Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:

Write the Key Verse from memory.
Explain the importance of repentance.
Explain what causes men to repent.
Name four things associated with repentance.
Define conversion.
Explain the importance of conversion.
Define justification.
Explain what it means to be “saved.”
Use the parable of the prodigal son to describe repentance and conversion.

“I have not come to invite good people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.” – Luke 5:32

The last chapter defined “repentance from dead works” which is the first of the basic doctrines listed in Hebrews 6:1-3. “Dead works” were defined as sin and the origin of sin was examined. You learned how the original sin of Adam and Eve corrupted human nature and how this sinful nature is inherited by all men. You also learned how this corrupt nature results in all men sinning individually when they are drawn by this nature into actual acts of sin.

This chapter continues the study of the first foundational principle of repentance from dead works.

Repentance from dead works was defined as “an inward decision or change of mind resulting in the outward action of turning from sin to God and righteousness.” Acts 20:21 calls it “repentance toward God.”  By the act of repentance you turn from your own dead works of sin towards God. Repentance is a personal decision to forsake sin and enter into fellowship with God.  It is the power of God which actually brings the change in the mind, heart, and life of the sinner:

“When the Jewish believers heard this, they stopped arguing. They praised God and said, “So God is allowing even those who are not Jewish to turn to him and live.” – Acts 11:18

Repentance is a gift of God:

“Jesus is the One whom God raised to be on his right side, as Leader and Savior. Through him, all Jewish people could change their hearts and lives and have their sins forgiven.” – Acts 5:31

Although emotions may be involved in repentance, true repentance from dead works is a decision, not just an emotion. As you learned, sorrow for sins, shedding tears, etc., is not enough.  This must be accompanied by an inward decision that results in an outward change.

There are several reasons why repentance is considered a foundational truth of the Christian faith:

God commands it:

“In the past, people did not understand God, and he ignored this. But now, God tells all people in the world to change their hearts and lives.” – Acts 17:30

It is necessary to avoid spiritual death:

“No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will be destroyed as they were!”Luke 13:3

It is necessary for eternal life:

Through repentance the penalty of death is removed and eternal life is granted:

“When the Jewish believers heard this, they stopped arguing. They praised God and said, “So God is allowing even those who are not Jewish to turn to him and live.””Acts 11:18

It is necessary for repentance:

God cannot forgive your sins unless you repent:

“Peter said to them, “Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”Acts2:38

It is necessary to enter God’s Kingdom:

“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Change your hearts and lives, because the kingdom of heaven is near.””Matthew 4:17

It is God’s desire for all:

“God does not want anyone to experience the spiritual death of eternal separation from God in Hell:The Lord is not slow in doing what he promised — the way some people understand slowness. But God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives.”2 Peter 3:9

It is the reason Jesus came into the world:

“I have not come to invite good people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.”Luke 5:32

In the first act of repentance, sinful men turn from wrong to right, accept the Gospel message, and become true believers in Jesus Christ. In the process of going on to perfection (which will be studied later in this course), a believer sometimes falls back into the old patterns of sinful behavior. According to the Biblical record, whenever believers sin they must also repent:

The Corinthians:

The believers at a city called Corinth had to repent:

“Now I am happy, not because you were made sad, but because your sorrow made you change your lives. You became sad in the way God wanted you to, so you were not hurt by us in any way.”2 Corinthians 7:9

“I am afraid that when I come, you will not be what I want you to be, and I will not be what you want me to be. I am afraid that among you there may be arguing, jealousy, anger, selfish fighting, evil talk, gossip, pride, and confusion. I am afraid that when I come to you again, my God will make me ashamed before you. I may be saddened by many of those who have sinned because they have not changed their hearts or turned from their sexual sins and the shameful things they have done.” – 2 Corinthians 12:20-21

The Ephesians:

The believers at Ephesus were told to repent:

“So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place.” – Revelation 2:5

The Church in Pergamum:

God told the Christians in Pergamum:

“So change your hearts and lives. If you do not, I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword that comes out of my mouth.” – Revelation 2:16

The Church in Sardis:

“So do not forget what you have received and heard. Obey it, and change your hearts and lives. So you must wake up, or I will come like a thief, and you will not know when I will come to you.” – Revelation 3:3

The Church in Laodicea:

“I correct and punish those whom I love. So be eager to do right, and change your hearts and lives.” – Revelation 3:19

Wherever there is sin, there must be repentance:

“If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right. He will cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done.” – 1 John 1:8-9

Because repentance is necessary for salvation, God made a special plan to enable the message of repentance to reach everyone.  The call to repentance began in the New Testament with the ministry of John the Baptist:

“This is a voice of one who calls out in the desert: “Prepare the way for the Lord. Make the road straight for him.” John was baptizing people in the desert and preaching a baptism of changed hearts and lives for the forgiveness of sins.” Mark 1:3-4

Repentance was necessary in order for the Messiah [Jesus] to be revealed. Until Israel had been called  back to God in repentance, Jesus could not be revealed.  Repentance was the first message Jesus preached:

“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, preaching the Good News from God. He said, “The right time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Change your hearts and lives and believe the Good News!”” Mark 1:14-15

Repentance was preached by believers in the early church:

“I warned both Jews and Greeks to change their lives and turn to God and believe in our Lord Jesus.” – Acts 20:21

 Today, believers still have the responsibility to spread the message of repentance throughout the world. Jesus gave final instructions to His followers:

“He said to them, “It is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that a change of hearts and lives and forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations, starting at Jerusalem” Luke 24:46-47

Since repentance is a foundation on which the Christian faith rests, we must understand what causes us to repent.  If you are responsible to spread the message of repentance throughout the world then you must know how we are persuaded to repent from dead works.

