Acts 20:21 And Granville Sharp's Greek Rule

By David J. Stewart | February 2014 | Updated February 2018

Acts 20:21, “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ .”

       Our text verse from Acts 20:21 is frequently misinterpreted by sincere but naive students of the holy Bible. To the naive, this Scripture seems to teach that repentance and faith are two separate steps to salvation. This heresy is commonly called “Lordship Salvation,” teaching that a person's faith is not valid unless they are first willing to depart from a life of sinful bad habits. Chip Ingram and Ray Comfort are two of the biggest offenders, teaching a perverted view of the gospel.

However, as the following Greek rule will prove irrefutably, repentance and faith BOTH refer to the same thing...

Rule I.
When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, [viz. nouns (either substantive or adjective, or participles) of personal description respecting office, dignity, affinity, or connection, and attributes, properties, or qualities, good or ill,] if the article ho, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle: i.e. it denotes farther description of the first-named person...

SOURCE: Granville Sharp's Rule of Greek Exegesis

Acts 20:21 does not teach two separate actions at all! Repentance and faith are shown as the SAME THING in this verse. Here is why...

Any time two singular Greek nouns appear in a sentence and are connected by the conjunction "and" (kai in Greek) and the definite article "ho" (i.e., the, this, that, one, he, she, it) precedes the first noun, but not the second, they both mean the same person! So in the case of Acts 20:21, the absence of the definite article "ho" before “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” links “repentance toward God” together with it. They refer to THE SAME THING. This absolutely means that the appositive, “our Lord Jesus Christ,” is referring to "God" in the first clause! Rendering this into the sentence it is then to be read as follows:

Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, ("EVEN") or ("that is") faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is what Paul was preaching! Repentance toward God using the Granville Sharp's rule of Greek exegesis, is synonymous (means the same) as faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are two different parts of one step of salvation. Salvation is not a process; but rather, the second birth is instant, immediate and irrevocable. The phrase “REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD” means the same as “FAITH TOWARD OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST,” that is, they are the same event happening at the same time. God's Word is not talking about two separate events. The man who believes has repented and the man who repents has believed.

Let me explain it very simply with the following illustration. If you were to board an airplane in Michigan and depart, flying toward Hawaii, you would be traveling SIMULTANEOUSLY AWAY FROM and TOWARD the two places. You don't move away from Michigan first, and then later move toward Hawaii; but rather, they happen together, all part of ONE DEAL. Likewise, when you turn by faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, you are at the SAME TIME turning your back against sin. The very fact that a person is coming to Christ to be saved is plain evidence that they are renouncing evil.

Evangelist David W. Cloud Gets the Gospel Wrong!

Faith and repentance are the same thing according to the Greek grammatical rendering of Acts 20:21. However, and I say this kindly, there are many ignorant religious teachers on the internet, such as Evangelist David W. Cloud, who does not follow good biblical interpretation, and ends up with a false interpretation to support his false claims.

Mr. Cloud errantly states on his website:

“Paul summarized His gospel message as “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). The gospel requires that the sinner exercise repentance toward God and faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Biblical repentance is a change of mind toward God and sin that results in a change of life.” (SOURCE: Biblical Repentance, by David W. Cloud, Way Of Life Literature, June 1999)

Clearly, as you can see in the preceding quote, David Cloud errantly recognizes repentance and faith as two separate actions to be saved, completely ignoring Granville Sharp's rule of Greek exegesis. No doubt David Cloud is sincere, as were the “workers of iniquity” in Matthew 7:21-23, who were “going about to establish their own righteousness” (Romans 10:3-4), saying “Lord, Lord” and trusting in their own “many wonderful works,” plus partial faith in Christ. No one is born-again who thinks that a person must turn away from sinful behavior, as a requirement to receive the free gift of God. Lest this seem like a trifle matter to you, please consider that Mormons, Roman Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists (all unsaved religious cults), teach that repentance means turning away from sins to be saved.

Repeatedly throughout the New Testament we are simply taught to “BELIEVE” to be saved, without any mention of turning away from sinful behavior or changing one's ways. 1st Thessalonians 4:14, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” It is a false Gospel to add changing one's ways to the imputed righteousness of God (Philippians 3:9). We are all ungodly sinners. God only saves helpless sinners, not the self-righteous. To truly be a “gift,” forgiveness of sins and eternal life cannot include a mandatory intent to reform. God saves a man, and then the Holy Spirit changes him. That is how salvation works.

If we need to be right about anything in the Bible, it is SALVATION. If we are wrong here we will be wrong everywhere else, not to mention our destination if we believe a false gospel. The bottom line to Mr. Cloud's teaching on repentance is that you cannot come to Christ for salvation unless you first intend not to walk in sin after you receive Him. This is "qualification by works" as a prerequisite for receiving Christ as Savior. This is utter heresy.

