Zoom out: Purpose, Providence and Persian Rugs

Zoom out. I mean really far out. Now look down and look back. Like maximizing the zoom on Google Maps from the globe to the shrub next to your garage, there is a lot to take in when one considers their life in space and time. This is only as far as the human mind can go when we attempt to fathom who we are, where we are going and what we are meant for along the way through the eyes of an Omnipotent and Omniscient God of the universe.

Zoom out. Stare at a beautifully woven multi-colored Persian rug which gleams in craftsmanship and quality. Take in the patterns, colors, shapes, sizes and textures of this one of a kind work of art. Only the craftsman knows what will become of each fiber when he gathers thread by thread and color by color. Over and under and back, repeat until it is finished. Before the strands were, silk was. Before silk, was the silkworm. Did the silkworm know how they would contribute to this masterpiece?

Now zoom further out and see the mind of God who created the silkworm and an environment in which it would thrive, the craftsman, the dye, and the eyes in men to behold the combined beauty of a masterpiece of millions of fibers and seemingly unrelated circumstances and factors to make a timeless heirloom of silk.

Rugs are nothing special in themselves but when considered all that God has done to allow Persian rugs to exist, then it behooves us to appreciate God’s hand in them. Rugs, books, meals, and our lives are all part of God’s overwhelming genius and his intimate interaction as we live out our tiny contribution to the Creator’s meta narrative. Staring at the rug and thinking of the fibers is meant to remind us that God has written and is writing a beautiful story, lines big or small, we get to be a part of it.

Zoom out. Really far out. Realize the perfect providence of God that has orchestrated everything, every circumstance, occasion and cause for His purpose of gloriously ruling and reigning of all of everything. Yes all.


The Beauty of God’s Purpose in Family

by Marc Mullins, January 21, 2012

Rev. 3/29/2013

These days the definition of what a human family is can be harder to nail down than the actual day Christ will return for His bride. Of course dozens of people have false notions of what that date might be, also many claim to define family then go to lengths to avoid the historical, logical, or Biblical definition for family. Both of course, can only be truly defined by God. Thankfully, He has communicated to us in His inerrant and living word, so it can only do us well to pay attention to God’s word on the matter.

The world’s definition:

fam·i·ly[fam-uh-lee, fam-lee] noun,plural -lies, adjective
a. a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family.
b. a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for: a single-parent family.
2. the children of one person or one couple collectively: We want a large family.
3. the spouse and children of one person: We’re taking the family on vacation next week.
4. any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents,children, 
uncles, aunts, and cousins: to marry into a socially prominent family.
5. all those persons considered as descendants of a common progenitor. 1

Modern Family (2009) PosterAs we can easily see, contemporary culture sees family consisting of two types of individuals: adults and children, in almost any combination. There are no requisite qualifications physically, emotionally, economically, psychologically and specifically spiritually.  The family is merely defined as a utilitarian social construct that is part of the economic equation of modern society.  The worldview presented in this definition is startling to the Christian and antithetical to the Gospel display, the Trinitarian hierarchy, and the ultimate purpose of family set forth by God since the first family was created. That purpose is to extend His glory to the ends of the earth as the water covers the sea.

God Created Man to Extend His Glory

God created mankind, specifically families, to extend his glory. After creating mankind in his own image, God then asserted creative order in Genesis to the first man and woman.  That order is to have dominion over all creation, to subdue it by being fruitful and multiplying. (Gen 1:26-28)

Humanity is God’s means to subdue creation under his feet so that the earth will become the created Temple of God.  In the perfect world, God willed for humans to join together in worship of himself by giving them the ability to relate to and commune with each other and to worship their Creator, as the unique creatures that bear his likeness which are his essence manifested in human flesh.2

If the purpose of creation was to create a temple in which God would dwell in relationship with his creatures flourishing and extending their dominion outside the original borders of the garden, then it is important to understand how this helps to define family.  Family is the resulting relationship in which God’s image on display in the creation while remaining exiled from the first garden until Christ returns for his bride and safely delivers them to the new garden where an eternal communing relationship bonded by His blood will never be severed.3

The family is God’s means for dominion over his created temple. As man and woman were joined together to become one flesh, God’s means to cover the earth became reality.  God created the first family, first he made Adam out of dust to work and tend the garden and secondly Eve, made from Adam’s own flesh and bone, given of himself to himself by God to be his helpmate. They were to join together, become one flesh, literally inseparable, and be fruitful and multiply to the praise of their father. They were to multiply humanity, made in the image of God, so that God’s image would subdue creation and blanket it with God on display, God’s glory.

That the Next Generation Might Know

God has uniquely created humans, as the only relational, moral, and creative beings that have the ability to worship, learn and think, all driven by the soul which has set in motion by God’s common grace among all humans and his Saving Grace among his elect.  As God chose to use human families as the means to fill his temple, God also provided the how and why for humans to accomplish God’s will.

Human Families were to display God’s glorious gospel. Man was to find supreme pleasure in serving and worshiping God in Christ. Since our first Father and Mother brought us all into a pattern of sin and spiritual death, God in his mercy and grace gave mankind instruction to quicken the dead hearts of man. God commanded fathers to lead their families in the worship of God our Creator, wives to submit to their husbands as unto Christ and children under the instruction and authority of both parents. Man was to continuously tell the next generation of the wonders of the one true God and recount the stories of humanities failures and God’s redeeming grace. ( Psalm 78)

The Gospel is on display as man is to sacrificially give himself over to his bride as Christ died for the church (Eph 5:22-6:4) and as Adam gave of himself for the creation of his lifelong helpmate. The woman is to joyously submit to the leadership of the husband as the church does to Christ and as Eve was created to submit to Adam until the serpent thwarted God’s design for family order in creation.  Through the submission and leadership to the instruction of God, they were to be fruitful and as Deuteronomy teaches us they were to desire God above all things and from sun up to sun down, they were to teach their children the ways of God, train them in the fear of God, worshiping him with all of their heart, soul and might.4

The Family Continuing God’s Redemptive Plan

Even today we still find the biblical family as the bedrock foundation for the extension of God’s glory around the globe in the midst of a relentless enemy.  God has commissioned man, woman and every generation he blesses us with to cover the earth, making new disciples in each family who will continue the mission. In some countries the institution of family has been eternally altered from God’s design. Some places,  the definition of family has nothing to do with being fruitful or multiplying. Even so God’s sovereign will cannot be stopped. God continues to bring man and woman together under his authority who will bring up coming generations, sharing the gracious Gospel and until the Bride of Christ The Savior is gathered, generation by generation, church by church, and nation by nation.

Until He Returns

For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
(Revelation 19:6-8 ESV)


1 Definition from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/family

2 Many ideas were considered from Dr. James Hamilton’s article, “The Mystery of Marriage,” pages 253-71 in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

3 Ibid.

4 I owe a debt of gratitude for the insights provided by Dr. Hamilton in his article “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord,” Journal of Family Ministry 1.1 (2010): 10-17.
Also published as: “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord: Family Discipleship in the Old Testament,” pages 33–43 in Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective, ed. Timothy Paul Jones and Randy Stinson. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011.  The content of this entire book has been instrumental in my theology of family as I see it developed in the vast story line of God’s redemptive plan in scripture.

Image Credit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1442437/


First Reaction to Behold Our Sovereign God by @mitchellchase

I am reading a really cool book by the Pastor of Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville,  most appropriately in the area of Valley Station, which happens to be about 5 miles away from where I grew up, his name is Mitch Chase. Mitch was a Garrett Fellow for a professor I had at Seminary and was very gracious in offering  input when I was writing a paper on the final Judgement in Matthew 25. I didn’t have extended interaction with him, but his gracious tone and willingness to truly offer feedback and criticism was unique in my experience with some graders, most of whom’s life experience was limited to what they did at Youth Camp as a counselor.

Anytime a pastor who cares for a flock that is not made up of thousands, but your normal average size Southern Baptist Church in a very normal and blue collar neck of the woods like where I was raised I pay attention with real excitement, because it is obvious glory and celebrity are not their primary motive in life. Not to say all pastors of big churches are, but I remain convinced that ministry was intended to occur in the local church on a very personal and real relational level, in the dirty mess of ministry. So when pastors that speak from that perspective lend a word, we should pay close attention.

First of all the book opened up with vibrant brilliance. It was apparent from book cover that this work would be a journey through child like wonder in the grandeur and majesty of a huge and unfathomable Creator who out of shear grace chose to reveal himself to his creatures. I had a very similar experience with my children just yesterday when we ran outside to see the beauty of a double rainbow gleaming in the sky in the forefront of darkened clouds. My kids gazed in awe and I was reminded “Our God made that.”

These quotes below set the tone for the written journey to invoke intellectual, emotional and relational wonder and worship of our God. It is obvious by these words that Mitch has been disrupted from mundane life and awakened to life under the majesty of our Sovereign God, as did I. I mean really! Just read these words, then go to the Psalms and try to come back unchanged!

From the intro:

This book may be a short journey, but no one should underestimate the value of brief travel. I’ve driven long distances and sat for many hours on planes traveling to the other side of the world, but some short trips have changed my life. On the day I married Stacie, I traveled only thirty minutes to the church for the ceremony. When our first son Jensen was born, we lived less than an hour from the hospital. Think bigger now. Imagine the impact of just five minutes in the Grand Canyon. In that brief time your soul would be exposed to the magnificence of creation, to sights that stagger the mind…

From the 1st chapter:

When we look into space, we are seeing the majesty of God. “God created the universe not as an object of academic scrutiny but as an arena in which he can display something of his nature and intentions.” And when we behold his revelation, it should lead to our adoration. If your telescope isn’t an instrument of worship, you’re not using it correctly.

