Biblical Repentance

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  7 : 9-11
Subject: Repentance; Life Change

Dr. Richard C. Halverson (1916-1995), former Chaplain of the United States Senate, shares the following in one of his Perspective newsletters: “True repentance is a therapeutic that keeps a man at his best – inwardly – free from the guilt that works like sand in human machinery.  There is a vast difference between true repentance – and mere sorrow for sin!”1

An unknown author says: “There is a radical distinction between natural regret and God-given repentance.  The flesh can feel remorse, acknowledge its evil deeds, and be ashamed of itself.  However, this sort of disgust with past actions can be quickly shrugged off, and the individual can soon go back to his old wicked ways.  None of the marks of true repentance described in 2 Corinthians 7:11 are found in his behavior.  His shallow confessions usually have a self-serving interest.  Out of a list of 10 men in the Bible who said, ‘I have sinned,’ we believe only five actually repented.  They were David (2 Sam. 12:13), Nehemiah (Neh. 1:6), Job (Job 42:5,6), Micah (Micah 7:9), and the prodigal son (Luke 15:18).  The other five, Pharaoh, Balaam, Achan, Saul, and Judas apparently perished in their guilt.”2 

Dr. Joseph Parker (1830-1902) explains, “The man whose little sermon is ‘repent’ sets himself against his age and will for the time being, be battered mercilessly by the age whose moral tone he challenges. There is but one end for such a man – ‘off with his head’. We had better not try to preach repentance until you have pledged your head to Heaven.”3 John the Baptist preached repentance and lost his head.  Mark 6:14-29 reads, “Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, ‘John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.’ Others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.’ But when Herod heard, he said, ‘This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!’ For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. Because John had said to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee.  And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.’ He also swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’ So she went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask?’ And she said, ‘The head of John the Baptist!’ Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.”

2 Corinthians 7:2-16 reads, “Open your hearts to us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have cheated no one. I do not say this to condemn; for I have said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation. For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.

For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you. Therefore we have been comforted in your comfort. And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I am not ashamed. But as we spoke all things to you in truth, even so our boasting to Titus was found true. And his affections are greater for you as he remembers the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him. Therefore I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything.”

Note the process, promise, and product of biblical repentance.

I. What is the process of biblical repentance?

2 Corinthians 7:9 reads, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.”  The process of biblical repentance involves a God-like sorrow.

Dr. Walter A. Elwell explains, “To repent means to turn. In the N.T. repentance means to turn from sin. We were called by God to turn from sin. In fact, all men everywhere are commanded by God to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30). God’s longsuffering leads us to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9) as does His kindness (Rom. 2:4).

There is true and false repentance, ‘For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death’ (2 Cor. 7:10).

Sorrowing over and forsaking sin, a wholehearted turning away from all that is evil. This is more than regret or remorse, attitudes that point to sorrow over sin but no more. Repentance was looked for in Old Testament times (Ezek. 14:6; 18:30). It was the first item in the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1-2), Jesus (Matt. 4:17), and the apostles (Mark 6:12; cf. Acts 2:38). Beyond repentance, faith is needed. But repentance is indispensable. Sin must be forsaken decisively.”4

Henry G. Bosch (1914-1995), former editor of Our Daily Bread for Radio Bible Class Ministries from 1956-1981, explains the following about “True Repentance”:   

“Two kinds of repentance are possible in human experience. One is ‘the sorrow of the world,’ a feeling induced by the fear of getting caught. Many people recognize the unpleasant consequences of their sin and are persuaded that they are guilty. This results in a superficial sorrow that may lead to a temporary reformation but not to a genuine turning to Christ for forgiveness. Godly sorrow, on the other hand, is accompanied by conviction of sin, the work of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:37). This stems from the realization of offending a holy God. It leads to genuine repentance.”5

Dr. Charles Swindoll shares the following: “In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church’s integrity problem is in the misconception ‘that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior.’ He goes on to say, ‘It is revival without reformation, without repentance.’”6 

Rev. William Secker (d. 1681?) explains in The Nonsuch Professor, “If God's to-day be too soon for thy repentance, thy to-morrow may be too late for God's acceptance.”7

Dr. Clarence E. Macartney (1879-1957) shares the following: “Judge Horace Gray of Boston who would later go on to serve as a Justice on the Supreme Court once said to the man who escaped conviction on a technicality: ‘I know that you are guilty and you know it, and I wish you to remember that one day you will stand before a better and wiser Judge, and that there you will be dealt with according to justice and not according to law.’

Man’s justice is always subject to errors, but God’s justice is perfect. No sin escapes His gaze, and though punishment is sometimes delayed as God grants room to repent, it is certain. No one escapes God’s justice on a technicality.”8

II. What is the promise of biblical repentance?

2 Corinthians 7:10 reads, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” The promise of biblical repentance involves a God-given salvation.

