In considering Peter’s message to his audience, one can find not only an explanation of the career of Christ—this is its basic thrust—but one can also find the underlying principles of that career which can be applied to Christian experience.
From the Bad Part of Town
2:22. Jesus of Nazareth. This is the first recorded public mention of His name since His ascension, yet He is mentioned by a designation (of Nazareth) which reminded men of His humble, and even despised, earthly connections (John 1:46; John 7:52). This is how the Spirit sees fit to introduce Him to this crowd, and Christians have ever gloried in the fact that He was “despised and rejected of men.” The glories of an ascended Savior spring directly from His humiliation (Philippians 2). Later, Christians were privileged to share the onus of Nazareth with their Lord (Acts 24:5; cf. Heb 13:13).
In contrast to men’s thoughts of Him were God’s own thoughts. He is “a Man attested by God.” The verb for attested, apodeiknumi, is found frequently in papyri to indicate proclaiming of an appointment to public office. Man’s view of us matters little; it is God’s view that counts. It is wonderful to have God’s public approval. This approval was shown in Christ by the working of His power, “by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst.” Likewise, in the believer His approval should be indicated by the working of His power because God has given us a spirit of power (2 Tim 1:7; cf. also John 14:12-14; John 7:38).
2:23. A life publicly approved by God ends in deepest tragedy at the hands of sinners. Yet it was part of God’s determinate “purpose and foreknowledge.” Even a Christian life that has God’s approval and that has evidenced the working of His power, may still be visited by tragedy as a part of God’s eternal plan and for our eternal good.
The tragedy of the cross is now seen by Peter in its true light—not, as it had seemed at the time, an unspeakable calamity—but part of God’s counsel, inscrutable at the time to them, yet unutterably wise. That is how the misfortunes of the obedient disciple of this Master should be viewed.
2:24. Whom men despised, God approved. Whom men slew, God raised. The cross was but the precursor of Christ’s greatest triumph—His resurrection. So the Christian’s tragedy is but an anteroom to triumph (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Rom 8:28, 37).
“It was not possible that He should be held by it.” He is the true God; the grave could not hold Him. He is Everlasting Life; death could not keep Him. Sin’s wages had been paid on the cross; there was nothing more to be exacted. Anything but resurrection was an impossibility. So defeat for the obedient Christian is utterly impossible (Rom 8:38-39) whatever tragedy occurs.
“The pains of death” (tas ōdinas) is an expression used for the pains of childbirth. Our Lord’s death was not mere death, but was fruitful, productive, and lifegiving death (cf. John 12:24). Through His birth pains we have been born anew and so ultimately will all creation (cf. Matt 19:28).
What David Saw of Christ’s Inner Life
2:25. Perhaps the Psalm quoted here was part of our Lord’s exposition the evening of His resurrection (cf. Luke 24:44-45). If not, it must surely have come up during the 40 days post-resurrection period. No doubt Peter’s explanation that it could not refer to David (vv 29-31) traces to Christ’s own exposition.
“I foresaw” (cf. Ps 16:8, “I have set”). To see the Lord “before my face” is to set his attention on Him. As a man, Jesus never lost sight of God in all He did and said. To foresee someone before one’s face always requires going where that person goes (i.e., it implies following). We are called to a life of keeping our Lord ever before us and following wherever He leads. Too often other things—sin, happiness, home, business—are ever before us. We must not put God to one side, ignore or forget Him, but foresee Him always before our face. The proper place for Satan is behind our back (i.e., ignored; cf. Matt 16:23; Mark 8:33; Luke 4:8), but the proper place for God is before our face.
“For He is at my right hand.” Only God can be in two places at once—before our face and at our side. As the Perfect Man, Jesus was conscious of God’s sustaining help at His right hand. As He goes to the cross He keeps God ever before His face (“thy will be done”) and we admire His calm courage through it. He was not moved, for God was beside Him. The God who is before our face to lead us in the right path, is at our right hand to be our Companion and Sustainer in that path (cf. Heb 13:5-6).
Note the word for in “For He is at my right hand.” Man can only assuredly keep God before him on the basis of the fact that God is beside him to sustain him in the path God is leading him. Thus Christ was bold in setting God before His face for He knew God was at His right hand. If God is not before our face, and other things are, it may be necessary that we be moved. It is only as God is set before our face that we may be assured that He who is beside us will not suffer us to be moved.
2:26-31. The result of having the eyes on God and a sense of His sustaining presence is joy of heart and praise of lips. These words of joy were spoken by Christ as He was conscious of His approaching death (v 27) and reveal the triumph of faith’s joy over even the darkest of circumstances. As for the Master, so it should and can be for the disciple (cf. John 16:33; Rom 5:3-5; 1 Thess 1:6).
But Christian experience as set forth in verses 25-26a (for the Christian life is nothing more nor less than the life of Christ) is crowned by hope: “moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.” The reference is to the time when His body will be laid in the tomb—the most hopeless moment in the world’s eyes—yet at such a moment there is hope. For His soul there was hope—“You wilt not leave my soul in Hades”; for His body there was hope—“Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” Again, for the body—“You have made known to me the ways of life”; and for the soul—“You will make me full of joy in Your presence.” Christianity gives hope in the hopeless moments of life.
Note that our Lord’s hope reached beyond the grave to resurrection life and the presence of His Father (v 28). So true Christian hope centers upon life beyond death and upon that time when we will be made full of joy with our Savior’s countenance. Our Lord could not center His hope in this world, for He came to die. The shadow of the cross was ever across His path. “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). So true Christian experience may mean (should mean) a termination of fixing our hopes in this life and learning to place them, as did our Lord, in the life to come.
The Power of Peter’s Sermon
If results are any indication (2:41), the greatest sermon of the Church Age may have been the first. What are the secrets of its power?
