Does Acts 2:36-41 Support The Freewill Error?

Acts 2:36-41 “Therefore let all the House of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard [this], they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men [and] brethren, what shall we do? 38 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. 39 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. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added [unto them] about three thousand souls.”

Introduction

Many passages, when read hastily or superficially, may appear to support a particular doctrinal view when, in fact, they thoroughly refute it. We must always be prayerful in our interpretation, seeking the Lord’s omniscient guidance in all things. We must be humble, knowing that (1) we do not yet know all truth and (2) it may not be God’s will to reveal a matter to us at this time. We must be careful, in the sense of recognising how precious God’s word is, and how full of meaning His words are, and how we must never handle them in a careless, presumptuous, or irreverent manner. Therefore, we want to have a proper hermenuetic always. That is, we want to have a God-glorifying, God-ordained method of consistently, systematically, and accurately interpreting the Bible, especially as it relates to rightly exegeting (explaining, expounding upon, critically analysing) each and every verse/passage that we encounter.

When interpreting scripture, we should always keep in mind the following:

  1. What is the intent of the passage in light of the immediate textual context?
  2. Is the writer speaking afresh or making use of Old Testament scriptural references?
  3. Though the Bible is for all of God’s people, to whom is the writer writing in the historical context?
  4. What can we learn from God’s sovereign choice of words? Are we rightly interpreting them or are we being misled by modern traditions/biases?
  5. Is God’s decision to use His chosen words (and not other possible ones) of any significance? Would differing words have bolstered one argument over another?
  6. Does the interpretation harmonize with the greater textual context? Does the perceived intent/meaning of the passage harmonize with other places in the Bible wherein the same, or synonymous, key words are used?

The House Of Israel

Notice that the Apostle Peter, by the Holy Spirit, starts off Acts 2:36 by stating “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly….” He didn’t state, “therefore, let every single person born into the world know assuredly…,” or “let all of mankind without exception know assuredly…;” instead he clearly stated “…let all the house of Israel know assuredly (asphalōs, certainly, safely, as in without fear of error or being led astray)….” We must start off with the understanding that God meant something, something very special, by the use of this term. We must ask “Why did Peter, being borne along by the Spirit, use the term house of Israel when he could have used so many other descriptions/categorizations to describe the hearers?” The answer, and how it ties-in with the use of the phrase “pricked in their hearts” (in the next verse, verse 37), is what I want to address first.

Note that God uses the term house of Israel to describe Old Testament Israel collectively, and also to describe the ethnic Jews of the New Testament era (and the proselyte strangers living amongst them). However, when spiritually discerned, the House of Israel applies to all of God’s people, both Jew and Gentile, because the middle wall of partition has been removed from between us; we have all been baptized into the One Body (of Christ); we are all part of the one Blessed Tree (Christ); for we are all united as one in Christ, with Christ, and by Christ. Therefore, the type (the historic house of Israel, being ancient Israel and the Mosaic system) has now been replaced by the antitype, the spiritual House of Israel, which is Christ and all of the elect (both Jew and Gentile) in Him.

Remember, we are reading Acts 2, which covers the Day of Pentecost,  which is the day that the New Testament era officially began (as the Spirit of God was poured out upon the existing body of believers, the many new quickened additions to the Body, and as the truth began to go out into all of the world). So we must look forward concerning the use of House of Israel (i.e. toward the New Testament, spiritual reality) and not backward (to the Old, natural, letter understanding, which was of historical/national Israel and the overall Judaic system). Consider,

Hebrews 8:7-13 “For if that first [covenant] had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new [covenant], he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old [is] ready to vanish away.”

Hebrews 10:16-18This [is] the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these [is, there is] no more offering for sin.”

Clearly the New Covenant is not for the Jewish elect only but for the elect amongst both the Jews and the Gentiles. Likewise, therefore, the House of Israel cannot refer to the Jewish elect only but must reference the elect amongst both the Jews and the Gentiles. Now should we interpret this truth to mean “all Jews and all Gentiles, without exception”? Of course not, the House of Israel cannot refer to all of the Jews and Gentiles who ever have, or who ever will live, because God makes it clear that many were utterly outside of the commonwealth and covenant (both in the natural/historical sense and in the spiritual). So only those Jews, and only those Gentiles, who are given the gifts of repentance and faith, which enables them to turn from dead works and idolatry, to God, can be said to be of the House of Israel. Only those whom God has enabled to believe the Truth, and to love the Truth, can be deemed members of this spiritual house and temple.

