I get a fair number of questions about the meaning of repentance. Especially, as many churches’ doctrinal statements say repent of your sin and believe in Jesus Christ is how one receives everlasting life. Since the Gospel of John, the only N.T. evangelistic Gospel, never records Jesus Christ mentioning repentance of sin as a requirement I don’t believe we should either. The Lord makes it clear that belief in Him for everlasting life is all He wants from us to receive the gift of life. John 3:14-16 and John 11:25-26 being representative of His position.
Repentance means to make a change. It could be a change of mind which could also mean a change in behavior. The object of repentance depends on the Context. On the day of Pentecost in response to Peter’s sermon the people asked what shall we do. Peter’s reply was to repent and be baptized. Since the topic of his sermon was Israel’s rejection and execution of Jesus Christ, they needed to change their minds about the identity of Christ. They could not undo what had been done but they could now admit Jesus Christ was indeed the Messiah. It appears Peter took their question “what shall we do” as an indication they now believed.
I’ve heard people use 2 Corinthians 7:10 to support the need for repentance of sin to be saved. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation (Grk. Soteria), not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” 2 Corinthians 7:10 NKJV. However, the context is about a member of that church, a believer, turning away from an open and know sin. In this case Paul was using the word soteria in its broader sense of deliverance and not as a specific reference to justification. This is an example of repentance in a believer requiring both a change of mind and behavior.