What Is Biblical Repentance For Salvation?

by David J. Stewart | April 2016 | Updated June 2016

Galatians 3:2, “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

       In Dr. Jack Hyle's excellent book, Enemies of Soulwinning in his chapter titled, Misunderstood Repentance, he correctly states:

So, from what must a person repent in order to be saved? He must repent of that which makes him lost. Since "believing not" makes him lost, "believing" makes him saved. In repentance there is a turning from the thing that keeps him from being saved to the thing that saves him. So, yes, there is a repentance from unbelief in order to believe. It is simply a change of direction. It means a turning around. You are going away from believing, and you decide to turn around and believe. You change your direction; you change your mind. With your will you believe and rely upon Christ to save you. In order to believe, you have to repent of unbelief. That which makes a man lost must be corrected.

SOURCE: Dr. Jack Hyles, a quote from chapter 4, titled “Misunderstood Repentance—An Enemy Of Soul Winning,” from the classic book titled, ENEMIES OF SOUL WINNING!

Pastor Danny Castle correctly says:

“You are not saved by repenting, you are saved by your faith in Jesus Christ.”

SOURCE: Pastor Danny Castle, a quote from the 2016 sermon titled, “Acting Responsibly.”

I take seriously every word that I type onto the internet, as I realize every word must be accounted for in eternity (Matthew 12:36). I regularly think about articles which I have written, and edit or remove them if the Lord convicts me about anything. I want to be as accurate and honoring in my work for the Lord as possible. All heresy begins by sincere preachers who are misled by other preachers, or who misinterpret the Word of God. By God's grace my intent is to help provide helpful resources for other Christians. That's why I make a fuss over little things. If a preacher is wrong on repentance, he'll be wrong to some degree on everything else too.

“All things truly wicked start from innocence.” ―Ernest Hemingway, Author

There is ONLY one meaning of “repentance” for salvation, which is “a change of mind” (Greek: metanoia). This is the noun form of the word. The verbal form is metanoeo, which means “to think differently”! Mark 1:15b, “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.” Exegeted, Mark 1:15 literally says, “Think differently and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and bodily resurrected the third day.”

In contrast, the dictionary defines the word “reform” as, “self-improvement in behavior or morals by abandoning some vice.” Repentance in the Bible doesn't mean reform. Repentance is just as brother Hyles said—turning toward the Gospel (belief) from whatever was keeping you lost (unbelief)! We are saved by believing the Gospel (Good News) of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified, buried and risen. Repentance and belief are so inseparably related that the Bible often simply tells us to “believe.” It is impossible for a person to turn to the Gospel by faith, without at the same time turning away from that which had hindered them previously from coming to Jesus Christ (John 3:20). Thank God for the beauty of His simple plan of salvation!

My Own Salvation Testimony

The best illustration that I can give you of repentance is from my own personal salvation testimony. As a lad, I was a bit troublesome. I remember before I got saved, sassing my mother and having no awareness of God in my life. I attended several different Sunday Schools at various churches as a youth with my mother. I was enrolled in multiple religious schools as a child. Yet, I was not saved. I had heard lots of stories from the Bible, but I had never comprehended the Gospel (and I don't ever remember hearing it taught). If my Christian parents shared the Gospel with me, I don't remember it. That all changed when I was 13-years-old. For the first time in my life I was enrolled in an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church and school on Chicago's Northside (our church later moved to the Southside). I thank God for my home church and friends of youth. I miss them all dearly.

One particular Sunday morning, I heard the church pastor preach something like, “If you don't have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, convicting you about sin, you are not saved!” I knew I wasn't saved, because I didn't have the Holy Spirit or His conviction. So at invitation time, from my pew, I received the Gospel and was saved. I don't remember the date or even year. But I do remember the moment. I began reading my King James Bible, having a new desire to learn God's Word. I didn't decide to change my ways or change my direction; but I did hear that still small convicting voice (not audible) of the Holy Spirit in my soul, saying, “I don't want you to talk that way (sassing) your mother anymore.” I remember my mother saying to me, “You've changed” (in a positive way). You see, I didn't commit to changing my ways when I got saved; but rather, it was the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit that began working on my life. That's how salvation works! All these corrupt preachers today don't understand what it means to “repent,” nor do they understand the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Despite the Bible's plain definition of repentance as “a change of mind,” many preachers today cannot grasp how this relates to a Christlike testimony that every believer ought to exemplify. They are confused between salvation verses discipleship.

