The Gospel According to the Prophets

Peter spends a lot of time in his second sermon in Acts (Acts 3:11-26) focusing on the Old Testament prophets and their message. He mentions the prophets no less than six (6) times in v.18-25.  And what does he say about them?

First he tells us that the message of the prophets was primarily about one thing – Jesus Christ. Look again at how Peter describes Jesus in v.13-16. Who is this One that they “delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate”(v.13)? “His servant Jesus” (v.13). He calls him the “Servant” twice in this passage – in v.13 and v.26. What is so significant about that? That is a term used over and over again in the book of Isaiah (specifically in chapters 42-53, often referred to as “the Servant Songs”). It was a prophetic reference to none other than the Messiah Himself. To call Jesus the “Servant” is to identify Him as the One foretold by Isaiah.

In other words, Peter is telling them that the person whom they denied, delivered up, and killed was not only the One who had been promised way back at the beginning of the Old Testament, but also the “Servant of the LORD” promised & foretold through the prophet Isaiah! They had rejected and killed the promised Messiah, the deliverer who was to come.

Not only that, but He was also the central message and focus of all of the prophets – the prophetic books of the Old Testament. No less than three (3) times in this sermon the Apostle Peter tells his hearers that Jesus Christ was spoken about by all the prophets (v.18, 21, 24). His suffering on the Cross for sin, His resurrection, ascension, His work through the church by the Spirit, as well as the “restoration of all things” (v.21) were all foretold by God through all the prophets. As amazing as it sounds, we (along with Peter’s hearers back in the first century) are living in the gospel age that was foretold by all of the prophets throughout the Old Testament. We are privileged more than we know!

In v.13 he alludes to the book of Isaiah by referring to Jesus as God’s “servant.” In v.24 he mentions the prophet “Samuel and those who came after him.” And he also mentions Moses by name. In v.22 he quotes the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 18:15, where he says, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people ” (v.22-23).  This is what Jesus was speaking of when He said, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47).   Peter is telling the crowd at the temple that Jesus Christ is that ‘prophet like Moses’ – Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15!

Jesus is the ultimate prophet, the last Word from a holy God to sinful humanity. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” So the gospel of Jesus Christ is not contrary to the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; it is not contrary to the message of the prophets; it is actually their fulfillment & its true substance.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes,

That is the way in which you begin to approach the question of Jesus. Go back to Genesis, and read right through the Old Testament. Keep your eye on Him, and you will see Him everywhere. You will see this person fulfilling it all. That is how you begin. That is how Peter began. (Authentic Christianity: Studies in the Book of Acts, Vol.1, p.246)

Not only was the Lord Jesus Christ, His suffering on the Cross and subsequent glory, the central message of all of the prophets, but Peter once again preaches something else that was a consistent theme in the prophets as well – repentance.  The call to repentance was the steady drum beat of the prophets – they were always calling Israel and Judah to repentance.

In v.19 Peter said to the crowd, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (v.19). And then again in v.26 he tells them, “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.

This was also a prominent theme in his first sermon on the day of Pentecost back in Acts chapter two.   In Acts 2 the crowds heard Peter preaching about the crucified, risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ and were “cut to the heart” (v.37). They asked him what they should do, and Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (v.38-39)

What is repentance? Here is the definition of “repentance unto life” found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

Do you have a true sense of your sin? Do you grasp and embrace the mercy of God in Jesus Christ as your only hope of salvation from your sins? Do you grieve for and hate your sin so that you turn from it unto God?

Have you repented of your sins and turned to Jesus Christ by faith? Are you still denying Jesus Christ, like that crowd in Jerusalem? Are you still preferring something or someone else, the way those crowds requested that a murderer be released to them instead of the holy and righteous One? Are you still rejecting the One who was spoken of and foretold from the earliest pages of Genesis all the way through the end of the Old Testament in the prophets? Are you refusing to believe on Him who is the focal point and center of all human history?

As Peter said to the crowd at the temple that day – “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (v.19). That is why He came. That is why the sinless Son of God suffered on the Cross. He did that so that your sins and mine would be blotted out – removed from our accounts. Are your sins blotted out by faith in Jesus Christ? Turn from your sins; turn to the Lord Jesus Chris and live. As David writes in Psalm 32:1-5,

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

That is man’s greatest need – forgiveness. Without it, our bones waste away and our strength is dried up. Without it our consciences torment us and the hand of the Lord is heavy upon us night and day. There is truly no peace for the wicked (Isaiah 48:22).

But as Paul writes in Romans 5:1-5,

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

The gospel changes everything.  Peace with God, standing in grace, rejoicing in hope – even rejoicing in the midst of our sufferings! What a Savior we have in Jesus!

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