Repentance: It’s Not Just For Jews
Although metanoia and metanoeo were certainly used in reference to the need of an Israelite to think (and then act) differently with regards to both their individual sins as well as their national unbelief/rejection of Christ, the words have nothing inherently to do with Israel, the Mosaic Law or an Israelite’s view of Christ. For example, Paul declared to the pagan (non-proselytized) Gentiles in Athens that “God is now charging mankind that all everywhere are to repent (metanoeo), forasmuch as He assigns a day in which He is about to be judging the inhabited earth in righteousness by the Man Whom He specifies, tendering faith to all, raising Him from among the dead-” (Acts 17:30-31). In the context, the “repentance” (or change of mind) in view involves turning away from the worship of false gods/idols and worshipping the one true God (as he has revealed himself in “the man whom he specifies,” Christ Jesus).
Because a need for repentance was implied whenever Paul exhorted the Corinthian saints to think and behave differently than how they were behaving (again, Paul never explicitly mentioned repentance in his first letter to them), it can be reasonably concluded that a need for repentance was equally implied elsewhere in his letters whenever he exhorted the saints of other ecclesias to not behave in a certain way or do certain things. For example, Paul’s exhortations in Ephesians 4:17-32 (such as, “Let him who steals by no means still be stealing; yet rather let him be toiling, working with his hands at what is good, that he may have to share with one who has need”) imply a need for repentance for any of the saints who may have been engaged in such sinful behavior, rather than walking worthily of the calling with which they had been called (Eph. 4:1). If someone was stealing or engaged in prostitution (for example), then such behavior was something of which they were in need of repenting (i.e., changing their mind about). But again, a need for a believer to repent (to think and act differently than how they’re thinking and acting) does not imply that one isn’t justified, or that one is in any danger of losing one’s eonian life.
Thus, while the decrees were certainly exhortations to avoid certain things, that does not make them “requirements for salvation” or an example of “law keeping.” Being examples of apostolic exhortations, they should be understood as having the same status as the exhortations found throughout Paul’s letters. They are, in other words, standards that reveal how believers should be “walking” in order to “walk worthily of the calling with which [we] were called” (Eph. 4:1; cf. 4:17-19; 5:15-16). They are not a matter of eonian life or death, but of living in a way that honors God and Christ and promotes peace and harmony between believers. These decrees are no more Mosaic commandments than are Paul’s exhortations that believers not steal (Eph. 4:28), that they avoid prostitution and uncleanness (5:3), and that they abstain from getting drunk with wine (v. 18).