Repentance in Salvation – Pt. 11 by Ron Shea

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THE BOOK OF ACTS

John 14-6

Repentance in Acts  2:38

14     But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said . . .

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22     Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

23     Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

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32     This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

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36     Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

37     Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

38     Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

39     For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

40     And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

41     Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Subject called to repent:

Jews from every nation visiting Jerusalem

Object of that repentance:

Not expressly stated.  Since repentance means “a change of mind,” we can only inferentially determine the object of repentance by determining the thinking of those invited to repent.  Peter accuses them, as a people, of having crucified their Christ (vs. 23).  This implies a rejection of Christ, as well as making a statement of Christ’s atoning death.  Peter gives additional information about Jesus Christ . . . that God then raised Him up from the dead (vs. 32), and that God has made Him both Lord and Christ.  Therefore, the only object of repentance that can be reasonably inferred from the context is to change one’s mind from a rejection of Christ to an acceptance of Him as Lord and Christ, the one who died for our sins, and rose again from the dead.

Consequence of repentance:       

1)  The remission of sins (vs. 38),

2)  being saved from “this untoward generation,” and

3)  three thousand souls were added to the church. (vs. 40, 41).

Being saved from the “untoward generation” surely means to “save yourself from the fate that awaits this untoward generation.”  We know that those of Jesus’ generation who rejected Him stand eternally condemned.  We also know that the more immediate fate of that “untoward generation” was the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and the Roman legions in AD 70.  The consequence of repentance could therefore be deliverance from temporal judgment, or deliverance from eternal judgment.  However, the “addition of their souls” to the church is plainly a reference their conversion, and consequently their eternal salvation, therefore Eternal salvation is unquestionably in view.  This is born out in the following chapters of Acts, when Peter repeatedly invites men to repent unto the remission of sins.  However, deliverance from temporal judgment on Israel may also well be in view, particularly in light of the movement of Luke and Acts, from a Jewish centered people of God to a Gentile centered people of God.

Peter appears to connect the “remission of sins” with repentance (vs. 38).  Again, it is debated whether the term “remission” is forgiveness in an absolute sense (akin to justification), or forgiveness in the sense of 1st John 1:9.  Again, both interpretations can be envisioned within the context.  Certainly remission of sins in the eternal sense is reasonable since these men were coming to a saving faith in Christ.  But severing one’s connection with an “untoward generation” which is under God’s judgment has a temporal (here and now) sense, which might carry over to the term “forgiveness” as a temporal forgiveness, wherein they are no longer under the national judgment that faces Israel.

Some have argued that, by the nature of their question, “what shall we do?” (vs. 37) that these 3,000 men had already come to a saving faith, and that Peter’s invitation “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” was, in its entirety, directed to remission in a temporal sense (such as fellowship) rather than an eternal sense.  The argument is not without merit, but has several weaknesses.  Firstly, within the gospels, when Jesus used the terms “repent” and “remission of sins” in relation to each other, the remission appears to have always been directed to eternal salvation, not temporal fellowship.  Certainly, words have a “field of meaning,” and can reasonably be used in a number of ways.  However, Peter heard Jesus use the terms “repent” and “remission” together on a number of occasions, and it would be odd that Peter should suddenly use this same combination of terms with an altogether different meaning . . . particularly in view of the fact that the over terms “repent” and “remission” but in an altogether different sense.

Another reason this interpretation is unlikely is that the “light goes on” at different rates for different people.  I share the gospel often.  It is possible that some of the persons to whom I witness “get it” and fully trust in Jesus before I finish talking.  But I am not a mind reader.  I almost always finish by asking the person if they are now trusting in Jesus death on the cross as being all they will ever need to wash away their sins and make them acceptable in the sight of God.  In the same way, it is virtually impossible that the “light went on” simultaneously for all 3,000 Jews who listened to Peter’s sermon.  And even if they did, Peter was no mind reader, and could not have known that all 3,000 were saved before he ever invited them to believe.

