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  1. In the Gospels, μετανοέω (repent) is used. Are there contextual factors using the ὁμολογέω in 1 John?

  2. Are there any Scriptural examples to differentiate the two: μετανοέω and ὁμολογέω?

Text: 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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Actually, these two words have quite different meanings as follows:

  1. μετανοέω (metanoeó) This word means (BDAG):

Literally, "to change one's mind". In the NT it means: feel remorse, repent, be converted, eg, 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.

  1. ὁμολογέω (homologeó) This word means (BDAG):

Literally "same word/idea", ie, to "assent, agree with, declare, confess". In the NT it have several shades of meaning:

  • to commit oneself to do something for someone, promise, assure, eg, Acts 7:17, Matt 14:7
  • to share a common view or to be of a common mind about a matter, agree, eg, Acts 23:8
  • to concede that something is factual or true, grant, admit, confess, Heb 11;13, Acts 23:8, 1 John 1:9
  • to acknowledge something, ordinarily in public, acknowledge, claim, profess, praise, eg, Matt 7:23, Titus 1:16, Rom 10:9, John 9:22, 1 John 2:23, 4:2, 3, 2 John 7, 1 Tim 6:12, Matt 10:32a, Luke 12:8, etc; (praise) Heb 13:15.

Thus, μετανοέω (metanoeó) involves a change of mind/heart or repentance; however, ὁμολογέω (homologeó) is a verbal declaration (of one's need) without necessarily a change of heart.

The distinction is important because an admission/confession of guilt (ὁμολογέω) does not necessarily involve a change of heart. The whole point of the Christian life is a change of direction which must involve another Greek word, στρέφω (strephó) to turn around and change direction, eg, Matt 18:3, John 12:40.

In summary, the Christian life involves the following technical steps after the person meets Jesus:

  1. Admission/confession of the sinner's need, ie, ὁμολογέω (homologeó)
  2. A change of mind/heart/attitude, ie, μετανοέω (metanoeó)
  3. A change of life direction, ie, στρέφω (strephó)

We can see this in the life of Peter:

  • Peter was ready to admit/confess that Jesus was the Messiah, Son of the Living God (Matt 16:16)
  • But it was not until later, after denying his Lord, and weeping bitterly, then Peter was truly converted with a change of mind/heart, Luke 22:62, Matt 26:75.

Jesus summarized this in His warning to Peter in Luke 22:32 -

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Note the same distinction made in Matt 15:7-9

You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you: ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; they teach as doctrine the precepts of men.’

APPENDIX - Example

I observed the above played out in the media recently. A famous (overpaid) sports star was discovered to have disgraced himself with booze and women in a rather scandalous lapse of judgement.

The story ran for almost a week with the sports star saying very little but trying to lamely excuse himself. He was about to be fired and loose his huge salary.

It was about this time that he called a media conference to admit his problem with alcohol. he also said that he was booking himself into a clinic to deal with the "problem" to help him overcome his drinking problem.

Note the two or three steps involved. His confession of a drinking problem did not inform anyone of unknown facts (everyone knew he had a drinking problem); but it was only when he admitted his problem that any change of heart could be considered.

The same is true of 1 John 1:9 - our admission of sin is the start of the process as it does not inform God of anything that He does not already know, but that admission is a prerequisite to a change of heart (repentance).

That is, one cannot repent without first an admission of the problem.

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  • V9 says upon confession of one's sins - only 1/3 of steps you mentioned - He will forgive and clean...etc. Will the forgiveness and cleanse remain incomplete until the other 2/3 steps are done as Peter?
    – Sam
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 22:45
  • @Sam - consider Judas - I am sure that he, like Peter, confessed that Jesus was Lord and christ, but there was no real conversion and change of heart.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 22:46
  • There was no repentance and change of heart of Peter in Luke 22:62, Matt 26:75, but he wept only due to regret for denying the Lord. Otherwise, excellent answer, especially for introducing the word strepho.
    – Michael16
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 11:08
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1 John 1:9 - What is the significance of the usage ὁμολογέω (confess) in the context?

A. μετανοέω/μετάνοια in the Synoptic Gospels

μετανοέω/μετάνοια is a major theme and commandment of the Gospel call, which is ubiquitous in the Synoptic gospels and Acts. In most English Versions, μετανοέω/μετάνοια translated as "repent/repentance" -basically means, "to be sorry again." But the primary lexical idea of the words is to change and turn (around) of whole life, as the Hebrew equivalent in LXX, shuv - to return.

"Repentance" is not "confession." And the famous evangelistic phrase, "Repent of your sin," is NOT a Biblical term, but "Repent for the forgiveness of sin, and the salvation" is a solid Biblical term (Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3; 24:47; Ac 2:38).

In the Scripture, μετανοέω never used to mean merely feeling remorse or regret and do penance for wrongdoings. Instead, μετανοέω used in the sense of turning our life directed toward God resulting from a change of mind/ heart; from the old self-centered life to the God-centered new life in Christ; and for Jews, from the work of the Laws to believing in Jesus, the Gospel.

Jesus in Mark 1: 15 (and John the Baptist, Mt 3:2) speaks to Jews to μετανοεῖτε -Turn ye, not Repent ye (=be sorry). For, in the message, Jesus declares the new Messianic era has come, and now Jews must turn (μετανοέω ) to believe in the Gospel, from the belief in the works of the Laws. Nowhere in the Scripture, turning to believe in the Gospel is a sin that needs repentance /contrition (be sorry). Therefore, the proper translation of μετανοεῖτε is Turn ye, not, Repent ye (=Be sorry ye).

