Tonight, we come to the third chapter of the Book of Acts, and I rarely make personal references when teaching the Bible because there’s nothing in the Bible about me. So, I can’t justify talking about myself when I’m never the subject. But, just to introduce our study for tonight, a little biographical note. It was some months ago that I received a letter from a faculty member of a large Christian institution in America who said that my anti-Semitism is well-known, accusing me of being anti-Jewish. And then, in this particular letter, which I did not read, but which was described to me, he went on to try to expose what he saw in me and apparently others see in me as anti-Semitism.
This had come about because of an occasion I had to speak at that institution, and I made reference in the message to Isaiah 53 and how that the prophet prophesied that when the Messiah came, the people of Israel would reject Him. I went on to describe that rejection in the language of Isaiah. Not in my own language, but in the language of Isaiah. That led to a rather over the top reaction on the part of some there, and turned up in an article in one of their publications.
So, without making an attempt to defend myself, but to be very, very clear, I hope that I have the same attitude toward Israel that Christ has. I hope that I manifest the same attitude toward Israel that God has. For God, as real as the apple of His eye, and covenant people, and He will fulfill His promises to Israel. All Israel will one day be saved. Jesus came to bring the gospel to the Jew first, and then also to the Gentile.
All of my heroes are Jewish. Starting with the first one, Abraham, on through all the rest in the Old Testament and the New Testament. I’ve often said that the only disappointment in life sort of that I had no control over, and is the fact that I’m Scottish instead of Jewish, because if I were Jewish, I would not only know all of the physical blessings, or all of the spiritual blessings of salvation, but I would even know the physical fulfillments of millennial promise.
Grace Community Church has always had a strong love for Jewish people. Some of the great leaders in Jewish evangelism came from this church. Moshe Rosen, Jews for Jesus, was a young man raised in this church. Harold Sevener, president of the American Board of Missions to the Jews came from this church. Master’s College is the only institution in America that operates a full campus in Israel. We operate a campus there, a beautiful moshav there, and our students can go and spend a full semester there, growing to know and love the Jewish people, as well as to communicate the gospel of their Messiah to them.
I sat in the Washington office of the Department of Religious Affairs in the Jewish embassy, meeting with a man who showed me a picture of his father with Oscar Schindler. He was the one would decide whether we would have permission to operate the campus there, and he said all of our experience with you and with the college is delightful, and we welcome you to Israel. That was many years ago. And up until just a couple of days ago, it has been a wonderful and rich relationship that the Master’s College has sustained with the nation Israel. And we will be sending another group of students coming up this semester to go there and to study for a year, and to grow to love the land, and to love the people of the land. There is no justification for anti-Semitism. No justification for hatred of Jewish people. Unfortunately, throughout history, supersessionism, or replacement theology, or those kinds of things that have the church replacing Israel really were born in an anti-Semitic attitude long ago. There’s no justification for that. In Christ, there’s neither Jew, nor Gentile. And even outside of Christ, we love unconverted Jews just as we would anyone else. We long for them to acknowledge their Messiah; we long for salvation to come to Israel. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
And beyond that, I have immense respect, immense respect for Jewish leadership. I have great respect for Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s a Russian Jew, by the way, as are almost all the leaders there. I have great joy in my heart that MacArthur study Bibles are being distributed in Russian throughout Israel to Russian Jews who read Russian. I’m also delighted to say that the first of my books has been published in Hebrew, and is being distributed in Israel. We desire to have an impact on that nation, and to send missionaries to that nation and the process of endeavoring to do that.
We long for the salvation of Israel. My heart toward Israel would be the same as Jesus when He wept over their unbelief. But having said all of that, we still have to understand that what the Scripture says Israel did to their Messiah is history. It is fact. It is reality. It doesn’t do any good to deny it. It doesn’t do any good to try to cover it up or eliminate it. It is the truth. They rejected their Messiah. They put Him in the hands of the Romans to execute Him. That’s an enormous crime. But it is no greater crime than for anyone at any time in human history to reject Jesus Christ. Any rejection of Jesus Christ brings about the severest eternal judgment. So we don’t want to heap some kind of unique judgment on Israel. It’s the same judgment for anybody, Jew or Gentile, who rejects Christ.