So far I am highly engaged and nodding my head in refreshment of what appears to be a truly connected and whole response to the glory of God. It should invoke wonder, curiosity, worship, and child-like awe. I would love to finish it today, but duty calls so I will continue to work through a chapter a night this week in the middle of my studies, and preparation for teaching. So far I would commend this book to anyone because it is accessible and not too brainy, but trust me that it is titled from and informed by a deep sense of struggle through the text of Scripture and intellectual wrestling that result in this remarkably comforting topic. Behold, Our God, The Sovereign. Beautifully written, Theologically Rich, Doxologically Refreshing.

Men’s Inhumanity To God by Jonathan Edwards

Men’s Inhumanity To God


Placing God in a human context rather than attempting to lift humans to an apprehension of the divine being was a new emphasis for Edwards, at least as the governing principle for an entire sermon, but by October 1750 he was apparently ready to undertake a new gambit. In essence, Men’s Inhumanity to God is an awakening sermon designed to “stir up natural men,” but for the most part the appeal is not to those persons’ fear of pain and suffering, as was expected of such sermons, but rather to their anxieties respecting social justice and self-respect. However, Edwards was as incisive as ever, and his new approach undoubtedly awoke passions as hot as any evoked by a regular hellfire sermon, perhaps more so for their relating directly to the auditors’ daily lives.

Edwards’ language is intense throughout the sermon, though occasional passages are truly harsh, as in his assertion that natural men elevate their lusts above God, preferring “a few shillings…a morsel of meat or a draught of strong drink, or a little brutish pleasure with a harlot.” But undoubtedly more disturbing were the passages evoking the social tensions among Northampton citizens as Edwards cites typical incidents of social climbing, lack of respect for persons, questionable seating in the meetinghouse, resentment of neighbors, and other types of ingratitude and disrespect. Of course, disregard of God’s messenger in public worship, contempt for the Bible, and minimizing the role of Christ in redemption are also mentioned. Though many of the sins cited are universal, the sense of eighteenth-century hierarchical society in general, and of Northampton’s factional configuration involving the “court” and “country” parties, the old order and the new, are vividly if subtly represented. Various church-related issues, such as talking about religious experiences, common during the Great Awakening, are also used as examples of those pretentions that people detest.

While calling to the congregation’s attention many of their deepest resentments arising from others’ presumption, disrespect, and injustice, Edwards asked them to imagine a God of human sensibilities enduring the same kinds of insult, though by comparison with God all men are virtually equal and thus the degree of deference appropriate to God cannot be exaggerated. But by keeping God and man within the same frame of reference, Edwards challenged his people in the Application to a “use of self-reflection” which might enable them to discover the justice of divine wrath through their own experience of human behavior. Conversely, by identifying with God and his infinite mercy and forgiveness of sinful men, people might finally become, more truly, godly Christians.

∗ ∗ ∗

The twenty-seven-leaf duodecimo sermon booklet is written in double columns, necessarily in outlinish form. Moreover, there are several blanks of paragraph dimension where Edwards did not write out his thought, presumably because it involved points that he could deliver ad libitum, such as listing particular illustrations. The booklet is composed of miscellaneous scraps of paper, including a subscription list from Edwards’ printers, Kneeland and Green. At the top of the first page it is noted, as was Edwards’ custom in the case of repreachings outside Northampton, that the sermon was also preached at Longmeadow, the parish of the Rev. Stephen Williams, one of the founders of the Stockbridge Indian mission.

Men’s Inhumanity To God

And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 1:8.
1. By what title God is called.

2. After what manner the people treated this God.

3. How the unreasonableness and heinousness of this treatment appeared. In the Malachi 1:6, the heinousness of [this treatment is] represented by its being contrary to what men expected. Here the heinousness [is represented] by its being what [respectable] men would not accept.

Men are wont to offer such treatment to God as they will not take one of another.
This may be observed with respect to the following particulars:

I. Men will not bear that others should behave themselves with such pride and arrogance towards them as they do towards God. Pride, as it is exercised in men one towards another, is a thing very abominable to men and what they cannot endure. The manifestation of an arrogant spirit, or a disposition in men to take much upon them, to assume to themselves the rights of others; a disposition in men to leave their proper places1 and jostle others out of their places, and to arrogate to them[selves] the honors and prerogatives of their superiors, is what men highly resent. Yea, if it be in no greater instance than taking an higher place: a forwardness in a man to take the right hand of a superior, or an higher seat in the meeting house, or to place himself above him in any public assembly; and especially if men will assume that power and authority which don’t belong to ’em, it provokes men and is what they win not bear.

But yet such things as these do men do continually towards God. The exalt themselves in their pride before him, and in many respects assume to themselves God’s prerogatives. They set themselves highest and take the first seat, even before the great Jehovah, and honor themselves more than God. They take to themselves the prerogatives of Christ in trusting in their own righteousness, expecting that regard to be paid to their works, their prayers, labors, and self-denial which is due only to Christ’s merits and intercession. They arrogate to them [selves] the honor due to the governor of the world when they refuse to submit to God’s will and contend with God concerning his administration. They often claim more to their own understanding than they give to God’s wisdom, and set their wills above God’s will; and set themselves up in God’s stead in making themselves and their private interest their supreme end.

II. Men will not bear to be treated by their neighbors with that disregard and contempt with which they treat the Most High. Men are wont greatly to resent it if others seem to treat ’em contemptuously, and as though they looked upon them [as] mean and despicable, whether this contempt be manifested by a contemptuous carriage or reproachful speeches; or only by being very much neglected, as though they [were] worthy of little or no notice, especially if men are much above others by birth or by the place they stand in, or the authority they are vested with. Or if they esteem themselves very much others’ superiors in circumstances or honorable qualities, will they great[ly] resent it if their inferiors treat them with slight and disregard. But with what contempt do men generally treat the Most High! What a degree of disregard of him do they manifest; in how regardless a manner do many of them behave themselves in his presence, when standing before him to be immediately engaged in his worship, when speaking to him in prayer, or hearing him speaking to them by [his] messengers: some of them laying themselves down to sleep, others gazing and staring2 about, some it may be smiling and laughing one on another.

If they should behave themselves after such a manner in the presence of some earthly monarch, it would be at their peril. And what contempt do most men show of God in their common conversation: how little regard do they show to him, although they are always in his presence; his eye is always upon them and they live and move and have their being in him, and he be their supreme Lord and Judge.

What a mean esteem do they show that they have of him. In their conversation, they set him in the lowest place, and at the left hand of all things. The meanest object of their lusts is set higher than he: he has less respect shown him than a few shillings of money,3 or than a morsel of meat or a draught of strong drink, or a little brutish pleasure with a harlot. The vilest of their wicked companions is more regarded, more feared and honored than the Lord of heaven and earth. Such is the conversation of most men under the gospel as shows contempt of all God’s attribute. They plainly show that they contemn his awful and infinite majesty and greatness, [his] spotless holiness, his justice; [they] contemn [both] his threatenings [and his] mercy. Offers of his favors and friendship, [even] offers of the privilege of being his children, [have the] meanest temporal advantage or pleasure [preferred] before it. [They] contemn the Word of God, [containing his] instructions, counsels, warnings, reasonings, [and] expostulations. [They also contemn the] works of God: God’s works of mercy and judgment, [especially] that greatest of all God’s works, the work of redemption, [including] the wisdom, the power, the justice, and the grace of that work. [They] contemn each person of the Trinity: the Father, who sent his Son, [and they] contemn Christ—[even] spit in his face—[and contemn] the Holy Spirit. [They] despise the messengers of God [and] all things by which he makes himself known.

III. Men will not bear such disobedience in those that are under [their] authority as they are commonly guilty of towards God. When men are vested with authority and command over others, they expect to be obeyed. A father expects that a child should give him that honor (Malachi 1:6).4 A master expects to be so far reverenced and regarded by his servant.5 A prince expects obedience from his subjects. And God, as he is the common Father of spirits, the Lord and master and absolute sovereign [of the creation], infinitely higher and vested with infinitely greater authority, may justly expect [proportionate respect]. But yet, no master’s commands [are] so much disobeyed; no prince [is] treated with so much rebellion. If a master or absolute prince gives forth his commands, such as are altogether reasonable and just in themselves, [his] will is fully known and his commands are peremptory—and especially [to] be enforced with much solemnity, and with threatenings of the severest displeasure. But [if] the subject or servant willfully disobeys [and] treats the commands with a great degree of disregard, such behavior is looked upon [as] intolerable. Especially if the commands are not only reasonable but very important, and concerning his proper business, the duty [is] much insisted on. [If the] commands [are] often repeated, [and] the temptations [to disobey] small, how highly are men provoked!

If a subject should thus treat an absolute prince thus, or a soldier in an army should thus behave himself towards his commander, nothing would be expected but the severest punishment. But yet thus is the great Jehovah, the infinite sovereign of the universe, treated continually by vast multitudes, everywhere [and] every day.

How plainly revealed are the most important commands of God’s word! How peremptorily delivered: with what majesty and solemnity enforced; what awful threatenings are denounced! And yet, [multitudes persist in their indifference].