Concerning Hebrews 8:7-13 and Hebrews 10:16-18, also note that the writer of Hebrews is referencing Old Testament scripture. This is important because if House of Israel is a tie-in to key Old Testament passages, those passages may help us to further understand (a) how the term should be understood and (b) how Acts 2:36-41 should be interpreted. Consider this sampling of the Old Testament passages at issue and their grouping:

The Naturally Impossible Command of God

Ezekiel 14:6 “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn [yourselves] from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself…”

Ezekiel 18:30-31 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn [yourselves] from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a NEW HEART and a NEW SPIRIT: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

God’s Fulfillment of the Command For His People

Jeremiah 31:31-34 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day [that] I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah 32:37-40 “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: 39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: 40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”

2 Corinthians 6:15-16 “And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

When 2 Corinthians 6:15-16 is compared with Jeremiah 31:33 and Jeremiah 32:38 immediately above it, we see that the Gentile believers, and not just the Jewish believers, had to have been in view when God used the House of Israel language. We see this affirmed with other such Old Testament passages as:

Zechariah 2:10-11 “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. 11 And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.”

Zechariah 8:7-8 “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; 8 And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.”

Ezekiel 11:17-20 “Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. 18 And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. 19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

Ezekiel 36:22-27, 32 “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not [this] for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. 23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I [am] the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. 24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them]… 32 Not for your sakes do I [this], saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.

Ezekiel 37:21-28 “And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: 22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: 23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. 24 And David my servant [shall be] king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. 25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, [even] they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David [shall be] their prince for ever. 26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.”

2 Corinthians 3:2-6 “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3 [Forasmuch as ye are] manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency [is] of God; 6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

Only The Spiritual “House of Israel” Can Be “Pricked In Their Hearts” In Any Salvific Sense

Notice the language throughout the quoted passages above concerning the new heart, the heart of flesh, the fleshy tables of the heart, etc. It is the fleshy heart that can be spiritually pricked and not the heart of stone. Such a fleshly heart, which is the new heart, must be given to God’s people before they can believe the truth, so that they can believe it, with God-given faith. They need this new heart to not only believe the truth, but to love it,  and to be truly moved (pierced/convicted) by it. The language above also speaks of the new heart being one heart, and not many. Ezekiel 11:19, amongst other passages, states “I will give them one heart…” This ties-in perfectly with Act 2:37 which states “they were pricked in their heart” — not hearts, as in plural, but their (one, regenerate, fleshly) heart.

Now, a stony heart may hear the word, and even immediately receive it with gladness, but there is no Divine Root in it, and so such endure but for a time, and afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” [Mark 4:16-17]. However, to hear salvifically, to where they can be added to the spiritual congregation of God, and withstand the storms of the enemy, no stony heart will do. It must be a new heart, that one of flesh, that one that the Lord gives, and that He indwells — seeing that the Triune Godhead has no interest in dwelling in the desperately wicked hearts of the unregenerate.

Notice also that all of these passages speak of what God will do and not what His people will do because His people have no strength to do it in/of themselves. All of God’s people, all of the elect, all of the chosen sheep, even all of the House of Israel, will receive this new heart and they will be pricked in it at God’s appointed time (all in accordance with His sovereign will, purpose, grace, and mercy).

Thus, when we read in Acts 2: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard [this], they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men [and] brethren, what shall we do?” — it would be foolish to think that the question is being asked by anyone other than those of God’s elect who have been quickened, given spiritual life (which includes that new heart and new spirit), and let to the very point wherein they find themselves earnestly and sincerely seeking God, His Christ, and His salvation. Nothing in this passage even remotely suggests the false notion of freewill. The passage doesn’t say anything about the hearers pricking their own hearts (the Pelagian method), or about them making a decision to let God prick their hearts (the Semipelagian method), or that they did not resist the pricking of their hearts (to use the Arminian language). No, God sovereignly pricked the new heart that He gave them and, in light of His action, they responded with a deeper desire to know Him, His Way, and His Truth.

