The Importance of Repentance According to the Bible

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Genuine repentance is essential for a follower of Christ, so it’s important we understand exactly what it means.

Some things are essential.

  • Oxygen is needed to breathe.
  • Light is necessary to see.
  • Water is needed to sustain life.
  • Wings are required for a bird to fly.
  • Repentance is essential for followers of Christ.

Repentance is crucial in the life of a believer, yet the subject is often avoided out of concern of offending someone or coming across as judgemental. Omitting the need for repentance is withholding a crucial component of the gospel message; however, and is to the detriment of a complete understanding of an essential step to salvation. 

It’s important to understand the true meaning of repentance and its implication in our lives, and having a firm grasp on its meaning will help us effectively convey the gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our world desperately needs the truth of the gospel, and you and I have been called to proclaim it as the Holy Spirit leads and presents opportunities. 

1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

It’s my hope and prayer that this post will help equip you with an accurate, compelling answer to provide when you’re asked to share the good news for the hope you have!

We need to know what we believe and why we believe it. This post will help you understand the need for repentance which will lead us ultimately to stand in awe of the grace, mercy, and favor that is bestowed on us.

At the core of this message is a beautiful picture of the intensity of God’s love for His people.

What does repent mean?

John MacArthur explains the meaning of repentance from a Biblical perspective:   

“Repentance is not just a change of mind; it is a change of heart. It is a spiritual turning, a total about-face. Repentance in the context of the new birth means turning from sin to the Savior. It is an inward response, not an external activity, but its fruit will be evident in the true believer’s behavior.”

True repentance is a heart issue and a total surrender to God. Free from the torment of sin and the sinful ways that once enslaved, the individual stands redeemed in the sight of God. The mind is also affected in a transformational manner, and change will result in a transformed life that will bear fruit to God’s glory.

Components of sincere repentance:


There is an intellectual component to understanding what repent means regarding salvation. The individual must be confronted with truth from the Word of God regarding his lost and sinful condition, the holiness of the Lord God, and the only way he or she can be reconciled to Him for the forgiveness of sins is through Christ Jesus, the Son of God who died so we can live.

A person has to agree to what the Bible says regarding these truths and confess them to be true..

It’s impossible to be in the right standing before our Heavenly Father apart from Jesus, and there is no pardon for sins without Him.

While it’s true that all human beings are made in His image (Gen. 1:27), it is all true that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom. 3:23), and apart from the sacrifice of Jesus, there is no way to be reconciled to the Lord.

Before a person can repent, they have to understand why and what they’re repenting from. Apart from Jesus all people are dead in sin and deserving of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). 

R.C. Sproul concisely describes our fallen nature in his famous quote, “We’re not sinners because we sin, we sin because we’re sinners.” In other words, it’s not what we do that declares us to be a sinner, it’s who we are that causes us to sin. 

Intellectual understanding is a crucial component of repentance, however, it’s not the only requirement. It is also more than a change of circumstances, beliefs, or behavior reform.

The heart must be engaged.


Quoting once again from John Macarthur,

“Repentance is a critical matter. It is an essential part of the saving work of God. And here’s a basic understanding of what repentance means. It is, by all those who define both the word and it’s theological meaning, a radical turning, a radical conversion, a transformation of nature, a definitive turning from evil, a resolute turning from evil toward God; a commitment to move from unrighteousness to righteousness, from disobedience to obedience. In this conversion is once for all. It is a life-altering event, this repentance. It affects the whole man. First, and basically, it affects the center of personal life; then logically from the center it begins to impact all the conduct and the thought of life, all situations, all actions.”

The resulting change is radical and complete. 


Authentic repentance will transform an individual’s life, and godly sorrow will result in response to their wicked ways before they called on the name of Jesus Christ.

The change that occurs:

  • More than a change of thoughts regarding theology or doctrine. 
  • Deeper than a determination to change your beliefs, or resigning to stop thinking a certain way start thinking differently. 
  • More than just an emotion of sadness or remorse.

A change of will occurs that surrenders to the Holy Spirit to pursue righteousness and forsake the former way of life. There is a new desire to live God’s way. 


