Previous quote: The Greek converts or proselytes to the Jewish faith (like Cornelius of Acts 10) basically did the same for repentance, going back and renewing their initial conversion experience in which their first actions were to memorize the Torah and then the rest of the Old Testament in a three-to-seven-year process and re-emphasize a daily prayer life (see Matt 5-7).
Question: If I understand it right, you’re not speaking of repentance in initial conversion but later, when they had sinned. Right?
I feel the need to explain in more detail based on the way you asked the question.
This is a big deal today along with a lot of evangelical confusion. Since most male Jews had a covenant cut with God in circumcision when they were new-born (this fits closest with what we call “getting saved” as a “decision event” even though it was made by the parents and not the child) and brought up in a supposedly Jewish home to gladly love and serve God, repentance was how to return to God in His ways by stopping sin and doing right to cut off the individual and national curse upon recognition or awareness that you had fallen into worshiping or serving others gods in the major aspects of your life.
By Biblical standards and ancient cultures, all actions are in unity with one spiritual being or another. There are no actions independent of a spirit being. So God could never be in unity and inhabit a sin. So to “sin” is an act of worship to another god (devil), not just a “mistake.” Even those tiny mistakes cost Jesus His life.
Also, conversion/fearing God in the Bible sense is not now going to a Sunday meeting or an event, but every breath you take, every and all your words and actions 24×7. To do this without God 24×7 is called iniquity. Remember how “easily” old Saul lost the kingdom to David? Samuel called that behavior iniquity, witchcraft, rebellion and stubbornness. Today we would call that a “mistake” or an act of impatience.
Of course the repentance process applied if you were a Gentile covenanting with a new god, or a Gentile becoming a Jew, or anyone wanting to get more “spiritual.” They all understood your whole life now needed to integrate with all aspects of the “god” they wanted to receive the “blessings” or power from. This whole process change was called repentance, and the goal was to renew the mind to now think in line with the new “god” you were now serving.
So the process of renewing the mind to operate in the zoe of any spirit being was well understood. And it was not an instant process. Same for discovering you had backslidden in the ways of your god and getting back into that god’s favor.
They all knew it is months, if not years, to get done in a demonstrated new/repaired life. An inward process (mind renewing) was working only as seen in doing the right behavior modifications for the long-term with no “mistakes” allowed. John Wesley had his very effective “method” to accomplish this mind renewing or repentance process for new Christian converts and backslidden Christians.
So the definition of repentance as a change of thinking is the same as saying repentance is like you are now going to stop your life as a university professor to join the army as an infantryman as a personal decision to change your life. Anything less was not considered repentance, but dallying. Evangelicals use the word “repentance” in a lot of different ways, but I have heard only a few modern preachers using it as it really means in the Bible.
Thus much of our evangelical language is really bad ancient cultural Hebrew or Greek, and creates much confusion. The statement “Repent and be saved” was to strong and committed cultural Jews, and not to Gentiles. So it applies more to a revival/re-awakening than to initial decisions. It meant to renew your love for God by driving the implications of Jesus as Lord and Christ into every part of your life with you now a king and priest for Jesus so you to did miracles like Jesus did (among many other things).
Even the term conversion is not technically correct as I see it used to define a decision or confession to follow Jesus. The term conversion as a word is more complete and powerful than making a decision and starting on a new journey that results in a changed way of life. Rather it is the completion of the journey. It is far more than regular church attendance, tithing, doing good deeds and prayer, although they are part of it.
For example the term conversion in engineering is used for taking oil from an oil well and converting it into things like car bumpers. Or taking rocks with iron ore and converting them into bars of steel used in making buildings.
So in Biblical context, where we actually see little of Gentiles being born again, but we see Jews making a decision that Jesus is the Messiah where you made a decision and then converted your mind in the repentance process to get back into right thinking and right doing.
This was the continual cry of the Old Testament prophets. So mind renewing and repentance and conversion are basically the same, and there is little fit with modern evangelical language.
Thus going forward to “get saved” or make a decision could never be called conversion. For measurement of evangelical success we use the terms, “decisons for Christ,” or conversions. I think the term decisions is more appropriate. In the time of Jesus, conversion to Judaism was measured in years, not minutes.
Of course if your definition of religion is to now attend a prayer meeting once in a while and regular church attendance with tithing, then whatever term you use is fine since no one in the OT or NT would ever consider occasional prayer meetings and once a week attendance a religion of any kind. An observant Jew prayed 7 or 8 times every day and only 3 of them were in the synagogue.
Perhaps a better example would be to say that when an army defeated another and made them vassals, the defeated knew that they would have to serve the god of the winner, get rid do their old god, pay high taxes to near starvation, be in the winner’s army as the guys out in front to die first, and your wives and daughters would be taken as slaves for the army. Coming to grips with all of that to become a loyal subject of the winner would fit closer into the term “conversion” or repentance as found in the ancient Hebrew or Greek cultures.
Since this conversion process was liable to be very messy, often they just killed all the men of the losers and went from there. Thus the winning soldiers would acquire multiple slave/wives and kill or sell those who did not “convert” to their new life.
From where I sit, the above ways I have described the terms repentance, conversion and mind renewing have little to nothing to do with what I hear from any flavor of modern evangelicals. The only one I know that is close to the biblical standards is David Hogan.
I see great confusion over two different things.
1. Those who have never ever had the Gospel preached to them
2. Born-again as a child Christians who have been living a life away from God
Most of the language I hear in America is aimed at category 1, yet most of the “newly saved” 30 years ago were category 2. Today in America it is very possible for category 1 “newly saved” to be the children of category 2 people.
To me, if you have ever believed God raised Jesus from the dead, you are born-again. This is true even if you did it as a child. For years most of the people I “led to the Lord” over the years were of this kind. They were away-from-God-2nd generation Christians who the devil had successfully gotten “offended” per Matt 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8 in the parable of the Sower and the Seed.
After these 2nd generation Christians “got saved” then they started on an apparent conversion process in frequent church attendance and Bible study.
Most of them then “fell away” in a year or so. Thus the 90% got offended again and did something different.
What has been your experience?
Now I am commanded to know Jesus and any other human by the spirit and not the flesh.
2 Cor 5:16 “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.”
So all the other distinctions make no difference to me, you are either a new creation or not. If you are a born again Christian and not walking just like Jesus in the power of God and not just the wisdom of men, then you are offended in some way. And usually you are also ignorant of the ways of God in Jesus, the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Do you read this verse another way?
God Bless You and Yours to be more Noble in Jesus (Acts 17:11-12).