The Foundation Principles

2. The doctrine of repentance

The doctrine of repentance is often neglected, yet it is a most important teaching. To repent is the first essential in Christian experience. As a basic teaching this word needs to be given the full, original, meaning. The concept expressed in the original Bible meaning is firmly based in a clear understanding of the nature of sin. Clarity can only come from a true understanding of the nature of a holy and righteous God. When one sees sin as God sees it, the deep need for genuine repentance is revealed. The need is for both sinner and saint, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

The teaching of forgiveness without placing repentance in its correct relationship endangers the very foundations of an individual’s faith.


The FIRST word of the Gospel is repent.
The SECOND is believe.


i. John the Baptist. His first message was a message of repentance.

Mat 3:1 (NIV) In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 (NIV) and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (also. Matt3:7-8)

ii. Jesus first called for repentance. He spoke against cities that failed to repent.

Mat 4:17 (NIV) From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Mat 11:20 (NIV) Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (see also v.21-24)

iii. The Prophets … The Old Testament prophets preached repentance to the people of Israel.

Jer 8:4 (NIV) “Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: “‘When men fall down, do they not get up? When a man turns away, does he not return? Jer 8:5 (NIV) Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit; they refuse to return. Jer 8:6 (NIV) I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle. (see also. Matt 12:41; Ezek.14:16; Ezek 18:30-32.)

iv. Apostles. All twelve preached that men should repent.

Mark 6:7,12 (NIV) Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. … They went out and preached that people should repent.

v. Peter’s first sermon after Pentecost was a call to repentance. His second message was also repentance.

Acts 2:38 (NIV) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 3:19 (NIV) Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

vi. Paul also preached repentance to the Gentiles.

Acts 20:21 (NIV) I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.


a. It is Not conviction of sin:

Conviction comes before repentance. No one repents until convicted of sin, but not all who are convicted repent. e.g. Herod …

Acts 24:24 (NIV) Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

The people in the day of Moses:

Gen 6:3 (NIV) Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”


Exo 8:8 (NIV) Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.”

b. It is NOT worldly sorrow

2 Cor 7:10 (NIV) Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

There is a true sorrow towards God for committing sin and the ‘ sorrow for getting caught ‘.

Heb 12:17 (NIV) Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

Many criminals, many rebellious and wilful people manifest worldly sorrow and remorse, not for breaking the law or for sin, but for the penalty. E.g. Judas. He went to the priests but not to Christ in his attempt at repentance.

Mat 27:3-5 (NIV) When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

c. It is NOT reformation:.

Not ‘turning over a new leaf’ trying to do better, or making ‘ new resolutions ‘. This behaviour is self-righteousness.

Isa 64:6 (NIV) All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

This is man’s attempt to stifle the voice of conscience but there is no underlying repentance and turning away from sin in a real sense.

d. It is NOT being religious:

Being religious, keeping the rites and ceremonies of the church does not set aside the need for repentance. The Pharisees were fanatically religious but they needed to repent.

Mat 3:7-12 (NIV) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’

Many religions, (n.b. some Christian.) false cults and religious ideas, (e.g. new age.) are very ‘ religious ‘ with vows, rites, ceremonies, sacrifices and such but there is no repentance from sin.

e. It is NOT ‘only believe-ism’

Many religious people believe, (mental faith or head faith) but have never repented. The devils believe, and in consequence they tremble, but it will not save them.

James 2:19-20 (NIV) You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

People can be deceived into thinking that they are regenerated and have salvation because of their belief that there is a God, belief in the bible, in heaven, in the truth of certain doctrine etc. But James points out that the devil and his entire host know and believe these things, and they will go into the lake of fire believing. There must be repentance before faith.


a. The Basic Concept

The primary meaning of repentance is a change of mind. This involves attitude and purpose, particularly in regard to sin and our attitude towards God. As from Adam’s sin of disobedience every child of the Adamic race has been born with a mind to sin, a mind against God, a mind in genetic rebellion against God and His law.

Rom 8:5-7 (NIV) Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
Col 1:21 (NIV) Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.
Eph 2:1-3 (NIV) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Jer 17:9 (NIV) The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Mark 7:21-22 (NIV) For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.