God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace are certain upon sincere repentance, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit upon conversion. The reality of 2 Corinthians 5:17 takes place, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” 


When a person has been justified in Christ and conversion has occurred, transformation is total and complete -from dead to alive.

Two types of sorrow 

Worldly grief

This emotion is characterized by a temporary reaction to bad behavior. The mere expression of sorrow resulting from sin does not equate to repentance. This type of grief results in death.

Godly sorrow

This sorrow leads to life and salvation! A contrite heart accompanies an alignment with truth that propels us to yield to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. In that delightful gift of grace, new life is found.

Biblical Examples of Repentance from the Old Testament and the New Testament


In the story of Jonah, the prophet of God was called to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. As Jonah walked through the pagan city that was riddled with immorality he walked through the streets proclaiming the need to repent from their evil way.

The people of Nineveh responded with sincere repentance, and a massive revival broke out in this pagan land. (Jonah 3)

John the Baptist

When John began his ministry, his message was clear and concise, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Mt. 3:2).

Many people of Israel responded to John’s message, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” (Mt. 3:5)

John offered a full disclosure of who he was and his mission. Imagine the scene as droves of people, all who were waiting for the arrival of their Messiah, responded to the fresh, bold message of this odd-looking preacher who wore clothes made of camel’s hair and ate bugs! What a sight John must have been! His words were powerful, and his message pierced the hearts of many who heard him.

I can’t help but tremble in response to what he told the crowds that gathered to hear his preaching and be baptized by him, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Mt. 3:11).

John was referring to his cousin, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who also preached the need for repentance.


After Jesus faced temptation in the desert He began to preach. Matthew 4:17 tells us, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Jesus didn’t call people to have a different perspective, viewpoint, or opinion of who He was, He called them to turn from their sin (repent) and follow Him.

His call remains unchanged.

There’s a distorted gospel message being proclaimed that insinuates that Jesus validated, accepted, and embraced sinners “just as they were”. There is a push in our society to embrace sin in this same thought pattern, and it’s not Biblical.

Jesus loved sinners enough to provide them a way out of their sin by repenting and following Him. Never once did Jesus insinuate that sinners should stay as they are and keep on sinning!

On the contrary, He came to seek and save the lost.

While it’s true that God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son that whosoever should believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life, it is also true, “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt. 7:14

Jesus is the gate. Salvation through Him is the only thing that will get you through. 

Skeptics argue that this perspective is too:

  • Exclusive
  • Narrow-minded
  • Offensive
  • Judgemental of others

To the skeptics I say, “This is not my opinion. These are not my thoughts. This is what the Bible teaches. I believe Scripture to be inerrant, infallible truth and God has called His people to align our thoughts, actions, and standards, to what it says!

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that Jesus loved sinners like you and me enough to NOT LEAVE us in our sin, which yields certain eternal death. He loved us enough to make a way for us to have eternal life with Him.

And there is only One way.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through M” (Jn 14:6).  

The Disciples

According to Mark 6:12, the disciples “Went out and preached that people should repent.”

Throughout Scripture, the necessity to sincerely repent is pivotal and foundational. There are no mincing words, apologies extended, or sugarcoating this requirement to prevent offending people!

Modeled for us in God’s Word are the unapologetic, courageous, bold proclamations to repent!

Some people responded and were transformed having their name written in the Book of Life, their eternal life secure. Others rebelled and had deaf ears and a heart of stone. The response of those who hear the message is not our responsibility or burden. We are responsible for proclaiming the truth, and then we leave the results with the Lord.  

Repentance is a work of God

Preaching repentance is not always comfortable, fun, or preferable. Our job is to hold fast to Biblical truth, not to say what itchy ears want to hear or bend the truth to make it more palatable. 

The gospel message of repentance may not be popular, but it is desperately needed.

Immorality is rampant. What was once regarded as evil is now regarded as good, and good is now evil. Chaos seems to be breaking out in more intensity all over, and deception is rampant. 

People are desperately searching for answers, and there is a longing for hope among the hopeless.

You and I have the answer they need, my friend. 

Do we only repent one time?

