Reading Acts Together #7: Acts 3:11-26

As a result of the lame man being healed, Peter is given an opportunity to preach.

What is interesting in this message, other than what we saw last time, is the reliance on the OT. We mentioned earlier that when the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42) that one distinctive of their teaching was their reliance on the Jewish Scriptures.

Now and again people will try and argue that Christianity was based on the mystery cults of the Roman era, or some Egyptian story about Osiris and Horus. They make fanciful speculations with very sketchy evidence, all the while unable to prove the direct link between the apostles and these myths, and all the while ignoring this one insurmountable fact: Christianity didn’t come from nowhere – it sprang up as the fulfilment of the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament. The message of Christianity is fundamentally Jewish in origin, and this sermon helps us see this.

Peter twice states that all the prophets foretold the message of the Messiah (a future Jewish conquering king anticipated in the OT). In v18 he says, ‘But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer.’ And again even more explicitly in v24, ‘Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days’.[1] Peter himself was taught this by the resurrected Jesus, who states in Luke 24:44, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’.

The OT points to Jesus! That is it’s ultimate purpose.

I know many find aspects of the OT difficult and intimidating. People struggle with the laws and the genealogies and the visions and the violence. But once you see that they are all pointing to the good news of Jesus, then you begin to understand how they work. It does require discipline and understanding – you need to understand the unfolding story of the bible with all its themes and motifs; but when you do, you will not only read the OT in a better light, you will see the NT in a new light, gloriously painted in multi-colour from the different palettes of the OT.

This is how Peter does it:

First in v13 he states that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has glorified Jesus. These were the great forefathers of the Jewish faith who were promised land, blessing and great renown as a great nation with a great name (e.g. Genesis 12:1-3). And Peter says the God who blessed these men and made great promises to them, is the same God who is working through Jesus (v13).

Peter comes back to Abraham in v25 and quotes Genesis 22:18; 26:4 (building on Genesis 12:3), ‘through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed’. The word offspring here has a double meaning – it can mean your physical offspring (plural), but is actually written in the singular as ‘seed’. And Peter connects it to Jesus in v25-26: People will be blessed through Abraham’s seed (singular), the servant-king Jesus.

The blessing here is spiritual restoration with God through Jesus that ultimately will end in a new promised land when Jesus returns. The promises of God given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.

Speaking of servants, Peter is likely making a reference to the suffering servant of Isaiah when he mentions ‘Righteous One’ in v14, and ‘servant’ in v13 and v26, which links us to Isaiah 52:13-53:12, and perhaps 53:11 in particular when Isaiah talks about the ‘righteous servant’; or it might be an allusion to the righteous king of Zechariah 9:9.[2] Either way, we know that the early church thought Isaiah pointed to Jesus because Philip will later show the Ethiopian eunuch this in Acts 8:26-35.

What is important is Peter using Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the basis for his message, and then directly Moses, to show the OT points to Jesus too. He’s trying to convince his fellow Jews that Christianity flows from the truths of the Hebrew Bible. It is the conclusion to their own story – the one they’ve been waiting for.

In v22-23 Peter quotes aspects of Deuteronomy 18:15; 18; 19 to show ‘the prophet like’ Moses that would one day come is Jesus. This text was a big deal for the Jews at the time and is something John picks up in his gospel.[3] We are to see Jesus as the greater prophet, the greater Moses, who came and spoke to his people with great authority on a mountain (Matthew 5:1); but unlike Moses, he can lead his people in to a promised land full of eternal blessing because he remained faithful during his 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).

Here’s the point: All the OT blessings are ultimately found in Jesus the Messiah. All the OT prophecies reveal Jesus. All the OT themes and motifs are shadows and allusions to Jesus. All the narratives and kings are pointing to Jesus. All the genealogies ultimately lead to Jesus. And all the Laws and the Prophets are fulfilled in Jesus. The OT points to Jesus!

So start reading the OT and start seeing Jesus.

[1] The reference to Samuel is probably referring to 2 Samuel 7 and God’s covenant with David.

[2] Carson and Beale (editors), Commentary on the NT use of the OT, “Acts” by I. Howard Marshall, p. 546. The servant songs of Isaiah might actually provide the backdrop to this sermon which ties everything together. In v13 Peter says, ‘the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant’, and in v26 he mentions Jesus when he states, ‘when God raised up his servant’. The two statements act as an inclusio or bookends to help us see that the sermon is pointing to how Jesus has fulfilled OT prophecy and Isaiah in particular.

[3] See John 1:21-25.

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