How is repentance related to forgiveness? Is repentance repeated?

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Question / Comment -  How is repentance related to forgiveness? Is repentance repeated?


I've read your two explanations on forgiveness and I am so thankful for the clarity. The other day a question came up of whether we need to continue to repent for our sins. What is the difference between repentance and forgiveness? Is it even possible to repent more than once for the same issue? A lot of people use these words interchangeably, but if repentance is a 180 degree turn from something, it seems you've either done it or you haven't. We work with former alcoholics and drug addicts who have met Jesus and are now saved. But some fall after being saved.

(So your explanation on parental vs judicial forgiveness brought some wonderful clarification)

But where is repentance in light of all of this? Do we need to repent for it again? It seems like we haven't even repented at all in regards to turning 180 degrees, or we did and now turned back. So is it needed again? Or would it mean they haven't truly repented and does that indicate they were never truly saved at all? I don't believe that the answer to that last question would be yes because I see these men and their walk before they fall and their hearts are sincere and they love Jesus. They spend time with him, share ways He has spoken to then and then some old trigger, unbelievably sends them back and they are truly remorseful. Would welcome any input on this thank you and God bless!

JPN Reply:

Hi Connie,

nice to hear from you again. Hope things are going well. Regarding your question:

Do we have to repent more than once?

The word 'repent' in the Greek is 'metanoeò„' and it doesn't mean 'not sinning' or 'stop sinning' but 'to change your mind'. A true repentance, a true 'change of the mind', will lead to 'fruit in keeping with repentance' as Luke 3:8 tells us. But the word for repent itself is to change your mind. From a biblical perspective we change our mind about the way we are going and turn to God. And the way this is seen outwardly (the fruit that should follow) is by a change in our life. That's why Paul could say:

Act 26:20 ...I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. 

We repent in salvation but also as believers post-salvation. It is ongoing because we often need to change our mind about the way we are going. And it isn't just for those that are obviously falling in 'sin'. We may think that we've got it all together and have to repent from our own self-confident reliance and pride and turn from living in our own strength. It is directly linked to forgiveness because when we come to Him we need to 'confess' or 'agree with Him' about our sins. And that means changing our mind about what we are doing... which is repentance. We are changing our mind about our sin (the outward obvious ones as well as those more subtle like pride), acknowledging our wrong ways, and desiring, with His strength to walk in a new way - His way.

So when you come to the Bible, there are lots of verses that speak of repentance as part of salvation (especially in Acts like Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20) but we also see some verses directed to Christians after salvation concerning repentance. 

For example:

  • Church in Corinth: 

2Co 7:9-10 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. (10) For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

  • Church in Ephesus: 

Rev 2:4-5 'But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (5) 'Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.

  • Church in Sardis: 

Rev 3:3 'So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.

  • Church in Laodicea: 

Rev 3:19 'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

You can repent from something more than once if you are drawn back into it. In a perfect world people would repent and never have problems with that temptation ever again but this is not a perfect world! 

It is great that you are dealing with people that have fallen into various addictions. Good on you. I'm sure you are a blessing to them in this difficult field of work. Sometimes with addictions the Lord frees the person miraculously at salvation and they are forever free of that addiction and temptation. We had a friend of the family where this happened. Other times it is an ongoing process as I'm sure you have experienced. Many alcoholics and drug users have to be very careful not to put themselves in that same position of temptation again for a long time (sometimes most of their life) because they are weak in that area. 

Because of the weakness of the fallen nature, yes repentance (a change of mind) is an ongoing process in our walk. Thankfully, for the true believer, our falls along the way do not see the Lord cast His own off.

Psa 37:23-24 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. (24) Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand.  

Hope this helps and may God bless in your ministry ?


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