22] “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 – 23] Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;” (NKJV)
In our last post, we looked at the first part of this chapter and its description of the events of that extraordinary day.
Remember, it was only 50 days since the crucifixion of Christ. Many of the men and women in Peter’s audience, for we need not suppose there were only men, many of them had no doubt witnessed the events surrounding that sad day. Though many of them lived elsewhere, they had traveled to Jerusalem to participate in Passover and the Feast of Weeks, one of the names by which Pentecost was known. Little had they known when they started out that they would see the fulfillment of what those two days foreshadowed.
Peter reminds them of the facts of the Lord’s ministry, v. 22. In the words he used on another special occasion, Jesus “went about doing good,” Acts 10:38.
“He went about doing good.”
I can’t think of a better epitaph.
But he also reminded them of the Lord’s murder, v. 23.
It is here we get into muddy waters, so to speak, not that the Lord died, the Scripture is clear about that, but on the processes or principles that lay behind that death: “Him being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by wicked hands, have crucified and slain.” Or as the KJV put it, “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.”
This tells us that the death of Christ wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a mistake, as some have taught. It wasn’t the result, as one writer put it, of “a hastily called meeting of the Divine council.” How could a professed believer have such a dishonoring view of God?
In one of his writings, Peter put it like this: He [Jesus] indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world…, 1 Peter 1:20. And Revelation 13:8 refers to Him as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
“Wait!’ says someone, “Peter says it was done according to the foreknowledge of God. God foresaw what would happen, just as He chose those whom He foresaw would accept Jesus, 1 Peter 1:2.”
This is a common viewpoint, that God merely reacted to what He foresaw in the actions of men as He looked down from heaven.
Is it Scriptural? Does God really just “react”?
There’s a lot that could be said about this. In fact, we did a post a while back on this subject. For now, let’s just say that Scripture itself uses this imagery of God looking down from heaven. Psalm 14:2 says,
The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
If the “foreknowledge” view were correct, we would expect to read that God does indeed see many “who understand, who seek God.” Is that what the Psalmist describes?
On the contrary. Psalm 14:3 says,
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt:
There is none who does good,
No, not one. (emphasis added)
Paul refers to this in Romans 3 in his teaching of the universal sinfulness, rebellion and condemnation of mankind and concludes, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, v. 23.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t good, humanly speaking, among men. I expect even Hitler did “good” to those whom he loved, in spite of the misery and suffering he caused a lot of other people. It means that there is nothing good in men as far as God is concerned. Isaiah 64:6 puts it like this,
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags:
We all do fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
That phrase, “filthy rags”?
It refers to a cloth used by a woman during her time of the month or used by a leper for his sores. Not a very pretty description.
And that’s “our righteousnesses,” those little acts of goodness we do once in a while. What must our “unrighteousnesses,” our sins be like?
I’m glad God didn’t decide to give us what we deserve, but sent His Son to do what we couldn’t do. No force on earth could have put the Lord Jesus on the Cross if He hadn’t been willing to go. And no force on earth could have kept Him away from it since He was willing.
But Peter doesn’t stop with the counsels and purpose of God. He goes on in v. 23,
“you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.”
The question is often asked, “If God is sovereign and foreordains everything, how can man be responsible for his actions?” And that’s a good question.
The Scripture never answers it. It just says that they’re both true statements. There are many instances of this in Scripture. Perhaps the best known one is found in Genesis 50.
You remember the story. Joseph had been the favorite son of his father Jacob. Moreover, he apparently was a tattle-tale, telling his father of the misdeeds of his eleven brothers. They got back at him by selling him into slavery and, for 13 years, Jacob lamented the death of his son. Fast forward, and Joseph has become second-in-command in Egypt. His brothers needed to go down to Egypt twice to get food, and the second time, Joseph revealed to his brothers that he was their brother. Naturally they were terrified and begged him not to pay them back for what they had done to him. He replied, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive,” vs. 19, 20.
The brothers meant only evil toward their brother and were responsible for what they did. God meant only good. So here, with Peter’s message. The crowd who crucified Jesus meant only evil and were fully responsible for their attitudes and actions. God meant it for good.
Two parallel truths.
God is God.
Men are responsible for their attitudes and actions.