Early Quotes in History on Repentance as a Change of Mind-Part 2

(My Comment: Please note Charlie Bing’s Conclusion below. Some quotes — i.e. A.T. Robertson, will add what they think the outcome would/should be to repentance. The fact remains the meaning is what the meaning is. These are not a recommendation to the people, just showing the understanding of the meaning of the word back through history was a change of mind — whether or not they thought something would spring out of it as a result. In that I would not agree and happy to explain the difference between ‘should’ vs. ‘automatic’. Our change of mind continues as we have our minds renewed and sanctified by His Word, which is truth – Rom 12:2; Jn 17:17).

In Part 1 (GraceNotes no. 92) we cited historical sources on the meaning of repentance starting in the first century. We will see here that for two thousand years experts have overwhelmingly agreed that repentance is an inner change, a change of heart or mind. The selections and sources below are abbreviated to save space.

Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) 
in The Epistle to the Hebrews , on Hebrews 6:1: “‘Repentance from dead works‘ expresses that complete change of mind; of spiritual attitude; which leads the believer to abandon these works [as a way of salvation] and seek some other support for life.”
Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) in The Gospel Awakening: “Repentance is a change of mind.”

B. H. Carroll (1843-1914) in An Interpretation of the English Bible, vol. 10: “We may, therefore, give as the one invariable definition of New Testament repentance that it is a change of mind, from which it is evident that its domain is limited. It is necessarily internal, not external.”

C. I. Scofield (1843-1921) in The Scofield Reference Bible (1967) on Acts 17:30: “Repentance is the translation of a Greek verb metanoeō, meaning to have another mind, to change the mind, and is used in the N.T. to indicate a change of mind in respect to sin, God, and self.”
Richard Francis Weymouth (1822-1902), in Weymouth New Testament on Matthew 3:2: “repent or ‘change your minds‘” and in Matt. 3:8: ‘Therefore let your lives prove your change of heart’ and in Luke 3:8 ‘Live lives which shall prove your change of heart.’ This is the proper order, first change your minds and hearts (repent), and then as a result of your repentance, ‘let your lives prove your change of heart.'”James M. Gray (1851-1935) in Bible Problems Explained: “Repentance means a ‘change of mind,’ and the moment one takes Jesus by faith to be his personal Savior, that moment he has experienced and manifested that change of mind. I am now speaking, of course, of the initial act of salvation.”

A.T. Robertson (1863-1934) in Word Pictures in the New Testament, on 2 Corinthians 7:9: “Certainly the word for repentance [metanoia] is more than a mere ‘after-thought.’ It is a ‘change of mind’ that leads to and is shown by a change of life, ‘fruits worthy of repentance’ (Luke 3:8).”

G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) in The Westminster Pulpit, vol. 6: “The other word [metanoia] means very simply and very literally to change the mind…. The repentance that Christ preached, and His Apostles preached, the repentance which is demanded of every man is always indicated by the use of the word that means a change of mind.”

H. A. Ironside (1876-1951) in Except Ye Repent (1937): “But here it seems necessary to say that it is the Greek word, μετάνοια, metanoia, which is translated ‘repentance’ in our English Bibles, and literally means a change of mind. This is not simply the acceptance of new ideas in place of old notions. But it actually implies a complete reversal of one’s inward attitude.”

William R. Newell (1868-1956) in Hebrews Verse-By-Verse (1947) on Hebrews 6:1: “The very first gospel announcement to the Hebrews would be something entirely new—repentance, an entire change of mind, as to ‘works’ securing salvation…”

William Pettingill (1866-1950) in Bible Questions Answered: “Strictly speaking, the word repentance means a ‘change of mind.'”

Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952) in Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (1947): “The word metanoia is in every instance translated repentance. The word means a change of mind.”

Julius R. Mantey (1890-1981) in “Repentance and Conversion,” Christianity Today (March 2, 1962): “Metanoeō (metanoia, noun) is regularly used to express the requisite state of mind necessary for the forgiveness of sin. It means to think differently or to have a different attitude toward sin and God, etc.”

J. Dwight Pentecost (1915-2014) in Things Which Become Sound Doctrine (1965): “From the Word of God we discover that the word translated ‘repent’ means ‘a change of mind.’ It means, literally, ‘a turning about’; not so much a physical turning about as a mental turning around, a change of course, a change of direction, a change of attitude.”

John Walvoord (1910-2002) in The Revelation of Jesus Christ (1966): “The second aspect of his exhortation [in Revelation 2:5] is embodied in the word repent (Gr., metanoeson, meaning ‘to change the mind’).”

J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988) in Thru the Bible Commentary Series, Second Corinthians, vol. 5 (1983) on 2 Corinthians 7:10: “Here we find God’s definition of repentance—real repentance. Repentance is a change of mind. As far as I can tell, the only repentance God asks of the lost is in the word believe. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ! What happens when one believes? There is a change of mind.”

Charles Ryrie (1925-2016) in Balancing the Christian Life (1969): “The word repent means, of course, to change one’s mind about something.”