But neither do we want to deny what Scripture says. When Scripture tells us that it was the people of Israel who rejected their Messiah. That is in no way the projection of some anti-Jewish attitude. Quite the opposite. We have always been zealous and passionate about Jewish evangelism. It’s been many, many years that Marty and Pat Wolf have been missionaries to the Jewish people right here from Grace Community Church. Marty himself a Jew, we were buddies way, way back in school.
With that in mind, let’s look at the third chapter of Acts. Acts chapter 3. And if you remember the opening ten verses, describe a miracle that occurred during the hour of prayer around 3:00 in the afternoon, also the hour of sacrifice at the temple. Peter and John went there, and they came across a beggar who had been lame, crippled, disabled, handicapped from birth. And they healed him, raised him up, verse 7, “Immediately his feet and ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.” And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and remember now, it’s the hour of the evening sacrifice, the hour of prayer. The place is packed. They were all taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the beautiful gate of the temple to beg alms. They were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. He was a familiar sight there. There were some traditions, I told you last time, that say he’d been that way for 40 years. We can’t verify that, but he would’ve been a well-established figure at the beautiful gate, a very good place to beg, because people were going in to worship God, and they wanted God to commend them in a works system, so they were probably more generous going in there than anywhere else.
The last scene that we had is in verse 11. Peter and John are standing there, and the man is clinging to them, and all the people ran together to them at the so-called porch colonnade of Solomon, full of amazement. We were there this morning; we’re back again tonight. This miracle gathers a crowd. This miracle gathers a crowd. To that crowd, Peter preaches. He begins to preach in verse 12. Let me read just verse 12 through 16: “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? 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. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 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.’“
All the early apostolic preaching centered on Jesus Christ, as does that, clearly. Peter is preaching Christ Jesus. That was the theme of all preaching. On the Day of Pentecost back in chapter 2, Peter preached Christ. And he kind of wraps up his sermon in chapter 2 verse 38 saying, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. For the forgiveness of your sins, you’ll receive the Holy Spirit.” Here again in chapter 3, at the very time of the miracle verse 6, Peter says, “I don’t possess silver or gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!” Here again in preaching, he’s reaching Jesus. Verse 13, chapter 5. It’s the same thing. Chapter 8, it’s the same thing. Chapter 9, all of the apostolic preaching focuses on the person of Jesus Christ. Chapter 5 verse 40, for example, they were ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus. Every time they spoke, they spoke in the name of Jesus, about the person of Jesus. They were told to stop doing that. Message always the same. Like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:2. I’m determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ. And still, I might say, even now, the theme of Jesus is the same for all faithful preachers. The early preachers and the faithful preachers through history to this very day preach Jesus Christ. They vary the glories of Christ. They vary the themes concerning Christ, but it is Christ of whom they speak.
And that was all started by the New Testament apostolic preachers. In the New Testament, He is called Jesus 800 times. That’s His most common name in the New Testament. But, there are in Scripture nearly 200 different names or titles for the Lord Jesus. Nearly 200 in Scripture. Why? Because that allows us to explore all the facets of His majestic glory. Every one of those names is like an edge of a cut diamond. Every one refracts for us some glorious light. By any name, by any description, He is the subject of all Scripture. He is the subject of all faithful apostolic preaching and continues to be the subject for all faithful preachers. How can you tell a faithful preacher? Because he will always be preaching Christ. All salvation blessings are through His name, through His person.
Now, the first person to ever preach in the name of Jesus Christ was Peter. That was back in chapter 2 in that opening sermon, the day the church was born, the Day of Pentecost, as Peter stands up and preaches Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs, which God performed through Him in your midst as you yourselves know. This man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again. And he goes on to preach Christ.
That was the first sermon ever preached on Christ. First apostolic sermon. And since that first sermon, again I say, all who faithfully and accurately preach the gospel stand in the tradition of Peter.
I know the Catholic Church talks about the succession of Peter. But the succession of Peter, the line of Peter is not the papacy, not that corrupt assembly of heretics who speak in their own name and not the name of the Lord Jesus, and who usurp His authority in the church. They are unconverted usurpers of authority that belongs only to Christ. The succession of Peter is not the papacy. The succession of Peter is the long line of godly faithful preachers of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Anybody who doesn’t preach Christ is an antichrist, is an unfaithful preacher. Anyone who doesn’t preach the true Christ.
