Repentance?

When was the last time you granted someone repentance? Not forgiveness, but repentance? If you’re like me, the answer is ‘never – I can grant forgiveness, but I can’t grant repentance’.

Oddly enough, the Bible consistently uses phrases like “God granting repentance” when talking about people who repent and trust Christ for their salvation. In fact, all the verses in the New Testament that deal with “repent” phrase the word in one of three ways:

  • A message to the unsaved to repent, or a rebuke for not repenting
  • A statement about the saved that they have been granted repentance from God or that they show works consistent with repentance
  • A hypothetical about someone repenting

As oddly as those phrases sound, there’s one more thought to consider: nowhere in the New Testament is anyone ever said to have repented (past tense) for their salvation. When describing people who have been saved, only two phrases are used: they received or were granted repentance or that they showed works according to repentance. To emphasize the odd nature of these statements all through the New Testament, consider this: when was the last time you granted someone repentance? We might grant forgiveness if someone offends us, but we never grant repentance. So why would God consistently use this language? Carefully consider the possibility that it is impossible for a person to repent for sins and that God must grant him repentance, just as God must grant him faith to believe in Him in the first place?

Major caveat – The only people that are said to have repented are the people of Nineveh when Jonah preached of their coming destruction. For what it’s worth, they are in the Old Testament, they are not Jews, and as a country, their repentance didn’t last: they abandoned God, and  less than 120 years later, brutally attacked the northern kingdom of Israel. This may or may not mean their repentance was genuine, but the fact still remains that never is anyone in the New Testament said to have repented for salvation, and there is plenty of opportunity to make such comments (eg, Cornelius in ).

The following is the search results in the New Testament for every variation of the word “repent”. I used the ESV, but the NIV and KJV gives pretty much the same results. The KJV actually gives more verses because it uses the word “repent” when it means “change mind”. For example, Judas “repented” for selling Jesus (), but we know his heart was still apart from God; In the parable of the two sons told to work in the vineyard (), the son who said he would not work “repented” and went to work. The KJV has many more instances of this, but none are intended to pertain to eternal salvation, but rather, a temporary or superficial change of mind.

Verse List

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” ESV

Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. ESV

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. ESV

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” ESV

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. ESV

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. ESV

The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. ESV

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. ESV

and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” ESV

So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. ESV

And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. ESV

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. ESV

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” ESV

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. ESV

The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. ESV

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. ESV

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” ESV

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. ESV

Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ESV

And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ ESV

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, ESV

and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” ESV

and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. ESV

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ESV

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, ESV

God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. ESV

Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. ESV

When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” ESV

Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. ESV

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, ESV

And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” ESV

testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. ESV

but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. ESV

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? ESV

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. ESV

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. ESV

I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. ESV

correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, ESV

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, ESV

and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. ESV

For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. ESV

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ESV

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. ESV

Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. ESV

I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. ESV

Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, ESV

Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. ESV

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. ESV

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, ESV

nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. ESV

They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. ESV

and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. ESV.


11:1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (ESV)


Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, (ESV)


29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. (ESV)


“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (ESV)


Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (ESV)


11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (ESV)


17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (ESV)


20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. (ESV)


21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (ESV)


41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (ESV)


John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (ESV)


15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV)


12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. (ESV)


And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (ESV)


Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. (ESV)


32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (ESV)


13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. (ESV)


32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (ESV)


No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (ESV)


No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (ESV)


Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (ESV)


10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (ESV)


30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ (ESV)


Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, (ESV)


and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (ESV)


47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (ESV)


38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (ESV)


19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, (ESV)


31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. (ESV)


22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. (ESV)


18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (ESV)


24 Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. (ESV)


30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, (ESV)


And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” (ESV)


21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)


20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. (ESV)


Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (ESV)


As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. (ESV)


10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (ESV)


21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. (ESV)


25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (ESV)


6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, (ESV)


and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (ESV)


17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (ESV)


The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)


Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (ESV)


16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. (ESV)


21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. (ESV)


22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, (ESV)


Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. (ESV)


19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (ESV)


20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, (ESV)


21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (ESV)


They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. (ESV)


11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. (ESV)

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