Columbia River, Washinton state.
Friday, 22 September 2023
“testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:21
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
In the previous verse, Paul continued his words to the elders of Ephesus concerning his teaching and how he withheld nothing from those he spoke to, both in public and in private settings. Now, that continues further, saying, “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks.”
The word translated as “testifying,” diamarturomai, means more than that. It signifies “fully testifying.” The prefix dia gives the sense of “through.” Thus, it is thoroughly testifying. Paul spoke out his witness in a full and complete manner, and he did so to all people, without distinction, meaning to both the Jews and the Gentiles.
His words are intended to mean all people of the earth, of whom the Greeks represent the whole. In both categories, he next notes the need for “repentance toward God.” This is the only time that Paul will tie in repentance in quite this manner, although it is similar to what he says in 2 Corinthians 7:10 –
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
The meaning of the word must first be explained. It means “change of mind” and nothing more. Paul says that we must have a change of mind toward God. This does not, in any way, mean what people think it means today, as in, “You must repent, or turn from, your sins.” That is not what the word means.
Paul’s words now refer to an evangelical type of repentance, not a legal form. One cannot at first legally repent of what they do not understand. We cannot repent of a law or custom which we have violated until we know what that law or custom is.
Therefore, we cannot say that Paul is speaking of the standards of the law. Rather, it is speaking of who God is, what our relationship to Him is, and who Jesus is in relation to us in that context. From there, we are to repent (change our mind about who He is) and turn toward Him in faith.
His words have nothing to do with the issue of sin, except that we recognize that we are sinners before God, without dealing with any specific sin that must be first ended before we can be saved. If we tie works into the process of this verse, then we are putting the horse before the cart.
If a Buddhist is to be saved, he must repent of what he thinks about God, turn from that incorrect thinking, and put his faith in the true God through Jesus. The same is true with a Muslim or an atheist. The mind must be changed about what “god” is being pursued and then combine that with turning to the true “God.”
Only after we are saved can we then learn the laws, grow in conformity to what is expected, and be obedient to the Lordship of Christ, not before. This may sound obvious, but it is one of the chief points of incorrect doctrine among almost all legalistic churches. They tie legal repentance, rather than evangelical repentance, in with this verse.
Paul next continues with, “and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” This explains the first part of the equation more fully. God is God. There is one God. However, there must be a means by which He is approached. It is not through Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, or any other expression than through His Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Note how Paul opened his words of this thought with “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks.” This means, without any ambiguity at all, that Jews must come through Jesus as well. Judaism, as it is defined today, is not an acceptable approach to God. The Messiah has come. Any Jew who has not come to God through Him is in the exact same position as a Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, etc.
Remember: Repent means “change of mind.” Repentance toward God means “change your mind about God.” Repentance at this point (meaning in order to be saved) does not mean “stop all your sinning.” It means to acknowledge you are a sinner and that as you learn what things displease God, you will then turn from those things. Finally, no person can be saved, Jew or Gentile, unless he turns to God (repents of his incorrect notion about God) by coming to Him through Jesus Christ.
Life application: Dual Covenantalism is a doctrine that says Jews can be saved by adherence to the Law of Moses. John Hagee teaches this. It is the official stand of the Roman Catholic Church and others. And it is a heresy. This is a great lie from Satan, and those who teach it are condemning unsaved Jews to eternal separation from God because of such teaching. They will be held to account.
Do not waffle in your convictions about Jesus Christ. Be firm and ready to defend what you believe by properly presenting it to those you talk to. Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word. He is God who came to dwell among His people. He fulfilled the law, He died in fulfillment of it, and by faith in His death, burial, and resurrection, people will be saved. There is no other path to God available to man.
Get the word out! God has done it! Jesus has prevailed, and salvation is a gift of God’s grace to any who will simply believe.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the sure hope we possess. Through Jesus Christ, You have accomplished all things necessary to reconcile us to Yourself. We acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that through Him we are restored to You. Thank You, O God, for Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.