Finally, if Peter’s invitation to repent is not directed to eternal salvation, then Peter makes no specific invitation whatsoever for these men to trust Christ.  It would be absurd to think that Peter would assume that everyone who listened to his sermon had believed unto salvation while he was speaking . . . and focus his invitation exclusively on fellowship and deliverance from God’s temporal judgment onIsrael.  Temporal judgment may well be partially in view, but it is inconceivable that Peter’s invitation to repent was not, at its core, directed toward the positional forgiveness that is the believers once for all the moment they cling to the cross of the Savior.

Repentance in Acts  3:19

12     And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?

13     The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.

14     But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;

15     And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

16     And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

17     And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.

18     But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.

19    Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,

Subject Called to Repentance:

Men of Israel

Object of that repentance:

Not expressly stated.  Since repentance means “a change of mind,” we can only inferentially determine the object of repentance by determining the thinking of those invited to repent.  Peter says, of Jesus’ execution, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as also did your rulers.”  Peter has softened his tone from his sermon on the day of Pentecost.  Rather than accusing them of delivering Christ up for crucifixion by “wicked hands,” he notes that they did it through ignorance.  Since both were probably true in some measure, Peter may have decided that a less accusatory approach would be more effective.  Regardless of Peter’s motives or reasoning, the only thing we are told of these Jews is that, through ignorance (vs. 17), they delivered up Jesus (vs. 13), denied him in the presence of Pilate (vs. 13) and chose Barabus (“a murderer”) over Jesus when Pilate offered to release one prisoner (vs. 14). In addition to this inferential information of what these Jews “thought,” Peter adds that Jesus was killed and rose from the dead (vs. 15), that these events fulfilled the law and the prophets (vs. 18).  The only thing that can be inferentially regarded as the object of repentance within this passage is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  To repent, to “change one’s mind” in a saving way, is to go from unbelief to belief.  To change from rejecting Christ to accepting Christ.

Consequence of Repentance:

“Be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.”  The context is plainly soteriological.  Moreover, the rhythm and meter of this passage is profoundly similar to Acts 3:38.  Peter is speaking, his audience is a crowd of Jews to whom he has ascribed some level of culpability for the crucifixion of Jesus, they are told the essential facts of Jesus death and resurrection, they are invited to repent, and they are offered the remission of sins.  This similarity to Acts 2:38 weighs strongly in favor of a soteriological interpretation of Acts 2:38.

Repentance in Acts  5:31

27     And when they had brought them, they had set them before the counsel, and the high priest asked them,

28     Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

29     Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

30     The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

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.

Subject Invited to repent:

The high priest and counsel (whom and which Peter was addressing, vs. 27) and “Israel” (vs. 31), the greater focus of Peter’s concern.

Object of that repentance:

Not expressly stated.  Since repentance means “a change of mind,” we can only inferentially determine the object of repentance by determining the thinking of those invited to repent.  In verse 30, Peter recites the facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the gospel message, and accuses his hearers of being the one’s who slew Jesus.  Therefore, to whatever extent that the object of repentance can be determined, it must be regarded is equivalent to believing the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  They must transit from rejection of Christ, beyond indifference, to genuine acceptance and belief on Him.

Consequence of repentance:

The forgiveness of sins.  The men before whom Peter stood were unregenerate, and rejecters of Christ.  In view of the eternal damnation that faces ever man, woman and child on this planet without Jesus Christ, it becomes exceedingly absurd to believe that in a successive string of sermons, the focus of Peter’s offer of forgiveness of sins is temporal forgiveness.

Repentance in Acts  8:22

9       But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:

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13     Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

14     Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

15     Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

16     (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

17     Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

18     And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

19     Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

20     But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

21     Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

22     Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

Subject Called to Repentance:

Simon Magus

Object of Repentance:

Simon Magus needed to change his mind from “the thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money.”

