Saturday, October 30, 2010

What is "Repentance"

xtnyoda has been asked a question by a fellow pilgrim. I will share here as well the answer given.

"What is the spiritual definition of Repentance?"

Thanks for the question!

First allow me to address the question itself as stated, "What is the spiritual definition of Repentance?"

The question is confusing to me in and of itself because of the use of the word 'spiritual' as a qualifier of repentance? I know of no 'spiritual' definition of any scriptural word or teaching. The only way that I know of to describe, teach, or instruct any biblical word or concept is from the meaning of the word in scripture and the way it is used in scripture. To me, the biblical meaning and use of any word or concept is spiritual.

As Peter states in 1Peter 1:20-21, "First of all, you should know this: no prophecy of Scripture comes from one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God." (HCSB) I would think that speaking of a 'spiritual' meaning of any biblical concept would dangerously lend itself to one's personal interpretation... and the scriptures forbid this. Peter states that the scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit, therefore the scriptures are spiritual.

With that understanding I will move on to explain biblical repentance.

The word itself has a very simple meaning as defined by biblical linguists, that being simply to have a "change of mind"... and that idea holds uniform in both the Old and New Testaments. However, how one comes to this place of a "changed mind" is a world apart between the two testaments!

In the Old Testament, the call to 'repent' is a call for the individual to change their own mind... it is an individual choice and something the individual must do themselves. As the prophet Joel cried in 2:12-13 with Yahweh's call for repentance, "...Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the LORD your God." (HCSB)

But, this is NOT the case in the New Testament, for the New Testament clearly acknowledges that no individual can actually reach this place of a truly change mind apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in their mind. In the New Testament, repentance, is the work of the Holy Spirit in the mind and heart of the individual. If you will, the lesson of the Old Testament and the Law of God, is that no human is able to arrive at true repentance of mind by following the Law or any outward act of contrition.

A good place to understand this vital distinction is in Paul's 2nd letter to Pastor Timothy.
2 Tim 2:24-26 "The Lord's slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance to know the truth. Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil's trap, having been captured by him to do his will." (HCSB)

Notice the fact that Paul explains that it is God that "grants" repentance. The Greek word "grants" is exactly what it means in English... God is the one that "gives" repentance to an individual. That is a world of difference and is a basic reality in the far superior salvation between the Old and New Testaments. Repentance, or the changing of one's mind is fully the work of God in the mind and heart of man.

In Romans 2:4, Paul states that it is God's goodness that leads one to repentance.
In 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, Paul states that it is a God given grieving or sorrow that leads to repentance.
In 2Peter 3:9, Peter states that it is only by God's patience that any come to repentance.

In conclusion, repentance itself means the same thing in both Old and New Testaments. However, between the two Testaments, the arriving at true repentance is an eternity apart.

In the Old Testament, repentance is totally the work of man.

In the New Testament, repentance is totally the work of God in man.

Thank you again for the question.

xtnyoda, shalomed



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