Does Acts 2:38 Promise Remission or Forgiveness of Sins?

Jesus said His apostles would first preach His message of salvation on the day of Pentecost (see Luke 24:47). This came to pass as recorded in Acts 2. On that day, the Holy Ghost was poured out, and under that anointing, the apostle Peter gave this prophesied message. Those hearing him asked how they could be saved from the guilt of their sin. He answered them with the Acts 2:38 message of salvation. There is much that can be said about that verse, but for this study our focus is on whether the word “remission” in Acts 2:38 is the same word as “forgiveness.” Some preachers claim these two words do not mean the same thing. They teach that forgiveness means God forgives sin, whereas remission says something more, for they believe it says He forgets those sins too. I can tell you without a doubt these words mean the same thing, and I can guarantee that God does not suffers amnesia whenever He forgives sin. The purpose of this study is to list the biblical evidences for why I say this.

 

Remission or forgiveness or both?

The first evidence is found in the Greek word aphesis (see Stong’s G859). The King James Version (KJV) translates aphesis as “remission” in Acts 2:38. The KJV also translates aphesis six times as “forgiveness” (See Mark 3:29, Acts 5:31, Acts 13:38, Acts 26:18, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14). Thus, aphesis means both “remission” and “forgiveness” in the KJV. This same word is also translated as both “deliverance” and “liberty” in Luke 4:18. The reason for these differences is purely due to a translator’s preference when trying to convey the meaning of the context where aphesis is found. Therefore, aphesis can properly be translated as “remission” or as “forgiveness,” which leaves those preachers who say they are different in error.

Another evidence for their similarity is found in the biblical meaning of “remission” and forgiveness.” For this, I offer the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary definitions. Please, pay special attention to the words I underlined.

Remission: 5. Forgiveness; pardon; that is, the giving up of the punishment due to a crime; as the remission of sins. Mat 26. Heb 9

Forgiveness: 2. The pardon or remission of an offense or crime; as the forgiveness of sin or of injuries.

Did you see that? Remission means forgiveness, and forgiveness means remission. So, Webster’s has these two words carrying the same message.

 

Now let’s treat God’s supposed amnesia.

An important point needing made here is that Webster’s Dictionary does not say “remission” involves God forgetting sins. This leads to my next proof. To begin this, first ask yourself the following question: if God is omniscient and knows all things, how can He not know about the sins He forgave? This question is quite a dilemma for any preacher who believes God forgets sins while maintaining God also knows all things. First, to confirm of the limitlessness of God’s knowledge, look at these verses:

Psalms 147:5  Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.

Hebrews 4:13  Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

1 John 3:20  For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

Isaiah 40:28  Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

These verses clearly state that God is omniscient. Thus, He cannot forget anything—including remitted sins. Also, since God knows all things, He would also know what you are thinking. This ability is established in verses like these:

Psalms 139:2  Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

Matthew 9:4  And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?

Since God knows your thoughts, for Him to forget your sins, you would need to forget them too. Think about it; without your forgetfulness, any time you remembered any past sin, God would see your thought and remember them too. Of course, the idea you must forget your sins to secure your salvation is a mindless thought.

Another evidence for this is the Bible itself. Remember every verse is said to be written under the inspiration of God. So, every sin and forgiven sin listed in its pages are there because of God. Thus, He remembers forgiven sins. An example of this is Hebrews 11. This chapter is known as the “roll call of the faithful.” In that chapter, we see men like King David, Jacob, and Samson. Each of these men had a time when they failed God and sinned. We know this because their sin is written in the Bible under inspiration of God. Their names being listed in Hebrew 11 as examples of faith would mean that though they sinned, they later found forgiveness—praise God! But, concerning our study, we know about their sin and their restoration because God knew it too. Thus, this is another proof that remission does not involve God being forgetful.

 

Are there any verses that say God forgets past sin?

Admittedly there are some passages that seem to support the idea God forgets remitted sins. These verses say that God will not “remember” our sins “no more” (see Isaiah 43:25 and Hebrews 10:14-18). Does this testimony mean God gets amnesia every time someone is saved? If so, how could that idea be reconciled with the proclamation He is omniscient? The answer is God “not remembering our sins no more” does not mean He forgets these sins, but rather He overlooks (does not recall) sins that have been forgiven in Jesus’ name. To see an example of this type “overlooking,” look at the following example:

During a fit of anger, a child breaks her mother’s favorite vase. Later the child sees she was wrong and apologizes to her mother for her bad actions. A sincere apology would include her saying she would not do that act again. In response to this plea for mercy, her mother gives her forgiveness. With that, she might also tell her child that things happen but she better never do what she did again. Would this mean the mother no longer remembers the tantrum and the broken vase? Of course, she does, and because of that, her forgiveness involves her overlooking her daughter’s rebellious actions. This does not mean the daughter did no wrong; it does not mean the mother will forget her daughter’s actions; it simply means the wrongs her daughter did will not be recalled because she received mercy when she asked for her mom’s forgiveness. Though God is greater than this example, His forgiveness works similarly, for when one of His children repents of their sin, He gives them His salvation. Through this act of mercy, He still remembers what they did, but He no longer reminds them of their action.

