Two Parts of Repentance

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

Repentance. Metanoia. Literally it means, "a change of thinking." A change of heart. Repentance is what brings you to Holy Baptism. "Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," proclaims St. Peter (Acts 2:38). But repentance isn't just to prepare you for baptism; it's also for the baptized when they fall into sins. Repentance is life for a Christian.

Now, strictly speaking, repentance consists of two parts. One part is contrition, that is, terrors striking the conscience through the knowledge of sin. The other part is faith, which is born of the Gospel or the Absolution and believes that for Christ's sake, sins are forgiven. It comforts the conscience and delivers it from terror (Augsburg Confession XII.3-5).

The first part of repentance is contrition. Sorrow over sin. This doesn't necessarily mean overwhelming emotions and that you're reduced to tears because of how horrible you are. It's the knowledge of sin, to know that even your most righteous works are nothing before God. It's a change of thinking.

But if you are left wallowing in your sin, you have not yet repented. The second part of repentance is faith that is born of the Gospel--the forgiveness of sins. It's comfort for a terrified conscience. Faith completes repentance. It isn't just faith in general, but faith that your sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. Repentance and forgiveness always go together. Our Lord makes doubly sure when He says, "Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem (Luke 24:27).

Repentance. Two parts: contrition and faith. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruit of repentance (Augsburg Confession XII.6). Notice that good works and the fruits of faith are not, properly speaking, a part of repentance. Your work neither begins nor completes your repentance. Repentance is God's work. He works contrition; He works faith. And, therefore, good works--the fruit that repentance bears--are likewise not your works, but the work of God. He renews your heart and gives you the mind of Christ, who emptied Himself, became a servant, humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross--and God raised Him up to glory (Philippians 2:5-11).

Repentance. Metanoia. A new way of thinking. The rhythm of the Christian life. Contrition and faith. Confession and absolution. Death and resurrection.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, Missouri. He can be contacted at

Created: April 6th, 2016