Third John 7, they went out for the sake of the name. They went out for the sake of the name. Speaking of those early preachers. Therefore, we ought to support such men so that we may be fellow workers with the truth. Support those who preach Christ. On the Day of Pentecost at the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter preached that first sermon. First sermon in the church is history. On the very day the church was born, and the theme was the Lord, Jesus Christ. For that first sermon, God provided the introduction, and it was a stunning introduction. Fire, wind, languages, gathering the people. God gathered through the miraculous phenomena the crowd. Peter preached the gospel. 3,000 people were divinely enabled to believe, were baptized and constituted the church its first day of birth. It was God who provided the introduction, and Peter followed with the sermon.
This is the second sermon here in chapter 3. Same preacher, Peter, and he will be the preacher through the opening chapters of the Book of Acts, and God again provides His introduction to draw the crowd. What did God do? Healed that lame man. God drew the crowd. In verses 1 to 11, had the man, now no longer lame, clinging to Peter and John, standing there, the healed man as a living testimony to divine power in the name of Jesus. The crowd has run together. We saw that in verse 11. All the people ran together over to the colonnades by the wall that was once a part of Solomon’s temple, full of amazement. Peter now has his crowd again gathered by God and by miracles. Peter has the opportunity to systematically then proclaim the gospel to this crowd of people.
Just a little footnote here. Most of you will never be preachers, and most of you maybe have not thought about this. But all good preaching has one very evident component. All good preaching. One very evident component. All good preaching not only focuses on Christ, but all good preaching as to its structure is a careful argument. It is a careful systematic presentation of sequential truth that leads to an inescapable conclusion. Preaching is not stringing together sentimental ideas. It is not lining up all kinds of interesting illustrations. Preaching is a rationally captivating argument that goes with evidence to an inescapable conclusion so that the hearer is pinned against the wall of that conclusion with no way out except to accept or reject, and should know that when he walks out.
It’s not about making people feel good. Not about creating some kind of religious experience. All good preaching is like a courtroom. All good preaching is like the best lawyer making the best case based upon the facts and the truth so that the jury has only one possible verdict. Preaching is always an argument. It’s always a systematic argument if it is what it should be. That’s exactly what Peter does. That’s what the apostles did. The argument was always this: Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior. And they were always endeavoring to prove that. He had to overcome the fact that the Jews couldn’t understand why if He was Messiah, He died. And so they had to show from the Old Testament that Messiah had to suffer and die and rise again.
Without maybe saying it that way or thinking about it that way, you now know what I do to you every time you sit out there and I get up here. I’m literally taking the divinely inspired argument of the text and bringing it to bear on your thinking so that you understand this as the truth, and it’s supported by the flow. Crowd is gathered, verse 12. Peter sees them. It says he replied to the people. Apokrinomai. It is often used at the beginning of a sermon. It’s used at the beginning of sermons by Matthew, Mark, Luke, john, and again Luke, in the Book of Acts. It doesn’t necessarily mean there was a question. It could be translated this way: when Peter saw this, he declared to the people, he stated to the people. When we say reply in the English language, we usually mean by that that we’re answering a direct question, but that is not the intent of the Greek word. Peter, in fact, doesn’t respond to a question. He poses two questions. Verse 12. “Men of Israel.” Now we know his target audience. “Men of Israel,” the people of Israel, “why are you amazed at this?” Question number one. Question number two: “Why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?”
Peter’s not answering questions. He’s asking a question. And it’s a question to engage their minds. Men of Israel, that’s courteous, that’s generic, meaning men and women, the generic men, if you will. Why are you amazed at this? Why? You know God’s power from the Old Testament. You know God’s power exhibited through the person of Jesus. We said it was in His name. You have seen His power here in your own city again and again, and throughout your land. Why are you amazed? Why are you so startled? Furthermore, you know that only God can do this. As Nicodemus said on behalf of all of them, “Nobody can do what You do unless God is with Him.” Miracles aren’t done by people. So why are you so amazed? You know God does this from the Old Testament. There are miracles in the Old Testament. You know that only God can do miracles. And you know that Jesus did miracles, and we told you this is by His power.
Second question then, why do you gaze at us as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? Look at us. We’re a couple of Galilean fishermen. You know that people don’t have the power to create like you’ve just seen. So Peter places them on a dilemma, really. Only God can create. Only God can do the supernatural. They know that. They’ve been around a long time. There have been no miracles until the arrival of Jesus. Only God is capable of creating. Why is this such a struggle for you?
