Repentance (Christianity)

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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]


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. Generally, this word group is employed to request a turning from sinful activity (Jeremiah 8:6). 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”.[3]

In the New Testament, John the Baptist called for repentance during his speeches.[4] Jesus also called for repentance when he proclaimed the Gospel for Salvation.[5] It was a focal point in the preaching of Peter and Paul of Tarsus.[6]


Old Testament the term repentance comes from the Hebrew word group that means "turn away from".[7]:1007

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).[7]:1007 Theologically 'repentance', the turning away from sin is linked to a corresponding turn to faith in God.[7]: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.[8] 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.



In Roman Catholic theology repentance is fundamental to forgiveness.

Jesus' call to conversion and penance ... does not aim first at outward works ... but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion (1430). Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, ... the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace (1431).

For Catholics, where there is mortal sin, use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation must follow.[9]

Evangelical Christianity[edit]

In evangelical Christianity, repentance is necessary for salvation and new birth.[10] It is the subject of special invitations during sermons and services.[10] It is also part of Christian life and the process of sanctification.[11]


  1. ^ Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997): 38-39.
  2. ^ Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 37.
  3. ^ Lambert, David A. (2016-01-01). How Repentance Became Biblical. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190212247.001.0001. ISBN 9780190212247.
  4. ^ Yung Suk Kim, Biblical Interpretation: Theory, Process, and Criteria, Wipf and Stock Publishers, USA, 2013, p. 91
  5. ^ Victor I. Ezigbo, Introducing Christian Theologies II: Voices from Global Christian Communities - Volume 2, Lutterworth Press, UK, 2016, p. 109
  6. ^ Dr. Daniel L. Akin, A Theology for the Church, B&H Publishing Group, USA, 2014, p. 630, 633
  7. ^ a b c T. C. Mitchell, 'Repentance' New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996): 1007–8.
  8. ^ Emanuel, Swedenberg. "True Christianity 2: The New Century Edition Portable".
  9. ^ "Joseph Martos on The History of Penance and Reconciliation".
  10. ^ a b Robert H. Krapohl, Charles H. Lippy, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide, Greenwood Publishing Group, USA, 1999, p. 169
  11. ^ Gordon T. Smith, Transforming Conversion: Rethinking the Language and Contours of Christian Initiation, Baker Academic, USA, 2010, p. 74-75