Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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The repentance that man talks about simply speaks of one thing: he is not willing to lower himself to the bottom rung. He thinks that he should be at least one rung higher before God would grant him salvation. This is repentance according to man’s mind. It is not the repentance in the Bible. I am not saying that there is no doctrine of repentance in the Bible. There is the doctrine of repentance in the Bible. The Bible even demands that man should repent. But the repentance that the Bible talks about is different from the repentance that we talk about today. What then is the repentance that the Bible talks about? Let us now look at it.

First, the meaning of the word repentance in Greek is a turning of the mind. The mind is the thinking organ within man. Hence, repentance as taught in the Bible is not a change in conduct, but a change in mind. The word repentance just means a change in one’s thoughts and has nothing to do with works. It does not have any connotation of a change in conduct. This is as far as the meaning of the word goes.

Second, in the New Testament, repentance is always used in reference to our past. It concerns what we have done in the past, what we have thought and said, and what we were as persons in the past. Formerly, we had certain kinds of concepts and certain views which we considered good and glorious. Now, through the enlightening of God, our mind has a great turn. It is not a turn with a view to future conduct, but a change from things of the past. We change our view and evaluation concerning many things. Originally, we thought that it was a glory and a joy to deceive others and that the one who was deceived was such a fool because he was ignorant of being cheated. One might delight and glory in this. But what he once considered glorious, now he considers shameful. Repentance is not for the good of tomorrow, but for the wrong of yesterday. Repentance is not saying what one should do in the future; it is a reevaluation in the mind, a changed view, and a different judgment concerning the things of the past.

In Luke 13:3 the Lord Jesus told the Jews that if they did not repent of what they did, they would die like the Galileans did. Hence, repentance is to take a different view than before. It is to see things in God’s light, a light that is from above.

Let us go on. In Acts we see the word repentance used many times. Acts 8:22 says, "Repent therefore from this wickedness of yours and beseech the Lord if perhaps the intent of your heart may be forgiven you." Simon was trying to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit with money, and Peter replied with a very strong word. He told Simon that he had to repent of his wickedness. This does not mean that Simon should do better in the future. It means that Simon should repent of what he has just done, what he has just said, and what his thoughts have been. Repentance is to deal with one’s problems of the past. It means that there were great mistakes in what we did and that we should now have a different view. Formerly, the thought was to spend a little money to buy the Holy Spirit. Now, this is seen as a sin. What should be done? There is now the need for a new view and a renewed evaluation. This is repentance. By this we receive forgiveness.

(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)