Repentance: The Requirement for
or
the Results of Salvation!
By Dr. Ken Matto
 
(1 Ki 8:47 KJV) Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;
 
(Jonah 3:9 KJV) Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

 

(Mat 3:2 KJV) And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
 
(Mat 9:13 KJV) But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

 

(Mat 21:29 KJV) He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

 

(Rom 11:29 KJV) For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

 

When doing a study on a word like "repent" it is necessary to understand what that word means. In the Bible one English word can be translated out of several Hebrew and/or Greek words. That is the case with the biblical word "repent" and it behooves us to understand the word so we may be able to grasp the true biblical meaning. In other words, we want to make sure we are using the word the way God meant it to be used.
 
Let us look briefly at the words for "repent" used in the above verses.
 
1 Kings 8:47 - The Hebrew Word is "shawb" which means to turn back.
Jonah 3:9 - The Hebrew Word is "nawkham" which carries with the idea of sighing, or sorrow or pity.
Matthew 3:2 - The Greek word is "metanoeo" means "to change one's mind or be converted."
Matthew 9:13 - The Greek word is "metanoia" which means "a change of mind or a turning about."
Matthew 21:29 - The Greek word is "metamelomai" which means "regret, feel sorry for."
Romans 11:29 - The Greek word is "ametameletos" which means "not to be taken back or regretted."
 
If you notice every Greek word undergirding the English word repentance has in it the preposition "meta." According to Vine's the root word "meta" really means mid or middle and meta goes with whatever case it is attached to. It can mean "with, after, behind or among." When used with the words above it brings to the surface a meaning of change and that is the focus of this study. The major question involved with repentance is, does man effect the change or is he changed as a result of salvation?
 
We have all heard famous evangelists, when giving their invitation, call for repentance by the seeker. Billy Graham makes repentance the first on his list of requirements for salvation but he is not the only one, many preachers seem to make it part of their list when doing an invitation. Is it wrong to call for repentance? The answer is no but in the case of asking a person to repent before salvation, it reverses the order. When repentance is called for prior to salvation, it is classified as a work for salvation. When repentance takes place after salvation it is a result of salvation. A vast difference!
 
One good example in Scripture which shows the correct order that salvation comes before repentance is the Thessalonians. Paul is commending them for their tremendous growth in the gospel and their outward showing of their true salvation by doing one of the most dangerous works of all, especially in ancient times.
 
(1 Th 1:4 KJV) Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

 

(1 Th 1:9 KJV) For they themselves show 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;

 

Notice the order here. Paul speaks that they are elect of God and as a result the true works follow, namely, they turned from idols to God. I am not speaking in terms of order of verses but in terms of which came first. Salvation or repentance (the turning around or change of mind)? The next question which must be answered is, when was salvation initiated and then imputed to the individual?
The answer to this question is quite simple in that God gives five verses attesting to the fact that salvation comes first. How first does it come? How about from before the foundation of the world! If a person had to repent before they received salvation, this means they would have had to repent before they were created.
 
(Mat 25:34 KJV) Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
 
(Eph 1:4 KJV) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
 
(Heb 4:3 KJV) For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
 
(Rev 13:8 KJV) And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
 
(Rev 17:8 KJV) The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
 
These five verses teach us some forthright principles concerning the salvation of the Elect of God. Let's summarize them: The Kingdom was prepared, we were chosen, the works of Christ, and we were written in the Lamb's Book of Life all from the foundation of the world. With God revealing this aspect of His salvation program, those who teach repentance as a pre-condition or requirement for salvation do err greatly as they are placing an unreachable goal on an unbeliever. So then let us raise another question. If God then saves first, then how does one repent since it is a biblical principle. The answer to that question is found in 2 Timothy 2:23-25:
 
(2 Tim 2:23-25 KJV) But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. {24} And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, {25} In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
 
Here in no ambiguous terms God tells us that He is the one who grants repentance and man does not have the ability to repent unless salvation takes place first. Therefore repentance is a result of salvation not a requirement. When you were an unbeliever, how much concern did you have for the things of God? When you sinned, were you worried about the consequences you would face or did you believe there were any?
 
