The blessings of God in the life of an ungodly person are not to be mistaken as God's approval of his life style. The goodness of God is one way the Lord appeals to men to turn to Him:
Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?  (Romans 2:4)

Over and over again in the Gospels, Jesus clashes with the scribes and Pharisees about true righteousness. At the same time, He spends a great deal of time and energy warning His disciples about the dangers of self-righteousness, making it clear that without Him, they could do nothing (John 15:5).

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20

1 Corinthians 10:31: Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.



For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)


Hebrews 6:1-3 lists principles of the doctrine of Christ on which a believer is to build his spiritual life. These principles are called the "foundations" of the Christian faith. They are the basic doctrines on which the Christian faith rests. The first of these principles is "repentance from dead works.”


The basic meaning of the word "repentance" is a change in mind which results in a change in outward actions.

Some people associate repentance with emotions, like shedding tears and feeling sorry for wrong actions and thoughts. Repentance is not an emotion. It is a decision. Emotion sometimes accompanies true repentance. But it is possible for a person to feel great emotion and to shed many tears and yet never truly repent.

Other people associate repentance with meeting special religious requirements. This is sometimes called "doing penance.” It is possible to fulfill many such religious requirements and yet never repent in the true Biblical sense.

True repentance is a change of mind that results in a change in outward actions. Outward change is the act of turning away from sin towards God and righteousness. This "turning away" shows the inward change of mind which has occurred.

To summarize: Biblical repentance is an inner change of mind resulting in an outward turning away from sin to move towards God and righteousness.


There are some passages in the Bible where the word "repent" is used in a different way.


In Matthew 27:3-4 Judas Iscariot realized Jesus had been condemned to death. He repented of his part in betraying Christ:

Then Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood... (Matthew 27:3-4)

The Greek word used here is not the same word which means change. It is a word which people often misinterpret as true repentance. In many languages there are words which have more than one meaning. This is true in the languages in which the Bible was written. There is more than one meaning to the word "repent" in the Bible. The word used in this passage about Judas means emotion, sorrow, and anguish.

Judas experienced sorrow over what he had done but he did not experience true Biblical repentance. He did not make a decision which resulted in change in his actions. He continued in sin and in the end, hung himself.


Esau was another man who made this tragic error. Esau sinned by selling his God-given birthright for a bowl of soup. The Bible records:

...ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.  (Hebrews 12:17)

Esau exchanged his birthright for a bowl of soup. In doing so, he rejected all the blessings and promises of God associated with the birthright.

Later, Esau regretted what he had done. He cried aloud and shed bitter tears. But strong emotion is not proof of repentance. Esau did not truly repent. He was just sorry he had lost the birthright and wished he could have it back. His "repentance" was not acceptable because there is a difference between regret and true repentance.


If we are to fully understand the meaning of repentance, we must understand what it is from which we are to repent. We must understand "dead works.” "Dead works" are the actions of a life lived apart from God. These works may be wrong deeds or acts of self-righteousness.

These are called "sin" in the Bible. The basic thing that causes sin is selfishness.

It is the love of self as opposed to the love of God. This love of self results in man going "his own way":

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way...  (Isaiah 53:6)

Jesus died for the sins of men in order that... ...they should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again. (II Corinthians 5:15)

When you repent from these dead works of selfishness it means you acknowledge the existence of the one true God, realize you are a sinner, ask forgiveness of your sin, and accept God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.


Evil existed before man was created. Sin was originated by Lucifer, also known as Satan.

The Bible records that Lucifer was a special angel who was originally created perfect by God. Lucifer sinned when he tried to stage a rebellion against God.

Because of this sin, Lucifer was cast out of Heaven to earth: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High... (Isaiah 14:12-14)

Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: Thou wast upon the holy mountain of God... Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee...I will cast thee to the ground... (Ezekiel 28:14-16)

On earth, Lucifer (who became known as Satan) continued his rebellion against God.

When God created the first man and woman (Adam and Eve), Satan led them to sin against God. This rebellion is sometimes called "the fall of man", meaning that man fell from righteousness into sin. You can read about this in Genesis chapters two and three.

God warned Adam and Eve that the penalties of sin would include physical and spiritual death. Spiritual death was a loss of their relationship with God. Physical death was death of their actual physical body. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve death came on all men:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)

Because of the fall of the first man and woman, sin passed on all mankind. That means everyone born inherits the basic nature of sin.

