Acts 2:24-36, “…God Disposes.”

24] “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.  25] For David says concerning Him:

‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
26] Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
27] For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
28] You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’

29] “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  30] Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God has sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31] he, foreseeing this, spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.  32] This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.  33] Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

34] “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

‘The LORD said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35] Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ “

36] “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  (NKJV)

One of the Scriptures for our last post was Acts 2:23, where Peter has accused his audience that they “by lawless hands, [had] crucified, and put to death” the Lord Jesus, even though it had been evident that His was no ordinary life.

Perhaps the religious leaders who were behind the crucifixion of our Lord rubbed their hands in glee at the idea that finally they were rid of this One who had been a thorn in their sides for three or more years.  Little did they know!  John 11:48 reveals some of their reasoning; they were concerned for their own prestige and power in the nation.  The “removal” of Jesus of Nazareth was considered necessary for the preservation of these things.  And for a few days, it seemed they were right.

However, God’s purpose concerning Christ is an eternal purpose, Ephesians 1:4; 2:7; 3:11, spanning from eternity past, if we can put it like this, into eternity future.  See also Ephesians 2:7.  The events of a few days, months, or even years, are just threads in the eternal tapestry God is weaving.

In thinking of the death of Christ, Peter boldly proclaimed, “It was not possible that He should be held by it, v. 24.  As proof, in vs. 25-28 he quotes Psalm 16:8-11, speaking in those verses of being in the Lord’s presence in heaven, v. 25, then that “his” soul would not be left in Hades, nor would “his” body see corruption, vs. 26, 27.

Just in passing, there are some who knock on your door who claim that “Hades” is merely the the physical grave.  This really isn’t the place to get into that, except to say this.  In Luke 12:4, 5, our Lord said, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear:  Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him.”  It’s obvious from these verses that more than simple burying in the ground is in view.

Then, lest it should be thought that David was speaking merely of himself, Peter continues that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day, v. 29.  Obviously, his body had seen corruption.  In Psalm 16, Peter says, David wasn’t referring to his own body, but to the body of “the Christ,” the Messiah, who would indeed die and be buried, but not be there long enough for His body to begin to decay.  Hence, the importance of “three days and three nights” in our Lord’s death and burial.  Jewish tradition believed that the body didn’t begin to decay until the fourth day.  So Psalm 16 refers to our Lord, whose soul was not left in Hades, not did his flesh see corruption,  v, 31.

In addition, God had made some promises to David.  We read of these in 2 Samuel, where God said to David,

“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever….And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you.  Your throne shall be established forever,”  2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 17, emphasis added.

While it could be said that some of this refers to Solomon – who did indeed build a “house” for God’s name – David himself seems to have recognized something more was involved.  In v. 19, in praying to and thanking God for this overwhelming revelation, David said, “…and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come.”  

There’s some discussion about the phrase, “according to the flesh,” in Acts 2:30, but I don’t think it makes any difference.  According to Peter, David knew that the Messiah, a physical descendant of his – “the fruit of his body” – would one day sit on his throne.

Having been raise from the dead, Jesus ascended and, Peter says, “being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” v. 33.

Thus, the apostles weren’t drunk; they had been recipients of the promise made to them by the Lord Jesus even before He was crucified, John 14: 16-18, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”   This last He did in the person and power of the Holy Spirit.

But Peter isn’t quite finished.  As for the Lord Himself, He has been seated at the Father’s right hand, v. 34, “waiting expectantly” for the Father to put down His enemies, those, for example, who cried out for His crucifixion, whose spiritual descendants we see today all around us who demand the removal of any vestige of reference to Biblical truth.  Those who heard Peter were reminded that even though they had crucified the Lord Jesus, God had made Him “both Lord and Christ.”  One day, when He returns to this sin-ruined world, that will become obvious.

God is faithful to His promise.

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Acts 2:22-23, “Man Proposes…”

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.

March Memories: In The Flesh.

[We continue in “March Memories” with another post on the person of the Lord Jesus, who was and is so much more than we really have any idea about.]

The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us….  John 1:14.

See also Philippians 2:5-11.

I suppose this is a continuation of “The Third Genealogy,” where we focused on the deity of Jesus.  He was truly God.  If He isn’t, then there is no hope of salvation at all.  But, as John also emphasized, He was also truly human, with a real body.

In the first place, the body of our Lord was indeed a real body.  Some have supposed that He was merely an apparition or a phantom, only appearing to have a body.  But His body was as real as yours or mine.  Though He was truly God, He was also truly human.  His body developed in Mary’s womb just like any other baby.  His birth was like any other.

Really, it’s the “virgin conception” that made Him special, though He was born of a virgin.  He grew and developed just like your children or mine, Luke 2:52.  I’ve often wondered if He “spoiled” His parents for their other children.  Yes, I know there’s a huge discussion about this, which I won’t get into here, with a large percentage of professing Christendom believing in Mary’s perpetual virginity.  It’s enough for me that Matthew 1:25 clearly says that Joseph and Mary enjoyed normal marital intimacy after the birth of Jesus.  And Jesus being called Mary’s “firstborn” is meaningless if He were her “only born.”