Some might ask what happens to the daughter if she doesn’t learn from her actions and repeats her disobedience. Remember, a sincere apology includes a commitment to not do that wrong again. Therefore, if she does the same wrong she would be breaking her word to her mom. So, if she does fall into this bad behavior again can she still be forgiven? One thing working in her favor is the great amount of love a mother has for her child. That is grace! Therefore, any sincere request for forgiveness will be answered in that love rather than condemnation. However, if that daughter does not repent and make things right, if her mother truly loves her, she will not overlook her daughter’s bad behavior. To do otherwise would not only hurt her child’s opportunity of becoming a good citizen, it would also hinder her from growing into an obedient Christian. To help the daughter see her fault, her mother may remind her of that she forgave her in the past and that she told her then not to do such things again. This is not done to condemn the daughter, but rather to help her remember the horror of her sin. If this does not move her to repentance, the daughter will remain in her guilt.

Similarly, the Bible speaks of those who were forgiven of sin returning to sin. If this happens, it says their sin is recalled and held against them. This is found in the context of Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (see Matthew 18:21-35). First, we see a servant being forgiven a great debt (sin) by his master. After he left that place of mercy, this servant chose to sin against another servant. Upon hearing of this servant’s act of rebellion, the master recalled the debt that was forgiven and placed that debt back on this servant. I believe this parable not only shows us that God does remember our forgiven sins, but it also shows how disobedience can lead a once forgiven person back into God’s judgment. In this story, Jesus does not say the servant asked again for forgiveness. But knowing the great love our Heavenly Father has for His children, we can guess that if the servant had asked, his master probably would have given it. For more on God’s desire to forgive all men and women their sins, see my study entitled “Blasphemy of the Holy Ghost.”

 

Here’s the point…

The above evidence proves the following points: first, the word “remission” in Acts 2:38 is the same word as “forgiveness.” Second, remission and forgiveness both have the same meaning. Third, neither remission nor forgiveness speaks of God forgetting forgiven sins. These points are important, for they support the truth of God’s omniscience, and they agree with His message of salvation. Any preacher that teaches remission is different than forgiveness is teaching a manmade tradition rather than a biblical truth. Hopefully this study will help show them their error and lead them to correct their message.

 

Copyright © 2017 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.
www.tkburk.com

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4 Responses to Does Acts 2:38 Promise Remission or Forgiveness of Sins?

  1. Nancy B Conkle July 3, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    AMEN!!!! GREAT Article!!

    • TK Burk
      TK Burk July 4, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

      Thank you for your kind words, Sis. Conkle. Your input is always welcome!

  2. Lynn B February 24, 2018 at 5:34 pm #

    Was not Peter speaking to Jews in Acts 2, as in men of Israel and let all The House Of Israel….. So, would not ,\”..repent and be baptized for the remission of sins..\” be salvation for the Jews? Zechariah 13 speaks of a fountain for cleaning of the Jews sins. Which tells me their sins are remitted and will be forgiven when Christ comes back as in Acts 3:19-20, to reign on the earth. But Paul who is The Apostle of the Gentiles, and was given a Dispensation of Grace, said that we have forgiveness of sins and we have the atonement. But, both are true. The issue is that Paul started the Church, The Body of Christ. Look in a King James Bible (not in other versions) at 1 Timothy 1:16. It says Paul was FIRST to receive this GRACE, and Paul would be a pattern for those who would hereafter believe….What Paul received as it says in Galatians 1 was taught by our risen glorified Lord in Arabia for three years. Paul received THE MYSTERY,as it says in Romans 16:25-26 .. was kept SECRET since the world began, and Paul was the first to know it. He wrote it all down in Romans through Philemon. Why do you think Peter wrote in one of his epistles that what Paul taught was hard to be understood? Peter did not understand because he was not given the Mystery as Paul was, And Peter (had the keys to the Kingdom and could forgive sins and kill those giving false words to the Holy Spirit) preached the gospel of the Kingdom (repent and be baptized – Grace and works). Paul preached Grace ONLY through faith only (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), simply believe Christ died for your sins and that He was buried and that He rose again the third day. Ephesians 2:8-9 also.

    • TK Burk
      TK Burk February 25, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

      Lynn B:
      Was not Peter speaking to Jews in Acts 2, as in men of Israel and let all The House Of Israel….. So, would not,”..repent and be baptized for the remission of sins..” be salvation for the Jews?

      TK Burk:
      No, it would not be exclusive to “the Jews.” If you recall, Jesus told a leader of the Jews named Nicodemus that He must be “Born Again” of the “water” and the “Spirit” to both “see” and “enter” the kingdom of God. In other words, Nicodemus was no longer a Jew because of His birth genealogy, but rather he had to be “Born Again” to be included in God’s kingdom.