Just as physical traits are inherited, the spiritual trait of the basic sin nature is inherited.

Each person has sinned and faces the penalties of physical and spiritual death.

Satan is responsible for all evil in the world. His rebellion towards God still continues as he tempts man to sin. There is a constant battle in the spirit world for the hearts, minds, and souls of men.

Each person has inherited the basic sin nature. Each person sins individually when he is drawn by this sinful nature to rebel against God:

Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:14-15)

All have sinned, but God has provided a way to escape the penalties of sin. Through repentance from dead works and accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior you can be "saved" from the penalties of sin.


The Bible uses several different names for sin:


And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

The actual meaning of the word "sin" is to miss the mark and be in error. It is like shooting a weapon and missing the target. It is falling short of what you should be and God's perfect plan for you.


For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts...  (Mark 7:21)

Evil means bad, worthless, corrupt, wicked, and morally sinful.


Wickedness means to have an evil mind set to do mischief. It is a mental disregard for righteousness, justice, truth, and virtue:

So shall it be at the end of the world: The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just. (Matthew 13:49)


Transgression means breaking the law. It is like a man stepping across a line over which he has no right to step, invading forbidden territory, and crossing the boundary between right and wrong:

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgression... (Galatians 3:19)


This word means injustice, wrong, iniquity, falsehood, and deceitfulness: All unrighteousness is sin... (I John 5:17)


Ungodliness means dishonesty, wickedness, and total disregard of God. It is treating God as if He did not exist. Ungodliness is not the same as atheism, which believes there is no God. Ungodliness is knowing there is a God but totally ignoring Him and His laws: For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness...  (Romans 1:18)


Iniquity means to be lawless, either without the law or violating the law: ...Depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:23)


Disobedience is the opposite of obedience. It means to ignore God and His law:

By one man's disobedience many were made sinners... (Romans 5:19)


Trespass means to leave the right path and cross the boundary from right into wrong. It is like being on another man's property where you do not belong:

And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  (Luke 5:32)


Repentance from dead works was defined as "an inward decision or change of mind resulting in the outward action of turning from sin to God and righteousness.” Acts 20:21

By the act of repentance you turn from your own dead works of sin towards God. Repentance is a personal decision to forsake sin and enter into fellowship with God. It is the power of God which actually brings the change in the mind, heart, and life of the sinner:

Then God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.  (Acts 11:18)

Repentance is a gift of God:

Him [Jesus] hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance... (Acts 5:31)

Although emotions may be involved in repentance, true repentance from dead works is a decision, not just an emotion. As you learned, sorrow for sins, shedding tears, etc., is not enough. This must be accompanied by an inward decision that results in an outward change.


There are several reasons why repentance is considered a foundational truth of the Christian faith:


...but [God] now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30)


...but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3)


Through repentance the penalty of death is removed and eternal life is granted:

When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (Acts 11:18)


God cannot forgive your sins unless you repent:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)


From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)


God does not want anyone to experience the spiritual death of eternal separation from God in Hell:

The Lord...is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  (II Peter 3:9)


I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  (Luke 5:32)


In the first act of repentance, sinful men turn from wrong to right, accept the Gospel message, and become true believers in Jesus Christ. In the process of going on to perfection (which will be studied in more depth in another article), a believer sometimes falls back into the old patterns of sinful behavior. According to the Biblical record, whenever believers sin they must also repent:


The believers at a city called Corinth had to repent:

Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance...  (II Corinthians 7:9)

For I fear, lest, when I come...that I shall bewail many which have sinned already and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.  (II Corinthians 12:20-21)


The believers at Ephesus were told to repent:

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen and repent and do the first works. (Revelation 2:5)


God told the Christians in Pergamos:

Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.  (Revelation 2:16)


Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.  (Revelation 3:3)


As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; Be zealous therefore, and repent. (Revelation 3:19)

Wherever there is sin, there must be repentance:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (I John 1:8-9)


Because repentance is necessary for salvation, God made a special plan to enable the message of repentance to reach everyone. The call to repentance began in the New Testament with the ministry of John the Baptist:

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way the Lord, make His path straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.  (Mark 1:3-4)

Repentance was necessary in order for the Messiah (Jesus) to be revealed. Until Israel had been called back to God in repentance, Jesus could not be revealed.

