Summary: The second part of Peter's Pentecost sermon.
AN INAUGURAL ADDRESS FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
This is the second part of Peter’s address at Pentecost. In the first part (Acts 2:14-21), the Apostle, speaking on behalf of ‘the eleven’ (Acts 2:14), explained the various phenomena which attended the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that occasion. This second part represents, in many respects, the beginning of Christian preaching.
Notice Peter’s words. First, the Apostle addresses, the “Men of Israel” (Acts 2:22). This is perhaps more specific than the ‘Men of Judah and all that are dwelling in Jerusalem’ (Acts 2:14) - which included all the visitors from throughout the Empire who had come up to the City for the feast (Acts 2:9-11).
Next Peter says, authoritatively, “Hear these words” (Acts 2:22). It was as if the Apostle had said, ‘This is the Word of the LORD,’ like one of the old Prophets. Or ‘Whoever has an ear to hear, let him hear,’ like Jesus.
The first words of the first truly Christian sermon here begin: “Jesus of Nazareth…” This is where all preaching must begin, and focus. Peter goes on to speak of Jesus’ works (Acts 2:22); Jesus’ death (Acts 2:23); Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2:24; Acts 2:32); and (which we shall deal with, God willing, in a later sermon) Jesus’ exaltation to the right hand of God (Acts 2:33-36).
First, Jesus is a man.
Second, Jesus is “approved by God.”
1. How was Jesus approved (Acts 2:22)?
First, by “miracles” (demonstrations of the ‘power’ of God - the Greek word of which gives us our English word ‘dynamite’).
Thirdly, by “signs”, attesting spiritual truth (this was the Apostle John’s favoured word for Jesus’ miracles in his Gospel).
2. How did Jesus die (Acts 2:23)?
First, “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” So, Jesus was “handed over” by God, before ever he was ‘handed over’ by Judas Iscariot (same verb). This is a mystery, but there was a divine necessity in the death of Jesus: Scripture must needs be fulfilled (Luke 24:26-27; Luke 24:44-46; Acts 3:18; Acts 13:27; Acts 26:22-23).
Second, Jesus was “taken” by certain of Peter’s addressees: the ‘men of Israel’ (cf. Acts 2:22). It is evident in the Gospels that certain of the Jewish leadership, motivated by jealousy, conspired against Jesus throughout His ministry. This is the culmination of all that.
Thirdly, they handed Jesus over to “those outside the law” (of Moses): that is, the Romans. Luke does not accuse the Romans of being “wicked” in this verse, as some of our translations suggest - just “lawless”. However, this determined the means of Jesus’ execution, which was crucifixion: emphasizing even here, perhaps, the cursedness of ‘one hung on a tree’ (cf. Galatians 3:13)!
3. How was Jesus raised (Acts 2:24-32)?
First, Jesus was raised by God (Acts 2:24; Acts 2:32; cf. Acts 13:34; Acts 17:31). God “loosed the pains of death” (cf. Psalm 116:3; Psalm 116:8; Psalm 116:16). Not only this, but “it was impossible for death to hold Him” - Jesus’ resurrection was inevitable because of God’s pre-determined set purpose (cf. Acts 2:23).
Second, Jesus was raised in fulfilment of Scripture. Peter quotes Psalm 16:8-11, and argues that King David, speaking as a prophet, had foreseen the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:25-31). The Apostle Paul uses the same argument (Acts 13:34-37).
Thirdly, the fact that Jesus was raised is attested by the Apostles, and other witnesses (Acts 2:32). If we think that their interpretation of Psalm 16 as applying to Jesus is strange, we must also consider that they knew it to be true from their encounters with Jesus after His resurrection. So, yes, God raised Him up; and yes, this was the fulfilment of the Scriptures: but we also know this to be true (they could say) because “we are witnesses” to the fact.
As we see the Old Testament and the New Testament converging in their testimony to the resurrection of Jesus, let us continue to live in the dynamite power of it. As Easter people, we have Jesus’ resurrection power coursing in our veins. And there is nothing, but nothing, shall ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our risen, conquering Lord (cf. Romans 8:38-39).