Acts 11:21,24 – “A Great Number that Believed Turned unto the Lord”

By Wayne Jackson

It is rather well known that many within the community of “Christendom” (i.e., professed Christianity) allege that the sole condition for pardon in the divine plan of redemption is “faith.”

The Discipline of the Methodist Church states: “Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” (Art. IX). Article V of Hiscox’s Standard Manual for Baptist Churches affirms that “… justification … is bestowed … solely through faith in Christ….”

Such assertions are unwarranted; they are, in fact, totally at variance with the explicit testimony of the New Testament. Let us introduce a single point in relating to this matter.

After the death of Stephen, a persecution arose against the church, and the disciples were scattered widely. Some of them went to Antioch, in Syria, “preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20). Luke informs us that “the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number that believed turned unto the Lord” (11:21).

{pictureRef (“acts1121Notes”, align:right)}Of special interest here are the terms “believed” and “turned.” “Turned unto the Lord” later becomes the equivalent of “added unto the Lord” (24b). Circle “turned” (vs. 21), and “added” (vs. 24), and connect them with a line. Certainly one is not saved until he is “added” to the Lord (cf. 2:47).

The word “turned” (21) is the leading verb of the sentence. “Believed” is a participle in the aorist tense. In New Testament Greek, there is a rule which suggests that an aorist participle reflects action that transpires prior to that of the leading verb (J.G. Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners, pp. 116-7).

The passage might thus be paraphrased in this fashion: “…a great number, having already believed, turned to the Lord….” Thus, clearly, “turning” to the Lord, or being “added” to the Lord, does not occur at the moment one believes. Rather, “turning” occurs subsequent to “believing.”

In your margin thus note: “believed” represents action prior to “turned.”

Other New Testament information, of course, makes it very clear that in addition to believing in Christ, one must also repent of his sins and be immersed in water (cf. Acts 2:38).

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.