Acts 26

Acts 26:18

to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’

(a) Turn from darkness to light. In the new covenant, repentance is often described as a return or turning to God (see entry for Acts 26:20).

(b) Receive forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift to receive, not a wage to be earned.

(c) Forgiveness of sins. All your sins – past, present, and future – were dealt with on the cross (Heb. 9:26). In Christ, you have the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14). In him, you are completely and eternally forgiven according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7).

On the night he rose from the dead, Jesus instructed his disciples to preach the good news of the complete forgiveness or remission of all sins (see entry for Luke 24:47). After the cross, the apostles described forgiveness in the past tense and as a gift to receive (see entry for Acts 13:38).

(d) Sanctified by faith. All of God’s blessings, including forgiveness, salvation, righteousness and sanctification, come to us freely by grace and are received by faith. Faith does not compel God to forgive us or sanctify us. But faith is the conduit through which grace flows. See entry for Eph. 2:8.

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.

Repent and turn to God. In the new covenant, repentance is often described as a return or turning to God (Matt. 13:15, Mark 4:12, Acts 3:19, 9:35, 11:21, 14:15, 20:21, 26:17-18, 20, 2 Cor. 3:16, 1 Th. 1:9).

Many scriptures in the Old Testament link repentance with turning from sin (e.g., 2 Chr. 7:14). In the old covenant, God’s blessings were conditional on you humbling, praying, seeking, and turning. But in the new covenant, all of God’s blessings are poured out on us of the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:3, 7, 2:7).

Because of the change in covenants, it is a mistake to define repentance as turning from sin. Preach “turn from sin or you’re not saved” and you are preaching pure law. You are prescribing sin-rejection as a means for salvation. This false gospel leaves sinners worse off because it empowers the sin that enslaves them while scorning the grace that might otherwise save them (1 Cor. 15:56).

In the old covenant, repentance implied a turning from, as in turn from sin. But in the new, repentance means a turning to, as in turn to God (Acts 20:21). Turning from versus turning to may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s the difference between life and death. Someone who turns to God automatically turns from sin and dead works, but someone who turns from sin does not automatically turn to God. Consider the religious Pharisees. They turned from sin on a daily basis yet they did not recognize the Grace of God even as he came and stood among them.

See entry for Repentance.

(b) Performing deeds appropriate to repentance. Just as faith without works is dead, repentance without works is dead.

Faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. They are both nouns that are evidenced by verbs – the things we do. So what are the deeds which are appropriate to repentance? The New Testament lists hundreds of imperative statements but the chief of all is to believe in Jesus. Believing in Jesus is both the will, the work and the commandment of God (John 6:29, 40, 1 John 3:23). See entry for Jas. 2:14.

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