Luke 13:1-5 reads, “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’” Acts 17:30-31 reads, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” 2 Peter 3:9 reads, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Dr. J. Edwin Orr (1912-1987) writes, “Does ‘repent and believe the gospel’ imply that the sinner must do two things to be saved, and not one only? The exhortation is really only one requirement. The instruction, ‘Leave London and go to Los Angeles,’ sounds like a two-fold request, but it really is only one; it is impossible to go to Los Angeles without leaving London.”9

Repentance and faith are like two sides to the same coin.  You cannot have saving faith without repentance.  Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) explains, “It is not repentance that saves me; repentance is the sign that I realize what God has done in Christ Jesus. The danger is to put the emphasis on the effect instead of on the cause. Is it my obedience that puts me right with God? Never! I am put right with God because prior to all else, Christ died. When I turn to God and by belief accept what God reveals, instantly the stupendous atonement of Jesus Christ rushes me into a right relationship with God. By the miracle of God’s grace I stand justified, not because of anything I have done, but because of what Jesus has done. The salvation of God does not stand on human logic; it stands on the sacrificial death of Jesus. Sinful men and women can be changed into new creatures by the marvelous work of God in Christ Jesus, which is prior to all experience.”

III. What is the product of biblical repentance?

2 Corinthians 7:11 reads, “For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”  The product of biblical repentance involves a God-honoring success.

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe suggests “We must correctly distinguish regret, remorse, and true repentance. Regret is an activity of the mind; whenever we remember what we have done, we ask ourselves, ‘Why did I do that?’ Remorse includes both the heart and the mind, and we feel disgust and pain, but we don’t change our ways. But true repentance includes the mind, the heart, and the will.  We change our minds about our sins and agree with what God about them; we abhor ourselves because of what we have done; and we deliberately turn from our sin and turn to the Lord to receive His mercy.”10 Proverbs 28:13 reads, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”  God-honoring success is vastly different from the generally accepted definition.  Rev. Tommy Nelson explains, “Many people today—even Christians—think about success in terms of money. The world is constantly shoving its definition of success down our throats; success is grandeur, greatness, and prosperity. . . . Success is not wealth.  Sorry. Success is not having a happy life.  People may wish that were true, but it’s not.  Success is not having all your childhood dreams come true.  Success is not having the perfect family.  Success is not having everyone like you, think you are attractive, or be amazed at your talent or competence.

If you want to learn about biblical success, the first step is to put to death the worldly view of success that has seeped into your soul.”11

Thinking about God-honoring success remember the words found in Streams in the Desert: “Faith honors God; God honors faith”12 Hebrews 11:6 reads, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Romans 10:17 reads, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  It is impossible to have God-honoring success until you make things right between God and man. The Corinthians demonstrated biblical repentance in that they were diligent to clear themselves of sin with proper indignation, fear, vehement desire, zeal, and vindication! John C. Chapman warns, “No repentance is true repentance which does not recognize Jesus as Lord over every area of life.”13


Dr. William Culbertson (1905-1971), former president of Moody Bible Institute, explains, “Great changes had occurred at Corinth.  They had been divided, they had failed to judge terrible sin in their midst, they were guilty of excesses at the table of the Lord, they had those among them who said there was no resurrection from the dead.  But now Titus brought back a good report—and Paul’s circumstances, his afflictions, his desperation suddenly seemed as nothing.  His children were meaning business with God—and revival had come.  What a way to encourage a man of God!”14 

Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) explains, “Nevertheless, just now the number-one item on the agenda is repentance in the church accompanied by confession and forsaking of sin, reconciliation and restitution, separation from the world, submission to the lordship of Christ, and the filling of the Spirit.  . . . As I read report after report of great church congresses and conferences and conventions that spend all their time on peace, poverty, and pollution and leave the primary need, I long to read of one session where programs are thrown into the waste basket and the assembly goes to its knees. We have passed enough resolutions. God’s people must be called to repentance, and the repenting must begin with the delegates! Our Lord’s call to repentance in Revelation began with the angels of the churches, not the backsliders out on the fringe. . . . Nowadays we try to create the revival before it happens.”15

1Richard C. Halverson, Perspective [Newsletter] (Washington, DC: Concern, Inc., n. d.).

2Henry G. Bosch, “Two Kinds of ‘Repentance’” (2 Corinthians 7:10), Our Daily Bread (Grand Rapids, MI: Radio Bible Class, n. d.), Monday, July 16 Accessed: 05/05/17 .

3Joseph Parker, “These Sayings of Mine”: Pulpit Notes on Seven Chapters of The First Gospel and Other Sermons (New York, NY: I. K. Funk & Co., Publishers, 1881), 62. 

4The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook, Walter A. Elwell, Editor, (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1984), 355.

5Bosch, “Repentance”.

6Charles Swindoll, John The Baptizer, Bible Study Guide, (Fullerton, CA: Insight for Living, 1988), 16.

7William Secker, The Nonsuch Professor (London: Richard D. Dickinson, 1868), 122.

8Clarence Edward Noble Macartney, Macartney’s Illustrations: Illustrations from the Sermons of Clarence Edward Macartney (Nashville, TN: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1945), 200.

9Precept Austin, ed. Bruce Hurt, M.D., Accessed: 05/05/17  .

10Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Reverent: Bowing Before Our Awesome God: Ezekiel, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010), 175.

11Tommy Nelson, The 12 Essentials of Godly Success (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2005), 1-2. 

12Mrs. Chas. E. Cowman, Streams in the Desert, June 14, (1925), 178. Database © 2014 WORDsearch Corp.

13Michael Catt, The Power of Surrender (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 33. 

14For Times Like These, Personal Glimpses by William Culbertson, “How to Be a Source of Joy”!print/details.asp?id=35585&PG=resources&CID=29164 .

15Vance Havner “Repentance as a Church Priority”. Accessed: 05/15/17 .


Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on in hardcover, paperback and eBook] & /   / (251) 626-6210

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