Repentance was the first message Jesus preached:

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, And saying, the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel. (Mark 1:14-15)

Repentance was preached by believers in the early church:

And they went out and preached that men should repent.  (Mark 6:12)

...Testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Acts 20:21)

Today, believers still have the responsibility to spread the message of repentance throughout the world. Jesus gave final instructions to His followers that... ...repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:47)


Since repentance is a foundation on which the Christian faith rests, we must understand what causes men to repent. If you are responsible to spread the message of repentance throughout the world then you must know how men are persuaded to repent from dead works.


The blessings of God in the life of an ungodly person are not to be mistaken as God's approval of his life style. The goodness of God is one way the Lord appeals to men to turn to Him:

Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?  (Romans 2:4)


The preaching of the Word of God causes men to repent. The preaching of Jonah resulted in the whole city of Ninevah repenting:

The men of Ninevah shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas.  (Matthew 12:41)


As the Word of God is preached, people hear and respond to the call of Christ which leads to repentance:

I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  (Matthew 9:13)


Jesus said no one could come to Him except the Father draw him. God draws men to repentance: No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him...   (John 6:44)


Rebuke causes men to repent. Rebuke is correction given from the Word of God: ...If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)


Repentance may be accompanied by emotion. Natural emotion alone is not true repentance, but Godly emotion leads to true repentance:

Godly sorrow [for sin] worketh repentance to salvation.  (II Corinthians 7:10)


The Bible identifies several things associated with repentance:


Faith towards God is associated with repentance. It is listed in Hebrews 6 as the second foundational principle of the Christian faith. Repentance from dead works must be combined with faith towards God:

...Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.  (Mark 1:15)

...Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Acts 20:21)


Baptism should accompany repentance as an outward sign of the inward change which has occurred:

Repent and be baptized every one of you. (Acts 3:19)

The doctrine of baptisms is part of the foundations mentioned in Hebrews 6.


The works of man, which the Bible also calls fruit, testify as to whether or not there has been true repentance:

The Gentiles should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 26:20)

Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance. (Matthew 3:8)

"Works" and "fruits" both refer to outward behavior which should change after true repentance.


Repent ye therefore, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out. (Acts 3:19)

Since conversion is related to repentance, you need to understand conversion.


Conversion means "to turn.” When it is used in connection with Biblical repentance, it means to "turn from the wrong way to the right way.”

And many of the children of Israel shall He turn to the Lord their God.  (Luke 1:16)

And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw Him, and turned to the Lord.  (Acts 9:35)

And the hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. (Acts 11:21)

Conversion is turning from the darkness of sin to the light of God's righteousness:

...to turn them from darkness to light. (Acts 26:18)

It is turning from the power of Satan to God:

...to turn them...from the power of Satan unto God. (Acts 26:18)

It is turning from worldly things to spiritual things:

...Ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God. (Acts 14:15)

It is turning from false gods to the true and living God:

...Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. (I Thessalonians 1:9)


Conversion must accompany repentance. You must turn from the wrong to the right because...


Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  (Matthew 18:3)


He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and shall hide a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)


Our sin is written in the records of God until we repent and are converted, then it is blotted out:

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out... (Acts 3:19)


Repentance and conversion are best illustrated by a story Jesus told about the prodigal son. Read the story in Luke 15:11-24. This young man left his father and home, went to a distant land, and through sin wasted all he owned.

Eventually this young man realized his condition. He was hungry, lonely, in rags, and tending pigs for a job. Then he made an important decision. He said, "I will arise and go to my father.” This inward decision resulted in a change in his outward actions. He went home to his father to seek forgiveness.


Read Luke 15:17-19. The young man realized his sinful condition. He made a decision to go to his father and repent of his sin. This is an example of repentance, an inward decision which results in outward action.


Luke 15:20 records how the young man arose and left the old life and went to his father to start a new life. This is conversion.


In his own sinful condition, every man has turned his back on God as his Father and on Heaven as his home. Each step he takes is a step away from God and one step nearer the spiritual death of eternal separation from God.