IV. Men will not endure to be treated by men with such injustice—in withholding and abusing what is committed to their trust—[as] they are guilty of towards God. Men received from God all the faculties of their minds, [their] senses, members, [and] all their worldly possessions: committed to them by God to be improved for him.6 Lent things require that they be returned, but how is God robbed! Men withhold these things [and] improve them to other ends. These treasures are embezzled [to] convert ’em to a private use. A small part of them is begrutched [to God, but many people] take ’em and serve other gods with them. Hosea 2:8, “For she did not know [she had] taken my corn.”

Such robbery among men, committed one towards another, would be esteemed intolerable and would not be endured; if lent goods should be thus detained and wasted, and improved in opposition to those that lent them. If men should thus refuse to pay their debts one to another, if servants should waste the substance of their masters at so great a rate, and if the stewards of great men should so embezzle their treasure and squander their estates, with what severity would they be dealt! Such sort of persons would be judged a public nuisance, not fit to be dealt with or have any commerce with mankind.

V. Men will not bear from one another such opposition of spirit and behavior as they live in against God.7 The greater part of men that live under the gospel live from year to year under the reigning power of enmity of heart against God: a great dislike and distaste of those things that appertain to God or do nearly concern him. They take no pleasure in reading or hearing concerning him, disrelish all intercourse with him, are exceedingly out of their element when conversant with religious matters, have an enmity against the duties of God’s worship, and do very much shut out the Most High from their thoughts and live in opposition to the honor of God and interest of his kingdom in the world. They walk contrary to God: the general course of their lives is a course of opposition to God’s revealed will and his glory in the world. Thus men treat the Most High without much self-reflection or remorse.

But if any of their neighbors in the course of his behaviors shows a fixed disrelish and disgust, [or] evidently avoids their company as being very disagreeable to them, and constantly opposes their reputation and credit among men, and in the whole course of their conduct behave themselves so as tends to wound their interest and thwart all their designs, and to oppose, hinder and cross ’em in whatever they undertake, it would be esteemed insufferable. They would think they had just cause to make such men the objects of their hatred.

VI. Men abhor such guile and hypocrisy in their neighbors towards themselves as they are guilty of towards God. ‘Tis common for men to flatter the Most High, [to] pretend great respect with the mouth, to show much love, [to] come before God as his people come, [to] use very respectful terms: [to] speak of his glorious excellency, use honorable expressions, confess sin [and] praise God in words, use respectful gestures, wear a demure countenance, and it may be tell of great affections and speak to their neighbors of many experiences they have had. And yet all the while, [there is] not a speck of true love, no real honor, no real regard to all that is revealed; no love to Christ, [and] a reigning enmity [to God]; and they all the time act the part of enemies, live in secret wickedness [and] avoid his honor and interest like Judas.

Now how do men like such treatment one from another? If men from some perverse design come and flatter [persons], but at the same time they plainly discern that they are secret enemies, that they have no true friendship but on the contrary are full of hatred, are secretly undermining them, are opposing their interest, are giving deadly wounds to their reputation by what [they] say behind their backs: don’t men greatly abhor and detest such a conduct in their neighbors?

VII. Men commonly treat the Most High with such unfaithfulness as they will not bear one from another. Men do greatly abhor treachery and perfidiousness when they are the objects, when it is discovered that men are not men of their word, that from time to time they make promises and break ’em, that there is no depending upon them and that they make light of the most solemn covenants, and that they commonly act quite the contrary to their pretenses and obligations. How disgraceful and odious is the character of such men.

But yet thus is the great God commonly treated by men: Christendom is full of treacherous professors that make vows and live in the breach of them, that from time to time promise strict obedience to God and to devote their lives to his service, but live for the most part a careless and wicked life. Omission of known duties…How common is it for men, when they are distressed, [they] will make vows…. How highly do men resent falseness in the marriage covenant. “Jealousy is the rage of a man,” is “cruel as the grave,”8 and yet […] Jeremiah 3:20, “As a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.”

VIII. Men will not bear such ingratitude one from another as they are guilty of towards God. Ingratitude is a thing that is in a peculiar manner resented amongst men. If men have shown others peculiar kindness, have appeared for ’em when in great necessity and distress, have helped ’em, rescued [’em] when ready to perish, when no other appeared for ’em, and especially if not only delivered [’em] but done so much for ’em as to set ’em up in the world, have been the making of ’em: if after all they are treated ill, greatly injured, [then] they appear their enemies. What is more resented among men than such treatment as this?

The ill treatment of men under no circumstances whatsoever is wont to be so much resented as under the receipt of great kindness; but yet how commonly do men treat their Maker after such a manner as this, yea, with unspeakably greater ingratitude than this. From God they receive […]9

A man would look upon it [as] a peculiarly provoking instance of ingratitude if another should make use of those very things that are the fruits of his kindness [to attack him]. And how would men resent it if those that have received great kindness from ’em should not only be never the better to ’em for their kindness, but should be the worse? How would it be resented if a man should not only do much but suffer much, especially if this redeemer were some great person?

IX Men would exceedingly resent such obstinacy in injuriousness and ill treatment from their fellow creatures as they are guilty of towards God. If a servant or subject be not only disobedient to the most peremptory commands, but continuous in it, [and] goes on willfully—the commands repeated, many arguments used, the most solemn warnings [given]—and that with great ingratitude when, besides commands, threatenings and warnings, kind promises [are also made, it is likely that] many [acts of] kindness to [him will likewise prove] vain.

But with how much obstinacy do men everywhere continue in their disobedience and ingratitude to God! ‘Tis a lively representation of such obstinacy as is unanimous1 among men that we have in 2 Kings 17:12–15.

I. Use may be of Self-reflection. To put all upon reflection on themselves and comparing their own treatment of their Maker with that treatment they highly resent in their fellow creatures. Have you not resented it when you have seen others, as you supposed of an assuming disposition, [manifesting] contempt, disobedience, [and] great injustice [to you, or] have had a settled prejudice [and] set themselves against you? And if at any time you have found out others in an hypocritical and deceitful management towards you, [including] unfaithfulness, treachery, ingratitude, [and] obstinacy, doubtless you can remember some particular instances of past resentment wherein your spirit has been greatly stirred. And compare your own behavior towards God with those things in men which you have resented: have not you exalted yourself against God?2

Examine your conduct, particularly3 with this view. Examine particular sins which you have been guilty of: what contempt there was […] and if any of you have now at this present [time] any prejudice remaining towards any of your neighbors [or] any deep resentment that rests in your bosom. And inquire what it is for, and then compare this fault which you so resent with your own behavior towards God and towards the Lord Jesus Christ; and particularly inquire how it is now with you: what is your present disposition and behavior towards God, and inquire whether or no there ben’t the very same things implied in it. Examine the course you are now in. Examine your frame and behavior this very day.

II. Use may be of Convict. To convince sinners how justly they may be the objects of God’s indignation and wrath. When you highly resent those things in men that have been spoken of, it has appeared just to you. Those of you that now entertain [strong resentments against others], you think they deserve it; and is it not just that God should resent the same treatment in you towards him?

Consider, your treatment of God is not only the same in kind but infinitely more heinous and aggravated. You take it very heinously when any of your fellow creatures treats you with contempt, who are but a worm of the dust, [much less than] a prince, [for instance]; and [yet] when your equal [treats you with contempt, you are enraged]; yea, when your superiors [are disrespectful of you, you are also aroused]. But how heinous, then, is it [for] the great Jehovah, who is infinitely above [you]?

You look upon it [as] intolerable if those that are under your authority refuse to obey, [but all of them are,] as it were, your equals. God is infinitely more above the greatest prince on earth, [or the prince] as much below him, as your servant [is below you]. And then, besides, God’s right of authority and rule is infinitely stronger and more absolute [than that of any prince, for he has] given [you[ your being, upheld [you throughout your earthly existence, and he determines your] last end.

[Your contempt of God is] more heinous also on this account: his commands are in themselves perfectly holy, just, and good. You resent it when any treat you with injustice, [or] withhold from you what is yours; but what is this in comparison of your injustice towards God? You withhold what God [has] a thousand times greater right to: nothing that your neighbor can withhold is yours in any wise, as you and all that you have, and are, are God’s.

You esteem it very heinous and intolerable when any that you have not injured live in opposition of spirit, and set themselves against you. But it is infinitely more heinous [for you to live in opposition of spirit to God], who is infinitely lovely.

Do you peculiarly resent it when any are guilty of great ingratitude towards you? Is [God] many many4 [times]—infinitely—more aggravated [because his] kindness [is] infinitely greater, with infinitely more obliging circumstances: more free and independent, the objects of his kindness more unworthy?

You resent it greatly when your fellow creatures repeat acts [of hostility] and persist [in their contempt of you], but when were you ever treated with so much obstinacy [as God is by you]? Thus everyway [you consider it, man is more sinning than sinned against]. That sinners will thus resent the ill treatment of their fellow creatures and yet treat the Most High [despicably], without any sense of their own ill deserving, can be owing to nothing but this: they make infinitely more of themselves than of God. Those whom men esteem most honorable and worthy, they judge the most deserving of good treatment, and esteem their ill treatment the most heinous. So that this is really the case, owing to two things: first, a low thought of [God and Jesus Christ]; second, a magnifying [of] themselves. Were it not for these things, men would not object against the justice of that eternal punishment that God threatens. Were it not for a degree of this disposition, it would not seem too great a punishment.5

Obj. Against the force of the argument from God’s infinite worthiness to the justice of the eternal torments of hell, viz. that although God be infinitely excellent and worthy, yet natural men are blind and can’t see it. In order fully to remove this objection, I would observe that there is a twofold conviction of the worthiness of any being of respect: first, a rational conviction; second, a sensible view.

