Monthly Archives: August 2013

Acts of the Apostles 4.13-31

Book of ActsThe response of the Jewish rulers, elders, and scribes continues in this passage:

13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.” 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

Despite the Jewish leaders recognition of Peter and John as being uneducated these educated leaders can offer no reply or rebuttal to what has been said. The reason is found in v.16: they recognized that a great miracle had taken place through them and it was evident to everyone and could not be denied. In fact the only response the Jewish leaders can offer at this point is to tell Peter and John to no longer speak or teach in the name of Jesus. To which Peter and John respond: it is not right to listen to man over God, so we will not stop talking about what we have seen and heard because what we have seen and heard is from God. In response the Jewish leaders threaten Peter and John further and then release them since the miracle they performed was too great (the man on whom it was performed was 40 years old) and the response of the people too overwhelming for them to dole out any actual punishment.

The response of the Jewish leaders here is indicative of a group of people who have been caught off guard by something they did not expect. The Sadducees in particular did not expect two uneducated and untrained fisherman to heal a man who had been unable to walk for the entire 40 years of his life and then turn around and counter one of their chief teachings by proclaiming that Jesus, who was crucified, dead, and buried had risen from the dead and it was through him that this man had been made well. Presumably the Jewish leaders thought that by taking down the leader of the group, Jesus, the rest of the group would disperse and the movement would ultimately come to nothing (more on this in chapter 5). However this is not what is happening, and the Jewish leaders seem surprised.

23 When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,

Why did the Gentiles rage,
And the peoples devise futile things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’

27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29 And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

The quotation here is from Psalm 2.1-2. In the portion of the Psalm that is quoted here we have a group of people (Gentiles) opposing and conspiring against the Lord’s Christ (or “anointed one”). Peter recognizes the situation described in the Psalm as being the same as the current situation where there is a group of people (Herod, Pontius Pilate, and Jewish leaders) opposing and conspiring against the Lord’s Christ (Jesus). Since Psalm 2 ends with the promise that the Lord’s “anointed one” will triumph over those who have gathered together to oppose him (Psalm 2.4-9) Peter then asks God to grant that he (Peter) and all those with him (“Your bond-servants”) would speak God’s message with confidence while God himself performs signs and wonders through Jesus. In other words, Peter is saying that Jesus is the Lord’s anointed one in Psalm 2 and asks God to grant the promise of Psalm 2, that those opposing the anointed one be defeated.

There is also another phrase in here which I want to note, since it occurs multiple times throughout the book: “filled with the Holy Spirit.” This phrase has occurred in 2.4; 4.8, 31 so far in the book and is usually followed by someone, or a group, proclaiming God’s message despite any opposition that might be encountered. This proclamation of God’s word despite opposition is a theme that will be encountered later on in the book as well.

At this point we also have another of the major themes setup which is going to play out through the rest of the account: the opposition of the Jewish leaders and people to the Holy Spirit indwelt Messianic community which would later be recognized as the Christian Church. But really this is just a continuation of the theme that runs throughout the entire Bible: God is in the process of executing a plan to redeem humanity and some are opposing that plan of redemption.

That’s all for today folks, thanks for reading.

Acts of the Apostles 4.1-12

When we last left off Peter and John had just performed a miracle in the Temple by making a man who had born lame able to walk. This attracted a crowd of people, presumably mostly Jewish, to which Peter delivered a second speech proclaiming to his fellow Jews that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for, so they should repent of their lack of faith in Jesus as Messiah and join the community that He established “in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3.19). We did not, however, learn of the reaction of the people to Peter’s speech; that is reserved for the following verses, the first part of which will be covered in this post.

As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, 2 being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Book of ActsFollowing Peter’s Pentecost speech there is no mention of any opposition to his words, but here, for the first time in the narrative, opposition is encountered. The Sadducees were a sect of Jews who taught that there was no resurrection (Matthew 22.23; Mark 12.18), so naturally they would be disturbed if someone was proclaiming that someone rose from the dead. Not only did this challenge one of their defining teachings, but it also was a threat to their power as well since they were members of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of ancient Israel to which all questions of the Jewish faith (e.g. the Law; Law of Moses) were finally put; one of their defining teachings being proven false threatens their credibility to accurately interpret and decide on matters of the Jewish faith.

