On Repentance

On Repentance

There is a difference between repentance and remorse. I point that out because many people confuse the two and the difference between them is critical. For instance, the difference between repentance and remorse, is the difference between Peter and Judas. They both sinned in betraying Christ. Judas betrayed Him to the Sanhedrin, selling him for a miserable 30 pieces of silver, Peter on the other hand, denied him to everyone in the courtyard of the high priest, with swearing and blasphemous oaths, not just once but three times. But the way they acted after they sinned and were convicted of their sin was very different.

Peter repented of his sinful betrayal. But what is repentance? My favorite definition comes from the Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.87: What is Repentance Unto Life?
Answer: Repentance Unto Life is a Saving Grace, Whereby a Sinner, Out of a True Sense of His Sin, and Apprehension of the Mercy of God in Christ, with Grief and Hatred of His Sin, Turn from It Unto God, with Full Purpose of, and Endeavor After, New Obedience.

The first thing I want you to notice there is that repentance is to quote Boston, “More than a feeling” – I have a true sense of how bad what I did was but I don’t simply feel bad about what I’ve done by sinning. My conviction of sin produces positive action! Instead of feeling simply despair or self-pity and beating my breast and saying, oh what a wretch am I, I see the only solution to my sin, I see the mercy of God offered to me in Christ. So, I turn from my sin, I grieve over it, I hate it, I dump it, and I run to Christ. And from that point on, by God’s help, I try to have nothing more to do with it. Now instead of sin, out of love to Christ I seek to obey His commandments. When that happens, Repentance is occurring. But if no holy change occurs in me, it doesn’t matter how miserable I feel, repentance has not occurred. I have not experienced what the bible describes as Metanoia.

This is the Greek verb μετανοέω (metanoevo), and the corresponding noun μετάνοια (metavnoia)… translated repent and repentance in the New Testament, the original is μετανοέω (metanoevo) or μετάοια (metanoia). Meta (After) Noeo (Thought or perception) Afterthought. This word means to reconsider, to perceive afterwards, and hence to change one’s view, mind, or purpose, or even judgment, implying disapproval and abandonment of past opinions and purposes, and the adoption of others which are different.

Metanoia is a U-TURN

Easton’s Bible Dictionary Notes of Metanoia – Evangelical repentance consists of (1) a true sense of one’s own guilt and sinfulness; (2) an apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ; (3) an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God; and (4) a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments.

Now to contrast metanoia with the remorse of Judas, let’s talk about what happened to him after his betrayal of Jesus

NKJ Matthew 27:1 When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death.
2 And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!”
5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
6 But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.”
7 And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.
8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
9 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced,
10 “and gave them for the potter’s field, as the LORD directed me.”

Judas has heard about the Sanhedrin condemning Jesus to death, and He has realized He did something wicked. Note what He says, not, “I made a mistake”, or “you made me do something wrong” or “my poor upbringing and lack of adequate education, and terrible potty training experiences made me betray Jesus” no, he says, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood”

But what’s really interesting to me is the word translated “remorseful” in vs. 3 is metamelomai which is not the word for repentance. Metanoeo means a change of mind and purpose, but metamelomai means only a change of feeling. Before I felt ok about this action, now I feel bad about it. Judas feels terrible about what has happened. But his response is not one of repentance, instead like the kid who breaks the lamp and tries to fix it with glue himself instead of admitting what he’s done and seeking mom and dad’s forgiveness he’s going to “fix this” himself. First, he tells them his betrayal was wrong, he sinned against INNOCENT blood. I turned over someone to you who never did anything wrong at all. And of all people on earth who would know that, it would be Judas who was with Jesus for three years.

Now when judges in a DEATH penalty trial hear that one of the star witnesses for the prosecution admits he perjured himself and gives testimony that the condemned is innocent, that should be grounds for a retrial. But in this case, they could care less. Judas is just eaten up about the verdict, but they are quite happy with it. If it had taken a thousand false witnesses to bring Jesus in guilty, they would have found them, and their response to a man who is clearly in deep distress shows not only how corrupt they are, but what lousy pastors they are. What is that to us? Why should we care? That’s your business. YOU DEAL WITH IT.

With that Judas, who is disgusted with himself, flings the paltry 30 silver pieces at their feet and leaves. He doesn’t want the money. He realizes it was worthless to him. He sinned for money, and he finds out the hard way that money can’t fix a guilty conscience. What happens next, though is critical. Does he seek out Jesus and attempt to throw himself at his feet saying, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner? ‘NO

He feels bad, but He has no sense of the mercy of God freely available to Him, even though Christ had been preaching it for Three Years before him. Instead, he is filled with the terrible consequence of the combination of pride and remorse – SELF-PITY. And when self-pity is indulged it leads to despair. There is no hope for me, says Judas, and he resolves to end it all. No doubt he felt, “I can’t live with this feeling.” So, I’m going to put an end to it, and he went and hanged himself. But what Judas thought would be the end, was actually the beginning of a conscious, terrible punishment going on forever in Hell.

This was no repentance: “His was a repentance that needed to be repented of;” – Spurgeon

2 Cor. 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Finally, here is John Murray on the importance of repentance:

“Repentance is that which describes the response of turning from sin unto God. This is its specific character just as the specific character of faith is to receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation. Repentance reminds us that if the faith we profess is a faith that allows us to walk in the ways of this present evil world, in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, in the fellowship of the works of darkness, then our faith is but mockery and deception. True faith is suffused with penitence. And just as faith is not only a momentary act but an abiding attitude of trust and confidence directed to the Savior, so repentance results in a constant contrition. The broken spirit and contrite heart are abiding marks of the believing soul. As long as sin remains there must be the consciousness of it… Christ’s blood is the laver of initial cleansing, but it is also the fountain to which the believer must continuously repair. It is at the cross of Christ that repentance has its beginning; it is at that cross of Christ that it must continue to pour out its heart in the tears of confession and contrition.”

John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied