6 Ingredients to Biblical Repentance

The following is an excerpt from my new book From Death to Life: How Salvation Works:

Biblical repentance is changing direction. It involves turning away from our sin. It’s not a temporary diet of good behavior, but a life transformation. It is a turning from sin and total surrender of oneself to the Lordship of Christ. Repentance means the nature of sin is seen for what it is: rebellion against God.

Repentance is then hating sin because it is an attack on the glory of God. It is a change in mindset. It is seeing a new King in one’s life: Jesus, the Son of God. It’s not “making” Jesus the Lord of your life. He already is—whether you recognize that or not![1]

Rather, it is joyfully acknowledging the Lordship of Christ and bowing the knee, moving from a life of seeking one’s autonomy, to one of glad submission to the King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s choosing to do what Jesus tells us to do.

Samuel Davies (1723 – 1761) preached:

To repent, in the language of the Bible, is to depart from our evil ways, to cease to do evil and to learn to do well, to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts; which expressions signify not only sorrow for sin but especially reformation from it. In vain, therefore, do you pretend to repent if you still go on in the sins of which you repent.[2]

Similarly, the 17th Century Puritan, Thomas Watson, lays out six ingredients for true biblical repentance:[3]

  1. Sight of Sin – which is an opening of our eyes to seeing sin as sin: dark and vile, and, as R.C. Sproul has famously said, cosmic treason.
  2. Godly Sorrow for Sin – which is not just a guilty conscience but the true beatitude of gospel mourning.[4] It sees that the death of Christ wasn’t merely about “sins” but my sins.
  3. Confession of Sin – Yes, the admission of guilt for your sins is an important part of repentance. It’s just not the only aspect of repentance that we need to understand.
  4. Shame for Sin – Shame, if understood properly, is a good thing.[5] It helps us understand our sin rightly. If we see the holy character of God and understand who we are apart from Him, shame should be our response.
  5. Hatred of Sin – Repentance is not just giving up sin so we can go to heaven. It is hating sin because it is an offence against God and a detriment to the human race.[6]
  6. Turning from Sin – As mentioned above, repentance entails more than simply acknowledging or confessing sin. It is a true turning in a person’s heart away from sin and self. It is choosing to do right instead of wrong. It is actually turning away from all known sins. This is a lifelong endeavor.

These ingredients are the bare necessities of repentance. If any of these components are left out, you no longer have biblical repentance. No, perfect repentance isn’t required, for in our current state we will never perfectly repent. But, true repentance is required, and any imitations of this gospel duty must be rejected. As hard as men have tried, we will never be able to create a system whereby people become Christians apart from true, heart-wrought, and biblical repentance.


This outline was also used in a message preached at Perryville Second Baptist Church on July 22, 2018.

[1] 2 Corinthians 4:5

[2] Richard Owen Roberts, ed. Salvation in Full Color: Twenty Sermons by Great Awakening Preachers (Wheaton, IL: International Awakening Press, 1994), 208.

[3] Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987). These are Watson’s title chapters, while the explanations are my own.

[4] Matthew 5:3-5

[5] 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15

[6] Proverbs 8:13

2 thoughts on “6 Ingredients to Biblical Repentance”

  1. I just picked up my Kindle copy. I had it today marked on my calendar with a reminder knowing it would be on sale. Looking forward to reading it, fellow Allen.


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