As an aside, albeit an edifying one, I find it interesting that the word for pricked, katanyssomai, is used nowhere else in the New Testament but the dominant root word, nyssō, (which is also used only once and means to pierce through, pierce, or transfix) is found in the following passage:

John 19:34-37 “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw [it] bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. 36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. 37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

Now consider the associated Old Testament references:

Psalm 22:16-18 “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look [and] stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”

Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for [his] only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn.”

Psalm 34:18-20 “The LORD [is] nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. 19 Many [are] the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. 20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

Psalm 35:9-10 “And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. 10 All my bones shall say, LORD, who [is] like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?

God is clearly connecting the piercing of the heart of spiritual House of Israel, which are His spiritual bones, with the piercing of Christ for them, at Calvary, out of whom flowed the blood and water which typified that spiritual reality that was necessary for their salvation. The elect sinner, when quickened, given the new heart, and convicted by the Spirit (of sin, righteousness, and judgment), is pierced in his/her fleshly heart concerning the piercing of Christ (on the cross and all that it spiritually entails), thus evidencing their connection with it, and their eternal interest in it. There is a loop, a bond, that cannot be broken — the piercing of the heart in associating with the piercing Christ endured in their stead and on their behalf. This simply cannot be referencing a connection involving all of mankind without exception — it is ludicrous to even suggest it. Consider also, spiritually speaking, what God has to say about this blood and water, in the spiritual sense:

1 John 5:6-9This is he that came by water and blood, [even] Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. 9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.”

Ezekiel 36:25-27Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them].”

Zechariah 12:10 to 13:1 “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for [his] only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn….13:1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.

Ephesians 5:25-27 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

Titus 3:3-7 “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Revelations 1:5-6 KJV] 5 And from Jesus Christ, [who is] the faithful witness, [and] the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him [be] glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

When we look at the above proof-texts carefully and comprehensively, we see that the Apostle Peter, speaking to the natural House of Israel as a whole, was also speaking to the spiritual House of Israel, for they (and only they) were capable of being pricked (in their new heart of flesh), evidencing their quickened state, and the fact that they were already washed by the spiritual water and blood of Christ.

Now When They Heard [This]

Notice in Acts 2:37 we read “Now when they heard [this], they were pricked in their heart…” Notice that they had to hear the words before they could be pricked in their hearts concerning it. But how does one hear? Just naturally, in the physical sense? No, because no doubt many heard the words naturally and it had no effect on them, it didn’t profit them. Only those within the House of Israel who were pricked in their new heart of flesh, evidenced the fact that they had heard with ears to hear, i.e., that they heard with spiritual ears (ears that accompany a new spirit and spiritual life). God alone must give His people ears to ear and He gives it to them alone. Consider,

Deuteronomy 29:4 “Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.”

Pro 20:12 “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.”

Repent And Be Baptized Every One Of You

Some may argue, “but doesn’t verse 38 suggest that salvation comes by what the hearers do? Their repentance, and their water baptism?” The correct reply would be that repentance is not something that starts with man, or stems from man, but something that God must sovereignly grant and effectually work in the new heart of the quickened saint. Though the command to repent goes forth to all, as we read in the passages above (regarding the House of Israel, and the new heart), God must grant us that new heart associated with  repentance. So repentance is a gift that flows from the Heavenly Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and that gift flows only into the hearts of regenerate men and women. Consider the following passages:

2 Timothy 2:24-25 “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will GIVE them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth…”

Acts 5:30-31 “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand [to be] a Prince and a Saviour, for TO GIVE repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

2 Peter 3:8-9 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward [the beloved of God], not willing that any [of the us-ward, the beloved of God] should perish, but that all [of the us-ward, the beloved of God] should come to repentance.

James 1:16-18 “Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift [including the gift of repentance] is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

Philippians 2:12-13 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.*”  [*which includes repentance].