Here is one of the best quotes that I've found on repentance, by Dr. Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951):

“Which comes first, repentance or faith? In Scripture we read, 'Repent ye, and believe the gospel.' Yet we find true believers exhorted to 'repent, and do the first works.' So intimately are the two related that you cannot have one without the other. The man who believes God repents; the repentant soul puts his trust in the Lord when the Gospel is revealed to him. Theologians may wrangle over this, but the fact is, no man repents until the Holy Spirit produces repentance in his soul through the truth. No man believes the Gospel and rests in it for his own salvation until he has judged himself as a needy sinner before God. And this is repentance.” (Except Ye Repent, p. 16)

We learn from Matthew 7:21-23 and Luke 13:23-34 that many religious people (who do “MANY WONDERFUL WORKS”) are not saved and consequently, they are going straight to Hell when they die! There are far more religious people who DO GOOD, THAN BAD, who are unsaved and going to Hell. The point being, neither good works nor bad works are conclusive evidence that a person is either saved or unsaved. The evidence of the new birth is the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit (and that is something that only God can see). If it weren't for 2nd Peter 2:6-7, we'd never know that Lot was saved, whose own family laughed in his face when he tried to warn them of the coming destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:14). Proverbs 25:19, “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.”

The truth is that getting saved does not change a person's personal character one iota. Not one bit! The only difference is that the Holy Spirit has come to live inside the body of every believer (1st Corinthians 3:16-17; 1st John 3:34; Romans 8:9). You don't have to “decide to change” nor have a “change of direction” to be saved. Respectfully, I hear errant preachers attempting to use the Epistle of 1st John to teach that a person is not saved if they're still living a deathstyle of sin. 1st John 3:8, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” This means that a person committing wickedness is of the Devil, but the Bible doesn't say they are not saved. Even the apostle Peter was called “Satan” by the Lord, for thinking contrary to the Scriptures (Matthew 16:23).

Dr. Jack Hyles personally witnessed to Elvis Presley in Texas, and was fully convinced of his salvation; yet Elvis was clearly of the Devil, living a shameful life of adultery, covetousness, worldly music, selfishness and sinful pride. You see, Elvis' salvation was based upon God's faithfulness, and not Elvis' faithfulness. Eternal life is a gift (Romans 6:23). The Epistle of 1st John was written to help professed believers “KNOW that ye have eternal life” (1st John 5:13), but the emphasis is upon the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit (1st John 3:24), and not upon living an upright life. If a person is living in habitual sin, then they need to, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you” (2nd Corinthians 13:5). Again, the focus is upon whether or not you have the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ in you (Romans 8:9). Receiving the gift of eternal life does not require a change of direction, nor a decision to change; but rather, an admitted sinner need only receive the Gospel to be saved (Galatians 3:2).

'Pacific Garden Mission' Teaches a False Repentance

Pacific Garden Mission's (PGM) “UNSHACKLED” radio has it wrong. I still promote the show because it contains much good, and not all the shows teach Lordship Salvation. In a recent UNSHACKLED (episode #3390, from January 3, 2016, the story of John Stewardt), they teach: “Repent and ask God to change you ... How do you get changed? ... I made my decision to live for Christ.” This is the typical type of religious nonsense that is not the Gospel taught in the holy Scriptures (1st Corinthians 15:1-4). Satan's greatest weapon is to con people into living the Christian life without ever being born again! Dr. Hank Lindstrom correctly terms Lordship Salvation as “frontloading the Gospel” (i.e., everything is required up front). This is not the Gospel.

PGM needs to stop corrupting the Gospel. At the end of episode #3390, PGM leads the listener to pray a prayer, mentioning Christ's death on the cross and His resurrection, which is correct, but then they add the unbiblical requirement to ask Christ to “Come into my life and change me.” That last part is not necessary for salvation, because if a person genuinely gets born-again, the indwelling Holy Spirit will convict them concerning any changes which God desires. You don't have to invite Christ into your life to be saved. Nor do you have to ask God to change you, nor be willing to change, to be saved. To become God's child you simply acknowledge that you are a guilty sinner in God's eyes and you receive (believe) the Gospel as payment for your sins.

2nd Timothy 2:25, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Carefully notice that “repentance” compels a man to acknowledge the truth. What truth? The truth of the Gospel, of course. The truth that he is a sinner who needs a Savior. Romans 3:19, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” The preaching of the law of God (i.e., preaching against sin) leads men to repent of their unbelief and come to Christ, believing the Gospel, for salvation (Galatians 3:24-26). Repentance is “REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD” (Acts 20:31). The unsaved man refuses to believe the truth of the Gospel. When he repents, that is, changes his mind, he believes the Gospel.

