On the Acts of the Apostles.

Chapter 13:32-41.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 352 - September 1885


Chapter 13:32-41

From ver. 32 comes the application of the facts as to the Messiah, already given in ver. 23-3], especially His death on man's part, His resurrection on God's not without ample witness of His appearing subsequently among those who knew Him best.

"And we (we, emphatic) declare to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God hath fulfilled to us their children,1 having raised up Jesus; as also in the second.2 psalm it is written, Thou art My Son: this day have I begotten Thee. But that He raised Him from [the] dead, no more to return unto corruption, He hath spoken thus, I will give you the faithful mercies of David; wherefore3 also iii another [psalm] he saith, Thou wilt not suffer Thy holy (Merciful) One to see corruption. For David, after having in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell asleep, and was added to his fathers, and saw corruption. But He whom God raised up saw


no corruption. Be it known to you therefore, [men-] brethren, that through this Man remission of sins is preached to you; and4 from all things from which ye could riot in Moses' law be justified, in him every one that believeth is justified " (ver. 32 39).

Here the apostle goes over the all-important points doctrinally. The coming of Christ was the accomplishment of the promise to the fathers; their children now had the glad tidings of it in His person here below. The raising up of Jesus in ver. 33 does not therefore go beyond the Child thus born, the Son thus given. Arid with this agrees Psalm ii. 7, which refers not to His resurrection from the dead, as many have supposed, but to His birth, as the words simply express it; so that a further or mystic meaning hero is not only uncalled for but improper. He, the Messiah, born of woman, born under law, was the object, accomplisher, and heir of the promises. Yea, how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the yea. So to the Romans (i. 2, 3) the apostle describes himself as separated unto God's gospel (which, he adds parenthetically, He had before promised through His prophets in holy scripture) concerning His Son come of David's seed according to flesh, just as it is treated here in the first place. But then he goes on, "marked out Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection of the dead," just as here too he proceeds to cite Isa. lv. 3 and Ps. xvi. 10 as prophecies of Christ's proper resurrection. Indeed it is surprising that any intelligent and careful reader ever understood the passage otherwise: For it is as certain as it is plain chat, to God's raising up the Messiah according to promise and the prophecy of the second psalm, verse 34 appends as another and still mere momentous truth that God raised Him up "from the dead." It is no mere reasoning on the verse before, no epexegetic explanation, but a further teaching of the highest value. Hence it is thus introduced, "And," or "But, that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return unto corruption, He bath spoken thus," &c. Calvin accordingly is justified in his statement5 (Opera vi. Comm. in loco) that the word "raised up" has a wider significance than where repeated just after. For it is meant that Christ was divinely ordained and as it were by God's hand brought forth into light that He might fulfil the office of Messiah; as scripture here and there shews us kings and prophets raised up by the Lord. Acts iii. 22, 26; vii. 37, are clear cases of this usage in the same book; so that the Authorised Version in the wake of Tyndale is not safely to be defended in going out of the way to insinuate resurrection into ver. 33, "Raised up" is correct; "raised again" might have been said, if the text had certainly pointed, as it does not really at all, to the resurrection. But "raised up again " is unjustifiable. In any case the compound can only yield either "up" or "again," not both; and hero we have seen on good and cogent grounds that "up" is right, "again " inadmissible, because rising from the dead is not intended in ver. 33.

It would not have been necessary or advisable to spend argument on the question, if Dean Alford and Canon Cook, following Hammond, Myer, &c., had not unwittingly played into the hands of enemies who ridicule this very misapprehension of Ps. ii. 7, for which not Paul but his expounders are responsible. It has also been noticed that the addition of "now" in the English Version of verse 34 is not only needless but misleading, as it might imply a previous turn to corruption. Here too Tyndale misled all the public Protestant versions since his day, even to the Revised one.

Ps. ii. is quoted then for Christ as Son of God in this world. It is neither His eternal sonship, as some .of the earlier christian writers conceived, nor His resurrection, as the misapprehension of Acts xiii. 33 was used to teach. His birth in time as Messiah is the point, "Thou art My Son: this day have I begotten Thee."

Ps. xvi. is cited (ver. 35) in proof not of His Sonship as man and Messiah here below, but of His resurrection, and therefore stands in close and logical connexion with ver. 34. Peter had already used this psalm similarly in Acts ii. 24-32; and it is strange that any who believe the christian revelation can allow a doubt that Christ's resurrection is the just and only meaning of the tenth verse of the psalm. I do not speak of their modesty in preferring their opinion to Saint Paul's, if they count it becoming to slight the apostle Peter. The question is, Is there such a thing as inspiration in any true sense?