1. The fullness of the Spirit (2:4)
2. Content full of the Word. About 21 of 51 lines are direct quotations of Scripture (in the Majority Text). No doubt, Peter quotes from memory, a testimony to his knowledge of the Word.
It is not education or oratorical powers, but these two things that have always made a great sermon.
The first sermon of the Christian era presents three facts which are more crucial in history than any events that have transpired since then. It is appropriate that this first message should strike an age-long keynote. The facts and supporting Scriptures are:
1. The Spirit Has Come (vv 14-21; cf. Joel
2. Christ Has Risen (vv 22-32; cf. Ps 16:8-11).
3. Christ Is Exalted (vv 33-36; cf. Ps 110:1).
2:32. Though he could have spoken much of those experiences (especially the 40 days and the ascension, Acts 1:3, 9) which qualified him as a witness, his personal testimony is held to a bare minimum (cf. v 32 almost alone), while the Scriptures are appealed to as the authoritative basis for what is said. No religious fact can become an object of faith, however well attested, apart from the witness of the Word of God.
The importance of these three facts cannot be overstated:
1. The Spirit’s presence alone accounts for the existence of the Church and the maintenance of light in a world otherwise utterly dark and corrupting.
2. The resurrection of Christ is alone the sure basis of true hope for every individual soul (1 Cor 15:17).
3. The exaltation of Christ is a sure sign of the ultimate fulfillment of God’s purpose and the ultimate subjection of every enemy (cf. vv 34-35 and 1 Cor 15:25-28).
A more magnificent array of facts could hardly be dealt with. This is truly an unequalled commencement for Christian preaching.
Moreover, the three facts are inter-related. Peter is seeking to explain to the multitude the significance of that day’s events. Basically it is (1) the Spirit’s coming, but this cannot be understood apart from (2) the resurrection of Christ. But even the resurrection of Christ by itself does not fully explain the Spirit’s presence, which can only be really appreciated by knowing that (3) Christ has been exalted. (Thus v 33 links back to vv 14-16.) Only a glorified Christ could have provided the Holy Spirit (John 7:39; 16:7). Only One in the position of honor at God’s right hand could have made so great a request (note v 33). Thus how awesome is the gift of the Spirit, the possession of every child of God if only secured through One so exalted!
The Spirit Points to Christ
2:33-35. The Spirit Who speaks through Peter loves to disappear behind the Person of Christ (cf. John 16:13-15). Here in the Spirit’s first public witness after His advent, He disappears from view starting at verse 22, and thereafter mentions Himself but once (v 33). Likewise, the human witness should seek to hide behind the Person of the Lord Jesus (cf. John the Baptist, John 1). Wherever the Holy Spirit is made more of than a Risen and Glorified Christ, this is a mark that the Spirit is not working as He would like to. Notice the wide range of the Spirit’s testimony to the Lord Jesus:
• His life (v 22)
• His death (v 23)
• His place in God’s eternal counsels (v 23)
• His resurrection (v 24)
• His single-heartedness for God (v 25)
• His inner joy (v 26)
• His hope in God (vv 26-28)
• His place in prophecy (v 30-31)
• His exaltation (v 33)
• His provision for His own (v 33)
• His coming triumph over enemies (vv 34-35)
• His divine titles (v 36)
It is as though, on the Holy Spirit’s first opportunity to speak of Jesus, He cannot wait to tell about all these things, but quickly ranges over those areas which subsequently He will delight to unfold in full.
Human witnesses need the eagerness and readiness of the Spirit so they pour forth their thoughts of Him (Ps 45:1ff). Believers should overflow with Christ.
Verse 33 reaches a climax in the Spirit’s presentation of Christ. The “therefore” reaches back to all the preceding truths. Because of His approved life (v 22), His death within the counsels of God (v 23), His resurrection (v 24), His consecration (v 25), His hope in God (vv 26-28), and His prophesied possession of the Davidic throne (v 30), God has exalted Him. Such a One must be exalted. He must reign till all His enemies are under His feet (1 Cor 15:25).
Note in v 33 that Christ’s exaltation is ascribed to God1 and the promise of the Spirit is from the Father. The Spirit is pre-eminently sent from the Father (cf. John 14:16; John 14:26; John 15:26; Acts 1:4). The Spirit testifies concerning the Son, making Him real to us, and leading us through Him to an enjoyment of the Father.
2:36. Jesus is presented as “both Lord and Christ” (not Christ and Lord). The former title speaks of authority, the latter of Saviorhood (John 4:42). The effectiveness of His Saviorhood in this age is dependent upon His authority (Matt 28:18-20; cf. Mark 16:19-20).
We preach Him as Savior, trusting in the power of His exalted Lordship. His exaltation is both the proof that the titles are properly His, and the state by which both titles can be realized to the full.
Despite being Lord, He was crucified through weakness. But now His enemies can never more touch Him, except to become the footstool for His feet.
When Christ was on earth, His Saviorhood was known only within the limited sphere of Israel. But now it is known and received worldwide (Isa 49:6-9).
Jesus is both Lord and Christ. The two titles are clearly distinct. Saving faith is directed not at His Lordship, but at His Christship (cf. 1 John 5:1; John 20:31).
1. Editor’s note: God (Theos) most likely refers to the Father in Acts 2:33 since it is part of the phrase, “the right hand of God,” which is only used of the Father in its only three other uses in Luke-Acts (Luke 22:69; Acts 7:55-56). Clearly the Father is in view in the use of this expression as well in Mark 16:19; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Heb 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet 3:22; The point Hodges appears to be making is that Luke is not merely varying his terminology from God to the Father for stylistic reasons. Hodges takes the shift as indicating that Luke is emphasizing that the Father sends the Spirit.