Goodness of God:

The blessings of God in the life of an ungodly person are not to be mistaken as God’s approval of his life style.  The goodness of God is one way the Lord appeals to men to turn to Him:

“He has been very kind and patient, waiting for you to change, but you think nothing of his kindness. Perhaps you do not understand that God is kind to you so you will change your hearts and lives.”Romans 2:4


The preaching of the Word of God causes men to repent.  The preaching of Jonah resulted in the whole city of Nineveh repenting:

“On the Judgment Day the people from Ninevehn will stand up with you people who live now, and they will show that you are guilty. When Jonah preached to them, they were sorry and changed their lives. And I tell you that someone greater than Jonah is here.”Matthew 12:41

Christ’s Call:

As the Word of God is preached, people hear and respond to the call of Christ which leads to repentance:

“Go and learn what this means: ‘I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices.’ I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.””Matthew 9:13

God, the Father:

Jesus said no one could come to Him except the Father draw him. God draws men to repentance:

“The Father is the One who sent me. No one can come to me unless the Father draws him to me, and I will raise that person up on the last day.”John 6:44


Rebuke causes men to repent.  Rebuke is correction given from the Word of God:

“So be careful! “If another follower sins, warn him, and if he is sorry and stops sinning, forgive him.”Luke 17:3

Godly Sorrow:

As you learned, repentance may be accompanied by emotion. Natural emotion alone is not true repentance, but Godly emotion leads to true repentance:

“The kind of sorrow God wants makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that. But the kind of sorrow the world has brings death.”2 Corinthians 7:10

The Bible identifies several things associated with repentance:


Faith towards God is associated with repentance. It is listed in Hebrews 6 as the second foundational principle of the Christian faith.  Repentance from dead works must be combined with faith towards God:

“He said, “The right time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Change your hearts and lives and believe the Good News!”” – Mark 1:15 

“I warned both Jews and Greeks to change their lives and turn to God and believe in our Lord Jesus.” – Acts 20:21

You will learn more about “faith toward God” in the next chapter as you study the second foundation of the Christian faith.


Baptism should accompany repentance as an outward sign of the inward change which has occurred:

“So you must change your hearts and lives! Come back to God, and he will forgive your sins. Then the Lord will send the time of rest.” – Acts 3:19

The doctrine of baptisms will also be discussed later in this course as it is part of the foundations mentioned in Hebrews 6.


The works of man, which the Bible also calls fruit, testify as to whether or not there has been true repentance:

“I began telling people that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God and do things to show they really had changed.” – Acts 26:20a

“Do the things that show you really have changed your hearts and lives.” – Matthew 3:8

“Works” and “fruits” both refer to outward behavior which should change after true repentance.


Since conversion is related to repentance, you need to understand conversion.

“So, you must change your hearts and lives! Come back to God, and he will forgive your sins. Then the Lord will send the time of rest.”  – Acts 3:19

Conversion means “to turn.”  When it is used in connection with Biblical repentance, it means to “turn from the wrong way to the right way.”

“He will help many people of Israel return to the Lord their God.” – Luke 1:16

 “All the people living in Lydda and on the Plain of Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.”Acts 9:35

“The Lord was helping the believers, and a large group of people believed and turned to the Lord.”  – Acts 11:21

Conversion is turning from the darkness of sin to the light of God’s righteousness:

“…to open their eyes so that they may turn away from darkness to the light…” Acts 26:18a

It is turning from the power of Satan to God:

“…away from the power of Satan and to God.”  – Acts 26:18b

It is turning from worldly things to spiritual things:

“…turn away from these worthless things and turn to the living God.”  – Acts 14:15

It is turning from false gods to the true and living God:

“They tell how you stopped worshiping idols and began serving the living and true God.” – 1 Thessalonians 1:9

Repentance and conversion are best illustrated by a story Jesus told  about the prodigal son.  Read the story in Luke 15:11-24.  This young man left his father and home, went to a distant land, and through sin wasted all he owned.

Eventually this young man realized his condition. He was hungry, lonely, in rags, and tending pigs for a job. Then he made an important decision. He said, “I will arise and go to my father.”  This inward decision resulted in a change in his outward actions.  He went home to his father to seek forgiveness.

Repentance… The Change of Mind:

Read Luke 15:17-19. The young man realized his sinful condition. He made a decision to go to his father and repent of his sin. This is an example of repentance, an inward decision which results in an outward action.

