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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Acts 3

Verse 19

Apostolic Exhortation

A Sermon Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, April 5th, 1868, by C. H. SPURGEON, At the Newington.

"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." Acts 3:19 .

AFTER the notable miracle of healing the lame man, when the wondering people clustered round about Peter and John, they were not at all at a loss for a subject upon which to address them. Those holy men were brimful of the gospel, and therefore they had but to run over spontaneously, speaking of that topic which laid nearest to their hearts. To the Christian minister it should never be difficult to speak of Christ; and in whatever position he may be placed, he should never have to ask himself, "What is an appropriate subject for this people?" for the gospel is always in season, always appropriate, and if it be but spoken from the heart, it will be sure to work its way. Turning to the assembled multitude, Peter began at once to preach to them the gospel without a single second's hesitation. Oh! blessed readiness of a soul on fire with the Spirit, Lord, grant it to us evermore. Observe how earnestly Peter turns aside their attention from himself and his brother John to the Lord Jesus Christ. "Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?" The object of the Christian minister should always be to withdraw attention from himself to his subject, so that it should not be said, "How well he spake!" but, "Upon what weighty matters he treated!" They are priests of Baal, who, with their gaudy dresses, and their pretensions to a mysterious power, would have you look to themselves as the channels of grace, as though by their priestcraft, if not by their holiness, they could work miracles; but they are true messengers of God who continually say, "Look not on us as though we could do anything: the whole power to bless you lies in Jesus Christ, and in the gospel of his salvation." Nor did Peter fail, when he had enunciated the gospel, to make the personal application by prescribing its peculiar commands. Grown up among us is a school of men who say that they rightly preach the gospel to sinners when they merely deliver statements of what the gospel is, and of the result of dying unsaved, but they grow furious and talk of unsoundness if any venture to say to the sinner, "Believe," or "Repent." To this school Peter did not belong into their secret he had never come, and with their assembly, were he alive now, he would not be joined. For, having first told his hearers of Christ, of his life and death and resurrection, he then proceeds to plunge the sword, as it were, up to the very hilt in their consciences by saying, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." There, I say, in that promiscuous crowd, gathered together by curiosity, attracted by the miracle which he had wrought, Peter felt no hesitation, and asked no question; he preached the same gospel as he would have preached to us today if he were here, and preached it in the most fervent and earnest style, preached the angles and the corners of it, and then preached the practical part of it, addressing himself with heart, and soul, and energy, to every one in that crowd, and saying, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved. Conversion, if translated, means a turning round, a turning from, and a turning to a turning from sin, a turning to holiness a turning from carelessness to thought, from the world to heaven, from self to Jesus a complete turning. The word here used, though translated in the English, "Repent and be converted," is not so in the Greek; it is really, "Repent and convert," or, rather, "Repent and turn." It is an active verb, just as the other was. "Repent and turn." When the demoniac had the devils cast out of him I may compare that to repentance; but when he put on his garments, and was no longer naked and filthy, but was said to be clothed and in his right mind, I may compare that to conversion. When the prodigal was feeding his swine, and on a sudden began to consider and to come to himself, that was repentance. When he set out and left the far country, and went to his father's house, that was conversion. Repentance is a part of conversion. It is, perhaps, I may say, the gate or door of it. It is that Jordan through which we pass when we turn from the desert of sin to seek the Canaan of conversion. Regeneration is the implanting of a new nature, and one of the earliest signs of that is, a faith in Christ, and a repentance of sin, and a consequent conversion from that which is evil to that which is good. Now, brethren, it has been said, and said most truly, that repentance and conversion are the work of the Holy Spirit of God. You do not need that I should stop to prove that doctrine. We have preached it to you a thousand times, and we are prepared to prove that if anything be taught in Scripture, that is. There never was any genuine repentance in this world which was not the work of the Holy Spirit. For this purpose our Lord Jesus has gone on high: "He is exalted on high to give repentance and remission of sins." All true conversion is the work of the Holy Ghost. You may rightly pray in the words of the prophet, "Turn thou us, and we shall be turned;" for until God turn us, turn we never shall; and unless he convert us, our conversion is but a mistake. Hear it as a gospel summons

"True belief and true repentance, Every grace which brings us nigh; Without money Come to Jesus Christ and buy."

