I believe wholeheartedly in preaching repentance and that it is important for us to know what true repentance is. Let me show you something beautiful about the word for repentance in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew alphabet is made up of twenty-two letters, from aleph to tav. And each Hebrew letter has a picture, numerical value, and meaning.
The Hebrew word for repentance is teshuvah,1 which is made up of five Hebrew letters—tav, shin, vav, bet, and hei. The first letter, tav, has as its pictogram a cross.2 The last letter, hei, is the fifth letter in the Hebrew alphabet,3 and the number five in Bible numerics represents grace. Sandwiched between tav (cross) and hei (grace) are the letters shin, vav, and bet. These three letters form the word shuv, which means “to return.”4 Putting it all together, teshuvah or repentance means this: “Because of the cross of Jesus, return to grace”!
Isn’t it amazing that hidden in the Hebrew letters above are God’s heart and explanation of what true repentance is? Repentance is all about returning to God’s grace because of His goodness demonstrated at the cross of Jesus. It is not about returning to the law of Moses. It is about turning to the cross and returning to His grace. His grace is your source of power and strength over every sin.
So if you have made a mistake, or you are struggling with a sinful habit today, repent by turning to the cross—seeing that mistake punished in the body of Jesus—and receiving God’s unmerited favor to overcome this area of weakness. This is how you practice true repentance when you have failed. Don’t run away from Him. Run to Him! He is your solution. He is your answer. He loves you and longs for you to return to His loving embrace!
Now let’s look at the Greek word for repentance—metanoia. Meta means “change,” while noia is from the word nous, which means “mind.” So metanoia or repentance means “a change of mind.”5 Why is changing your mind important? Simply because right believing always leads to right living.
When you believe right about God’s grace, about your righteousness in Christ, and how you are called to be set apart for holiness, everything changes! His love touches you in the deepest recesses of your heart and you begin to experience transformation from the inside out. You begin to live above defeat and experience lasting breakthroughs because the power to fight off any temptation is not from without, but from within. It is not contingent upon your willpower; it is contingent upon the power of the Holy Spirit living mightily and actively in you, bearing witness to the gospel truths you believe.
Adapted from Grace Revolution, chapter 2, Inside-Out Transformation.
1. Retrieved April 27, 2015, from www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Elul/Teshuvah/teshuvah.html.
2. Retrieved April 27, 2015, from www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Pictograms/pictograms.html.
3. Retrieved April 27, 2015, from www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Numeric_Values/numeric_values.html.
4. OT: 7725, William Edwy Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
5. NT: 3341, Joseph Henry Thayer, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, electronic database. Copyright © 2000, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.