Advocates of the RNC (the view that repentance does not always result in a change of action), in light of the overwhelming case against them from the lexica and from the uses of metanoeo and metanoia in the New Testament, make several arguments for their position that they hope will overturn the crushing weight of Biblical usage. First, they argue that the RAC (the view that repentance always results in a change of action) is an affirmation of justification by works. Only on the RNC position is salvation allegedly by faith alone. Faith is affirmed to be an absolute synonym with repentance, and faith is said to exclude any trust in Jesus Christ to make one different; one trusts Christ only to escape from hell, not to get a new heart and life. Christ is divided; He is not received as the Mediator who is at once Prophet, Priest, and King, one undivided Person who is both Savior and Lord. Rather, faith allegedly picks and chooses among Christ’s offices and roles and receives only those of them that promise escape from hell, not those that promise freedom from the dominion of sin. However, such a RNC argument is nonsense. The RAC does not affirm that the sinner is justified through the instrumentality of a “repentance” that is actually some sort of process of doing good deeds. On the contrary, the RAC affirms that repentance is not good works, but that repentance results in good works. The RAC recognizes the Biblical fact that repentance and faith take place at the same moment in time, so that a sinner cannot savingly repent without repenting of his sin of unbelief, and a sinner cannot believe in Jesus Christ without trusting Christ for both deliverance from hell and a new heart. The New Covenant or Testament promises both the forgiveness of sin and freedom from sin’s dominion: “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 8:10-12). The New Covenant privilege of forgiveness of sins and the New Covenant privilege of having God’s laws in one’s mind and heart are indissolubly connected. Justification is certainly by faith alone (Romans 3:20-28), but saving faith will always lead to a change of heart and action (James 2:14-26). The RAC is salvation by works only if Paul taught salvation by works when he included Ephesians 2:10 after Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:8 after Titus 3:5-7, Romans 6-8 after Romans 3-5, or 2 Timothy 1:9a before 2 Timothy 1:9b. The RNC must not only ignore the New Testament usage of metanoeo and metanoia but also cut out of the Bible the context of many of the precious declarations in the New Testament that salvation is not based on works. Indeed, the RNC even needs to purge the very promises of the New Covenant itself (Hebrews 8:10-12). The RAC is not salvation by works, but a glorious salvation by faith alone that does not leave the sinner in his sin but actually saves the sinner from sin by shattering sin’s dominion. On the other hand, the RNC actually is antinomianism.
Second, the RNC points out that the word repentance does not appear in the gospel of John. Since, the RNC affirms, John promises salvation simply to belief, and belief does not involve trusting in Christ for deliverance from the dominion of sin, but only for freedom from hell, the RAC must be an erroneous definition of repentance, all the lexical and Biblical evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. However, John’s gospel is filled with evidence that saving faith always results in a changed life. For example, the classic presentation of salvation by faith in John 3:1-3:21 indicates both that salvation is by faith alone (3:15-18) and that saving faith and regeneration lead to a changed life (John 3:8, 19-21). When Christ won to Himself the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-42), He explained to her that salvation leads one to true worship of the Father (John 4:23-24). Her life also became strikingly different, as evidenced by her actions (John 4:28-29). In chapter five, John recorded Christ’s preaching both “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24) and “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29), almost in the same breath. In John six, Christ preached: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (6:29, 47), and the chapter concludes with the fact that those who go back and turn away from Christ (6:66) are people who have not really believed (6:64, 69). One could go through practically every chapter and discourse of Christ in John’s gospel and see both the fact that eternal life is received by the instrumentality of faith alone and the fact that faith receives Christ both for salvation from sin’s penalty and salvation from sin’s power, that Christ is received as a Savior both from sin’s eternal consequences and sin’s inward corruption. The gospel of John is filled with the doctrine of the RAC, and contains no evidence whatsoever for the RNC.
