Repentance: The Most Misunderstood Word in the Bible

G. Michael Cocoris Grace Gospel Press, Milwaukee June 20, 2010
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Many people suppose repentance means being sorry for one’s sins. Others believe it is deciding to stop sinning, or even turning from sin. This gives some people the impression that they must “change their life before they could come to Christ and be changed by Him!” (p. 7). Cocoris, a graduate of Dallas Seminary, and pastor of Lindley Church, Tarzana, California, presents a careful study of the fifty-eight occurrences of the words “repent” and “repentance” in the New Testament.

In examining each of these occurrences—used by John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and the writer of Hebrews—Cocoris shows that metanoiva simply means to change one’s mind. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 7:9, “sorrow led you to repentance,” clearly shows that sorrow and repentance differ. “Sorrow may lead to repentance; sorrow may accompany repentance, but sorrow and repentance are two different things” (p. 16).

“When Jesus used the word ‘repent,’ He meant change your mind from trusting your righteousness to trusting God’s mercy or change your mind about who He is” (p. 41). Cocoris also points out that when Peter said in Acts 2:38, “Repent . . . for the remission of sins,” he was not saying repentance is a condition for salvation. Instead Peter was calling on the Jews to repent because [eij"] of the remission of sins” (pp. 44–45).

How are faith and repentance related? While they “can be distinguished, they are inseparable” (p. 61). In some verses the two are synonymous (p. 79). The phrase “repentance from dead works” in Hebrews 6:1 does not refer to feeling sorrow for one’s works nor does it mean to stop doing a certain kind of works. Instead the readers are to have “a change of mind about the rituals of the Mosaic Law” (p. 64).

Cocoris includes three appendixes: a word study on repentance, the Hebrew word for sorrow, and the Hebrew word for turn. This brief book gives helpful insight into an often-misunderstood doctrine. “Repentance is a change of mind—period. A change of mind should result in a change of behavior, but the word repent looks at the change of belief, not the change in behavior. Repentance is the root; change in behavior is the fruit” (p. 20).

—Roy B. Zuck

October 1, 2011
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Oct-Dec 2011 vol. 168 no. 4 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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