The Resurrection in Acts—Part 2
Resurrection of Jesus (cont.)
Peter, was hauled in front of the Council, to give account to for the miracle of making the lame man walk. He told them it had been done by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Again, he accused them of having crucified Him, but goes on to speak of him “Whom God raised from the dead …” (Acts 4:10). Going immediately to the gathering of Christians, Peter and John reported what had happened, and all prayed for power and for boldness. Their prayer was answered, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus”. It is notable that this is the only part of their message that is mentioned in this passage (Acts 4:33).
Preaching, signs and wonders continued, and again the apostles were seized. The angel of the Lord released them from prison, and the next day they were brought before the Council. In his defence Peter said, “The God of our Fathers raised up Jesus whom ye slew and hanged on a tree…We are witnesses of these things” (5:30, 32). They refused then to obey the council, in favour of obeying God.
Stephen, who was the next one to have to stand before the council, climaxing his long dissertation on the history of Israel’s rejection of God’s appointed ones, did not get past what he had to say about their rejection of Jesus, when his hearers disrupted his speech. At that time Stephen declared how he saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God. Jesus was not only risen from the death he has just accused them of, calling them “betrayers and murderers”, but was ascended to heavenly places! (Acts 7:55, 56).
The next sermon we read is that of Peter to Cornelius and his household. In that sermon, after Peter had spoken of how the Jews had slain Him and hanged Him on a tree, he went on to say, “Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.” Here we have a new thought brought in, that God had deliberately chosen certain people to be witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. (Acts 10:39-41). And the apostles certainly were witnesses, as we are now seeing, as we go through their sermons and messages in the book of Acts. He also added that God had appointed Him to be the Judge of the quick (living) and dead (v.42). If the dead are to be judged, they must be resurrected first. Peter does not mention this, but it is inferred, and obviously understood by his hearers.
Paul and Barnabas were sent out as missionaries by the church in Antioch in Syria. Paul’s first sermon is given in Acts 13, when he spoke in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia. Again he spoke of the rulers of Jerusalem putting Jesus to death. He told how Jesus had been taken down from the tree, and laid in a sepulchre. “But God raised him from the dead,” he said, adding, “And was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who
are his witnesses unto the people.” So in this place Paul not only spoke of His resurrection, but of the witnesses who could affirm that it happened (vv. 30, 31). To confirm this resurrection of Jesus, he went on to speak of the prophecies in the Old Testament Psalms. He first takes Psalm 2, where God says, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee”, which he declares is a promise of God to the fathers, fulfilled “in that he hath raised up Jesus again”. Secondly he takes the prophecy of David in Psalm 16, that the Holy One of God would not see corruption, and pointed out that it could not have applied to David, who did die and saw corruption. “But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption”, he said (Acts 13: 33-37).
We next see Paul speaking of the resurrection of Christ at Thessalonica in Acts 17. For three Sabbath days he reasoned in the synagogue out of the Scriptures, “opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead” (v. 3). Later in the chapter Paul is in Athens. The curiosity of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers was aroused by what he was talking about in the market daily, “…strange gods … Jesus, and the resurrection” (v. 18). (It is possible that they thought he was speaking of two new gods – Jesus, and Resurrection.) Later we see Paul speaking on Mars’ hill to the philosophers of the city. They listened well until he spoke of the fact that Jesus was appointed to judge the world, and that they could be assured of this, because God “hath raised him from the dead”. It was when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, that they began to mock Paul – though there were some who believed, and some who wanted to hear more another time (vv. 31, 32).
Paul considered the matter of the resurrection to be the focal point of the Jewish leaders’ grievance against him (Acts 23:6; 24:15; 26:8). Even in his defence before King Agrippa he insisted that Moses and the prophets had said that “Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead” (Acts 26:22, 23), and his question to Agrippa at the end of his speech was, “believest thou the prophets?” (v. 27). In other words, the prophets said that the Christ would die and rise from the dead. Did Agrippa believe these prophecies? (And if so, did he believe it was true that Jesus rose from the dead, and therefore was the prophesied Christ?)
We do not have any further sermons given in the book of Acts. But in the last chapter of that book, when he is defending himself to the chief of the Jews in Rome, he “persuaded them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets” (Acts 28:23). He did this from morning till evening, so he must have found plenty of prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament Scriptures to talk about!
Beryl Ching, spent over 40 years on the mission field in India. Returning to New Zealand to “retire”, Beryl was for a long time secretary of the Conditional Immortality Association. ‘Resurrection as Revealed in the Old Testament and Confirmed in the New testament’ is the full title of her Thesis presented to the Faculty of the Freelandia Institute Biblical Theological College in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree Master of Biblical Studies.