By Brooks Cochran
“Then Judas, who betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priest and elders, saying I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:3-4a).
None will doubt the importance of repentance. The Bible repeatedly states that one cannot obtain forgiveness of his sins unless he repents (Lk. 13:3; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:20-24; 17:30-31). The word translated “repent” or “repentance” in these verses is metanoeb. W.E. Vine defines this word as “to change one’s mind or purpose, always, in the New Testament, involving a change for the better” (Expository Dictionary of N. T. Words).
However, there is another word translated “repent” in the New Testament. It is a synonym of metanoeb. It is the word metamelomai. Vine defines this word as “to regret, to repent oneself. . . ” Though both words appear to have the same meaning, there is an important distinction between the two that should be noted.
Both words include the idea of sorrow for sin. But metamelomai stops at this point. It is not the repentance that leads to a change of one’s life. It is this word that is used by Matthew to describe Judas’ emotional reaction to his betrayal of Christ. Judas was sorry for what happened to Christ; but that is all he felt. He felt no guilt of sin! “Mere sorrow avails nothing unless it leads to change of mind and life (metanoed), the sorrow according to God (2 Cor. 7:9). This sorrow Peter had when he wept bitterly. It led Peter back to Christ. But Judas had only remorse that led to suicide” (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 1, pp. 222-223). “Judas repented of the consequences, not of the sin itself. Already that shows the spurious nature of his repentance. Many a criminal is exceedingly sorry when the consequences of his sin catch up with him, but the sin itself does not frighten him” (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of Matthew, pp. 107-1078).
I am afraid that many are like Judas. They are sorry that things have turned out bad; but they have no sorrow for the sin which they have committed and brought them to their sinful condition. We need to make certain that we have repented of our sins; i.e. have changed our attitude and heart, and resolved not to continue in sin and/or commit the same sin(s). It is true that we should have sorrow over sins; but be certain that such sorrow is over the sin and not the fact that we were caught and/or unhappy with the consequences of our sinful actions. If we do not genuinely repent we will not be forgiven, and if we are not forgiven, we will be lost! Let’s make certain that we do repent and bring “forth fruits worthy of repentance” (Lk. 3:8).