In our last lesson, we learned about how the magnificent Holy Spirit put on a theatrical show on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem and caught the attention of many Jews. Peter has launched into a long sermon in which he’s ripping Old Testament passages out of context and making Jesus out to be nothing more than a mere mortal who the God Yahweh has exalted with great honors.
Now before we continue examining Peter’s speech, there is a major theological snare that we need to avoid falling into, and that is the belief that this is the first time the Holy Spirit has ever involved Himself in human affairs. We have three Gods, and all three of Them have been intimately involved with humans since the very beginning. The fact that Jesus and the Holy Spirit chose not to draw attention to Themselves before now does not mean that this is the start of Their existence.
A second essential truth that we must keep a grip on is that Jesus is God Almighty, not a mere bumbling mortal. This might sound obvious at first, but if you say Jesus is “fully God and fully man” enough times, you’re going to start getting muddled about His identity. Jesus is not “fully man,” nor did He set His Divinity aside when He showed up on earth. We get such notions from the apostle Paul, who claims in Philippians 2 that Christ “emptied Himself” of any Divine qualities He had prior to showing up on earth. And just when you want to believe that Paul is finally admitting that Jesus is and always has been God, you hear Paul talking about Yahweh exalting Jesus and you realize that Yahweh is still outranking Jesus in Paul’s mind.
Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with Yahweh as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead Christ emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to Yahweh to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason Yahweh highly exalted Jesus and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of Yahweh the Father. (Philip. 2:6-11)
It always comes back to glorifying Yahweh in Paul’s mind. And you have to look out for that term “Lord.” To the Jews, Lord or Adonai was like saying Sir or Master. We find Jews calling each other Adonai all throughout the Bible—it was a basic term of respect. And while one could easily call Yahweh Adonai, there was a big difference between a Lord (Adonai) and a God (El or Elohim). Look through the New Testament epistles and you’ll find that Yahweh is alternately referred to as both Lord and God, but Jesus is only a Lord. Jesus isn’t referred to as God by the New Testament Jews, because that would suggest that He’s equal to Yahweh. Notice how here in Philippians, Paul says that Jesus will be exalted only as a Lord, but it is Yahweh who is the God. Keep reading through Paul’s letters and you’ll find that he also says that Yahweh has given Christ this great promotion and set Him up as a great ruler over humans and angels—a promotion which Christ shouldn’t need if He was truly Yahweh’s equal. If Christ is really the same as Yahweh is—which is what it sounds like Paul says at the start of our Philippians passage—then why is He having to be promoted by Yahweh, and raised back to life by Yahweh? Why can’t Christ raise Himself if He’s so Divine? He can, and Christ said that He did raise Himself. But here in Philippians, Paul merely acknowledges that Christ existed before He showed up on earth—and this is something that Paul must acknowledge if he’s going to remain consistent with Christ’s claim to have existed before Abraham.
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they scoffed, “and yet You have seen Abraham?”
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” (Jn. 8:57-58)
But after acknowledging some sense of pre-existence for Christ, Paul rushes to strip Him of all Divinity and reduce Him to some mortal who then is utterly dependent on Yahweh to save Him from death. Then in 1 Corinthians, Paul has Christ functioning as merely a temporary Ruler who struggles to fix the mess that Yahweh’s Kingdom is in, then steps down and lets Yahweh take over.
After that the end will come, when Christ will turn the Kingdom over to Yahweh the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until He humbles all His enemies beneath His feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Cor. 15:24-26)
It is vital to Paul that Christ be seen as Yahweh’s subordinate and not His equal, thus Paul says:
And when everything is subject to Christ, then Christ Himself will be made subject to the One who put everything under Him, so that Yahweh may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28)
You have to look at everything Paul says about Christ before you can realize just how blasphemous his teaching is. If you just isolate a line here or there and misapply those titles of God and Lord—which is what you’re taught to do by the Church—then you come away thinking that the New Testament boys were just fine with seeing Christ as Yahweh’s equal. But no, they weren’t fine with it at all, and we’ll find them constantly reducing Christ as we go along.
