On Pentecost (Acts 2:38), Peter had preached:
(1) REPENT you
(2) and be BAPTIZED
(3) FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS
(4) and YOU SHALL RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Exactly the same four factors are in view here:
(2) Turn Again
(3) That Sins May Be Blotted Out
(4) and That Refreshing From The Lord’s Presence Would Follow.
It is universally admitted that (1), (2), and (4) of the above factors in both sequences are synonymous; and, if we had known nothing at all concerning any of these things, the incidence of “be baptized” and “turn again” in exactly corresponding places in these sequences would prove that they mean the same thing.
The Jews no doubt had witnessed the baptism of persons every day (Acts 2:47); and thus when Peter called upon them to “repent and turn again,” they knew exactly what he inferred.
It is, however, to the great Restoration preacher, Benjamin Franklin, that we turn for one of the most impressive analyses regarding “turn again.”
It actually means “be converted,” as the translators of the KJV rendered it in three different passages thus:
- The heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted (turn again), and I should heal them (Acts 28:27).
- At the same time came the disciples unto him, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. … Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted (turn), and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1,3).
- Repent ye therefore, and be converted (turn again), that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19).
Significantly, the command, however it is read, whether “turn again” or “be converted,” was used by the inspired writers to indicate something that men must do; and the status of those to whom these several words were addressed shows what was meant.
- In (1), the people commanded to be converted were unbelievers.
- In (2) they were already believers.
- In (3) the people were already believers and had been commanded to repent; and therefore, “converted” in this instance refers to some further action following repentance and faith.
Thus it is clear that “turn again” may refer to any of the necessary actions by which one becomes a Christian.
In (1) it means that he should believe, repent, and be baptized.
In (2) it meant that the apostles should repent.
In (3) it has the meaning that people who had already believed and repented were yet required to be baptized. Thus the actual meaning of “turn again,” as used by the inspired writers, is “complete whatever is lacking” to bring one into Christ.
But the question arises, Why did Peter use this rather indirect way of stating what they must do, especially in view of what he had so flatly said on Pentecost?
The answer must lie in the fact of his inspiration.
Our Lord said shortly before raising the daughter of Jairus, “The maid is not dead, but sleepeth!” (Mark 5:39), thus leaving men room to make their own moral decision.
So it is here. If one is determined to reject baptism as clearly binding upon all men, this verse gives him a straw to catch at, the excuse to refuse what is morally impossible for him already.
To the effect that Peter switched his position to new ground in this passage, “stressing faith,” is refuted by the simple truth that faith is not even mentioned here.
Just as it was on Pentecost, the people already believed; and Peter was concerned here with further instructing men regarding how they might “save themselves” by complying with the God-given terms of redemption.
For those who desire a fuller discussion of the questions regarding this verse, reference is made to J. W. McGarvey’s New Commentary on Acts.