Repentance towards God


...“testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21, ESV)

Part of the gospel message that Paul was preaching was a message of repentance towards God. I spoke of the need for repentance in a previous post, but what does it really mean when the text says “repentance toward God”?

Maybe to fully understand what repentance towards God is, I must first understand how I have turned away from God. In the Old Testament there are 3 words that are translated as sin, lets take a look at what each of them means.

The first word is “het” which has the basic root meaning to miss a mark or a way. In Lev 4:2 it seems to point at a failure to observe God’s laws.

The next word is “avon” which is translated “iniquity” in Ezek 18:20 and has the basic meaning of twisting, distorting or bending. The TWOT (Theological Dictionary of the OT) has this also to add...

“When the distortion pertains to law it means “to sin, to infract, to commit a perversion/iniquity.” (1)

The last word is pesha, “a wicked act committed presumptuously in defiance of God and His law.” (2)

It is interesting to note that in all 3 words there is a suggestion of a breaking, misuse, or corruption of the Words of God.

As a last review I want to remind myself what the word REPENT really means. In it’s simplest form it simply means to turn back. This is a message that God continue to offer up to His people through the prophets. I think that Ezek 33:11 is a great example of it’s use in this context:

“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11, ESV)

The word turn in all of the places in this verse could also be translated with the word repent. And to add the context we could add Ezek 33:10 which uses 2 of the words for sin, het and pesha:

“And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’” (Ezekiel 33:10, ESV)

One of my favorite NT passages that define sin is in 1 John 3:4:

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4, ESV)  

So could we not come to the same conclusion that the ancient Rabbi’s also found:

“The rabbis usually employed the term aberah, that is, a transgression of a divine commandment. In contrast to this they used mitzwah, a divine command, which denotes also the whole range of duty, including the desire and intention of the human soul. From this point of view every evil design or impulse, every thought and act contrary to God’s law, becomes a sin.” (3)

Also to make things a bit more clear, when the term LAW is used it is NOT used in the ways we would think of law today, the term is the translation for the word Torah which is a term used for God’s instruction or can also have the meaning to hit the mark.

So to have repentance towards God could be translated as turning back towards God. So if each of the terms for sin is acts which are contrary to God’s law then turning back towards God can imply that we are turning back towards God’s instructions for living. We make the verse in 2 Tim 3:16 a reality:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

Turning back to God could possibly mean that I have to truly trust and believe that what God has given us as His instruction for living is trustworthy and true, then I must ACT on that trust. Is this not why Pauls says:

“but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” (Acts 26:20, ESV)

This all comes back to the Word of God and how important it is in my life, not as an academic exercise ,but as an active walk of obedience in my life.

Am I equipped for every good work?

1. (1577 עָוָה. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke, Eds.)Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press.

2. Kohler, Kaufmann (2011-03-24). Jewish Theology (Kindle Locations 3571-3572). . Kindle Edition.

3. Kohler, Kaufmann (2011-03-24). Jewish Theology (Kindle Locations 3574-3577). . Kindle Edition.

One thought on “Repentance towards God

  1. David Salyer

    The Bible presumes that to sin is not only to not trust God but to trust in self more than God. So this isn’t just about disobedience to God’s instruction. It is to agree with the folly of putting myself in the place of God, i.e. “I”dolatry. It is to choose the path of self-destruction…complete insanity. Also, the Hebrew word for repent is “shoov”. The word picture for repent is that repentance comes when we destroy the house (leave nothing to go back for). So, in addition to turning back to God, perhaps our problem is that we have not effectively destroyed the idols in our lives…reminds me of Romans 6. Agreeing with Christ that I am dead to sin. Put sin to death first; then turn to and obey God’s instructions. Thanks for your blog. Enjoy it very much.

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