Understanding Repentance vs Penance

Today, as always so many (if not all, in some degree or another) religions are stressing the importance of repenting and yet they are twisting the true meaning to fit their own beliefs and doctrines.  Looking at the different religions and traditions of the world, the one thing I have noticed in abundance, is how repentance/repenting is being used to have (or to use) control over people….to use people’s ignorance and fear of God against them….to have people follow after false teachers instead of teaching them how to understand scripture.

(While we cannot place all the blame on the falseness that is in the world, we can place blame where it is due, and it is our responsibility as saved Christians to bring light to their darkness….it is still up to the person to make the decision so in part they will also take some of the blame in the end.)

People are so confused and a lot of people don’t have the time, or even some of the resources to research themselves and they turn to the preachers and pastors to guide them…..however, to know who is a true teacher of the Word and a false one, especially for new Christians can be very daunting especially today….

While false teachers and doctrines have been around since the beginning, today it is so much worse because the Spirit of the Antichrist is growing stronger and stronger and the blindness (spiritually) of all people are being affected.  It is why it is vitally important to spend time with the Lord yourself and ask for discernment.

All over the world people are being told that they are unworthy of the Lord’s mercy and of His great love and it is all falling under the guise of repentance, repenting, and penance…..because of our own willingness to believe we are not worthy of love, or our willingness to believe in what we want, Satan is winning the battle for lost souls and tormenting the saved.  He is turning the lost away from God and turning some of the saved from truly understanding God so they will unwittingly lead the lost to Hell instead of to God. 

What Does Repentance Mean?

Being repentant of Heart’….we’ve all heard this at one time or another, along with ‘repent for the kingdom is at hand’ Matthew 3:2 & 4:17….but what does having a repentant heart and repent actually mean?

We must first delve into the original meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words used in scripture that were then translated into the words of repentance and repent and the meaning of each….

The first word we will go over is the Hebrew word NachamNacham is used at least 100 times in the Old Testament verses… (You can find this information in the KJV Old Testament Hebrew lexicon.)

Definition of Nacham

“to be sorry, console oneself, repent, regret, comfort, to be comforted”

Let’s take a look at some verses for examples…..

“And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Genesis 6:6 

“And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” Exodus 32:14

“And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying , the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand.  And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.” 1 Chronicles 21:15

“And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.” Psalms 106:45

“For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.” Jeremiah 4:28

“the LORD repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord God.” Amos 7:6

Looking at the definition of the word Nacham and place it where repent is, you can clearly see that God was at times, sorry, regretful, and changed His mind….

Now let’s look at the Greek word Metanoeo (the original spelling before changing to Metanoia/Metamelomai ) and was translated 34 times in the New testament.

Definition of Metanoeo

“a transformative change of heart; a transformation of outlook; a change in direction”

Some verses for the usage of Metanoeo are:

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

“Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:” Matthew 11:20

Also Jesus said “ And saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:15

“And they went out, and preached that men should repent.” Mark 6:12

“The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgement with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” Luke11:32

You can clearly see that there are 3 distinct meanings of repent…..one is being remorseful, contrite, and sorry for what we do; the other is changing of the mind or direction (our focus if you will); and surrendering to God. 

The meaning of Repent and Repentance today

We now come to the meaning of repentance or repent in today’s teachings…..Let’s look at the definition of Repentance/Repent.  For they mean the exact same thing….

Definition of Repentance

“is the activity of reviewing ones’ action and feeling remorse, contrition, or regret for past wrongs; a transformative change of heart”

Definition of Repent

“feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin; view of think of (an action or omission) with deep regret or remorse; a personal absolute and ultimate unconditional surrender to God; complete 180 degree change towards God.”

They clearly are the same definition as Nachum and Metanoeo…..so the question to ask is; why has the meaning of repent changed in our religions, our churches, our teachings, and our traditions?  How did the meaning get skewed?  Why do people not research and trust in the interpretation of Men instead of what God actually meant?

Looking into different religions I found that there is a universal list on how we should repent….Let’s take a look at this list…..