In our last lesson, we talked about how in this historical context, to sit at the right hand of a king was a highly coveted privilege, but it did not in any way make you the king’s equal. If you offended the king, he could order your immediate execution. Most of the rulers of the nations we read about in the Bible reigned with absolute power. The Roman emperors played around with the concept of dividing power between the emperor and a governing Senate, but the balance of that power changed dramatically depending on who was on the throne. The point is this: merely sitting beside a throne is not the same as having your own throne, and Peter is not going to give Christ His own throne in Heaven. Pay attention to thrones and watch how Jesus never gets to rank higher than a Lord as Peter continues his speech.
“Yahweh raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now Jesus is exalted to the place of highest honor in Heaven, at Yahweh’s right hand. And the Father, as He had promised, gave Jesus the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said,
‘Yahweh said to my lord: “Sit in the place of honor at My right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.’ [Ps. 110:1]
So let everyone in Israel know for certain that Yahweh has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to Yahweh, and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by Yahweh our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” (Acts 2:32-40)
So what is Peter saying here? He’s saying that the Jews really messed up by crucifying Yahweh’s Messiah. He’s saying that Jesus was that Messiah—just as Jesus claimed to be. And He’s saying that to get back in a good place with Yahweh, these Jews now must submit to Jesus. But submit to Jesus as what? As their master, not as a God. Because Yahweh smiles on Jesus, anyone who opposes Jesus is going to have Yahweh’s anger to deal with. This is like that time in Numbers when Aaron and Miriam started badmouthing their brother Moses, and Yahweh essentially said, “Hey, how dare you pick on Moses when I so obviously approve of him?” The problem with this line of reasoning is that the kind of submission it produces isn’t good enough. We can’t just be submitting to Jesus as Yahweh’s favorite human. We have to be submitting to Him as God.
Peter makes a second point in this speech: Jesus said that His death atoned for everyone’s sins. This means that now these Jews have to honor Jesus and show submission to Him by getting baptized in His Name before they can receive salvation. Well, this still isn’t good enough, because now we’re just viewing Jesus like a lamb. Before Jesus came, Yahweh said mere animals of earth were good enough to atone for sins, and animals of earth are even lower than humans. So it’s hardly exalting Christ to say He provided atonement for our sins. If a mere lamb or bull could provide atonement, why not a human? Yahweh can accept any kind of offering that He wants, but that doesn’t mean that what was sacrificed is now a God. No, according to Peter, these Jews just have to submit to Jesus on three counts: as the promised Messiah of Israel, as Someone who Yahweh highly approves of, and as a source of atonement. Well, whoopee. You can do all of this while still viewing Jesus as some bumbling mortal who got lucky on the other side. Peter isn’t preaching that Jesus is God Almighty, and this is an enormous theological problem.
Now in this speech, Peter throws out the first line from Psalm 110. This was another Davidic psalm, and it is one which you’ll find associated with Jesus multiple times in the New Testament. But was David really thinking of Christ when he wrote this psalm? Of course not. And there are major problems with believing that Yahweh would speak so condescendingly to Christ by saying, “Wait here in the special chair while I conquer the enemies that are obviously too much for You.” No, no, no, Psalm 110 has nothing to do with Christ, and yet this is another psalm that you’ll find has been given excessive capitals by some Bible publishers to make it look like it is lining up with bad New Testament theology. In real life, what’s being described in Psalm 110 is an exchange between Yahweh and the current human ruler of Israel, who is David himself. After receiving some very exciting promises from Yahweh that his descendants would always sit on a throne in Jerusalem (which they didn’t end up doing), David is feeling super honored and favored, so he writes this happy poem. To understand the language David uses and to learn how the author of Hebrews butchers this same psalm, see Applying Hebrews 7: Melchizedek Madness.
So then, in Acts 2, the big aha moment these Jews are having is that they really flubbed it by crucifying Christ. It turns out Christ is one of Yahweh’s favorites—He’s like another Moses and Elijah. So now they all need to start fawning on Christ so that He’ll smooth things out between them and Yahweh. Well, fine. This isn’t hard for monotheists to do. The Jews already have an idolatrous awe of guys like Abraham, David, Moses, Elijah, and Daniel. Why not add Jesus’ Name to the list of Jewish heroes? After all, He’s dead and gone and no longer causing conflicts in Israel, so it’s easy enough to pay Him some homage now. Are you seeing the problem with this line of logic? These Jews are just adding another name to their list of historical heroes, but they’re not accepting a new God. And while our modern day evangelists envy the high number of converts who they think Peter rakes in with this emphatic sermon, we have to wonder if any of these guys were really acquiring salvation.
Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the Church that day—about 3,000 in all.
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising Yahweh and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2:41-47)
So what do you think? The apostles naturally want to see sincere converts among these enthusiasts, but our Gods detest idolatry, and They don’t grant salvation to those who are merely worshiping created beings. We have three Gods, and we must submit to Them as Gods if we’re going to acquire salvation under this Covenant. Merely submitting to Jesus as a favorite of the one real God, and viewing the Holy Spirit like some mystical atmosphere isn’t good enough. We have three Gods. If it bothers you to say “Jesus is God” instead of just saying “Jesus is the Son of God,” then you need to do some serious praying. If honest reflection reveals that Yahweh is the only God you’re really viewing as God, then Yahweh is who you need to be asking for clarification about what He demands of you under the current Covenant. For those of you who are submitting to three Gods, ask Them for insight about what’s going on here in Acts 2.
Every culture has its preferred “proofs” that it relies on to determine truth from lies. As a general rule, Americans exalt logic and human reasoning as their ultimate guides in life. Our science is atheistic in nature. When we set out to explore the universe or study our own anatomy, we first decide that there is no God and that everything is here by freak accident before we even begin to theorize. Then we crank out countless scientific documentaries which all put forth the same ridiculous theory that slime became fish, fish became monkeys, and monkeys became humans all through genetic striving. According to the Theory of Evolution, human beings could develop two extra arms and move their brains into their knee caps if we all just strained our genes hard enough. Evolutionists would have us believe that snakes got tired of slithering, hence they decided to grow legs. Birds got tired of getting eaten so readily, hence they changed their plumage in order to blend in better with their surroundings. No one wants to admit that a purposeful, non-human Creator is the source of the intelligence we see all around us, and we’re certainly not going to ask God directly to give us discernment in life. No, we’ve got our logic, and that’s enough.
Well, while Americans love their logic, the New Testament Jews loved their miracles. It was all about signs and wonders with these people, and it is because Jesus was working in a miracle obsessed culture that we find Him performing so many miracles in the Gospels. To the Jews, a bunch of miracles “proved” that Yahweh was at work. The problem is that whenever we try to come up with some substitute for going directly to God in the privacy of our own souls, we always end up with a system that’s full of holes.
Yahweh’s guys weren’t the only guys doing miracles in Bible times. Throughout the Old and New Testament, dark magic was a huge racket, and it was quite common for kings to keep professional sorcerers on staff. Such men were seen performing all kinds of real miracles. And once everyone’s doing miracles, miracles by themselves don’t prove anything. Yet here in Acts, we’ve got a Jewish crowd getting wowed by the apostles doing signs and wonders. Well, of course they’re wowed. They’re Jews, and their culture is obsessed with miracles. The problem is that Peter could be some demon worshiper and these same Jews would still be wowed if Peter did enough miracles. You see, if you’re not talking to God directly, then you have no basis on which you can possibly claim to know anything. Just because someone claims to be speaking a message from God doesn’t mean they are. And how about the material we put out–what is it really worth? We’re not God, and until you ask God yourself, you can’t possibly determine if what we’re saying is true or total hooey. So are you talking to God?
There’s no room for just kicking back and letting other Christians do your thinking for you. How do you know we’re even Christians? How do you know we’re not just claiming to care about God while we secretly worship demons? Anyone can throw together a website, quote Bible verses, and yammer on about spiritual matters. But so what? You have to talk to God yourself if you’re going to grow in your understanding of truth, and if you haven’t already asked God to show you if anything in this post is even true, then you need to stop reading and get on it. Unless God Himself is speaking to you, you’ve got nothing (see God Told Me: The Only Valid Basis for Faith).
Now as we move into Acts 3, Luke describes a time when Peter and John get stopped by a crippled man who is begging for money at the entrance to the Temple.
Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the Name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising Yahweh, he went into the Temple with them. (Acts 3:4-8)
This crippled man is likely Jewish, given his identification of the right God, and the fact that he remains with Peter and John as they enter the Temple. As Jewish men, Peter and John could travel farther into the Temple complex than non-Jews and Jewish women.
Notice how Peter uses Jesus’ Name when declaring the man to be healed. This is what Jesus instructed His disciples to do, but now notice who Peter credits for doing the miracle when he starts preaching to an audience of marveling Jews.
“People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to His servant Jesus by doing this.” (Acts. 3:12-13)
Notice how Peter differentiates between the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—which is Yahweh—and Jesus, who Peter describes as Yahweh’s Servant. See how Peter is emphasizing the difference in rank between Yahweh and Jesus? Yahweh is the Master, Jesus is the Servant, and this is all a bunch of rot.
Jesus doesn’t need Yahweh to bring Him glory or help Him out of the grave. But no matter how many lofty titles Peter gives to Jesus, he always credits Yahweh alone for any supernatural works.
“This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate, despite Pilate’s decision to release Him. You rejected this holy, righteous One and instead demanded the release of a murderer. You killed the Author of Life, but Yahweh raised Him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact!
Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. But Yahweh was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that He must suffer these things. Now repent of your sins and turn to Yahweh, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the Presence of Yahweh, and He will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For Jesus must remain in Heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as Yahweh promised long ago through His holy prophets. Moses said:
‘Yahweh your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.’ [Deut. 18:15] Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that prophet will be completely cut off from Yahweh’s people.’” (Acts 3:13-23)
Now if you’re already caught up in an idolatrous worship of the man Moses and you’re viewing Jesus as a mere mortal, then it’s quite the lofty compliment to put Christ on Moses’ level. But when you step back and look at it, this is a theological mess. To sort the mess out, let’s start by putting Moses back in his original context.
MOSES IN CONTEXT
In Deuteronomy, Moses is very old and about to die. Most of Deuteronomy consists of Moses’ very last farewell speech to the Israelites. He’s not talking about a future Messiah, he’s saying that after he’s gone, Yahweh will continue to interface with the Israelites using prophets because the Israelites have specifically asked not to deal with God directly.
Then Moses said, “In the land you are about to occupy, people follow the advice of those who practice divination and look for omens, but Yahweh your God does not allow you to do this. Instead, He will send you a prophet like me from among your own people, and you are to obey him.
“On the day that you were gathered at Mount Sinai, you begged not to hear Yahweh speak again or to see His fiery Presence any more, because you were afraid that you would die. So Yahweh said to me, ‘They have made a wise request. I will send them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will tell him what to say, and he will tell the people everything I command. He will speak in My Name, and I will punish anyone who refuses to obey him. But if any prophet dares to speak a message in My Name when I did not command him to do so, he must die for it, and so must any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods.’
Now you may wonder how you can tell when a prophet’s message does not come from Yahweh. If a prophet speaks in the Name of Yahweh and what he says does not come true, then it is not Yahweh’s message. That prophet has spoken on his own authority, and you are not to fear him.” (Deut. 18:14-22)
Up until now, Moses has been the only God interpreter that the Israelites have known. Now Moses is at the end of his life, so Yahweh assures the people that He’ll continue to speak to them through prophets. But notice how this whole need for prophets arose out of the people rejecting Yahweh. What’s going on there? Well, back in Lesson 5 we learned how Yahweh put on a freaky show of lightning, thunder, fire, smoke and blaring noise as a way of indicating that His Presence was descending on Mt. Sinai. The Jews who witnessed that scene were already dedicated to worshiping the false gods of Egypt–gods whose idols they were hauling with them even as they trooped through the parted waters of the Red Sea. The point is this: the Jews weren’t looking for a new God. They already had a whole pantheon of gods, so when Yahweh started scaring everyone, no one was saying, “Wow, this God is obviously so superior to the gods I’ve been worshiping. After seeing how He spanked all of the Egyptian gods with His terrible plagues, I get it: this Yahweh Deity is clearly the Supreme One. I want to know Him, please Him, and serve Him. How can I establish a relationship with Him? How close can I get?” No, instead, the response of the spiritually rebellious Jews was, “Yikes! This God of our ancestors is freaky, and way too much for us to deal with! Moses, you go talk to Him. Act as our buffer. We don’t want to deal with Him.” It was because the soul attitude of those early Jews was so foul that Yahweh said it was wise for them to keep their distance. He meant wise in the sense of “Yes, you’d better stay back you little twerps, or I’m likely to kill you for showing no regard for Me.” And so He agreed to speak to them through prophets. But was Yahweh pleased that the little snarkers were rejecting Him? Not hardly.
