A redefinition of repentance
In the 1980s, some changed the historic Baptist definition of repentance. Two of the leaders of this were Jack Hyles and Curtis Hutson. I suspect that it was to justify their idea that bigger is better. Remember, the first question you were likely to be asked at a preachers meeting was, how many did you have Sunday?
So? What did they actually say?
“The problem and confusion is not preaching repentance but attaching the wrong definition to the word. For instance, to say that repentance means to turn from sin, or to say that repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action, is to give a wrong definition to the word” (Curtis Hutson, Repentance: What Does the Bible Teach? Sword of the Lord, 1986, p. 16).
He doesn’t say exactly what his definition of repentance is, but he does say that the one that has been used since the beginning is a wrong definition. I think he was referring to the same thing as Jack Hyles in this next quote.
“What makes the wrath of God abide on a person? Believing not! So, from what must a person repent in order to be saved? He must repent of that which makes him lost. Since ‘believing not’ makes him lost, ‘believing’ makes him saved. The repentance there is a turning from the thing that keeps him from being saved to the thing that saves him. So, yes, there is a repentance from unbelief in order to believe. It is simply a change of direction. It means a turning around. You are going away from believing, and you decide to turn around and believe. You change your direction; you change your mind. With your will you believe and rely upon Christ to save you. In order to believe, you have to repent of unbelief. That which makes a man lost must be corrected.” (Dr. Jack Hyles, Enemies of Soulwinning, 1993).
Here Dr. Hyles plays word games to say that all there is to repentance is to stop your unbelief, and start believing. It is stunning that two Johnny Come Latelys, who just happen to be good salesmen, can change what has been accepted for centuries, just because they say so.
The following are some quotes from those who hold to the traditional definition of repentance. I am going to slightly disagree with them, but their definitions are much closer to the truth than that of Hutson and Hyles.
Before I give the quotes, let me tell you why I disagree a bit with these men. I searched out every usage of repent in any form in English. Then I searched every Greek or Hebrew word from which they were translated. I could not find one place where these words were used to tell a lost person to repent of his sins, or of his sin in general.
John R. Rice, 1940 – “To repent literally means to have a change of mind or spirit toward God and toward sin.
IT MEANS TO TURN FROM YOUR SINS, earnestly, with all your heart, and trust in Jesus Christ to save you. You can see, then, how the man who believes in Christ repents and the man who repents believes in Christ. The jailer repented when he turned from sin to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (What Must I Do to Be Saved? 1940).
Actually this definition is not too far from that of Hutson and Hyles. It almost seems to equate repentance and belief. He kind of combines the two, which laid the foundation for the definition of Hutson and Hyles.
Harold Sightler, 1963 – “Recognizing his guilt, there is a TURNING FROM SIN. There is a turning to God. The actual word ‘repentance’ means a turning completely around: a change of course; a change of mind. … To think of repentance that doesn’t cause the sinner to turn gladly from his sin is impossible. … I know that we have a shallow religious movement in our times that will allow men to profess faith in Christ and at the same time continue to live in the world. Such a shallow religious faith is not real. These are mere professors and have no part with God in salvation” (Chastening and Repentance, 1963).
I can agree with most of what Brother Sightler said. His actual definition is correct, but there is nothing in Scripture that says what we are turning from is our sin.
B.R. Lakin, 1964 – “Repentance toward God — that’s TURNING AWAY FROM ALL YOUR SIN and everything you know to be wrong, and
TURNING RIGHT ABOUT FACE, then trusting Jesus Christ as your complete Redeemer” (Prepare to Meet Thy God, 1964).
How can a lost sinner, before he is saved, turn away from all of his sin? He doesn’t even know what all of his sins are.
Lester Roloff, 1965 – “Repentance is a godly sorrow for sin. REPENTANCE IS A FORSAKING OF SIN.
Real repentance is putting your trust in Jesus Christ so you will not live like that anymore. Repentance is permanent. It is a lifelong and an eternity-long experience. You will never love the devil again once you repent. You will never flirt with the devil as the habit of your life again once you get saved. You will never be happy living in sin; it will never satisfy; and the husks of the world will never fill your longing and hungering in your soul. Repentance is something a lot bigger than a lot of people think. It is essential if you go to heaven” (Repent or Perish, 1965).
I agree that those who have repented will forsake sin, but that does not make the repentance necessary for salvation equal to the forsaking of sin.
Oliver B. Green, 1969 – “True repentance is sorrow for sin committed against a holy God and not only sorrow for sin, but TURNING FROM SIN, FORSAKING SIN AND TURNING TO GOD. Sin nailed the Savior to the cross and certainly that fact alone is sufficient reason why All who have genuinely repented hate sin and forsake sinful ways.” (Commentary of Acts of the Apostles, Acts 2:37-38, 1969).
Here again, I agree that all who have genuinely repented hate sin, and forsake sinful ways. Again, in my search of the Scriptures, I found nowhere that used the word repent in any form, in English, Greek, or Hebrew, to say that it was a turning from sin. While the result of true repentance will be a turning from, and a forsaking of, sin, it is not what the Scriptures tell us to repent of.
Now that I have thoroughly offended some of you by disagreeing with these great men of God, let me tell you what the Scriptures say we are to turn from (repent). There is a verse that tells us exactly what it is. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, (Hebrews 6:1)
The writer has just chastised these Hebrew Christians for not being mature enough to teach others. In this verse he gives us foundation of the Christian message. It is repentance from dead works, and faith toward God.
Answer this question, In what does every religion except biblical Christianity trust for their salvation? Every one of them trusts in their own good works, at least to some degree. As long as one is trusting in something he or she has done for their salvation, including a prayer, they cannot be saved. They must turn from their dead works, and trust in the only work that can save, the work of Christ on the cross.
To be continued…