True repentance, like all good things, is a gift of God (2 Timothy 2:25). If we want to obey the command to rend our hearts, we must ask God to grant us true repentance. “The more glimpses we have of the glory of God, the more we mourn for scorning that glory.”
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True Repentance In The Bible
True repentance is a concept that is central to the Christian faith. It is a process of turning away from sin and turning towards God. The Bible teaches that true repentance involves a change of heart and a commitment to live a life that is pleasing to God.
One of the most significant verses in the Bible about true repentance is James 1:27. It says, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” This passage is a reminder that true religion is not just about following a set of rules or performing certain rituals. Instead, true religion is about having a personal relationship with God and living a life that is pleasing to Him.
True repentance involves a change of heart. It is about recognizing that we have sinned and turning away from our sin. It is about acknowledging that we need God’s forgiveness and accepting His grace. True repentance also involves a commitment to live a life that is pleasing to God. It is about making a conscious effort to avoid sin and to follow God’s commands.
The Bible contains many examples of true repentance. One of the most well-known examples is the story of the prodigal son. The prodigal son was a young man who asked his father for his inheritance and then squandered it on wild living. However, when he realized the error of his ways, he returned to his father and asked for forgiveness. His father forgave him and welcomed him back with open arms.
Another example of true repentance is found in the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a tax collector who had cheated many people out of their money. However, when he met Jesus, he repented of his sins and promised to repay those he had wronged.
True Repentance Meaning
According to the Bible, repentance literally means “the act of changing one’s mind.” Genuine biblical repentance transcends feelings of regret, guilt, or sorrow for one’s transgressions. It entails more than just turning away from transgression. “In its fullest sense it is a term for a complete change of orientation involving a judgment upon the past and a deliberate redirection for the future,” according to the Eerdmans Bible Dictionary.
One of the main themes in the prophets’ messages throughout the Old Testament is repentance, or turning from oneself to God completely. Rituals like fasting, donning sackcloth, sitting in ashes, weeping, and liturgical laments that conveyed profound grief for sin were examples of repentance. Real repentance, which meant committing to getting back in touch with God, following His Word, and living a good life, was supposed to go along with these ceremonies. But frequently, these rites were only expressions of regret and a want to be freed from the bonds of sin.
The ancient prophets were urging a total transformation that came from each person’s own heart and will when they urged the people to turn from their sins and come back. The prophets urged both the people of Israel and each person to give up their lives in order to transition from a life under the control of sin to a relationship with God, the all-powerful ruler of everything. They said, “Even now—this is the LORD’s declaration—turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.” Return to the LORD, your God, and let your hearts be torn apart, not just your garments. Because he is kind and merciful, slow to become enraged, and abundant in devoted love, he gives up on bringing about catastrophe (Joel 2:12–13, CSB).
The New Testament is filled with references to repentance. John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:17), in particular, both urged people to turn from their sins since God’s Kingdom was about to arrive. Many made the decision to undergo this drastic life reorientation, demonstrating their repentance by being baptized (Mark 1:4) and making significant adjustments to their relationships and way of life (Luke 3:8–14).
We can better grasp the biblical concept of repentance by examining three Greek terms that are employed in the New Testament. The first is metamelomai, a word that indicates a shift in perspective that results in regret or even remorse for wrongs committed, although it does not always imply a change in behavior. In Matthew 27:3, this phrase is used to express Judas’s sense of shame for betraying Jesus.
“To change one’s mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge,” is the meaning of the second word, metanoeo. This verb and the related word metanoia stand for the four elements of true biblical repentance:
1) According to Psalm 51:4–10 and 109:21–22, genuine repentance is an understanding of one’s own shame, wickedness, and powerlessness.
2) Genuine contrition comprehends or grasps the pity of God in Jesus Christ (Psalm 51:1; 130:4).
3) A shift in perspective and behavior about sin is indicative of true repentance. A remorseful individual is drawn toward God by their hatred of sin (Psalm 119:128; Job 42:5–6; 2 Corinthians 7:10).
4) A radical and steadfast pursuit of pure life, walking with God in accordance to His instructions, is the outcome of true repentance (2 Timothy 2:19–22; 1 Peter 1:16).
Calling sinners to repentance was the main objective of Jesus Christ’s mission, as stated in Luke 5:32, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He issues an appeal for total submission to everyone, saying, “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Chapter 13:5). As Jesus bid the disciples farewell, He gave them the assignment to spread His message of faith and repentance to every country (Luke 24:47).
According to the Bible, repentance is a total and permanent transformation of one’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Recanting acknowledges that our transgression has offended God. Repentance is a complete and sincere turning from oneself to God, from the past to a future under God’s control, and an admission that the Lord is in charge of one’s life.
