Repentance in the Acts of the Apostles
The relationship between repentance and believing continues to be developed in Acts. For example, while 3:19 says “repent and return (epistrefo), so that your sins may be wiped away,” 11:21 says, “a large number who believed turned (epistrefo) to the Lord.” From this, it can be seen that repenting and turning are related (3:19) and believing and turning are related (11:21). Those verses (especially 3:19) combined with 10:43 (“everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins”) shows that repentance, believing, and turning are all related to each other and to forgiveness of sins. Therefore, repentance is understood as “turning” in a salvific context.
The order and description in 20:20 is revealing. Paul says that he testified to both Jews and Greeks “of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Repentance is directed toward God and (if any order were pressed) precedes believing; faith is not some ephemeral feeling in some undeterminate “thing,” but directed toward Christ. Finally, Paul describes his preaching ministry as calling people everywhere to “repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (26:20). Similarly, 2 Pet 3:9 says that the opposite of people perishing is that they come to repentance. This is in a salvific context and should be considered the first act of believing by turning away from sins and to God. Here the term repent should be viewed as the initial act of coming to faith; it contains the idea of turning and will produce good deeds which demonstrate that the repentance was genuine, not simply sorrow or grief. Luter (“Repentance,” 673) mentions that Acts 26:20 with Luke 3:8 (“bear fruits in keeping with repentance”) essentially proves that a changed life is the “expected” result of repentance. More on the distinction between metanoeo and metamelomai will be said later.