Now notice how after promising that He’ll keep speaking to the people through prophets, Yahweh goes on to clarify how real prophets can be discerned from false ones. Clearly this speech is prepping the people for a long line of future prophets, not just for a single Messiah. After the death of Joshua, and a period of total anarchy that is described in the book of Judges, Yahweh raises up the prophet Samuel to function like a second Moses for the people. Samuel travels a regular circuit through Israel and he functions as a prophet, priest and judge. By the time Samuel dies there are many legitimate prophets in Israel, and we continue to see prophets delivering words for Yahweh all throughout the Old Testament.
Today God continues to raise up prophets, but you don’t run into many legitimate prophets in the mainstream Church. The real guys tend to be on the outskirts because their messages are generally not well-received. All of this flesh-stroking guff you hear being pumped out in God’s Name in the mainstream Church is not coming from God. As a whole, the Church is steeped in rebellion, and when God addresses rebellion, He doesn’t use polite, ego pleasing language, nor does He pretend to be pleased with our phony acts of caring about Him. In the Old Testament we find a consistent pattern of false prophets gaining fame and wealth as they say what the people want to hear. Meanwhile, the real prophets are getting socially ostracized and hated by those who claim to care about God. The pattern continues today.
So here in Deuteronomy 18, we have a departing Moses telling people to expect more prophets to come after he’s dead and gone. Moses then puts forth a most interesting test for how to differentiate between the fakers and the real guys. And if we try to apply this test to Jonah, we have to conclude that he was a false prophet who was not at all speaking for Yahweh when he prophesied that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days. Jonah delivered the message in the Name of Yahweh only to have Yahweh change His mind and decide to not destroy the city. Well, according to the test for a false prophet here in Deuteronomy 18, Yahweh doesn’t say He’s going to do something and then not do it. But if we turn over to Jeremiah 18, we find Yahweh saying that He gets to go back on His own prophecies whenever He feels like it.
“If at any time I say that I am going to uproot, break down, or destroy any nation or kingdom, but then that nation turns from its evil, I will not do what I said I would. On the other hand, if I say that I am going to plant or build up any nation or kingdom, but then that nation disobeys Me and does evil, I will not do what I said I would.” (Jer. 18:7-10)
Say “God lies” to a Christian audience, and you can count on getting a very angry response. And yet right here in the book that Christians insist is totally infallible, we have God Himself saying that there will be times that “I will not do what I said I would.” So then, does God lie? Of course He does. He’s been lying for thousands of years. The sooner we stop denying this obvious truth, the sooner we can continue on with the work of maturity.
Now let’s get back to Acts. Peter has once again tried to tie an irrelevant passage of Scripture to Christ by saying that Moses specifically had Christ in mind when he spoke in Deuteronomy 18. That’s obviously hooey, but Peter is misapplying Moses to make the valid point that Yahweh wants people to listen to His prophets. Well, yes He does—all of His prophets, not just Christ. And Christ was not just a prophet. But now Peter is really going to tank as he uses language that grossly minimizes who Christ is.
PETER REDUCES CHRIST
At the end of his speech in Acts 2, Peter tied Psalm 110 to Christ, thus painting a picture of Yahweh inviting a limited, human Christ to enjoy a position of honor in Heaven while Yahweh took on the God-sized task of conquering Christ’s enemies for Him. The obvious implication was that Christ was too much of a wimp to conquer anyone on His own. How very demeaning.
