“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” Acts 2:40
Every so often, it is beneficial for us to look deeper into the text of the Bible. Although it is not necessary for one to be a student of the languages of the Bible in order to understand it, a cursory examination can instill within us a vividness and appreciation for the Holy Spirit-inspired words.
The verb “testify” or diemarturato is an aorist-middle-indicative. The aorist tense in this word indicates a completed action and the middle voice indicates that Peter had participated in the results of the witnessing. Peter had testified and witnessed to those on Pentecost and that action was a completed action.
The word for “exhort” is parekalei and is an imperfect-active-indicative. The imperfect tense in this word indicates continuous action in the past and the active voice indicates that Peter had produced the action or exhortation. Rienecker also adds that the “imperfect pictures the repeated action.” It is not enough to encourage someone once, but it must be continued. If someone were in a life-threatening situation, it would not be appropriate to warn once, but the concern would compel one to warn over and over again. The imperfect tense demonstrates the necessity of constant warning.
Perhaps the most significant term in this verse is “save” or sothete which is an aorist-passive-imperative. The only other occurrence of the form of this word occurs in John 5:34: “But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.” In John 5:34, the word is in the subjunctive mood which indicates the probability of action. It does not affirm that something will take place, only that it may take place. The imperative form in Acts 2:40 expresses a command. The passive voice in this word indicates that the subject receives the action.
Vine’s states that diemarturomai means to “testify or protest solemnly” (p. 1143). It is from the word family which includes martureo, the common word for a witness, but this word is a more intensive form. A. T. Robertson says that diemarturomai means to make a “solemn attestation or call to witness” (p. 36). Thayer adds that diemarturomai means to “earnestly and religiously charge” (p. 139). The strength of the word can be seen in Luke 16:28 where the rich man wanted to go and make a solemn protest to the members of his family. Also, in 2 Timothy 2:14, Paul reminded Timothy to “solemnly charge” (NASB) those who would wrangle about words.
Thayer states that parekalei is derived from the word parecheo which means to “reach forth or show” (p. 488). Vine’s defines the word to mean, “to admonish, exhort, to urge one to pursue some course of conduct (always perspective, looking to the future, in contrast to the meaning to comfort, which is retrospective, having to do with trial experienced)” (p. 400). The word occurs 21 times in the New Testament and most of the time it is used to exhort brethren as opposed to exhorting those outside the body of Christ. Paul is fond of this word and he uses it in over half of the 21 occurrences to exhort brethren to live righteous lives.
Sothete is from the root word sozo which Thayer defines, “to save from the punitive wrath of God at the judgment of the last day” (p. 610). Sozo is the verb form that is linked to the noun soteria which means “salvation.” Thayer also points out that the idea of being saved is used in two senses. In a negative sense, sozo is used as a “deliverance from the penalties of the Messianic judgment” (p. 610). This is the sense used in Acts 2:40. However, sozo is also used in a positive sense so as to “make one a partaker of salvation by Christ.”
Sozo occurs 90 times in the New Testament and has a variety of meanings including the deliverance of Christians on the judgment day (Romans 5:9), the salvation granted by believing on Jesus Christ (Acts 2:47), those who endure to the end (Matthew 10:22) and a deliverance from danger (Matthew 8:25).
This study demonstrates that salvation is applied to us; i.e., it is the gift of God, and it cannot be earned by simply being a “good person” (cf. Acts 10:2; 11:14). Furthermore, the imperative demands that we must do something to “inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29). The language used by Luke, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, directly contradicts all of the belief systems which state that nothing is required on the part of man for salvation — we must obey!