[Answ. I.] If the objection be from men’s being destitute of the latter,6 then I answer: This is the case with respect to all the exercises of an evil spirit towards men: contempt, hatred, revenge, [and] ingratitude. So it don’t seem a heinous thing in the offender; just so it is with regard to men’s ill spirit that they exercise towards God. And hence it don’t seem a heinous thing, [or] answerable to the greatness of the punishment. It shocks ’em to think of such a punishment. As to those offenses that appear very heinous to men, it don’t shock ’em to think of a very terrible punishment.

[Answ.] 2. As to a rational conviction of God’s infinite worthiness of respect, natural men may obtain [it] and yet remain in a natural state, just as it is with respect to those that hate and despise the most worthy men.

III. Use of Exh.

First. I would hence exhort to praise to God for his patience, forgiveness, and grace to us who have treated him so ill. ‘Tis because the Lord is God and not man (Hosea 11:9). Such as are the subject of the saving mercy of God in Christ, you have reason to confess that God’s ways of dealing with you are not as your ways, nor his thoughts [as your thoughts]. Isaiah 55:7–9, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”

God’s thoughts and ways have been thus high above yours in three respects:

1. Above your ways towards men.
2. Above your ways towards God.
3. Above your ways towards yourself.
Second. Exh. To [get] more of a spirit of meekness and forgiveness. You may see from what has been said how much you stand in need of the forbearance and forgiveness of God, in that in so many instances you have offered to God that treatment that men are most ready highly to resent one in another. Whence it appears that we infinitely need that God should not resent our injuries, and treat us for them as we are wont to treat one another, but need that he should exercise ten thousand times more forbearance and forgiveness. Surely, if we stand in such necessity of this [forgiveness], and hope for it, and especially if we hope we have already attained it, it should make us ashamed of our resentment [as well as] our disposition to retain deep prejudices.

Alas, what is the debt our neighbors that have offended us must owe to us in comparison of the debt we [owe to God]: Do they owe us an hundred pence? We owe ten thousand talents. How reasonable is that which Christ teaches us in Matthew 18, [the] latter end: “O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” To refuse [to forgive our neighbors] is practically to disapprove of God’s forgiveness of us. We think it would be in us an unbecoming meanness.

Third. Exh. To exhort all to watchfulness and care to avoid such treatment of the Most High as has been spoken of: contempt [and] disobedience. […] If we look on such things in fellow creatures towards us as so intolerable, then how unreasonable shall we be if we continue [in the same way towards God]. How can we expect any other than that God will at last treat us as we treat him, and as we are disposed to treat others that offend us?

Thus God has threatened to treat all such as, notwithstanding all long-suffering, forbearance, and grace, will still go on [in contempt and disobedience]. Jeremiah 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to their ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Galatians 6:7, “That which a man sows, that shall he also reap.” Psalms 18:25–26, “With the merciful I will show myself merciful; with an upright man I will show myself upright; with the pure I will show myself pure; and with the froward I will show myself froward.”7

1. In revising for repreaching, JE replaced “places” with “station.” ↩
2. In revising for repreaching, JE deleted “and staring.” ↩
3. In revising for repreaching, JE deleted “of money.” ↩
4. In revising for repreaching, JE relocated the scripture reference after the next sentence. ↩
5. MS: “master.” In revising for repreaching, JE caught the error and changed the word to “servant.” ↩
6. The sentence originally read: “committed to G. [-] be improved for Him.” In revising for repreaching, JE amended the sentence to its present reading. ↩
7. In revising for repreaching, JE deleted “opposition of spirit and behavior” and replaced it with “enmity.” ↩
8. Proverbs 6:34, Canticles 8:6. ↩
9. In the MS, this undeveloped head is followed by more than half a blank column. ↩
1. MS: “animous”[?]. ↩
2. JE drew four short horizontal lines following this point, probably indicating that he was to extemporize on it. ↩
3. MS: “Conduct in Particularly.” ↩
4. JE was writing very quickly here; his letter formation was poor. The MS could read “mercy mercy,” i.e. “[God’s] mercy infinitely more aggravated”; or “[God] is many many [times], infinitely more, aggravated.” ↩
5. Ed. italics. ↩
6. Ed. italics. ↩
7. JE only wrote down the last part of the scripture, changing the person from second to first; the previous part of the quote has been rendered to reflect the change in person. The last leaf of the MS is made from a fragment (with its left side sheared off) of a list of subscribers’ names, possibly for Humble Inquiry (see the notes to Saving Faith and Christian Obedience Arise from Godly Love for another portion of a similar list). Among the names is that of Thomas Wait, who in 1748 was brought up by JE on charges of fornication. The previous two signatures are made from a printed list of subscribers, with the names written perpendicular to the sermon text.

Jonathan Edwards [1743], Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758 (WJE Online Vol. 25) , Ed. Wilson H. Kimnach

Truth-Telling in a Time of Tragedy: September 11, 2001

Friday, September 9, 2011

[This message was preached on September 13, 2001–two days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011. It is republished in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of those attacks. An extended reflection on these events from the perspective of 2011 will follow.]

Preachers are expected to speak when no one else has any idea what to say. This is not an enviable position. Standing at the graveside, the dying bedside, the scene of the accident, the preacher is supposed to know what to say, when nothing seems right to say.

Sometimes, saying nothing is best. We can be too hasty to speak, too eager to explain, too superficial in our answer, or too arrogant in our presumption. At other times, silence would be mere cowardice and the abdication of calling and responsibility. To fail to speak in these moments is to deny one’s calling and to fail the supreme test of authentic ministry.

The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak” [Ecclesiastes 3:7b]. It is often hard to know the one from the other. In most cases, we should carefully speak and prayerfully answer and fearfully explain. This is one of those moments.

Thousands of preachers will stand in pulpits this Sunday and speak with trembling lips to congregations loaded with expectancy. It could hardly be otherwise. The pictures are replayed in our minds and on our television screens again and again and again. We are watching the unbelievable transformed into the undeniable.

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The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts: Deliverance and Damnation Display the Divine

The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts: Deliverance and Damnation Display the Divine
James M. Hamilton Jr.

Jim Hamilton is associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He previously served as assistant professor of biblical studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas, from 2003 to 2008. His publications are listed on his website: http://www.JimHamilton.info.

1. Reflecting on the Center of Biblical Theology in Acts

Acts 1:1 opens with a reference to what Jesus “began to do and teach”1 recounted in the Gospel of Luke, indicating that this second volume will carry the narrative of Jesus’ actions and teachings forward. The risen Lord spends some forty days instructing his disciples (1:3–8) before he ascends his throne (1:9–10), where he takes his place at the right hand of God and pours out the Spirit upon his disciples (2:1–4, 33). Clothed in the Spirit with power from on high, these witnesses to the resurrection continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus. The signs and wonders done by Jesus continue to be done “through the apostles” (2:43; 4:16). Just as Jesus poured out the Spirit on the Apostles, the Spirit is given to the Samaritans “through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands” (8:18) and to the Gentiles through the preaching of Peter (10:34–48).2 Barnabas and Paul relate that God did signs and wonders through them just as he did through Jesus (15:12; cf. 21:19). This pattern of Jesus continuing his ministry through these witnesses to his resurrection seems to inform the prominent theme of things being done or taught in the “name” of Jesus in Acts.3

We could list a number of themes that are emphasized in the book of Acts: the resurrection of Jesus; the human responsibility for his death; the availability of the forgiveness of sins; the healing ministry of the early church; the opposition to the new movement; and the praise afforded to God and Jesus, to name just a few. It might seem that these themes are isolated, or perhaps disconnected, but this essay argues that there is an organic connection between them. Moreover, there is a root from which these branches grow, a central theme that holds the others in orbit as planets around the sun. This central theme of Acts, in my judgment, is also the center of biblical theology.4

Such an argument is warranted since several “centers” have been suggested for the theology of Acts. I. Howard Marshall writes, “The theological centre of Acts lies in God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, the task of proclaiming it, and the nature of the new people of God empowered by the Holy Spirit.”5 This “centre” is somewhat diffuse, but in another place Marshall writes, “The main theme [of Acts] is that God has raised and exalted the crucified Jesus to be the Messiah and Lord through whom forgiveness and the Holy Spirit are offered to all who call on the Lord.”6 Marshall elsewhere states, “[T]he main storyline of Acts is concerned with the spread of the message.”7

Meanwhile, John Squires writes regarding the book of Acts that another “theme–the plan of God–functions as the foundational theological motif for the complete work.”8 This is not far from Frank Thielman’s description of “salvation history as Luke’s organizing theological principle.”9 More broadly, Darrell Bock writes that Jesus “is at the centre of God’s plan as the new era arrives.”10 Joel B. Green, however, claims “that salvation is the theme of Acts that unifies other textual elements within the narrative.”11 Ben Witherington writes, “Christ’s death and resurrection are at the very heart of God’s saving plan for humankind.”12 Brian Rosner asserts, “That Acts contains a series of summaries that report the progress of the gospel is unmistakable evidence that it is a central theme in the book.”13 David Peterson speaks of Jesus as “the eschatological centre of true worship” and “the focal point of God’s plans for Israel in the End time.”14

David Peterson’s summary essay in Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts observes that contributors to this collection of essays propose a number of “centers.” Peterson notes (1) salvation and (2) the plan of God,15 but we may add (3) Jesus, (4) Jesus’ death and resurrection, and (5) the progress of the gospel. With at least five proposals on the table from just one volume of essays, is there hope for another proposal?

