New Testament usage provides crystal-clear evidence for repentance as a change of mind that results in a change of action. Consider the following representative texts with metanoeo:
Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Christ refers to what took place in Jonah 3:5-10:
So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
When the Lord Jesus spoke of repentance, he spoke of the kind of change of mind or heart of the kind that took place at Nineveh, when the Ninevites “believed God . . . and . . . turn[ed] every one from his evil way,” where “their works” were evidence that they had “turned.” Christ’s doctrine of repentance was the RAC (the view that Repentance Always results in Change), not the RNC (the view that Repentance may Not result in Change).
Luke 15:7, 10: I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. . . . Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
In the single parable (Luke 15:3) of Luke 15, Christ illustrates the conversion of publicans and sinners (15:1-2) by the restoration of a lost sheep, coin, and son, while the unconverted and self-righteous Pharisees who thought they did not need to repent (Luke 15:2; cf. 5:31-32; 19:7-10) are illustrated by another son (cf. Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1; Romans 9:4) who was not willing to enter his father’s house but greatly dishonored his father because of his perceived superiority to the restored lost son (15:25-32). When Christ spoke of repentance, he spoke of the attitude expressed by the words of the son that was lost but then found: “I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19). Such an attitude expresses the RAC doctrine of repentance.
Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance [metanoia].
When the Apostles preached repentance, they preached that repentance results in “works meet for repentance.” They also connected repentance with turning or being converted; cf. Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” To turn or be converted is to “change direction, turn around . . . to change belief or course of conduct . . . to change one’s mind or course of action . . . turn, return.”[i] Paul explains what takes place when men repent, are converted, and are born again: “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Conversion is to turn to God and to turn away from idolatry and other sins. It is to turn to God from sin with the purpose of serving the living and true God and waiting for the return of His Son. Such a doctrine is plainly the RAC.
Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
The Apostle John recorded Christ’s message that when one repented he would “do . . . works” as a result. Christ commanded that one “repent of her fornication” (Revelation 2:21) and warned that those who do not “repent of their deeds” would enter “into great tribulation” (Revelation 2:22). That is, those unsaved people who do not “repent of their deeds” will miss the Rapture and enter into the “great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14; Matthew 24:21) with the rest of the unsaved, those who “repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21), those who “blasphemed the name of God . . . and . . . repented not to give him glory. . . . blasphemed the God of heaven . . . and repented not of their deeds” (Revelation 16:9, 11). The Apostle John taught, through the inspiration of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, the RAC position on repentance, not the RNC.
The noun metanoia likewise provides clear evidence for the RAC. Matthew 3:1-12 records the preaching of John the Baptist on repentance:
1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent [metanoeo] ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance [metanoia]: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance [metanoia]: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
The first Baptist preacher taught that repentance resulted in visible “fruit” (v. 8) without which there was no evidence that conversion had taken place and therefore without which baptism should not be administered, as baptism was on account of (eis, “unto”) repentance (v. 10). Repentance results in “mak[ing] straight paths for your feet . . . [and] follow[ing] . . . holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:13-14; Matthew 3:3; Isaiah 35:8; 40:1-3). Repentance results in fruit, because everyone that has not repented and received a new heart so that he is a good tree that brings forth good fruit will be cast into hell fire (v. 10). Such teaching was the repentance preached by the first Baptist and also by Christ (Matthew 3:2; 4:17), and all Baptists today should preach—indeed, are commanded to preach (Luke 24:47), the same message as Christ and John—the RAC doctrine.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance [metanoia] for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance [metanoia] to salvation not to be repented[ii] of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
Paul taught that repentance, a result of godly sorrow over sin, leads to people being careful to avoid sin, clearing themselves from it, having indignation against it, being afraid of it, being indignant against it, being afraid to commit it, having vehement desire to avoid it, being zealous for righteousness, and a desire to revenge themselves upon it.[iii] Paul clearly taught that repentance leads to a change of action—the RAC position.
Many texts with metanoeo and metanoia in the New Testament fit the RAC position. Thus, the burden of proof is on the RNC position to prove that one can repent without a change of action following. However, not a single text in the New Testament speaks of a “repentance” that does not result in a change of action.[iv] The RNC position is completely absent from the pages of the New Testament.
[i] Epistrepho, in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian Literature (3rd ed.), W. Arndt, F. Danker, & W. Bauer. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000. The complete list of epistrepho texts is: Matt 9:22; 10:13; 12:44; 13:15; 24:18; Mark 4:12; 5:30; 8:33; 13:16; Luke 1:16–17; 2:20, 39; 8:55; 17:4, 31; 22:32; John 12:40; 21:20; Acts 3:19; 9:35, 40; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19, 36; 16:18; 26:18, 20; 28:27; 2 Cor 3:16; Gal 4:9; 1 Th 1:9; James 5:19–20; 1 Pet 2:25; 2 Pet 2:21–22; Rev 1:12.
[ii] The adjective ametameletos, related to the verb metamelomai (not metanoeo) for repentance in the sense of regret or remorse; cf. 2 Corinthians 7:7, where “repent” is metamelomai.
[iii] The context is the individual who was under church discipline for immorality; the desires to oppose sin mentioned in the passage are connected to the concrete manifestations of sin in persons involved in it.
[iv] Note the complete list of metanoeo texts: Matt 3:2; 4:17; 11:20–21; 12:41; Mark 1:15; 6:12; Luke 10:13; 11:32; 13:3, 5; 15:7, 10; 16:30; 17:3–4; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 17:30; 26:20; 2 Cor 12:21; Rev 2:5, 16, 21–22; 3:3, 19; 9:20–21; 16:9, 11. Also note the complete list of metanoia texts: Matt 3:8, 11; 9:13; Mark 1:4; 2:17; Luke 3:3, 8; 5:32; 15:7; 24:47; Acts 5:31; 11:18; 13:24; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20; Rom 2:4; 2 Cor 7:9–10; 2 Tim 2:25; Heb 6:1, 6; 12:17; 2 Pet 3:9.