See then, ye that are unsaved, before I leave this point, see what it is we are bound to require of you this morning. It is, that ye repent and be converted. We are not satisfied with having your ear, nor your eyes; we are not content with having you gathered in the house of worship it is all in vain that you have come here, except you repent and be converted. We are not come to tell you that you must reform a little, and mend your ways in some degree: except you put your trust in Christ, forsake your old way of life, and become new creatures in Christ Jesus, you must perish. This nothing short of this is the gospel requirement. No church-going, no chapel-going, will save you; no bowing of the knee, no outward form of worship, no pretensions and professions to godliness- ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and if ye do not this, neither shall your sins be blotted out. Thus much, then, on the first point: the apostle commanded men to repent and be converted.

II. In the second place, THERE WAS GOOD REASON FOR THIS COMMAND. The apostle also used another argument, namely, that he whom they had slain was a most blessed person one so blessed that God the Father had exalted him. Jesus Christ came not into this world with any selfish motive, but entirely out of philanthropy, full of love to men; and yet men put him to death! Now, every sin is an insult against the good and kind God. God does not deserve that we should rebel against him. If he were a great tyrant domineering over us, putting us to misery, there might be some excuse for our sin, but when he acts like a tender father to us, supplying our wants day by day, and forgiving our offenses, it is a shame, a cruel shame, that we should live in daily revolt against him. You who have not believed in Christ, have mighty cause for repenting that you have not believed in him, seeing he is so good and kind. What hurt has he ever done you that you should curse at him? What injury has Jesus done to any one of you that you should despise him? You deny his Deity, perhaps; or, at any rate, you despise the great salvation which he came into this world to work out. Does he deserve this of you? Prince of life and glory, King of angels, the adored of seraphs, art thou despised of men for whom thy blood was shed? Oh, what an accursed thing, then, sin must be, since it treats so badly so kind and blessed a person! This ought to make us melt, this should make us shed the drops of pity and of grief; we ought, indeed, to turn from our idle and evil ways when against Jesus we have so offended. Peter clenches his reasoning with another argument, bringing down, if I may so say, the big hammer this time upon the head of the nail. It is this, that the Lord Christ, whom you have hitherto despised, is able to do great things for you. "His name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know." Christ then, by faith in him, is able to do for you all that you want. If you will trust Jesus today, all your iniquities shall be blotted out; the past shall not be remembered; the present shall be rendered safe, and the future blessed. If thou trustest in Christ, there is no sin which he will not forgive thee, no evil habit the power of which he will not break, no foul propensity the weight of which he cannot remove. Believing in him, he can make thee blessed beyond a dream. And is not this cause for repentance, that thou shouldst have slighted one who can do thee so much good? With hands loaded with love he stands outside the door of your heart. Is not this good reason for opening the door and letting the heavenly stranger in, when he can bless you to such a vast extent of benediction? What, will you reject your own mercies? Will you despise the heaven which shall be yours if you will have my Master? Will you choose the doom from which none but he can rescue you, and let go the glory to which none but he can admit you? When I think of the usefulness of Christ to perishing sinners, there is indeed abundant cause for repentance that you should not have closed with him long ago, and accepted him to be your all in all. Thus you see the apostle argued with them by that word "Therefore." The expression used in the text, "blotted out," in the original may be better explained in this way. Many Oriental merchants kept their accounts on little tablets of wax. On these tablets of wax, they indented marks which recorded the debts, and when these debts were paid, they took the blunt end of the stylus or pencil, and just flattened down the wax, and the account entirely disappeared. That was the form of "blotting out" in those days. Now, he that repents and is pardoned, is, through the precious blood of Christ, so entirely forgiven, that there is no record of his sin left. It is as though the stylus had levelled the marks in the wax, and there was no record left. What a beautiful picture of the forgiveness of sin! It is all gone, not a trace left. If we blot out an account from our books, there is the blot: the record is gone, but there is the blot; but on the wax tablet there was no blot it was all gone, and the wax was smooth. So is it with the sin of God's people when removed by Jesus' blood, it is all gone and gone for ever. But rest assured it cannot be removed except there be repentance and conversion as the result of faith in Jesus. This must be so, for this is most seemly. Would you expect a great king to forgive an erring courtier unless the offender first confessed his fault? Where is the honour and dignity of the throne of God, if men are to be pardoned while as yet they will not confess their sin? In the next place, it would not be moral; it would be pulling up the very sluices of immorality to tell men that they could be pardoned while they went on in their sins and loved them. What, a thief pardoned and continue to thieve! A harlot forgiven and remain unchaste! The drunkard forgiven and yet delight in his tankards! Truly, then, the gospel would be the servant of unrighteousness, and against us who preach it morality should make a law. But it is not so, impenitent sinners shall be damned, let them boast what they will about grace. My hearer, thou must hate thy sin, or God will hate thee. Thou must turn or burn. Thou canst not have thy sins and go to heaven. Which shall it be? Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or hold thy sins and go to hell? Which shall it be, for it must be one or the other; there must be a divorce between us and sin, or there cannot be a marriage between us and Christ. Does not conscience tell us this? There is not a conscience here that will say to a man, "You can hope to be saved and yet live as you list." Some have said this I query if any have believed it. No, no, no, blind as conscience is, and though its voice be often very feeble, yet there is enough of sight about conscience to see that continuance in sin and pardon cannot consist, and that there must be a forsaking of iniquity if there is to be a forgiving of it. But, my hearer, whether your conscience shall say so or not, God says it; "He that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall find mercy," but there is no promise for the unrepenting. God declares that he that repents shall be forgiven. "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word;" but for haughty Pharaoh, who says, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?" there is nothing but eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord. He who goeth on in his iniquity and hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. Ah! I have no pardons to preach to you who settle your minds to continue in sin, no gentle notes of love at all, nothing but a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation. But ah! if you loathe your sins, if God's Holy Spirit has made you hate your past lives, if you are anxious to be made new men in Christ Jesus, I have nothing but notes of love for you. Believe in Jesus, cast yourself on him, for he has said, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." The door is shut and fast bolted to every man who will keep his sin, but it is wide open even to the biggest sinner out of hell, if he will but leave his sin and lay hold of Jesus and put his trust in him.

