man changes his mind: repentance

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

August 14, 2011

After the preliminary considerations in my study on the doctrine of salvation, we begin to take a look at the activity of man in salvation. This consists of three elements: repentance, faith, and conversion. First up, we’ll look at some principles associated with repentance.

Basic Meaning of the Word Repentance

There are a couple of different words in the Greek used to refer to the act of repentance. The core idea between them is this idea of changing your mind, and arriving at a different view of things. In addition, there are two ways to view the idea of repentance:

  • Positive – When used in this sense, it refers to a turning TO God. Luke speaks of this form of repentance in Acts 26:20 when he recorded Paul defending himself in front of King Agrippa.
  • Negative – This form of repentance has to do with changing our feelings about and turning AWAY from specific sins, whether in the form of idols, vain things, darkness, or giving in to the power of Satan.

Regardless of the type of repentance, it is clear that this is something that MAN does, not God…

  • Luke 13:3 – “…but unless you repent…”
  • Acts 2:38 – “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized…'”
  • Acts 3:19 – “Therefore repent and return…”

Three Elements of Repentance

Harold M. Freligh describes, “Repentance is like a triangle – it has three sides. And just as it takes all three sides to make a triangle, so all three aspects constitute repentance.”

  • The Intellectual Aspects – Among other things, there must be an intellectual understanding about things like Christ’s death and resurrection, a recognition of our condition before God, and God’s willingness to forgive all who come to Him and ask forgiveness.
  • The Emotional Aspects – Just as David poured out his heart in Psalm 51 in response to the realization of his sin, we too should have an emotional response, a sense of sadness, in regards to our sin (and it’s effects).
  • The Volitional Aspects – In the story of the Prodigal Son we see the repentant son act on his free will. In Luke 15:18 we see him decide, “I will arise and go.” And then in v. 20, “he arose and went.”

Repentance in Bible Teaching

John the Baptist preached it. (Matthew 3:2)

Jesus preached it from the beginning of His ministry. (Matthew 4:17)

Jesus commanded His disciples to preach it. (Luke 24:47)

Peter preached it at Pentecost. (Acts 2:38)

Paul preached it. (Acts 17:30; 20:21)

Jesus commanded it. (Revelation 2:5; 3:19)

Understanding and Experiencing Repentance

Repentance is necessary for our sins of omission (failing to do what God commands) as well as our sins of commission (doing what God forbids). There are several tools that can bring people to repentance, including:

  • Realization of God’s goodness (Romans 2:4)
  • Preaching of the Word of God (Jonah 3)
  • Preaching of the Cross and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2)
  • Vision of God (Job 42)

Results of Repentance

Together with faith, repentance leads to forgiveness and pardon. Jesus also stated that there is rejoicing among the Heavenlies when a sinner repents (Luke 15:10). It’s clear that repentance plays a key role in the process of salvation.

Questions for Personal Reflection

  • What means did God use in your life to bring you to repentance?
  • How has the Word of God been instrumental in recognizing your need for repentance?
  • What are your personal feelings about the repentance you’ve experienced?


  1. Nikole Hahn

    Harold M. Freligh
    describes, “Repentance is like a triangle – it has three sides. And
    just as it takes all three sides to make a triangle, so all three
    aspects constitute repentance.” I like this quote. Very good blog! God brings me to repentence when the Holy Spirit smotes me with guilt when I have sinned. :o) It’s quite an uncomfortable feeling.

    • @bibledude

      this is one of my favorite quotes from this piece of the study. this has really expanded my understanding of repentance, and i’m just humbled by God’s grace and mercy through all of it. His plan is just so complete and perfect, and exactly what we need…

  2. rupzip

    The “turn around” is the greatest miracle that God can do — and still does.


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man changes his mind: repentance

by Dan King time to read: 3 min