Repentance is a stage in Christian salvation where the believer acknowledges and turns away from sin. As a distinct stage in the ordo salutis its position is disputed, with some theological traditions arguing it occurs prior to faith and the Reformed theological tradition arguing it occurs after faith.[1] In Catholic theology, Lutheran theology, Orthodox theology and Anglican theology, repentance plays a key role in Confession and Absolution.[2][3]


In the Hebrew Bible, the term repentance comes from the Hebrew word group that means "turn away from".[4]: 1007  David Lambert believes that "It is in the writings of rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity that it attains the status of a technical term, a basic item of an emerging religious lexicon".[5]

In the New Testament, John the Baptist called for repentance during his speeches.[6] Jesus also called for repentance when he proclaimed the Gospel for Salvation.[7] It was a focal point in the preaching of Peter and Paul the Apostle.[8]

In the New Testament μετανοέω/metanoeo can mean remorse but is generally translated as a turning away from sin (Matthew 3:2).[4]: 1007  Theologically, 'repentance', the turning away from sin is linked to a corresponding turn to faith in God.[4]: 1008 

Emanuel Swedenborg and Jonathan S. Rose explain how repentance in the church as a whole is used to take away the serious evils that God cannot overlook.[9] Swedenborg and Rose explain how "acts of repentance include any and all actions that result in our not willing, and consequently not doing, evil things that are sins against God."[citation needed] For repentance to be achievable one must think of it using their will or real self and the thinking must be done by their will. Swedenborg and Rose refer to John the Baptist to describe how he was performing baptism of repentance. John the Baptist would preach repentance along with the other disciples and the Lord himself along with performing the baptisms. If people repented then their sins were forgiven and they were welcomed into the church.[citation needed]



In Roman Catholic theology repentance is fundamental to forgiveness.

Jesus' call to conversion and penance ... does not aim first at outward works ... but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion (1430). Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, ... the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace (1431).

This is elaborated on by Rev. George Hay who in his catechism answers the question, What are the principal parts of which true repentance is composed?

The principal parts of true repentance are these three: (1.) A sincere regret and sorrow of heart for our having offended so good a God by sin. (2.) A firm and determined resolution of never offending Him again, followed by an effectual change of life and manners. (3.) A voluntary punishing of ourselves for the sins we have committed, in order to repair the injury done to God by sin, and to satisfy, in some measure, His offended justice."[10]

For Catholics, where there is mortal sin, use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation must follow.[11]



Martin Luther's 1534 bible

The Augsburg Confession (known in Latin as Confessio Augustana) is the primary confession of faith used in the Lutheran Church. It is one of the most important documents of the Protestant Reformation. It divides repentance into two parts:


John Calvin at 53 in an engraving by René Boyvin.

In the Reformed tradition John Calvin wrote that repentance "may be justly defined to be a true conversion of our life to God, proceeding from a serious fear of God, and consisting in the mortification of the flesh and of the old man, and in the vivification of the Spirit." He further said that "it will be useful to amplify and explain the definition we have given; in which there are three points to be particularly considered".

In the first place, when we call repentance 'a conversion of the life to God', we require a transformation, not only in the external actions, but in the soul itself; which, after having put off the old nature, should produce the fruits of actions corresponding to its renovation....

In the second place, we represented repentance as proceeding from a serious fear of God. For before the mind of a sinner can be inclined to repentance, it must be excited by the knowledge of the Divine judgment.

It remains for us, in the third place, to explain our position, that repentance consists of two parts—the mortification of the flesh and the vivification of the spirit.... Both these branches of repentance effects our participation of Christ. For if we truly partake of his death, our old man is crucified by its power, and the body of sin expires, so that the corruption of our former nature loses all its vigor.... If we are partakers of his resurrection, we are raised by it to a newness of life, which corresponds with the righteousness of God." [Quotes from A Compend of the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin edited by Hugh T. Kerr, The Westminster Press-Philadelphia 1939.]


In Methodist theology:

Genuine repentance toward God consists in a knowledge of, a sorry for, and a confession and forsaking of sins, brought about by the knowledge of goodness and severity of God through the truth, by the convincing power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:2; Acts 20:21; II Cor. 7:10, 11; I John 1:9; first clause). —Articles of Religion, Immanuel Missionary Church[13]

Nondenominational Christianity

In Nondenominational Christianity, especially such churches aligned with evangelicalism, repentance is necessary for salvation and new birth.[14] It is the subject of special invitations during sermons and services.[14] It is also part of Christian life and the process of sanctification.[15]

Latter Day Saint movement

This section relies excessively on references to primary sources. Please improve this section by adding secondary or tertiary sources. Find sources: "Repentance in Christianity" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (September 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
This section possibly contains synthesis of material which does not verifiably mention or relate to the main topic. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. (September 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in repentance much in the same way other Abrahamic religions do. They believe repentance is "a change of mind and heart that gives us a fresh view about God, about ourselves, and about the world" (Gospel Topics). Here are few key points of doctrine:


  1. ^ Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997): 38-39.
  2. ^ Lang, P. H. D. (1992). "Private Confession and Absolution in the Lutheran Church: A Doctrinal, Historical, and Critical Study". 56 (4). But the absolution is God's work. And in the absolution the essence of the Christian religion is present. namely, the dispensing of grace to man. It is a form of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it was "ordained by Christ Himself in the Gospel" (Smalcald Articles, VIII, 1) and is practiced after the example of Christ Himself. Therefore we say in Article XI (60) of the Apology: "Certainly most men in our churches use the sacraments, absolution and the Lord's Supper, frequently . . ." In Article XI11 (4) we say: "Therefore baptism, the Lord's Supper, and absolution, which is the sacrament of repentance, are truly sacraments." ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 37.
  4. ^ a b c T. C. Mitchell, 'Repentance' New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996): 1007–8.
  5. ^ Lambert, David A. (2016-01-01). How Repentance Became Biblical. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190212247.001.0001. ISBN 9780190212247.
  6. ^ Yung Suk Kim, Biblical Interpretation: Theory, Process, and Criteria, Wipf and Stock Publishers, USA, 2013, p. 91
  7. ^ Victor I. Ezigbo, Introducing Christian Theologies II: Voices from Global Christian Communities - Volume 2, Lutterworth Press, UK, 2016, p. 109
  8. ^ Dr. Daniel L. Akin, A Theology for the Church, B&H Publishing Group, USA, 2014, p. 630, 633
  9. ^ Emanuel, Swedenberg. "True Christianity 2: The New Century Edition Portable".
  10. ^ Hay, Rev. George (1871). "Chapter 17: Of Repentance" . Works of the Right Rev. Bishop Hay of Edinburgh. William Blackwood and Sons.
  11. ^ "Joseph Martos on The History of Penance and Reconciliation".
  12. ^ "Augsburg Confession - Book of Concord". Archived from the original on 11 March 2021. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  13. ^ Discipline of the Immanuel Missionary Church. Shoals, Indiana: Immanuel Missionary Church. 1986. p. 8.
  14. ^ a b Robert H. Krapohl, Charles H. Lippy, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide, Greenwood Publishing Group, USA, 1999, p. 169
  15. ^ Gordon T. Smith, Transforming Conversion: Rethinking the Language and Contours of Christian Initiation, Baker Academic, USA, 2010, p. 74-75