Online Bible Commentary
Repentance and Faith
Acts 20:18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. (NKJV)
The time is spring, 57 A.D. The Apostle Paul is on his way back home from his third missionary journey. He has just spent the winter in Corinth, Greece. He intended to depart Corinth and sail to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost. However, the Jews were laying in wait to harm him on the way to the coast. So Paul traveled north overland and spent the Passover festival with the church in Philippi, Macedonia.
Now he has sailed to Miletus, Asia where he has taken time to meet with the leaders of the church in Ephesus. He only has twenty-five days to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost but recognizes the importance to say goodbye to the elders. So, at his request, they have “come to him” in Miletus (v. 18a).
Paul’s message to these elders is presented in four parts. In this passage he recalls his faithful ministry to believers in Asia and his future ahead. In the next passage he charges them with the work which will be required after he departs and says his farewells.
So Paul launches into a summary of his faithful ministry by recalling the manner in which he “always lived among” the Ephesian believers during his two year, three month ministry in Ephesus (v. 18b). He recalls three specifics of his actions.
(1) Paul served the Lord “with all humility”, through “many tears and trials” caused by the constant opposition “of the Jews” (v. 19).
(2) He “kept back nothing that was helpful” proclaiming it and teaching it to “you publicly and from house to house” (v. 20).
(3) He testified both to Greeks and Jews “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 21).
Next, Paul looks ahead to his future. He is called by the Holy Spirit to return to Jerusalem, even though he does not know what may await him there (v. 22). He continues by saying that the Holy Spirit constantly reminds him that “chains and tribulations await me” in every city to which he goes (v. 23).
This persecution does not deter Paul from his calling (v. 24a). He is not concerned with his life but only that he may “finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel” (v. 24b).
Paul then announces that this will be his last time to visit with these elders in person (v. 25). But he knows that he is “innocent of the blood of all men” because he has been faithful to declare the full gospel to all whom the Lord has put in his path (vv. 26-27). He is not responsible for the eternal condemnation of those who have rejected the gospel.
Paul’s message to the Asians has been one of repentance and faith (v. 21). This is the message of salvation. There must be both repentance and an expression of faith that Jesus is our Lord and Savior.
Repentance is part of our confession of sins. Repentance is our pledge to the Lord that we have turned away from sin. Without this pledge our confession is empty. If we confess sin with the intention of continuing that sin, this is not a true confession. God’s grace will cover us if we fail and break our sincerely made pledge. But both confession, true confession with repentance, and faith are required for salvation.