Romans 2:3-4 “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Jeremiah 31:18-19 “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself [thus]; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed [to the yoke]: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou [art] the LORD my God. 19 Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon [my] thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.”

Psalm 80:3Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Lamentations 5:21Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.”

Repentance is not a means to salvation, or a condition for it, that stems from any aspect of natural man. The passages above make it abundantly clear that repentance is the result of salvation, and the result of God’s first (and continued) work in them, as He turns a quickened saint from sin, to Himself.

Now consider this giving/granting/gifting of repentance, in light of the baptism aspect. Remember, we read in verse 38 “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.” We must understand which baptism is in view here:

Acts 11:15-18 “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as [he did] unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? 18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles GRANTED [didōmi, G1325, to give, give something, deliver, or grant] REPENTANCE unto LIFE.

It simply doesn’t get any clearer than this; God has to grant repentance unto (spiritual) life and He grants it in conjunction with that quickening process wherein he gives that new heart, new spirit, and indwelling Holy Spirit to them. Moreover, the baptism in view here is not water baptism but spiritual baptism. Though many would dispute this, I believe many are wrong. The whole emphasis is on the spiritual, i.e., (a) the spiritual giving/granting/gifting of God and (b) the spiritual effects of the spiritual gifts.

In light of this, we see that repent and be baptized is addressing (in Acts 2:38) the same spiritual reality as the repent-couplings found in the following passages:

Mark 1:15 “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Acts 3:19 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”

Ezekiel 14:6 “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn [yourselves] from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.”

Ezekiel 18:30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn [yourselves] from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.”

Acts 26:20 “But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and [then] to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”

So the command to repent and be baptized is not a mixed command, as in part spiritual and part physical; earthly water is not involved but the spiritual water, the washing of the word, the sprinkling of clean water upon us spiritually, is what is in view . When one is quickened, he/she is given God-wrought power to (1) repent and be spiritually baptized; and to (2) repent and believe the Gospel; and to (3) repent and be converted; and to (4) repent and turn from idols; and to (5) repent and turn from transgressions; and to (6) repent and turn to God. All of these things must be worked out in a quickened soul by the Holy Ghost, through Christ, all by the eternal will and purpose of God the Father. There is simply no room for some supposed man-mustered repenting, or for some form of (physical) water baptism, in the salvation process.

As Many As The Lord Our God Shall Call.

In verse 39 of Acts 2 we read “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.” The promise of salvation, the promise of forgiveness of sin, the promise of eternal oneness with God through Christ Jesus, is only to the House of Israel. In the context of the passage, it was to those saints of God in Peter’s day, their spiritual progeny going forward (as they proclaimed the word of God, particularly the Gospel, to the elect of God), all without regard to ethnicity or nationality (seeing that it was both a promise to the elect Jew in the House of Israel, and to those members of the body that are afar off, which is a reference to the Gentile believers).

Some object and reference Matthew 22:14 which states “For many are called, but few [are] chosen.” They argue that since many are called but few are elect (eklektos), then we must view the term call in Acts 2:39 in the same manner as the derivative term is used in Matthew 22:14. Basically what they are stating is that, to suit their particular (false) interpretation, they must impose upon others a limitation in meaning, application, and/or interpretation, that is without merit. If the Lord uses the word call in various ways, and the will-worshipers declare that we can only use it in the manner that they understand it, even when the textual context demands otherwise, we can safely say that those who proclaim false, freewill theology are twisting the Scriptures, and wresting the original intent and meaning, when they attempt to impose such limitations upon us.

To develop this, first consider the use of proskaleō/G4341 (from Acts 2:39) in the following passages and see if this word, translated call, is always used by God, in the Bible, in the same way klētos/G2822, translated called, is used in Matthew 22:14.

Acts 13:2 “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” [Barnabas and Saul/Paul were both called of God and elect of God].

Acts 16:10 “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.”