This is God operating through the power of Christ, which of course implies His resurrection that He’s still alive, that has done this. Peter draws them immediately to Christ, verse 13. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of our fathers has glorified. The NAS says His servant, Jesus, has glorified His servant Jesus. He says the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Your God, our God. That’s an Old Testament title describing God. Exodus 3, 1 Kings 18, 1 Chronicles 19, 2 Chronicles 30. You find it scattered around the Old Testament. Also appears in the New Testament. Jesus referred to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Matthew 24. Stephen refers to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Acts 7 when he gave that great sermon and recited the history of Israel. This is the true and only God, the true and living God.
So, we know that only God can do this, and God has done this through His servant Jesus to glorify Him. Glory only belongs to God. God in the Old Testament says, “My glory will I not share with another, will I not give to another.” But He gives it to Christ. Second Corinthians 4 says that Christ is the shining glory of God, you see, in the face of Jesus, the glory of God.
John 1:14, “We beheld His glory, the glory is of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus, praised in John 17, “Restore to me the glory I had with You in eternity past.” So, the miracle draws the crowd. The questions in their mind: where did this power come from? It’s reinforced. It can only come from God, and it comes from God through the name of Jesus in order to glorify Jesus. For all His ministry, for all His ministry, three years of ministry, God glorified His Son by miracles, a display of creative power, power of demons, power over nature, power over disease, power over sin. So now, we’ve moved from the miracle to God being the source to Christ, through whom God pours His glory.
Now, as we come to verse 13 and all the way down through the rest of the sermon through verse 26, the theme is going to be Jesus Christ. Now, this sermon breaks into two parts. First is guilt, and then is grace. First is guilt, and then is grace. And Peter, let me tell you, he’s like a prosecuting attorney. He lays an indictment without any hesitation, and his indictment is this: Israel murdered the Messiah. You have slain the Son of God. That is the indictment. It’s unmistakable. Look at verse 13. Jesus, the one whom you, and I’ll just read the NAS and then I’ll qualify those words a little bit. Whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate when he had decided to release Him, but you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.
The word “delivered,” which you see in verse 13, the word “delivered” is a term that refers to turning someone over to executioners. It’s a technical term for being arrested. The word “disowned,” which is used in verse 13 and then used again in verse 14 is actually the word “denied.” I don’t know why they chose to translate it “disown.” That sounds like you own something and gave it away. This is the word “denied.” Delivered and denied, and then in verse 14, denied. You denied His claims. You denied Him as your Lord. You denied Him as your Messiah. So, you turn Him over because you had denied Him, and then in verse 15, you put to death the Prince of life. The Romans are not indicted here. The men of Israel are. You put to death the Prince of life.
This is what Peter said in his first message back in chapter 2 verse 22. Verse 22. Men of Israel, men of Israel. Again. Generic term for the Jewish people. Verse 23, “You nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men,” Romans, “but you nailed Him to a cross and put Him to death.” The culpability of the Jews, of the people of Israel, is not an anti-Semitic invention. It is exactly what Scripture says.
In chapter 4 verse 27, 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, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. There you have the bigger picture. Yeah, Herod was involved. Pilate was involved. The Gentile Romans were involved. But the people of Israel were involved as well. They all played a role. But the indictment in chapter 3 is clearly Israel. The Jews forced the issue with Pilate when Pilate wanted to release Him. The Jews chose Barabbas over Jesus when they had an opportunity. The Jews forced Pilate against his will to crucify Jesus, a blatant miscarriage of Justice. Pilate actually declared Jesus innocent six times in the combination of gospel narratives. Six times, he declared Jesus was innocent.
One thing the Romans had, the Romans had a very strict code of justice. In the 16th chapter of Acts, in verse 37, Paul says they have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and thrown us into prison. This is in Philippi. And now, they are sending us away secretly. No, indeed. But let them come themselves and bring us out. The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. Why? Because the Romans had this very strict sense of justice. In the 22nd chapter of Acts, and verse 25, when they stretched Him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him saying, “What are you about to do? This man is a Roman.” The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” And he said, “Yes.” The commander answered, “I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.” And Paul said, “But I was actually born a citizen.” Therefore, those who were about to examine and immediately let go of him, and the commander also was afraid that he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains. Very strict sense of justice.
Well, Pilate was a Roman. He had that strict sense of justice. And yet, he couldn’t fight off the blackmailing of the Jews who threatened Him, and threatened Him, and threatened Him. They had plenty of capital because he’d done stupid things in his history there. They blackmailed him and said that if you don’t do this, we’re going to report you to Caesar. He couldn’t take another one of those bad reports.
