(Act 2:40 ESV) And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
“Bore witness” can mean to testify as a witness, but can also mean to earnestly implore. I’m sure Peter did both. After all, he was in a position to tell the crowd what he’d seen.
“Save yourselves” is ambiguous in the Greek. It could be “be saved” or “save yourselves.” The translations split down the middle.
In the Calvinist debates, this is considered a big deal, the theory being that “be saved” is both correct and more consistent with the idea that humans have nothing to do with their own salvation.
And, in reality, passive is probably to be preferred because the Bible consistently refers to God (or Jesus) as the one doing the saving. Either way, Peter is imploring those present to do something — to choose to repent and to be baptized. He’s urging a choice: “he bore witness and continued to exhort them.”
The passive construction certainly means that God does the saving, but the grammar plainly implies that Peter’s listeners are to make a choice, just as the passive “be baptized” means “choose to submit to baptism.”
If I tell my drowning child, “Be rescued by your older brother,” it’s a command that he may choose to obey or not – with consequences either way — despite the passive construction.
“Crooked generation” is translated literally, and the metaphor works well enough in English, too. “Crooked” means wicked.
The language refers back to the Song of Moses, a psalm Moses sang at the end of Deuteronomy —
(Deu 32:5-6 ESV) 5 They have dealt corruptly with him; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation. 6 Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?
Moses’ language is borrowed by Asaph in a Psalm —
[QUOTE] (Psa 78:5-8 ESV) 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
And Paul uses the same language —
(Phi 2:14-16 ESV) 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
And so the language describes a generation in rebellion against God who will be damned if they do not accept God’s Messiah. Indeed, Peter plainly compares his audience to the Israelites who died in the desert. The Song of Moses continues —
(Deu 32:20-29 ESV) 20 And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. 21 They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. 22 For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
23 “‘And I will heap disasters upon them; I will spend my arrows on them; 24 they shall be wasted with hunger, and devoured by plague and poisonous pestilence; I will send the teeth of beasts against them, with the venom of things that crawl in the dust. 25 Outdoors the sword shall bereave, and indoors terror, for young man and woman alike, the nursing child with the man of gray hairs. 26 I would have said, “I will cut them to pieces; I will wipe them from human memory,” 27 had I not feared provocation by the enemy, lest their adversaries should misunderstand, lest they should say, “Our hand is triumphant, it was not the LORD who did all this.”‘
28 “For they are a nation void of counsel, and there is no understanding in them. 29 If they were wise, they would understand this; they would discern their latter end!
Wow! Peter’s use of a two-word phrase recalls a detail cursing by God on a people who died for lack of faith! This is much stronger language than we usually imagine.
- Can we be witnesses today? What have you seen? What can you tell from your own experience?
- Is it still true that we live in a crooked generation? Would Peter’s appeal to save yourselves (or be saved) from a crooked generation still work? Do people outside themselves see the world as crooked/twisted? Why or why not?