The minds of unregenerate persons need to be changed, so that they may be received into the presence of a righteous God. This is the basic reason for repentance.

b. The result of true repentance.

The message of John the Baptist in Matt 3:8 above points to the need to bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance. We can judge a life as with a tree. What fruit does it produce?

Acts 26:20 (NIV) First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

What then are some of the characteristics of true repentance? What fruit or manifestation of inward growth, what inner, hidden basis of our lives shows forth in our actions? What does this behaviour reveal about our inward repentant state?

True repentance touches the intellectual, emotional, and practical and brings forth:

i. Godly sorrow for sin

Psa 38:17 (NIV) For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me.
2 Cor 7:10 (NIV) Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

David was truly sorry, real penitence, heart sorrow.

ii. Confession of sins.

Ps 32:5 (NIV) Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD“— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
Ps 51:1-4 (NIV) For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

Confession is made to God, or to others who have been wronged.

Prov 28:13 (NIV) He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.|
1 John 1:9 (NIV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

iii. The forsaking of sin.

Confession has no fruit unless sin is forsaken. The idea of repentance involves an about face, a going in the opposite direction.

Isa 53:6 (NIV) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isa 55:6-7 (NIV) Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Ezek 18:20-21 (NIV) The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. 21 “But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die.
Ezek 18:27-32 (NIV) But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. 28 Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 30 “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!

God will break the power of sin if there is a deep desire to forsake that way.

iv. A hatred of sin.

True repentance needs as a motivation a godly hatred of sin. As we repent this is generated in our hearts.

Ezek 20:43-44 (NIV) There you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done.
Ezek 36:31-33 (NIV) Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices.

The result is the person no longer desires to live in and for sin.

v. It includes restitution: (where possible)

This includes goods, property, money etc.

Lev 6:1-7 (NIV) The LORD said to Moses: 2 “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, 3 or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do— 4 when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, 5 or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full,

Num 5:5-8 (NIV) The LORD said to Moses, 6 “Say to the Israelites: ‘When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty 7 and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged (see also: Eze.33:11; Eze33:11:14-16; 1 Kings 19:1-10)

These readings make it clear that repentance needs to be sincere and with all our hearts

Luke 18:13-14 (NIV) “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Repentance is granted by God, and brought about by the ministry of, and conviction by, the Holy Spirit; in the application of the law of God and the Word of God to the conscience. A guilty conscience results from this ministry. The accepting heart feels deep sorrow for sin and cries out to God for mercy and pardon. A desire to confess the sin (own up.) and to forsake sinful ways may follow. The penitent may then come to faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

Acts 5:31 (NIV) God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.
Acts 11:18 (NIV) When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
Rom 2:4 (NIV) Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
2 Tim 2:25 (NIV) Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,

The Holy Spirit convicts of:
Sin (points out one’s sin)
Righteousness (shows how righteous we really are)
Judgement (reminds us we are liable to be judged.)

John 16:8-11 (NIV) When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

A clear understanding of how God defines sin is needed. Then all can see what humankind has to turn away from in repentance.


i Transgression of the Law:

1 John 3:4 (NIV) Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.

The ten commandments define sin Exod 20:1-17 By the law comes the knowledge of sin, and by this law the conscience is made to see its guilt before God. The penalty is death.

Rom 3:9-20 (NIV) What shall we conclude then? Are we any better ? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

The whole of humankind is guilty. All have sinned and broken the law of God.

ii. Unrighteousness is sin

(1 John 5:17 KJV) All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

iii. To him who knows to do good and fails to do so, to him this is sin.

James 4:17 (NIV) Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

All humankind have eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For this reason humans sin since they are sinners by nature. (see Rom.7 & Pslm.51.)

iv. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin:

Rom 14:23 (NIV) But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

If it is not of faith then it comes from unbelief, and unbelief is sin.

John 16:8-9 (NIV) When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me;

As no person can keep the law all are under a death sentence. Christ the lamb of God came to take upon Himself the sin of all the world. He died because of the broken law of God. The Holy Spirit convicts and points to Christ and the cross. To refuse this sacrifice is to die eternally.