Third, the RNC advocate will mention that various Biblical texts speak of God’s repentance (e. g., Genesis 6:6). Since God is sinless and does not need to turn from sin, the RNC avers, the RAC view is an error and repentance is simply a change of mind that may not result in any change of action. However, the fact is that just as God has no sin to turn from, so He never changes His mind; He is immutable (Malachi 3:6; 1 Samuel 15:29). Texts that speak of God’s repentance are examples of the many verses where anthropomorphic language, or other similar sorts of language from the created order, are employed to figuratively describe God. When the prayer of a believer enters into God’s ears (Psalm 18:6), Scripture means that God hears the prayer of His own, just like a man hears when sounds enter into his ears. When a believer is hidden under the shadow of God’s wings (Psalm 17:8; 36:7), the believer is protected by God, just as baby birds are protected under the wings of a mother bird. When God rides upon a cherub to deliver His people (Psalm 18:10), he provides help for His own like a man or an army that ride upon horses to come to the aid of their friends. When God is said to repent, He does not cease being immutable, literally change His mind, or turn from sin, but He people are treated differently as a result of His repentance—His figurative change of mind results in people experiencing His acting differently towards them, just as a man who repents acts differently as a result. When God repented of making the human race, He changed His gracious ways towards humanity and destroyed mankind with a flood (Genesis 6:6-7). When the Lord repented of the bondage to foreign powers He had laid upon Israel for the nation’s sins, He delivered Israel by raising up judges (Judges 2:18-19). When God repented of making Saul king, He changed His actions toward Saul, deposed him, and set up David (1 Samuel 15:35-16:1). There are no examples in Scripture where God repented and nothing changed. The anthropomorphic language predicating repentance in God supports the RAC, not the RNC.
The theological, non-grammatical and non-lexical arguments for the RNC are entirely unconvincing. Indeed, they actually provide further support for the RAC. The overwhelming grammatical and lexical evidence for the RAC remains untouched, and is actually strongly supplemented by theological support from invalid RNC argumentation.
Advocates of the RNC also frequently abuse or misuse Greek lexica to support their heresy on repentance.[i] The kind of shallow abuse of lexica that is sadly characteristic of “Baptist” advocates of the RNC heresy could appear were a RNC to note BDAG definition 1 for metanoeo, “change one’s mind,” and the fact that, while metanoia is defined as “repentance, turning about, conversion,” the words “primarily a change of mind” are also present in the lexicon. The RNC, assuming that the lexical definition of the word as “change of mind” proves that the word means only a change of mind, and a particular kind of change of mind, one that may result in nothing, could then pretend to have support from BDAG for the RNC position. Such a conclusion represents an extreme misreading of the lexicon, for: 1.) The lexicon places none—not a single one—of the 34 New Testament uses of metanoeo underneath the definition in question. It gives no indication that this is a use that is found in the New Testament at all. 2.) References listed under definition #1 in BDAG in extrabiblical Greek, whether to the Shepherd of Hermas, Diodorus Siculus, Appian, Josephus, and so on, actually refer to a change of mind that results in a change of action—the RAC position—as is evident if one actually looks at the passages. The RNC needs to demonstrate that at least one of the texts referenced in BDAG actually is a clear instance of its doctrine—which has not been done.
