Pentecost: Based Upon Christ’s Work Part 3 of 13
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The event, therefore, must in some way be preset or determined beforehand. In this place, then, the meaning of BY THE DETERMINATE COUNSEL means that counsel of God which determined the time, place, and circumstance, according to his foreknowledge, which always saw what was the most proper times and places for the manifestation and crucifixion of his Son; so that there was nothing left to chance in these things. God had determined that the salvation of a lost world should be brought about in this way; and neither the Jews nor Romans had any say-so in the matter, except that which was given to them from above. It was necessary to show the Jews that it was not through Christ's weakness or inability to defend himself that he was taken; nor was it merely through their jealousy and hatred of Him that he was killed; because God had determined long before it happened, “from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8),” to give his Son as a sacrifice for sin; and the treachery of Judas, and the hatred of the Jews were only the incidental means by which the great counsel of God was fulfilled.
The word COUNSEL, as used in this place means the purpose or will of God; it was His plan or decree that Jesus should be handed over to His enemies—"For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy COUNSEL determined before to be done" (Acts 4:28). "Who worketh all things after the COUNSEL of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11). "God, willing to show the immutability of his COUNSEL” (Hebrews 6:17).Here the word proves that Jesus was delivered by the deliberate purpose of God; that it was according to his previously made plans and purpose. The reason why this was emphasized by Peter was so that he might convince the Jews that Jesus was not delivered because He was weak, or because he was unable to rescue himself. Such an opinion would have been inconsistent with the belief that he was the Messiah. It was important, then, to assert the dignity of Jesus, and to show that his death was in accordance with the established design of God; and, therefore, that it did not interfere in the least with his claims to be the Messiah. Our Saviour has acknowledged the same thing—“Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19.10; KJV). Christ reminds him (Pilate) that the only authority he has is that which has been given to him by a higher source.
FOREKNOWLEDGE means seeing an event before it takes place. The awfulness of the murder of Jesus is magnified by the thought that He allowed himself to be taken to them, in accordance with a deliberate purpose of God, which had been declared long ago by the prophets. He knew everything that would happen—every slap, every stroke of the whip, every hurtful remark, and He knew about the crown of thorns and the Cross.
FOREKNOWLEDGE implies that for some reason the event will certainly take place. God is represented in the Scriptures as determining future events; since they could not be foreseen by Him unless He had preordained for them to happen, so the word sometimes is used in the sense of determining beforehand, or as synonymous with decreeing—“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate…” (Romans 8:29; KJV). In this place, the word is used to denote that the delivering up of Jesus was something more than a bare or naked decree. It implies that God did it according to his foresight of what would be the best time, and place, and manner of its being done. It was not the result merely of will; it was well directed by a wise foreknowledge of what would be best. And this is the case with all the decrees of God. It follows from this, that the conduct of the Jews was foreknown. God was not disappointed in anything with respect to their treatment of his Son. Nor will he be disappointed by anything men do.
ye have taken,
It is possible that fifty days earlier, some of these very same people were present and had been personally involved in taking Jesus—“And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away…” (Matthew 26:57; KJV); and it is also possible that many of them had joined in the cry, "Crucify him," (Luke 23:18-21). And, therefore Peter was justified in making the accusation: “YE Jews HAVE TAKEN HIM.” It was, at any rate, an act committed by the Jewish people; an act of immense sin and foolishness; it was fighting against God to persecute One that was the greatest blessing of this earth. Peter was once so timid he denied his Lord, but now he charged his countrymen with this atrocious crime, in spite of their anger and his own danger. He did not deal in general accusations, but brought the charges home, and declared that they were the men who had been complicit in this ghastly crime. He appeals to their individual consciousness of guilt; and this gives intensity to the effect of his sermon upon
their hearts, which it could not otherwise have possessed.
However, he makes it clear that this does not release men from their responsibility. Who is responsible for the crucifixion of Christ? The religious rulers were the ones who began the movement. I would say that they were largely to blame. They stirred up the multitude so that they became an angry mob, and they schemed and provoked the Roman government to execute Him. Remember, He was crucified on a Roman cross. Peter is pointing his finger at his fellow Israelites.
But there is no use in our arguing about who was responsible for His death back at that time. I’ll tell you who is responsible for His death. You are responsible, and I am responsible. It was for my sins and for your sins that He died. Listen to the words of Jesus: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh 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 commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17–18; KJV).
and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
The death of Jesus on the Cross was not an accident. Luke clearly informed his readers that the Cross was in the eternal plan of God for the salvation of the world. Peter is speaking to men who were directly involved in the plot of the Crucifixion, and he says, “YE HAVE TAKEN, AND BY WICKED HANDS HAVE CRUCIFIED AND SLAIN.”
The Greek word that has been translated, BY WICKED HANDS means "through or by the hands of the lawless, or wicked." Doubtless, this refers to Pilate and the Roman soldiers, through whose wherewithal this had been done. The reasons for supposing that this is the true interpretation of the passage are these:
1. The Jews did not have the power to inflict death on anyone; the Romans refused to relinquish that authority to conquered nations—“Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews, therefore, said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death” (John 18.31; KJV). Pilate, unaware that the Jews want to kill Christ, tells them to judge the case and pass sentence according to your law. The Jews could not legally execute anyone. They wanted Pilate to pass the death sentence on Christ.
2. The term used here—WICKED, was not applicable to the Jews, but to the Romans. It means lawless, or those who did not have the law, and is often applied to the heathen—“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law…For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves” (Romans 2:12, 14; KJV).
3. Crucifixion was a Roman punishment.
4. It was a matter of fact, that the Jews, though they had condemned him, had not put him to death themselves, but had demanded that the Romans do it. But though they had utilized the Romans to do it, still they were the prime-instigators of the deed; they had plotted, and schemed and demanded His death; and therefore they were equally guilty. A principle of common law, and of common sense, is, "he who does a deed by the instrumentality of another is responsible for it." It was not due to the goodness of the Jews that they had not put him to death themselves. It was simply because the power was taken away from them.
Peter charges the crime entirely on the Jews—“YE HAVE TAKEN, AND BY WICKED HANDS HAVE CRUCIFIED AND SLAIN” Him. Their guilt was not diminished because they had employed others to do it. This was no time for nice distinctions between what a man does himself, and what he does through another. The “wicked hands” are not, as some suppose, the hands of Roman soldiers, who had performed the actual work of his execution, but the hands of wicked Jews.
The manner of Christ’s death makes it even more dreadful. They had nailed him to the cross, and compelled him to die like a criminal. From this it should be noted:
1. That this was one of the most amazing and awful crimes that could be charged against any man. It was hatred, and treason, and revulsion, and murder combined. But it was not any common murder. It was their own Messiah whom they had put to death; the hope of their fathers; He had been promised long ago by God, and the prospect of His coming had been joyfully anticipated by the nation for centuries; but now they stood charged with the awful crime of having murdered the Prince of peace.
2. The fact that they had done the deed by the instrumentality of others did not mitigate their own guilt. It is often, if not always, worse than the deed itself.