So in order to keep their credibility and power they have Peter and John put in jail. However Peter’s words had already had an effect on the people since “the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” The word translated “men” here is the Greek term andron, which usually refers to men or husbands; so the number of male Christian believers is now at about 5,000, and the total number of believers presumably higher with women and children added in. Often the Jews, when discussed in relation to Biblical events, get a bad rep, however a significant number of them did come to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and the early Christian community was primarily composed of Jewish converts. Let’s not forget that.

5 On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6 and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. 7 When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, 9 if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Annas and Caiaphas are mentioned previously in Scripture as presiding over Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin (specifically mentioned in Matthew 26.57-68 and John 18.12-28), so they are no strangers to opposing Jesus and His followers; in fact they were part of the group that persuaded Pilate to have Jesus crucified. Peter is certainly aware of who these men are and what their feelings are towards Jesus and His followers, but that doesn’t dissuade him from continuing to proclaim what he has consistently proclaimed: that Jesus Christ was crucified, dead, buried, and rose again and there is salvation in no one else; He is the Messiah that we have been expecting and His kingdom has been established.

Thus far in the narrative Peter has given three speeches and each speech has been delivered to the same audience: Jews, and had a consistent message: Jesus the Nazarene is the prophesied Messiah you have been waiting for, so repent of your lack of faith in Him and join the community He established. Even when faced with a group that he knew to be hostile towards his message he still did not change it, but proclaimed it faithfully. His faithfulness was not due to him being logically convinced of a theological system of beliefs, but rather because he had witnessed the events he was proclaiming and could not deny his experience.

I have mentioned previously that Christianity is based on the historical event of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, not on any particular system of theology; the theology can fall away and be proven false, but as long as Jesus rose from the dead Christianity is true. I say this is the basis because this is what the Apostles themselves claimed as the basis of the faith, and we have seen Peter state that basis three times now in the Acts of the Apostles.

As Christians the basis of our faith should be this basis as well; Jesus has risen and defeated death and through Him we have eternal life and salvation. In the Christian culture I was raised in I found this basis unfortunately neglected and not proclaimed to the extent I believed that it should have been. To me it seemed that more effort was devoted to defending particular doctrinal or theological beliefs (though this certainly does have a place), and not enough to proclaiming and reminding me of Jesus’ resurrection and the implications of that event.

The Biblical Storyline

In the previous post the Apostle Peter referenced a promise God gave to Abraham (who was then known as Abram):

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

This quotation comes from Genesis 12.1-3. Genesis is the first book in the Bible and is the book of beginnings. Not so much the beginnings of the Earth and mankind (though these are briefly mentioned), but the beginnings of the rest of the story contained in the Bible. Understanding the events of Genesis is critical to understanding the events in the rest of the Bible; without this understanding the events of the Bible will seem like one big disjointed mess that doesn’t make a bit of sense. So before we can understand this promise to Abram in Genesis 12, we first must go back to the beginning of Genesis and understand the events that transpired earlier in the book.

The Bible has a protagonist (the central character) and an antagonist (the opposition to the central character). The protagonist in the Bible is God and is introduced in the opening sentence of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” The antagonist is Satan and is introduced in Genesis 3.1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.”

In the opening chapters of Genesis the actions of the protagonist, God, are to create a world and establish man and woman to rule over it (Gen. 1.26-28). The antagonist, Satan, opposes God by corrupting this established order and causing humanity to be ruled over by creation (Gen. 3.1-7). In response to Satan’s actions God promises to destroy Satan and redeem humanity (see Gen 3.15, especially: “…He shall bruise you on the head…”). The rest of the Biblical story develops along this line: God’s plan to crush Satan and redeem humanity, and Satan’s opposition to God’s plan.

With Noah humanity is wiped out and the anticipation is that Noah is the promised deliverer, the Messiah, promised in Gen. 3.15. However Noah allows himself to be ruled by creation as well (Gen. 9.21), thus demonstrating that he is not the Messiah. When we arrive at Abram (Abraham) God reveals that it is through Abraham’s descendants that the Messiah will come (Gen. 12.1-3, especially vv. 2b-3a), then specifically through Isaac (Gen. 21.12), then Jacob (Gen. 28.10-15, esp. vv. 13-15 which reiterate the promise to Abraham in 12.1-3), then David (2 Samuel 7.4-17).

