Analysis of Acts 2: 38 and 3: 19


      Acts 2: 38 and 3: 19 are urgently important, as they pertain to the salvation of the non-Christian. The fact Acts 2: 38 and 3: 19 are parallel is obvious. There are a number of twin verses (cp. Eph. 5: 22/Col. 3: 18; Eph. 5: 18/Col. 3: 16, etc.). Not only do these twin verses show consistency in teaching (Paul taught the same to the Ephesians and to the Colossians), but by comparison, a richer analysis of the verses can be enjoyed. Both Acts 2: 38 and 3: 19 are designed to instruct the lost as to what God requires of them in order to be initially saved (Acts 2: 14, 22). Peter charged these Jews with having murdered the Son of God (Acts 2: 23, 36). They had committed murder ignorantly, nonetheless, they were accountable (Acts 3: 17).

     These twin verses read: "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 Spirit" (Acts 2: 38). Acts 3: 19 reads, "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" (KJV).

     An examination of Acts 2: 38 (part of Peter's sermon, vss. 14-40). Repentance (metanoeo) is a compound word. W. E. Vine comments, "Meta, after, implying change, noeo, to perceive; nous, the mind…." (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). The lost must change their mind and will to do what God requires. Repentance, used in the context of salvation and when fully illustrated, is brought about by godly sorrow, involves a change of will, and leads to restoration of life (2 Cor. 7: 9, Matt. 21: 29, 2 Cor. 7: 11).

     "And be baptized…" is in the passive voice indicating baptism is something that was to be administered to them. Water baptism (the baptism of the Great Commission) is essential (Rom. 6: 3-5, Col. 2: 12). Peter said "every one of you." Repentance and baptism are universal and apply to all responsible individuals.

     "Repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ…" suggests Jesus' authority (Col. 3: 17). Jesus had taught repentance and baptism (Lk. 24: 47; Mk. 16: 16). Hence, these requirements are by his authority or in his name. Notice how repentance and baptism are joined ("and," kai).

     "For the remission of sins…." This expression (eis aphesin ton amartion) states one purpose of baptism when accompanied by repentance. Jesus shed his blood for the remission of sin (Matt. 26: 28). Therefore, it is in water baptism preceded by repentance that remission is experienced (see argument on "for" at the close of this material, I Pet. 3: 21, Acts 22: 16).

     "…And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Sprit." The gift of the Holy Spirit is the second stated benefit of repentance and baptism. The gift of the Holy Spirit is not miraculous because after some of the audience was baptized, only the apostles continued to perform miracles (2: 43, 4: 14-16, 33, 5: 12). It was not until the laying on of the apostles hands that others performed miracles (6: 6-8, cp. 8: 16-19).

     The gift of the Spirit involved the Abrahamic fulfillment to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (Acts 2). "That the blessing of Abraham, " Paul later wrote, "might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith" (Gal. 3: 14). The gift of the Spirit is universal and for all who "repent and are baptized" (vs. 39).

     An examination of Acts 3: 19 (part of Peter's second recorded sermon, Acts 3: 11-4: 1). Peter consistently enjoins repentance, "Repent ye…." He adds, "therefore" (oun). They should have repented because ("therefore") they had murdered Jesus, whom Peter presented as the Messiah (3: 14-18).

     "…and be converted…." This expression (kai epistrepsate) is literally translated "and turn" (ASV). The corresponding portion of Acts 2: 38 says, "…be baptized…." It is in baptism that one officially "turns" to God (Rom. 6: 3 ff, Acts 26: 17, 18). Remission of sins is associated with the turning (Acts 26: 18, 2: 38, 3: 19). There are certain changes that have already occurred in the person's life before baptism. (Faith and repentance bring about certain changes, attitudinal and behavioral, Acts 2: 36, 37, 38). However, it is in water baptism that the old man is put off and the new man is put on (Rom. 6).

     "…that your sins may be blotted out…." In Acts 2: 38 Peter said, "for the remission of sins (eis aphesin ton amartion). Here (3: 19) Peter said, "that your sins may be blotted out…" (pros to exaleiphthenai). "Remission" (aphesis) means to release; "blotted out" (exaleipho) means to smear or wash completely (W. E. Vine). Hence, Saul was told, "…arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins…" (Acts 22: 16). To "blot out" means God does not make a remembrance of our sins (cp. Heb. 8: 8-13 and 10: 1-3).

     "…when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." This expression is parallel to "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2: 38. "Refreshing" (anapsuxeos) suggests relief. What a beautiful description of salvation in general.

     We read regarding some in the large audience of Acts 2, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (vs. 41). Luke (the believed writer of Acts) tells us regarding some who heard Peter's second sermon: "Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand" (4: 4). These two wonderful sermons resulted in salvation and in persecution as well (4: 5 ff). Some accept the word (those with good hearts); some reject the word. (To examine arguments against "for" in Acts 2: 38 meaning "because you already have the remission of sins," click on here .)  (Related reading would be, "Scriptural Baptism for the Remission of Sins")