Acts 13 Part 3
27. For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him.
Now Paul declares the word of this salvation. For those who dwell in Jerusalem, even their rulers, because they did not recognize the Lord Jesus as Messiah when He came, nor did they regard the voices of the Prophets which traditionally were read in the synagogues every Sabbath, fulfilled those same Prophets by condemning the Lord Jesus Christ, the One the Prophets spoke about. This story we know well from the four gospels.
It is important that it was the rulers of those who dwelt in Jerusalem, not the common people who dwelt there, who condemned the Lord to death. The word “and” here is kai in Greek, and here indicates apposition. As I have put it, “those who dwell in Jerusalem, even their rulers.” It was only in their representative rulers that the dwellers in Jerusalem did this. Most certainly all who lived there were not present at the Lord’s trial before Pilate!
28. And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death.
This summarizes the Lord’s trial. The rulers in Jerusalem found no cause for death in Him, as can be clearly seen by compiling the records given of His trial in the four gospels. Yet in spite of this, they nevertheless brought him before the Roman governor Pilate and asked that He should be put to death. As we know, this request was reluctantly granted by Pilate, not because he found any cause for death in Him either, but to please the powerful Israelite leaders with whom he was dealing.
29. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.
Paul does not speak directly about what happened next, but rather gently implies it. Perhaps he does not want to come out too strongly against the rulers in Jerusalem before the Israelites in his audience, who certainly had a love for the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. At any rate, in the last verse he spoke of their request that He be put to death, and here he says they fulfilled all that was written concerning Him. These Israelites would have been familiar with the prophecies of the suffering Messiah in passages such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. So Paul tells them that these things were completed even as the Scriptures said they would be.
Now, they took Him down from the tree, he says. He does not mention crucifixion, but this certainly implies it! Then, he tells them, they laid Him in a tomb. He was dead, and there is a finality about death that most of my readers have probably experienced. It would seem from the human standpoint that it was all over at this point, and the Lord’s life and teaching seemed to have come to an end.
30. But God raised Him from the dead.
Yet here God steps in. What a wondrous thing it is when we read, “But God.” God can indeed turn even the most hopeless of situations around, and that is what He did in this case. For this One Who was dead He raised from the dead. And this was not just a pivotal thing in the life of Christ. So many things revolve around this reversal. Up to this point, though God had created a beautiful creation, men had spoiled it and made things worse and worse. The master stroke was when they put the Creator Himself to death. Yet here God stepped in, and this last, ultimate act of rebellion He reversed. Eventually, He will act to reverse every other ungodly thing, until this world is back to the way He always intended it to be. What a glorious truth this is. Praise God! He raised Him from the dead.
31. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people.
The Lord’s resurrection did not take place in secret or with few to witness it, so that it might be something these few imagined, or conspiracy into which they entered. Nor was it testified to by those who did not know the Lord well, and so they might have mistaken Him for someone else. Rather, He was seen for many days by the very ones who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and so who knew Him the best. They are now witnesses to the people in Israel, confirming that He is indeed alive from the dead.
Notice that Paul does not count himself among these witnesses here, for though he saw the risen Lord, he does not qualify as one of this company. He did not come up with the Lord from Galilee to Jerusalem, nor did he even acknowledge the Lord at that time. Paul is indeed a different kind of apostle from those whom we have read about earlier in Acts, and who performed their work largely within the land.
32. And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers.
Paul now declares himself a herald of glad tidings, and these tidings relate to the promise which God had made to their fathers.
33. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm:
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.’
The promise made to the fathers God has fulfilled for them their children. Notice again that Paul is addressing his words to those who could truthfully say that the Israelite fathers are their fathers. Of course, by this they meant ancestors, not what we think of as someone’s literal father.
What is this promise made to the fathers, and how has it been fulfilled to their children? Paul reveals first how it has been fulfilled: in that God has raised up Jesus, the One Paul has already told them is the Savior. A dead Savior would have done Israel no good at all. But a risen Savior, and especially one such as the Lord Jesus Christ, is not only able to save His people, but also to save them to the uttermost! Hebrews 7:25.