John 8:24 (NIV) I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”


This consisted of :

i. Transgressing the divine law. (You must not eat of the tree.)
ii. Committing unrighteousness or injustice. (to God and the unborn human race.)
iii. Knowing good and not doing it. He was deceived, as was Eve,
iv. Showing unbelief in the Word of God. i.e disobedience.
(see also: Rev 2:21; Heb 12:17; Acts 17:30; 2 Pet 3:9; Luke 24:47; Luke 13:3-5; Rev. 9:20-21; Heb. 6:4-8; Luke 16:30-31; Luke 15:7-10)


Luke 15:11-22 (NIV) Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.


There are two Old Testament bible words translated ‘repent’

a. ‘naham’ to lament or to grieve

b. ‘shubh‘ to change in a radical way attitudes towards sin.

The New Testament also has two words.

a. metamelomai ‘ as with ‘naham’ this word means to have a feeling of concern and regret.

b. ‘metanoeo’ to have another mind. The meaning has the thought of deep and radical change. This word is used about 57 times in the Scriptures.

The words that describe the conditions from which we are to repent are:.

i. Transgression (parabasis) — a deviation, a stepping to one side, a violation of the law.

Gal 3:19 (NIV) What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.

ii. Disobedience (parakoe) — imperfect hearing, erroneous hearing, disobedience, a deviating from obedience.

Rom 5:19 (NIV) For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Originally the verb form meant ‘to mishear, or to fail to hear ‘ It would be addressed to a person who didn’t catch what was said. They may have been hard of hearing or what was said was indistinct. Later it came to mean closing one’s ears to God in order to ignore Him, so that one could listen to oneself.

111. Trespass (paraptoma) — falling aside, to stray from the right path.

Eph 2:1 (NIV) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions (trespasses)and sins,

This has the idea of a failure to keep one’s attention on the goal. A failure of concentration, perhaps of self-control, an off guard moment. This passing lack leaves the person open to sin. They transgress or trespass.

iv. Ungodliness (asebeia) — improbity, impiety, wickedness.

Rom 1:18 (NIV) The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, (asebeia )

Sin is without God. It is not the same as atheism -atheism does not believe there is a God. Godlessness or ‘ asebeia ‘ knows there is God and totally disregards His existence.

v. Unrighteousness (adikia) — injustice, wrong, iniquity, falsehood, deceitfulness.

1 John 5:17 (NIV) All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

Being unrighteous (adikia) is failure to give God and man what is their rightful due. Such a person fails to give God the love and obedience that is His. They also fail to give to humankind the love and service we are all called to give.

vi. Sin (hamartia ) — to miss the mark, to be in error.

Mat 1:21 (NIV) She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (hamartia)

This is the most common of the words used for sin in the Greek. It was originally a word used in archery. It meant literally missing the target. Falling short of the mark or the target of God’s high desire for our lives. All are prone to this failure and need the Saviour.

Rom 3:23 (NIV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

vii. Iniquity (anomia ) — without law, not subject to law, violating the law, lawless

Mat 7:23 (NIV) Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (workers of anomia.)

This is the person who deliberately disobeys God’s law. This is one who knows what is right and does wrong deliberately.

viii. Evil (kakos) — bad, of a bad quality or disposition, worthless, corrupt, depraved, wickedly criminal, morally bad.

Mark 7:21 (NIV) For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,

Read the parable of the ‘evil’ and the good servant in Matt 24:42-51.

ix. Wickedness (poneria) — mischief, malignity, an evil disposition of the mind.

Mat 13:49 (NIV) This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.

Jesus had to deal with this wickedness. The Pharisees had a mental disregard for justice, truth, honour, virtue and righteousness. Their ideas had evil in intent and sinfulness in execution.

(Mat 22:15-18 NIV) Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. [16] They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. [17] Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” [18] But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?

Repentance implies an intellectual and hearty giving up of all controversy with God upon all and every point. It implies a conviction that God is wholly right and the sinner wholly wrong, and a thorough and hearty abandonment of all excuses and apologies for sin. — Finney.