Monday, 20 December 2021
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. Acts 3:13
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Peter now explains the source of the healing power that brought the beggar to full health of his legs. He had just noted that it was not by their own power or godliness that he was made to walk. Rather, his words will point to the power of God in Christ, beginning with, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
By introducing the patriarchs, Peter is clearly identifying the accomplishment of the miracle with the same God who had been faithfully followed by the fathers of the “men of Israel” whom he began to address in the previous verse. There has been an unbroken line of His power being displayed in this line, and Peter acknowledges that it continues at their present time. Having noted these three patriarchs by name, he next says that he is “the God of our fathers.”
The selection of this line was carefully recorded each step of the way. Abraham was called, he was directed by the Lord to follow a certain course of life, he was given promises and the covenant of faith was made with him. He was given the sign of circumcision. He was tested and the surety of the promise was restated because of his faithfulness.
From him, the line was carefully detailed to continue through Isaac, the son of promise. And from Isaac, the line continued through Jacob, who is Israel. The same God who had directed the course of events of their lives, and who had carefully detailed the continued course of events through the specified chosen line, is the same God who “glorified His Servant Jesus.”
By noting the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Peter is carefully ensuring that he is proclaiming the works and power as belonging to that same God. He is not introducing a new god, nor is he introducing an aberrant way of worshipping this same God. Rather, as he continues, he will clearly demonstrate that “His Servant Jesus” is the fulfillment of the Scriptures.
As yet, Peter has not called their God by His name Lord (YHVH). Rather, he has only used the term “God” and affixed His identity to the patriarchs. What will be implied in his continued words is that the Lord their God is, in fact, the Lord Jesus. For now, however, he is acknowledging that Jesus is the One Scripture testifies to.
In this verse, some translations say “Son” or “Child” here instead of “Servant.” The word can be translated either way, but Peter is clearly identifying Christ in His role as the “Servant of the Lord” who was prophesied of in their Scriptures. More specifically, he is surely tying Him to the “Servant” of Isaiah 52/53 –
“Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.” Isaiah 52:13
That this is what is on Peter’s mind is to be inferred beginning with the next words which say, “whom you delivered up and denied.”
“He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Isaiah 53:3
The rejection of the Servant is prophesied in these words. Peter is calling them to mind and telling the people before Him that it is they who fulfilled this prophecy. There is no need to directly cite the words as they would have been familiar to all of the people before him. They would be able to clearly tie the prophecy together with the event, if they were mentally willing to do so. Peter then adds salt into the wound of the event by saying, “in the presence of Pilate.”
Not only did they reject the Servant of the God of their fathers who was glorified by Him, but they had done it in the presence of a Gentile ruler. They called out for a guilty sentence upon the One who was clearly innocent in God’s eyes, but who was also clearly innocent in the eyes of this Gentile placed over them. Peter avows this poignantly by saying, “when he was determined to let Him go.”
The words of Pilate would have rushed back into the mind of any of the people who had been present at the time –
Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.”
5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”
6 Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.”
7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”
8 Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, 9 and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”
11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
12 From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” John 19:4-12
Pilate clearly saw the innocence of the Man, and he attempted to have him released several times. But more, the account shows that Pilate was aware that Jesus was more than just another “Man.” He may not have understood the truth of who Jesus was, but he understood that God’s hand was certainly upon Him and thus it made the contrast to the angry calls of the Jews all the more striking.
This is clearly seen in the structure of Peter’s words. As Vincent’s Word Studies notes –
“He is ἐκείνου [ekeinou], the pronoun of more definite and emphatic reference, the latter, Pilate, ‘in order to make the contrast felt between what Pilate judged and what they did.’ This is further emphasized in the next verse.”
Peter is setting the actions of Israel against the decision of Pilate, bringing the guilt of their conduct squarely back on them. And this is before even acknowledging that it is Christ Jesus who is the One who healed the man. That will not be specifically stated until verse 3:16. Peter is applying lashes upon the people before telling them of the healing balm that can bring restoration to their souls. For now, he is simply acknowledging that they bear guilt for the sin which they committed.
Life application: Peter’s words reveal an effective way of reaching some people with the gospel. Some people already know that they are guilty of sin. They wear it on their shoulders for all the world to see, and they are scared of the day they have to meet their Maker. For these, the simple gospel that tells them Christ died for their sins is all they need to hear. When presented to them, the wonderful words of release flow over them like a flood of cool water while in a dry and barren land.
Others, however, feel just fine with themselves. They may compare themselves to others, as if God grades on a bell curve. “Well, I’m a lot better than most people. God understands my faults. All is good.” They have no idea that “others” are not a valid standard, but rather absolute perfection is.
For such people, they need to be presented with their (many) imperfections in light of the absolute perfection of the Lord. “You have done this in the presence of God, even a criminal can know that. Why can’t you see this?” Eventually, when the sin is presented as an infinite crime against God, the person will then realize how terrible his state before God actually is. From that understanding, a presentation of the gospel will bring peace to the now-troubled soul.
Each person must be evaluated to understand what is going on in his or her mind. Once that is done, the proper approach to evangelizing is then to be pursued. Peter knew the guilt of the people before him, but because a miracle had been done in their presence, they sure thought that they were right with God. “We are Israel, and God is doing great things among us!”
To avoid any such notion that God approved of them because of what had been done, Peter gave them the bad news first. Let us use this tool when necessary.
Lord God, help us to be effective at telling others about Your wonderful workings in Christ on our behalf. Each person is an individual, and so help us to carefully understand what he needs to know in order to be saved. From there, may we then present it in a way that will be effective in his life. To Your glory we pray. Amen.