John 3:20 Explains The Meaning Of Repentance

John 3:20, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

John 3:20 is an excellent Scripture to help us understand what it means to “repent” concerning salvation. Jesus teaches in John 3:20 that unsaved people who love their sins WON'T come to the light to be saved. John 5:40, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” Notice that jesus didn't say “ye cannot come”; but rather, “ye will not come.”

The Lord teaches that people who love their sinful lifestyle WON'T come to the light to be saved, to avoid being reproved for their sins. That is, they don't want to face the realization that the life they are living is wickedness. The heathen world doesn't want to feel guilty for their sins.

The light is the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ Who died, was buried and resurrected. 2nd Corinthians 4:4, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” Since the unsaved man refuses to come to the light of the gospel to be saved because he loves his sins, then it becomes clear that the man who repents has changed his mind and is now coming to Christ to be saved. The very act of coming to Jesus Christ to be forgiven of one's sins is plain evidence that repentance has taken place. All that God requires to be saved (concerning sin) is that a person admit they have a sin problem.

Mark 1:15, “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” The Greek word for “repent” in this Scripture is the verb metanoeo and means “to think differently.” The noun form of the word is metanoia, meaning a change of mind and not a change of lifestyle. Although the Bible does not specify what the change of mind is, John 3:20 provides the answer for us. John 3:20, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” The word “reproved” in John 3:20 is the Greek word elegchō and means “to confute, admonish: - convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.”

The word “confute” means “to prove false or wrong.” The ungodly world does not want to be told that their sexual immorality, drunkenness and abortions are sinful and wrong. Thus, they rename the sin of sexual immorality to “sexual freedom.” The sin of drunkenness is now called “a disease.” The sin of abortion has been renamed to “freedom of choice.” And the vile sin of homosexuality is now considered an “alternative lifestyle.” The Bible calls these acts “sin.”

Again, the word “confute” means “to prove false or wrong.” Unsaved heathens don't want to be proven wrong concerning their sins. That's why they won't come to the light (truth) of the Gospel to be saved. No one likes to be told that they are doing wrong and are sinning against God. Homosexuals don't want to be proven wrong concerning their same-sex perversion. Abortionists don't want to be proven wrong regarding their mass-murdering of human life. Unrepentant sinners don't want to be proven false or wrong! The Bible says in the Old Testament, in Judges 21:25, that “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Notice that the Bible says they wanted to do RIGHT, but they wanted to decide for themselves what was good or evil “in their own eyes,” instead of God.

So whatever “repentance” is, it is the opposite of John 3:20, which compels a man to come to Jesus Christ to be saved. Romans 3:19-20, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. The primary purpose of the Mosaic LAW, and ONLY purpose concerning salvation, is to give mankind the KNOWLEDGE OF SIN (Romans 3:20b). Through the law humans are made aware of our SINNERSHIP in the sight of a holy God (Romans 3:19b). Galatians 3:24-26, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

Salvation is the Gift of God, By Faith Alone in Christ's Redeeming Work

Therefore, we can conclude, effectively, that repentance is a man judging himself as a needy sinner in the sight of a holy God, thus seeing his need for the dear Savior! So we see then that repentance is not TURNING FROM SINS plus faith in the Gospel (aka, Calvinism, or Lordship Salvation); but rather, it is simply turning by faith to the Gospel (the Good News of Christ crucified, buried and risen) FROM OUR SINS. The former is heresy, requiring TWO ACTIONS; whereas the latter is the free grace Gospel, which requires ONE ACTION, which is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:30-31). Repentance and faith are not two separate actions, but just one. The person who believes has also repented. This is why in the Gospel of John (which is God's Gospel tract according to John 20:31), the words “believe” and “believeth” are mentioned 85 times, but the word “repent” is never mentioned even once.

So we aren't saved by turning from our sins AND believing the Gospel; but rather, we are saved by thinking differently about whatever has been hindering us from believing the Gospel, so that now we are trusting Jesus Christ alone as our personal Savior! John 6:47, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” It is not necessary to even mention the word “repent” when witnessing to someone. The Gospel is horribly being obscured and hidden nowadays by the falsehood of Calvinism (aka, Lordship Salvation).

Ironically, others who refute Calvinism (Lordship Salvation) are guilty of teaching a wrong form of repentance that requires “turning from sins” to be saved, which is effectively the same thing. The Biblical Gospel (Jesus' death on the cross, burial and bodily resurrection) proclaims that we are saved solely by what Christ has done to pay for our sins, and there are no obligations, nor follow up probationary period, nor proofs, required to verify that one is saved. Contrary to what Evangelist Paul Washer teaches, you CAN write down your name, date, time and place that you were saved. The new birth is immediate, and does not require persevering in a holy life to prove anything. We are saved by God's grace.

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