IV. The last remark is this REPENTANCE AND CONVERSION WILL BE REGARDED AS PECULIARLY PRECIOUS IN THE FUTURE, for my text says, "That your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." When the broken bone begins to heal, David puts it, "Thou makest the bones which thou hast broken to rejoice." When the prisoner first gets out of prison, when the fetters for the first time clank music as they fall broken to the ground! when the sick man leaves the sick chamber of his convictions to breathe the air of liberty, and to feel the health of a pardoned sinner! Oh, if you did but know what a bliss it is to be forgiven, you would never stay away from Christ! But you do not know, and cannot tell how sweet it is to be washed in the precious blood, and wrapped about with the fair white linen, and to have the kiss of the heavenly Father on your cheek! O "repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." Once more, the text means, according to the context, the second advent. Jesus is yet to come a second time, and like a mighty shower flooding a desert shall his coming be. His church shall revive and be refreshed; she shall once again lift up her head from her lethargy, and her body from her sepulchre. But woe unto you who are not saved when Christ cometh, for the day of the Lord will be darkness and not light to you. When Christ cometh to the unconverted, "the day shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble." "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi." Oh, if ye repent and be converted, ye shall stand fully absolved in the day of his coming, when heaven and earth do reel, when the solid rock begins to melt, and the stars, like fig-leaves withered, fall from the tree, when the trumpet sounds exceeding loud and long, "Awake, ye dead and come to judgment," when the grand assize is sitting, and the Judge shall be there the Judge of quick and dead, to separate the righteous from the wicked. The Lord have mercy upon you in that day; and so he shall if his grace shall make you obedient to the words of our text, "Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."


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Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Acts 3". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.