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Background Considerations

  • Definitions (use of a good Bible dictionary here would be good)
    • repentance in the Old Testament
      • divine repentance normally means to change plans
      • human repentance normally means to change directions
    • repentance in the New Testament (metanoia – changing one’s mind and direction)
  • Cultural considerations
    • corporate personality in the biblical world – this means that acts of good or evil have an impact beyond the individual and brings guilt or reward on others, like a family or even the nation of Israel
    • shame/honor vs. guilt/forgiveness – study of a shame/honor culture as opposed to a guilt / forgiveness one will yield some interesting things to think about. Appearances mean a lot more in a shame / honor setting. How might this affect our understanding of forgiveness?
  • Attitudes tied to repentance – humility, openness to change, sorrow?

Relevant Biblical Passages

  • Genesis 6:5-8 – God’s sorrow about creating human beings at the beginning of the flood story.
  • Amos 7:1-6 – God’s repentance and changing his mind about punishing Israel based not on Israel’s repentance, but on Amos’ plea.
  • Jeremiah 18 – An amazing account of divine initiative, human response and then divine response – human evil leads to divine evil and human good leads to divine good.
  • Matthew 9:10-13 – The story of Jesus’ encounter with religious leaders over his dining with tax-collectors and sinners. Who are the sinners (are there other ways of defining this term?)? Who needs repentance?
  • Romans 2:1-11 – As part of Romans 1-4 and its reminder of human guilt and the way to forgiveness (here defined as justification), this passage addresses the need for repentance in the face of human responsibility, guilt and judgment. God’s kindness leads to repentance.
  • Romans 3 – A picture of the universal sinfulness of the entire human race (Jew and Gentile, in particular here). None can claim otherwise and all need forgiveness, which God graciously provides. All are justified by faith in God’s grace. This chapter represents the heart of Paul’s message of salvation.
  • 2 Peter 3:8-11 – Peter’s reminder that what appears to be a divine delay in Jesus’ return is really God’s way of extending time for people to repent. But after that comes judgment by fire, so do repent!
  • 2 Corinthians 7:5-13 – Paul’s commendation of the Corinthians for taking his letter seriously and repenting of offenses committed, even if it brought a lot of pain on the congregation. The end result was a change. Contributions to the Study of Forgiveness
  • Is there forgiveness without repentance? What about God’s repentance?

Lessons for Life

  • How central to human survival and well being is forgiveness? Are humans entirely guilty through and through?

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