Jan 1, 2016

Book Review: 'Repentance: The Most Misunderstood Word in the Bible' by Michael Cocoris

Thomas Stegall

Thomas Stegall
Duluth Bible Church

What does it mean to "repent"? Throughout the history of Christianity, great confusion has surrounded the condition for eternal life and what it means to "repent." Is repentance a separate condition from faith? Does it mean to do penance for one's sins? To feel sorrow or remorse for sin? To forsake all and follow Christ? To stop sinning or resolve to do so? In the new book, Repentance: The Most Misunderstood Word in the Bible, author, pastor, and teacher, Dr. Michael Cocoris cuts through the confusion and provides concrete, biblical answers to each of these questions. He concludes:

"Repentance is a change of mind—period. A change of mind should result in a change in behavior, but the word repent looks at the change of belief, not the change in behavior. Repentance is the root; change in behavior is the fruit."

Cocoris's "change of mind" view agrees with the opinions of other classical Free Grace authors on the subject, such as C. I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Charles Ryrie, Richard Seymour, and a host of others. According to Cocoris, the Bible does not teach that the nature of repentance itself involves the emotion of sorrow for sin, or an act of penance or turning from sin, or even a decision of the will to turn from sin. While sorrow for sin and turning from it may follow a change of mind, these should be considered as separate from repentance. True repentance, according to the Bible, is a change of mind regarding Christ in contexts dealing with the condition for receiving eternal life; and in contexts dealing with fellowship between the believer and God, it is a change of mind about sin.

This understanding of repentance is vital because, when salvation is made to be conditioned on feelings such as sorrow for sin, this effectively shifts the focus of the gospel away from faith in the objective finished work of Christ to subjective inner feelings and religious experiences. Cocoris concludes that people are then led to measure the validity of their salvation by the intensity of their anguish; and such sorrow for sin or turning from it constitutes a meritorious work that contradicts salvation solely by God's grace.

Repentance: The Most Misunderstood Word in the Bible by Michael Cocoris

'Repentance: The Most Misunderstood Word in the Bible' by Michael Cocoris

While dozens of books already exist on the subject of repentance, most of these contain the personal opinions and endless sermonizing of the authors. What sets this book apart is not only its grace-oriented content but its sound methodology. Cocoris is first of all an exegete and expositor of God's Word. Though he interacts with other viewpoints throughout, he bases all of his conclusions upon an inductive study of the terms "repent" and "repentance" as they are used throughout the Bible. He examines how these terms are used in the Gospels by John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as in Acts-Revelation by the Apostles Peter, Paul, John, and the writer of Hebrews. The result is a refreshing treatment of repentance that is based upon the authority of God's Word rather than human, religious tradition.

Though this 100 page paperback is written in clear, easy-to-understand language; it also contains three appendices covering the use of the Hebrew terms shub and nacham, along with the Greek terms metanoia and metanoeo. It concludes with a bibliography and Scripture index.

This book is ideal for anyone seeking to know what the Bible, rather than tradition, teaches about repentance, all in a format that is thorough but not overly technical or exhaustive. I highly recommend it.