I am convinced that there is and that it will stand against the complaint that proposed centers of biblical theology are either too broad to communicate anything meaningful or too narrow to encompass all the evidence.16 Some may object that my proposed formulation captures the message of Acts but does not use Luke’s own language, but Marshall justifies such a formulation in his discussion on the theology of Acts:

[I]t would be possible, at least in theory, to draw up a systematic presentation of what is offered piecemeal as the beliefs of the early church, to draw out the theological significance of what its leaders and members did (or give the theological reasons why they did it) and to reconstruct the underlying set of theological assumptions which may be necessary to fill the gaps and give coherence to what is actually said.17

This essay seeks the central, ultimate, foundational theme out of which all the other themes flow and into which they feed. Each of the proposals listed above stops one step short of being ultimate in that none of them mentions the way that everything terminates in the glory ascribed to God. Moreover, there is a formulation that brings each of the elements enumerated above together into an organically connected statement that is both broad enough to account for everything and focused enough to be helpful.

The message of Acts is that Jesus has been raised from the dead, that his kingdom is inaugurated and soon to be consummated, and that the work of kingdom-building is continuing through the disciples.18 As N. T. Wright argues, “For a first-century Jew, most if not all the works of healing, which form the bulk of Jesus’ mighty works, could be seen as the restoration to membership in Israel of those who, through sickness or whatever, had been excluded as ritually unclean.”19 The upshot of this for Acts is that just as Jesus was portrayed as pushing back the curses as he brought in his kingdom in the gospels, so the disciples carry this program forward in the book of Acts. In Luke’s narrative, the Apostles continue to do the mighty deeds of Jesus, and readers of Acts behold the triumph of the crucified one over the forces of sin and death. These firstfruits of the victory of the kingdom of God display the organic connection between the teachings of the Apostles, the signs and wonders God continues to do through them and their associates, and the center of biblical theology. I have argued that the glory of God in salvation through judgment is the center of biblical theology,20 and this essay argues that this theme is also the center of the theology of the book of Acts.

We begin where the early Christian proclamation in Acts begins: the resurrection of Jesus. From there we take up the cross. This movement “backwards” from the resurrection to the cross follows the order of the presentation in Acts. The burden of the sermon presented in Acts 2 is the resurrection, and only later in Acts is the death of Jesus interpreted. The triumph of God in Christ through the cross and resurrection makes the healings recounted in Acts possible.21 As the ravages of sin are reversed in these healings, the opposition from those who fight against God (cf. 5:39) is repeatedly thwarted. God delivers through Jesus, and he damns those who gather together against him and his Messiah (cf. Ps 2:2; Acts 4:25–31). This essay contends that the intended result and natural outcome of the resurrection, the forgiveness of sins available through the cross, the healings, and the overcoming of opposition to the church, is the ascription of glory to the God who has accomplished salvation through judgment (e.g., 2:47; 3:8–10).22 There are several direct notices that God receives glory:23

2:11: “we hear them speaking the magnificent deeds of God” (of those filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost)
2:47: “praising God” (in a summary description of the early church)
4:21: “all were glorifying God for what had happened, for the man was more than 40 years old” (healing of the lame man in 3:1–10)
7:2: “the God of glory” (at the beginning of Stephen’s speech)
7:55–56: “he saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Stephen as he is martyred)
10:46: “speaking in tongues and declaring the greatness of God” (of those filled with the Spirit at Cornelius’ home)
11:18: “and they glorified God saying, so then also to the Gentiles God has granted repentance unto life” (Spirit poured out at Cornelius’ home)
12:23: “And immediately the angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God” (Herod’s death)
13:48: “the Gentiles were rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord” (at Pisidian Antioch in response to the gospel coming to them)
21:20: “they were glorifying God” (the brothers in Jerusalem hearing Paul’s report)
There are likewise several direct notices that Jesus is glorified, exalted, or magnified:24

2:33: “having been exalted to the right hand of God” (Peter speaking of Jesus in his Pentecost sermon)
2:36: “God made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Peter speaking of Jesus in his Pentecost sermon)
3:13: “the God of our fathers glorified his servant Jesus” (Peter preaching after the healing of the lame man)
5:31: “God exalted him to his right hand as Champion and Savior” (Peter and the apostles before the Sanhedrin)
5:41: “rejoicing . . . that they were counted worthy to be dishonored for the name” (the apostles after being beaten, their reaction clearly glorifies Jesus)
8:8: “and it came about that there was much joy in that city” (joy over Philip’s proclamation of Christ [cf. 8:4–7])
8:39: “he was going on his way rejoicing” (the Ethiopian Eunuch rejoicing in “the good news about Jesus” [8:35])
19:17: “and the name of Jesus was magnified” (when people hear of the demonic response to the seven sons of Sceva)
22:11: “I could not see from the glory of that light” (the glory of Jesus when he appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus)
One of Luke’s missionary companions once declared that since all things are from God, through God, and for God, glory should therefore be ascribed to him forever (Rom 11:36). Luke seems to have shared this perspective.25

2. Tracing the Center of Biblical Theology in Acts

We proceed inductively, starting with the proclamation of the resurrection, then moving to the interpretation of the cross, the healings and mighty works the cross makes possible, and the way that the gospel advances in spite of opposition. As we proceed, we will attempt to trace the inner logic reflected in what Luke records.

2.1. The Resurrection: A False Verdict Overturned

People Killed Jesus, but God Raised Him

When the apostles reconstitute themselves as a complete twelve, they are portrayed as stating that “it is necessary” to have someone take the place of Judas as “a witness to the resurrection” (Acts 1:21–22). Jews did not expect the Messiah to be crucified by the Romans, so many concluded that the dead man could not be the Messiah.26 Acts opens in the first weeks, months, and years after the crucifixion that Luke narrates in his first volume. He portrays the early church explaining that the crucifixion of Jesus was an act of wicked injustice. The witnesses to the resurrection hold their contemporaries, the Gentiles, and the leadership of the Jewish people responsible for the death of Jesus, and they proclaim again and again that after people killed Jesus, God raised him up. This proclamation of the resurrection has the appearance of an intentional, careful, direct response to the reproach of the crucifixion. These announcements “offer confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah.”27 This explains, Ladd writes, why “the resurrection stands as the heart of the early Christian message.”28

Luke portrays Peter and Paul as consistently articulating the responsibility borne by the inhabitants of Jerusalem for the death of Jesus. Implicit in this assertion is the claim that the death of Jesus is not evidence of divine displeasure, and this implicit assertion is supplemented by the asseverations that God planned the events to turn out this way (2:23; 4:28).29 Further, God attested to Jesus by signs and wonders (2:22). The prayer in Acts 4:30 is that the signs and wonders by which God showed Jesus to be the Messiah would now continue through his name. These statements are accompanied by the declaration that God has raised Jesus from the dead. The crucifixion fails to prove that Jesus was not the Messiah; the people are responsible for it. Thus, God was not the one who rendered the false verdict, but instead he has reversed it by raising Jesus from the dead.30 These main elements–that people are responsible for the death of Jesus and that God has raised him from the dead–are asserted side by side five times in the Gospel of Luke and six times in Acts. Table 1 below set these statements of human responsibility for the death of Jesus next to the statements of God’s vindicating resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus speaks each of the statements in the Gospel of Luke, so when Peter (Acts 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:39–40) and Paul (13:28–30) continue to proclaim virtually the same message, it is clear that they are continuing the ministry of Jesus. The repeated assertion of human responsibility for the death of Jesus in Acts establishes that God is justly calling men to account for the miscarriage of justice that resulted in the death of the righteous one. Those who crucified Jesus did what they wanted to do, and what they did was evil. God has not overlooked this, nor is the early church silent: “God made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus, whom you crucified” (2:36). Even as the word of condemnation comes to those responsible, however, full pardon is offered.

People Can Repent and Receive Forgiveness of Sins

The forgiveness of sins proclaimed by the early church is a forgiveness that comes to people who realize that they stand condemned. The condemnation announced is intended to provoke them to repent and trust in the mercy of God. This forgiveness that follows repentance is first presented as what Jesus announced (Luke 24:46), and it is offered in Acts along with each mention of human responsibility for the death of Jesus and God’s response in raising him. Table 1 below highlights the note of forgiveness sounded in each of the passages. The only slight deviation is where Acts 4:12 speaks of “salvation” in place of “forgiveness of sins.”

Table 1 below shows that each time the Apostles call their contemporaries to account for the death of Jesus, they accompany the condemning word with an offer of forgiveness and salvation. The death and resurrection of Jesus results in the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins. Salvation comes through judgment. Those who are guilty are condemned, judged, and if their condemnation brings about repentance and faith, they are forgiven and saved.

Forgiven People Rejoice in God

The final element of what I am arguing (i.e., that salvation through judgment results in glory for God) occurs in each of the contexts under discussion: those who receive the good news respond by rejoicing in God. See the final column in the table 1 below.

