Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Fundamental Change of the Whole Man

So far in this series, as we've sought to understand the nature of Biblical repentance, we've discussed two common Hebrew words used in the Old Testament that signify repentance. First, we looked at nacham and saw the place of emotions in repentance. Then, we looked at shuv and saw the essence of repentance as being the heart's obedient turn from sin and to God.

As we turn to the New Testament, progressive revelation sheds increasing light on and confirms to the believer’s understanding an already established, essential concept. The dominating Greek word used to signify repentance is μετανοέω
(metanoéō; and the noun form μετάνοια, metánoia). Though another word (ἐπιστρέφω, epistréphō) is used to translate shuv in the Septuagint, by the time of the New Testament metanoéō holds the same semantic value that shuv did in the Old Testament (NIDNTT, 1:357; TDNT, 4:989-999). This is supported by the word’s etymology, as it is made up of two Greek words which combine to mean to think again, or, more smoothly, to change one’s mind. Therefore, like shuv, metánoia is signifying the internal change of the whole man (his mind, will, and heart) that causes him to turn from sin and turn to God.

First, metánoia involves acknowledging your sin. We see this plainly as we consider that John the Baptist’s ministry consisted of “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3). Repentance is for the forgiveness of sins. If someone didn't believe they were sinful, there would be no need for repentance. Further, baptism was something that Gentile converts to Judaism did to demonstrate their ceremonial uncleanness. In Israel at that time, for a Jew to submit to be baptized required that he acknowledge his sinfulness and his need of spiritual cleansing (Ac 3:19) on the level of being a Gentile, excluded from the nation of Israel! Repentance, then, is the act of sinners; for sinners, not the righteous, are those who are called to repentance (Lk 5:32)

Secondly, metánoia involves not only acknowledging your sin, but subsequently turning from your sin. The New Testament speaks of repenting of wickedness (Ac 8:22)
as well as particular evil deeds such as impurity, immorality, and sensuality (2Cor 12:21; Rev 2:21), and murders, sorceries, and thefts (Rev 9:21). Metánoia includes ceasing and turning from actual deeds of sinfulness, as is made plain by calling people to repent of their deeds (Rev 2:22; 16:11). This shows that Biblical repentance isn't simply feeling bad, sorry, or guilty about the sin you've committed; Biblical repentance includes the forsaking of those sinful actions.

Those evil deeds are most fundamentally manifested in unbelief in Jesus Christ, as Romans 14:23 teaches that everything that is not from faith in Christ is sin and needs to be repented of. Also, Luke 24:47 tells us that repentance for the forgiveness of sins is to be preached in Jesus' name. His is the only name given under heaven by which we are to be saved (Acts 4:12).
Indeed, Paul speaks of faith in Christ and repentance toward God as two sides of the same coin (Ac 20:21). You don't get one without the other.

Further, the need for repentance is universal. God commands all people everywhere to repent (Ac 17:30)
. The command to repent is universal because man's sin is universal. There is no one who is righteous, no one who understands, no one who seeks after God, no one who does good. Not even one (Rom 3:10-18). All have sinned and thus do fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Without the forgiveness of sins that is granted by repentance and faith in Christ, all men await the righteous judgment of God (Mt 11:20-21; Lk 11:32), for Jesus declares, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk 13:3, 5), and threatens that he will “make war against them with the sword of My mouth” (Rev 2:16).

After one acknowledged that he deserved such judgment and turned from his sins in repentance, he was exhorted to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Mt 3:8; cf. Ac 26:20). Thus, as shuv, metánoia manifests itself in obedience, though now no longer to a law but to a person, which accords with professed faith in Christ (Jas 2:14-17
). Such obedience cannot be merely external, but must come from the heart (cf. Ac 8:21-22), as it involves loving one's neighbor by meeting his physical needs, by not cheating people out of their money, by speaking the truth, and by being content (see Luke 3:10-14), among other things.

In summary, then, metánoia is the change of the whole man from sin to God -- in his thought, in his will, and in his heart.

In the next post, I'll try to summarize what we've learned about repentance so far from these three words. What patterns, trends, or things-that-stand-out have you recognized from this study? How might you summarize what we've seen so far?

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