  • We must recognize our sins
  • We must forsake our Sins 
  • We must feel sorrow for our sins
  • We must confess our sins
  • We must make restitution
  • We must forgive others
  • We must keep the commandments of God

(The first thing I need to make clear is that no one on this earth can keep every commandment from God and if they tell you they can, they are a liar)

Only after we do all this, we can then accept God’s forgiveness or be told we are forgiven by our priests….Does this really make sense?  Again we must refer to the thief on the cross….

You have one thief, who never confessed His sins, He was being crucified with Jesus so had no way to make amends or restitution…..And he had no time to keep the commandments of God…..Yet, he was clearly going to be in paradise with Jesus, for the simple reason ….He BELIEVED that Jesus was THE Christ, God in the flesh. (He surrendered to that belief)

Can you not plainly see from the actual definition, and the list that Man in fact has created are different? The list above that religions have made, has added what they want to make it harder to understand God’s meaning, mercy, love, and grace for us……why do this if not under a demonic influence, and for control of people?

(Another point I want to make is this:  If all the religions and traditions of the world is teaching this list does it not stand to reason that the truth is in fact the opposite?)

Are you starting to see what Satan and man can do to prevent people from reaching God?

If we go by this list above, and this is what repentance/repent really means, how then can this explain God being repentant and repented?

We know that God cannot sin, God cannot Lie, God is all Holiness……But according to this list, God must not be perfect, He must be like us, a sinner…..  How else can they explain how repent is different for us than for God, when they are of the same meaning?

Looking at what people are claiming repent/repentance means, it looks a whole lot like Penance…..

What is Penance?

People today are confusing repentance with penance….and some are actually teaching they are the same thing; they are completely different…and it is very important to understand the difference.

“voluntary self punishment or punishment  inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong; A Christian sacrament in which a member of the Church confesses sins to a priest and is given absolution; an act of self-mortification  or devotion to show sorrow”

Pay very close attention to this definition……It plainly states SELF- PUNISHMENT or PUNISHMENT…..in order to do penance we must do good works, fast, say certain prayers, discipline ourselves, spend hours in meditation, do merits, etc…..the list goes on and on, but the point is that we are to punish ourselves for the sins we commit…..Is this biblical?

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ Dies for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Romans 5:8-9

(self-punishment and punishment is different from the chastisement of the Lord.  When we do wrong, the Holy Spirit will grieve and in turn can bring about chastisement just like a father and mother would sit down their child and admonish them for what they did wrong…..then it is forgotten because we are sorry, does a mother and father then bring up what that child did wrong continuously over and over again?  Sometimes, but that is what is different with humans and God.  God lets it go and does not dwell on it.)

According to Scripture Jesus did the penance for us, He paid the restitution for our sins, He got punished in our stead……So what good are we doing when we pay penance?  We cannot do penance for our own sins, else we would not need the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood……

If we go by what most religions and traditions are teaching, we will never be able to repent enough, because we will never be perfect enough.  We will never know peace of mind or heart, because we will be constantly feeling remorse, guilty, and regretful of everything we have ever done.


If we repent and pay penance, we will go on living and sinning, thinking we can just repent (be sorry), pay penance again and again, and be right with God.

How many people do this today….they sin and live in sin all week only to go to church on Sunday and say a few prayers maybe do a few good things and then come Monday, they are back to doing and living in sin again….all because they are taught or understand that as long as they are sorry afterwards and pay retribution they will be forgiven….But forgiven by whom?

(It’s very important to remember that only God can forgive you of all your sins…..if you are seeking forgiveness from priest’s, pastors, leaders of the any church, you are not forgiven at all…You may can get forgiveness for the action of your sin, but not the sin itself…..You can ask forgiveness from people you have done wrong to, but them forgiving you does not forgive you for the sin you committed, only the Blood can do that….if you have that, you are already forgiven.)

What repentance and repenting truly means….

When you repent, you realize you are a sinner, you realize you are not perfect and will never be perfect, you will sin because you are human…..in  this realization you understand that you are in need of someone who is perfect and who took the punishment for you……

In other words, it means to change your way of thinking, of believing and being sorry for the sinfulness inside…..nowhere does it say repent and pay (penance) for your sins…..for once you change your way of thinking, you have already repented (or changed) your way of thinking about sin….and realizing that only Jesus can pay for your sins.