Certainly, to repent toward God involves turning from something. You cannot face north without turning your back to the south. For some people it means turning to God from intellectualism that had blinded them from the truth of the Gospel. For others it means turning to God from their sinful ways that had hindered them from coming to the light to be saved. For some it may be turning from wealth, or bitterness against God, or false religion, that had hindered them from seeing the glorious light of the Gospel (2nd Corinthians 4:4). But the meaning of repentance is to change one's mind, and not the act of forsaking anything. Repentance is thinking differently toward God from whatever it was that hindered you from being saved in the first place. The emphasis is upon believing the Gospel, not upon forsaking anything. Please read, The Great Meaning Of Metanoia.

You don't have to be willing to turn from sin (repent) as Cartoon Evangelist Jack Chick errantly teaches. To be saved, you simply need to “change your mind” toward God, believing the Gospel. Ray Comfort has it wrong! Also, Chip Ingram has it wrong! Please read, 3,000 Souls Saved In One Day! In sharp contrast to the Scriptures, PGM regularly teaches that God will not save sinners unless they commit to reform from their sinful ways. They misunderstand this to be repentance. Any plan of salvation which requires the least amount of effort to cease from sinful behavior is “another Gospel” (2nd Corinthians 11:3-4; Galatians 1:6-9).

A person changes their mind (i.e., “repentance toward God”) and puts their faith in Jesus Christ to be saved (Acts 20:31). Christians change their mind thousands-upon-thousands of times during their life. We repent (change our mind) all the time about different things. Even God repented in the Old Testament. That is, God changed His mind. Exodus 32:14, “And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” The Lord didn't repented of His sins. When Peter thought wrongly, Jesus called him “Satan.” Peter needed to repent (think differently). When Demas forsook Paul, having loved this present world (he needed to repent, i.e., think differently). Simon, the former sorcerer, offered to purchase God's power, and Peter rebuked him. Simon needed to repent (think differently). I couldn't find any different word for “repent” in the Bible for Christians, verses the unsaved person. Repentance for the person getting saved, or the mature Christian, still always means “a change of mind.”

The Bible is filled with carnal believers, like the messed up Church at Corinth (1st Corinthians 3:1). Demas, who once worked side-by-side in the ministry with the apostle Paul (Philemon 1:24), forsook Paul and fled into the world because he loved the world. 2nd Timothy 4:10, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.).” The large city of Thessalonica was the Sodom of their time. Demas was saved, but not serving Christ!

Let's keep the meaning of repentance to what the Bible says, “a change of mind.” It's not a change of mind that leads to a change of mind!!! There are no expectations, obligations nor requirements necessary to seal one's salvation once a person receives the Gospel by faith. Discipleship has nothing to do with salvation. Salvation doesn't always lead to discipleship!!! So, Biblically, a person repents from unbelief to believe the Gospel to be saved, which brings the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Who convicts believers of the sins in their life. How a believer responds to that conviction is a matter of discipleship, not salvation.

Dr. Bob Gray is Correct On Repentance

I love Dr. Bob Gray Sr.! You gotta love a guy who's responsible for hundreds of thousands of souls coming to Christ. As longtime pastor of the Longview Temple Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, millions of people's lives were changed through their bus ministry.

Dr. Bob Gray Sr. has repentance correct. At first I was concerned about his mention of repentance as being “a deciding to change,” but he doesn't mean a change of lifestyle (or “deathstyle” as he rightly calls it). I would have chosen my words differently, but I believe Dr. Gray simply means that repentance is deciding to believe the Gospel rather than continue in unbelief. This is clear from the following quote by Dr. Gray taken from the article below: “You undo to be saved what you did to be lost. You are lost because you do not come to Christ and you are saved because you do come to Christ for payment of the penalty of sin. What you are repenting of is not coming to Christ and not believing on the Son of God.” Thus, the person who believes has also repented. Thank God for Pastor Gray and the tremendous impact the Lord has made through his soul-winning ministry over the decades...


Acts 2:38, “The Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

The word “repent" can be defined as changing ones mind, reasoning, or opinion. In essence the word “repentance” means, “to change ones mind.” It could be defined as “a deciding to change” or “a deciding to go another direction,” but basically it means to change one’s mind or direction. II Timothy 2:25, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;”

All we have to do is find out what makes a person lost spiritually. Then if we can change what makes that person lost then he or she can be saved from an eternal hell. Thus, one must repent from whatever it is that makes that one lost without salvation. John 3:18, “But he that believeth not is condemned already.” Why is a person condemned? Simple, because “he believeth not.”