Now Paul quotes a verse from the Old Testament, applying this verse to the raising up of the Lord Jesus. This quotation is from Psalm 2:7. This is one of the few places where a chapter is mentioned in quoting Scripture. This is because the Psalms, being separate compositions, were actually divided like this in the Hebrew Scriptures as God inspired them. Most of our other chapter divisions are merely man-made.
If we would look at the psalm in question, we would see that in its context this psalm appears to be speaking to David, and speaking of his being set up as the Prince ruling on earth under the Lord Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God. David is now facing a revolt, and he declares the decree by which God established him on the throne. However, Paul here applies this to Christ, for He too has been set up as the Son or representative of the Lord, but He is set up above all others, for He is God Himself.
Paul is saying here that when God raised up the Lord Jesus, He was begetting Him as His Son. We know that after His resurrection, the Lord ascended to heaven and sat down on the rights of God, having all authority in heaven and in earth given to Him by God. This is how He was begotten as a Son at this point. This has nothing to do with His birth in Bethlehem.
34. And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus:
‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’
Paul now quotes another passage from the Old Testament, this time Isaiah 55:3. Let us examine this passage more fully.
1. “Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
2. Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
3. Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
The sure mercies of David.
4. Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people,
A leader and commander for the people.
The sure mercies of David are there promised to any Israelites who thirsted and chose to come to the waters that the LORD provides. Any who incline their ears and come and hear Him will live, and He will make an olam covenant with them. Olam here means a covenant for the kingdom of God, the time that is called the olam many times in Scripture. This olam covenant is described as the sure mercies of David. We can read of these sure mercies in II Samuel 7:16.
16. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.
David is promised a house and a government that shall be established for the olam. Then again he is promised that his throne shall be established for the olam. That means that David will rise from the dead, and that he will take his throne once again during the great kingdom to come, called the olam. Verse 4 of Isaiah 55 testifies to this, telling us that David is given as a witness to the people, as well as a leader and commander for them. Since David had long been dead when Isaiah wrote, we know that he was referring to David’s reign yet future in this chapter. Thus, David was promised mercy, and that promise was sure. Even when, several years later, he sinned his terrible sin with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite against the Lord, that sure mercy was not taken away from him. He was guaranteed a place in the olam, and he did not lose it.
Now the Lord’s resurrection was in line with this. He was raised from the dead, and will no more return there to see corruption, for His place is as sure, no, more sure than David’s. Yet I believe that David’s sure mercies also come from this resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was not for no reason that God was able to promise David sure mercies no matter what wicked actions he might do in his life after that point. It was because of the death, yes, and of the resurrection of the Lord that those mercies could be made sure. I do not believe that Paul is just speaking of the permanent character of the Lord’s resurrection here. Remember, in verses 32 and 33 he told his audience that Christ’s resurrection fulfilled the promises God made to their fathers. He is talking about the fact that Christ’s resurrection is what allows God to give sure mercies to David, and promise them to any in Israel who will come to Him as well. Christ’s death is what bought the sure mercies of David!
35. Therefore He also says in another Psalm:
‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’
Now Paul quotes another Psalm, this time Psalm 16:10. This Psalm seems to be David speaking and praising the LORD for what He does for him. Yet Paul will show us in the coming verses that this is not, in fact, the case, and that, though it was David’s hand writing the Psalm, that he was speaking prophetically, and that the actual speaker in the Psalm is the Lord Jesus Christ.
36. “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption;
Paul points out that David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep. There is no doubt but that this is a figure of speech for the fact that he died. The word used here is the Greek word koimao, which means an involuntary putting to sleep, such as when one falls asleep “at the wheel,” or when one goes unconscious. As such, this word is often used as a figure for death, which is also generally involuntary. This is in contrast with the Greek word katheudo, which speaks of composing yourself voluntarily for sleep, and thus is generally used of literal sleep, and not as a figure for death.
After he died, Paul reveals, David was buried with his fathers. We can read of this in I Kings 2:10. Paul assures us that David remained dead, and saw corruption. This Psalm, then, was not true of him!
