Must I repent and believe to be forgiven?
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
There are possibly only 4 verses in the New Testament, after the cross, that appear to suggest a person is not forgiven of their sins unless they first repent and believe upon Christ.
The first of those is 1 John 1:9. The second is Acts 26:18.
And finally, I’m going to address the last two, Acts 2:38 and 3:19 together, because they are both dealing with the same audience, the Jews.
Blessings and forgiveness under the old covenant
The Jews already had an existing covenant with God, through Moses. Under the old covenant, If you obeyed the laws, and kept the commandments, blessings would flow (Deuteronomy 28:1-14),
On the contrary, if you did not obey, according to the law, there was punishment associated with your actions (Deuteronomy 28:15-45). This is the key point. Even under the old Covenant, there was forgiveness.
But you would also be punished, because the Law demanded it. This is what the Temple system was built around. The issuing of punishment was done to the lamb-offering, individually and corporately for Israel, and was ultimately resolved in the cross of Jesus Christ.
David begs for forgiveness
For instance, when David slept with Bathsheba, and killed her husband, he repented and cried out before the Lord, knowing that punishment was coming (Psalms 51).
He begged that God would not take the Holy Spirit from him (Psalms 51:11). We read by the prophet Nathan that God did forgive David, and his life was spared, (2 Samuel 12:13).
But the child that Bathsheba bore for David, died (2 Samuel 12:18). What spared David’s life was his heartfelt repentance before the Lord but he did suffer loss.
The Jews and forgiveness
Now, fast forward to first century Palestine after the death of Jesus Christ. Peter is speaking to the Jews, and accuses them of being guilty of killing the Son of God under the Old Covenant.
In both instances, Peter’s preaching at Pentecost addresses this fact towards the Jews (Acts 2:22-36). and similarly in the temple after the healing at the Gate Beautiful, (Acts 3:12 – 18). Both accounts precede Peter’s demand that the Jews repent for the sin of denying the Holy One, and killing the Son of God, then convert or be baptized, to receive the forgiveness.
Were those sins forgiven by God at the cross? Absolutely. But the problem for the Jews, was that they were under a different Covenant that demanded punishment and held those sins against them.
In order for the Jews to partake of the forgiveness that was supplied by the cross, they had to come out from under the Law of Moses, and convert (Acts 3:19) or be baptized (Acts 2:38) into faith in Jesus Christ under the New Covenant.
If repentance is necessary TO BE FORGIVEN
If repentance is necessary TO BE FORGIVEN, then according to these verses, so is baptism and conversion, because they are included as necessary to be forgiven from these verses. It is plainly seen in the language, that these are not ongoing actions. Rather, they are one-time events.
Every time this language is used, it is always to someone who is under the Law of Moses. In fact, Peter, before he realized the Gospel could be preached to non-Jews, has an encounter with Simon, a Samaritan (who were considered only half-Jews). He had to deal with the same issue (Acts 8:14-22).
Peter wasn’t even sure if the Gospel would apply to the Samaritans, even though they were also under the Law. So he hedges his language and says “if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” (Acts 8:22).
Seven years after Pentecost, and some open visions from the Lord later, Peter finally recognizes that the Gospel is for everyone (Acts 10:28).
The Gentiles and forgiveness
For the rest of the world, the Gentiles, they had no previous covenant keeping them from the promises of the New Covenant.
They simply had to repent (change their minds about who Jesus was) and receive what Jesus had already done, in forgiving the sins of the Whole World (Colossians 2:13).
When the Gospel comes to the Gentiles, as in the case of the house of Cornelius, we see no such demands to be forgiven. Rather the Gospel to the world is, Only Believe to receive their forgiveness (Acts 10:43).
Ultimately, the Jews and Jerusalem paid for their sins, at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. There the demands for punishment of the Law from the creation was poured out on that generation (Luke 11:50) at the desolation of the Temple by the Roman Army (Luke 21:20), and where, according to the Historian Josephus, over one million Jews were crucified.
It was the fulfillment of the words of Jesus, in Matthew 24:34 that this generation shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled. This was the wrath that the Jews understood was coming for their sins of denying and killing the Son of God. And it is what Paul urged the Jews to flee from.
1 Thessalonians 2:15 – 16 [The Jews] Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon THEM [The Jews] to the uttermost.
1 thought on “Acts 2:38 & Acts 3:19, Repent & Believe to be forgiven?”
The teaching that everyone goes to heaven isn’t in the Bible. That’s a heresy called universalism.
Rather the Bible teaches repentance and belief in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
For one thing, Jesus preached repentance. It was central to his message.
“Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14–15)
Jesus’s gospel was to repent and believe.
unless you repent, you too will all perish. Luke 13:3 (also Jesus)
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Matt 4:17
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”
John 12:40jesus is here using the word turn which means the same thing as repent. To turn from your sin abd be converted – and believe.
Luke 5:32 “I have not come to call righteous people, but sinners, to repentance.”
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Other apostles taught repentance for the remission of sin:
For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation…
2 cor 7:10
Mark 1:4 KJV
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
2 Timothy 2:25 “correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”
Acts 5:31 “God has exalted to his right hand this very man as our Leader and Savior in order to extend repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.”
Acts 17:30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him.”
Acts 3:19 “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.”
Romans 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
2 Corinthians 7:10
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (This is John the Baptist)
AND the Old Testament also taught repentance for the forgiveness of sins:
13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
2 Chronicles 7:14
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Ezekiel 33:7-9 KJV
So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul
Ezekiel 18:21-23 KJV
But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
TURN in the Bible means the same thing as repent. There are several words for it. But they mean the same thing.
REPENT and TURN from your sin.
when you truly do that, THAT is your born again experience. Which Jesus said you MUST to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
I “believed” for many years but did not really repent until I had a huge crisis and saw myself for what I truly was – a sinner who needed Jesus to run my life. I repented – turned from my sin – and began obeying the gospel. If you haven’t done this, you’re likely only giving lip service. Jesus also said:
8‘These people honor Me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from Me.
9They worship Me in vain;
they teach as doctrine the precepts of men.
If you’ve been taught that all you have to do is believe, you’ve been taught a doctrine by men and you’re worshipping God in vain.
Again I quote the first verse:
Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14–15)
Repentance and belief are linked. So is forgiveness of sins. If you haven’t repented you don’t truly believe, because that’s what Jesus said you MUST do to truly be born again.
And Jesus said you MUST be born again to see the kingdom of heaven (John 3…. Right before john 3:16. Go look it up)
Being born again means starting over from scratch spiritually, with Jesus as the foundation of your house, instead of your own ideas and the teachings of men as the foundation. You can only have that happen when you truly repent from the heart. And that’s so much more than just merely “assenting” with your mind that you believe in Jesus.
But you need to know your Bible well to understand this and not just cherry pick out a couple of verses, nor trust the teachings of men.
Isn’t your salvation worth searching for? The Bible says to study to show yourself approved. Don’t just listen to what ANYONE tells you. The Bible is the ONLY thing to be trusted.
And according to the full counsel of the Bible, If you don’t preach repentance you aren’t preaching the full gospel.
If you say all you have to do is believe you’re missing half the gospel. James said even the demons believe – and tremble.
The type of faith that says “all you must do is believe” is called easy believism. And it’s sending a lot of people to hell.
I challenge you to Repent right now of easy believism and cheap grace. Ask GOD to show you the teachings of men that you have believed instead of believing His Word.