If he is lost because he believes not then what must he do in order to be saved from going to hell? He must repent! Repent from what? Repent from believing not! If it is believing not that makes you lost then it is changing to believing that makes you saved.

John 3:18, look at the last part of that verse,
“because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God.” What is it that makes a person lost and on their way to hell? Not believing in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Which means if you do not believe on Jesus to pay for your sins and to take you to Heaven you are lost! John 3:18, “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed.” Thus, a man is lost because he does not believe on the Son of God for payment of his sins.

Man then must repent of that which makes him lost in order to be saved from a devil’s hell. John 3:36,
“He that believeth not the son shall not see life.” What is it you do not do to see life? Believe not the Son of God. The verse goes on to say, “But the wrath of God abideth on you.” What do you have to do in order to have the wrath of God abiding on you? Believe not the Son of God.

Believing not is what makes one lost and on their way to hell. You must repent or change your mind about something you are doing to trust in to keep out of hell to what God says is THE way to heaven, which is to believe on the Son of God for payment of your sin penalty of hell.

You believe in your mind and your will. So, you must change your mind. You must change from “I will not receive Christ” to “I will receive Christ.” Consequently you must undo to be saved what you do that makes you lost. What do you have to do to go to hell? Believe not on the Son of God! What do you have to do to go to heaven? Believe on the Son of God for payment of the price of your sin!

John 5:40, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” What kept these people from having life? Not coming to Jesus! If you do not come to Jesus for payment of your sins you will die and go to hell! What you have to do in order to go to heaven is to change your mind and come to Jesus for payment of sin.

You undo to be saved what you did to be lost. You are lost because you do not come to Christ and you are saved because you do come to Christ for payment of the penalty of sin. What you are repenting of is not coming to Christ and not believing on the Son of God.


Repent means to change one’s mind. If a person decides to go to town and then decided not to go to town he has repented. If a person decides to be married and then decides not to be married he has repented.

Matthew 27:3,
“Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.” Was Judas saved? No! Judas was not repenting of his sin! Judas realized he had made a bad deal. He changed his mind about what he should have done, but he never repented of being a sinner. You can repent of something other than sin.

By the way, Judas went to hell and yet repented. Everybody who lives in sin sooner or later repents of it. There is a difference between that and repenting of not believing on the Son of God. You can repent of a sin or sins without repenting of the sin of unbelief. It is the sin of unbelief that sends one to hell. Thus, it is the repenting of the sin of not believing that sends one to hell. Judas repented but was not saved.

Genesis 6:5-6,
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Does that mean that God sinned? No! You can repent of something other than sin.

God who cannot sin, lie, or do wrong repented in Genesis 6:6. God repents, but does not commit sin. Repentance does not always have to do with sin, but it does always have to do with the changing of one’s mind.

I Samuel 15:35,
“And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” God chose Saul to be the king of Israel, but he changed His mind! God repented that he had made Saul king. You can repent of something other than sin.

Exodus 32:14,
“And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” God and Moses are having a disagreement and the Lord repented. Hold it, God is not speaking of sin here. He is talking about punishment here! God repented! Did God get saved here? No! God simply changed his mind here!

The same is true in Jonah 3:9-10 and Amos 7:3, 6! Repentance does not always have to do with sin. It is not always sin you are repenting of and it is not always salvation as the issue in repentance! The wife says, “I think we’ll have roast beef Sunday. No, no I think we’ll have fried chicken.” Hold it, she repented, but it was not sin she repented of.


You do not clean up and then get saved! You get saved and then clean up! Not believing is what condemns a person to hell. Believing is what un-condemns a person! Revelation 2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:19 repentance from sins is directed toward God’s children in Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, etc.

Not one person in the Bible was saved by repenting of his or her sins! Acts 16:30-31,
“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” They did not say repent! They did say, “Believe.” This is the only verse in the Bible that goes directly to the issue of being saved and it does not say, “Repent.”

Jesus does not forgive sin! Jesus paid for the price of sin with his death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus does not forgive sin for he paid for sin himself. He forgives sinners by paying for their sins. END

SOURCE: Solve Church Problems - Repentance From Unbelief

Satan is the author of confusion (Acts 19:32). I think Dr. Bob Gray Sr. hit-the-nail-on-the-head in the preceding article, and I agree with 100% of his article.

