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Acts 5:31

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Him hath God exalted - See the notes on Acts 2:33.

To be a Prince - ἀρχηγὸν archēgonSee the notes on Acts 3:15. In that place he is called the “Prince of life.” Here it means that he is actually in the “exercise” of the office of a prince or a king, at the right hand of his Father. The title “Prince,” or “King,” was one which was well known as applied to the Messiah. It denotes that he has “dominion” and “power,” especially the power which is needful to give repentance and the pardon of sins.

A Saviour - See the notes on Matthew 1:21.

To give repentance - The word “repentance” here is equivalent to “reformation” and “a change of life.” The sentiment does not differ from what is said in Acts 3:26.

To Israel - This word properly denotes the “Jews”; but his office was not to be confined to the Jews. Other passages show that it would be also extended to the “Gentiles.” The reasons why the “Jews” are particularly specified here are, probably:

(1)Because the Messiah was long promised to the Jewish people, and his first work was there; and,

(2)Because Peter was addressing Jews, and was particularly desirous of leading “them” to repentance.

Forgiveness of sins - Pardon of sin; the act which can be performed by God only, Mark 2:7.

If it be asked in what sense the Lord Jesus “gives repentance,” or how his “exaltation” is connected with it, we may answer:

(1) His exaltation is evidence that his work was accepted, and that thus a foundation is laid by which repentance is available, and may be connected with pardon. Unless there was some way of “forgiveness,” sorrow for sin would be of no value, even if exercised. The relentings of a culprit condemned for murder will be of no avail unless the executive can “consistently” pardon him; nor would relentings in hell be of avail, for there is no promise of forgiveness. But Jesus Christ by his death has laid a foundation by which repentance “may be” accepted.

(2) he is entrusted with all power in heaven and earth with “reference” to this, to apply his work to people; or, in other words, to bring them to repentance. See John 17:2; Matthew 28:18.

(3) his exaltation is immediately connected with the bestowment of the Holy Spirit, by whose influence people are brought to repentance, John 16:7-11. The Spirit is represented as being “sent” by him as well as by the Father, John 15:26; John 16:7.

(4) Jesus has power in this state of exaltation over all things that can affect the mind. He sends his ministers; he directs the events of sickness or disappointment, of health or prosperity, that will influence the heart. There is no doubt that he can so recall the sins of the past life, and refresh the memory, as to overwhelm the soul in the consciousness of guilt. Thus also he can appeal to man by his “goodness,” and by a sense of his mercies; and especially he can so present a view of “his own” life and death as to affect the heart, and show the evil of the past life of the sinner. Knowing the heart, he knows all the avenues by which it can be approached, and in an instant he can overwhelm the soul with the remembrance of crime.

It was “proper” that the power of pardon should be lodged with the same being that has the power of producing repentance, because:

1.The one appropriately follows the other.

2.They are parts of the same great work - the work which the Saviour came to do; “to remove sin, with all its effects, from the human soul.” This power of “pardon” Jesus exercised when he was on the earth, and this he can now dispense in the heavens, Mark 2:9-11.

And from this we may learn:

(1) That Christ is “divine.” It is a dictate of natural religion that none can forgive sins against God but God himself. None can pardon but the Being who has been offended. And this is also the dictate of the Bible. The power of “pardoning” sin is one that God claims as “his” prerogative, and it is clear that it can pertain to no other. See Isaiah 43:25; Daniel 9:9; Psalm 130:4. Yet Jesus Christ exercised this power when on earth; gave “evidence” that the exercise of that power was one that was acceptable to God by working a miracle, and removing the “consequences” of sin with which God had visited upon the sinner Matthew 9:6, and exercises it still in heaven. He must, therefore, be divine.

(2) the sinner is dependent on him for the exercise of repentance, and for forgiveness.

(3) the proud sinner must be humbled at his feet. He must be willing to come and receive eternal life at “his” hands. No step is more humiliating than this for proud and hardened people; and there is none which they are more reluctant to do. We always shrink from coming into the presence of one whom we have offended; we are extremely reluctant to confess a fault; but it “must be done,” or the soul must be lost for ever.

(4) Christ has power to pardon the greatest offender. He is exalted for this purpose; and he is suited to his work. Even his murderers he could pardon; and no sinner need fear that he who is “a Prince and a Saviour at the right hand of God” is unable to pardon his sins. To him we may come with confidence; and when pressed with the consciousness of the blackest crimes, and when we feel that we deserve eternal death, we may confidently roll all on his arm.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Many will do an evil thing with daring, yet cannot bear to hear of it afterward, or to have it charged upon them. We cannot expect to be redeemed and healed by Christ, unless we give up ourselves to be ruled by him. Faith takes the Saviour in all his offices, who came, not to save us in our sins, but to save us from our sins. Had Christ been exalted to give dominion to Israel, the chief priests would have welcomed him. But repentance and remission of sins are blessings they neither valued nor saw their need of; therefore they, by no means, admitted his doctrine. Wherever repentance is wrought, remission is granted without fail. None are freed from the guilt and punishment of sin, but those who are freed from the power and dominion of sin; who are turned from it, and turned against it. Christ gives repentance, by his Spirit working with the word, to awaken the conscience, to work sorrow for sin, and an effectual change in the heart and life. The giving of the Holy Ghost, is plain evidence that it is the will of God that Christ should be obeyed. And He will surely destroy those who will not have Him to reign over them.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Him hath God exalted with his right hand - By a supereminent display of his almighty power, for so the right hand of God often means; he has raised him from the dead, and raised his human nature to the throne of his glory. Instead of δεξιᾳ, the right hand, the Codex Bezae has δοξῃ, to glory.