Well, that depends on what you’re referring to…

Initial repentance before God where we come to Him upon conversion, (confessing to be a sinner, recognizing there is no salvation other than through Jesus Christ, and surrendering to His Lordship) we are declared saved by grace alone, in faith alone. That is a one-time event when the Holy Spirit indwells an individual and is declared righteous in His sight.

However, there is a time and purpose for repentance for a follower of Jesus in response to daily struggles with sin. 

Though we are no longer a slave to sin, we will continue to struggle with and commit sins.

This post explains the types of prayers for repentance and forgiveness by followers of Jesus as well as those who have not surrendered to His Lordship.

Equipped with the Holy Spirit we will experience conviction in response to sin. In response, we are to confess and repent from them. This process involves the mind, heart, and will as we turn away from that particular sin.

In confessing our sins we acknowledge what they are, and agree with what Scripture says regarding them. Essentially, you’re agreeing with what Scripture says regarding your sin and declaring it sinful. 

Repentance is when a change of mind, heart, and action occurs that results in turning away from sin.  

Is it possible to have confession without repentance?


For example, I know someone who readily admits, “I’m a horrible grunge holder! When someone crosses me, look out! I never forget, and I’ll never treat them the same way again!”

In this example, it’s obvious there is confession without a heart change of repentance. 

Sometimes we’re just not ready or willing to repent, even after acknowledging our sin because for whatever reason, we’re enjoying the sin and we don’t really want to stop engaging in it. There is some type of enjoyment in it that’s feeding our flesh. During these times it can be helpful to pray and actually ask God to give you a distaste for (whatever) sin and the grace to repent from it.

An example of this may be someone who is flirting with a person outside of her marriage relationship. This woman may know she’s engaging in behavior that isn’t honoring God, is not respectful to her husband, and could lead into very dangerous territory.

Despite knowing that what she’s doing is wrong (and also very dangerous), She may enjoy the attention and the way it makes her feel, so she continues on in this behavior.

There’s a saying I’ve heard many times, and I wish I knew who said it to give him or her credit for it, but it says, “Sin will often cost us more than we wanted to pay, and keep us in captivity longer than we ever intended to stay.

Wise words, aren’t they?!

We’re wise to keep close accounts regarding our sins with the Lord confess them, and repent in response as the Holy Spirit leads.

I want to conclude with one final group Jesus sent with a mission to preach repentance. 

You and Me

Once again, I have chills imagining this scene right before Jesus ascended into heaven: “Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what was written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lk 24:45-47).

The message you and I are instructed to share with others includes repentance! 

We read examples today of saints who have gone before us and didn’t mince their words regarding this requirement, and neither should we. 

pin the meaning of true repentance how to repent with picture of bible

Repentance is a work of God

To quote John Macarthur one last time, 

“Is this a work of God? Absolutely it’s a work of God. People will always say to me well, if this is a work of God, what role do I play? I can’t answer that, I can’t split that hair; neither can anybody else. 

I know this: nobody’s ever going to be saved until they repent. This is the issue: getting through the narrow door. And while we believe that salvation is all a work of God and all the work of his mighty grace that overpowers us, it is that mysterious reality that it’s not going to happen apart from sin; and the Bible pleads apart from repentance from sin, and the Bible pleads with the sinners to repent. 

I don’t know how all that works together, I’m not supposed to know. My feeble brain can’t contain all the great realities of divine truth. But I have to call sinners to repentance, and I have to preach a gospel of repentance, or else I’m preaching something other than the biblical gospel semicolon and so do you.

And more importantly, as we learned from Jesus: you better be sure you were among those who have repented and put their trust in Jesus Christ, because many will seek to get into the kingdom, but they’ll never win the battle over their own sin.”

What a splendid quote to end this post. 

My feeble brain has to agree with Pastor Macarthur. We’re not capable of understanding the mind of God with our finite minds.

Where our understanding stops, faith begins. 

Did reading this post cause you to consider how you share the salvation message of Jesus? Did you think of any specific ways this message on biblical repentance can be applied to your daily life? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment below!

Repentance may not be a popular or fun topic to discuss, but it’s necessary according to Scripture. 

Related posts to repentance:

Prayers for Repentance and Forgiveness of SinsPrayers for Repentance and Forgiveness of Sins

Signs and Symptoms of Pride

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