No, it was the Jewish people who pressed the issue, and Peter even looks at the backside of it, the first backside view you, you delivered and denied Jesus in the presence of Pilate when he had decided to release Him. That’s the backside. Luke 23:4, Pilate said to the chief priests in the crowds: I find no guilt in this man. Verse 22. I have found in Him no guilt demanding death, therefore I will punish Him. Why would you punish Him if there was no guilt? To pacify the crowd,” and release Him. Wouldn’t work. Scripture says they were insistent with loud voices, asking that He be crucified, and their voices prevailed, and Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted. It was the Jewish people who pushed Pilate all the way to the death of Christ. Their own Messiah.
In Matthew 27:24, when Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, ‘cause they were all screaming, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” But rather, a riot was starting. He took water, washed his hands in front of the crowd saying, “I’m innocent of this man’s blood.” See to it yourselves, and all of the people said His blood be on us, and on our children. Then he released Barabbas for them. And after Jesus was scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
The indictment by this prosecuting attorney named Peter is very strong. “You people of Israel, you delivered and disowned the one whom the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers glorified, you pushed for His death when a just, Roman ruler tried to release Him.
And another backside issue in verse 14. “You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you.” That’s another backside issue. You wanted a murderer, Barabbas, Barabbas, Barabbas. Give us Barabbas. Matthew 27, right there. We read it. Also in Luke 23.
The indictment really is devastating. The indictment is absolutely true. And to strengthen the indictment, strengthen the sense of guilt, Peter refers to the Lord, the one they killed, by glorious names, by glorious names. This elevates the crime. Look at those names. You see in verse 13, that he’s called “His servant Jesus,” the servant of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers. His servant, Jesus. He is called the Holy One, verse 14. The Righteous One. Verse 15. The Prince of life. These divine designations raise the crime to such a high level.
Now, let’s look at these terms just for a few minutes. The first one you see in verse 13 is servant. Actually, that’s the Greek word pais. It’d be a transliterated word: P-A-I-S. It could mean servant. It can mean servant. But it’s the Greek word for son, boy, child. You, you delivered and denied the Son of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers. You denied the Son of God. This is the word for “son.” This is the word for “child.” This is not the normal word for servant. It can be in a broader sense, used for servant, but this is the word for son, or a word for son, child. Chapter 4 verse 27. As I read earlier. Truly in this city, there were gathered together again your holy pais, Son, Jesus. Son. You killed God’s Son. God’s child. He had made that claim again and again as we saw this morning in the gospel of John. The Son of God. You killed the Son of God. What an incredible, devastating reality.
Not only the Son, but you killed the Savior. Jesus. What does Jesus mean? Jesus is simply a Greek form of Joshua, and Joshua is a word that means “Jehovah saves.” Or literally, it means “salvation is of the Lord,” or, “the Lord is salvation.” The full meaning is “Jehovah Savior.” God Savior. Jehovah Savior. It’s the New Testament form of Joshua. Joshua was well-named, wasn’t he? Because he overcame the enemies of God’s people. Joshua was a kind of savior. Moses died in the wilderness; and Joshua led the people into the promised land, and overcame the enemies.
Jesus was a far greater Joshua than the Old Testament Joshua, where he leads his people out of sin, out of the kingdom of darkness, out of the clutches of Satan to God. You killed the Son of God. You killed Jehovah, Savior. Fighting realities. And you did it when Pilate was determined to let Him go, and you wanted someone else in His place. How utterly unthinkable. You even screamed His blood be on us, and it is. Thirdly, you denied, delivered and denied the Holy One. The Holy One. Psalm 16 calls Messiah the Holy One. You will not allow your Holy One to see corruption. Luke 1 describes the baby born in Bethlehem as the Holy Child. He is the Holy One. The one who is without sin. Psalm 16:10 is quoted by Peter in the first sermon, chapter 2 verse 27, “You will not abandon My soul to hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” Hebrews 7 says, he’s “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.”
Again, Peter squarely lays this indictment at the feet of those who denied the one who is absolutely holy. You denied the Holy One. By the way, the “you” here is in an emphatic position. You. No one else. You. You persisted in your treason against God. You denied the one who is the Son of God. You denied the one who is the Savior of God. You denied the one who is holy.