If we are honest we will answer by saying that we did not concern ourselves with the things of God and didn't worry about the consequences. Why is that? I believe God gives us an understanding in two verses of why the unregenerate mind cannot comprehend the things of God:
 
(2 Cor 4:4 KJV) In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
 
(Jer 17:9 KJV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
 
[Note: Psychologists and Psychiatrists think they know the mind] The reason people cannot repent of their own "free will" is because their minds are blinded, deceitful, and desperately wicked. If you notice in the Scriptures, God speaks to believers about repenting of evil deeds and sins, but never unbelievers. Instead, he warns and judges them. As you go through the New Testament, note how many admonitions there are for Godly and holy living. Are these admonitions aimed at the unbeliever or believer? Only the believer.
 
Can an unbeliever repent of a sin in their life? Yes, they can, but that repentance is of a different nature. Let's say a person is a drunk for 10 years and then goes into a rehabilitation program at a hospital and never drinks again. Have they had repentance unto salvation or a moral repentance? It is a moral repentance which is good for society in that the sober person will no longer be a danger on the highway. Has this repentance won any favor with God in fulfilling a requirement for salvation? The answer is no, because that person is still unregenerate which means they are still under the wrath of God and even though they are sober now, they will still stand before God and give account for those 10 years of drunkenness. Too many times, Christians make the mistake of believing that a moral repentance is a repentance from salvation. The two are totally different. If the person who makes a moral repentance is being given assurance they are in good standing before God because of their actions, they are being lied to and the person assuring them is guilty of lying.
 
We must realize that those who are not saved are under the condemnation of God, no matter what they do in the physical realm or how exemplary they live their lives. The Scripture is clear on this in two ways: Even if a person is good, they still have the wrath of God abiding on them and if they do not have the Holy Spirit, then they are not a child of God. It is the Holy Spirit who indwells us that makes us sensitive to sin and disobedience in our lives. As a Christian, have you ever sinned and felt very convicted about it? That was not your dead conscience, that was the fact you grieved the Holy Spirit. Your dead conscience couldn't care less what you do although God in His mercy has not allowed sin to develop to its fullest potential or else the human race would have destroyed itself.
 
(John 3:36 KJV) He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
 
(Rom 8:8-9 KJV) So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. {9} But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
 
In ending this study let's take a look at some salvation experiences from the Bible and see what came first, salvation or repentance?
 
(Acts 13:47-48 KJV) For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. {48} And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
 
(Acts 17:11-12 KJV) These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. {12} Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
 
(Acts 26:13-18 KJV) At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. {14} And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. {15} And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. {16} But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; {17} Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, {18} To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
 
I saved the best for last!
(Luke 19:1-10 KJV) And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. {2} And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. {3} And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. {4} And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. {5} And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. {6} And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. {7} And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. {8} And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. {9} And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. {10} For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
 
Acts 13:47-48 - They Believed
Acts 17:11-12 - Received the Word and Believed
Acts 26:13 -18 - Saul asked "Who art thou Lord?"
 
Let's take a look at Zacchaeus for a minute. Jesus saw Zacchaeus and told him that he must abide at his house. Notice what happened next, Zacchaeus was convicted of his thievery and pledged to return to those he stole from 4 fold and that he was going to give half of his goods to the poor. Then Jesus makes a major statement, "This day is salvation come to this house,..." Was Jesus saying that because of the conviction of Zacchaeus, he was saved by the act of confession and restitution? To understand this statement, we must see what this statement points to and it brings us right to the book of James. Let's look at James 2:
(James 2:17-18 KJV) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. {18} Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.
 
Jesus is showing us that genuine salvation contains works, confession, and repentance. It is interesting to note that Jesus seeks and saves, not man. In these four examples (and there are others in Scripture) before someone believed, did they repent? No, repentance came as a result of salvation not as a prerequisite. We must teach this biblical truth in the way God gave it to us or else we will be liars.
 
The chronology is:
1.Salvation
2. Repentance
3. Spiritual Warfare
 
The Christian life always begins with Salvation and every other element is built on that. We must discern between transformational and moral repentance. When we understand the distinction, our gospel understanding will grow rapidly because we will begin to see everything from God's point of view. Salvation was initiated before the foundation of the world and at sometime in our life, because God named us, imputes that salvation to us and we become a child of God:
 
(John 6:39 KJV) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
 
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