Repentance and the Pauline Gospel
Some have come to believe that since Paul did not stress repentance in his writings and that repentance is unnecessary. Such is incorrect.
*The KJV is the base text for this study.
Rom 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
The fact is that without the leading of the Spirit we will not come to Christ, none will experience God’s salvation.
The root word translated “repent” in the New Testament is Strong’s # 3340 metanoeō-μετανοέω. That word pictures a turning. It means to make a change in one’s principle and practice. We will also look at Strong’s # 3341 metanoia-μετάνοια, which is always translated “repentance.”
As we will see, Paul does not use the principle of repent/repentance as much as the four Gospels do, but Paul also does not avoid it as some seem to teach. And, when Paul does write about the subject he reflects Jesus’ teachings.
First, let’s look at Strong’s #3340 as used by Paul. Within Paul’s writings and in Paul’s quotes in Acts, this Greek word is always translated “repent.”
Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
But shewed first unto them of
2 Cor 7:8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.
That verse does not refer to turning from sin, but to felling human sorrow because those who received his letter were in human sorrow over the letter’s contents.
The following verses are all of the uses of repentance based in variations of Strong’s # 3341 (Gr. metanoeō-μετανοέω) written by Luke about Paul and also written by Paul himself. In all such cases, this word is translated “repentance.”
Acts 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
***This verse does not reflect Christian baptism, but rather the Old Testament mikvah immersion, which was used to cleanse Jews from their sins. Christians experience a “believers baptism” that is the result of salvation.
Acts 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul taught repentance from sin as a step leading to salvation!
Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
Paul taught repentance, “works meet for repentance.” Those “works are acts that show a repentant heart!
Rom 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
Did Paul write the letter to the Roman Church? Yes! Did he proclaim the God’s goodness lead to repentance? Yes!
So, why teach that he did not teach repentance?
2 Cor 7:9-10
9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
The sorrow exihibted by the Corinthians led to repentance! And, repentance led to salvation!
2 Tim 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
Paul’s teaching focused on repentance!
Here is a truth that escapes most Christians. In the OT, repentance brought about salvation. BUT in the NT, grace gives us the ability to repent. God gives us repentance as part of the justification package!
As you can readily see, while repentance was not a heavy focus within Paul’s teachings, he did not avoid, nor diminish the necessity of repentance toward God.
Salvation requires repentance toward God and faith in Christ Jesus. God’s loving gives us the power to repent, and to have faith in Christ!