April 16, 2017: Verse of the day

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The Resurrection of Christ

And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. For David says of Him, “I was always beholding the Lord in my presence; for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will abide in hope; because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.” Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. (2:24–32)

As already noted, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was not only the central theme of apostolic preaching but also is without question the climax of redemptive history. It proves beyond doubt the deity of Jesus Christ and establishes His messianic credentials. It is also the guarantee of our own resurrection (John 14:19; Rom. 6:4–5; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:16–23). The resurrection is the crowning proof that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 4:25). Without it, His death becomes the heroic death of a noble martyr, the pathetic death of a madman, or the execution of a fraud.

The greatest proof that Jesus is the Messiah, then, is not His teaching, His miracles, or even His death. It is His resurrection. That becomes the main theme of Peter’s sermon. After spending one verse each on Christ’s life and death, he spends nine verses on His resurrection.

Verses 23 and 24 form one connected thought. Israel rejected and crucified her Messiah, but God raised Him up again. Peter forcefully drives home the point that they were guilty of opposing God— despite their boasts to the contrary (Rom. 2:17–20). That tactic was frequently employed in Acts (cf. 3:14–15; 10:39–40; 13:27–30).

By raising Jesus, God put an end to the agony of death for Him. Agony translates ōdinas, which literally means “birth pangs.” Like the pain of a woman in labor, the pain of death for Jesus was temporary and resulted in something glorious—the resurrection.

God delivered Jesus from death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. Death was powerless to hold Him for several reasons. First, death could not hold Him because of divine power. Jesus was “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), who died “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Second, death could not hold Him because of divine promise. John 2:18–22 records the following dialogue:

The Jews therefore answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews therefore said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.

“Thus it is written,” our Lord told the disciples, “that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:46). Finally, death could not hold Him because of divine purpose. God has designed that His people be with Him for all eternity. In order to do that, they need to go through death and out the other side. Jesus had to go first to make the way (cf. 1 Cor. 15:16–26). Because He lives, His people will live forever (John 14:19).

To further confirm that the resurrection was God’s plan for the Messiah, Peter quotes a prophetic passage from Psalm 16:8–11. Although written by David, the passage is prophetically Messiah speaking in the first person (cf. Ps. 22). It describes Messiah’s confident trust in God as He looked to the cross. His declaration I was always beholding the Lord in my presence is the key to that trust. Jesus kept His focus on God no matter what trials came His way. He knew that because God was at His right hand, He would not be shaken. The right hand symbolizes protection. In a wedding ceremony, the bridegroom stands to the right of the bride. In the ancient world, a bodyguard stood on the right side of the one he was protecting. In that position he could cover him with his shield and still have his right arm free to fight.

Because of His confidence in God’s protection, Messiah could say my heart was glad and my tongue exulted. Even the prospect of the cross could not dampen Christ’s joy. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “Jesus … for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).Moreover, another reason for Messiah’s joy was His confidence that His flesh also would abide in hope. Flesh here refers to the physical body. Kataskēnoō (abide) literally means “to pitch a tent.” It expresses Messiah’s certainty that He could commit His body to the grave with the confident hope that it would be raised to life again.

The next statement from Psalm 16 gives the reason for Messiah’s confidence: because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades. Hades is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament term “Sheol.” Although it can refer specifically to hell (Matt. 11:23), Peter uses it here in its more general sense of the abode of the dead. The phrase expresses Christ’s confidence that He would not remain a captive in the realm of death. Nor would God allow His Holy One (A messianic title; cf. Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 6:69) to undergo decay. During its three days in the tomb, our Lord’s body experienced no corruption. The significance of this verse will be seen shortly.

Peter’s quote of verse 11 of Psalm 16 has puzzled some commentators, since it doesn’t appear to advance his argument. The phrase the ways of life (The Hebrew text of Psalm 16:11 uses the singular “path of life”), however, can be interpreted as a reference to the resurrection. It would thus have the sense of “the path to resurrection life.” The context strongly implies such an interpretation. As a result of the resurrection, Messiah would be full of gladness as He experienced God’s presence.

Peter now comes to the crux of his argument. Addressing them once again as brethren, he confidently reminds them that the patriarch David both died and was buried. In fact, his tomb provided visible evidence that he had not fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 16. David spoke as a prophet, however, not of himself. He knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne. That promise is recorded in 2 Samuel 7:11–16:

The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.

David, then, looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, who, in contrast to David, was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.

Peter’s argument from Psalm 16 can be summarized as follows: The psalm speaks of a resurrection. Since David, however, was not resurrected, it cannot speak of him. Thus, David speaks in the psalm of the Messiah. Hence, Messiah will rise from the dead. Peter now delivers his powerful conclusion: This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. The argument is conclusive: Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (pp. 63–65). Chicago: Moody Press.

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