not doing, evil things that are sins against God.”  For repentance to be achievable one must think of it using their will or real self and the thinking must be done by their will. Swedenborg and Rose refer to John the Baptist to describe how he was performing baptism of repentance. John the Baptist would preach repentance along with the other disciples and the Lord himself along with performing the baptisms. If people repented then their sins were forgiven and they were welcomed into the church. However, Protestant Christians don’t believe in repentance but contrition because they believe repentance creates a desire for merit which ruins faith. Contrition is fear of God’s justified anger and the fear of eternal damnation. Contrition is the belief that people are born into sin and head towards sin facing God’s wrath and people deserve eternal death. Contrition came up to replace repentance to move away from the Roman Catholics. Protestants believe oral confession alone does not count as repentance.

In the Hebrew Bible, only those who have attained the status of sinners are said to “turn away from sin.” Repentance attempts to apply its power for any negative future behavior or atones for sin. David Lambert strongly believes that, “It is in the writings of rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity that it attains the status of a technical term, a basic item of an emerging religious lexicon”.[5] The Gospel of Luke and in Matthew, introduces repentance into existing gospel traditions (as well as Paul in the Acts of the Apostles), “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 4:17).


  1. ^ Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997): 38-39.
  2. ^ Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 37.
  3. ^ a b c T.C. Mitchell, 'Repentance' New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996): 1007–8.
  4. ^ Emanuel, Swedenberg. "True Christianity 2: The New Century Edition Portable".
  5. ^ Lambert, David A. (2016-01-01). How Repentance Became Biblical. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190212247.001.0001. ISBN 9780190212247.