How can I be sure I repented?


Hi Jeff,

Hope you are well. I wrote to you a few years back regarding repentance.  I was reading some articles on your page tonight and came across another article "Should we refuse to study with someone who is in an adulterous marriage?"  In your answer to the inquirer, you give an example of a drug addict's past usage was forgiven and washed away in baptism. But what if he hasn't give up drugs? You state there is no repentance and therefore no forgiveness.

I am confused on this subject once again.  Your answer to me from "How much repentance is needed before baptism?" was this "Now, I want you to notice that these people were saved, so they both were baptized and had repented. Yet, there was no demand of proof that they would not kill the Christ again, or perhaps not kill one of God's prophets. Repentance was shown because these people changed their ways. That proof of a change had not been demonstrated in their lives at the point of their baptism doesn't matter."

In other articles about drug use you mention that the desire for drugs doesn't go away.

My question then remains the same, how do I know I repented enough before my baptism? There were things that I did before baptism that I did after. Does this make my baptism invalid? Or does this mean that I had to grow and learn in order to stop doing some of the things I did prior to baptism. It also brings me to my other question: should certain questions be asked when teaching the gospel?

I have not really gotten over this issue, it still bothers me at times. I'm trying to understand the balance of imperfection while being a Christian and making efforts not to sin.

Thank you for your time.


Repentance is a change of mind and a change of behavior. See: "What is repentance?" and "Being Made New." A person who is sorry for what they had done in the past hasn't necessarily repented. However, sorrow is what motivates a person to repent. The two aspects are seen when Paul preached, "that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20).

The word translated as “repent” comes from the Greek work metanoeo. It is compound word of meta (change) and noeo (to use the mind). It originally was used for hindsight, reflecting back on what one did, to change your mind about it. In particular, it meant to reconsider something with regret. Therefore, repentance is the spiritual aspect, changing how you think about something. It means that something that you once saw as acceptable is now rejected.

The word “turn” comes from the Greek word epistrepho. It too is a compound of epi (on) and strepho (turn). It means to turn around, do an "about face," or to be converted. The emphasis here is the change in behavior, returning to where you once were.

To be a Christian, a person must repent -- there must be a spiritual change in attitude toward sin. But that is in the heart, it is something that no one else can directly see, nor is it something that needs to be directly proven prior to baptism. The willingness to submit to baptism, is in a sense, evidence of the start of a change in behavior -- the turning point.

If a person is living in fornication, is shown that fornication is wrong, but gives no indication that he plans to change what he is doing, then there is no purpose in baptism. The lack of a willingness to change testifies to a lack of repentance. A person who is a drug user who sees no need to give up his habit should not be offered baptism. He has sins which he has not changed his mind about.

The question is whether you changed your attitude toward sin before your baptism. It is not a question of conquering sin. Temptation is always going to be there (I Corinthians 10:13). The possibility of falling back into sin will always be there. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ... My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 1:8; 2:1). The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is that the Christian ought to find being in sin not acceptable. The Christian will pick himself up, turn away from the sin, confess his fault to God and then continue walking the path of light. The non-Christian has no motivation to change because he sees nothing particularly wrong with sin.

So let's use the example of a drug user. We'll assume the drug user has reached a turning point in his life. He is disgusted with what he has done. He hates how drugs have dominated his life, his thoughts, and his actions. He decides to make a change. He throws away all the drugs and paraphernalia out and he becomes a Christian by entering a covenant with Christ through baptism (Colossians 2:11-13). But that doesn't mean the pull of drugs won't still be there. The excitement of making a change will carry him along at first, but eventually old habits will raise their ugly head. A Christian ought to fight. He will turn to others for help (James 5:16). He will go out of his way to avoid situations that might make him stumble (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). If he does get snared, he gets disgusted with himself, picks himself up and starts again.

I know one Christian woman who was a former drug user. It was when she realized that drug use was ruining her children that she became determined to change. She left the world of drugs and became a Christian. In the years that followed, she had one slip up when someone she knew brought drugs into her house. She yielded to the temptation, but as soon as she realized what she did, she put herself into a drug rehab program, got clean again, and continued on with her life. Drugs are still a temptation, but she gave up that life and doesn't want to go back. That is what is meant by being a Christian.

What I want you to see is that "repented enough" doesn't make sense. Repentance is turning around and going back to where you once were. You can't do it part way. Slipping up on the way back doesn't mean you haven't changed the direction you are heading overall, so long as you pick yourself up and turn back to God. The question is not where you have been, but where are you going.

""But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?"" (Ezekiel 18:21-23).