Repentance and Salvation in Scripture, Pt. 4

by Ronald R. Shea, Th.M., J.D.


This is Part 4 of an ongoing series on Repentance in Salvation by Ron Shea. 

What Is Saving Repentance

If you have not read the prior sections, I highly recommend you read them first.





1. Saving repentance is not being sorry for your sins.

2. Saving repentance is not turning from your sins or reforming your life.

3. Saving repentance is not the willingness to turn your life over to God so that He can direct your path.

Saving repentance has absolutely nothing to do with regretting your sins or resolving to turn from them.

God is willing to save you just the way you are.

The Bible says:

 While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.   Romans 5:8


rom 5-8The principle word for “repentance” is from the Greek noun “metanoia,” and the Greek verb metanoeo.”

Metanoia simply means “a change of mind.”  When used in the context of eternal salvation, repentance is a change of mind about Jesus Christ, and His eternal divinity, His atoning death, His victorious resurrection, and His offer of eternal salvation by faith alone, apart from the works of the law.

On page 19 of The Gospel Booklet, the content of saving faith is summarized as follows:

I.    Man’s Need:

i) Man is sinful, and his sins separate him from a Holy God.

II.  Salvation:

i) God will declare a lost sinner “Not Guilty” of all his sins, past, present, and future; and

ii) God offers a perishing man the gift of eternal life.

III.   The Requirement:

i)      Faith

III (a) The Object of Saving Faith:

Jesus Christ.

III (b) (The content of Saving Faith):

 i)      That Jesus is the eternal creator God;

ii)    That Jesus death paid in full for our sins;

iii)   That Jesus rose again from the dead; and

iv)    That Jesus offer of salvation is a gift apart from any work of man.

If someone denies, or does not understand his need for salvation, he must repent.  He must recognize his lost condition before his Creator, and the salvation offered by his Creator.

If someone denies that Jesus is the one true God, he must repent.  He must recognize that Jesus is not simply an exalted created being, or a god of a great pantheon of Gods, but the eternal Creator God.

If someone believes that his relationship with God can be restored through any work of man, he must repent, and recognize that Jesus has paid the sin debt through His death on the cross, and that it is through Jesus alone that salvation can be found.

It should come as no great surprise, therefore, that, in the context of salvation, we see the object of repentance directed to some of these very elements.

The Object of Repentance:  Looking at the Context

The easiest way to identify the object of repentance is when it is specifically cited: “repent from XYZ.”

rom 3-21-23 ALLOftentimes though, the object of repentance is not stated this explicitly. Remembering that repentance is “to change one’s mind,” if the object of repentance is not specifically stated, the second contextual marker you should look for to identify the object of repentance is what a lost man is said to “believe,” or “suppose” or “understand” or “think” or “regard.”  This identifies the object of repentance (the belief about which the lost sinner must “change his mind“).

If neither of these two features are available to identify the object of repentance, one should be a little less than dogmatic in identifying the object of repentance.  However, the overall context should be considered, and the conclusion drawn therefrom must be consistent with the rest of Scripture.

Not surprisingly, in passages calling for repentance in conjunction with eternal salvation, we find the object of repentance either specifically identified, or, inferentially identified by what the lost persons “believe,”  as being the same elements we see a lost man is called to believe unto salvation.  He is called to repent from beliefs inconsistent with saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Repentance Concerning the Deity of Jesus

Jesus is God incarnate, and His divinity is part of the saving message (Matthew 16:16-18; John 8:23-24; 11:25-27; 20:31; Acts 16:30-31; 1st John 5:13).  A doctrine or belief that denies the undiminished divinity of Jesus Christ is therefore incompatible with saving faith.  Such heretical doctrines include, but are not limited to, polytheism, in which Jesus is just one of many gods, pantheism, in which everyone and everything is part of god, and radical evolutionary philosophy wherein there is no creator whatsoever . . . only a powerful being who stumbled across a pre-existing universe and proclaimed himself the sovereign over it.

It is obvious that one cannot believe that Jesus is God if one holds a bankrupt understanding of who God is.

Therefore we see that those who hold a bankrupt understanding of God are told to repent (change their mind) about their understanding of God as part of their conversion process.  In contexts that appear related to salvation or conversion, we see the word “repent” directed to a change in mind about the nature of God.

In Acts 17, Paul preaches on Mars Hill to a group of Greek philosophers, Bohemians, New-Ager’s and unemployed dilatants.  Paul takes note of the numerous altars to the numerous Greek gods, as well as the altar to “The Unknown God.”