A Prince - The leader or director in the way. See the notes on Acts 3:15, Acts 3:19.

And a Savior - Σωτηρα, A deliverer or preserver. The word σωτηρ comes from σωω to save, deliver, preserve, escape from death or danger, bring into a state of security or safety. Jesus and Saviour are nearly of the same import. See the note on John 1:17. He alone delivers from sin, death, and hell: by him alone we escape from the snares and dangers to which we are exposed: and it is by and in him, and in connection with him, that we are preserved blameless and harmless, and made the sons of God without rebuke. He alone can save the soul from sin, and preserve it in that state of salvation.

To give repentance - See this explained, Matthew 3:2; (note).

Forgiveness of sins - Αφεσιν των ἁμαρτιων, The taking away of sins. This is not to be restrained to the mere act of justification; it implies the removal of sin, whether its power, guilt, or impurity be considered. Through Jesus we have the destruction of the power, the pardon of the guilt, and the cleansing from the pollution, of sin. And was Jesus Christ exalted a Prince and a Savior to give repentance and remission of sins to Israel? Then none need despair. If such as were now before the apostles could be saved, then the salvation of the very worst of transgressors, of any or all on this side perdition, is gloriously possible. Yes, for he tasted death for every man; and he prayed for his murderers, compared to some of whom Judas himself was a saint.

The two words in Italics, in this text, to be, are impertinently introduced; it reads much better without them.

Ellen G. White
Steps to Christ, 26

Just here is a point on which many may err, and hence they fail of receiving the help that Christ desires to give them. They think that they cannot come to Christ unless they first repent, and that repentance prepares for the forgiveness of their sins. It is true that repentance does precede the forgiveness of sins; for it is only the broken and contrite heart that will feel the need of a Saviour. But must the sinner wait till he has repented before he can come to Jesus? Is repentance to be made an obstacle between the sinner and the Saviour? SC 26.1

The Bible does not teach that the sinner must repent before he can heed the invitation of Christ, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. It is the virtue that goes forth from Christ, that leads to genuine repentance. Peter made the matter clear in his statement to the Israelites when he said, “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31. We can no more repent without the Spirit of Christ to awaken the conscience than we can be pardoned without Christ. SC 26.2

Christ is the source of every right impulse. He is the only one that can implant in the heart enmity against sin. Every desire for truth and purity, every conviction of our own sinfulness, is an evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts. SC 26.3

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
Christ's Object Lessons, 120

Then the glad tidings of a risen Saviour were carried to the uttermost bounds of the inhabited world. The church beheld converts flocking to her from all directions. Believers were reconverted. Sinners united with Christians in seeking the pearl of great price. The prophecy was fulfilled, The weak shall be “as David,” and the house of David “as the angel of the Lord.” Zechariah 12:8. Every Christian saw in his brother the divine similitude of benevolence and love. One interest prevailed. One object swallowed up all others. All hearts beat in harmony. The only ambition of the believers was to reveal the likeness of Christ's character, and to labor for the enlargement of His kingdom. “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.... With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:32, 33. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:47. The Spirit of Christ animated the whole congregation; for they had found the pearl of great price. COL 120.1

These scenes are to be repeated, and with greater power. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the former rain, but the latter rain will be more abundant. The Spirit awaits our demand and reception. Christ is again to be revealed in His fulness by the Holy Spirit's power. Men will discern the value of the precious pearl, and with the apostle Paul they will say, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:7, 8. COL 121.1

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1056

Their teaching was a second edition of the teachings of Christ, the utterance of simple, grand truths that flashed light into darkened minds, and converted thousands in a day. The disciples began to understand that Christ was their Advocate in the heavenly courts, and that He was glorified. They could speak because the Holy Spirit gave them utterance (Manuscript 32, 1900). 6BC 1056.1

17, 18. See EGW on Joel 2:28, 29. 6BC 1056.2

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 391

When before the high priests and Sadducees, Peter clearly presented the fact that repentance is the gift of God. Speaking of Christ, he said, “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). Repentance is no less the gift of God than are pardon and justification, and it cannot be experienced except as it is given to the soul by Christ. If we are drawn to Christ, it is through His power and virtue. The grace of contrition comes through Him, and from Him comes justification. 1SM 391.1

Paul writes: “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:6-10). 1SM 391.2

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