Louis Berkhof (1873-1957) in Systematic Theology (1939): “According to Scripture, repentance is wholly an inward act and should not be confounded with a change of life that proceeds from it. Confession of sin and reparation of wrongs are fruits of repentance.”

G. Michael Cocoris in Evangelism: A Biblical Approach (1984): “Repentance is basically a change of mind. [Metanoeō], the Greek word translated ‘repent,’ is a compound made up of two definite Greek words. The fist is meta, ‘after,’ and the second is noēma, ‘mind.’ Thus, the two together mean ‘afterthought,’ or ‘change of mind.’ The word describes an inward change of thinking or attitude.”

R. T. Kendall in Once Saved, Always Saved (1985): “As we said earlier, repentance is the translation of the Greek word metanoia, which means ‘change of mind.”

Roy B. Zuck (1932-2013) in Kindred Spirit, a publication of Dallas Theological Seminary (Summer 1989): “The Greek word for repentance (metanoia) means to change one’s mind.”

Robert P. Lightner (1931-2018) in Sin, the Savior, and Salvation (1991): “The word repentance means a change of mind… Evangelicals, (for the most part) agree no one can be saved who does not change his mind about himself and his need, his sin which separates him from God, and about Christ as the only Savior.”

J. Hampton Keathley, III in ABCs for Christian Growth, 5th ed., (1966): “Metanoia, the primary word, without question, means ‘a change of mind.’ It refers to the thinking of people who thought one thing or made one decision and then, based on further evidence or input, changed their minds. So, the basic sense is ‘a change of mind.’ This is its meaning and use outside the New Testament and in the New Testament.” (Emphasis his.)

R. Larry Moyer in Free and Clear (1997): “From the above study of the concept of repentance in the Old and New Testaments…Repentance clearly means to change the mind….When used in a soteriological context, ‘repentance’ means to change your mind about whatever is keeping you from trusting Christ and trust Him alone to save you.” (Italics his)

The Theological Wordbook, eds. Wendell G. Johnston, Charles R. Swindoll, Roy B. Zuck, (2000): “The primary New Testament word for repentance is metanoia, ‘to change one’s mind.'”

Ron Rhodes in Christianity According to the Bible (2006): “The biblical word translated repent literally means ‘a change of mind toward something or someone.'”

Charles Stanley in Handbook for Christian Living: Biblical Answers to Life’s Tough Questions (2008): “What does repentance mean for the unbeliever? Repentance for those outside Christ means a change of mind. The unbeliever is to change his mind about what he believes concerning Jesus Christ.”


For twenty centuries, Bible experts consistently agree that the simple meaning of repentance is a change of mind or heart, an inner change. Many state that it should lead to an outward change but distinguish this from the inner change. After admitting that repentance is a change of mind, a few of those cited sometimes modify the word to include sorrow and/or turning from sins. But these adjustments are likely capitulations to theological biases not supported by the biblical evidence. All agree on the essential meaning of a change of mind as the starting point that is faithful to the clear biblical evidence. Rightly so, many of these cited thinks that repentance that relates to salvation reflects the change of mind that comes when one believes in Jesus Christ as Savior (see GraceNotes no. 22: “Repentance: What’s in a Word”). Such an understanding of repentance keeps salvation absolutely free by grace through faith.

*GraceNotes are designed for downloading and copying so they can be used in ministry. No permission is required if they are distributed unedited at no charge. If you do not have a pdf viewer you may click here to download a free version.

5 Responses to “Early Quotes in History on Repentance as a Change of Mind-Part 2

  • Mr G Dennison
    4 months ago

    Thank you for providing these chapters on repentance. This should be put in hard copy and distributed throughout the world.

    • Hi Mr. Dennison? (Nope it’s Mr.), may I ask if your name is Gifford? (my son’s name and a family name). They are available on Charlie Bing’s website I believe, and he also provides the link for the person who did the compilation of all the quotes (if I recall correctly, it was a dissertation), but both links can be found there, and I believe they are also provided in part 1 and part 2.

      God bless you, I wish people wouldn’t complicate things.

  • Gifford Dennison
    4 months ago

    Wow! My name IS Gifford. Yes, it is a family name and my name and my oldest son’s middle name. It is also a town in Scotland, near Edinburgh (East). I don’t know why I typed in “Mr.” I must have been feeling professional that day.
    I will look up Charlie Bing’s website and see what I can find.

    • My grandfather came from Scotland as a teen. I don’t know all the logistics, but his last name was Sprenger, middle name Gifford.

      Small world isn’t it?

      If you don’t find what you need, let me know and I’ll get the link I have. I believe the first or second article have a link to the student’s paper directly.

    • Gifford, my cousin said my grandfather was from Glascow. And my great-grandmother Margaret Gifford was born on the Isle of Man. Her uncle was a lighthouse keeper there. Maybe we’re family in more ways than one. 🙂 Love in Christ.

Leave a Reply