The application of Isa. lv. 3 in 34 is no less certain if we bow to apostolic authority, but not so easy, though where seen most instructive. But only the death and resurrection of the Messiah could make the covenant everlasting; only so could the promised holy or merciful blessings of David be made inviolable. Thus they are, as the LXX translates, τὰ ὅσια Δ. τὰ πιστά. Thus only could the soul even of the Jew live, or the door of grace open widely enough to take in a Gentile. Hence it will be seen that the chapter begins with the call of God to "every one that thirsteth." He who ads lifted up on the cross will draw all, net Jews only; and a risen Messiah, though He thereby gives the utmost sureness to Israel's promises, cannot be bounded in grace any more than in His glory, but will certainly have all peoples, nations, and languages to serve Him with an everlasting dominion.

It is difficult in any rendering short of a paraphrase to mark for the English reader the close link between the "Holy One" in Ps. xvi. 10 and the "mercies" in Isa. lv. 3. Ps. lxxxix..1 compared with ver. 19 as in the Authorised Version may help: very far different is the Revised Version of the Psalm here which can only darken. But the reader should know that the true force is, "Then spakest Thou in vision of Thy merciful (or Holy) One," the personal concentration of the sure mercies of which the Psalmist sings in ver. 1. They are "the mercies " of David no doubt, but, what is of all consequence, of Jehovah also; and so this psalm also everywhere speaks of David, and therefore confirms the truth in question. Christ beyond controversy is here in the mind and word of the Spirit of prophecy. Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel (in this case quite a distinct word and thought), speaks of Christ as His Holy or Gracious One. It is not the same truth which the same apostle asserts in Rom. i. 4: Christ declared or determined Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection. The same power of the Sprit in which He ever walked superior to all evil was proved by resurrection. In Acts xiii. it is the holiness of grace and mercy manifested and operative in Him risen from the dead. After His baptism of suffering, known by Him as by none else, straitening was over, Jewish barriers righteously gone, the floods of grace could flow for ever and overflow.

The apostle of the uncircumcision, in ver. 36, 37, reasons pretty much as he of the circumcision in Acts ii. 29-31; and both with unanswerable power. But one man, the Messiah, was, while tasting death, to see no corruption. David in his own generation served the counsel of God, but saw corruption: as did all his descendents, save that One of Whom he in the Spirit prophesied. Scripture cannot be broken. One man alone does and must fulfil the condition: who was He but Jesus, the Christ? As a fact the witnesses attested His resurrection on the fullest evidence, apart from the predictions. All proofs centre in Him. God's glory and love are His infinitely; so are man's salvation, blessing, holiness, service in any true way and to the highest degree of which the creature is capable.

And thereon the apostle, though of course limited by the state of his audience, brings out the message characteristically beyond what Peter had done to hearers more informed than those of Pisidia. "Be it known unto you therefore, brethren, that through this Man remission of sins is preached to you; and from all things from which ye could not in Moses' law be justified, in Him every one that believeth is justified." Was it not, is it not, grandly, yea divinely simple? What does a sinner supremely need? Forgiveness of sins. This the gospel proclaims: it is no question of a promise only. Remission of sins is through Christ dead and risen preached. It is a free gift of grace, as is eternal life in Christ: the two wants of a sinner there alone found, and by Him freely given. To all it is preached, there is no limit to the grace of Christ, any more than to the efficacy of His blood. It takes effect only, among those that hear the gospel, upon all that believe. For faith glorifies the saviour God, as it abases the sinner man; and repentance accompanies it, real if faith is, shallow or deep in like manner, or alas! as unreal as may be the faith. But it owns God's grace in Christ, and so His righteousness revealed in the gospel. Of faith therefore is the blessing that it might be according to grace; and thus alone man can either be assured of it or God is glorified thereby.

But there is more than remission of sins, that most deeply needed, in itself inestimable but initiatory, boon of the gospel. "And from all things, from which ye could not in Moses' law be justified, in Him every one that believeth is justified." How boldly the apostle can speak! and this, not because his preaching or the style of it was any peculiarity of his position in the church, but in honour of the Saviour's victory over every hindrance and all evil. To speak timidly might be well, if it were a question of man addressing or of men addressed. But the preacher of the gospel is not only free but bound to forget himself by grace in his magnifying of Him Who died and rose, in order that divine mercy might triumph for the worst, and this without money and without price from the sinner: Christ has paid the penalty—paid it long long ago. Here Moses' law is wholly unavailing, whatever the pride the unbelief, dr the ignorance of the Jew might think. There is no possibility of justification by that law, holy as it is, and the commandment holy and just axed good. Law is all in vain to save. It can give neither life nor pardon, neither holiness nor power. It puts a restraint on, and so alike discovers and provokes, lust; it is the power of sin, and works out wrath; it is thus a ministration of condemnation and death. What possible deliverance can it bring the needy and lost sinner? Negatively indeed it is used by grace to break him down, to deepen his distrust of self even when converted, and to cast him wholly on Christ outside and on high, Who gives him to know that he died with Himself, that he might walk and serve under grace, as alive to God in Him.

