What is the definition of repentance?

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What does the word repentance mean in the Bible? Can a person save themselves if they obey God? Are we required to do anything before we can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? What is the role of obedience and good works in the life of a Christian?

The definition of repentance, according to the Bible, is remorse and sorrow for the sins we have committed. Sin is the transgression of God's holy and perfect laws, whether in the letter or in the spirit (intent of). The word repent comes from the Greek word metanoeo (Strong's Concordance #G3340) which means to think differently or reconsider and to begin to feel regret.

Repentance begins to occur when we fell sorry and remorsefully about the sins we have committed. A person not only feels sorry for their sins but also desires and begins to obey God

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The apostle Paul states in the book of Ephesians that, "by grace you have been saved through faith . . . it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8, HBFV). No work or effort on the part of any person will ever 'earn' them salvation. Eternal life is a gift. The Eternal, however, teaches not only repentance but also that believers must obey him.

Obedience to the Eternal is repeated many times in Scripture, especially those of the apostle John. He is direct and blunt about sin, repentance and obeying God's law in verses such as 1John 2:4, 3:4, 3:22, 5:3 and 2John 5 - 6. The apostle Paul also states that the law is NOT done away with but still exists and is holy (Romans 7:12). Good works are an integral part of the life of a Christian (Ephesians 2:10) and shows we are repentant. Paul let's us know that those who do not obey will not be in his kingdom (1Corinthians 6:9 - 10).

Each of the Ten Commandments are repeated either exactly or with words conveying the same thing in the New Testament. These reiterated commandments from the Eternal show the standard against which repentance is needed. Please see our article entitled "Where are the Ten Commandments in the Old and New Testaments?" for more information.

What God ultimately requires of us is to love him with all our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37 - 40). Is loving your neighbor simply thinking nice things about them? It is the day to day application of the spirit and intent of God's Laws that matter. This includes helping our neighbor when they are in trouble, safeguarding our property so that the neighbor does not hurt themselves by falling into a hole, giving them money when they are in need, and so on.

To love our Father in heaven is far more than attending church services. It is to strive to love him and are always in a state of repentance, ready to admit when we are wrong and humble enough to ask for forgiveness. The proof of our love is that we are willing to do what he says. It is obedience not to 'earn' the right to be saved but out of our desire to do his will.

On the night he was betrayed Jesus taught the disciples about many things, including what it is to love him and the Father. Jesus clearly linked love and obedience when he said, "If you love Me, keep the commandments - namely, My commandments" (John 14:15).

In the end, if we do not do what is right, if we do not obey our Creator and Father, then whatever faith we think we have is dead and useless (James 2:24, 26). If we, however, consistently admit our errors, ask for forgiveness then strive to do what is right, we can be assured that we will someday receive the gift of eternal life. This is what the real meaning of repentance makes possible! Please see our series on the definition of Christian terms for information on other Biblical words.

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