Recalling that Jesus’ divinity is part of the saving message, we should naturally expect Paul to say something about their polytheism, which is ultimately a denial of the undiminished divinity of Jesus Christ.

Repentance and the Divinity of Jesus

“Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.  And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”  Acts 17:29-31

Four questions need be asked of the above passage:

  1. Is the context of this passage soteriological?  (Dealing with eternal salvation).  The answer is unquestionably yes.  Paul is not instructing these Athenians on the selection of deacons and elders in the local church.  He is addressing lost men about their most urgent need, their need for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.  In the above passage, Paul teaches that God will judge the world in righteousness by the man (Jesus) whom He (God the Father) hath ordained.  To fail to regard this passage as soteriological is just plain nonsense.
  1. Is repentance presented as a requirement for eternal salvation?  The answer is unquestionably yes.  And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.  Simply put, repentance is not an option.
  1. Is the object and/or content of repentance disclosed?  Yes.  The Greek word is “metanoeo” (change one’s mind). And in the verse immediately preceding the use of the word repent, Paul states, “we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”  To “ought not think” is virtually synonymous with the meaning of “repent” (to change one’s mind).  And the belief or doctrine that men “ought not think” is that God is simply some silly gold, silver or stone idol fashioned by the hands of mortal man.
  1. Is the soteriological message derived from this passage consistent with the soteriology of other parts of Scripture? Again, the answer is Yes.  The divinity of Jesus is repeated over and over as part of the saving message.  And divinity must be defined!  One cannot say “I believe Jesus is God,” and then turn around and point to a statue of gold or silver and say that it is god.  Such a belief reduces to mere rhetoric any affirmation of Jesus’ divinity.

The Gospel of John, which is written that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, begins by providing a basic sine-qua-non of Jesus divinity.  He is eternal–“In the beginning”, He is the Creator — “all things were made by Him, and without him was not made anything that was made”, and He is personal — “In him was life.”  Here, Paul draws on the same notion, recognizing that one cannot believe Jesus is the eternal God if one holds a corrupt understanding of God.  If one believes that the Godhead is like unto gold, sliver, stone, or graven art, he must repent.

A similar theme redounds in Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians:

“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (epistrepsate from root strepho). 1st Thessalonians 1:9

In view of the above, the doctrinal statement of Clear Gospel Campaign includes the following carefully crafted statement about the Gospel message:

New Ageism  

We regard the belief that we are all children of God in an equal sense with Jesus as effectively reducing a profession of Jesus’ divinity to meaninglessness.  We therefore believe that a true saving faith in Jesus as the unique Son of God is not evident in a profession of faith that is tainted by the new age belief in the divinity of mankind.


We regard the belief that Jesus is one of many such gods as incompatible with the believe that He is the eternal God.  We observe that Scripture records polytheistic converts as turning from their idols (1st Thessalonians 1:9) in their conversion to Christ.  We believe that a true saving faith in Jesus as the unique Son of God is not evident in a profession of faith that is tainted by the belief that Jesus was one of many equivalent Gods.

Cosmological and Biological evolution  

We freely acknowledge that as stars use up their nuclear fuel, that they progressively change in composition from hydrogen to heavier elements, and that the universe grows in entropy daily as a result.  We further acknowledge that mutations occur in most living creatures, including man, and that in the case of a virus, simple mutations may even increase their survivability.  We believe that these observable phenomena are consistent with the witness of Scripture (Hebrews 1:10-12; Romans 8:22), and that these entropic phenomena offer no support to the evolutionary theory.

In view of this clarification, we believe that a fundamental definition of God is set forth in John 1:1-3.  We believe that the most fundamental understanding of God therefore must include an affirmation that He is eternal (“in the beginning”), that He is the Creator (“all things were made by Him”), and that He personal, and not simply a “force” (“in Him was life”).  We believe that to adopt a cosmological evolutionary view of the universe as a self creating entity, or a biological evolutionary view that mankind “evolved” from some “pre-biotic soup” of chemicals afloat in the sea or atmosphere, is incompatible with believing there even is a Creator God, and therefore, is incompatible with believing that Jesus is God at all. Although we reject as unbiblical and unscientific the belief in “theistic evolution,” we do not hold that a perfect understanding of God’s activity in creation is necessary for salvation.  Without defining a specific point at which the erosion of faith in God’s activity as the Creator falls below that of a saving profession of faith, we hold that a true saving faith in Jesus Christ God is not evident in a profession of faith that has reduced the meaning of “God” to a powerful being that stumbled upon a pre-existing universe.  God is not and explorer who discovered the world.  He is the Creator of the world. Accordingly, we hold that a true saving faith the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not evident in a profession of faith tainted by a radical evolutionary view of man or the universe.

