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What Does Repent Mean? Can A Person Be Saved If They Didn’t Repent?

REPENT and Believe……. Old Testament Meaning vs New Testament: It Matters

Do you need to repent to be saved?

Today we are talking about two kinds of repenting that we see in the bible. One is outward, and the other inward.

The new testament meaning of ‘repent’ is very different than the one used in the old testament. One is about turning from behavior, the other is about turning from a belief system. Here’s what you need to know.

I believe there is a misunderstanding of “biblical” repentance and its use in the New Testament. Many people describe NT repentance (metanoeo) as being the same as Old Testament repentance (shuwb). To them repent has one meaning—Turn back and DON’T SIN AGAIN and if you struggle with a particular sin they assume you have not turned back and are not repenting and thus are not saved. But is this really true?

Repent Meaning

Repent as Defined in Strongs Concordance

Yes, to a degree repenting includes a “turning” away from our sinful desires, however, it is not a promise we make to “be perfect at the law” for our salvation. If new the testament meaning of repent only meant stop breaking the law to be saved then wouldn’t that be a works-based salvation and wouldn’t it totally undermine verses like “you are saved by faith” or “apart from the law” and “apart from works” you are saved?

If you look through the Gospels we discover the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees and the BEST law keepers of them all were being told to REPENT and BELIEVE.

QUESTION: In the bible, why would anyone tell the most religious law-keeping people on planet earth (the Jews) to repent?

ANSWER: Because “repent” did not mean performing better and stop breaking the law. This was an inward repentance. Turning from the inward sin of unbelief. 

So then, what did repent mean in the new testament? It meant to think differently. To reconsider. In other words a turning and a changing of mind about their belief system. They were denying the deity of Christ and His saving ability and instead of looking to the LAW (rule-keeping) to save them. One could say this message was the same as “CHANGE your mind and think differently (repent) about the idea that keeping the law saves you and BELIEVE that only Jesus can do it”.

Old Testament repentance (shuwb)


NT repentance (metanoeo)


“Repent and Believe”. There was a sin alright, but it was the sin of disbelief being addressed, hence they were being called to repent (change their mind about their belief system of what saves them), and believe (that Jesus is the only way to the Father).

The unpardonable sin and the only one where we discover that there is no forgiveness.  The unpardonable sin is ‘unbelief’. 

Side Note: We DO believe Christians should, and are called to turn from sin. This is in no way an endorsement for even the smallest of sins.  However, we hold strong that outward repentance saves no one. It is only inward repentance that can save us. I find it sad that Christians must give these kinds of disclosures to ward off angry people that don’t have much appreciation for the grace message, and only see it as ‘cheap grace’. But nonetheless, the grace message shall prevail.

Author: Mike Cynar

Mike Cynar grew up in church and observed that countless people would go to church and then just stop. The church always referred to them as ‘fake Christians’ or ‘backsliders’ but Mike discovered the problem was deeper. The problem was the church message. The message was 90% behavior improvement and how bad you are, with a pinch of who you are in Christ, It was like every sermon was being preached to the church of Corinth. It’s in the Baptist church, Catholic, Pentecost, and most every other church. After discovering the true gospel message and how we are made right with God because of what ‘Jesus did’ (not what ‘we do’) Mike set out to free believers from behavior improvement programs and bring them back to Jesus. The Result – Jesus Without Religion was launched.


  • Samuel Seaton Posted November 30, 2022 11:10 am

    Thank you for emphasizing the true gospel of Jesus Christ! The only victory I ever have over sin is when I revert back to the truth that Jesus IS and DID everything concerning my salvation! To be honest, I continually struggle with my “repentance/behavior/works” that I fail at and makes me feel condemned. I have been a Christian/Believer for a long time and still get sucked into that legalistic mentality. I am grateful for the truth you are presenting and it is very encouraging to my walk!

    • Mike C Posted November 30, 2022 12:03 pm

      Awesome! Thanks for the kind words

    • Savannah Posted February 19, 2023 11:50 pm

      I have also struggled as a believer who can fall into a legalistic mentality. This message is great! It’s also nice to know I’m not alone in my struggle of feeling condemned. Thank you so much and God bless!

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