But then in Acts 3, the Christ bashing continues as Peter has Yahweh hauling Christ out of the grave, whisking Him up to Heaven, and then keeping Him trapped there like some kind of prisoner until Yahweh gives Him permission to leave. Listen to the language here:
Then times of refreshment will come from the Presence of Yahweh, and He will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For Jesus must remain in Heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as Yahweh promised long ago through His holy prophets. (Acts 3:20-21)
In the Old Testament, we find Yahweh boasting of knowing all things and of being omnipresent. He says He is a God who is both near and far. He says nothing goes on without His knowing it. He says that He controls the future and that He reigns with total supremacy over all things. He says that He is the source of both good and evil, of both blessing and calamity. It’s in the Old Testament that Yahweh explains what it means to be an I AM kind of God. Well, Jesus also claimed the title of I AM, thus claiming to have all of the abilities that Yahweh has. Yet here in Acts 3, Jesus is being portrayed as a limited human who can only be in one place at one time.
As a Christian, you like to think of Jesus being with you. But no, according to Peter, Jesus is trapped in Heaven and Yahweh won’t let Him out. Jesus must remain in Heaven until the final end of all things. But why? Because the superior Yahweh is unfolding some personal plan that He came up with and Jesus has no choice but to play along. After all, Jesus is only Yahweh’s Servant, not His Peer. So though Jesus might want to do something other than just sit around like some piece of decor in Yahweh’s throne room, tough. Jesus won’t go anywhere or do anything until Yahweh says so, because this is Yahweh’s show.
According to Peter, Yahweh predicted certain things through the mouths of His Old Testament prophets, and now those things have to unfold just so. But why? Yahweh Himself says that He doesn’t always stick with His own prophecies. Sometimes He throws them out altogether and totally changes course. After all, Yahweh is sovereign and bound to no rules.
In Jeremiah 18, we find Yahweh sending Jeremiah to observe a human potter working with some clay.
So I went there and saw the potter working at his wheel. Whenever a piece of pottery turned out imperfect, he would take the clay and make it into something else.
Then Yahweh said to me, “Don’t I have the right to do with you people of Israel what the potter did with the clay? You are in My hands just like clay in the potter’s hands.” (Jer. 18:3-6)
Yahweh then goes on to say how He will change directions anytime He wants to because He is sovereign. There are many lessons to be learned from Jeremiah 18, but one lesson which is especially critical for us to understand today is that sovereign Gods are not bound by any limitations or rules. They are not governed by any laws because They are the Lawmakers (see Why God Doesn’t Obey His Own Laws). Sovereign Gods don’t get stuck in Heaven because of what One of Them said to human dots in the past. Sovereign Gods don’t need help dealing with those who oppose Them. Sovereign Gods do not need to be handed promotions, nor do They have to obtain someone else’s permission before doing what They want to do. Sovereign Gods reign, They do not serve. Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are three Sovereign Gods, but that’s not what Peter is teaching here in Acts 3. Yahweh is the only real God Peter is acknowledging. Jesus is being grossly reduced to some limited, lesser being who is stuck sitting on some non-throne in Heaven until Yahweh gives Him permission to get up. Are you seeing the problem?
In the Old Testament, Yahweh defines an I AM God for us. He teaches us volumes about how an I AM God thinks, and one of the critical insights He gives is that our Gods are extremely jealous by Nature. They are obsessed with glory and They consider Themselves to be infinitely more magnificent than mere created things. To please such Gods, we can’t be going around worshiping what is created. We should only ever be praying to, exalting, and obsessively loving our uncreated Creators. This is why the Divinity of Christ is such a critical issue, because if we reduce Christ to being less than God, yet we continue to worship Him, we are now saying that idolatry is no big deal. And if we’re going to worship the man Christ, why not other men as well? Why not pastors and evangelists and prophets and worship leaders? Why not pray to Mary, Joseph, Paul and Peter? Why not obsess over guardian angels and talk to the dead? Look around at the Church today, and you’ll see Christians doing all of these things. We name churches and schools after human saints. We give mere mortals deifying halos in our church windows. We work our way through sets of rosary beads in which we pray to the human Mary far more often than we do to one of our uncreated Creators. This extremely popular notion that Christ is fully God and fully man is satanic from beginning to end. No, Christ is certainly not a God-man hybrid, because Christ is not partially created. Christ is 100% God, and that is why we revere, honor, praise, and adore Him.
