Acts 5:31 (KJV)

31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Acts 11:18 (KJV)

When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

2 Timothy 2:25 (KJV)

25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

The verses above suggest that repentance is a gift. Should we view repentance as a gift of God and not something we offer to God?

4 Answers 4


The quoted texts, Acts 5:31, 11:18, 2 Tim 2:25, are among many that teach this same idea, namely, that salvation is entirely God's initiative. Here are some more: Phil 2:13, John 6:44, Rom 2:4. Therefore, repentance, confession and conversion are not things we offer to God but our response to His pleading and prompting!!

Let me state this more strongly, Salvation is a free gift (Rom 3:20, 4:6, Eph 2:5, 8-10, Gal 2:16, Tit 3:5, Isa 64:6, Acts 4:12, etc) and decided upon by God before the world began (Matt 25:34, Heb 4:3, Rev 13:8). Thus, there was a plan to save sinners before there was a sinner! Such a plan was created without consulting any human. Further, this plan was initiated to demonstrate God's justice and righteousness (Rom 3:25, 26). Therefore, repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation - it is God's initiative (Acts 17:30) not ours.

The salvation that came as such a shock to the Jews, was that it was universal and included Gentiles. This idea is repeated numerous times in Scripture:

  • John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave …”
  • John 12:32, “I [Jesus] … will draw all people to myself.”
  • Acts 17:30, “God … commands all people everywhere to repent.”
  • Rom 3:23, 24, “… for all have sinned … and all are freely forgiven...”
  • Rom 5:8, 10, “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … if, while were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him by the death of His Son, …”
  • Rom 5:15, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s [Adam’s] offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to the many.” [Note the same word, “many” applies to all people.]
  • Rom 5:18, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all people, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all people, resulting in justification of life.”
  • Rom 11:32, “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.”
  • 2 Cor 5:14, “…we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”
  • 2 Cor 5:18, 19, “…God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ …”
  • 1 Tim 2:3, 4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
  • 1 Tim 2:6, “[Jesus Christ] gave Himself as a ransom for all people.”
  • Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to all people.”
  • Heb 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
  • 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
  • 1 John 2:2, “He Himself [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours [Christians to whom John writes] only but also for the whole world.”
  • Isa 53:6, “We all like sheep have gone astray … and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

The Bible frequently makes this same point of wanting to save all people by emphasising that God does not show favouritism but treats all people impartially (Duet 10:17-19, 2 Chron 19:7, Ezek 18:25, Mk 12:14, Acts 10:34 Rom 2:10-11; Eph 6:9, 1 Pet 1:17).

  • Great answer. +1 So you would agree that repentance is a gift and that repentance is NOT a prerequisite to salvation, ie repent first, then God will forgive you?
    – alb
    Nov 3, 2018 at 22:10
  • Almost … Salvation is granted to all. In one sense Gad has already saved all people but not all will be saved. Rom 3:23, 24 - "all have sinned … and are freely for given...". Forgiveness is not the issue - it is free and already accomplished. The problem now is the change that God want to make in us. Rom 12:1, 2. Repentance and confession are not a theological prerequisite but a psychological prerequisite - a drunk must admit he is a drunk before any change can occur.
    – user25930
    Nov 3, 2018 at 22:53
  • While God has granted all people repentance, not all will repent.
    – user25930
    Nov 3, 2018 at 23:25

You could say it is a gift though more properly it is part of a covenant. God promised thru Ezekiel that God was going to raise Israel from the dead:

[Eze 37:14 KJV] 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken [it], and performed [it], saith the LORD.

Thru Jeremiah he promised a new covenant and a new heart:

[Jer 31:33-34 KJV] 33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

So it was a shock when gentiles also appeared to be receiving the benefits of the new covenant:

KJV Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

Paul instructs Timothy to instruct them who oppose them in the hopes that God will give them repentance. This would have been a personal matter for Paul, the persecuter:

KJV 2 Timothy 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

For these with the "lockjaw" of stubbornness will need dealings from God and must be a gift.

  • 1
    Good answer +1.
    – alb
    Nov 3, 2018 at 22:12

Should we view repentance as a gift of God and not something we offer to God?

I believe we should view it both as a gift of God as well as something we offer.

The two main definitions of "repent" in the Oxford English Dictionary are:

  1. To feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin; to be sorry for one's actions.

  2. To turn away from one's wrongdoing or sin and begin a new, virtuous way of life; to reform oneself.1

The first meaning of "repent" does not completely capture the sense of μετάνοια (metanoia) in the context of the New Testament. Remorse is the first step (1) in turning to begin a new life (2).