In his previous religion, Simon had been a sorcerer.  However, this was not the center of Simon’s religion.  Simon had been “giving out that himself was some great one” (vs. 9).  The center point of Simon Magus’ previous religion was . . . Simon Magus.  Like so many Pentecostal and seeker friendly pastors of our age, Simon probably had two sermons . . . “I am great ” and “look at me.”  Simon Magus had converted to Christianity, and there is no reason to believe that his conversion was false. Simon had genuinely believed on Christ (vs. 13), and as offensive as his character may be to us, we must accept the testimony of Scripture, that even vile and offensive people who believe on Christ will be saved.  Simon Magus was a pathological narcissist before he was saved, and he was still a pathological narcissist after he got saved.  Conversion changes our destiny, but conversion does not change our character.  And Simon’s desire to be a big deal in the church remained the center point of his religion.  “Give me this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.”  He was still trying to give out that he was someone great.

But is pathological narcissism was not his greatest sin.  When Simon was told to repent of is “wickedness,” Peter did not cite pride or narcissism.  Remembering that “repent” means “to change one’s mind,” if someone wants to see the exact nature of the repentance called for by Peter, one must determine what was in Simon Magus’ mind.  The words to search for in the context are “suppose,” “believe,” “think,” “regard”, “hold” etc.  And if we search the context, we can identify the exact nature of the wickedness that concerned Peter.  Simon “thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.”  Since repentance is a change of mind, what Simon thoughtwas what Simon needed to repent.

Simon’s pathological narcissism was the most revolting character trait, and was at the root of much of his spiritual problems.  But the eternal life of every man, woman and child on the planet hinges on the integrity of the gospel message, and anything that threatens that integrity is of urgent concern.  How did Simon’s actions threaten the integrity of the gospel?  Before the church age, the Holy Spirit was not given to all believers in the manner He is in this age.  But after the dispensational transition was through, and the church age was fully opened, the Holy Spirit was given to all men at the moment of salvation.  Paul writes, “If anyone have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9).  Salvation is a package of gifts to us. These gifts include justification (our legal status as a result of Jesus dying for our sins on the cross), eternal life (the regeneration of the Holy Spirit), and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  By the end of the transition into the church age, the Holy Spirit would become an automatic part of that salvation experience.  Therefore, to allow a man to think that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can be dispensed with money would, within one generation, imply (indirectly) that salvation itself can be bought with money.  Christians fight major battles over a great many doctrines, but few Christians have the ability to prioritize doctrine.  Peter shows a clear focus in this passage.  As offensive as Simon’s narcissism was, the damage of the gospel was at the pinnacle of Peter’s concern, even if the damage to the gospel was only tangential and inferential.

Consequence of repentance:

Peter had invoked God’s temporal judgment on Simon, “Thy money perish with thee ,” and offered as a consequence of Simon’s repentance, “That this sinful thought (singular) be forgiven.”  Nothing in the text suggests that Simon’s sins (plural) had not been forgiven “positionally.”  He had believed on Christ.  Scripture is plain on this.  Whether Simon was indeed under the temporal judgment of God, as Peter had invoked, we are not told.  But Simon was not in fellowship with God.  1st John 1:9 teaches that if we confess our sins, He is faithful to cleanse us of all our sins, and unrighteousness.  Narcissism is a deep rooted character trait. James tells us that there are men who look in a mirror, and walk away, and immediately forget the manner of man they saw.  Some Christians will never grow to the maturity wherein they can examine their inner motives.  They are character disordered.  But in His infinite mercy, God will forgive all our sins when we address those that we can see.  This is all Peter required of Simon Magus.

Repentance in Acts  11:18

(Starting from Acts chapter 10)

1       There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,

2       A devout man, and one that feared God . . .

3-5    . . . an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. . . . now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:

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34-36         Then Peter opened his mouth, and said . . .  preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)

38     How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

39     And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

40     Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;

41     Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.

42     And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

43     To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

Acts 11

17     Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?

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.

Subject who Repents:

Cornelius (Acts 10:1)

Object of Repentance:

 The object of repentance is not expressly stated.  Since repentance means “a change of mind,” we can only inferentially determine the object of repentance by determining the concepts or propositions about which men must change their mind in the context.  Peter teaches Cornelius about Jesus death (Acts 10:39), resurrection (Acts 10:40-41), His destiny to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42) and to bestow on all who believe the remission of sins (Acts 10:43).  That this is the “object of repentance” is further corroborated by the fact that “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18) is in apposition (it is equivalent) to “believ[ing] on the Lord Jesus Christ” in Acts 11:17.

