Sunday, 26 December 2021
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, Acts 3:19
The words of verse 17 just said, “I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” It is based on those words that we next read of Peter saying, “Repent therefore.” The Greek word is metanoeó. It means “to change one’s mind or purpose,” “to think differently after,” and so on. It does not mean actually doing any work at all. It is simply a changing of the heart (the heart signifying the reasoning process of a person in the Bible).
Just as in Acts 2:38, Peter is telling the people (it is second person plural, and thus he is speaking to each person as much as to all of the people gathered before him) to change their minds. The question is, “About what?” The answer is, “About Jesus, the Messiah, and their rejection of Him.” Though they did it in ignorance, they had rejected and killed Him. As such, they had to repent of this. Their mind was, “Crucify Him. He is not our King.” Their change in mind must correspond to that: “We believe! He is our Messiah!”
The word “repent” is prescriptive for Israel who had crucified Jesus. It is not prescriptive for anyone else who has not first rejected Jesus. In other words, the same two examples that were used in Acts 2:38 will help remind what the intent here is –
- John walks up to Tom and tells him about Jesus. Tom had never heard of Jesus. Tom does not need to repent of anything. He needs to simply believe the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4) and he will be sealed with the Holy Spirit, and he will be saved (Ephesians 1:13, 14).
- Tom has heard the gospel. Tom has rejected the gospel. Tom must “repent” of his former rejection (change his mind), believe the gospel, and Tom will be saved.
This is the context of Peter’s words. The men of Israel, and Israel collectively, must repent of what they had previously thought concerning Jesus. For those who will do so, Peter then says, “and be converted.” The Greek word is epistrephó. It signifies to turn or return. It corresponds to the Hebrew word shuv, which bears basically the same meaning, and which is used in the same manner time and again towards Israel –
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. 7 For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. 8 I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 14:6-8
In essence, Peter’s words say, “Change your mind and turn back.” Israel had denied Christ, they had asked for a murderer in His place, and they had then killed Him (Acts 3:14, 15). Peter is asking them to “undeny” the Lord and to return to right thinking concerning Him, turning back to the path that God had purposed in Christ Jesus. Peter then says, “that your sins may be blotted out.”
The guilt of the sin was carefully laid out by Peter. The guilt remained unatoned for and was clearly written upon them for God to see. But Peter says that those sins could be “blotted out.” It is a new word in Scripture, exaleiphó. It signifies complete removal, as in wiping away or being erased. This word will be found in Colossians 2:14 concerning the ending of the Law of Moses because of Christ’s work –
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Colossians 2:13-15
In Christ, the law is fulfilled and ended. But without Christ, the guilt of the law stands against those who will be judged by it. In coming to Christ, the sin is atoned for and there is no longer the imputation of future sin.
This is exactly what Peter is referring to. The sin of those who had crucified Christ will be atoned for by simply changing their mind and turning back to the proper path. Ezekiel spoke of the “idols of the heart,” and law observance had become exactly that to the people. Instead of coming to Christ, the embodiment of the law, they wanted Him crucified and thought to do things their own way. No atonement, apart from Christ, could cover such a sin (see Hebrews 6:4). But in returning to Christ, the sins could be blotted out “so that times of refreshing may come.”
The word translated as “times” signifies a season or a fitting moment, such as the timing of the harvest. The right times for “refreshing” would come upon the turning of the people. This word, translated as “refreshing,” is found only here in Scripture. It signifies “to breath easily.” As such, it is the state of being revived with fresh air. One can think of stagnation and oppression until that time. But when the time comes, there will be deep breaths of cooling. And Peter finishes up noting that these will be “from the presence of the Lord.”
The Greek word is prosópon. It comes from two words signifying “towards the eye.” Thus, it refers to the face or the countenance, corresponding to the Hebrew word panim, or face. The idea then is the favorable countenance of the Lord looking toward people.
In Leviticus 26, the Lord told the people that if they were not obedient that His face would be against them –
I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Leviticus 26:17
In their rejection of Christ, the Lord had set His face against the people He would pursue them and destroy them. Only in calling out to Christ will this time end and will the times of the Lord turning His face to them in favor come to pass.
Life application: What Peter says to Israel now is never used by those who insist on baptism as a necessary part of being saved. Instead, they cite Acts 2:38 and leave it at that. But look at the two verses side by side –
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19
What happened in Acts 2? The believers were baptized into the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, the people were told to repent and be baptized (most assuredly speaking of the baptism of the Spirit – one being the result of the other). What happened in Acts 3? A man was healed of his infirmity. The people are told to repent and be converted (the changing of the mind results in the action of turning back to the Lord). In both, the sins are forgiven (remission/blotting out). In one, the gift of the Holy Spirit is promised. In the other refreshing from the favorable face of the Lord, instead of oppression which comes from the face of the Lord being turned against them, is the result.
The man is being used as an object lesson (a sign) concerning the state of Israel, just as the event of speaking in tongues was used as a sign to Israel. It is as clear as the nose on one’s face that the ONLY thing that Israel is being instructed to do in order to be forgiven is to “repent,” or “change the mind.” This is perfectly in accord with all other instances of salvation in Scripture.
If one has been given the gospel and rejected it, he must – by default – repent of that state of mind. If a person has never been given the gospel and he then accepts it, only his faith – and nothing more – saves him. At that moment, he is sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 14), and he is saved.
Doctrine falls into individual categories. When the categories are mixed, faulty theology is the result. If anyone ever tells you that you must be baptized (water baptism) in order to be saved, be sure to explain to him what is actually being conveyed in Acts 2:38 and Acts 3:19. If he continues in his faulty theology, separate yourself from him. He is teaching a false gospel.
And remember, Acts is a descriptive account of what is happening. Read it, understand what the purpose of each event is given for, and then consider it as a historical record of what happened. But to obtain right doctrine, go to the epistles and study them, applying their precepts to your walk before the Lord.
Lord God, thank you for the consistent message of Scripture. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. Anything else is a false gospel. May we proclaim the simple path to salvation that came at the high cost of Christ’s work on our behalf. Amen.
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