The RNC could also appeal to the Liddell-Scott lexicon of classical or pre-Koiné Greek for alleged evidence, noting the definition in the lexicon of “perceive afterwards or too late.” Here again the entire lack of any evidence for this meaning in the New Testament must be ignored. It is also noteworthy that, with one exception, the listed examples of this definition are from the Greek of the 5th century B. C. (Epicharmus, Democritus). Similarly, the examples for “change one’s mind or purpose,” which, in any case, suit the RAC position, as one who changes his purpose will actually act differently, are all from the 5th or 4th century B. C., while the definition “repent,” which the lexicon presents as that of the “NT,” and which includes a good number of examples from Koiné Greek that is contemporary with the New Testament, is certainly an affirmation of the RAC position. Liddell-Scott defines metanoia as “change of mind or heart, repentance, regret,” placing the New Testament examples in this category, and categorizing the meaning “afterthought, correction” as one restricted to rhetoric and cited as present only in an extrabiblical rhetorical treatise. The history of the development of metanoeo and metanoia is traced in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Kittel; cf. also Metanoeo and metamelei in Greek Literature until 100 A. D., Including Discussion of Their Cognates and of their Hebrew Equivalents, Effie Freeman Thompson, pgs. 358-377 of Historical and Linguistic Studies in Literature Related to the New Testament Issued Under the Direction of the Department of Biblical and Patristic Greek, 2nd series, vol. 1. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 1908. Thompson, who made a “[d]iligent search . . . for all the instances of the words under consideration, with a view to including all the works of all the known authors in each period” (pg. 353), noted that metanoeo and metanoia moved away from a purely intellectual sense that was present, although not exclusively so, in early Greek. In relation to Greek that is contemporary with the New Testament, he notes: “[In] non-Jewish post-Aristotelian writers to about 100 A. D. . . . passages continaing metanoeo show that . . . there is no instance of . . . purely intellectual action. The change is that of feeling or will . . . In the Old Testament Apocrypha and other Jewish writings to about 100 A. D. . . . metanoia means change of purpose . . . this change is (a) moral; (b) from worse to better; (c) internal; (d) necessarily accompanied by change of conduct” (pgs. 362, 368-9). Philo is cited as affirming: “[T]he man has lost his reason who, by speaking falsely of the truth, says that he has changed his purpose (metanenohkenai [a form of metanoeo, “to repent,” in this tense and sentence, “says that he has repented”] when he is still doing wrong” (pg. 369)—the RAC exactly. In contemporary “Palestinian writers, there is no instance of the intellectual simply; but there are abundant instances of both the emotional and volitional action” (pg. 375). Coming to the New Testament usage, Thompson writes: “An examination of the instances of metanoeo shows that . . . the verb is always used of a change of purpose which the context clearly indicates to be moral . . . this change is from evil to good purpose . . . is never used when the reference is to change of opinion merely . . . is always internal, and . . . results in external conduct . . . metanoia reveal[s] a meaning analogous to that of the verb . . . metanoia does not strictly include outward conduct or reform of life . . . [but] this is the product of metanoia . . . lupe [sorrow] is not inherent in metanoia, but . . . it produces the latter[.] . . . The New Testament writers in no instance employ [repentance] to express the action solely of either the intellect or of the sensibility, but use it exclusively to indicate the action of the will” (pgs. 372-373). Thompson concludes: “In the New Testament, metanoeo and metanoia . . . are never used to indicate merely intellectual action. . . . [T]hey are always used to express volitional action . . . the change of purpose . . . from evil to good. . . . [T]hey always express internal change . . . [and] they require change in the outward expression of life as a necessary consequent . . . [t]he fullest content [is] found in the . . . radical change in the primary choice by which the whole soul is turned away from evil to good” (pgs. 376-377). The RAC is obviously validated by a historical study of the development of the meaning of metanoeo and metanoia, while the RNC is obliterated.
The Bible clearly teaches that repentance is a change of mind that always results in a change of action (the RAC position). The idea that repentance is a change of mind that may or may not result in a change of action, the RNC position, is totally unbiblical. The RNC is a very serious, very dangerous, and Satanic corruption of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Its advocates should consider the warning of Galatians 1:8-9, and tremble: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Anyone who seeks to bring the RNC heresy into one of Christ’s churches should be immediately confronted. Believers should not give place to such false teachers, “no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue” (Galatians 2:5). Christians who are being led astray and confused by attacks on the gospel such as the RNC should be immediately confronted, and those who are making room for such error by their teaching should be immediately, specifically, strongly, pointedly, publicly, and directly confronted by name (Galatians 2:4-14; Acts 15:1-2). True churches must warn against assaults on the gospel such as the RNC and maintain strict and total ecclesiastical separation from its advocates (Romans 16:17; Ephesians 5:11; Titus 3:10; 2 John 7-11). They must also boldly preach repentance and faith to every creature, so that they not only negatively oppose error, but by their true doctrine and practice adorn the truth (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47).