Many understand the term repentance to mean “turning from sin.” This is not the  biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, the word repent means “to  change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in  a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14Acts 3:19). Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent  and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The full biblical  definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of  action.

What, then, is the connection between repentance and salvation?  The Book of Acts seems to especially focus on repentance in regards to salvation  (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). To  repent, in relation to salvation, is to change your mind in regard to Jesus  Christ. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes  with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38).  Repent from what? Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change their minds about Him, to recognize  that He is indeed “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).  Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as  the Messiah to faith in Him as both Messiah and Savior.

Repentance and  faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to  place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind  about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful  rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind.  Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from  rejection of Christ to faith in Christ.

It is crucially important that  we understand repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation. No one can  repent and come to God unless God pulls that person to Himself (John 6:44). Acts 5:31 and  11:18 indicate that  repentance is something God gives—it is only possible because of His grace. No  one can repent unless God grants repentance. All of salvation, including  repentance and faith, is a result of God drawing us, opening our eyes, and  changing our hearts. God’s longsuffering leads us to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), as does His  kindness (Romans  2:4).

While repentance is not a work that earns salvation,  repentance unto salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly and  fully change your mind without that causing a change in action. In the Bible,  repentance results in a change in behavior. That is why John the Baptist called  people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). A person who has truly repented from  rejection of Christ to faith in Christ will give evidence of a changed life (2  Corinthians 5:17; Galatians  5:19-23; James  2:14-26). Repentance, properly defined, is necessary for salvation. Biblical  repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith  for salvation (Acts 3:19).  Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the  results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus  Christ.

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