To this end, Clear Gospel Campaign affirms that a defense of the Creatorship of God is intrinsically bound to the defense of the divinity of Jesus, and therefore, to the message of salvation.



Sermon – Understanding Repentance Part 1 by Pastor Tom Cucuzza

Sermon – Understanding Repentance Part 2 by Pastor Tom Cucuzza

8 Responses to “Repentance and Salvation in Scripture, Pt. 4

  • Sean Budde
    10 years ago

    Holly, have you studied the connection between the mind and heart? The gospel has to be received in the heart, per the drawing of the gospel of Christ, so that it takes root in the heart when believing on Christ for salvation. The devil comes either directly or indirectly, and takes the gospel away from the heart, so that the receiving in the heart won’t happen. I believe satan does so through getting man to turn his ears away from the drawing of the word, to his own carnal reasoning (wisdom of men) that denies the word. So, it’s more than just a change of mind, i believe. I believe it has to do with a change of heart, too. Calvinism takes this change of heart too far, though. The change of heart is a prerequisite to being born again through believing on Christ for salvation, but the Bible is clear that faith is how a man becomes born of God (Galatians 3:26).

    • Sean, thanks, Yes I have, quite some time ago. Sometimes heart/mind/ used interchangeably, other words are used, such as the bowels or reins being related to the heart. Our spirit is also sometimes also used, such as ‘renew a right spirit’ in me. But of course the whole point is when we believe, we are given a new heart, we don’t do the work in our heart first, then receive the Word.

      We are told to believe upon Jesus Christ. We can believe about Him, but have we believed/placed our faith on what He did for us personally upon the Cross?

      Shouldn’t we be careful with our “I thinks” or “I believe”, and try harder to back up what we think with what the Word says? The book of John alone, almost 100 times gives the qualification for being saved, and it is believe. The devil wants to redefine belief into a bunch of different things; heart belief, head belief, carnal belief, etc. etc.

      We either believe upon Him, or we have not understood, and we have not believed.

      There are believers, and there are unbelievers.

      You said: The devil comes either directly or indirectly, and takes the gospel away from the heart, so that the receiving in the heart won’t happen. I believe satan does so through getting man to turn his ears away from the drawing of the word, to his own carnal reasoning (wisdom of men) that denies the word. So, it’s more than just a change of mind, i believe. I believe it has to do with a change of heart, too.

      But the Word tells us the simple reason why it has happened (Lk 8:11b), lest they should believe and be saved.

      Seem’s pretty straightforward.

      Matt 13:19, tells us “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.”

      We are saved one way, by the washing/baptism/sanctification of the Spirit, and belief in His truth (2 Thess 2:13), and how did we get to belief? By being called by the GOSPEL (vs. 14). The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, (to those of us who believe), (Rom 1:16-17, 1 Cor 1:17-18)

      We are beget BY the Word of truth, the perfect Gift given from above (James 1:16-17)

      Take note to this verse below, these people understood and believed it to be the truth, the Word of God.

      For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. 1 Thess 2:13

      When we believe that truth, we are born again of an incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Pet 1:23 pp)

      I don’t see ‘believing’ regarding unto eternal life, differentiated in the Bible. I see either belief or unbelief. I have to reject the rest of men’s additions and understandings. Too many of them in this last century. I remember when I saw blueletterbible add F.F. Bruce’s understanding to repent/repentance metanoeo/metanoia and if you look him up you will see he is well favored by Roman Catholics for his penance/penitence stance).

      I’ll leave it up to God whether one has believed, and I don’t want to help the enemy sow seeds of doubt and make a young one stumble. The best remedy to be sure one is saved, is be sure they are preached a clear gospel, sans any excellency of speech and wisdom of men’s words (1 Cor 15:3-4, 1 Cor 2:1-5)

      If I believe that someone may not have been saved and are not growing, we have a MULTITUDE of instructions about making disciples, abiding in His Word in order to be one, feeding His sheep if we love Him, commending them to the Word of His grace so they can grow, washing the feet of the saints (a picture of practical sanctification in our walk in this life).

      Hope I helped clarify my understanding of His Word. In Christ alone, Holly

      • Holly, how does understanding in the heart come about? When God draws through the preaching of the gospel. Man’s wisdom doesn’t receive the word. That’s why God has to spiritually draw a man to understand, through the gospel. Isn’t that a change of heart happening along with a change of mind? Repentance is in the heart, is it not? In order to have that change of mind, you have to be spiritually drawn by the word first. And then when you understand in your heart, you will believe on Christ for salvation.

