“Repent and Be Converted”

By Mike Willis

Acts 3 relates how opposition to the Lord’s church began and presents the second recorded sermon of Peter in which he instructed men in what they must do to be saved. Our primary interest in this chapter will be Acts 3:19. However, let us set the events in their context.

Healing the Lame Man

Acts 3:1-11 records the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. As Peter and John were entering the Temple, a man who was forty years old (Acts 4:22) and lame from his mother’s womb (Acts 3:2) asked alms of them. Peter replied, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Immediately his feet and ankle bones were strengthened, he stood up, began walking and leaping, and praising God. A crowd assembled to whom Peter preached.

Before moving to the sermon, let us take note of the purpose of this miracle. The miracles of the New Testament occurred to authenticate the message being revealed from God in fulfillment of the promise made by Jesus. He said,

These signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following (Mk. 16:17-20).

The healing of the lame man was only one incident in which the Lord’s promise was fulfilled. It served the purpose of confirming the message delivered by the apostles (cf. Jn. 20:30-31; Heb. 2:14).

This miracle contrasts with those of modern Pentecostalism in many respects. (1) The lame man begged money from the healer instead of the healer begging from the lame. (2) The lame man was instantly healed (Acts 3:7). (3) The lame man was completely healed (Acts 3:8); there is no indication that he relapsed. (4) There was no doubt that the man was lame (Acts 3:9-10). (5) There was no doubt that he was healed (Acts 4:14-16). (6) The one doing the healing did not exalt himself (Acts 3:12-13; 4:10).

Peter’s Sermon (Acts 3:12-26)

There were several points which Peter emphasized to this audience We list some of them:

1. The lame man was healed by the power of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:16). Peter stated that Jesus was the one who was responsible for this man being healed. The miracle becomes proof of his later teaching that Jesus was raised from the dead.

2. Jesus, whom they crucified, was the Messiah sent from God. Peter laid the guilt for crucifying Jesus squarely at the feet of the Jewish people. They chose to release the murderer Barabbas and asked that Jesus be crucified. They chose a murderer over the Holy One and the Just (Acts 3:14i. They chose one who took another’s life over Jesus, the Prince of Life (Acts 3:15).

The Jews crucified Jesus in ignorance (Acts 3:17), although that did not release them from guilt. In what sense were they ignorant? Paul said that they were not aware that they were crucifying the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8), the Messiah. Being influenced by their leaders, the mob chose the murderer to be released and asked for the death of their own Messiah.

The suffering of Christ was part of God’s predetermined plan and counsel (Acts 2:13; 3:18). His death was no accident. He had foreordained that Jesus’ blood should be shed for the sins of the world. Through the shedding of his blood, we can be redeemed from sin.

3. Jesus has been raised from the dead. As proof of this, Peter stated that “we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15). Furthermore, the resurrection of Jesus was confirmed and proven by the healing of the lame man (Acts 3:13). Jesus is now ascended to the right hand of God awaiting the second coming. “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:20-21).

4. Salvation is conditioned upon obedience to Jesus. Jesus is the prophet foretold by Moses of whom he said, “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:22-23). “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby you must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12).

There is only one way for men to be saved – through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. He who does not obey the gospel cannot be saved; he will be destroyed from among the people of God.

Conditions For Salvation

Peter revealed how man can be saved through the blood of Christ. He said,

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 (Acts 3:19).

To those Jews who heard the sermon and believed it, Peter gave two conditions for salvation: repent and be converted. Because our salvation depends upon meeting these conditions, let us be sure that we understand the meaning of the terms.

1. Repent. The word “repent” is translated from the word metanoeo. Repentance is distinguished from “godly sorrow” in 2 Corinthians 7:10 which teaches that “godly sorrow worketh repentance.” John the Baptist distinguished repentance from change of conduct when he said “bring forth fruits worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3:8). J.W. McGarvey summarized the meaning when he wrote, “Seeing that repentance results from sorrow for sin, and leads to reformation of life, we can have no further difficulty in ascertaining what it is; for the only result of sorrow for sin which leads to reformation is a change of will in reference to sin. . . . Repentance then, fully defined, is a change of will caused by sorrow for sin, and leading to a reformation of life” (New Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, pp. 60-61).

Some people try to be saved without repenting, including some among us. They have acknowledged their belief in God and have been baptized. However, they have never fully changed their mind with reference to sin or obedience to God. They will do what the Bible says so long as that is what they want to do; however, whenever what the Bible says is something they do not want to do; they do what they please. These are the baptized among us who ignore what the Bible teaches about worshiping God because it interferes with the pursuit of pleasure or ambition. These are the baptized among us who ignore God’s word to participate in dancing, drinking, and other forms of revelry. These are the baptized among us who reject Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage in order to be joined to someone other than whom God would approve. These have never seriously repented – never genuinely rejected the pursuit of their own self-will in order to submit to the will of God. Without repentance, one cannot be saved (Acts 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9).

2. Be Converted. The word “convert” is translated from the Greek word epistrepho. This active verb in Greek is translated by the passive verb “be converted” in the King James Version. This conveys the false impression that “conversion” is something that is done to you rather than something you do. Later translations reject the passive translation “be converted” in favor of the active verb “turn again” (ASV, RSV) or “return” (NASB). Man is active in his conversion, not passive. The word epistrepho “properly means to turn – to return to a path from which one has gone astray; and then to turn away from sins, or to forsake them.” This word points to the change of conduct which results from repentance.

Let us compare Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 with his sermon in Acts 3. In both chapters he lists the conditions for salvation from sin. Compare these two accounts:

Acts 2:38 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.

Acts 2:38 Repent Be Baptized Remission of Sins

Acts 3:19 Repent Be Converted Sins Blotted Out

What Peter preached in Acts 2:38 is not in conflict with what he preached in Acts 3:19. Rather, the term “convert” or “turn” is a more general word to denote the change in life which occurs when one becomes a child of God. Every turn has a beginning and baptism is the beginning of the change in life which occurs when a person begins to do what God commands him to do. This is the first act of obedience for the person wishing to obey the Lord – to, be baptized. Hence, the two verses are teaching the same conditions for salvation from sin.


If you have never obeyed the gospel, why postpone obedience any longer? The salvation which Christ has offered is available to every man upon the same conditions. If you were able to wait a thousand years, the conditions for salvation would be exactly what they are today – faith in Christ, repentance from sin, confession of your faith in Jesus, and baptism in water for the remission of your sins. You have no assurance that you will ever have another opportunity to obey the gospel. Today is the day of salvation. Why not obey the gospel today?

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 24, pp. 738, 753-754
December 17, 1987