Acts 3:17

Friday, 24 December 2021

“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. Acts 3:17

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

Peter has scathingly rebuked the “Men of Israel” (verse 3:12), and then he provided the explanation for his rebuke in the previous verse. With that stated, he changes his address, saying, “Yet now, brethren.”

He spoke to them as countrymen in an equal but general manner when he called them, “Men of Israel.” It was clearly a way of identifying himself with them as being of the same people who committed the crime of killing their Messiah without sharing directly in the guilt. Now, his address draws them into a closer bond, as if the past deeds are forgivable, and by which a restored closeness within the nation is readily possible. With this stated, he next says, “I know that you did it in ignorance.”

They are still men of Israel, and they still – both individually and collectively – bear the guilt for what occurred, even if done in ignorance. This is clearly laid out in their own law –

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them, if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering.” Leviticus 4:2, 3 (Individual sin).


“Now if the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally, and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which should not be done, and are guilty; 14 when the sin which they have committed becomes known, then the assembly shall offer a young bull for the sin, and bring it before the tabernacle of meeting.” Leviticus 4:13, 14 (The entire congregation).

Because of their guilt, each person must make the appropriate sacrifice for what he has done. And because the entire nation bears guilt, there must be a national sacrifice for what they have collectively done. But Peter will not direct them to make those sacrifices demanded by the Law of Moses, which are only types and shadows of the coming Messiah. Rather, he will call for them to “repent” and be converted, as will be noted in verse 3:19.

A new order of things has come, and a new means of satisfying God through the atonement process has been realized. The church is only at the very beginning of understanding this. It will take all of the New Testament epistles to fully realize the magnitude of what Christ did through His sacrificial work. For now, Peter simply points out that their guilt exists, even if it was done in ignorance. And this extends beyond the common people who may be standing before him. This is seen in his final words of the verse, “as did also your rulers.”

The rulers were responsible for the killing of Jesus, even if they too did it in ignorance. They bore the guilt of the act. But more, as leaders, their guilt must be admitted before the nation can find its promised redemption. That is seen, again, in the Levitical law –

‘When a ruler has sinned, and done something unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord his God in anything which should not be done, and is guilty, … So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.” Leviticus 4:22 & 4:26

Israel bears guilt in various ways for what they have done. The Law of Moses can no longer purge their guilt. This is clearly laid out in the book of Hebrews, explaining that everything that happened under the law was only anticipatory of the coming of Christ. When Christ came, He fulfilled that law. In His fulfillment of it, it is annulled (Hebrews 7:18), it is obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), and it is set aside (Hebrews 10:9).

The Law of Moses is done. It is nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). In saying the law is nailed to the cross, it means that Christ embodied it. He fulfilled it. And in His death, it died with Him. When He came out of the grave, it was under the establishment of a new and better covenant.

Paul’s words to Timothy clearly understood the guilt he bore, even when his actions were in ignorance, but the forgiveness he had received was absolute when it came through the finished, final, and forever work of Jesus Christ –

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” 1 Timothy 1:12, 13

Life application: The nation of Israel continues to bear the guilt for what it did in rejecting Christ, even two thousand years later. Nothing can atone for their guilt apart from repenting of their actions, calling out to Christ, and being restored through the New Covenant. The Tribulation period that lies ahead will be the seven final years of the Mosaic Law being worked out in order for them to figure this out (Daniel 9:24-27).

The incredible thing to consider isn’t that the nation of Israel hasn’t figured this out, but that innumerable people who should know better – because they have the New Testament right there before them – cannot seem to figure it out.

There is a constant returning to the Law of Moses, in part or in whole, as they try to earn what God has already granted. They try to work through what God has already accomplished. And they will never find rest nor peace in the Lord through doing so.

Grace is grace. It cannot be earned. One must simply trust in what Christ has done, and then live out his life with this continued understanding. Be sure to run from the Hebrew Roots Movement, Seventh Day Adventism, and any other church that reinstates precepts from a fulfilled and now-obsolete law. And stay away from those who say that Jews have either a different gospel (hyperdispensationalism) or can be saved through adherence to the Law of Moses (dual-covenantalism).

There is one gospel, it is the only way to reconciliation with God. What happens in Acts is merely a descriptive account of how the church developed while its theology was in the process of being laid out by the apostles. Their epistles explain how all things find their fulfillment and completion in Christ.

Lord God, thank You that Christ is the fulfillment and the end of the law that stood against us. Yes, praise God for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.