Second, it was a human body.  Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, and that “flesh” was truly human.  There is also a discussion over whether or not Jesus could have sinned.  I’ll only say that I don’t think it was possible for Him to sin – He is holy, harmless, and undefiled, Hebrews 7:26.  As I’ve said elsewhere, Satan had no “hook” in Him to get Him to sin.  Sin is not essential to being human. Adam and Eve were perfectly and completely human as they came from the hand of their Creator.  Sin may have “entered” the human race, but it isn’t essential to us, and one day will be gone from those who have been saved.

Third, it was a “prepared” body, Hebrews 10:5.  The conception and birth of Jesus wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing; it was carefully planned and prepared for in eternity past, 1 Peter 1:20.  In Matthew 1:22, we read that all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet….  The immediate context refers to the virgin birth, but the virgin herself didn’t just appear out of thin air.  I think it can be said without exaggeration that “all this” includes everything from the very creation of Adam himself.  After all, the human DNA for the Lord’s body would have to have been present in Adam and carefully and providentially safeguarded through all the generations from Adam to Jesus.  Wasn’t the seed of the woman promised from the very beginning?  If not in Adam, then when was it introduced into Mary’s ancestry?

Fourth, it was a sacrificial body.  Jesus came into this world to be an offering for sin, a sacrifice for sinners.  His body was carefully prepared to be the sacrifice which would take away the sin of the world, that is, of the human race considered as a whole.  The only ones individually who can say their sins are paid for are those who have believed on Him for salvation. Unbelievers are still subject to God’s wrath, John 3:17, 18, and will still pay for their own sins, though that debt will never be paid.

Finally, it is a resurrected body.  Jesus truly died; He truly rose again from the dead.  Some have questioned this with the idea that a resurrection would somehow have cancelled out his payment for sin.  But the resurrection is the receipt, if you will, for that payment.  Without the resurrection, we have no way of knowing if His death was any more effective in that regard than the death of the others who died with Him that day.  Furthermore, read Paul’s defense of the physical resurrection of the Lord in 1 Corinthians 15.  If there is no resurrection from the dead, then there is no salvation from sin and, as Paul put it, if there is no salvation, then Christians are to be pitied more than any other humans.
_______________

(Originally published March 17, 2013.)  edited and new material.

The Foreknowledge of God

…elect according to the foreknowledge of God…, 1 Peter 1:1 (NKJV).

Sooner or later, everyone who reads more than just an occasional verse in or devotional from the Bible comes across verses like 1 Peter 1:21.  Often, some older Christian or perhaps a book or commentary will explain it in this way:  this simply means that God looked down through the corridors of time and “chose” those whom He foresaw would choose Him.

Several things might be said about this view of God’s choice, which isn’t really “His” choice at all.

1.  “Foreknowledge” is not just “foresight,” any more than sight and knowledge are the same.  God “knows” all things intuitively – He is God.  That is, He doesn’t learn by observation or experience, like we do.  And He knows everything immediately – that is, He doesn’t have to search His memory for some fact or thought.  He knows everything all the time.  And when the Bible says that God “knows” someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that He is simply “aware” of them.  For example, in Matthew 7:23, where our Lord declares to some astonished lost people who claimed to know Him that He never knew them,  He’s not saying that He didn’t know “about” them.

In Amos 3:2, where God said to Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, He wasn’t pleading ignorance of all the other nations.  A parallel passage in Deuteronomy makes this plain: “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself; a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth,” Deuteronomy 7:6.

The Psalmist understood this when he wrote in Psalm 44:3 about Israel’s possession of the promised land: for they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, neither did their right hand save them; but it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance, because You favored them.

This is in contrast to Joshua 11:20 (KJV) where it is said that the nations in the land received no favor.

Furthermore, the Lord made it plain that there was nothing “foreseen” in Israel that was the basis of His choice of them over other nations, “It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you…,” Deuteronomy 9:5.  Indeed, Moses continued, “Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people,” Deuteronomy 9:6.  Then, in v. 7, he reminds them of their continued rebellion against the LORD from the moment they left Egypt until then.

In fact, there is never any indication anywhere in the Old Testament, apart from the prophesied blessings of the New Covenant foretold by Jeremiah and Ezekiel, that Israel ever was or ever would be the righteous people they were supposed to be.  Except for a relatively few individuals, there would be nothing but rebellion and stubbornness in the nation as a whole throughout their whole history.

In truth, Israel was no better than the nations which she dispossessed.  She quickly fell into the same sins they had been guilty of and eventually suffered the same judgments as they did.  Only because of God’s choice of them has Israel as a nation not been wiped off the face of the earth.  There’s a lot that the Bible says about Israel and this present time, to say nothing of her future, but those are perhaps subjects for another time.

2.  In the Bible, God’s purpose and His foreknowledge are sometimes mentioned together and when they are, His purpose is mentioned first.  On the Day of Pentecost, Peter declared that the Lord Jesus “…was delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God,” Acts 2:23.

