Q. Can you explain what repentance means and how it plays into our salvation? Do we repent before, during, or after the moment of our salvation?
A. First, let’s clear up the misunderstanding about the meaning of repentance. The Greek word translated “repent”in the Bible is “metanoeo”. It means to change our mind about something. It’s a combination of “meta” (after) and “noeo” (to perceive or understand). It’s like saying, “I used to believe one way, but that was before I understood. Now that I understand I believe a different way. I have repented.”
Before we can be saved we have to change our mind (repent) about two things. One is to admit that we’re sinners who would be hopelessly lost without a Savior, and the other is to believe that God sent His Son to pay the penalty due us for our sins so He could be our Savior. Therefore repentance comes before salvation, and that’s why we say, “Repent and be saved.”
Some people have the mistaken belief that to repent means to change our behavior. But if that was the case the phrase “repent and be saved” would mean we’d all have to stop sinning before we could be saved. It doesn’t make sense.
Many believers do experience a change in their behavior after they’re saved, But when that happens it’s not called repentance, It’s called the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.