Romans 5:12 says that all have sinned. Every human who has ever lived, with the exception of Jesus Christ, has broken God’s law. Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).
This means that we need God to forgive us of our sins. The Word came to Earth as the human Jesus and lived a perfect life. He was beaten with stripes to pay for our physical sins (1 Peter 2:24). He was then crucified, and His shed blood paid for our spiritual sins (Ephesians 1:7).
But what is our part in repentance? What do we need to do? For one thing, we must acknowledge our sins and pray for forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
But notice what else we must do. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28).
Paul is illustrating the need for us to change our direction. If a person is a thief—which breaks the Eighth Commandment—he must stop stealing. Further, he must begin to work and earn enough to take care of his own needs. Then he goes further to even be able to give to others.
What a beautiful transformation! A person who used to steal now works and gives to others. Ephesians 4 illustrates the total change of direction needed for true repentance.
We must demonstrate that we no longer wish to continue in the way of life that leads to eternal death. We do so by changing our way of living. That change of direction is “repentance.”
Jude 4 gives a warning against false repentance. Jude writes of “… ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness ….”
Jude condemned lawless ministers who had become “lascivious,” meaning they lacked restraint. Without restraint, there can be no freedom from sin! It leads to enslavement to Satan’s way of life.
A person can say he or she is sorry, but then never really change direction. If a thief prays for forgiveness, but never stops stealing, he is not really repenting. He has not changed his direction as Ephesians 4 points out.
Lesson 9 of our Bible correspondence course notes: “To repent of sin, then, actually means to change. It is a total change of mind and heart and direction of life—from the way of self-indulgence and ‘get’ to the way of ‘give.’ We turn from selfishness to selflessness. To repent is to change our whole past attitude and life apart from God, to a new God-centered way of life.”
Paul points out in Galatians 2:16 that no man is justified by works. Only the sacrifice of Christ can pay for one’s sins. And the only way that sacrifice can be applied to blot out one’s sins is by accepting it, forsaking one’s past life of disobedience, and beginning to obey God. That is the essence of true repentance!
If you would like to understand more about repentance, request our free booklet Repentance Toward God.