The Jealousy of the Leaders Part 4 of 8
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
29 Then Peter and the other Apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
To obey God rather than men is the great, practical principle of saving faith, just as it was the uniform characteristic of the Lord Jesus Christ with all perfection as He tabernacled among men. His cry was, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God!” (Heb. 10.9). It is true that He went about teaching and doing good. He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, and fed the multitudes; but those things were merely sidelines of His ministry—visible signs that gave evidence of His deity. His primary purpose for coming into the world was to pay the sin-debt, and His entire earthly life was characterized by unqualified, unfailing obedience to God the Father. In all that He said, in all that He did, wherever He went, obedience was always present—unfaltering, constant, and perfect.
As believers, we are to follow in His steps. Therefore as He fully obeyed the will of God, we should follow Him in obedience at all times, and under all circumstances. There may be times when we are forced to wait on God for light, and we may have to trust Him to lead us when we cannot see clearly just what He would have us do; but absolute obedience is the invariable duty of every born-again believer.
It is true that we are instructed to be “subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates” (Tit. 3.1). Peter tells us that we are to be subject “ . . . to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers . . .” (1 Pe. 2.13, 14). But if there is conflict between God’s Word and the requirements of earthly rulers, the believer’s path is clear: As the Apostles so boldly declared, “We ought to OBEY GOD rather than men,” no matter what it may cost. We may suffer for it, but obedience to God by grace gives the Christian strength and courage, and removes self-confidence. The basic principle presented here is that Christians ought to obey their government unless it is a sin to do so (1 Pet. 2.13-17ix).
The Apostles did not change their convictions (Acts 4.19.20x). They obeyed God and trusted Him to take care of the consequences. They could not serve two masters, and they had already declared whose side they were on. Had they been diplomats instead of ambassadors (2 Cor. 5.20xi), they could have pleased everybody and escaped a beating. But they stood firmly for the Lord, and He honored their courage and faith.
There are some things that men do because they want to, or because they like to, but there are other things they do because they must. Life is full of a mixture of choices and compulsions, and there are two types of compulsions. There is the compulsion that a man is unable to resist, like when a muzzle of a gun is pressed into his back; and there is the compulsion that he is unwilling to resist, like the compulsion of assisting his aging parent. The moral compulsion of life, like the one that fell upon Peter and his companions, belonged to the second group, the compulsions without guns.
A great many times we are able to obey man and God at the same time; at least there is no conflict in our loyalty. When we pay our bills, for instance, we are obeying the laws of man, and at the same time, we are obeying the moral laws of God. The trouble comes when men tell us to do one thing and God tells us to do the opposite. That’s what happened in Peter’s case. Men said, “Keep quiet.” God said, “Speak out.” Peter could not do both; he had to choose one or the other. He chose to do what God said, regardless of the consequences.
Obedience to God is not only the duty of the believer, it is also the pathway to power. It was through obedience to our heavenly Father that our blessed Lord and Savior withstood the devil and defeated him at every turn. On the Mount of Temptation Jesus met Satan’s onslaughts with the Word of the living God. Of course, whatever Jesus said was the Word of God, but in answer to the devil’s offers, He quoted the Old Testament Scriptures. That is why we should hide the Word of God in our hearts, so that we might not sin against Him (Ps. 119.11xii).
“He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2.17); but self-will, unbelief, and lawlessness will end in judgment and eternal damnation!
30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
By the expression “God of our fathers,” Peter showed that he still regarded himself as a Jew. The early church did not break fellowship with the Jews but existed as a fellowship within Judaism.
The Greek word that has been translated here as “raised up” is not the same as the word used in chapter 3, verses 22 and 26, and in chapter 7, verse 37. Those verses speak of raising up Jesus as the promised Messiah, “that Prophet” Moses wrote about. But the Greek word Peter used here means that God raised up Jesus after death, brought Him back from the dead because it was not possible for death to hold Him.
This was clearly prophesied in the Psalms, and the Jews were certainly familiar with those prophecies as well as other Old Testament Scriptures which foretold the resurrection of Jesus; but they refused to believe in Him even though He was the one that was prophesized.
The work of the Holy Spirit in recent days was evidence that Jesus had returned to heaven and sent His Spirit as He promised. The Sadducees certainly did not enjoy hearing the Apostles speak about resurrection from the dead.
“. . .Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.” Jesus Christ was hanged on a tree. It was not a nice, smooth piece of timber with a crossbar as we see it pictured today. It was a tree.
“Him hath God exalted with his right hand . . .” God raised up Jesus from the dead, but not for Him to live among men here on earth, but for Him to be exalted at His right hand. This is the same thing Peter taught in Acts 2.33xiii, and is a direct fulfillment of Psalm 110 where we read in verse 1, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Please read the entire psalm—there are only seven verses.)
That Jesus is at God’s right hand is a key theme in the Scriptures. The right hand is, of course, the place of honor, power, and authority. Psalm 110.1 is the basic prophesy, but there are numerous references: Mark 14.62xiv; 16.19; Acts 2.33-34; 5.31; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; Colossians 3.1; Hebrews 1.3; 8.1; 10.12; 12.2; and 1Peter 3.22. Soon Steven would see Jesus standing at God’s right hand (Acts 7.55xv).
“. . . To be a Prince and a Saviour . . .” In what relation to Israel did Jesus take His place in heaven at the right hand of God the Father? As a Prince and a Savior, “for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. The door of grace was still open for Israel as Peter delivered this message. The God of their fathers was looking down from heaven, waiting and longing to be gracious to His people even though with wicked hands they had slain His only begotten Son. The first title prince expressed that Royalty which all Israel looked for in Messiah, and the second the saving character of it which they had utterly lost sight of. Each of these features in our Lord’s work enters into the other, and both make one glorious whole (Acts 3.15; Heb. 2.10
Today the crucified, risen, and exalted Lord sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high as Savior of mankind; but someday He will appear in judgment—Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, bond or free, will ALL be judged. Until the judgment day, He is the Prince and Savior to give repentance and remission of sins to all who will come unto God by Him.
In his second sermon Peter had called Jesus “the Prince of life” (Acts 3.15xvi), and here He is called “a Prince and a Savior.” The word Prince means “a pioneer, one who leads the way, an originator.” The Sanhedrin was not interested in pioneering anything; all they wanted to do was to protect their vested interests and keep things exactly as they were (see John 11.47-52). As the Pioneer of Life, Jesus leads us into exciting experiences as we walk “in newness of life” (Rom. 6.4xvii). There are always new trails to blaze.
Hebrews 2.10 calls Him “the Pioneer captain of their salvation, for our salvation experience must never become static. The Christian life is not a parking lot; it is a launching pad! It is not enough just to be born again; we must also grow spiritually (2 Pe. 3.18xviii) and make progress in our walk. In Hebrews 12.2, Jesus is called “the Pioneer author . . . of our faith,” which suggests that He leads us into new experiences that test our faith and help it to grow. One of the major themes of Hebrews is “let us press on to maturity” (Heb. 6.1), and we cannot mature unless we follow Christ, the pioneer, into new areas of faith and ministry.
The title Savior was not new to the members of the council, because the word was used for physicians (who save people’s lives), philosophers (who solve people’s problems), and statesmen (who save people from danger and war). It was even applied to the Emperor. But only Jesus Christ is the true and living Savior, who rescues from sin, death, and judgment all who will trust Him.