A serious Christian must not be worshiping any created being. A serious Christian must not be praying to any created being, because our Gods are jealous and They detest it when we start putting created beings on Their level. This is what we’re doing when we say that Christ was literally human. This is what Peter is doing when he urges his fellow Jews to focus on, admire, and live to please a mere mortal. No, no, no, we do not live to please people. If Christ is only created, then what He wants should be considered irrelevant and we certainly shouldn’t be trying to commune with Him on a soul level. It is only because Christ is God Almighty that we totally surrender to His Authority in all things and consider His approval to be of supreme importance. It is only the affirmation of a true God which is worth anything. It is only the command of a true God which we should be obeying without question. Jesus is not some mortal who got a gold star from Yahweh when He died. He isn’t some kind of angel who was changed into a human. He was, is, and always will be 100% God.
THE CARNAL APPEAL OF PETER’S TEACHING
Today we can find many Christians wistfully sighing about how great it must have been to participate in the early Church. Many evangelists read about all of those converts in Acts 2 and about all of the believers getting along so well and they wonder how things went so south. Well all of this pining over the early Church is based on our refusal to really look at what a total mess the early Church really was. No, you really wouldn’t be better off sitting at the feet of a theological train wreck like Peter who is going to keep hammering you with the message that Christ is just a human. You really aren’t missing out for never knowing the arrogant apostle Paul, who would have just urged you to imitate him (although you can find plenty of pompous leaders in the Church today who will tell you to “come follow me as I follow Christ”). And as for all of the caring and sharing that went on among the early believers, we need to put that in context as well.
Those thousands of converts we read about in Acts 2 were all Jews, and Jews had plenty of reasons to stick together which had nothing to do with Christ. The monotheistic religion of Judaism clashed badly with Roman polytheism, resulting in a very strong mentality of “us against them.” Plus, ethnic Jews were fiercely patriotic and bonded by a common belief that they were the superior race. Roman oppression of the Jews is growing worse all the time as Jewish extremists keep escalating their aggression against the Empire. Poverty abounds among Jews, as does a fearful dread about what is coming in their future. Then Pentecost comes and it appears that Yahweh has put some kind of Divine anointing on a group of scruffy looking men from Galilee. Peter isn’t asking anyone to make any major theological shifts: he’s still promoting Yahweh as the only God. But he is providing a useful way to deal with the epic disappointment of Jesus not freeing Israel from Roman oppression. Peter says Jesus will return again someday and help the Jews for real. Meanwhile, Peter says Yahweh is still handling things, and that all of His ancient prophecies about restoring Israel will still come true. Well, fine. It’s not like there’s any other miracle working Messiah candidate in Israel right now, so these Jews can easily swallow what Peter is saying. After all, there was obviously something special about Jesus, because the Man was a miracle working machine. It’s very appealing to think that Jesus still isn’t done helping Israel, and if getting in line for His blessings is simply a matter of acknowledging that He was the promised Messiah, then fine. Let’s all get baptized by the miracle working men from Galilee and see if signing up to be a Christ follower fixes anything. See how it works? It’s very easy to align with the new Christians for totally carnal reasons. They’re Jewish, you’re Jewish, and this is a crummy time in history to be a Jew. If claiming allegiance to Christ is all it takes to get you access to some food and friends in a hostile world, then bring it on.
As we continue into Acts 4, we find Jewish leaders in Jerusalem getting riled up. After all, the Temple is Sadducee turf, and the Sadducees staunchly rejected the notion that there is any afterlife. The Sadducees only acknowledged the books of Moses (aka the Torah, which consists of the books Genesis through Deuteronomy) as being Divinely inspired, and they rejected the rest of the Old Testament as inferior. Since they felt there was no evidence for resurrection in the Torah, they said it was a blasphemous teaching. But now here’s Peter, preaching in the Temple to a huge crowd of Jews and saying that that troublemaker Jesus really did come back to life. Well, when you’re in the Sadducees’ house, they’re not going to let you so openly mock their beliefs. Suddenly the Temple guards are grabbing Peter and John and chucking them into prison. It’s late, so the two apostles are left to just sit there until morning. The next day, a panel of high ranking Jewish authorities convenes, and the two apostles are put on trial. Will Peter and John be intimidated? Well, how would you feel if you could still hear the praises of thousands of new fans ringing in your ears? How would you feel if God had just used you to make a crippled man walk again? It’s going to take more than scowling priests to get these two men down.
Click here for the series homepage.