Repentance in Acts

“Repent and be saved”
simply means,
stop rejecting God and turn to Jesus.


Created: 2008/11/29. Updated: 2013/10/5.

Repent, The Way Back, Home


Here is a list of all calls to repentance issued in the book of Acts. After each scripture I will give you the relevant background. You will see that repentance never refers to sins like crimes or wrong doing, but refers to rejecting Jesus. Jesus’ death on the Cross dealt with all our sins.

Now the detail...

Acts 2:38: Peter said  to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.

It’s Pentecost and Peter is addressing the crowd. He has just told them that they have killed the Messiah, but God has raised Jesus from the dead. They are not to repent of killing Jesus, since he is alive, but of rejecting Jesus.

Acts 3:19: 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;

Again, Peter has just declared that they have rejected the Messiah. That is what they must repent of.

Acts 5:30-31: The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

There it is again. They killed Jesus, but Jesus is the one who grants forgiveness. So repentance is turning to Jesus.

Acts 8:22: Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.

This is a personal rebuke by Peter to a sorcerer named Simon who sought to pervert the ways of God for money. This is a denial of the free gift we have in Jesus. Simon has already believed and been baptised so its not a salvation issue. This rebuke does indicate a need to get his heart right before God.

Acts 11:18: When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

This is talking about salvation coming to the household of Cornelius. The account has everything to do with acknowledging Jesus and nothing to do with any other sin issue.

Acts 13:24 : Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.

The baptism of John was repentance in preparation for the coming king, Jesus. Again, it had everything to do with welcoming Jesus.

Acts 17:30: Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent

Paul is preaching to the Greeks about an unknown God who is the one true God. The demand here it that now this God is known through Jesus, and repent means to turn from other gods to the one true God. Nothing to do with other sins.

Acts 19:4: Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

Again, the baptism and repentance message preached by John is clearly linked not to sins but to turning to Jesus.

Acts 20:21: solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jews and Greeks had very different sin rules. But for both repentance is again associated with faith in Jesus.

Acts 26:20: but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.

Just what I have been saying. Repent means to turn to God and the evidence (deeds) follow from this.

Repent and be baptized

Several of the above references directly link repentance and baptism. Baptism and forgiveness of sins are also linked. So we tend to link repentance with sins. But consider these questions:

I hope you see it. Though we fail many times we are only baptised once. We only turn once to Jesus. Repentance is turning to Jesus. We don’t have to be re-baptised when we fail again because we have already repented and turned to Jesus who has paid the price of all our sins.

This is not a word game. It’s important. Perhaps you have eternal thankfulness that your sins have been forgiven and you know the moment at which you turned to Jesus. That is great, but that moment was filled with the realisation of your need for Jesus and not a 20 page list of your sins. Never parade a list of sins before someone and tell them to repent. Tell them about Jesus and what He has done.

Your turn

Now you try it out whenever you see the “repent” word in the New Testament. See how often it’s really got to do with accepting Jesus and not miscellaneous other sins. Often when we turn to Jesus we also turn away from all the other stuff but God wants the focus to be on turning to Jesus and not on turning from sins that have already been forgiven.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB®

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