Paul Repentance Verses
Acts 3:19 ESV / 444 helpful votes
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,
2 Peter 3:9 ESV / 350 helpful votes
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Acts 2:38 ESV / 328 helpful votes
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 4:17 ESV / 327 helpful votes
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Acts 17:30 ESV / 314 helpful votes
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
Romans 2:4 ESV / 293 helpful votes
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Acts 11:18 ESV / 287 helpful votes
When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV / 274 helpful votes
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV / 272 helpful votes
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Matthew 3:8 ESV / 264 helpful votes
Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Luke 13:3 ESV / 260 helpful votes
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
1 John 1:9 ESV / 257 helpful votes
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Acts 20:21 ESV / 237 helpful votes
Testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Proverbs 28:13 ESV / 237 helpful votes
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Mark 1:15 ESV / 224 helpful votes
And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Acts 26:20 ESV / 211 helpful votes
But declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
2 Timothy 2:25 ESV / 200 helpful votes
Correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
Acts 5:31 ESV / 197 helpful votes
God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
Revelation 3:19 ESV / 191 helpful votes
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Luke 5:32 ESV / 190 helpful votes
I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Matthew 3:2 ESV / 185 helpful votes
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Revelation 2:5 ESV / 180 helpful votes
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Luke 15:7 ESV / 169 helpful votes
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Luke 24:47 ESV / 168 helpful votes
And that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Luke 15:10 ESV / 166 helpful votes
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Psalm 51:1-19 ESV / 154 helpful votes
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. …
2 Corinthians 7:9 ESV / 152 helpful votes
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
Luke 3:8 ESV / 151 helpful votes
Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
Isaiah 30:15 ESV / 145 helpful votes
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,
John 3:16 ESV / 140 helpful votes
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Matthew 9:13 ESV / 136 helpful votes
Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV / 134 helpful votes
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Revelation 3:3 ESV / 130 helpful votes
Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
Acts 8:22 ESV / 128 helpful votes
Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.
Luke 3:3 ESV / 117 helpful votes
And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Luke 17:3 ESV / 116 helpful votes
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,
Hebrews 6:1 ESV / 112 helpful votes
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Romans 6:23 ESV / 112 helpful votes
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Mark 6:12 ESV / 108 helpful votes
So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.
Mark 1:4 ESV / 108 helpful votes
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Psalm 38:18 ESV / 107 helpful votes
I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.
Luke 13:5 ESV / 106 helpful votes
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Ezekiel 18:30-32 ESV / 105 helpful votes
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
Joel 2:13 ESV / 100 helpful votes
And rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.
Luke 5:31-32 ESV / 99 helpful votes
And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
2 Chronicles 30:9 ESV / 99 helpful votes
For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 ESV / 98 helpful votes
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Luke 17:3-4 ESV / 98 helpful votes
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
John 6:44 ESV / 97 helpful votes
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Psalm 51:4 ESV / 96 helpful votes
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
Ezekiel 18:21-23 ESV / 95 helpful votes
“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
Ezekiel 18:32 ESV / 91 helpful votes
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
Matthew 3:11 ESV / 89 helpful votes
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Romans 2:5 ESV / 87 helpful votes
But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
Matthew 21:32 ESV / 87 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
Job 42:6 ESV / 85 helpful votes
Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Repentance Scriptures NKJV
Jonah 3:10 ESV / 83 helpful votes
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
Zechariah 1:3 ESV / 82 helpful votes
Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.
2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV / 81 helpful votes
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Acts 19:4 ESV / 81 helpful votes
And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”
Psalm 51:1-4 ESV / 81 helpful votes
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
Luke 18:13 ESV / 78 helpful votes
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
Jeremiah 31:19 ESV / 77 helpful votes
For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
James 4:8 ESV / 76 helpful votes
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Joel 2:12-13 ESV / 73 helpful votes
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.
Acts 26:18 ESV / 71 helpful votes
To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Matthew 12:41 ESV / 71 helpful votes
The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
Romans 3:23 ESV / 70 helpful votes
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Hebrews 6:6 ESV / 69 helpful votes
And then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Mark 1:14-15 ESV / 69 helpful votes
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Jeremiah 26:3 ESV / 68 helpful votes
It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds.
Acts 13:24 ESV / 67 helpful votes
Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
Revelation 2:16 ESV / 66 helpful votes
Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
Ezekiel 14:6 ESV / 66 helpful votes
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations.
Isaiah 55:6-7 ESV / 66 helpful votes
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah 1:1-31 ESV / 66 helpful votes
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. …
Exodus 32:14 ESV / 65 helpful votes
And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
1 John 3:4 ESV / 63 helpful votes
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
Acts 11:21 ESV / 63 helpful votes
And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Ezekiel 18:30 ESV / 62 helpful votes
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV / 62 helpful votes
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Matthew 27:3 ESV / 61 helpful votes
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders,
Isaiah 64:6 ESV / 60 helpful votes
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Hebrews 12:17 ESV / 56 helpful votes
For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Ephesians 2:8 ESV / 54 helpful votes
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
2 Samuel 12:13 ESV / 54 helpful votes
David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.
2 Corinthians 12:21 ESV / 53 helpful votes
I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.
1 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV / 51 helpful votes
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
Jeremiah 18:8 ESV / 51 helpful votes
And if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.
Romans 7:1-25 ESV / 50 helpful votes
Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. …
Acts 22:16 ESV / 48 helpful votes
And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
1 John 1:7 ESV / 47 helpful votes
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Isaiah 19:22 ESV / 47 helpful votes
And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.
2 Corinthians 7:10-11 ESV / 46 helpful votes
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.
John 3:16-17 ESV / 44 helpful votes
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Jeremiah 36:3 ESV / 44 helpful votes
It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”
Acts 2:36 ESV / 43 helpful votes
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Job 42:5-6 ESV / 42 helpful votes
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Romans 13:8-10 ESV / 41 helpful votes
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Matthew 11:20 ESV / 41 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.
In conclusion, true repentance is a concept that is central to the Christian faith. It is a process of turning away from sin and turning towards God. True repentance involves a change of heart and a commitment to live a life that is pleasing to God. As believers, we should strive to live a life of true repentance and to follow God’s commands.