The Repentance Factor

The Repentance Factor

The Established Meanings of "Repentance"
II. "Turn".

Another aspect in repentance is an element of turning. This is the meaning that generates the ire of the Free Grace proponents the most. They don't like any turning in repentance because they insist it causes people to think they must "turn from their sins" (or some specific sin) or reform their life to be saved, but this is a contrived and short-sighted position. Many will insist all turning is a "work" (quoting Jonah 3:10 ad nausaum, see below) and has no place in the repentance/salvation equation. This is just another example of their confusion. Of course, "works of righteousness" have no part in the blood-bought salvation Christ provides to believers today, but that does not mean turning to God must be a work. In fact, the Bible makes a clear case for the alternative.

(See the note in the Introduction where we explain we fully believe in "free grace" but are not considered "Free Gracers")

Many Free Gracers further insist "turning from ones sins" is not possible since a person can still sin after he is saved and he doesn't even know what all his sins are to turn from. This, however, only reveals their misunderstanding. The turning in evangelical repentance does not speak of turning from one's sins individually (unless it is turning from not turning earlier), it speaks of changing direction away from one's present course of self and rebellion toward God and His redemption. It is a change of attitude that causes one to "turn from these vanities unto the living God" Act 14:15). It is the duty of any evangelist to make this clear.

Solomon's Prayer   

Around 3000 years ago Solomon dedicated the newly made temple to the Lord. The rather lengthy prayer he delivered that day is recorded twice in the Bible. Once in 1 Kings 8 and the other in 2 Chronicles 6. These two records of the single event are a gold mine for understanding how the King James Bible uses and self defines terms. The Hebrew text in the comparative passages is nearly identical, but the English translations have very instructive variations. Here is an example dealing with repentance,

Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; (1Ki 8:47)

Yet if they bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn and pray unto thee in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly; (2Ch 6:37)

Notice what we learn from the comparisons:

In each case the Hebrew word translated is the same. The Bible, by defining its own terms, assures us that "repent" can often mean "turn."

So much for the Free Grace subjective claims. The Bible shuts them down with two very instructive verses.

There are many other places in the Scriptures where "repent" is to be understood as "turn." Ezekiel has some (Eze 14:6, 18:30, 33:11), as well as other books (Isa 45:22 ; 55:7 ; Joel 2:12-13). In an act of desperation some will naively claim that repent can't mean turn in places like Eze 14:6 where it says, "Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols..." because that would in their mind be redundant, but they are robbing themselves of important truths. First, using two or more words or meanings in succession is not redundant, it expresses emphasis. Consider "verily, verily;" "holy, holy;" etc. Second, the English term "repent" adds the element of regret. It is as if Ezekiel is saying "Regretfully turn;  turn yourselves..." expressing emphasis and regret! 

For a New testament example of repent understood as turn see Acts 26:20,

...that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

This passage is in the same form as those in the OT mentioned above, i.e. "repent and turn." All of these usages are in essence "hendiadys," that is, the same concept expressed in two different ways. "Repent" to God and "turn" to God are basically the same thought.

You author has been told by some Free Grace proponents that "repent and turn" here is not a hendiady and repent means, you guessed it, "change your mind," but in the same breath they will contend "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" in Acts 20:21 IS a hendiady! They want repentance and faith to be the same but not repent and turn. As any objective reader can see Acts 20:21 expresses two distinct concepts. (They are even separated by a comma!) while Acts 26:20 is much more tightly associated, plus it has the testimony of 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chron. 6 to back it up.  

Turning: A Work of the Heart

As we mentioned the main contention the Free Grace proponents have with "turn" is they think it demands an outward work and nullifies grace, but they are misguided. A simple search of the Bible (try will reveal the facts, but the key "goto" verse for the Free Grace people to supposedly prove turning is a work is Jonah 3:10 where it is said,

And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them;

Then they will glibly say "See, turning is a work...turning is a work...the Bible says so...turning is a work..." ad infinitum. This is a perfect case of "cherry-picking" or selective "proof-texting" (a tactic often used to promote heresies) and furthermore, they are not even understanding the verse correctly.

First, let's look at some ways the Scriptures use the term "turn*" and see if it is treated as a work.

 If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. (Deu 30:10)

But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; (Deu 30:17) 

 And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, (1Ki 11:9)

To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, (Act 7:39)

What is turning in these verses (and several more, Deu 11:16, 17:17, 29:18; 1Ki 11:2, 12:27; Psa 44:18, 105:25; Mal 4:6, etc.), their lives, behavior, or works? No, it is the HEART! That is where all turning really occurs. A person "is" as he "thinketh in his heart" (Pro 23:7) and the thinking always comes first. Every action has a cause and any outward manifestation of a change is a fruit of this turning in the heart.

The key emphasis in all these verses is the direction a person is spiritually facing. Is he facing towards God or not. The Scriptures are not necessarily concerned as to why the heart is turned away from God but in the fact that it is turned away. They want everyone to face in one direction, towards God, and if anyone is not, TURN until you are!

The Works Factor

Look at Acts 26:20 again to see how the heart turning in repentance is associated with works yet not a work in itself,

...that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Understanding this as a turning of the heart fits perfectly. People are to remorsefully turn or change their heart towards God. Then, as a result, do works (fruits) that are meet or fitting to show their heart has turned or repented.

Now look at Jonah 3:10 again, carefully considering the word tense.

And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way;

The Ninevehites works were showing they had in the past "turned." They were not showing a present turning but reflecting a turning of the heart that already occurred in Jonah 3:5 when they "believed God's" message of doom. With their works the Lord saw the fruit of their turned hearts and "repented" of what He had planned for them. This verse does not prove turning is a work at all, but it does show the Free Gracer's shallow exegesis.

We have heretofore established two definitions of repent, now to the third.

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