Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years
Essay based on Acts 4:5-22
Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
I stress this because the Holy Spirit stresses it. When we present Jesus, we should not present Him mysteriously crucified by a vague other. Nor should we present Him as having been crucified by the Jews only, which is the root of much antisemitism. Nor should we present Him as crucified by the Romans, which has in some quarters led to Roman Catholic persecutions by Protestants. Let’s not pretend we Protestants haven’t participated in the vengeful persecutions of our religious foes. We have. Our excuses… er, I mean reasons are always rooted in a “they crucified Jesus.”
No, no, “you” crucified Jesus. You must see yourself as the culprit. And until we do recognize that we are the ones who are responsible for the crucifixion of Christ, there is no salvation. If Jesus is not, in your mind, crucified by you, then you have not come face to face with the real you and have likely not yet entered the Promised Land. To cross the river Jordan and to see its waters held back and piled high for you is to see Jesus crucified for you and by you. We should be awestruck by His love for us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus became incarnate to be crucified for our sins, your’s and mine. The Jews and Romans are like the “sword of the Ammonites” that David used to kill Uriah. The Ammonites may have pulled the trigger, but David sent him into the battle. The Jews and Romans betrayed Him, but I betrayed Him every day of my life until He saved me. The terrible truth is, I have betrayed Him many times since. I crucified my Lord. He came to bear my sins. I placed Him on the cross. The Romans were the hammer, but my sins were the nails. A non-personal crucifixion does not lead to personal salvation. It leads to personal deception.
However, that is not the end of the story. Peter will go on to say, “whom God raised from the dead.” Jesus’ crucifixion leads to His resurrection. And that is the waving of the white flag. God is saying by it, “on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2:14). The war we began has ended in total victory by God, but for us. Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement has been accepted. The justice of God has been satisfied. All those who put their faith in Christ are justified. We have been made innocent before the Father. God adopts Adam’s lost and ignorant sons responsible for the crucifixion of the only begotten Son when they turn from their sins and place their trust in the same crucified only begotten Son. That is the unfathomable Love displayed by God in Christ. “(B)y Jesus this crippled man is standing before you well,” Peter says (Acts 4:10c). I say, and by the same Jesus is this dead man standing before you alive.
“Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.” Isn’t it interesting how our self-interests kept us from coming to Christ in the first place? We looked at the Lord of Glory and didn’t want to give up our sinful pleasures for a season. The same self-interests that kept the Jewish Sanhedrin from seeing Jesus as the Christ are the same self-interests that kept us from coming to Him in the first place and, in truth, keep us from coming to Him even after salvation in times when we should fly to Him.
The Sanhedrin didn’t want to lose their power, and neither did we, and our continued sin after salvation shows us just how strong our self-interests are. It is hard to give up dominion once we’ve sat on the throne as king. To accept Jesus as Messiah for them had meant risking a Roman invasion and surrendering their place as rulers. For us, to accept Jesus in salvation and then to grow in sanctification afterward means to give the rule of ourselves over to Christ and to continue to do so more and more. Our self-interests are no less dangerous than theirs. Our desire to be the decision maker for our own lives is no less dangerous to our souls than the Sanhedrin’s desire to remain the decision makers for the people of Israel was to their souls. To accept Christ is to accept His rule over you. He is the cornerstone and builder while you and I are just stones in the wall of His palatial Temple. But O, what a glorious Temple it is, which makes you and me, while not the cornerstone, glorious stones nonetheless by our place in it
1 Peter 2:4-5
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Look for Part 5 tomorrow.