Exile and Repentance, Part 17 (Acts 2, Part 3; Acts 3)

Arch_of_Titus_MenorahFaith and repentance

So Peter asked the devout crowd in Jerusalem to repent. They were good and religious Jews, but they had no faith in Jesus as Messiah — and to turn to God, they had to turn to Jesus. There was and is no other path.

Some weeks ago, in the comments, the question was raised how this could be? After all, many — perhaps most — of these devout Jews had never even heard of Jesus. Fewer still had heard that he’s the Messiah. Fewer still had any idea that he was and is God the Son. How could they repent from not believing what they’d never been taught.

But under anyone’s interpretation, the fact is that faith in Jesus as Messiah is required for salvation. Whether or not that concept is found in “repent” in Acts 2:38, the concept is obviously a central claim of Christianity and Peter’s urging that the crowd be baptized in the name of Jesus Messiah certainly required faith in Jesus as Messiah. So what I’m saying is hardly revolutionary. It’s just that I’m posing the question in an unfamiliar way — but it’s an important way of asking the question. Why on earth does God require faith in Jesus at this juncture in  history? Why not simply repent of sin?

The Prophets spoke in terms of a repentance that includes faith in God, giving up idolatry, and return to Torah obedience, especially care for the poor and vulnerable.  All of this would be included in submission to Jesus as Messiah, as the Messiah — God’s own anointed King — would require all these things. It would be unimaginable to a Jew to submit to God’s King and not have to also do these other things. Rather, to us Western Gentiles, the hard question is why God would add the Messiah to the mix. So we have to get back to basics, because it’s a basic answer.

God promised David that Israel would be ruled by a descendant of David forever. That’s a covenant promise. The Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets connect this promise with the Messiah, the outpouring of the Spirit, and the dawning of the Kingdom. They happen together. They all connect.

For God to honor his promise in Deu 30:6 to circumcise the hearts of his children so they’ll become obedient and live, he must outpour his Spirit. But this happens when the Messiah comes, which happens when the Kingdom comes.

Therefore, if a First Century Jew in Jerusalem on Pentecost ca. 33 AD is to believe that the Spirit has been outpoured — as he could see and hear! — then he must also believe that the Messiah has come — so he either accepts Jesus or he rejects his place in Jewish history. If Jesus is not the Messiah, then the Spirit is not outpoured. (There were no other messianic claimants around less than two months after the crucifixion! No one’s that crazy.) And if the Spirit is not outpoured, the Kingdom has not come. And if that’s the case, then the Jews just need to go about their business in Jerusalem, offering sacrifices, praying, and pretending that nothing has changed — until the Romans tear the Temple down about 40 years later.

Absent 1500  years of prophetic history, the claim that Jesus is the Messiah doesn’t really fit into “faith in God” and “love for the poor and vulnerable.” But with the prophecies and history and covenants that actually happened — with God’s self-revelation being at the stage it was at on Pentecost, Jesus had to be the Messiah or else nothing had changed, the Jews were still in Exile, and they were still separated from God.

But something had happened. If the Spirit, the Messiah, and the Kingdom had all come, and so everything changed. Then for those who turn to God — in faith — and so those who believe that these things were happening, they’d receive the blessings of Deu 30.

(Deu 30:1-6 ESV) “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you,  2 and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul,  3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.  4 If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you.  5 And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.  6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Acts 3

Peter and John heal a beggar on the Temple steps, providing him through Jesus, now the true temple of God, what the Temple built by Herod could not — healing.

Peter takes the opportunity to preach a sermon —

(Act 3:12b-15 ESV) “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?  13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.  14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,  15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”

Peter refers to the covenants indirectly by referencing the Patriarchs. He then accuses the Jews — as a people — of guilt in the crucifixion of Jesus because he is the “Holy and Righteous One,” language reserved for YHWH in the OT (e.g., Isa 5:16).

Then he calls Jesus the “Author” of life — again, language descriptive of God as Creator.

Finally, he declares that the disciples are witnesses to the resurrection — the event that confirms the truth of these claims (along with the miracles, the outpouring of the Spirit …).

(Act 3:16 ESV)  16 “And his name — by faith in his name — has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.”

At last, a sermon that speaks of faith by using “faith”! Peter says that the beggar’s faith in Jesus has given him perfect health.

(Act 3:17-18 ESV) “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.”

Peter then grants that the people — and their rulers! — acted in ignorance, so that the prophecies would come true. They are not individually accountable, it would appear. Except ….

(Act 3:19-21 ESV)  19 “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,  20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,  21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”

They still need forgiveness. The Exile of Deu 28 is still in effect, and will remain in effect as to each Jew until he or she repents. Repentance was required before the crucifixion. The crucifixion makes repentance all the more urgent. God is dividing between those who return to him and those who don’t.