Surely, SURELY, no one would be so foolish as to conclude that Christ’s death on the Cross was included in God’s purpose only because God “foresaw” that it would happen! Acts 4:28 certainly indicates otherwise, “…to do whatever YOUR HAND and YOUR PURPOSE determined before to be done [emphasis added].

Romans 8:29, which speaks of those whom God foreknewfollows v. 28, which speaks of those same people as being the called according to His purpose.

We see from these verses that God’s “foreknowledge” is based on His purpose, and not the other way around, and also not on the “foreseen” actions of sinful men and women, which leads to our next thoughts.

3.  The Bible itself uses the figure of God “looking down from heaven.”  In Psalm 14:2, we read, The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, TO SEE IF THERE ARE ANY WHO UNDERSTAND, WHO SEEK GOD [emphasis added].  If the ordinary understanding of “foreknowledge” were true, then surely we would read that God does indeed find “some” who “understand” and who “seek” Him.  Is that what we read?  Quite the contrary: They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one, Psalm 14:3.  These thoughts are repeated in Psalm 53:2, 3, and Paul quotes them in Romans 3:11.

But there is more.

4.  In Matthew 11:20-21, we read of Jesus:  Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His might works had been done, because they did not repent:  “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long again sackcloth and ashes.  Then He says the same thing about Capernaum, contrasting their rejection of Him with what would have been reception in Sodom had His works been done there.

As difficult as these verses are to understand and receive, being so opposite of what is taught and believed today, these are the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, not some narrow-minded “hyper-Calvinist” or some wicked theologian trying to impose his views on Scripture.  This is the Lord Jesus Himself, teaching that there were some who would have repented if they had been given the opportunity, but they were never given the opportunity!  Contrary to modern belief, they were not chosen based on their “foreseen faith.”  They were not chosen at all.  They were left to suffer the consequences of their sin.

If you’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, don’t ever think it’s because of something God “foresaw” that you would do.  It’s His grace, not our “willingness,” that saves us.  One of the old Puritans said that anything outside of hell was more than we deserve.  But to be brought into the fold of His people and to share in the showers of blessing He lavishly gives them….

In The Flesh

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John 1:14.  See also Philippians 2:5-11.

I suppose this is really a continuation of my post “The Third Genealogy,” where I focused on the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I’ll not repeat what I said there, but encourage you to read it, especially if you haven’t read it before.

In the first place, the body of our Lord was a real body.  There have been some who have supposed that He was merely a phantom or apparition, that His body wasn’t real.  But it was as real as yours or mine.  Though He was truly God, He was also truly human.  His body developed in Mary’s womb just like any other.  His birth was like any other.

Really, it’s the virgin “conception,” not the virgin birth, though He was born of a virgin.  He grew and developed as a child, like your children or mine grew and developed, Luke 2:52.  I’ve often wondered if He “spoiled” His parents for their other children.  Yes, I know there’s a huge discussion about this, which I won’t get into here, with a large percentage of professing Christendom believing in Mary’s perpetual virginity.  It’s enough for me that Matthew 1:25 indicates that Joseph and Mary enjoyed normal marital intimacy after the birth of Jesus.  And, Jesus being called Mary’s “firstborn” is meaningless if He were her “only-born”.

Second, it was a human body.  Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, and that “flesh” was truly human.  There is also a discussion over whether or not Jesus could have sinned.  I’ll only say that I don’t think it was possible for Him to sin – He is “holy, harmless and undefiled,” Hebrews 7:26.  As I’ve said somewhere else, Satan had no “hook” in Him to get Him to sin. Sin is not an essential element of being human.  Adam and Eve were perfectly human as they came from the hand of God, before they disobeyed Him and fell from their innocence and sinlessness.

Third, it was a “prepared” body, Hebrews 10:5.  The conception and birth of Jesus wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment happening; it was carefully planned, even in eternity past, 1 Peter 1:20, and prepared for.  In Matthew 1:22, we read that “all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet….”  The immediate context refers to the virgin birth of Jesus, but the virgin herself didn’t just appear out of thin air.  I think it can be said without exaggeration that “all this” includes everything from the very creation of Adam himself.  After all, the human DNA for the Lord’s body was present in Adam, and carefully and providentially shepherded through all the generations from Adam to Jesus.  If not, when was it introduced into Mary’s ancestry?

Fourth, it was a sacrificial body, that is, Jesus came into this world to be an offering for sin, a sacrifice for sinners.  His body was carefully prepared to be the sacrifice which would pay for the “sins of the world,” that is, of the human race considered as a whole. Individually, the only ones who can say that their sins are paid for are those who have believed on Him for salvation.  Unbelievers are still subject to God’s wrath, John 3:17, 18.

Finally, it is a resurrected body.  Jesus truly died physically; He truly rose physically.  Some have questioned this on the idea that this would somehow have cancelled out His payment for sin.  But the resurrection is the receipt, if you will, for that payment.  Without it, we have no way of knowing if His death was any more effective in that regard than the death of the other two who died with Him on that fateful day.  Furthermore, read Paul’s defense of the Lord’s physical resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15.  Without that resurrection, there is no salvation from sin and, as Paul put it, if there is no salvation, Christians are to be pitied above all human beings.