Repentance In Acts In Light Of Deuteronomy 30 -- By: Charles P. Baylis

Journal: Michigan Theological Journal
Volume: MTJ 01:1 (Spring 1990)
Article: Repentance In Acts In Light Of Deuteronomy 30
Author: Charles P. Baylis

Repentance In Acts In Light Of Deuteronomy 30

Charles P. Baylis


In the debate about what is necessary for salvation, repentance and its meaning have always been a focal point. At the center of this controversy are verses in Acts1 which link repentance with salvation. Peter stated in Acts 2:38 to those gathered at Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.” Why did Peter call on them to repent? In Acts 3:19 he continued his second sermon by requesting that they “repent and return.” Return to what? Was it necessary that men return to something before they could be saved?

The etymologies and the usages of these words have been researched frequently,2 but few writers have ever examined the Old Testament context from which these Acts usages are derived. It is the purpose of this article to demonstrate that the word “repentance” in Acts 2:38, 3:19 and 11:18 is based on the promise of the New Covenant found in Deuteronomy 30:1–6.3 Any analysis of the meaning of repentance must take place in that light. This study will place this word in a proper historical theological context.

The Old Testament Call For Repentance

The Prophecy: Deuteronomy

Moses stood on the edge of the promised land and gave four sermons to the Israelites as they were about to enter the land. Deuteronomy is the record of these exhortations. Even though

Israel had yet to enter the land, failure was already assured (29:22–30:1; 31:16–21, 29; 32:35). But Moses also prophesied that the nation Israel would return to God from that failure. In 30:6 Moses stated that when they returned God would circumcise their heart (give them the New Covenant).

To what were they to return? Obviously, they were to return to God, but more specifically they were to return to covenant relationship.4 How were they to return? The Deuteronomy text indicated this clearly. They were to believe from their hearts. ...

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