Conversion… Acting on the Decision:

Luke 15:20 records how the young man arose and left the old life and went to his father to start a new life. THIS is conversion.

Prodigal People:

In their own sinful condition, everyone has turned their back on God as their Father and on Heaven as their home. Each step they take is a step away from God and one step nearer the spiritual death of eternal separation from God.

There is a major decision they must make. They must “come to themselves” and recognize their spiritual condition.  They must make a decision which will result in a change of spiritual direction.  That change in spiritual direction will turn them from sin towards God.

This is the first step in  building a proper spiritual foundation.

There are two other terms used in the Bible which relate to repentance. These terms are “justification” and “salvation.” God is the judge of all mankind. When you are living in “dead works” [sin] you are condemned before Him:

“People who believe in God’s Son are not judged guilty. Those who do not believe have already been judged guilty, because they have not believed in God’s one and only Son. They are judged by this fact: The Light has come into the world, but they did not want light. They wanted darkness, because they were doing evil things.” – John 3:18-19

When you repent from sin and make the decision to turn from your sinful ways this establishes a right relationship with God. This right relationship or right standing before God is called “justification”:

“Surely you know that when you give yourselves like slaves to obey someone, then you are really slaves of that person. The person you obey is your master. You can follow sin, which brings spiritual death, or you can obey God, which makes you right with him. In the past you were slaves to sin–sin controlled you. But thank God, you fully obeyed the things that you were taught. You were made free from sin, and now you are slaves to goodness.” – Romans 6:16-18

The penalties for sin are physical and spiritual death.  When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty for the sins of all mankind:

“Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God.”2 Corinthians 5:21

If you believe that Jesus died for your sins, repent, and accept Him as Savior, then you will not experience spiritual death of eternal separation from God in Hell.  Although your physical body will die, you will be resurrected to eternal life. This is made possible through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. You are justified, or brought into right relationship to God, by Jesus Christ:

“…and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ.”Romans 3:24

“So through Christ we will surely be saved from God’s anger, because we have been made right with God by the blood of Christ’s death.” Romans 5:9

“Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ, …”Romans 5:1

When you are justified by repenting and accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior you are saved from a life of sin and the penalties of sin:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears what I say and believes in the One who sent me has eternal life. That person will not be judged guilty but has already left death and entered life.”John 5:24

This is what it means to be saved and is what the Bible is speaking of when the term “salvation” is used.

It is God’s desire that all men obtain salvation rather than experience the wrath of God’s judgment of sin:

“God did not choose us to suffer his anger but to have salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died for us so that we can live together with him, …”1 Thessalonians 5:9-10a

“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.”John 3:16-17

The following chart summarizes the basic concepts taught in chapters two and three.

It is important to remember that each foundational principle of the Christian faith is related to all the others.  For example, repentance from dead works cannot be separated from faith toward God which is the subject of the next chapter.

Origin of sin: Lucifer (Satan) rebelled against God.
He led man into sin which resulted in…

The fall of man (Adam and Eve)
This resulted in…

All men inheriting the basic sin nature and committing individual acts of sin due to this nature which resulted in…

Spiritual Death and…

Physical Death

On the cross, Jesus paid these penalties which resulted in justification of sinful man:
Repentance from dead works, an inward decision, leads to…

Conversion, an outward change, which results in…

Justification of sinful man before a righteous God
Salvation from a life of sin and the penalties of sin.

    1. List seven reasons why repentance is important and required for salvation.

    2. List six things which cause men to repent.

    3. Define conversion.

    4. Using the story of the prodigal son, describe repentance and conversion.

    5. Write the key verse from memory.

    6. List four things the Bible associates with repentance.

    7. Do Christians repent?

    8. Give three Biblical examples of Christians needing to repent.

    9. Define justification.

    10. What does it mean to be "saved"?


    Please use this section to reflect or comment on what you learned. Applying the lesson to your own life will help you remember what you learned.

    Reflection One


    Reflection Two


    Reflection Three


    May we pray for you about anything?

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    If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new! - 2 Corinthians 5:17

    (Answers to tests are provided at the conclusion of the final chapter of this study.)

    Repentance, conversion, and justification were discussed in this chapter.

    Use the following references to continue your study of these important terms.


    Matthew 18:3
    Acts 3:19
    Psalms 19:7


    Acts 13:39
    Romans 2:13; 3:4,20,24,28; 4:2,25; 5:1,16,18; 8:30
    1 Corinthians 6:11
    Galatians 2:16-17; 3:8,11,24
    Titus 3:7
    James 2:21-25


    Matthew 3:2,8,11; 4:17; 9:13; 11:20-21; 12:41
    Mark 1:4,15; 2:17; 6:12
    Luke 3:3,8; 5:32; 11:32; 13:3,5; 15:7,10; 17:3,4; 24:47
    Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 17:30; 26:20; 5:31; 11:18; 13:24; 19:4; 20:21
    Romans 2:4
    2 Corinthians 7:8-10
    2 Peter 3:9
    Revelation 2:5,16; 3:3,19