V. 19 is a reference to —

(Isa 44:22 ESV) I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

The idea of God sending the Christ (Messiah) is a reference to the Second Coming. The Messiah must remain in heaven for now until the time for “restoring all things,” surely parallel with Rev 21:5: “I am making all things new” and the several prophecies that speak in similar terms.

(Act 3:22-24 ESV)  22 “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.  23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’  24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.”

Peter says that Moses and the Prophets have all predicted these days. You have to know where you are in covenant history!

(Act 3:25-26 ESV) 25 “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’  26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Peter reminds them that God covenanted with Abraham to bless all the families of the earth — but God sent Jesus to the Jews first. Why? To each of the Jews from their wickedness. Wickedness? Didn’t Peter begin by saying they’d acted in ignorance?

“Wickedness” in the Greek is a particularly harsh word. He is not speaking of original sin or even some imputed notion of wrongdoing. He is charging them with the worst kind of evil. But — as a nation — they’d crucified the Messiah. And this fact takes a nation already suffering Exile and places them in even greater jeopardy. They have to either accept Jesus as Messiah or agree with Pilate that it was right to crucify him. Now that the Spirit has been outpoured and miraculous healings occur in Jerusalem at the Temple, it’s time to make a choice — you can no longer plead ignorance. Either he is Messiah and LORD or else else he was a criminal or crazy. Take a position and live with the consequences.

And so, to turn them from their “wickedness” is about faith in Jesus. It’s whether they admit that they — as a nation — crucified God’s Messiah or Jesus was a pretender. They either agree with the crucifixion — manifestly just for a blasphemer or the greatest crime against God imaginable.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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13 Responses to Exile and Repentance, Part 17 (Acts 2, Part 3; Acts 3)

  1. rich constant says:

    Jesus told the apostles not to worry about what they were going to speak about, the spirit would give them the words that they needed and which words they should be saying to the group of people at the time that they were speaking.
    What this is referring to is the relevance of the word being spoken to the people that are being spoken to.
    What is interesting is for so many years it was relevant to us and not to the people that it was spoken to quite honestly what we share with our teaching is that the message that is being taught by Peter is not relevant to the people that it is being spoken to.
    Finally by sharing a message of blessings and curses that is relevant to the people of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost we are finding a relevant God using relevant words getting to the heart of the issue and making people feel ashamed or what they have done to God and to his massage

  2. rich constant says:

    In that last sentence above it should be

    That would be relevant to God and their Messiah

  3. rich constant says:

    what they have done to God and their Messiah
    Boy oh boy

  4. rich constant says:

    Also what’s being taught is just how ignorant we are concerning God’s Word, and what we are saying is nothing more then just another form of theological anthropological ontology.
    Blessings all

  5. rich constant says:

    What we are teaching is just another form, no more no less,
    Than
    EXOGEITED theological ontological ontology…

  6. rich constant says:

    That would be
    Theological anthropological ontology

  7. Dwight says:

    In assembly we teach that people need God and are sinners (not us, but others), but of course we all need God and are sinners, but we are saved. Now as we leave assembly we look down on others as sinners, but we don’t give them God, we give them more grief. We remind them that they are sinnners or that they are not doing what is right as far as sin goes.
    Peter went a different route as he argued about where Jesus came for, what he was here for and what they had done against Jesus the savior in concemning Him and not following Him. Peter didn’t attack them on every little sin from out of the 10 commandments. Of course he did convict them, but he didn’t pile up thier sins in front of them. He wanted them to repent and not drown. There task was to open their hearts and then turn from everything to Jesus, in faith and action.
    This is one of the things that the Mormons are good at. They engage the “open the heart” and “ability to turn” side of man…towards Mormonism. They want to move people, not crush them.
    We need to get better at this if we wish to convert more people to Christ.

  8. rich constant says:

    By the way does anyone understand what happens when a virus gets in to an operating system of a computer. That’s what ontology is, what happens when the virus is so old that no one even considers it to be a virus, and then you get some people with enough information about your computer system the picture virus, and you started yelling and screaming there’s not a thing in the world wrong with my computer much less my operating system. Even when you’re being told By the system 1 + 1 equals 3 and it’s a plain as the nose on your face.
    to me when I was 25 years old and I walked into a Pentecostal church and watch the people speaking in tongues and nobody could understand them because they were speaking in the tongues of angels, which which I knew when Paul was speaking of that he was talking of a hyperbole.
    I told them they must have got hold of some bad street drugs or psych meds that didn’t work.
    it’s sad but true.
    1 + 1 does not equal 3 anymore then 2 + 2 equals 5.
    To say nothing of God being relevant through the Holy Spirit to the people that he was talking to on the day of Pentecost

