Repentance


The eighth Article of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene is on the subject of repentance. As with the last Article of Faith, this Article is in the process of being ratified. Therefore, items in brackets include language that is being deleted, and words in italics are those words which are being added. The eighth Article of Faith states,
We believe [that repentance, which is a sincere and thorough change of the mind in regard to sin, involving a sense of personal guilt and a voluntary turning away from sin, is demanded of all who have by act or purpose become sinners against God.] [T]the Spirit of God gives to all who will repent the gracious help of penitence of heart and hope of mercy, that they may believe unto pardon and spiritual life. Repentance, which is a sincere and thorough change of the mind in regard to sin, involving a sense of personal guilt and a voluntary turning away from sin, is demanded of all who have by act or purpose become sinners against God. We believe that all persons may fall from grace and apostatize and, unless they repent of their sins, be hopelessly and eternally lost. We believe that regenerate persons need not return to sin but may live in unbroken fellowship with God through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God.
We believe that repentance is vital, both for those who are seeking to live holy lives and for those who do not yet know Christ. When Christ began to preach, we are told that he commanded people to repent and believe. Belief alone is not sufficient. It must be accompanied by repentance. But what is repentance?

What is Repentance?

In our Bibles, the word "repentance" translates the Greek μετάνοια, which means "to change one's mind; a change in the inner man." Therefore, repentance is to be changed in mind and heart concerning sin. But what does this change entail? W. Ralph Thompson points out that genuine repentance "can be said to be evangelical if it has in it three elements. The first is intellectual. By it the sinner comes unto the knowledge of sin and its consequences. The second element is emotional. It is a genuine sorrow for sin.......The third element in evangelical repentance is volitional, a change of the will and purpose. It is a turning from sin unto God, the heart crying out for pardon and cleansing." [1] In other words, repentance involves more than just sorrow for sins, more than just changing your mind about sin, and more than just choosing not to commit a sin again. Genuine repentance involves all three of these elements.

Article of Faith

In commenting on our Article of Faith, it becomes especially clear that all three elements listed by Thompson are present. We believe that a repentant person will have a change of mind in regard to sin, experience a sense of personal guilt, and will, by God's grace, turn from their sinful ways. Unless a sinful person repents for his or her sins, he or she will be separated from God unless and until he or she repents.

It is possible for an individual to, by God's grace, repent for his or her sins, live a Christian life, and then apostatize, returning to his or her sins. This individual needs to repent for his or her sins and have his or her relationship with Christ restored.

Repentance is also not just an event that happens once in the life of the Christian, prior to conversion. The Christian should repent for any sins that God reveals to him or her subsequent to his or her conversion. That is, God may not reveal all of a person's sins to him or her at once, but once they have been revealed, I believe that God extends the grace necessary to bring that person to repentance. That person must not resist God's grace, but rather allow it to bring him or her to repentance. Repentance is something that will happen throughout the life of the Christian.

Recommended Resource: Articles of Faith 
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[1] W. Ralph Thompson, "Repentance". Cited in "Beacon Dictionary of Theology". 

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