In the Greek Septuagint, μετάνοια sometimes translates נחם (nḥm),2 which can simply mean to regret (e.g. Job 42:6), but in other places means to change one's mind (e.g. 1 Samuel 15:29). It is also used to translate the word שׁוב (šûḇ),3 which can mean to turn back or return.4

In Ancient Greek:

  • In Book II of the Plato's Republic, Socrates describes how people who have been unjust or ignorant can be brought to μετάνοια and become virtuous.
  • In Book VII of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses how μετάνοια is a necessary component of moral education and character development

Commenting on Psalm 51 (50 LXX), Augustine wrote:

Repentance is the medicine which heals the wounds of sin. It is the purification of the soul, the tomb of the old man, the regeneration of the spirit, the return from exile, the reconciling of God and man, the bridge that leads to heaven, the way of salvation, the gate of Paradise. Repentance is a second plank after shipwreck, a hope after despair, a torch in the darkness, a guide for travelers on the road of life.

1. There is also an obsolete usage of "to change one's mind". This is the sense of phrases like And God repented in the King James translation of the Masoretic Text.
1. e.g., 1 Kingdoms (1 Samuel) 15:29
2. e.g. Isaiah 46:8 LXX
3. See, e.g., Swanson's Dictionary of Biblical Languages


It is very common in the idiomatic Hebrew theology to depict passive works using passive verbs. Faith and repentance are things solely depended upon man's heart, otherwise God wouldn't have given the whole law and plead the believers to repent (Ezekiel 18 and 33). Understanding the idioms and figures of speech are the key to hermeneutics. The reason for development of strange theologies among the Gentiles from Africa to Europe (Augustine, Calvin, Luther) are naturally due to their lack of basic grasp on the figurative nature of the literature.

[NASB Ezek 33:10-16] 10"Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, 'Thus you have spoken, saying, "Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we are rotting away in them; how then can we survive?"' 11"Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?' 12"And you, son of man, say to your fellow citizens, 'The righteousness of a righteous man will not deliver him in the day of his transgression, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he will not stumble because of it in the day when he turns from his wickedness; whereas a righteous man will not be able to live by his righteousness on the day when he commits sin.' 13"When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he [so] trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die. 14"But when I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness, 15[if a] wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, walks by the statutes which ensure life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16"None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. He has practiced justice and righteousness; he shall surely live.

From Bullinger's book, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible: chapter on idiom.

  1. Active verbs were used by the Hebrews to express, not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do. Thus:

Genesis 31:7.-Jacob says to Laban: "God did not give him to do me evil": i.e., as in A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] , God suffered him not, etc.

Exodus 4:21.-"I will harden his heart (i.e., I will permit or suffer his heart to be hardened), that he shall not let the people go." So in all the passages which speak of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. As is clear from the common use of the same Idiom in the following passages.

Exodus 5:22.-"Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people?" i.e., suffered them to be so evil entreated.

Psalms 16:10.-"Thou wilt not give thine Holy One (i.e., suffer Him) to see corruption." So the A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.]

Jeremiah 4:10.-"Lord God, surely thou hast greatly deceived this people": i.e., thou hast suffered this People to be greatly deceived, by the false prophets, saying: Ye shall have peace, etc.

Ezekiel 14:9.-"If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet": i.e., I have permitted him to deceive himself.

Matthew 6:13.-"Lead us not (i.e., suffer us not to be led) into temptation."

Matthew 11:25.-"I thank thee, O Father … because thou hast hid (i.e., not revealed) these things," etc.

Matthew 13:11.-"It is given to know unto you," etc. (i.e., ye are permitted to know … but they are not permitted to know them.

Acts 13:29.-"When they (i.e., the rulers, verse 27) had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre": i.e., they permitted Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to do so.

Romans 9:18.-"Whom he will he hardeneth": i.e., he suffereth to be hardened. Not that this in any way weakens the absolute sovereignty of God.

Romans 11:7.-"The rest were hardened": i.e., were suffered to become blind (as in A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] marg. [Note: arg. Margin.] ).

Romans 11:8.-"God hath given them the spirit of slumber": i.e., hath suffered them to fall asleep.

2 Thessalonians 2:11.-"For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie": i.e., God will leave them and suffer them to be deceived by the great Lie which will come on all the world.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.