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Home > Weekly Columns > Greek Thoughts > Archives >
Article for January 18, 2009

Greek Thoughts Archives
First available on January 18, 2009

METANOIA* - repentance


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Author Bio

Bill Klein has been a pastor, counselor, and educator for the past 36 years. He has had extensive training and education in biblical languages, and has authored a Biblical Greek course.

He is currently serving as Professor of Biblical Greek at Master's Graduate School of Divinity, and president of BTE Ministries - The Bible Translation and Exegesis Institute of America, a non-profit organization located in California that provides Bible study tapes and Greek study materials through their website


Please note that all Biblical quotes, in this and all other lessons posted to Greek Thoughts, are from The Literal English Translation of the Bible produced by BTE Ministries - The Bible Translation and Exegesis Institute of America.

As we learned last week, the verb form metanoe/w (Strong's #3340, pronounced mĕ t nō ĕ ō**) is associated with a person's perceptive awareness of the need to make a decision to change the direction of his or her life. Metanoe/w comes from two Greek words; the first being the preposition meta/ (Strong's #3326, pronounced mĕ t**), which means "a change in location or circumstance" when used in a compound word. The second part of the compound comes from the word noe/w (Strong's #3539, pronounced nō ĕ ō**), which expresses a person's perceptive ability. This verb calls for the action of making a decision to change the direction of one's life. The related noun form expressing this concept is meta/noia (Strong's #3341, pronounced mĕ t noi **), which states the condition of change.

We also learned last week that John the Baptist is first in the New Testament to give the call to repentance saying, "Repent (the imperative, or command form of metanoe/w), for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near." (Matthew 3:2) John also states, "Therefore produce fruit worthy of repentance (meta/noia)". (Matthew 3:8) In context, John indicates that those who have made the decision to change the direction of their lives and have reached the condition of repentance will bear the fruit of their decision. In the context of Matthew 3:9-11, John stands in opposition to the Jewish leaders who are claiming to be in right standing with God based upon their ancestral relationship with Abraham. John proclaims the decision to turn from trusting in Judaism to receiving the ministry of the Messiah for change is the fruit indicating repentance. John calls the Messiah's ministry to those who surrender to Him "being baptized in the Holy Spirit." Therefore, the fruit produced by turning from trusting in religious practices to the saving faith of Messiah is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Repentance, as we understand it thus far, is presented as the surrendering of one's life to Christ and the reliance on Him to make the necessary change of direction by the agent of His Holy Spirit.

Jesus and the early church present this same teaching. Jesus said, "...for I did not come to call righteous ones but sinners unto repentance." (Matthew 9:13) In the Lord's commission to the apostles (Luke 24:46-47), He said, "In this way it has been written, and in this way it is necessary that the Christ should sufferF1 and that He should rise upF2 from out of the dead the third day; and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preachedF3 upon the basis of His name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem."

The first messages after Pentecost carried this same good news. Peter said, "Repent and let each of you be baptized upon the name of Jesus Christ, toward forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38) Peter calls for people to repent, to be baptized toward forgiveness of sin, and, as a result, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Note that the preposition eiv, Strong's #1519, pronounced ās, is translated "toward" the forgiveness of their sin. Eiv does not denote time sequence, but rather that baptism is for the forgiveness of sin, whenever that forgiveness takes place past, present or future). Here Peter teaches that the result of genuine repentance is the reception of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the fruit of a person's repentance.

When Paul calls for the elders of Ephesus to come to the island of Miletus, he tells them that he was "thoroughly testifying both to Jews and Gentiles repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:21) Then, when standing before King Agrippa, Paul says, "I did not become disobedient to the heavenly vision, but I declared first to the ones in Damascus and Jerusalem, and unto all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repentF4 and that they should turnF5 to God, while producing works worthy of repentance (meta/noia)." (Acts 26:19-20) Paul is proclaiming the same message as that of Jesus, John, and Peter; repentance is necessary for salvation and the fruit, or works worthy of repentance (literally, a continuous process under the control of the Holy Spirit), indicate true repentance.

The Bible also teaches that repentance is a gift from God. Peter and the other apostles tell the Sanhedrin, "God exalted this One to His right as Ruler and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." (Acts 5:31) Then, after explaining his calling from the Lord to go to the Gentiles with the message of salvation (), Peter's Jerusalem brethren respond by "…glorifying God, saying, 'Then God also gave to the Gentiles repentance unto life.'" (Acts 11:18)

In our day and age, the condition of repentance is largely absent from the Christian message of salvation. Too often salvation is offered as a ticket to Heaven, a ticket costing us nothing. However, the Bible teaches that salvation is not free to us; there is a price we each must be willing to pay. Since both the call to repentance and the condition of repentance are absolutely necessary to the salvation process (as shown by the verb form metanoe/w expressing the call for the action of making a decision to change the direction of one's life; and the noun form meta/noia states the condition necessary for salvation), the fruit of repentance follows only when these two are present in a person's heart. Simply put, a person must perceive that he or she needs a change in the direction of life. The decision for this change must be made; and then one's life must be surrendered to Christ. The Holy Spirit is given only after this surrender. The surrender of one's life, then, is the intrinsic cost of true repentance. It is a necessary price; because, as Biblical language makes clear, no person has the ability to effect spiritual change; only God can do such a thing. The good news is that repentance is God's gift to all who pay the price of surrender to Christ.


* METANOIA is the English font spelling of the Greek word meta/noia.

**English pronunciation of vowel sounds & accented syllables: āle, ăm, rm; ēve, ĕnd; īce, ǐll; ōld, ǒdd, wh; oi as in oil; ow as in cow; ūse, ŭp, rude. Bold type indicates an accented syllable.

Technical Notes:

F1: The infinitive paqein,"to suffer," is translated by na pa/qh, "that He should suffer."

F2: The infinitive anasthnai,"to rise up," is translated by na anasthqh, "that He should rise up."

F3: The infinitive khruxqhnai, "to be preached," is translated by na khruxqh, "that...should be preached."

F4: The infinitive of purpose metanoein, "to repent," is translated na metanowsi, "that they should repent."

F5: The infinitive of purpose epistre/fein, "to turn," is translated na epistre/fwsin, "that they should turn."

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