The Apostles’ Mind-boggling Message
After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, the Apostles began to preach a message that defied human reasoning. But it was good and true news then and it still is.
Last week’s reading: Leviticus 17-27 & Acts 1-12
This is the eighth week of the year and, if you are following our schedule, you have read six books of the Bible, three in the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus) and three in the New (Matthew, Hebrews and James). You’ve also begun reading Acts.
Luke, the careful historian
Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke (see Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2). There is little dispute that Luke wrote both books and he did so with thorough historical research. In my reading this past week I was struck by the emphasis in Acts on God’s sovereignty and providence in the events surrounding the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Peter clearly believed that the Lord’s death was by God’s will but also that those who participated in that travesty of justice were guilty of crime. God’s sovereignty does not diminish human responsibility.
Acts 2:22-23 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Acts 3:14-15 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
Bad News; Good News
But the message of the Apostles was not only about human sinfulness. They proclaimed forgiveness of sin by faith through the very One their hearers had crucified.
Acts 2:37-39 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “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.”
Acts 3:17-21 And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
A mind-boggling doctrine
Scripture teaches a doctrine which theologians call “divine concurrence.” In short, concurrence is the relationship of God to secondary causes. Secondary causes are any and all actions taken by creatures including sin and evil. What is God’s relationship to these secondary causes? God’s decrees concur with these causes. In other words, God’s plans come to fruition perfectly as humans act freely whether righteously or sinfully. Joseph taught this truth to his brothers (Genesis 50:20) and Paul affirmed it in his letter to the Romans (Romans 8:28).
Although this teaching flies in the face of human reasoning, the Bible indisputably teaches and illustrates it. We find it perplexing, but if it were not true we would have no certainty that God’s plans and purposes would be realized. He does not call on us to explain it but to believe that His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He commands us to let the gospel the Apostles proclaimed comfort and stabilize our hearts and minds as we navigate the storms of life. May God help us to believe and find peace in His truth–even if it boggles our minds.
This week’s reading: Acts 13-28; Numbers 1-10