The Dumbing Down of Repentance


I always like to start a blog post like this with the definition of our discussion, in hopes there actually is a discussion. That my message won’t fall on deaf ears, but stir the heart of the reader. From the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary it says that Repentance is define:

REPENT’ANCEnoun [French] Sorrow for any thing done or said; the pain or grief which a person experiences in consequence of the injury or inconvenience produced by his own conduct.

2. In theology, the pain, regret or affliction which a person feels on account of his past conduct, because it exposes him to punishment. This sorrow proceeding merely from the fear of punishment, is called legal repentance, as being excited by the terrors of legal penalties, and it may exist without an amendment of life.

3. Real penitence; sorrow or deep contrition for sin, as an offense and dishonor to God, a violation of his holy law, and the basest ingratitude towards a Being of infinite benevolence. This is called evangelical repentance, and is accompanied and followed by amendment of life.

Repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God.


Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation. 2 Corinthians 7. Matthew 3.

Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice, from conviction that it has offended God.


The modern definition of repentance is from Merriman Webster’s says of repentance:

1: to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life

2: to feel regret or contrition or to change one’s mind, to feel sorrow.

Obviously like most everything else in the world, we’ve dumbed down the meaning. But is the church any better? How many altars do you see lined today?

Repentance is Serious Business

The first mention of repentance is in Genesis 6:6 when scripture says that God repented: “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” No doubt the epitome of definition one in 1828, that God regrets the day He thought it was a good idea to make mankind. Frustrated to the point of destroying them off the face of the earth, until Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. There was still a destruction but God saved mankind. That’s ours ancestors! God spared Noah and his family telling them in Genesis 6:13 “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. But Noah’s family was saved. And earth was once again void of sin right? No. It didn’t take Noah’s family long to mess up either. But God had made a promise that He would never again destroy the earth in that manner, and He placed a rainbow in the sky as a covenant to Noah. And today God’s idiot humans have taken that covenant that spared our life and made a mockery of it. But judgement day will come again…

Of the 45 times repentance is mentioned in the Old Testament 32 speak of the repentance of God. His regret or decision to not take action on mankind. Is it because man had justified the grace again? No, but God’s mercy was extended each time in the hopes His people would return to Him with a right heart.

Old Testament or New Testament, the definition doesn’t change and neither does holiness of God. When John the Baptist came on the scene in the gospels saying in Matthew 3:2 “And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” things had changed, but God hadn’t. There had been no Word from the Lord for 400 years. But now there was a word and it was “Repent.” The very first word spoken by God after 400 years of silence is “Repent.” I’d say that was a pretty serious revelation for those who understood what was happening. God is telling His people to turn from their sin.

Matthew 3:3-8 KJVS
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. [4] And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. [5] Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, [6] And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. [7] But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

Commentary says that “John the Baptist called people to more than words or rituals; he told them to change their behavior. “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins” means that God looks beyond our words and religious activities to see if our conduct backs up what we say, and he judges our words by the actions that accompany them.”

Repentance was so serious to God that it was the first word He spoke to man after 400 years. I say that again because it hit me hard this morning as I read it.

Repentance is Sacred Business

Matthew 3:9-13 KJVS
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. [10] And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. [11] I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: [12] Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. [13] Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

Then cometh Jesus! Oh glory to God. Then came salvation. However, we are still in Old Testament times. People tend to forget that because the Bible just said “New Testament between Malachi and Matthew,” the law didn’t change. But people were still living under the law. God was still dealing with the Nation of Israel and we lowly Gentiles were still dogs in the street unworthy in the eyes of the Jews and God. Yes we could be saved, but through the works of the law, 613 rules not meant to be broken. I wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds, how ‘bout you?

The truth of the matter is, the Jews weren’t keeping the law either. And they resented this hairy Priest eating bugs and honey telling them that they needed to turn from their wicked ways. But not all of them. It said many repented and were baptized and the religious were upset. They didn’t care that God was Holy and that He deserved their repentance and obedience, they cared more that man was in control of who was worthy of forgiveness and man was in control of the church business.

Repentance is Sincere Business

John ends up being beheaded, Christ is crucified and the Church becomes a different entity. It’s no longer controlled by man but there is a One to one relationship with Christ Jesus made possible by the cross. We’re no longer in need of an intercessor to God through the priests. Jesus, God Himself delivers us from the sins in our life, past , present and future, by belief alone in His finished work on the cross.

But what about the baptism. Baptism in the days that Christ was on earth was still a matter of works. The Jews were still “working” for their salvation. The final payment for the souls of mankind to be reconciled with God didn’t come until the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord. When He said it was finished, all of it was finished. There was nothing to be done by man from that point forward except to repent. Repentance as defined in 1828 definitions 2 and 3.

Salvation comes when we realize that we deserve the death that Jesus took on the cross. That was our punishment He took, and we trust in the fact that His death paid the price for presence in Him. A One to one relationship with God. Our continued repentance (not for salvation) but as defined in 1828 the third definition is to continually realize offenses in our lives that dishonor God. What then do we do? We don’t repent and get saved again, we’re already saved, but we repent and show honor to the God who saved our souls! Sincere repentance. Stop playing church. That altar is not just for flowers on Easter, it’s for the knees of the children of God to go to Him and pray for forgiveness, pray for the salvation of our people, pray for a national repentance and revival and do it with the sincerest of hearts. Believe that God is not done with His people or like the days of Noah, He’d have already returned and wiped this earth clean!

I’m as guilty as anyone. I’m not throwing rocks. I have taken my salvation far too lightly and I’m tired of being a slacker. Anyone with me? I need the altar! We need the altar! The church has taken that altar too lightly for too long and has dumbed down the meaning of repentance. It needs preached and it needs lived.


  1. Shari, this is such a great article! Your discussion of “continued repentance” for the New Covenant believer is important. As you said, we are already saved, but that’s not a license to sin and presume we have no reason to repent before God when we fail in the here-and-now (so long as this doesn’t become some sort of ritual seemingly questioning our salvation instead of simply offering up heartfelt repentance). Amen!

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