      Then in Matthew 28, Jesus told His Jewish listeners that He had “all power in Heaven and in Earth” (vs.18). And because of this, they were to go and teach “all nations” (vs. 19). That “nations” is the Greek word “ethnos” (G1484). Concerning this “ethnos,” God promised Abraham that he would be the father of “many nations.” “Nations” is the Hebrew word “Goy.” Strong’s Concordance defines “Goy” as a “foreign nation; hence a Gentile, heathen, nation, people” (H1471). This same promise came to pass in the New Testament (See Romans 4:11-18; Galatians 3:28-29). There it is said to include Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles. This is what Jesus’ sealing of the vision and the prophecy did (See Daniel 9:24); it allowed access to the Kingdom of God for the Jews (See Acts 2), the Samaritans (See Acts 8), and the Gentiles (See Acts 10). Jesus referred to these ‘Goy’ in Matthew 28:19. There He said to teach and baptize “all ‘NATIONS.’” In this verse the word “nations” is “ethnos,” which, like ‘goy,’ is similarly defined as: “A race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): – Gentile, heathen, nation, people” (Strong’s G1484). Jesus was literally removing racism by using this term because, after the cross, all peoples were the same race in God’s eyes (See Colossians 3:11), and all suffered the same problem of sin (See Romans 11:32). To remedy this sin, Jesus gave every man and woman the same opportunity to receive salvation through His New Covenant (See Romans 1:16).

      Look here for more: https://tkburk.com/abraham-a-father-of-many-nations/

      Lynn B:
      Zechariah 13 speaks of a fountain for cleaning of the Jews sins. Which tells me their sins are remitted and will be forgiven when Christ comes back as in Acts 3:19-20, to reign on the earth.

      TK Burk:
      Neither Zechariah 13 or Acts 3 speaks of a future time when Jesus will “reign on the earth.” He already said in Matthew 28:18 that He had then “all power in Heaven and in ‘earth.'” Jesus already has authority over all principalities and powers. Acts 3 speaks of the refreshing that comes when a person is Born Again. This time of rebirth is what the prophets foretold. It would be the rest and the refreshing they longed for. It was shown to be already made available as witnessed in the accounts in the book of Acts.

      Lynn B:
      But Paul who is The Apostle of the Gentiles, and was given a Dispensation of Grace, said that we have forgiveness of sins and we have the atonement. But, both are true.

      TK Burk:
      There are NOT TWO GOSPELS (see 2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-9).

      Jesus came to save His people, and since all people are from God’s first son, Adam, then He came to save Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles–all mankind.

      Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

      Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

      Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

      Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

      Lynn B:
      The issue is that Paul started the Church, The Body of Christ. Look in a King James Bible (not in other versions) at 1 Timothy 1:16. It says Paul was FIRST to receive this GRACE, and Paul would be a pattern for those who would hereafter believe….What Paul received as it says in Galatians 1 was taught by our risen glorified Lord in Arabia for three years. Paul received THE MYSTERY, as it says in Romans 16:25-26, was kept SECRET since the world began, and Paul was the first to know it. He wrote it all down in Romans through Philemon.

      TK Burk:
      Paul didn’t “start” the Church. How could he since the “Church” predates his birth?

      Acts 7:37-38  This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.  [38]  This is he, that was in THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

      Look here for more: https://tkburk.com/grow-p1-1-of-5/

      Lynn B:
      Why do you think Peter wrote in one of his epistles that what Paul taught was hard to be understood? Peter did not understand because he was not given the Mystery as Paul was, And Peter (had the keys to the Kingdom and could forgive sins and kill those giving false words to the Holy Spirit) preached the gospel of the Kingdom (repent and be baptized – Grace and works).

      TK Burk:
      I not trying to be facetious, but are we to understand that Peter, who walked with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry and who was personally taught by Jesus and personally saw all His miracles, was unable to understand what Paul wrote, but somehow you can?

      Peter did not say “he” could not understand what Paul wrote, but that some of what Paul wrote was hard for the unlearned to understand. Look at what he says:

      2 Peter 3:16  As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

      “Some things hard to be understood.” By whom? Peter does not say it was by him. To identify who this is, we need only look at his warning: “which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” So, this “they” are the “unlearned” who have a “hard” time with Paul’s writings, just like they “also” have difficulty with “other scriptures.” But the learned have no such problem with Paul’s writings, otherwise, why would Peter say: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Peter 3:17). Did you see it? “SEEING YE KNOW THESE THINGS.” They weren’t hard for the believers because they knew “these things” because they were not “unlearned.”

      Lynn B:
      Paul preached Grace ONLY through faith only (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), simply believe Christ died for your sins and that He was buried and that He rose again the third day. Ephesians 2:8-9 also.

      TK Burk:
      Paul preached the same gospel as all the other apostles. How do we know this? Because–again–there is only one gospel.

      Look here for more: https://tkburk.com/grow-p1-4-of-5/
      Look here for more: https://tkburk.com/how-to-save-the-hypothetical-man/

      Lynn B, thank you for your comments. I hope my responses are a help to your studies and to your understanding of the Scripture.

      -TKB

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