Consequence of Cornelius’ repentance:

“The remission of sins” (Acts 10:43) and “life” (Acts 11:18).

Repentance in Acts  13:24

16     Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

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23     Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:

24     When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

25     And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.

26     Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

27     For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

28     And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

29     And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

30     But God raised him from the dead:

31     And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.

32     And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,

33     God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

34     And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.

35     Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

36     For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:

37     But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.

38     Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

39     And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Subject Called to Repentance:

The men of Israel whom Paul addressed (vs. 16), by way of analogy of the repentance demanded by John the Baptist (vs. 24).

Object of Repentance:

The object of repentance is not expressly stated.  Since repentance means “a change of mind,” we can only inferentially determine the object of repentance by determining the concepts or propositions about which men must change their mind.  The repentance that John the Baptist preached (vs. 24) is, (for the men to whom Paul is speaking, after the resurrection of Jesus), belief on Jesus (vs. 39), specifically, belief that Jesus was the Son of God (vs. 33) who was slain by Pilate (vs. 28), raised from the dead (vs. 30, 37) by which He offers forgiveness of sins (vs. 38) and justification (vs. 39).

Consequence of repentance:

Forgiveness of sins (vs. 38) and justification (vs. 39).

Repentance in Acts 17:30

29     Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

30     And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

31     Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

Subjects Invited to Repent:

The Gentiles gathered on Mars Hill.

Object of Repentance:

Since repentance means “a change of mind,” the object of repentance is identical to what Paul tells them they “should not think”.  Here, they should not think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

Consequence of Failure to Repent:

God will judge the world.  The severity of the judgment is not disclosed, but is clearly soteriological in intent.

Repentance in Acts 19:4

2       He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.

3       And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.

4       Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

Subject Repenting:

Old Testament Saints who believed John’s message of the coming Messiah.

Object of Repentance:

Repentance in vs. 4 is equivalent to “believ[ing] on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”

Consequence of repentance:

Not stated.

Repentance in Acts  20:21

Quote:

21     Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Subject Called to Repentance:

Both Jews and Greeks to whom Paul had preached.

Object of Repentance:

God

Consequence of repentance:

The purpose or consequence is not expressly stated.  However, one does not go out to a mission field, labor to get up an audience with men and women who know not the Lord of Glory, and present some message about God and Jesus Christ that is unrelated to their eternal salvation!  This would be the height of absurdity.  The texture of the passage is plainly soteriological in nature.

Repentance in Acts  26:20

19  Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

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.

21  For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

22  Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

23  That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

Subject Repenting, not repenting, etc.:

The Gentiles (vs. 20)

Object of Repentance:

The object of repentance is not expressly stated.  Since repentance means “a change of mind,” we can only inferentially determine the object of repentance by determining the concepts or propositions about which men must change their mind.  In verses 22 and 23, Paul notes that the only thing he proclaimed was that Christ should suffer and should rise from the dead and show light unto the people, and unto the Gentiles.  Once again, saving repentance is equivalent to believing the gospel message.

Consequence of lack of repentance:

The context does not specifically state the purpose or consequence of repentance.  However, even the most callow new convert to Christianity will recognize that the message of the crucified and resurrected Christ which Paul preached to them is, other places in Scripture, known as “The Gospel” (1 Cor. 15:1-4), “which the power of God unto salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  (Romans 1:16)  While the immediate context of this passage does not identify the consequence of repentance, the passage is plainly soteriological.

About The Author

Ron Shea attended Villanova University on a four year scholarship from the United States Navy. After earning a Bachelor of Electrical engineering, he served four years as a naval officer. He then attended Dallas Theological Seminary where he majored in New Testament Literature and Exegesis, translating the entire New Testament from the original Greek language. He graduated with honors from the four-year Master of Theology program. He went on to earn a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, where he earned awards in Admiralty, Jurisprudence, and Oral Argument.  He has pastored churches in New Orleans and San Francisco, and is the founder and president of Clear Gospel Crusade.

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