        Do you agree…or do you believe a man can understand the gospel in his heart without being spiritually drawn by the gospel? Nice chatting with you…may God bless,


        • I think maybe you’re misunderstanding my answer. I think the differential between understanding and believing with the mind or heart are the same. So I am not talking about man’s wisdom, we believe with our mind, and heart is often used as if a heart could have understanding. It’s about understanding and believing the truth. I’m saying, let’s not differentiate, the Bible doesn’t. The gospel is power, and Yes, as I stated in my last comment, we are called by the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation to those of us who believe. It pleased Him to give this ‘foolish message’ power. The Scriptures can make people wise unto salvation. Faith can come by the hearing of the Word.

          So, I just prefer to let the Word speak. And I don’t want to use religious speak that has snuck into the church or gospel presentations that are not found in the Word. If one believes they have proof in the Word, they can just lay it out, His Word will show us what the answer is.

          And God has also drawn all men, by the lifting up of Christ on the cross. Maybe go back and reconsider the passages. We have a multitude of ways that we are drawn. By the prayers of the saints 1 Tim 2:1-6. By the examples of them (Titus 3:8), by the planting and watering of the gospel. By being all things to all men. By sound speech that cannot be. By walking in wisdom towards those who are without, redeeming the time, keeping our speech seasoned at all times prayerfully with grace and salt. By being ready with an answer of the reason of the hope that is within us. By not withholding our hand, by sowing seed, not regarding the weather, but to sow.(Ecc 11). By speaking His Word which will not return void (Is 55:10-11), by preaching in and out of season. We have so many instructions on how to be laborers for the harvest that is white, as well as praying for laborers.

          May we continue to do that, I don’t agree with differentiating between different kinds of belief. One believes the truth, or He does not. If He has believed, then He has been born again, beget by the Word through belief. Hope that helps somewhat. In Christ’s love.

  • Stephen John
    10 years ago

    Would add a complexity involved regarding FORGIVENESS. Repentance and forgiveness are inseparable. My experience was that repentance was not so much changing my thoughts about Jesus but about my life after having a repentant hear manifested by God by His Measure of Faith Given to me…which led me TO The Son…but it was by Revelation that I Knew Who Jesus is, in Truth, that is the only way to Know that Reality..not a carnal assent…my ‘repentance’ was through Christ’s forgiveness and turning over my life to Him in the Baptism of Death into Him so as to live again in Him (Life). I Am the Resurrection. Only God can gives us the New thoughts from the Understanding that comes from The knowledge of God is the way I experienced well as laying myself on ‘the threshing floor’ then to the altar to underto The Knife (the Word) that separates spirit from soul. So as to receive the new spirit of the New Adamic man (Christs resurrection Life)…and from then on walk in repentance in His state of Grace by being a forgiving spirit (Merciful)…to others. One of the grave errors people make is pointing out peoples ‘sins’ accomplishes nothing in many regards but might manage to scare them away…the forgiveness occurred in the act of repentance from desiring to fully forgive my family past regardless of who was right and wrong. Being set Free in that regard was to be freed from ‘the family curse” which can pass on for generation.

    • Stephen, thank you for joining us, but you know there are several things I’d like to put out there for you to consider.

      Our experience many times has nothing to do with the truth and authority of God’s Words. There are some things you said such as pointing out other’s sins, there is an established way within the church to do this, “removing the beam from your eye first”, “judging with a righteous judgment and not according to appearance”(Jn 7:24), and remembering we never judge the world (1 Cor 5).

      Forgiveness of sins is simple, and comes the moment we believe upon Jesus as our Savior, that is when we are turned from darkness to light and have received forgiveness of sins. That forgiveness is forever (Heb 10:10,14) although we still live in the flesh and still sin in the old man, we confess our sin to Him, in order to have our relationship right with Jesus and also with other believers (1 John 1).

      The Word is powerful and when we study it with His approval in mind (Heb 4:12, 2 Tim 2:15), His Word does discern the thoughts and intents of our heart. Being sorry is not the same thing as ‘repent’ although in a few cases it is used that way, such as Paul not being sorry for writing the letters to the Corinthians which made them sorrow.

      There are no more generational curses though, that is past, every man shall bear the guilt for his own sin. We can indeed carry on some bad habits from things we have learned.

      I was a little confused with your comment “I Am the Resurrection”, the way it’s worded, looks as if you are pointing that at yourself. Can your clarify?

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