Beware of Greek Study Aids

You have to be careful looking at the Greek study aids and concordances, as many of them have been corrupted. The Roman Catholic Church wrongly defines repentance as:

Catholic Dictionary


Voluntary sorrow because it offends God, for having done something wrong, together with the resolve to amend one's conduct by taking the necessary means to avoid the occasions of sin. To repent is to be sorry for sin with self-condemnation. (Etym. Latin repoenitere, to be very sorry, regret intensely.)

SOURCE: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=36048

Judas is a perfect example of why the Roman Catholic definition of “repentance” is unbiblical. The Bible says that Judas “repented” (Greek: metamellomaiin, meaning, “to regret”) in Matthew 27:3. Yet, Jesus said Judas had a devil (John 6:70). Judas didn't repent toward God in faith to be saved; but rather, he felt regret that he got caught for betraying the Lord. Judas brought the 30 pieces of silver back to the Pharisees, but they refused it. Judas cast down the coins on the floor and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). Turning from the act of sin is not salvation.

I have a copy of Dr. William Vine's “Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.” The book is co-authored by Dr. Merrill F. Unger and Dr. William White Jr. On page 525 under the topic “Repent, Repentance,” it says:

1. metanoeo... “to perceive afterwards” (meta “, after,” implying change, noeo, “to perceive”; nous, “the mind, the seat of moral reflection”), ... always in the NT, involving a change for the better, an amendment, and always... of “repentance” from sin.

Dr. Vine and his co-writers completely fail to expound the magnificent meaning of the verb metanoeo, which means “to think differently” (verb). The noun form of the word is metanoia and means, “a change of mind.” Since we don't know what the change of mind is toward, we need supplemental information. Acts 20:21 speaks of “REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD.” Thus, repentance is unto a holy God, from whatever hinders a person from coming to the light of the Gospel to be saved (2nd Corinthians 4:4).

I dislike Dr. Vine's teaching that repentance means “an amendment” (which means to improve or better in quality). This is the English meaning of the word “repent,” and not the Biblical Greek meaning of the term. Amending one's ways is not part of Biblical repentance for salvation. We are saved by believing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, not by repenting. But no man has ever believed who didn't repent. It's like flipping a coin—You cannot turn one side without also turning the other side. This is why the apostle John mentions the words “believe” and “believed” 85 times, but never mentions the word “repent” even once in the Gospel of John. The man who believes has also repented (i.e., changed his mind toward God from whatever it was that had hindered him from coming to Christ previously). For some men like Dr. Stephen Hawking, intellectualism and bitterness hinder them from getting saved. For others, like the Hollywood crowd, their love for sin and wealth hinder them from coming to Jesus Christ. For billions of people, false religion blinds them from the truth of the Gospel, hindering them from being saved. Simply receive Christ's sacrifice on the cross as full payment for your sins, believing that He raised up from the dead three days later, and you are forever saved.

Dr. Jack Hyles 100% correctly and Biblically states concerning repentance...

“Repentance is not some little silly, 'I'm sorry.' Repentance is not simply a fear of God. Repentance is not a monk fasting and afflicting his body in a monastery. Repentance is not remorse because of sin's consequences. Repentance is not penance performed before the pope as you kiss his toe... Repentance is not being sorry for what I've done wrong. It is not confessing one's sins to a priest. It is not just conviction of sin. It is not the signing of a pledge of abstinence. Repentance is that thing when you come before God and see yourself as you are, and see Him as he is, and say with Isaiah 'Woe is me, for I am unclean!'” —Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001), a quote from the timeless MP3 sermon, THE GOODNESS OF GOD LEADETH TO REPENTANCE!

Pastor Bob Gray Sr. at the Longview Baptist Temple church in Texas correctly preaches . . .

“Repentance means to change your mind—change your mind—change your mind about how you want to get to Heaven to what God says you've got to do to get to Heaven. If you've got to repent of all your sins, you're still headed for Hell tonight.” —Pastor Bob Gray Sr., a quote from the awesome MP3 sermon, Why You Should Be A Part Of A Growing Church

In his excellent book, I NEVER KNEW YOU, Michael Patrick Bowen states . . .

You can live for Christ, you can love Christ, you can serve Him with all your might, time, talent and wealth. You can pray to Him, read your Bible, get water-baptized, join a church, witness to people, and do every wonderful work contained within the realm of Christianity, but if you fail to trust Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, He will “dump” you.

SOURCE: I NEVER KNEW YOU (.pdf), by Michael P. Bowen; by Barbour Books, © 2009; page 77.

Repentance And Salvation (doctrinally sound Bible preaching by Pastor Steven L. Anderson)

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