This is why Matthew begins his Gospel by tracing Jesus’ genealogy: his audience was primarily Jewish, and they believed that the Messiah would come from David’s descendants, thus it was important to establish this fact right away. Luke also affirms Jesus’ descent from David in his genealogy as well (Luke 3.23-38).*

So when we come to Peter’s statement in Acts 3, “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” what Peter is saying is that the Messiah that was promised by God who was to come from the nation of Israel has come! Since this was promised to you, and this promise has been fulfilled, accept it so that you and the rest of humanity may be redeemed!

For a more in-depth discussion of the biblical storyline see Dr. Charles Baylis’ videos. It is from his work that I drew the majority of this post from also. You can find the videos here: http://biblicalstory.org/home

Next up, Acts 4.

*Yes the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 have variances in them. No I’m not going to discuss them in this post as it is off topic.

Acts of the Apostles 3.11-26

In the previous passage (3.1-10) Peter and John went to the temple to pray and upon finding a man who had been lame from birth, through the power of Jesus, made him able to walk. The people at the temple recognized the man and were amazed at what had happened to him. In this passage Peter addresses the crowd that had gathered around him and John.

Book of Acts11 While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. 12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 16 And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.

Much like he did in his first speech (2.14-36) Peter here is rebuking the people for not understanding what has taken place. He begins by saying that it was not by his power or John’s power that this man was made to walk (v .12) and then moves on to identify Jesus as the one who made the man walk (v. 16). Peter is very specific in his identification of Jesus, making sure that no one mistakes who is referring to. Peter identifies Jesus as:

  1. Delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate (v. 13)
  2. Put to death (v. 15)
  3. Raised to life (v. 15)

There are a couple of interesting contrasts I wish to point out in this passage. Both of these are being contrasted with the first part of v. 13, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus…”  In v. 14 the Jews decided to exchange the “Holy and Righteous One” for a murderer.* Instead of worshiping, praising, or otherwise exalting Jesus the Jews decided instead to set a guilty murderer free rather than the innocent Jesus when they were given the opportunity.

Not only did they not set Jesus free when given the opportunity, but they even condemned him to crucifixion (v. 15)! Rather than accept the life that the “Prince of life,” Jesus, offered them they not only rejected him, but had him killed so that no one could accept the life he offered. This of course didn’t work as God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of the Old Testament; Yahweh (YHWH, Jehovah); the Jewish God; raised Jesus from the dead.

17 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 23 And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Peter continues his speech by granting to the Jews that they may not have known what they were doing at the time when the crucified Jesus. However Peter does believe, as I stated earlier, that they should be aware of what they did by now. He argues that Jesus’ death and suffering was predicated by the prophets. Isaiah 52.13-53.12 predicts the suffering and eventual death of the Messiah and Peter is arguing here that Jesus was the one who fulfilled this prophecy.

Peter continues his argument, that since Jesus fulfilled the suffering and death that was predicted of the Messiah that they should repent so that times of refreshing will come and the restoration of all things begin. The prophets prophesied that Israel would go into exile for not following the covenant that had established between them and God; this happened during the Babylonian (586 B.C.) and Assyrian (722 B.C.) captivities. Following these captivities the prophets prophesied that there would a restoration when Messiah came, but it first required repentance from Israel. So Peter is exhorting his fellow Jews and saying to them, again,  that the Messiah they have been waiting for has come, so they should repent of their lack of faith in Him so that the prophesied restoration may come about; God made this covenant with you (Israel) and your ancestors, that through you the Earth would be blessed, so enter into this blessing so that the world may be restored.

And if you’re curious, Moses’ prophesy referred to in vv. 22-23 is found in Deuteronomy 18.15-19. The statement that God made to Abraham quoted in v. 25 is found in Genesis 12.1-3.

Thus far in the Acts of the Apostles, following the coming of the Holy Spirit, we have seen two sermons by Peter directed towards his fellow Jews arguing that Jesus is the Messiah they have been waiting for. Following his first sermon we saw about 3,000 Jews join the Christian community and be baptized. Will his audience here respond in the same fashion?

Wow, look at that, only took me two posts to get through an entire chapter this time!

* The incident being referred to here can be found in Matthew 27.11-26; Mark 15.1-15; Luke 23.1-25; John 18.28-40.