And fourthly, another name. The Righteous One. The Righteous One. The Just One. You denied the Just One, and you wanted an unjust murderer to be released in His stead. Just is dikaios. The other one is hagios. It mean intrinsically. Dikaios means innocent when measured against the law. One speaks of nature; the other speaks of behavior. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners by nature. And He was without violation, without sin in behavior. You didn’t just kill anybody. You delivered over to death, put to death, and denied the one who was Son of God, Savior. The only Holy One, the only Righteous One. Your crime is massive. You did it against the cries of justice, and you did it in exchange for a thief and a murderer named Barabbas.
And finally, his indictment is elevated to another level in verse 15. “You put to death the Prince of life.” That’s a paradox isn’t it? You put to death the Prince of life. You destroyed the one who is life itself. You wanted a killer. You took one who took life in exchange for one who gives life. Prince of life, archēgos, used in Hebrews 2, the captain of our salvation. Used in Hebrews 12. The author, the initiator, the source. An archēgos is a pioneer, a leader, a beginner, an originator, an author of life. Jesus is the author of life. Nothing was made without Him. By Him was everything made that was made in Him, was life. You killed the originator of life, the one who said, “I am the resurrection and the life, the only one who can provide life.”
What kind of a crime is this? The guilt is so massive when you see the names that are used to describe Jesus. But verse 15, “the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.” You killed Him, and God raised Him, and we have seen Him. God raised Him. Why does he bring in the resurrection? Because Jesus has to be alive to be the power that healed the lame man.
Verse 16. “And on the basis of faith in His name,” our faith in His name, the apostles’ 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.” You killed Him; God raised Him. Through our faith in Him, He has raised this lame man. The one you delivered, the one you denied, the one you disowned, the one you despised, the one you destroyed; He is alive. He is alive. He is alive and He is powerful, so powerful that He gave back to this man a body that he’d never known in his entire life.
So Peter drives home the horrendous guilt, and then tells them: this is so serious, because He’s alive again. He’s alive. The one you murdered is alive, and He’s putting His power on display, and it is His power poured through us because of our faith in Him, that has given this perfect health to this man.
That’s the indictment. It’s inescapable. They knew they had done it. He marshals the facts. When Pilate tried to stop you, in the case of an exchange with Barabbas, all history, He is alive and we are here to give testimony and eyewitness to that. The guilt is palpable when you come to the end of verse 16. Horrendous guilt. Absolutely horrendous. And that’s essential in the foundation of gospel preaching, isn’t it? It really is.
What did I say to you this morning in the gospel of John? that salvation comes to those who recognize the reality of their wretched sinfulness. When people cling to their sinfulness, there’s no hope. Horrendous guilt.
But I want to close with verse 17 just introducing it. Here’s the first glimmer of grace. “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also.” Please notice that it wasn’t only the rulers, the Jewish religious leaders, who rejected Christ. They did, but this clearly indicts the whole country. You acted in ignorance just as your rulers did also.
There’s the first glimmer of grace. Now, we’re going to pick it up there next time. But as I said at the beginning, good preaching is a systematic, reasoned argument leaving an undeniable conclusion. Peter has started out like a prosecuting attorney with his firm, forceful, powerful indictment. And when they are literally pinned to the wall with no escape, in the darkness of their own deed, he opens a window in verse 17. “You acted in ignorance. So did your rulers.” He follows that up in verses 18 and following with a message of grace and forgiveness. Always guilt before grace. We’ll see that next time.
Thank You, Lord, for bringing us together tonight and for allowing us to be there with Peter and John, and in a way, through this text, to experience the power, poignancy of that moment. Thank You, Lord, for grace. Thank You for reaching out with the gospel to the Jews. Because at the end of this sermon, 5,000 men believe. That’s Your heart for Israel. You desire their salvation. Paul said, “I could wish myself accursed for the sake of my people.” My people, Israel. We would ask that You would continue to be gracious to Jewish people the world over, and bring them to the knowledge of their Savior and Messiah. That’s our prayer. And help us to understand that in the presentation of the gospel, guilt always becomes the turning point. If people shun the guilt, there’s no grace. If they accept the guilt, then they can accept the grace. We’re thankful that on this occasion, the church exploded, because sinners were ready and willing to repent, turn, and believe. We pray for that, even now, as we proclaim the glorious gospel of Christ. And we pray in His name. Amen.