Table 1: God glorified in salvation through judgment in Luke-Acts

1. People killed Jesus 2. God raised Jesus 3. People can repent and receive forgiveness of sins 4. Forgiven people rejoice in God
1 The Messiah would suffer at the hands of men (Luke 9:22; 18:33; 24:7, 26, 46) And rise from the dead on the third day (Luke 9:22; 18:33; 24:7, 26, 46) Thus it has been written that the Messiah should suffer and rise from the dead . . . and for repentance unto forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations (Luke 24:46–47; this forgiveness is not announced in Luke until after the resurrection) And having worshiped him they returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:52)
2 You killed him (Acts 2:23) God raised him (Acts 2:24) And Peter said to them, “Repent!” He said, “And each one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38) And daily they continued in the temple with one accord . . . praising God (Acts 2:46–47)
3 And you killed the Champion of life (Acts 3:15) Whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses (Acts 3:15) Repent, then, and turn so that your sins might be wiped away (Acts 3:19) All were praising God for what had happened (Acts 4:21)
4 Jesus the Messiah of Nazareth, whom you crucified (Acts 4:10) Whom God raised from the dead (Acts 4:10) And there is no salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men in which it is necessary for us to be saved (Acts 4:12) they went to their own and reported . . . and having heard they raised their voice to God with one accord (Acts 4:23–24)
5 Whom you put to death (Acts 5:30) The God of our Fathers raised Jesus (Acts 5:30) God exalted this one as Champion and Savior to his right hand to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31) rejoicing . . . that they were counted worthy to be dishonored for the name (Acts 5:41)
6 Whom also they killed, having hung him upon a tree (Acts 10:39) This one God raised on the third day (Acts 10:40) In this one all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43) speaking in tongues and declaring the greatness of God (Acts 10:46)
7 They asked Pilate for him to be put to death (Acts 13:28) But God raised him from the dead (Acts 13:30) Therefore let it be known to you, men, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you (Acts 13:38) the Gentiles were rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord (Acts 13:48)


There is a clear pattern in these texts:

The apostles declare that wicked people are responsible for Jesus’ death.
God raised Jesus from the dead.
God offers forgiveness to the guilty if they repent and believe.
Those who repent and receive forgiveness glorify and praise God.31
From the pattern in these texts, we conclude that in Luke–Acts, God is glorified in salvation through judgment. Moreover, this message seems to be the main concern of the two-volume work.32 Put differently, the glory of God in the salvation through judgment accomplished by Jesus and offered to those who repent and believe is the center of the theology of Acts (and Luke and the whole Bible).

The Scriptural Necessity of the Messiah’s Death and Resurrection

These explanations of the crucifixion are necessary because of the astonishing nature of the events of the Messiah’s life. Luke not only insists on the innocence of Jesus, he seeks to show that however surprised readers of the OT might be by a crucified Messiah, the OT necessitated just this.33 Four texts in particular highlight this:34

Luke 24:25–27: “And he said to them, ‘O fools and slow in heart to believe in all that the prophets spoke. Were not these things necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to enter into his glory?’ And beginning from Moses and from all of the prophets he interpreted for them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Acts 3:18: “But God, the things he proclaimed through the mouth of all the prophets for his Messiah to suffer, he fulfilled in this way (cf. 3:21).
Acts 17:2–3: “And according to custom for Paul, he went to them and on three Sabbaths disputed with them from the Scriptures, opening and setting side by side that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and that this is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I proclaim to you.”
Acts 26:22b–23: “I stand testifying to both small and great, saying nothing except what both the prophets and Moses said would take place, that the Messiah would suffer, that being first from the resurrection of the dead he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles.”
The necessity these texts point to results from what the OT indicated would take place. Since the OT predicted this, it had to happen. Luke puts the statement in Luke 24 on the lips of Jesus; the one in Acts 3 is ascribed to Peter; and the ones in Acts 17 and 26 describe Paul’s activity. This further underscores the continuity between the message of Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

In Acts, salvation through judgment is primarily expressed in the death and resurrection of Jesus. As Schreiner states, “In Acts Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection are still central.”35 The focus of the early Christian proclamation is on the judgment of God that reverses the evil verdict of those who crucified Jesus. God’s justice is manifested as he raises Jesus from the dead and also as he calls the perpetrators of that injustice to account through the preaching of the apostles. God’s salvation is put on display in the proclamation that Jesus was raised from the dead. Significantly, this is not a deliverance from the cross but through death on the cross. No death, no resurrection.

There are several ways that this salvation through judgment glorifies God:

God’s power is demonstrated in his victory over sin and death.
God’s holiness is honored in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus so that forgiveness can be offered to the guilty.
God’s love is shown in his willingness to send Jesus to redeem sinful men.
God’s wisdom is displayed in his elaborate and surprising plan that reveals his character and accomplishes salvation.
This salvation through judgment is worked out through the lives of people who are judged for the way they live, become convicted, and are saved through that experience of judgment. God is glorified as those who formerly scorned him show him due reverence.
The in-breaking kingdom also manifests deliverance through damnation as the outworkings of the curse–disease, disability, and demonic oppression–are overcome. Here again, the salvation comes through the judgment of the evil forces and the triumph over them accomplished by the victorious Christ.
In Schreiner’s words, “God works out his saving plan so that he would be magnified in Christ, so that his name would be honored.”36

2.2. The Cross: The Display of God’s Justice

There is a prior salvation through judgment on which the salvation through judgment experienced by the repentant is based. This is the salvation accomplished by Jesus on the cross as he is judged by the holy God on behalf of his people. Jesus is judged, and he suffers the penalty due his people that they might be saved. He is damned, and they are delivered. Luke established this interpretation of the death of Jesus in his Gospel as he portrayed Jesus explaining his death to his disciples on the night he was betrayed:

And having taken bread, having given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me.” And the cup likewise after the supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:19–20).37

This presents the death of Jesus on the cross as him being given on behalf of (u`pe,r) his disciples. The fact that it is the new covenant in the blood of Jesus matches the way that the old covenant was also entered into with the blood of sacrificial animals (Exod 24:5–8).

Jesus’ death on the cross is the place where God’s justice is satisfied so that those who are represented by Jesus can be forgiven. This understanding of the cross is also articulated in Acts 8 when Philip explains Isa 53 to the Ethiopian Eunuch (8:30–35).38 Several features of the context in Acts 8 indicate that the Eunuch is reading more than the isolated verses of Isaiah that Luke cites. While Luke only quotes Isa 53:7b–8a, the whole passage–and probably the whole section and book of Isaiah–is in view.39 The Eunuch seems to be reading the Greek translation of Isaiah.40 Right before Philip arrived at his chariot to hear him reading Isa 53:7b–8a, the Eunuch would have been reading these words: “to whom it has not been proclaimed concerning him, they will see, and those who have not heard, they will understand” (Isa 52:15b).41 He would then have read,

He bore our sins and was pained for us . . . . And he was wounded on account of our sins, and he was made weak on account of our sins; the punishment of our peace was upon him; by his stripes we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, a man has wandered in his own way; and the Lord gave him over for our sins (53:4a, 5–6).

John Walton has recently proposed a stimulating ancient Near-Eastern background for this text,42 and this background fits very well with the interpretation of the text Luke shows Philip giving to the Ethiopian Eunuch. Just as the substitute king ritual of the ancient Near-East satisfied the wrath of the god(s) against the king and the people he represented, so Isa 53 seems to be interpreted by the early Christians as an indication that Israel’s King-Messiah suffered for his people.43 The view that early Christians interpreted the death of Jesus through the lens of Isa 53 is communicated as Luke recounts that “having begun from that Scripture, Philip proclaimed the gospel of Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35).

There are other points of contact between Acts and Isa 53,44 and as Luke Timothy Johnson has written, “It is reasonable to suppose . . . that Luke expected his readers to have a reading competence sufficient to catch these allusions and echoes.”45 Places where the influence of Isa 53 can be felt in Acts include Acts 3:13,46 where Luke recounts Peter claiming that “The God of our fathers glorified (ἐδόξασεν) his servant (τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ) Jesus, whom you handed over (παρεδώκατε) . . . .” This matches Isa 52:13: “Behold my servant (ὁ παῖς μου) will be wise and exalted and exceedingly glorified (δοξασθήσεται).” Isa 53:6 and 12 use the verb “handed over” (παρέδωκεν [v.6], παρεδόθη [v.12, 2x]) with reference to the servant being delivered up for the sins of his people.47 Later in the speech, Luke has Peter saying, “Having raised up his servant (τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ), God sent him to you first, blessing you when each one of you turns from your sins” (3:26). The verbal connection to Isaiah through the use of the term παῖς is here accompanied by the thematic link to the references to what the servant would accomplish by his death in Isa 53:10c–12:48

And the Lord was pleased to take from the pain of his soul, to show to him light and to form for understanding, for the Righteous one (δίκαιον) to justify (δικαιῶσαι), serving well for the many, and he himself will bear their sins. On account of this, he will inherit many, and the plunder of the strong he will divide because his soul was given over to death, and he was reckoned among the lawless; and he bore the sins of many, and on account of their sins he was handed over.

Just as the servant will see “light,” Jesus was raised up (Isa 53:11; Acts 3:26). Just as the servant would serve the many, Jesus blesses those who repent at Peter’s word (Isa 53:11; Acts 3:26). The servant is referred to as “the Righteous one” in Isa 53:11, and Luke refers to Jesus as “the Righteous one” in Acts 3:14 and 22:14.

The statement in Isa 53:11 that the Lord was pleased “for the Righteous one to justify, serving well the many,”49 also corresponds to the words Luke shows Paul proclaiming in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch:

Let it be known to you, men who are brothers, that on account of this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and from all which you were not able to be justified (δικαιωθῆναι) in the law of Moses, in this one everyone who believes is justified (δικαιοῦται) (Acts 13:38–39).

