06 March, 2017

Acts 2:38-39—“Repent and be baptized every one of you … For the promise is unto you, and to your children …”


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. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call (Acts 2:38-39 KJV).


COMMON GRACE ARGUMENT:
This passage is sometimes interpreted by advocates of the “general well-meant offer” to mean that not only the call to repent is universal (Note: something which is, nonetheless, true), but that also the gospel promise is universal/conditional and not particular/unconditionalGod sincerely promises salvation in Jesus Christ to absolutely all (bar none) who hear the outward call, upon the condition of repentance and faith.

On the other end of the spectrum, hyper-Calvinists see this entire passage, including the command to repent, as being addressed only to the regenerate [i.e. sensible sinners].



(I)

Rev. Martyn McGeown


Acts 2 records Peter’s Pentecost sermon, at the end of which, he declares, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made this same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). The effect of the sermon is conviction of sin for “they were pricked in their heart” (v. 37). This does not necessarily mean regeneration and certainly no preacher can know with certainty that a display of conviction of sin is genuine. Nevertheless, the frightened sinners cry out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (v. 37). Peter ministers the gospel to them. At this point, we wonder what the hyper-Calvinist would say. Would he say, “Repent,” and thus issue a command? Would he say, “There is nothing you can do. You are totally depraved. It is utterly hopeless. The best thing you can do is to wait to see if God converts you”? We know what Peter said: “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” (v. 38). Moreover, “with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (v. 40).

We see from Acts 2 what a preacher must do. First, he must preach the command (“Repent,” “be baptized” and “save yourselves” are imperatives). Second, he must preach the command to everyone: “every one of you” (v. 38). Third, he must preach the promise. Without the promise, the hearers will not know to whom salvation pertains.

We see how Peter preaches the promise in verses 38-39: “And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” What my hyper-Calvinist reader does not acknowledge is that Peter commands all to repent and believe, but he promises salvation (“the gift of the Holy Ghost” and by implication “the remission of sins”) only to believers. The promise is not conditional. Peter does not say, “God promises to each of you and to each of your children, that, if you and they repent and believe, you and they shall be saved.”

The promise is unconditional, as Peter explains with that qualifying clause at the end of verse 39, “even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” That phrase qualifies or limits the “you,” the “children” and the “afar off.” Peter does not promise in the name of God salvation to everyone in his Jewish audience (“you”) or to all of their children (“your children”) or to all the Gentiles (“afar off”)—he promises salvation to the “called” (the effectually called) within those three groups. Nevertheless, Peter does not limit the command to those whom God effectually calls. Peter commands everyone in the audience to repent and believe in Christ. That cannot be denied.


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(II)

More to come! (DV)



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