Μετάνοια = change of mind, afterthought, to think differently after reflection—the contrast of forethought.
νοΰς = the mind, the organ or faculty for the apprehension of the truth, the understanding—not the ability to think, but the organ of thought and sentiment; or, by an easy and not uncommon transition, the thoughts objectively present before any one, his judgment, view on any matters.
Repentance is accordingly directly connected with the mind, thought, reflection, understanding, judgment according to truth, the knowledge acquired by mental exercise, and what is involved therein.
It is not merely the forsaking of an evil path—the dread of consequences might produce that—but a change of judgment and apprehension concerning it. It is the result of an action of the mind, not of the feelings merely, though the feelings may set in movement the exercises that lead on to repentance. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation.” Sorrow is connected with the feelings, but the mind is deeper than the feelings. They change, but the mind is part of the man himself; it abides, does not change, though we speak metaphorically of a “change of mind.” The feelings are connected with what is introspective and subjective; the mind is capable of objective thought. Joy, sorrow, and such-like are feelings aroused by something in relation to self. They are motions of the soul, subjective and feminine. The mind, which is connected with the spirit, and is the highest masculine part of man, treats of things absolutely, as they are in themselves. There is then a godly sorrow that “worketh repentance;” and there is a sorrow that does not, a sorrow that “worketh death” (2 Cor. 7:10). The judgment of sin, according to God, is in the former: regret or remorse only is in the latter.
There is another word translated repentance in the A.V.—μεταμέλομαι (see Matt. 21:29, 32; 27:3; 2 Cor. 7:8; Heb. 7:21)—which means to produce aftercare, regret, remorse, as in the case of Judas; but it does not seem to involve the same action of the “mind;” but rather of the feelings, and it is not said, as is said of repentance, μετάνοια, to be directed “Godward” (Acts 20:21).
Repentance, then, is the reflective judgment passed upon sin in the light of God, and on self as connected with it—the doer of it. It is not a change of judgment as to God, but a change of judgment as to what sin is in His sight, and of self along with it. And so the prodigal says, “I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” Here all the afterthought and the blame are about himself and what he has done, and the standard of his judgment is according to what heaven is and in his father’s sight. That is true repentance; the fruit of grace bringing him to the just judgment of himself, and working in him sufficient faith to come home, and find that faith fulfilled beyond his fondest expectation. This repentance, first preached by the Baptist (Luke 3) and afterwards insisted on by the Lord (Luke 13), is now portrayed in this inimitable picture (Luke 15), which has furnished ever since an inexhaustible fund of unfailing wealth to set forth the grace that produces repentance and the exercises of soul that start from the first dawning of fearful faith, until it rests in the joy of the Father’s kiss and the delight of the Father’s welcome home.
This repentance may or may not be produced or accompanied by the knowledge of the gospel; but in itself it is always “toward God,” and ever justifies Him, as it condemns self. So David—“Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest” (Ps. 51:4); and so, again, the dying thief—“We indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:41).
But if repentance is the judgment of self according to God, it necessarily deepens as we learn more of God and of self. But from the beginning its character is the same in kind, differing only in degree, as we become better acquainted with things as they really are in the truth of them. It is the first step on the road of true conversion; it deepens all the way along as we grow in the knowledge of God.