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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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REPENTANCE . Repentance, in the sense of turning from a purpose, is frequently predicated of God in the OT ( Genesis 6:6-7 , Exodus 32:14 etc.). Repentance for sin is commonly expressed by ‘turn’ or ‘return’ ( e.g. Deuteronomy 4:30 , Isaiah 55:7 , Ezekiel 3:2 , Hosea 14:2 ). Repentance has a prominent place in the NT, alone ( Matthew 4:17 , Luke 15:7 , Acts 2:38 etc.), or in conjunction with faith ( Mark 1:15 , Acts 20:21 etc.), as an Indispensable condition of salvation. The word ordinarily used ( metanoia ) means literally ‘change of mind.’ The change, however, is one in which not the intellect only, but the whole nature (understanding, affections, will), is involved. It is such an altered view of God and sin as carries with it heartfelt sorrow for sin, confession of it, and decisive turning from it to God and righteousness ( Luke 15:17-18 , Romans 6:17-18 , 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 etc.). Its reality is tested by its fruits ( Matthew 3:8 , Luke 6:43-46 ). From this ‘godly sorrow’, which works ‘repentance unto salvation’ ( 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 ), is distinguished a ‘sorrow of the world’ which ‘worketh death’ ( 2 Corinthians 7:10 ), i.e. a sorrow which has no relation to God, or to the intrinsic evil of sin, but only to sin’s harmful consequences. There may be keen remorse, and blaming of one’s self for one’s folly, yet no real repentance.

Disputes have arisen in theology as to the priority of faith or repentance, but unnecessarily, for the two, rightly viewed, are but the positive and negative poles of the same state of soul. There can be no evangelical faith which does not spring from a heart broken and contrite on account of sin; on the other hand, there can be no true repentance which has not the germ of faith in God, and of hope in His mercy, in it. The Law alone would break the heart; the Gospel melts it. Repentance is the turning from sin; Gospel faith is the turning to Christ for salvation. The acts are inseparable ( Acts 20:21 ).

James Orr.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Repentance'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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