What is penance? Is it found in the Bible? The word itself is not found in the Bible. Noah Webster defines penance as:
1. The suffering, labor or pain to which a person voluntarily subjects himself, or which is imposed on him by authority as a punishment for his faults, or as an expression of penitence; such as fasting, flagellation, wearing chains, &c. Penance is one of the seven sacraments of the Romish church.
The word repentance, however, is found in the Bible. Noah defines this word as:
2. In theology, the pain, regret or affliction which a person feels on account of his past conduct, because it exposes him to punishment. This sorrow proceeding merely from the fear of punishment, is called legal repentance, as being excited by the terrors of legal penalties, and it may exist without an amendment of life.
3. Real penitence; sorrow or deep contrition for sin, as an offense and dishonor to God, a violation of his holy law, and the basest ingratitude towards a Being of infinite benevolence. This is called evangelical repentance, and is accompanied and followed by amendment of life.
Repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God.
The catholic church’s penance is very different from the definition of repentance. In fact, penance is a “work” that a catholic must do to achieve salvation. The catholic catechism states:
Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must ‘make satisfaction for’ or ‘expiate’ his sins. This satisfaction is also called ‘penance.'” Pg. 366, #1459
Penance comes in different forms. After confessing your sins to the priest, he can have you say the rosary a dozen times and that is called penance. I never once walked away feeling remorse after having done my penance. I did it, it was over with and I moved on. I thought I had made amends for my sin but all I did was say a lot of empty words.
Christ paid for our sins – plain and simple. His death on the cross was for all sin and it was complete.
~Hebrews 10:17-18 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (17) Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin (18 ).
Christ was offered once for sins. Once we repent and accept Christ as our Saviour, we are totally forgiven. God no longer even remembers our sins so why do we need to do penance?
Repentence, however, is a whole different story. When one repents, he totally changes the direction he is going. If he is a thief, he steals no more. If he is a liar, he lies no more. Furthermore, he is truly remorseful for what he has done. So the thief would return what he has stolen. The liar would go to the one he has lied to and speak the truth. That is true repentance. The fruit of repentance is a changed life. Not a life that continues in sin and repeats the same sin over and over, only to go to confession and confess it to a priest over and over.
Let’s look at the Bible to see what God says repentance is:
~Mat 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
~Mat 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
~Mar 1:4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
~Luk 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
~Act 5:31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
~Act 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
~Act 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
~Act 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
~Rom 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
~2 Cor 7:9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
~2 Cor 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
~Heb 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
~Heb 6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
~2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repetance.
No where in the New Testament do you see penance. The Jews repented in sackcloth and ashes but no where did it say that they repeated prayers (rosary) or caused pain to their body. Jesus’ work of forgiveness was complete. A sinner who repents of the sin of stealing, returns the stolen merchandise, confesses his sin to God, has received forgiveness, and the sinner now moves on. He may suffer the consequence of his sin if the person he stole from presses legal charges against him. However, God forgave the sinner and remembers his sin no more because Christ paid the price!
Penance is just another tradition invented by the catholic church – a distortion of Scriptures and a practice that puts their members under bondage for a life time.
~Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Nothing we do will forgive us any more than Christ has forgiven us. Once the true born again believer is forgiven, he will produce the fruits of repentance.