True and False Repentance

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 7:2-18

Yesterday we considered the godly sorrow that leads to repentance, but as Paul writes to the Corinthians he also compares godly sorrow with worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow, that is seeing our sin as God sees it, leads to repentance and to salvation. Godly sorrow is rooted in God’s holiness and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but worldly sorrow is rooted in selfishness. It does not lead to repentance but rather to remorse. Such sorrow contains no sense of sorrow for sin, but is more likely to be sorry at getting caught or found out. Worldly sorrow does not lead to a change of behaviour. Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, was full of sorrow and remorse but it was not repentance and led to death not life.

Having recognised that which is false, Paul makes it clear that he is grateful that the Corinthian Christians were genuinely sorry for their sin, and that their sorrow had led to repentance. The Greek word translated as repentance is metanoia. A definition of metanoia is a change in one’s life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion. It might also be defined as a change of mind that leads to a change in behaviour. The evidence that a person has repented of sin and become a Christian is a change in their behaviour.

Many years ago I heard the testimony of Percy Rush as told by his wife. For years Percy had been a drunkard and a hard man. When he came home from the pub night after night he would be violent and abusive. For fifty years his godly wife stood by him, put up with him, and prayed for him. One night Percy came to Christ, and was described as a brand plucked from the burning. His wife described his conversion in the following way: “The first miracle that Jesus did was to turn water into wine, and the first miracle that Jesus did in my husband’s life was to turn beer into furniture.” What a remarkable definition of repentance – a conversion, a change of mind that led to a totally different behaviour.

You might respond to this testimony by saying that you have never been a bad person like Percy Rush. We are all sinners by nature, and dead towards God, and however good we might be in the world’s eyes, we still need to repent of sin and of coming short of God’s standard. John the Baptist told the religious leaders of his day to bring forth the fruits worthy of repentance.

Repentance leads to a totally different attitude to sin. My wife Esther, never a bad person, says that before she received Christ she would steal cakes freshly baked by her mother, but after receiving Christ she could no longer even think of doing that without a sense of guilt.


What were the immediate changes you experienced in your life when you repented of sin?

Why is repentance such an important step in the Biblical process of salvation?

What part does the Holy Spirit play in bringing a person to repentance?


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