Tom: In this, our Understanding of the Scriptures segment, we are in the Book of Acts:5:29: “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Dave: Now they are answering in response to the threats of the rabbis who say, “We don’t want you to do this anymore. Don’t go out preaching about this man, you’re going to bring his blood down upon us.”
Tom: And Peter speaks to them directly, Dave. This is no seeker-friendly message here. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Let me just go back to verse 30, “hanged on a tree.” Sometimes we were talking earlier about descriptive language, and this is slightly descriptive, isn’t it? A tree, just giving the idea—well, maybe not.
Dave: You get the idea somebody was hanged by his neck maybe, I don’t know. They knew what he was saying. He said, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me.” They knew that being lifted up on the tree—of course it’s cut out from a tree—it was a cross, they understood that, but if you tried to visualize that you would get the wrong impression.
Dave: It’s interesting, Tom. Jesus, on the one hand, said, “No man takes my life from me, I lay it down of myself.” And when He had finished paying the penalty for our sins, suffering the blow of God upon sin, then He said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my Spirit.” He dismissed His Spirit, gave up the ghost, it says, but here it says that they killed Him. Now, the critics would say, “Oh, you’ve got a contradiction in the Bible.” No, there’s no contradiction. They intended to kill Him, and He died from the wounds, you know, from the crucifixion, and so forth, but He died prematurely. He hadn’t lost enough blood from the scourging. He wasn’t so weak—He was a perfect physical specimen without sin, His body was in perfect shape. So, although they intended to kill Him and He did, you could say, He died from crucifixion, yet they didn’t take His life, they couldn’t do it—“No man takes my life from me, I lay it down of myself.” So, He presented Himself an offering without spot. He offered Himself without spot to God as a sacrifice for our sins.
Tom: Dave, you said something earlier that has stuck with me. I want to go back to “hanged on a tree.” You said if somebody was using their imagination they would get the wrong idea here. So, how do I know what “hanged on a tree” means? I’d have to read other parts of Scripture. In other words, the context, the counsel of God in other places tells me specifically, directly, even to the point of objectively, what took place. So, this is really a good example of what we’re talking about. If you let your imagination go, with regard to descriptive kinds of things, you’re going to get lost, you’re going to be far away from what the Scripture is actually saying, what it’s teaching.
Dave: For that verse, in particular, for sure. Verse 31: “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Israel has condemned Him. They’ve cried, “Away with Him,” and yet He died for them. It was my sins that nailed Him there, and yet He died for me. If He hadn’t died for me I wouldn’t be saved. He said of those who are mocking Him and who had scourged Him, I’m sure, referring to the soldiers, as well, who had nailed Him there: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Well, in order for them to be forgiven, He had to bear their sins, He had to bear our sins, and it was not possible that God could forgive sins without Christ paying the full penalty. So now, through what He has done at His resurrection, He has been exalted to the Father’s right hand. Prince? Well, He is going to take over this world. Savior? Yes! “Unto us is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” But He couldn’t become the Savior until He died for our sins. And then, in fact, was resurrected—a dead Savior wouldn’t save anyone.
So, Peter is testifying again to the resurrection, and they don’t like that. I often say it like this, Tom: You know, Jesus didn’t say, “I want you to first of all to run off to Siberia, or get down to the Southern tip of Africa—get as far away as you can from here, because you’re going to tell people I rose from the dead. We don’t want them to be able to check up on it.”
No, Jesus said, “You begin at Jerusalem.” So, Peter is challenging these men. They know He rose from the dead The Roman guards came and told them, and they paid them a bribe in order to keep quiet or to spread this false story that “The disciples came and stole His body while we were asleep.” Well, where did they hide the body? Nobody could produce this body. If the Romans could have produced it, they would have done so. If the rabbis could have produced it they would have done so, because the resurrection is the heart of Christianity, and this gospel is being preached that Jesus is alive—He rose from the dead. It’s condemning these men, and Peter lays it on them again.
Tom: Verse 32: “And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him.”
Dave: We’re His witnesses. Tom, we’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll mention it a hundred times: the disciples were unusual witnesses. They didn’t just die out of love and loyalty to Christ. They died testifying to facts. They said, “He did rise from the dead, we have seen Him. He did walk on water; He did feed five thousand,” whatever. Everything that the gospels say they testified to under threat of death, and not one of them said, “Don’t kill me, you know, I’ll tell you the truth! We stole His body. We hid it in Peter’s basement,” whatever it is. They all went to their deaths, horrible deaths. Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy to be crucified as the Lord was—they all went to their deaths testifying to these facts.
So, what are you going to do to these guys? Here they are—why is it that they are doing this? Earlier it says: “They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” These were simple fishermen. In fact, when He was taken, when they took Him in the Garden, and they knew this, the rabbis knew this, these guys are cowards—they all took flight, you know, ran as fast as they could to get out of there to save their own skins. Suddenly, here they are, we lock them up in prison and they come right back, we beat them and they come right back—something has happened to them. What happened to them? Jesus rose from the dead, they know He is alive, and He is living in them, in fact. He is empowering them; the Holy Spirit is empowering them. You cannot escape it, and what are the rabbis going to do? Well, they are furious They are going to put Peter in prison again, an angel will take him out, they are going to kill James—Herod will, and so forth. They are going to fight against them. A persecution will arise. Saul of Tarsus, who eventually became Paul, is going to have them stoned, you know, imprisoned, arrested, he’s out to destroy the church—what are you going to do? And it was Tertullian who said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” and that has been proven in many places. So Tom, this is a powerful, powerful testimony to the facts.
Tom: And the result: verse 33, Dave: “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.” This was not some beating around the bush, or some kind of seeker-friendly deal. Peter laid it out in truth. It’s critical.