The forgiveness of sins proclaimed by the early church in Acts (2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18) is available because of the death of Jesus. God’s justice is demonstrated as the due penalty for sin is paid and the sins of those who believe in Jesus are borne by him on the cross. The salvation proclaimed by the early church is available because of the judgment of sin at the cross. Salvation comes through judgment for the glory of God as his righteousness is upheld and his mercy is freely offered.

2.3. Healings and Mighty Works: Deliverance and Damnation

In biblical theology, the activity of unclean spirits, the corruption, decay, and death of the human body, and the ravages of the forces of nature are all outworkings of the alienation introduced by the rebellion of creatures against the Creator. Gen 3:15 recounts the words of God’s judgment against the serpent. In this judgment, however, we also receive intonations of a promise of life that would overcome death.50 Though God had promised that the man would die in the day he ate of the tree, in the announcement that the woman’s seed would crush the head of the serpent, Adam hears a promise of life, and so he names Eve the mother of all living (Gen 3:20). There appears to have been some hope for a reversal of the other curses as well, as evidenced by Lamech’s words at the birth of Noah. Echoing the language of the curse in Gen 3:17, Lamech is presented as saying, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the pain of our hands from the ground that Yahweh cursed” (Gen 5:29).

As Jesus comes driving out unclean spirits, healing, and even overcoming death in the Gospel of Luke, it seems that the hope for the one who would open the way to Eden has been realized.51 He is crucified, but death has no power to hold him (Acts 2:24). He ascends his throne and continues the work of inaugurating his kingdom through his witnesses. Thus, the apostles and their associates drive out unclean spirits (e.g. Philip, 8:6; Paul, 18:12), heal the lame (Peter, 9:34; Paul, 14:8–10), and raise the dead (Peter, 9:40; Paul, 20:9–10). These mighty works point to the salvation that has come through the judgment of the forces of evil and death. Jesus the risen Lord has triumphed over them, and the exercise of his authority over the forces he has judged results in praise for God from those who are redeemed from the futility of the fallen order.52

2.4. Fighting Against God: Vain Opposition to the Messiah’s Kingdom

Yet another way in which God triumphs in judgment in Acts has to do with those who, in the words of Gamaliel, find themselves “fighting against God” (Acts 5:39). The opposition to and martyrdom of Stephen illustrates this motif of people fighting against God by opposing the church (6:9–8:1). The opposition scatters the church, and leading the charge against the Messiah and his people is Saul (8:3; 9:1–2, 4–5). Herod joins the campaign by killing James and imprisoning Peter (12:1–3). The Jews also oppose the new movement when Paul begins to proclaim Jesus as Messiah (13:45; 14:19, etc.).

The opposition to the early church meets the outcome of all attempts to fight against God. The church relentlessly grows because God is the one adding to its numbers (see 1:15; 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7). Frank Thielman rightly refers to “the certain triumph of God’s saving purpose” as “one of Luke’s settled theological convictions.”53 The scattering of believers from Jerusalem results in the Samaritans (8:12) and the Ethiopian Eunuch (8:27–38) coming to faith.54 Saul’s opposition to the church results in his conversion (9:1–22).55 Herod’s attempt to take glory that belongs to God results in his death (12:23). Tellingly, Luke follows the notice of Herod’s death with the statement that the Word of God continued to triumph (12:24). Fighting against God results in conversion in Saul’s case and death in Herod’s. The war on God has no chance of success. As Thielman writes, “Luke wants his readers to know that God’s saving purposes will be accomplished despite all efforts to stop them, whether invisible or visible.”56 And yet, as Brian Rosner notes, “It is not progress in the triumphalistic sense that Acts portrays . . ., for opposition and persecution are pervasive and enduring.”57 The non-triumphalistic progress by God’s power through every affliction is unstoppable: the Jews try with no avail to stop the advance of the gospel by opposing Paul. The Romans lock him up, but the Word continues to roam freely as jailers get converted (16:25–34) and people come to where Paul is held to hear the good news of the kingdom (28:30–31).

3. Conclusion: The Glory of God in Salvation Through Judgment

God’s justice is seen in his righteous reversal of the unjust condemnation of Jesus, in his just calling to account of those who perpetrated that crime, and in the proclamation that forgiveness of sins is available through Jesus. Forgiveness is available through Jesus because Jesus has satisfied God’s justice in his death on the cross.

Thus, the justice of God is of a piece with the salvation of God. God demonstrates his mercy by making a way for sins to be forgiven through the death of Jesus. Upholding his justice through the death of Jesus, God can extend mercy to guilty people who deserve only justice. This mercy is offered to those who crucified the Messiah, and the redemptive mercy of God is put on display through the healings and teachings that the witnesses to the resurrection do in Acts.

God’s justice and his mercy balance one another. The justice keeps the mercy from becoming insipid sentimentality, while the mercy keeps the justice from crushing all with just punishment.58 Justice and mercy serve a higher aim, as well, for both display God and evoke the glory that God rightly deserves. Deliverance and damnation display the Divine. Or, we might say, the center of the theology of Acts is the glory of God in salvation through judgment.

