Pentecost: Based Upon Christ’s Work Part 4 of 13
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
3. We have here a striking and clear instance of the doctrine that the decrees of God do not interfere with the free agency of men. This event was certainly determined beforehand. Nothing is clearer than this, since it is a fact it had been foretold with undeviating certainty by the prophets. God had, for wise and gracious reasons, purposed or decreed in His own mind that His Son should die at the time, and in the manner in which He did; for all the circumstances of his death, as well as his birth and his life, were foretold. And yet, in this, the Jews and the Romans never supposed or alleged that they were compelled to do what they did. They did what they chose.
4. We have here a proof that the decree of God does not take away the moral character of an action. It does not prove that an action is innocent if it is shown that it is a part of the wise plan of God to permit it. Never was there a more atrocious crime than the crucifixion of the Son of God. And yet it was determined in the Divine counsels. The purpose of God to permit them does not destroy their nature, or make them innocent. They are what they are in themselves. The purpose of God does not change their character; and if it is right to punish them, they will be punished. And the sinner must answer for his sins.
5. If this event was predetermined, then all the events leading to it, and the circumstances surrounding it, were also a part of the decree. The one could not be determined without the other.
6. Finally, the crucifixion of Jesus was considered a national act, because it was done both by the vote of the great council and by the voice of the great crowd. He charges it mainly against them, since they were part of the nation that would be charged with the crime; his purpose was to bring them to faith and repentance, because that was the only way they could distinguish themselves from the guilty and receive a pardon from their God.
Whom God hath raised up,
This was the main point, in this part of his argument, which Peter wished to establish. He had declared that the Messiah had been put to death in a humiliating manner. But now he explains to them that God had raised Him up. That is the most important part of his message. He goes on to say, “WHOM GOD HATH RAISED UP, HAVING LOOSED THE PAINS OF DEATH.” He preaches the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the first sermon ever preached in the church age. This is the beginning. This is the Day of Pentecost. What is his theme? It is not the prophecy of Joel, my friend. It is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; that God alone gave him up to death, and God alone raised him up from death.
The evidence of Christ’s resurrection, which essentially wiped away the reproach of his death, also brought Him more praise and esteem than all the signs and wonders He had done, put together. But how shall their conscience endure the fearful guilt of the additional thought, that God has raised their crucified Messiah from the dead? I do not think mortal lips ever spoke in so brief a time, so many thoughts of so terrific importance to the hearers. It is the first announcement to the world of a risen and glorified Redeemer.
having loosed the pains of death:
Now he is going to quote his text. He quotes from Psalm 16:8–10. “I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalms 16:8-10; KJV). “HAVING LOOSED THE PAINS OF DEATH” refers to the fact that death could not hold Jesus. He describes his resurrection: God LOOSED THE PAINS OF DEATH, BECAUSE IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE THAT HE SHOULD BE HOLDEN OF IT. The pains of death is used for travailing (childbirth) pains, and some think it signifies the trouble and agony of Christ’s soul, which was exceedingly sorrowful, even to the death; from these pains and sorrows of soul, this travail of soul, the Father LOOSED him when at his death he said, It is finished. Jesus dissolved the pains of death for all that believe in him; God raised up Christ, and by his resurrection broke all the power of death, and destroyed its pangs for his people. He has abolished death, has altered its ability to harm God’s people.
It is generally accepted that this expression, HAVING LOOSED THE PAINS OF DEATH means, the dissolving of those bonds by which those who enter into the region of the dead are detained there until the day of the resurrection; and this is thought to be the meaning of Psalm 116:3—“The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow,” of Psalm 18.5, and 2 Samuel 22:6. The fact that Christ did suffer the pains and sorrows of death during his passion has been sufficiently proven; but it is obvious from the calm manner in which He met it that these were all removed prior to His crucifixion. If we take the words as commonly understood, they mean that it was impossible for the Prince of Life to be left in the empire of death: his resurrection, therefore, was a necessary consequence of his own Divine power.
because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
Most commentators believe this refers to the resurrection of Christ’s body. The apostle says it was impossible for Jesus to stay dead. And death is a punitive state because it deprives sinners the possibility of forgiveness and salvation; in that respect it is evil. Christ was imprisoned because of our debt, and was bound by the bands of death; but, since divine justice was satisfied, it was impossible to detain Him there, because He had life in himself, and had conquered the prince of death. Peter substantiated the truth of His resurrection: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32; NKJV)—the apostles and their companions, who were intimately acquainted with Him before his death, were intimately familiar with him after His resurrection, and they did eat and drink with him. They received power, by the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them, and He empowered them to become skillful, faithful, and courageous witnesses of His resurrection, even though his enemies charged them with stealing His body.
IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE does not refer to any natural impossibility, or to any inherent facility or power in the body of Jesus itself; but it simply means that the circumstances of the case would not allow Him to be kept there. And Peter proceeds immediately to show why it could not happen:
• First, it would not be consistent with the promises of the Scriptures.
• Second, Jesus was the Prince of life: “And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15; KJV)—and had life in himself. It was not possible that Jesus could be held by death, because he had life in Himself.
• Third, it was the Father's will that he should arise.
• Fourth, One of the reasons He came was to destroy, by His death, him that had the power of death, that is, the devil: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14; NKJV)—and since it was His purpose to gain this victory, He could not be defeated by being confined to the grave.
• Fifth, He had power to lay down his life, and to take it again: “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:18; NKJV). When Jesus made this statement, He was facing His Jewish enemies in the audience; He assured them that they could not kill Him. They had already tried to do so on two previous occasions. He was completely beyond their reach, even though they were close enough to hear His voice. Leaving no doubt, Jesus told them emphatically that He would give up His life on a unilaterally voluntary basis. He declared that He alone had the power to give up His life. Included in that divine power was the innate power to take up His life again under direct command from the Father Who had sent Him for such a glorious purpose.
25 For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
For David speaketh concerning him,
Peter goes to the Old Testament to support his message. His quotation comes from Psalm 16:8–11 (KJV): “I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Peter will make the case that these prophetic words were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth and in no one else. Therefore, the Messiah whom David promised was, in fact, Jesus of Nazareth. David said the Messiah would rise before His body corrupted (began to decompose; decay); Jesus was placed in the tomb Friday evening and He arose less than forty hours later, on Sunday morning. You may recall that Lazarus had been dead for three days (around 72 hours) when Jesus called to him, “Lazarus, come forth.” He had just begun to “stink” according to his sister, therefore, I think we can safely say that Jesus body never suffered corruption; which is another instance of fulfilled prophecy; it was impossible that he should be holden by death and the grave.