There is a major decision he must make. He must "come to himself" and recognize his spiritual condition. He must make a decision which will result in a change of spiritual direction. That change in spiritual direction will turn him from sin towards God. This is the first step in building a proper spiritual foundation.


There are two other terms used in the Bible which relate to repentance. These terms are "justification" and "salvation.” God is the judge of all mankind. When you are living in "dead works" [sin] you are condemned before Him:

...but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  (John 3:18-19)

When you repent from sin and make the decision to turn from your sinful ways this establishes a right relationship with God. This right relationship or right standing before God is called "justification":

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.  (Romans 6:16-18)

The penalties for sin are physical and spiritual death. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty for the sins of all mankind:

For He [God] hath made Him [Jesus] to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.  (II Corinthians 5:21)

If you believe that Jesus died for your sins, repent, and accept Him as Savior, then you will not experience spiritual death of eternal separation from God in Hell.

Although your physical body will die, you will be resurrected to eternal life. This is made possible through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. You are justified, or brought into right relationship to God, by Jesus Christ:

Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24)

Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  (Romans 5:9)

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...  (Romans 5:1)

When you are justified by repenting and accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior you are saved from a life of sin and the penalties of sin:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.  (John 5:24)

This is what it means to be saved and is what the Bible is speaking of when the term "salvation" is used.

It is God's desire that all men obtain salvation rather than experience the wrath of God's judgment of sin:

For God had not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ...who died for us.  (I Thessalonians 5:9-10a)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.  (John 3:16-17)


It is important to remember that each foundational principle of the Christian faith is related to all the others. For example, repentance from dead works cannot be separated from faith toward God.

Origin of Sin: Lucifer (Satan)

Rebelled Against God

He led man into sin which resulted in:

The Fall of Man (Adam and Eve)

This resulted in:

All men inheriting the basic sin nature and committing individual acts of sin due to this nature

Sin leads to: Spiritual Death & Physical Death

On the cross, Jesus paid these penalties which resulted in justification of sinful man:

Repentance From Dead Works is (An Inward Decision) which leads to Conversion (An Outward Change) which results in - Justification Of Sinful Man Before A Righteous God and Salvation From A Life Of Sin And The Penalties Of Sin.

As the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we are to ask for forgiveness, repent and change. When we have hurt others, we are to be quick to ask God and the person we have hurt for forgiveness, then repent (turn) and change. This is the fruit humility and the Work of the Holy Spirit in our life as we live from glory to Glory. Glorifying God in all aspects of our lives.

God promises to make himself known to people with a humble heart who seek after Him.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Further Study

What does God consider sin? Sin is any violation of God's laws:

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.  (I John 3:4)

God's laws are recorded in the Bible. In addition to His laws, God has also listed specific sins we must avoid.


The New Testament lists specific sins, identifies the source of these sins, and reveals special judgments for them. The following references identify a total of 103 different sins.

There are...

-Seven which come from the heart and defile: Matthew 15:18-20

-Thirteen which come from the heart and defile: Mark 7:21-23

-Twenty-three which bring the judgment of God: Romans 1:29-32

-Seven which believers cannot do: Romans 13:13,14

-Six with which believers should not associate: I Corinthians 5:9-11

-Ten which prevent entrance into the Kingdom of God: I Corinthians 6:9,10

-Seventeen more which prevent entrance into the Kingdom of God: Galatians 5:19-21

-Four which bring wrath and prevent entrance into the Kingdom of God: Ephesians 5:5-6

-Eleven from which believers must turn away: II Corinthians 12:20-21

-Nine in which the unsaved live and in which believers should not live: Ephesians 4:17-19

-Six which must not exist among believers: Ephesians 5:3,4

-Nine which believers should put away: Ephesians 4:25,28,29,31

-Six which believers must put off: Colossians 3:8,9

-Six which believers must mortify and which bring the wrath of God: Colossians 3:5-6

-Fourteen for which the law was given: I Timothy 1:9-10

-Nineteen from which believers must turn away: II Timothy 3:1-5

-Nine from which believers are saved: Titus 3:3-5

-Five which believers must lay aside: I Peter 2:1

-Seven sins of the flesh in which believers no longer live: I Peter 4:2-4

-Eight which condemn to the lake of fire: Revelation 21:8

-Six which prevent access to the tree of life and the holy city: Revelation 22:14




Return To Main Menu