In these two passages above, we clearly see that the use of call/proskaleō/G4341 differs from the similar word in Matthew 22:14, especially in that it deals with those who are clearly elect, being clearly of the spiritual House of Israel. Moreover, consider:

Romans 8:28-30 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called [kaleō/G2564]: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Proskaleo (G4341) in Acts 2:39 is derived from the same kaleo (G2564) found in Romans 8:30 above. So nothing other than personal bias (or denominational/associational tradition) would logically bar the called in Acts 2:39 from being the same called in Romans 8:30. Consider these other call/kaleo/G2564 passages that tie-in to Acts 2:39 in a clearly salvific manner:

John 10:2-3 “But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.”

Romans 9:10-13, 22-24 “And not only [this]; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, [even] by our father Isaac; 11 (For [the children] being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12  It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated…22 [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”

1 Corinthians 7:21-22Art thou called [being] a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use [it] rather. 22 For he that is called in the Lord, [being] a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, [being] free, is Christ’s servant.

So we see that as many as the Lord our God shall call (in Acts 2) is language pertaining to those whom God sovereignly calls, effectually calls, and thus, salvifically calls. This harmonizes with not only the kaleo verses provided above but with the entire context of Acts 2:36-41.

And With Many Other Words Did He Testify And Exhort…

Notice that in verse 40 of Acts 2 we read “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” This lets us know that Peter declared no superficial, watered-down, invitation. Instead, he proclaimed the true Gospel, boldly, and with many words. So these quickened hearers (the three thousand added per Acts 2:41) were being convicted in their new spiritual heart by the Holy Spirit, even pricked therein, granted the gifts of faith and repentance, and led to inquire after, and to seek more deeply, the Good news of that salvation based solely upon the Person and finished work of Christ Jesus the Lord. We see a parallel in the following passage:

Acts 16:23-34 “And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast [them, Paul and Silas] into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. 25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. 29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed [their] stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Notice the similar scenario, one heard and experienced great things, fear and conviction fell upon him, and he cried out to the faithful witnesses concerning what he must do. The response given by Paul and Silas, mimicked the response of Peter, and that was to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as his only hope of salvation. However, as with Peter (when we read “And with many other words did he testify and exhort“), so we read concerning Paul and Silas that they did not stop with that simple instruction, but went on to expound the word, to set forth the Gospel more fully, hence the language in Acts 16:32 “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord…

So we see the pattern: (1) give them a synopsis of truth (for the jailor no doubt heard the prayers and singing of Paul and Silas, as the three thousand heard the words of Peter); (2) instruct them to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; and (3) from Scripture, continue on to tell them what it really means to believe upon the Lord Jesus; tell them who He really is; distinguishing the Truth from false notions and damnable heresies (like those found in the various easy-believe-ism / easy-join-up-ism schemes associated with freewill “theology”).

Neither Paul nor Peter were Judaizers; they did not mix works with grace; they did not confuse or conflate creature will and creature effort with the divine sovereign will and the divine effectual working of God (which, alone, can save lost sinners). Sadly, those desiring to use Acts 2 and Acts 16 (amongst many other passages) as proof-texts in support of their will-worshiping error are doing the opposite of what Peter, Paul, and Silas did. Instead of expounding the word of God deeply, faithfully, and critically, they are doing so superficially, haphazardly, and inconsistently. They are using many words of philosophy and tradition, rather than the many faithful words of scripture. They do not realise that one cannot rightly harmonize scripture, using a consistent and logical hermeutic, and still find legitimate support for their freewill error.

Save Yourselves From This Untoward Generation.

We already considered how God will command an action that He knows mankind cannot obey or perform (in, and of, themselves) but then grants His people the strength and ability to do so via His own sovereign and effectual will and working (leaving the will-worshipers in the strong delusion that they have creature strength to perform it themselves). From the examples given above, consider again:

The Naturally Impossible Command of God

Ezekiel 14:6 “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn [yourselves] from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself…”

Ezekiel 18:30-31 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn [yourselves] from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Compared to God’s Fulfillment of the Command In and For His People (notice the many I wills of God; without reference to man’s will).

Jeremiah 32:37-40 “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: 39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: 40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”

Ezekiel 11:17-21 “Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. 18 And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. 19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But [as for them] whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 36:22-32 “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not [this] for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. 23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I [am] the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. 24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them]. 28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. 30 And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. 31 Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that [were] not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. 32 Not for your sakes do I [this], saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.