↑ Back Unless otherwise noted all translations are my own. A previous version of this essay was presented at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Valley Forge, PA, November 2005.
↑ Back Note the verbal correspondence between Acts 2:11 and 10:46: 2:11: ἀκούομεν λαλούντων αὐτῶν ταῖς ἡμετέραις γλώσσαις τὰ μεγαλεῖα τοῦ θεοῦ. 10:46: ἤκουον γὰρ αὐτῶν λαλούντων γλώσσαις καὶ μεγαλυνόντων τὸν θεόν.
↑ Back See Acts 2:38; 3:6, 16 (2x); 4:7, 10, 12, 17, 18, 30; 5:28, 40, 41; 8:12, 16; 9:14, 15, 16, 21, 27, 28; 10:43, 48; 15:17; 16:18; 19:5, 13, 17; 21:13; 22:16. Cf. David Peterson, “The Worship of the New Community,” in Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts (ed. I. Howard Marshall and David Peterson; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 381: “In simple terms it was the exalted Lord Jesus who healed the lame man” (referring to Acts 3:6).
↑ Back For a discussion that seeks to account for the whole Bible, see James M. Hamilton Jr., The Center of Biblical Theology: The Glory of God in Salvation Through Judgment (Wheaton: Crossway, forthcoming).
↑ Back I. Howard Marshall, “How Does One Write on the Theology of Acts?” in Witness to the Gospel, 3.
↑ Back I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 180.
↑ Back I. Howard Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 26; quoted by Brian S. Rosner, “The Progress of the Word,” in Witness to the Gospel, 216.
↑ Back John Squires, “The Plan of God in the Acts of the Apostles,” in Witness to the Gospel, 23.
↑ Back Frank Thielman, Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 113–16.
↑ Back Darrell L. Bock, “Scripture and the Realisation of God’s Promises,” in Witness to the Gospel, 48; cf. 42, 46–47.
↑ Back Joel B. Green, “‘Salvation to the End of the Earth’ (Acts 13:47): God as Saviour in the Acts of the Apostles,” in Witness to the Gospel, 83, cf. 85–86.
↑ Back Ben Witherington, “Salvation and Health in Christian Antiquity: The Soteriology of Luke-Acts in Its First Century Setting,” in Witness to the Gospel, 159.
↑ Back Rosner, “The Progress of the Word,” 221; cf. 233.
↑ Back Peterson, “The Worship of the New Community,” 374; cf. 377, 394.
↑ Back Peterson, “Luke’s Theological Enterprise: Integration and Intent,” in Witness to the Gospel, 523, 525.
↑ Back Discussing OT theology, Eugene H. Merrill (Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006], 20) writes, “As critics of a ‘center centered’ approach have noted repeatedly, centers often fail to be narrow enough to avoid tautology (e.g., God is the center of theology) or broad enough to incorporate all the multitudinous variety of the biblical texts and teachings.”
↑ Back Marshall, “How Does One Write on the Theology of Acts?” 5.
↑ Back I use the present tense here because when the curtain falls on Luke’s narrative in Acts 28, Paul and others are still proclaiming the kingdom. Luke’s account ends, but the drama continues.
↑ Back N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 191. Cf. John Nolland, “Salvation History and Eschatology,” in Witness to the Gospel, 69.
↑ Back James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Center of Biblical Theology: The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment?” TynBul 57 (2006): 57–84.
↑ Back Cf. 3:16, where the lame man is healed by faith in Jesus.
↑ Back Though I do not discuss them in detail below, the same can be said for the themes of salvation history, the fulfillment of God’s plan, the progress of the gospel, and, in my view, any other theme in Acts.
↑ Back Indirect ascriptions of glory to God include the statements that people feared God (2:43; 5:5, 11; 9:31), God’s assertions that he will display wonders (4:30; 5:12; 14:3), and the many statements of Scriptural fulfillment, which show that God has kept his word.
↑ Back Indirect ascriptions include all the references to the “name of Jesus” (see note 3 above).
↑ Back Pursuing a “canonical” reading of Acts, Robert Wall writes, “If one of the roles that Acts performs within the NT is to introduce the letters of the NT, we presume that the narrative of Acts will yield clues to the deeper logic of the Pauline letters, beginning with Romans” (“Israel and the Gentile Mission in Acts and Paul: A Canonical Approach,” in Witness to the Gospel, 440).
↑ Back See the examples of Theudas and Judas the Galilean in Acts 5:37–38.
↑ Back Thielman, Theology of the New Testament, 123.
↑ Back George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 353.
↑ Back Cf. John B. Polhill, Acts (NAC 26; Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 63; Squires, “The Plan of God,” 26.
↑ Back Luke portrays Stephen describing a similar pattern in the lives of Joseph and Moses (Acts 7:9, 35). Both were rejected by their kinsmen but affirmed by God, providing a typological pattern that would be fulfilled in Jesus. For my attempts to trace out typological readings of Scripture, see “The Virgin Will Conceive: Typological Fulfillment in Matthew 1:18–23,” in Built upon the Rock: Studies in the Gospel of Matthew (ed. John Nolland and Dan Gurtner; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 228–47; and my Julius Brown Gay Lecture presented at Southern Seminary on March 13, 2008, “The Typology of David’s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel,” available online at http://www.sbts.edu/pdf/JBGay/the_typology_of_davids_rise_to_power2008-03-101.pdf.
↑ Back Cf. Joel B. Green, “‘Salvation to the End of the Earth,'” 106: “All of this is to say . . . that the God of Israel is portrayed in Acts as the Great Benefactor, Jesus as Lord of all, and that the nature of this benefaction, of this lordship, embodies, enables, and inspires new ways of living in the world.”
↑ Back Obviously, neither this claim regarding Luke nor the one that follows in parentheses in the next sentence above regarding the whole Bible can be demonstrated in this brief essay. For the argument for this thesis for both the gospel of Luke and the rest of the Bible, see my forthcoming study, The Center of Biblical Theology (note 4 above).
↑ Back Cf. Thielman, Theology of the New Testament, 148: “[N]one of these developments was accidental. God had planned for his saving purpose to be accomplished in this way, and Luke tells his readers in many ways that these events correspond to the expectation expressed in Israel’s Scriptures . . . .”
↑ Back Italics indicate OT prediction and the resulting necessity. Bold print highlights the Messiah’s suffering.
↑ Back Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 289.
↑ Back Schreiner, New Testament Theology, 14.
↑ Back Joseph A. Fitzmyer (The Gospel According to Luke X–XXIV, AB [Garden City: Doubleday, 1985], 1391) writes of “a vicarious dimension” and “a sacrificial nuance” with “a soteriological nuance” that “implies a soteriological value to Jesus’ own ‘suffering.'” See also Robert H. Stein, Luke (NAC 24; Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 543–44.
↑ Back For Luke’s use of the OT in Acts, see Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles (AB; New York: Doubleday, 1998), 90–95; and I. Howard Marshall, “Acts,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 513–606, which surveys scholarship and interpretive issues (513–27) and discusses Acts 8:26–40 (573–75). See also Darrell L. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology (JSNTSup; Sheffield: JSOT, 1987), 225–30; C. K. Barrett, “Luke/Acts,” in It Is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture (ed. D. A. Carson and H. G. M. Williamson; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 231–44. Unfortunately there are only scattered references to and not a discrete discussion of Isa 53 in Acts 8:30–35 in David W. Pao, Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), but this volume should be consulted for the wider issue of Luke’s use of Isaiah and for a survey of Luke’s use of Scripture (see 5–17).
↑ Back (1) Luke describes Philip coming upon the Eunuch “reading Isaiah the prophet” (ἀνεγίνωσκεν τὸν προφήτην Ἠσαΐαν [8:28]; αὐτοῦ ἀναγινώσκοντος Ἠσαΐαν τὸν προφήτην [8:30]). In verse 28, the verb “reading” is an imperfect tense-form, and in verse 30 it is a participle, both of which communicate ongoing action. (2) If the Eunuch is reading before Philip arrives and hears the words quoted by Luke, he has presumably read all of Isaiah to that point and has probably just read the whole passage beginning from at least Isa 52:13. (3) The Eunuch’s question regarding of whom the prophet speaks (Acts 8:34) appears to be informed by the use of the word “servant” in Isaiah
↑ Back ndash;66, where at points the servant appears to be the nation, at points an individual, and at points Isaiah himself. The Eunuch’s question naturally arises in the mind of an attentive reader of these chapters of Isaiah. (4) Before quoting Isa 53:7a–8b, Luke states, “Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this” (Acts 8:32). The term translated “passage,” περιοχή, refers to a “section of a book” (LSJ, 1381; cf. BDAG, 803). 40 The wording of Acts 8:32–33 in the NA27, except for the bracketed pronoun (which is in some witnesses to the Greek translation of Isaiah; for the evidence see Ziegler’s apparatus), corresponds exactly to the wording of both the Rahlfs text and the text of the critical edition of Isa 53:7b–8a. See Septuaginta (ed. Alfred Rahlfs; Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1979; and Joseph Ziegler, Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum Auctoritate Societatis Litterarum Gottingensis editum XIV: Isaias (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1983).
↑ Back Here I have translated the Greek of Isaiah presented in the Rahlfs text. The only differences in the text of the critical edition are the lack of the final ν on the verbs ἀκηκόασιν συνήσουσιν, and the apparatus presents no major variants (see Ziegler, Septuaginta). My translations can now be compared with those of the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS), which is available online at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/.
↑ Back John H. Walton, “The Imagery of the Substitute King Ritual in Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song,” JBL 122 (2003): 734–43.
↑ Back For similar analyses, see Schreiner, New Testament Theology, 296–97; Thielman, Theology of the New Testament, 120.
↑ Back For the best discussion of criteria for discerning the presence of intertextual echoes, see Richard B. Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 34–45.
↑ Back Luke Timothy Johnson, Septuagintal Midrash in the Speeches of Acts, The Père Marquette Lecture in Theology 2002 (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2002), 47. While I am not sure about the use of the term “midrashic,” what Johnson goes on to say is instructive: “It has become clear as well that the full force of Luke’s exposition is rarely obvious within a single speech. Rather, through the entire set of speeches in Acts, a sort of midrashic argument is constructed. The argument is properly called messianic . . .”
↑ Back Similarly Polhill, Acts, 131.
↑ Back In Isa 53:6, the Lord “handed over” the servant, while in Acts 3:13, Luke shows Peter charging the people who gather to hear what he has to say with “handing over” Jesus. This tension is also present in Acts 2:23, where the killing of Jesus by the people is stated to be “by the ordained plan and foreknowledge of God.” God ordained the crucifixion, but the people are nevertheless responsible for it. That Isa 53:6 attributes the handing over to God is reflected in Rom 3:25, where Paul states that God put Jesus forward as a sacrifice of propitiation.
↑ Back Παῖς is also used of Jesus in Acts 4:27, 30.
↑ Back It seems to me that my translation is more satisfying grammatically and better fits the context of the passage than the NETS translation of this phrase: “to justify a righteous one who is well subject to many” (Isa 53:11). My translation takes δίκαιον as the accusative subject of the infinitive (rather than as the object of the infinitive, as NETS has it), and in my translation the participle δουλεύοντα is taken adverbially and in an active sense (rather than substantivally and in a passive sense as NETS has it). I have not done an exhaustive analysis of translation technique in the Greek Isaiah, which may inform the NETS rendering, but my rendering is as natural a reading of the Greek (if not superior) as that found in NETS.
↑ Back See further James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15,” SBJT 10:2 (2006): 30–54, and James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham,” TynBul 58 (2007): 253–73.
↑ Back Much could be said about this in Luke, but a few brief comments must suffice: Luke’s genealogy is structured such that it ends with Adam, who is referred to as “the son of God” (Luke 3:38), and this is immediately followed by the temptation narrative (4:1–13), in which Jesus is referred to as “the son of God” (4:3). Thus, the mention of the son of God, Adam, who failed when tempted, is juxtaposed to the mention of the son of God, Jesus, who overcame when tempted. See esp. E. Earle Ellis, The Gospel of Luke (NCB; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 93–95. Ellis writes, “Elsewhere Adam is viewed as a type of Messiah, the one who restores the Paradise that Adam lost” (93, citing his comments on 23:43, and referring to Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:45; Heb 2:6). Jesus is presented as saying to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43), and παράδεισος can refer to the Garden of Eden (BDAG, s.v.). Ellis writes, “‘Paradise’, i.e. park or garden, refers in the Old Testament to the Garden of Eden, which then becomes a type of the future kingdom of God (cf. Isa. 51:3)” (Luke, 268). Beale writes that Jesus’ statement in Luke 23:43 “suggests further that Jesus’ death was in fact a pathway leading to a new creational Eden, apparently beginning to fulfil the intention of the primeval garden sanctuary” (G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God [New Studies in Biblical Theology 17; Downers Grove: IVP, 2004], 190, cf. 190n40).
↑ Back See §1 and the table in §2.1 for texts.
↑ Back Thielman, Theology of the New Testament, 125, cf. 125–35.
↑ Back See also 10:44–48; 11:21, 24; 12:24; 13:43, 48–49; 14:1, 21; 16:5; 18:10; 19:20. Marshall notes, “[T]he triumph of God, or rather of his Word, and the suffering of his messengers of the Word go hand in hand in the pattern of the book” (“How Does One Write on the Theology of Acts?” in Witness to the Gospel, 13).
↑ Back Cf. Brian Rapske, “Opposition to the Plan of God and Persecution,” in Witness to the Gospel, 255.
↑ Back Thielman, Theology of the New Testament, 134.
↑ Back Rosner, “The Progress of the Word,” 233; similarly Polhill, Acts, 71–72.
↑ Back See R. W. L. Moberly, “How May We Speak of God? A Reconsideration of the Nature of Biblical Theology,” TynBul 53 (2002): 177–202.