Christianity was supposed to be about becoming like Jesus.  
We went in the wrong direction.

Do we need to "repent" to be saved?

Many people who desire to be Christian are directed to repent of their sins so they can be saved. This sounds reasonable. If I want to be good, I should feel sorry about my sins. The problem is that the English word "repent" is a poor choice to translate the Greek word "metanoia". 

The Galatians added something to the process of salvation and Paul wrote very earnestly to warn them of the danger of doing so.

Since we do not have a single word in English for the phrase "change of mind" which is closer to the Greek, translators have usually relied on the single word "repent". As a result, many people have become handicapped in their Christian walk.

People often want to know if they have "really" repented, did they repent of "all" their sin, did they feel sorry enough, or should they repent again to be sure. Others start to think that since they have repented, there is nothing left to do in the Christian life. A degree of smugness settles in as someone feels confident in what they have done. For these reasons it can be helpful to examine this word and understand how it is used.

What is repentance
Repent = 1. to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life 2. a : to feel regret or contrition b : to change one's mind

The English word "repent" is derived from the French word "repentir" The "re-" is an intensified form of "pentir".  This in turn is derived from the Latin "poena".

In Roman mythology, Poena (also Poine) is the spirit of punishment and the attendant of punishment to Nemesis, the goddess of divine retribution. The Latin word poena, "pain, punishment, penalty", gave rise to English words such as subpoena and pain. The original word is the Ancient Greek poin (ποινή), also meaning “penalty.”

The use of the word "repent" in the Bible as a translation of the Greek word "metanoia" is not correct. It stems from the Catholic teaching of penance or punuishment. While there can be regret and sorrow associated with metanoia, the main meaning is a change of mind that results from a new awareness.

  What is wrong with repentance?  
The word repent carries with it the volitional contribution manifest in the Catholic sacrament of penance. It is what we choose and do. When we apply this way of thinking to things like salvation, we introduce the idea that we have to do something in order to be saved. We also begin to think that we have a part in our own righteousness. This is the exact thinking that caused the blindness of the Pharisees. 
A Biblical example of metanoia
And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man....- 2 Samuel 12:5-7a 

And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD... -  2 Samuel 12:13a 

David was led by Nathan to see his own sin and as a result had a changed mind.


What is Biblical metanoia?
metánoia – literally, "a change of mind" ("after-thought")

The Greek word translated repent is metanoeō. It comes from two Greek words meta and noeō. Meta can mean  after or beyond.  Noeō means “to perceive.” From the word noeō we get the English word notion, which refers to an idea emanating from the mind.

Metanoia is simply a change in thinking resulting from a new awareness.

  Another Biblical example  
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. - Acts 2:37-38 (KJV)

Now, having heard this, they were stung to the heart with poignant sorrow. And they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, What shall we do, men, brothers? And Peter said to them, Have a change of mind, that change of mind being accompanied by abhorrence of and sorrow for your deed, and let each one of you be baptized upon the ground of your confession of belief in the sum total of all that Jesus Christ is in His glorious Person, this baptismal testimony being in relation to the fact that your sins have been put away, and you shall receive the gratuitous gift of the Holy Spirit - Acts 2:37-38 (Wuest)

These people had just come to understand that they had put to death the Messiah. 

Shouldn't I feel bad about sin?
Our awareness of sin is only possible because we have experienced a change of mind.  People who have not received a new life in Christ are not able to understand their sin. Metanoia is often accompanied by feelings of sorrow and regret. 

If we start to use the "repent" concept, we can begin to think that we need to feel bad so that we are motivated to make a change. The problem here is that we begin to think that change cannot happen unless we make it happen. 


Israel should have metanoia
Both John the Baptist and Jesus preached that Israel should metanoia for the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

The basis for the change of mind should have been the result of understanding that they had as a nation been called to serve God and follow His laws and that they had drifted away. 

  All should have metanoia  
Act 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 

Paul told the gentiles that God has declared that everyone should metanoia. The basis for this change was to be the result of hearing the truth of the Gospel. Some mocked Paul, some said they would hear more later, and some believed. The command of God that we metanoia cannot be obeyed until God gives us the ability. 

What is needed to metanoia?
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him... - John 6:44a

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness... - 1 Corinthians 1:18a

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) -  Ephesians 2:5

It is God that gives us faith, new life, and makes us a new creation. The change of mind we have is only a reflection of the work God has already done in us. In a way it is evidence of salvation rather than the cause of it


For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9