Repentance and salvation

by Mike Ratliff

19 μετανοήσατε οὖν καὶ ἐπιστρέψατε εἰς τὸ ἐξαλειφθῆναι ὑμῶν τὰς ἁμαρτίας, Acts 3:19 (NA28)

19 Therefore, repent and turn again in order that your sins will be removed. Acts 3:19 (translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

One form of religion that claims to be Christian but isn’t is based in something called “easy-believism.” On the other hand, many of the proponents of it will point to what we call “the Gospel” in what follows as the “damnable heresy” of Lordship salvation. I have often shared here using passages such as Acts 3:19 (above) making it clear that the Bible tells us that there is no salvation without repentance and again in Acts 2:38, “Πέτρος δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· μετανοήσατε, [φησίν,] καὶ βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν καὶ λήμψεσθε τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος.” Or, “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent  [HE SAYS] and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” In any case, to support the Lordship case, all we have to do is go to God’s Word. In the “easy-believism” case it all comes down to philosophical argumentation. 

In this post I want to examine Acts 3:19 more closely, specifically the verb ἐπιστρέψατε,which in the KJV, is translated as “be converted” in Acts 3:19, but literally in this case means “turn” or “turn again.” Before we do this, lets put this verse in context.

Here is Acts 3 from the NASB:

1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. 2 And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. 4 But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” 5 And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” 7 And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. 8 With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 10 and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
11 While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. 12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 16 And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 23 And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” Acts 3 (NASB) 

As we see, Peter heals a lame beggar by the grace of God. It is such a miracle that a large crowd comes upon them in Solomon’s Portico and he preaches a short sermon from vv12-26.

Here is v19 from the NA28, “μετανοήσατε οὖν καὶ ἐπιστρέψατε εἰς τὸ ἐξαλειφθῆναι ὑμῶν τὰς ἁμαρτίας”.

The first word, μετανοήσατε is the Aorist, Imperative, Active case of μετανοέω or metanoeō, which denotes a radical, moral turn of a person from sin and to God. True repentance is proven by actions and fruitful living (Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20). What about those who do not repent? In Revelation 16:9, those who refuse to repent and give glory to God will experience a plague of fire.

The next word, οὖν (oun) is translated here as “Therefore.” Taken together then, Peter is commanding the people listening to “Therefore Repent” based upon what he had just spoken about their guilt in our Jesus’ crucifixion. The next word καὶ (kai) is translated as “and” and what follows is what Peter is commanding them to do “In addition to repenting.” It is ἐπιστρέψατε, the Aorist, Imperative, Active case of ἐπιστρέφω (epistrephō). In this context, it indicates a spiritual and moral turn from sinfulness to the true God. In other words, it indicates spiritual conversion. For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 Paul used this verb saying to the Thessalonians, “you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God.” Paul and Barnabus declare to the crowd in Lystra, “turn from these worthless things to the living God” (Acts 14:15; cf 3:19; 9:35; 11:21; 15:19; 26:18, 20, 27). In 1 Peter 2:25 the focus is on the one to whom we are to turn: “Now you have turned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” Epistrephō indicates a change in the relationship between God and the sinner because, “when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed” (2 Corinthians 3:16).

What is the result of sinners repenting then turning to Christ as Lord and Saviour (which is what Peter is describing in v19)? It is “in order that your sins will be removed.” The word translated as “removed” is ἐξαλειφθῆναι the Aorist, Passive, Infinitive case of ἐξαλείφω (exaleiphō), “to blot out or erase.”

Repentance and turning to Christ as Lord are tied together as you can clearly see in passages like this. Those whose Lord is Jesus Christ are not patterning their lives after the world. Also, notice how the earlier translators of this text into English took this “turning to God” as our conversion. How anyone could seriously study this and come up with these forms of salvation prevalent in our time that have nothing to do with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, but are all about redeeming cultures and “making a difference” are alien to the command our Lord made in Matthew 28:16-20.

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NASB) 

Soli Deo Gloria!

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