Now consider this similar example, involving the words circumcise/circumcision:

The Naturally Impossible Command of God

Deuteronomy 10:16Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.”

Jeremiah 4:4Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench [it], because of the evil of your doings.”

Compared to God’s Fulfillment of the Command In and For His People

Deuteronomy 30:6 “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”

Colossians 2:11-15 “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 [And] having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

So the command save yourselves by no means suggests that we have the natural will, inclination, desire, or power, to do so; only those with a new heart, and a new spirit, being operated upon by the indwelling Holy Spirit, can save themselves (experimentally) by hearkening, with the spiritual ears to hear that we have been given, to the word of God. Again, we must have spiritual ears to hear the spiritual words of God seeing that the Lord declared in John 6:63 “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life.” Yet, time and time again, natural man will see the command and presume that they have the ability to obey it; whereas, those made spiritual in Christ will see the command, understand that ‘without Christ they can do nothing,’ and seek His strength knowing that ‘it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.’

They That Gladly Received His Word…

The final question (one that should already be deemed answered by now) is whether anyone can gladly receive the words of life as it pertains to salvation, without already being born again (i.e. without already having a God-given new heart, new spirit, and the effectual working of the Spirit of God in them). Clearly, they cannot. However, some point to passages like the following:

Matthew 13:20-21 “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

Luke 8:13They on the rock [are they], which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”

Matthew 13:20-21 and Luke 8:13 are describing a carnal receipt, and a carnal joy, one that (at one point or another) fades; these passages do not pertain to a faith that remains, one that has been given to the Christian by God; instead, it covers natural faith, natural assent, and that but for a season. If one musters-up carnal faith, and carnal repentance, in their still dead-in-trespasses-and-sin spirit, and in their still desperately-wicked-hearts, they will be like the stony ground hearers, who though receiving the word with joy in a natural sense, have no spiritual root (even the Root of Jesse, Isaiah 11:10), and thus evidence, when they fall away, that they were never truly saved in the first place. They become as those who were amongst us, but not of us, and thus went out from us. So clearly the Acts 2 three-thousand, who gladly received the word, were not like unto these apostates who fade away, or else they would not have been mentioned as being added to the (true, spiritual) congregation of God. Consider also,

1 Corinthians 2:13-16 “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Here we see that those of whom it was said “they that gladly received his word were baptized” could not be unregenerate men but rather must have been spiritual men, born again men, those who were already quickened by the Spirit of God.

Why is this the case? 1 Corinthians 2:14 makes it abundantly clear that the natural man, the unquickened/unregenerate man, cannot spiritually receive the things of the Spirit. Why? Because the “many other words” with which Peter testified and exhorted them, would have been foolishness to them if they were yet unregenerate (per 1 Corinthians 2:14). They would not have been able to know/understand these words (salvifically) because they would lack the spiritual discernment that the Holy Spirit would have had to have worked in them. However, the fact that they could hear spiritually, and could receive spiritually (even gladly), evidences the fact that a prior salvific work of God was already performed in them, and for them, and that the Holy Spirit did indeed give them the necessary ears to hear, along with spiritual understanding, and God-wrought faith (all of which pertains to the new life, resulting from it, and is therefore not a precursor to it). With all of this in mind, it should be obvious that Acts 2:41, as with all of Acts 2:36-41, cannot (in any reasonable sense) be used to support the Pelagian, Semipelagian, Arminian, Sacramental, and related “freewill” heresies; instead, these verses refute such error.

Conclusion

The above covered the fact that the House of Israel, when spiritually discerned, encompasses the elect (both Jew and Gentile), but particularly, those who have already received a new heart of flesh, a new spirit, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They, and they alone, can receive that spiritual pricking in their new, fleshly heart that evidences their nascent salvation. Only they have the God-given spiritual ears to hear, understand, and receive the spiritual words of God preached unto them. Only they have been given the gift of repentance and only they have been baptized into the one spiritual body. Finally, only they are the (effectually) called of the Lord. So by no means can Acts 2:36-41 be used to support the false notions of freewill, universal atonement, or the heretical systems of theology (so-called), precariously founded upon them.

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