Friday, 12 November 2021
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Acts 2:22
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
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With his completion of quoting the prophet Joel, Peter now begins to explain how the fulfillment of that prophecy came about through the work of Christ Jesus. As such, he begins by referring to those he is addressing. In the Greek, it is only two words. But they are two words that, if paid attention to, would resolve innumerable errors found within the church today.
In Peter’s coming words are all kinds of directions for the people, but they are not directions for the reader of Acts today. This is perfectly clear with the opening of his address, saying, “Men of Israel.”
As noted, in the Greek, it is two words, “Men, Israelites.” This is the context. Taking a verse out of context will inevitably form a pretext. Peter is addressing his fellow Israelites. These are the descendants of Jacob, who is Israel. It would also include any who were brought into Israel as proselytes according to the established norms. With that understood, he next says, “hear these words.”
He is calling for complete attention so that the reason for quoting Joel can be properly explained. The main connection between the events and the citing of the prophecy will be seen in verse 2:33, but he must first give a logical explanation of what led up to the pouring out of the Spirit. With that understood, he immediately introduces the main Subject of his explanation, saying, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
The entire point and purpose of his words comes forth in the stating of the name. In saying “of Nazareth,” he is tying in the reason it is Galileans who spoke the astonishing tongues (see verse 2:7). But more, it is an explanation as to why Nazareth is relevant at all. It is a reminder of the prophecy of Isaiah –
“Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
2 The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah 9:1, 2
The “great light” that shone in Galilee of the Gentiles had come, thus – without saying it – not only is the prophecy of Joel fulfilled, but it is fulfilled by the One prophesied by Isaiah as well. Thus, it is the reason those who stood before the gathered of Israel were Galileans. They already knew these things, but Peter is reminding them in order to set the stage for his coming words. After noting his Subject, he says of Him, “a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs.”
The word translated as “attested” is introduced into Scripture here, apodeiknumi. It signifies “to show by proof,” “to demonstrate,” and so on. A claim is made, and the claim is then substantiated by a demonstration of validation. In this, there could be no doubt that the things Peter is recalling to mind are true. The entire nation had seen or heard of the marvelous things Jesus has done, thus attesting that God had approved of His work. For example, this was said of Him in John 9 –
“The man answered and said to them, ‘Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.’” John 9:30-33
The gospels clearly testify to the fact that the people understood God has approved of Jesus’ ministry. As this was only a short time before, it would be fresh on the minds of all. Of His works, Peter notes three aspects. The first is “miracles.” The word is dunamis, and it speaks of mighty, powerful, and marvelous works. The second is “wonders.” The word is teras. It speaks of an extraordinary event which is given to bring forth a reaction from those who witness it, such as a portent from heaven. The third is “signs.” The word is sémeion. A sign is something that speaks to, or provides evidence of, something else. In other words, a sign is not the thing itself, but points to something other than itself. A sign in the sky may tell the people the Messiah has come. The changing of water to wine may testify to the coming change from the Mosaic Covenant to a New Covenant. And so on. It is these things that Peter says, “which God did through Him.”
The works of Jesus Christ are the works of God, being wrought through His physical existence. They are, however, of a magnitude greater than the prophets who came before Him. And this is for notable reasons, some of which will be explained by Peter as he continues. The words of Jesus to the people had already claimed what Peter now repeats –
“But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. 37 And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” John 5:36, 37
The works were given as a validation of the fact that He was the prophesied Messiah. From giving sight to the blind and cleansing lepers, even to casting out demons and raising the dead, everything that Jesus did was to validate that the power and authority of God was working through Him. And Peter next says that this was done “in your midst.”
The things Christ Jesus did were not accomplished in Rome or in Tibet. They were accomplished in the midst of the people to whom the prophecies were given. There was no need to wonder if the stories coming out of Crete were true about someone doing amazing things, God had spoken through Israel, to Israel, and about what would occur in Israel. Specific names were prophesied in advance, such as Galilee and Bethlehem. Miracles were done in Jerusalem and before the leaders and attendees of synagogues. There could be no doubt of these things, and so Peter finishes the verse with, “as you yourselves also know.”
The people standing before Peter were guilty of rejecting their Messiah. This was now fully evidenced by the fact that while the Spirit had been poured out upon Jesus’ disciples, it had not been poured out upon them. Thus, they knew very well now that Jesus was the Messiah and that they had missed the boat on this one. Now, they could either change their minds (repent) about this fact, or they could continue with dull minds and hardened hearts. Peter will continue to speak direct, piercing words to this group of people – the “Men, Israelites” standing before him.
Life application: Acts 2, as has been noted time and again, is a descriptive account of what occurred. In the verse just evaluated, it was noted that the words are directed to the men of Israel. Not only are these only words that describe what occurred, but they are words that are directed only to the men of Israel (women also as the masculine speaks for both). What Peter says does not apply to the Lutheran Church. It does not apply to the Roman Catholic Church. It does not apply to the Church of Christ, the Presbyterians, or Pentecostals.
Luke is providing a historical record of what occurred in order to establish the church as a whole. Certain elements of it must run their course before new elements can be introduced. It is flawed thinking to say that because Peter is speaking to the men of Israel, that the church in which Gentiles now participate is a different church. Rather, the events that established the one true church is going through a process of development.
Be careful to remember the five most basic elements of interpretation –
Is this descriptive?
Is this prescriptive?
What is the context?
What is the context?
What is the context?
In this, you will not make the amazingly tragic errors that have led to innumerable denominations, all fighting over things that have nothing to do with proper doctrine and theology.
Lord God, thank You for the sure proofs that the Bible records concerning the coming of Christ Jesus. He and the works He would do were prophesied in advance. When He came, the gospel writers recorded His deeds for us to know what occurred. And then the epistles explain to us these things so that we can more fully understand them. In this, we truly have a sure word and a written testimony we can trust. Thank You for this wonderful word. Amen.