Confessing and Repenting

Is confessing and saying I’m sorry the same as repenting?

I’ve heard many say that if you confess your sins and believe in Jesus you are forgiven. This can also be applied to people, if someone say’s I’m sorry, is that enough? So let’s look at this truth and see what the Bible has to say.

Are you aware that God has repented? There are several places in the Old Testament where God says he will repent.

Deuteronomy 32:36 (NIV) – For the Lord will revoke sentence for His people and relent for His servants’ sake when He sees that their power is gone and none remains, whether bond or free.

The word translated as revoke is the Hebrew word nâcham which to be “eased” or “comforted.” Scofield notes that “Notwithstanding the literal meaning of nacham, it is evident, from a study of all the passages, that the sacred writers use it in the sense of metanoia in the New Testament — a change of mind.” It is also defined as, “to be sorry, console oneself, repent, regret, comfort, be comforted.” It is translated in the old testament as: comfort, comforter, ease, and repent.

Jeremiah 18:8 (NIV) “and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.”

Interesting enough, the word translated repent here is the Hebrew word shûb and means to turn back. The word translated as relent is the same as in Deuteronomy 32:36.

If we believe that repenting is saying I’m sorry or confessing, would that make sense here? God would have been telling them, if that nation I warned “says I’m sorry for or confesses” it’s evil then I will “say I’m sorry.” I don’t think that would work. You can see right here that God repented with an action, not words, he says that he will repent and not inflict on it the disaster he had planned.

But let’s see what else we can turn up from the Bible.

John the Baptist preached repentance. Matthew 3:1-2: Now in those days John the Baptist [or, the Immerser, and throughout book] arrives, proclaiming in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Be repenting, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near!”

The word translated as repenting here is the Greek word metanoeō which means: think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction).

After John was put in jail, Jesus began preaching repentance, Mat 4:17 From that time Jesus began to be proclaiming and to be saying, “Be repenting, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near!”

The disciples taught repentance: Mar 6:12 Then having gone out, they began preaching that [people] should repent.

Luk 13:1 Now some [people] were showing up at that very time reporting to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices.

Luk 13:2 And answering, Jesus said to them, “Do you* think that these Galileans were sinners more than all the [other] Galileans, because they have suffered such [things]?

Luk 13:3 “Not at all, I say to you*, _but_ if you* are not repenting, you* will all likewise perish.

Luk 13:4 “Or those, the eighteen, on whom the lookout tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you* think that these were debtors more [fig., worse sinners] than all the [other] people dwelling in Jerusalem?

Luk 13:5 “Not at all, I say to you*, _but_ if you* are not repenting, you* will all likewise perish.”

Kind of a side note: In this passage we can miss something else in the translation. In verse 3 the usage of the word is metanoēte: to change mind and conduct, linear action, keep on changing. In verse 5 the word usages is metanoēsēte: immediate repentance. The Greek text is so rich in meaning.

So I don’t think there is any question that we must repent based on these New Testament passages. But is that the same as confessing our sins? Is it the same as saying I’m sorry?

Luk 17:3 “Be watching yourselves! Now if your brother sins against you rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him.

Luk 17:4 “And if he sins against you seven times in the day, and returns seven times in the day, saying, ‘I repent,’ you will forgive him.”

Many believe this scripture would lead us to believe that all we would have to do is ask for forgiveness. And if we do the same thing again we can just repent again, over and over. But if we look at what repent means, we have to think different and have a deep regret for what we have done. Would we keep doing something that we were deeply regretful for? Would we really be thinking differently if we kept doing the same thing over again? Let’s keep going through the Bible.

Let’s go back to John the Baptist: Mat 3:7 But having seen many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism [or, immersion, and throughout book], he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you* to flee from the coming wrath?

Mat 3:8 “Therefore, bear fruit worthy [fig., as evidence] of repentance.

Mat 3:9 “And you* should not presume to be saying within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham [as our] father,’ for I say to you* that God is able to raise children to Abraham out of these stones.

Mat 3:10 “But also already the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree not bearing good fruit is cut down and is thrown into fire.

He told the Pharisees and Sadducees to “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” Mathew Henry says, “Here is a word of terror to the careless and secure. Our corrupt hearts cannot be made to produce good fruit, unless the regenerating Spirit of Christ graft the good word of God upon them. And every tree, however high in gifts and honours, however green in outward professions and performances, if it bring not forth good fruit, the fruits meet for repentance, is hewn down and cast into the fire of God’s wrath, the fittest place for barren trees: what else are they good for?” See John 15.

This concept is also talked about in Acts 26:20: _but_ first to the [ones] in Damascus and to the [ones] in Jerusalem and into all the region of Judea and to the Gentiles, preaching [for them] to be repenting and to be turning to God, doing works worthy of repentance. “ The word translated as work means: act: – deed, doing, labour, work. There are many scriptures that talk about our fruits, many are familiar with Galatians 5:22-23, so I won’t go into what some of those fruits would be here.