But the grace of God in the gospel justifies the believer "from all things." Indeed, if it were not so, how could the sinner's condition be met in a way worthy of God? If justification were partial, it might no less satisfy man, yea far more readily, than that free and full display of divine goodness in Christ which alone is the truth. Nothing is so excellent, so holy, so strengthening, so God-glorifying as the revelation of His grace in Christ, and this undiluted as well as unadulterated. But it seems extreme to some minds, lax to others, and dangerous to more. So it is in Him in and by Whom the gospel came. He was wholly misunderstood and unintelligible to the "wise and prudent"; as the mass believed not on Him, so many from among the rulers did not confess Him through fear; for they loved the glory of amen rather than the glory of God. Even John the Baptist was more reasonably right in their eyes than his Master and Lord, as those that refused Him who came in His Father's name will by-and-by receive him that comes in his own. Nothing is so condemnatory of fallen man, and especially when he glories in his character or in his religion, as grace; nothing so foreign and even repulsive to his mind and his self-righteousness. For it levels all mankind, high and low, learned and ignorant, loose or moral, superstitious or profane, in one indiscriminate grave of sin and ruin Godward—of spiritual death; while it proclaims to faith, and only to faith, a present, full, and everlasting redemption. This is offensive to man's thought and title who can soon find reasons to argue himself into unbelief and rejection of God's word, as if it were but the opinion of fallible and mistaken man, and thus makes manifest his unremoved heart-enmity to God.

The work of grace however goes on, as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for men, nor waiteth for the sons of men. Conscience-stricken souls, hearts pining after God long slighted and sinned against, are won by the name of Jesus, and gladly receive that remission of sins which is preached to them, and adore as they take in the wonder of mercy in Jesus, in Whom every one that believes is justified from all things, from none of which could he be justified in Moses' law or in any other way. Justification for a sinner is essentially a Pauline expression; being of faith, not of law, it was open to a Gentile as well as to a Jew. It was a word eminently suited to that great messenger of the gospel of God's grace. And here we have it tersely in the first discourse of his which Luke reports or at least summarises. So deals God's righteousness which is now manifested apart from law: God just and justifying the believer as he is, the ungodly as he was (Rom. iii:. iv). Hew truly divine! No wonder man as such misses the truth: Christ is the only key that opens all.

But the apostle does not conclude without a warning appropriately drawn, for the Jews that listened with reluctant ears, from their own volume of inspiration. "See therefore that what is spoken of in the prophets come not on you,6 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which ye will in no wise believe if I declare it to you" (ver. 40, 41). It is especially Habakkuk i. 5 which is in substance cited, with perhaps Asa. xxix. 14 and Prov. i. 24-31 in view. Unbelief is the same evil scorn of God's word, whether of old or by-and-by, and never worse than now when grace beseeches men as they are to be reconciled to God. And whatever the work to be dune in the future, noise can ever match what God has wrought already, the basis on which the gospel is proclaimed to every creature. The coming execution of judgment by the Chaldeans was sufficient to arrest any soul that heeded the warning voice of the prophet; and a destruction was about to fall on Jerusalem and the temple, as the Lord had predicted, by the Romans (Luke xix. 43, 44 ; xxi. 20-24. But what is either providential work of God or any other that can be gleaned from the harvest of judgment in the future, compared with that which in His rejection and atoning work befell our Lord Jesus? And as is the immeasurable grace to sinners in that work which cost God and His Son all things of unsparing vengeance on sin—our sins, so is the wrath of God not yet executed, but revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and the unrighteousness of men that hold the truth in unrighteousness. If the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? says the same apostle writing to the Hebrew confessors of Christ. Is there less sin, less danger, for those who in Christendom have grown up in the constant iteration of the sane gospel, and are now exposed as none ever were to the apostate infidelity of our day, which Ι finds its life in nature and sets up natural law as the idol of its worship, if along with Jesus soon to supersede Him, as none can serve two masters. It must be God, or the creature, not both, even if God were not as He ought to be a jealous God, as He is the True, and therefore necessarily intolerant of all spurious rivalry.



1) 2) 3) "To our children" is the strange reading of the most ancient authorities. So the "first" psalm (D &c.) ver. 33; but this may be due to Jewish arrangement combining Ps: i, and ii, in one; and "because" for "wherefore" in ver. 35.

4) "And" is omitted by the more ancient authorities. Most of the late witnesses add "the" to "law of Moses."

5) "Hio suseitandi verbum, meo iudieio, laties petet quam ubi paulο post repetitur. Neque a ιιm tantum dicit Chrietum resurrexisse a mortuis, sad divinitus ordiuntum et quasi menu Dei produetum in lucem, uτ Messiae partes impleret; sicut passim docet Scripture, ezciteri a Domino rages et prophetas."

6) ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς are rejected bye s B D, some cursives, and a few Latin MSS.