37. but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.
In contrast to this, he places the Lord Jesus Christ. Him God raised from the dead, and He saw no corruption. This could be a reference to the fact that His sinless body did not begin to decay, even though He was dead three days and three nights. Without sin and death working in His body, it remained inviolate, unstained by corruption. Yet ultimately, Paul’s point is that Christ rose from the dead, and saw no corruption. Therefore, Psalm 16 is speaking of Him, not of David. David had spoken prophetically of the One to come Who would be the Savior.
38. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;
Now Paul makes this great declaration to those who are listening to his proclamation, those he calls his brethren, the ancestral Israelites: that through this Man, Jesus Christ, is proclaimed to them the forgiveness of sins. This is the same message that Peter preached to Israel in Jerusalem in Acts 2:38.
38. Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The word “remission” is the same Greek word aphesis as “forgiveness” in Acts 13:38. Through Jesus Christ, then, Peter proclaimed the forgiveness of sins in Jerusalem, just as Paul did in Pisidian Antioch in this passage. This forgiveness is also what Peter declared to the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:31, when he again uses the Greek word aphesis to declare:
31. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
Moreover, this is the same glorious truth that Paul declares to us today in Ephesians 1:7.
7. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
Yes, indeed, we have forgiveness of sins, and that forgiveness is through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ shed on the cross. Praise God for the gospel we believe. Praise God for forgiveness through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
39. and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Some do not seem to even be aware that there were things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. They seem to have the idea that any sin you committed, you could just go to the temple and make an animal sacrifice, and it would be forgiven. This is simply not the way the law worked. Eight of the ten commandments, when broken, brought upon the breaker the punishment of death, according to the law. For these, then, there was no justification in the law of Moses by either sacrifice or offering. David in Psalm 51, his great psalm of confession after his sin with Bathsheba, declares in verses 16-17:
16. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
In these verses, David declares that God desires no sacrifice or burnt offering for what David has done. This is true. The law made no provision for a murder or for an adulterer, as David had become. There was no sacrifice David could bring, no burnt offering that he could use to cleanse his sin. Only God could remove his sin, for no means for removing it was provided in the law of Moses. Yet God did provide a means, and David’s sin was forgiven. Now here in Acts 13, Paul triumphantly declares what that means of forgiveness was. It was the Lord Jesus Christ. His blood is the means for cleansing all things that could not be justified by Moses’ law.
40. Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you:
Now, after this triumphant proclamation, Paul declares to them a warning. They must beware, lest the word of the prophets he is about to quote come upon them.
41. ‘Behold, you despisers,
Marvel and perish!
For I work a work in your days,
A work which you will by no means believe,
Though one were to declare it to you.’”
“By no means” here is the Greek phrase ou me, which is actually the two Greek words for “no,” like our English “no” and “not.” When used together in a double negative like this, the idea in Greek is of the strongest possible no. There is no means by which they would believe this.
The warning Paul quotes to them is from Habakkuk 1:5. This quotation originally had to do with the destruction that the Chaldeans were going to bring upon the kingdom of Judea. It was so terrible that none of the despisers in that day would believe it, even though the prophets declared it to them. We can see this if we look at the original verse and context in Habakkuk 1:5-6.
5. “Look among the nations and watch—
Be utterly astounded!
For I will work a work in your days
Which you would not believe, though it were told you.
6. For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans,
A bitter and hasty nation
Which marches through the breadth of the earth,
To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.”
Now Paul takes this verse, originally spoken of the Israelites who were about to be destroyed by the Chaldeans, and applies it to the people who were hearing him. They were among the nations. Now, they had been told of a truly marvelous work that God was doing. If they would believe God’s message, He would make them a part of this work. If, however, they despised the message as it was declared to them, they would perish. Thus they faced the same situation as the despisers of Habakkuk’s day. They were being given an amazing, almost unbelievable message. Yet it was their job to believe it, or else they would perish. That was the only choice they were given. That was Paul’s warning to them, and thus he ends his proclamation.