Paul said: 2Co 7:8 Because even if I caused you* sorrow by my letter, I do not regret [it], even if I did regret [it]. For I see that the letter, even if for an hour [or, for a while], caused you* sorrow.

2Co 7:9 I now rejoice, not because you* were caused sorrow, _but_ because you* were caused sorrow to repentance; for you* were caused sorrow toward God, so that in nothing you* would suffer loss from us.

2Co 7:10 For the sorrow according to God [fig., godly sorrow] produces repentance to salvation, free from regret, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Here there seems to be distinction between being sorrowful and being sorrowful to repentance. So, this seems to indicate that it isn’t enough to just say I’m sorry. There has to be a sorrow to repentance, which is a sorrow toward God. The sorrow to God produces repentance to salvation.

Acts 3:19: (AMP) So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of [a] reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord;”

Mat 18:2 And Jesus having summoned a young child, He set him in the middle of them

Mat 18:3 and said, “Positively, I say to you*, unless you* are turned around [fig., changed inwardly] and become like such young children, by no means shall you* enter into the kingdom of the heavens.

Repent and turn around and return to God. Turn from sin to God. This would require a change in direction, a change in actions. That change would bear fruit of your repentance.

Read Luke 15:17-19, the story of the prodigal son. The son’s inward decision resulted in a change in his outward actions. This is a good example of repentance. It is important that we act on our decisions and not remain in our current position or condition.

Rom 10:8 _But_ what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart-that is, the word of the faith which we are preaching, [Deut 30:14]

Rom 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from [the] dead, you will be saved!

Rom 10:10 For with the heart it is believed to righteousness, and with the mouth it is confessed to salvation.

The word translated as confess here is the Greek word homologeō means: to assent, that is, covenant, acknowledge. I have heard many translate this as meaning to confess our sins, but here it means to confess Jesus as Lord.

However, in 1 John he does say to confess our sins and we will be forgiven.

1Jn 1:5 And this is the message which we have heard from Him and announce to you*, that God is light [or, is as to His essence light], and in Him [there] is no darkness at all.

1Jn 1:6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” and are walking about [fig., conducting ourselves] in the darkness, we are lying and are not doing the truth.

1Jn 1:7 But if we are walking about in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses [or, purges] us from all sin.

1Jn 1:8 If we claim, “We do not have sin,” we lead ourselves astray [fig., deceive ourselves], and the truth is not in us.

1Jn 1:9 If we are confessing our sins, He is faithful [or, trustworthy] and righteous that He shall forgive us our sins and cleanse [or, purge] us from all unrighteousness.

1Jn 1:10 If claim, “We have not sinned,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

So to sum up what we have seen so far in the Bible:

Previously Jesus said in Mat 4:17 to be repenting for the Kingdom of God is near. In Matthew 3:8 John the Baptist tells us that we are to bear fruit of that repentance.  In Matthew 18:3 Jesus tells us to turn around and return to God and away from sin, to change directions. In Romans 10:9 Paul tells us that we are told to acknowledge with our mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead. In 1 John 1:5-10 John says that if we have fellowship with God we are walking in the light, his light will show us our sins and we should confess/acknowledge them.

So ring out the falsehood that confessing your sins and saying I’m sorry are the same as repenting.

Ring in the truth that we do need to confess our sins, or say I’m sorry, but we have to mean it. It has to come from the heart. We have to be truly regretful of our actions and turn away from them. We have to turn toward God and change our ways. But our actions should bear fruit of that repentance. We may fall back into those old ways from time to time, but that shouldn’t be happening over and over.

Please note, this topic is not discussing what is required to be saved, that is not the topic here. I was only exploring the question of confessing and saying I’m sorry being the same as repenting.

Back to:

Luk 17:3 “Be watching yourselves! Now if your brother sins against you rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him.

Luk 17:4 “And if he sins against you seven times in the day, and returns seven times in the day, saying, ‘I repent,’ you will forgive him.”

I think this would be another whole topic, but let me add here. Based on some of the other truths I have discussed before this, we know that as Christians, we are called to put off sinful ways. So should we really be sinning against someone seven times in a day? I would hope not, read this verse in context. In regards to being on the other side of this, note that the brother comes to you and asks for forgiveness. But the point of forgiveness isn’t for the one asking to be forgiven. It is so that you don’t find yourself in some of the sinful conditions mentioned in my previous truth. I also think there is some difference between sins, repenting, and forgiveness between a man and God and between a man and man. But maybe we can look at forgiveness in a future truth.

Ring out the old, Ring in the new
Ring out the false, Ring in the true
Ring out sorrow, pain and care
Ring in happiness everywhere.


One thought on “Confessing and Repenting

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