[A note: Interestingly, CEV, GNT, and God's Word Translation have rendered μετανοέω as - Turn back to God; Turn away from your sin, and Change the way you think and act; LSV-convert and believe; Amplified -repent [change your inner self-your old way of thinking, etc.]

Bible is clear, without turning to God, feeling and being sorry for wrongdoings will not get us the forgiveness of sins, much less salvation. Turning to Jesus and believing the Gospel is the only way for eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. It is the prerequisite for salvation, as seen in the thief saved on the cross and the prodigal son (Lk 23:43; 15:11-32). As the evangelical buzzword - "Turn or burn," we need to turn to Jesus for receiving the forgiveness of sin, salvation, and the restoration of the severed relationship.

The Gospel call to turn (μετανοέω) and believe in the Gospel is for all living souls whose hearts/minds are far away from YHWH (Isaiah 29:13; Matt 15:8) -the Jews, gentiles, the unbelieving believers, the backsliders, including the apostates (Jer 3:22). It is always a good time for μετανοέω/μετάνοια (to turn/turning). It is never too late, as in the case of the thief on the cross and the prodigal son. The loving Father is calling all to μετανοέω/μετάνοια, as the old hymn goes: Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling, 1 & 4 stanzas (W.L. Thompson, 1800):

"Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling; 
Calling for you and for me. 
See on the portal, He's watching and waiting; 
Waitin' for you and for me.

O for the wonderful love He has promised, 
promised for you and for me! 
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon, 
pardon for you and for me.

Ref: Come home, come home; you who are weary, 
come home; Earnestly, tenderly, 
Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner,
come home.

B. ὁμολογέω - to confess in 1 John 1:9

For a true Christian, to live with unconfessed sins is like walking in shoes with grains of sands or living with artery-clogging in progress. If we ignore or procrastinate about our sins in time, it will wear us out or be deadly, spiritually speaking, sooner or later. Besides, we will forfeit of ourselves of many of God's blessings and favors, and He will not hear us (Is 59:2; Ps 55:18). As Jesus taught us to pray, "forgive us our sins," confession of sin has vital importance for a healthy and intimate relationship between Abba Father God and His children.

John speaks to Believers who have fellowship with Jesus and walk in the light (v.6-7). Some claimed that walking in darkness and having fellowship is compatible (v.6), while others claim "no sin" (v. 8). To them, John calls it is a lie and self-deceived by saying, "We deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (v. 8). And, to them, John speaks, if you are truly walking in the light and having the truth in you, you need to keep on confessing of sins, so that God could forgive your sins and cleanse you of all unrighteousness.

(The semantic ranges of the ὁμολογέω: confess, acknowledge, admit, recognize, and agree, etc., meaning: to say the same conclusion in complete agreement with the Word of God.)

Confession of Sin means a genuine expression of our recognition within and our admitting to God - "I sinned against God, as the Word of God says and means. It includes the sins of omission and commission in our thoughts, attitudes, words, or actions without reservations, excuses, or justifications. Also, confession of sins needs to be specific to each offense as the "sins" in plural implies, not in a lump sum, like, "I confess all my sins," etc.

The initial remission of our sins lifts the guilts away, frees us from the bondage of sin, and gives us a fresh start. The war against the power of sin is over, but the battle against sin of evil desires in us is with us (Rom Ch. 7). In the Scripture, God wants His people holy as He is. We can only strive to that end in this life. Our part is to confess our sins, whenever and wherever, as the Word and the Holy Spirit convicts us. God promises He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness and remember our sins no more v. 9; Heb 8:12). Confession of sin is God's loving provision to facilitate keeping us clean.

Conclusion:

In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus and John the Baptist began their ministries by declaring, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Repentance means turning/returning to God, a prerequisite for salvation, and to repent is our taking the vital steps unto justification and reconciliation with the loving God.

Concerning the confession of sins, it must not only be on our memory verse list but the "must-do" list and put into practice as well if we genuinely seek daily walks in the light in an intimate fellowship with God, the Father. In the life of King David- the man after God's heart, we can look and learn the aspect of the life of confession of sin as in 2 Samuel 12:13 and in Psalm 51, He cries out to God:

Create in me a clean heart, O God.
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence, O Lord.
And, take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me, the joy of Thy salvation.
And renew a right spirit within me. 

(from the song by Kieth Green)

For his heartless confession, King Saul lost his eternal kingdom dynasty (1 Sam. 13:13), being possed by an evil spirit, lost his mind, and died a shameful death. Unlike Peter, Judas, Iscariot changed his mind feeling sorry but never turned to Jesus. Instead, he brought the eternal damnation upon himself. Peter turned and stayed with Jesus, confessed his sin, Jesus restored him, Peter died the glorious martyr's death.

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  • Pointing out the need to confess our sins of omission is rarely mentioned in Christians circles. I only recall one minister saying that in a sermon, a very long time ago. It shook me to the core. The Holy Spirit convicts of such sins with those who are sensitive to this. I often think my sins of omission are a great slag-heap compared with a a pile of my sins of commission. Thank you so much for being so specific in your answer.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 14:57
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This is why one of the holy sacraments of the Orthodox Church is confession with a Priest present and absolution of sins as past down from generation to generation by the holy church fathers. To take our time pray and contemplate our sin life is to acknowledge the passions in us that when indulged or entertained bring us close to death. Whereas as confession followed by Holy Communion (the deifying energies of God) are necessary as we draw near to God through prayer confession repentance our heart is made pure and thus we see God.

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    – agarza
    Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 14:59
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review
    – agarza
    Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 14:59
  • @Christopher Aaron Baker Welcome to BH. As I see it your answer is full of true things, but the problem is that the question is about the relative meanings of two Greek words. If such an answer does not refer to the Greek or define them in some way then an interesting answer can be irrelevant.
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 17:44

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