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Repentance and Conversion

We’re now working through the doctrine of salvation.

Last time we talked about Faith, and listener caught our heresy.

We said faith precedes regeneration. This is not correct.

Today we want to talk about repentance and conversion. These are very important to the doctrine of salvation, and we will only touch on them lightly.

Repentance (See our episode on Repentance Q&A).

Old Testament

Key Terminology:

“Naham” root.

“In the OT the verb ‘repent’ occurs about thirty-five times. It is usually used to signify a contemplated change in God’s dealings with men for good or ill according to his just judgment… or, negatively, to certify that God will not swerve from his announced pursuit” (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology).

It is used to speak of:

- God/repenting/relenting (1 Sam 15:11, 35; Jonah 3:9-10).

- God will not repent/relent (1 Sam 15:29; Psa. 110:4).

- Of human repentance/relenting (Ex. 13:17; Jud. 21:6; Job 42:6).

The verb, “shub”

“The Bible is rich in idioms describing man’s responsibility in the process of repentance. Such phrases would include the following: ‘incline your heart unto the Lord your God’ (Josh 24:23); ‘circumcise yourselves to the Lord’ (Jer. 4:4); ‘wash your heart from wickedness’ (Jer. 4:14); ‘break up your fallow ground’ (Hos. 10:12) and so forth. All these expressions of man’s penitential activity, however, are subsumed and summarized by this one verb, shub. For better than any other verb, it combines in itself the two requisites of repentance: to turn from evil, and to turn to the good” (TWOT).

Examples: Psa. 80:3; Jer. 3; Jer. 25:5

Psa. 80:3 - “O God, restore us And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.”

Jer. 26:3 - “Perhaps they will listen and everyone will turn from his evil way, that I may repent of the calamity which I am planning to do to them because of the evil of their deeds.”

New Testament

Key Terminology:

“Metamelomai” word group.

“(1) to feel remorse, become concerned afterward, regret (Matt. 27:3); (2) to change one’s mind, think differently afterward (Heb. 7:21)” (Friberg).

It does not necessarily mean that the person has had genuine repentance. An example of this would be Judas in Matt. 27:3.

Matt. 27:3 - “Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders…”

“Metanoeo” word group.

It literally means “to change the mind.”

When you consider this word as it relates to the OT you find that it is consistently connected to shub and speaks of a turning around, back to God.

It is an act that is placed upon mankind as a responsibility for all to perform.

Examples: Matt. 3:2; 2Cor. 12:21; Rev. 2:5.

Theological Issues:

At the very core of this issue is the need for man to have a new mind. This is built into the very meaning of the word metanoeo, which has meta (new) and noeo (mind).

Examples of this would be Ephesians 4:1-18 or Colossians 1:21.

At the same time, for the believer, though initial repentance has occurred, there is a continual need to put on a new mind, where there is a mental renewal that takes place.

Examples of this would be Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:23; Rev. 3:19.

There is an intimate connection with faith, because saving faith is a drawing of hope and life upon God and not anything else. This is the essence of what repentance truly is. It cannot ever be merely a mental acceptance of some truth; rather, it is a complete reversal of a mind set and its attendant lifestyle.

To believe in Jesus as Lord, King, Son of God, and Savior means that you no longer can tolerate any other lord, king, or savior in your life. And that is repentance.

Just as faith/belief is a gift of God, so too is repentance. At the same time, just as “believe” is a command placed before man to obey, so too, “repent” is a duty that man is to obey.

There is a human responsibility to this: Lk. 13:3: Acts 3:19.

And yet, it is still a gift of God: Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25.


Old Testament

The actual term used is the verb “shub.”

This is the same OT term that is mostly used for repentance, so there is a tight connection between the concepts.

They are two separate doctrines (and, therefore, realities), and yet all of this happens contemporaneously.

“Conversion is described in the OT as a turning away from evil, and, then, a turning unto the Lord. Because of man’s evil nature, this change is resisted. God is the primary mover, although man appears to have a subordinate part. Individuals and nations are subjects of conversion. God uses the prophets as secondary agents in effectuating conversion. Those who refuse to turn to the Lord are punished with such evils as chastisement, captivity, destruction, death; those who return to the Lord receive such blessings as forgiveness, freedom from punishment, fruitfulness of service, and life” (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology).

New Testament

The “strepho” word group.

The basic idea here is to simply turn from one thing, but then turn to another. Yet, it is God who does the turning/converting of a person.

Matt. 18:3 - "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”


This is the same essential meaning as strepho, but it is intensified with the preposition apo prefix. So it is simply a stronger movement of turning and converting.

Examples: Rom. 11:2; Tit. 1:14; Heb. 12:25.


“Literally, of physical movement to turn around, return, or turn back. Figuratively, it speaks of religious or moral change-- to change one’s ways. There is also a change of mind or course of action, where a person comes to believe again, returning back. In the religious sense, it carries the idea of causing one to change. It is often used synonymously with metanoeo (“repent”).” (Friberg).

Examples: Matt. 13:15; Gal. 4L9; 1Pet. 2:25.

This doctrine is based upon the simple reality that the natural man is hurtling in a constant direction away from God, and toward evil and false goods.

The idea, then, is that God, from His divine mercy and grace, causes the wicked heart to have a radical change of desire. It is no longer moving toward wickedness, but God.


Again, a lot of these recent doctrines are contemporaneous realities. It is difficult to separate initial, saving faith, from initial repentance and conversion.

And yet, the Bible speaks of them as separate aspects of the same salvation.

These are all wonderful truths for the Christian to meditate upon, because the more you study them, the richer your thankfulness and worship to God; and you begin to realize how great of salvation you surely possess.

So these are the first doctrines when it comes to the issue of salvation. Pretty soon we will start talking about sanctification-- that process in which salvation works itself out.

Before, then, we plan to discuss what true conversion looks like. There are many bad practices and ideas as to how a person “gets saved” (e.g., easy believism, perfectionism, etc.)

Next time we plan to talk about some of those things.

1 Comment

Your quote about 25 min in reminds me of a comment made in a R.C Sproul commentary I've been reading. "Professor G.C Berkouwer made a comment that I have never forgotten: 'Gentlmen, all sound theology must begin and end with doxology'. When theology does not begin and end with doxology, it becomes merely an abstract intellectual exercise in which the heart is not engaged and the soul is not properly moved."

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