When Jesus wants and commands us to repent….it is a command to come back to Him, to be sorry for the sin of turning away, of unbelief, and of the sins we commit; To change our minds regarding sin and the Lord.  It is necessary to repent in order to receive salvation, because the only way to receive salvation is to change your mind directly to God, and know that you need a savior, you need a redeemer, you are now aware that you are a sinner in need of God’s mercy and grace.

No one on this earth can turn or forsake sin because until we get our glorified bodies it is an innate characteristic of our bodies….Oh we can definitely turn away and forsake sin at times, or from certain sinful things, but we all sin and we cannot not sin until we are glorified.

(To proclaim otherwise makes you a liar (which is turn is a sin) and makes you self- righteous.)

As saved believers, we should after we receive salvation, be willing to work for the Lord, we should make amends to anyone we may have hurt, we should do good deeds to show our love for mankind and our love for God….we should do a lot of things, but a lot of times we don’t…..and this does not mean that if we don’t we are not repentant (feeling guilty or sorry), or have changed our minds and hearts…..

It means we are human….and even if we do nothing for the Lord after we get saved I (I personally believe this is impossible, because God will make sure you are able to do something for Him in His way) this does not mean we have not repented.  We are to show and do works to show we have repented to others…..all works come after salvation in order to show the world we have repented, changed our way of thinking, and our love for the Lord.

Only when you repent (turn back to God/Change your mind) can you then receive forgiveness.   We all feel remorse and regret when we know we have sinned….but to punish ourselves continuously does nothing for us, for Jesus has already been punished in our stead.  We must remember that when we try to pay for our own sins, we are bringing our sins onto our own shoulders and trying to redeem ourselves, and since we are human, we can’t do that…..

When you repent and ask Jesus to be your savior, you have already repented of all your sins.  Should we confess at the end of each day, sure, if we know we have committed a sin, we should go immediately to God in prayer and confess that we were weak, that we turned away from Him for a time, but we don’t want to continue and we want to focus back on him.  This is respect for Him and to get it off our shoulders, for God has already forgiven us because He knew already we would fall into that sin….

People tend to forget that God knows you will sin before you do…..it’s recognizing that we will fall at times and He is always there to pick us up because we have already repented by believing in Him….we forsake Him often, but if we are truly His, He will never forsake us and  we cannot lose our salvation because of it.

Another point I want to make, is, what about the sins you don’t know you commit?  There are plenty of times we commit a sin without our awareness, so how can we be repentant of that sin, and do penance?

You see, that is the whole purpose of the Cross…..HE paid the penance for all our sins…..all we have to do is have a repentant heart (change of heart) to believe in that sacrifice.

Are we remorseful?

We will always be regretful, remorseful, and ashamed of the sins we have committed, we do commit, and we will commit until the day of redemption…..but we must let them all go to the Lord….. we need to  let them go for to dwell on them does nothing but hinder our growth and faith in God…..God has already forgiven us…..it is Satan that keeps planting them in your mind telling you that you must repent constantly, or do penance because you are not worthy of forgiveness…..He can torture you for years with your past sins…..

God knows all of this…..and all He wants to tell you is that He has already forgiven you for all if you but repent (believe) in Him.  Why pay for something that has already been paid?

None is worthy of forgiveness and yet all is worthy of forgiveness thru Christ Jesus for with God all things are possible.

Change your focus

When we focus on all the things we’ve ever done throughout our lives, this gives way for the demons to come in and torment us with unworthiness, un-forgiveness,  hate of self, depression, anxiety, fear, torment, etc.  It is not healthy or what God wants for us…..if we spend all our time thinking about our past, we can never move forward….when you find yourself, (and as Christians we all struggle with self- condemnation because we know the truth), focusing on what you have done wrong, turn your focus back to God and remember, that He has already forgiven you and paid the price for you…..

Trust Him to know your repentant heart.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalms 103:12