  9. rich constant says:

    Oh well I just got up from a nap and I’m a little bit cranky.
    Sad but true.
    I also had pizza for breakfast

  10. Jay, in K.C. Moser’s book, The Way of Salvation, he makes the point that in the Scriptures repentance precedes faith when they are mentioned together. Is our reversal of these in trying to “sequence the steps to salvation” the reason for the confusion you address above?

    the question was raised how this could be? After all, many — perhaps most — of these devout Jews had never even heard of Jesus. Fewer still had heard that he’s the Messiah. Fewer still had any idea that he was and is God the Son. How could they repent from not believing what they’d never been taught.

    How can one who ius in rebellion against God put faith in Jesus? I think that in many ways repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin that moves one from rebellion to humility toward God and trust in the Savior, so much so that it is impossible to make tbe sharp lines of distinction we commonly try to make between the various “steps” in “the plan of salvation. So again I ask, “Is this linear sequential view of these ‘steps’ what causes much of our confusion?”

  11. Dwight says:

    Jerry, exactly. I think we often think of the steps of salvation, because that is how we read it, but to those doing it as in Acts 2 it wasn’t do this, then do this,then do this, it was simply repent and be baptized and they probably didn’t think in terms of steps, but rather crossing over from the world to Christ. It was fluid and probably felt rather seamless. And while baptism was a re-birth so to speak or a burial/ressurection it was a moment in time and probably not THE moment in time, after all they still had many years to live in Christ. IT wasn’t being reborn into Christ, it was about being in Christ that made the Ethiopian eunuch rejoice, which of course happened after he was baptized into Christ.
    But then again in Acts 2 we presume they had faith and he tells them to repent and be baptized, so at least repentance was something that was markable and tellable like the baptism. Maybe faith precedes repentance, but I am not sure it matters as long as one comes to Christ and is in Christ.

  12. Monty says:

    “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2 and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you.”

    Jay,

    In light of how the Jews on Pentecost would have understood repent, is there any question in your mind that when Peter commanded them to “repent and be baptized everyone of you”, that any of those Jews who heard Peter that day would have understood baptism as optional? Jay, based upon your reasoning of all of this background(in which I am agreeing-good stuff) I don’t see how any Jew on Pentecost(if he understood all the OT background as you have presented)would have dared not be baptized, if he believed Jesus was Messiah, the Spirit had been outpoured, and the Spirit ( I will put my Spirit in you)was being given as a gift to all who would turn(repent-and accept Jesus as Messiah) and were baptized into HIs name.

    They would have understood Peter’s instructions that day as on par with what Moses had instructed their forefathers about “obey his voice in all I command you today and then God would restore their fortunes and have mercy(forgiveness) on them.” We split hairs about the timing of everything, but to a Jew who believed what Peter said that day, they obeyed the command(which is what it was) to turn to Jesus and be baptized into his name. They didn’t quibble about a works salvation. Many folks today do not understand it as the Jews would have as a command tied to the show of repentance. Baptism is tied to or linked with repentance. As they were coming out into the desert to be baptized of John he said, “bring forth fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8) John said,” I baptize you with water unto repentance (Matthew 3:11) (Luke 3:8) “preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Jesus instructs his disciples to teach the good news and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name(Luke 24:47) And lo and behold that’s what happens in Acts 2 Jesus is presented as Messiah, and the call is to repent and to be baptized to receive remission of sins.

    Turning back to God(through believing Jesus as the Christ) is shown by accepting baptism for remission of sins. The refusal to be baptized (by the majority that day)was a show of unrepentance(lack of faith) in Jesus as Messiah. Now today of course, it may or may not be, depending on how it is taught. But for that day(Pentecost), there was no turning and repenting and being declared forgiven without it, for to not do it was a sign of rejection of Jesus as Lord(Messiah) -“all who believed were baptized.” Luke wants us to understand that and that to not turn and receive Jesus as Lord in baptism was to deny that what was happening was the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy.

  13. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Monty,

    In light of how the Jews on Pentecost would have understood repent, is there any question in your mind that when Peter commanded them to “repent and be baptized everyone of you”, that any of those Jews who heard Peter that day would have understood baptism as optional?

    I will not argue against a strawman. There is very nearly no one who argues baptism to be optional. Not even the Baptists. I don’t argue that. I know of no commenter here who argues that. I don’t think Calvin or Zwingli taught that.

    To my knowledge, the only denominations that make water baptism optional are Christian Scientists and the Society of Friends (Quakers). None of them are here to defend their positions.

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