Lack of knowledge of word meanings in their original language can often cause us to completely misunderstand the words they have become in English. That in turn can mean a whole world full of mistranslations because many modern Bible translations are taken from the English rather than the Hebrew or Greek.
I hope today’s word study can be read with that view in mind. My intent is to help us all to see the deeper meaning of the word repent in the KJV as well as be willing to use the original Greek word in their everyday conversations today.
A word’s currency works somewhat like monetary currency. The more people use a word, the more useful it becomes. The more people know it, the easier it is for you to use.
For example, the word metanoia is a noun meaning: a profound transformation in one’s outlook. What is the origin? In the Greek, metanoia means a change of mind, and comes from metanoein, meaning to change one’s mind. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest documented use was in 1577.
In scripture, the word metanoia (noun) or metanoeo (verb) includes the meaning of the root word (nous) mind. Mind (nous) in scripture deals more with the will or determination in Romans 7. Paul willed to do God’s will (Rom. 7:25), but the members of his body prevented him (Rom. 7:23).
According to 2 Timothy 2:25, repentance is something that God must give. This particular repentance is a mind that acknowledges God’s truth, which in turn gives him strength to recover himself from the snare of the devil (2 Tim 2:26). By that, the new mind frees him from being captured by Satan.
For the Christian, repentance is a change of mind from determining to do wrong to doing right. For example, Simon (Acts 8:20-23) had a mind to purchase the power to give the Holy Spirit, which was the gift of God. Peter called on him to have a different mind, to cease to think that the gift of God could be purchased with money (Acts 8:20). The same change of mind was required of the Ephesians who had lost their first love. They were called on to have a mind to regain their first love and do the works they did at first (Rev. 3:5).
For those who are not Christian, repentance is a new mind that determines to no longer live for self, but to live for Christ (2 Cor. 5:15). Paul gained that mind when he saw Christ in the sky, so that he counted all things loss (all the accomplishments in the Jewish religion) and turned to live only for Christ (Phil. 3:8-12). Paul had the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), which was to come to do the Father’s will and not his own will (John 5:30).
As an additional comparison, a Latin word, abnegation, meaning self-denial, can be closely associated with the deeper understanding of metanoia. Abnegation is from the Latin ab (away, off) + negare (to deny), from nec (not). The earliest documented use was in 1398.
So what does all this mean for the Christian? For many, repentance only means being sorry for the past and that’s it, but it should mean a complete change of heart and mind. Actually it is a new mind, one that determines to obey in God in everything.
That new mindset would bring us closer to the understanding of what it means to really love the LORD and to WANT to do his will (1 John 2:1-5).
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Articles and Books by Beth Johnson