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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 2 - Verse 23
Verse 23. Him being delivered, ekdoton. This word, delivered, is used commonly of those who are surrendered or delivered into the hands of enemies or adversaries. It means that Jesus was surrendered, or given up to his enemies, by those who should have been his protectors. Thus he was delivered to the chief priests, Mr 10:33. Pilate released Barabbas, and delivered Jesus to their will, Mr 15:15; Lu 23:25; he was delivered unto the Gentiles, Lu 18:32; the chief priests delivered him to Pilate, Mt 27:2; and Pilate delivered him to be crucified, Mt 27:26; Joh 19:16. In this manner was the death of Jesus accomplished, by being surrendered from one tribunal to another, and one demand of his countrymen, to another, until they succeeded in procuring his death. It may also be implied here, that he was given or surrendered by God to the hands of men. Thus he is represented to have been given by God, Joh 3:16; 1 Jo 4:9,10.
The Syriac translates this, "Him, who was destined to this by the foreknowledge and will of God, you delivered into the hands of wicked men," etc. The Arabic, "Him, delivered to you by the hands of the wicked, you received, and after you had mocked him, you slew him."
By the determinate counsel. The word translated determinate —th wrismenh— means, properly, that which is defined, marked out, or bounded; as, to mark out or define the boundary of a field, etc. See \Ro 1:1,4. In Ac 10:42, it is translated ordained of God; denoting his purpose that it should be so, i.e. that Jesus should be the Judge of quick and dead. Lu 22:22, "The Son of man goeth, as it was determined," i.e. as God has purposed or determined beforehand that he should go. Ac 11:29, "The disciples—determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea," i.e. they resolved or purposed beforehand to do it. Ac 17:26, "God— hath determined the times before appointed," etc. In all these places there is the idea of a purpose, or intention, or plan implying intention, and marking out or fixing the boundaries to some future action or event. The word implies that the death of Jesus was resolved on by God before it took place. And this truth is established by all the predictions made in the Old Testament, and by the Saviour himself. God was not compelled to give up his Son. There was no claim on him for it. And he had a right, therefore, to determine when and how it should be done. The fact, moreover, that this was predicted, shows that it was fixed or resolved on. No event can be foretold, evidently, unless it be certain that it will take place. The event, therefore, must in some way be fixed or resolved on beforehand.
Counsel. boulh. This word properly denotes purpose, decree, will. It expresses the act of the mind in willing, or the purpose or design which is formed. Here it means the purpose or will of God; it was his plan or decree that Jesus should be delivered. Ac 4:28, "For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel h boulh sou determined before to be done." Eph 1:11, "Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Heb 6:17, "God, willing to show the immutability of his counsel." See Ac 20:27; 1 Co 4:5; Lu 23:51.
The word here, therefore, proves that Jesus was delivered by the deliberate purpose of God; that it was according to his previous intention and design. The reason why this was insisted on by Peter, was, that he might convince the Jews that Jesus was not delivered by weakness, or because he was unable to rescue himself. Such an opinion would have been inconsistent with the belief that he was the Messiah. It was important, then, to assert the dignity of Jesus, and to show that his death was in accordance with the fixed design of God; and, therefore, that it did not interfere in the least with his claims to be the Messiah. The same thing our Saviour has himself expressly affirmed, Joh 19:10,11; 10:18; Mt 26:53.
Foreknowledge. This word denotes the seeing beforehand of an event yet to take place. It implies,
(1.) omniscience; and,
(2.) that the event is fixed and certain. To foresee a contingent event, that is, to foresee that an event will take place, when it may or may not take place, is an absurdity. Foreknowledge, therefore, implies that for some reason the event will certainly take place. What that reason is, the word itself does not determine. As, however, God is represented in the Scriptures as purposing or determining future events; as they could not be foreseen by him unless he had so determined, so the word sometimes is used in the sense of determining beforehand, or as synonymous with decreeing, Ro 8:29; 11:2. In this place the word is used to denote that the delivering up of Jesus was something more than a bare or naked decree. It implies that God did it according to his foresight of what would be the best time, and place, and manner of its being done. It was not the result merely of will; it was will directed by a wise foreknowledge of what would be best. And this is the case with all the decrees of God. It follows from this, that the conduct of the Jews was foreknown. God was not disappointed in anything respecting their treatment of his Son. Nor will he be disappointed in any of the doings of men. Notwithstanding the wickedness of the world, his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure, Isa 46:10.
Ye have taken. See Mt 26:57. Ye Jews have taken. It is possible that some were present on this occasion who had been personally concerned in taking Jesus; and many who had joined in the cry, "Crucify him," Lu 23:18-21. It was, at any rate, the act of the Jewish people by which this had been done. This was a striking instance of the fidelity of that preaching which says, as Nathan did to David, "Thou art the man !" Peter, once so timid that he denied his Lord, now charged this atrocious crime on his countrymen, regardless of their anger and his own danger. He did not deal in general accusations, but brought the charges home, and declared that they were the men who had been concerned in this amazing crime. No preaching can be successful that does not charge on men their personal guilt; and that does not fearlessly proclaim their ruin and danger.
By wicked hands. Greek, "through or by the hands of the lawless, or wicked." This refers, doubtless, to Pilate and the Roman soldiers, through whose instrumentality this had been done. The reasons for supposing that this is the true interpretation of the passage are these:
(1.) The Jews had not the power of inflicting death themselves.
(2.) The term used here—wicked,anomwn was not applicable to the Jews, but to the Romans. It properly means lawless, or those who had not the law, and is often applied to the heathen, Ro 2:12,14; 1 Co 9:21.
(3.) The punishment which was inflicted was a Roman punishment.
(4.) It was a matter of fact, that the Jews, though they had condemned him, yet had not put him to death themselves, but had demanded it of the Romans. But though they had employed the Romans to do it, still they were the prime-movers in the deed; they had plotted, and compassed, and demanded his death; and they were therefore not the less guilty. The maxim of the common law, and of common sense, is, "he who does a deed by the instrumentality of another is responsible for it." It was from no merit of the Jews that they had not put him to death themselves. It was simply because the power was taken away from them.
Have crucified. Greek, "having affixed him to the cross, ye have put him to death." Peter here charges the crime fully on them. Their guilt was not diminished because they had employed others to do it. From this we may remark,
(1.) that this was one of the most amazing and awful crimes that could be charged on any men. It was malice, and treason, and hatred, and murder combined. Nor was it any common murder. It was their own Messiah whom they had put to death; the hope of their fathers; he who had been long promised by God, and the prospect of whose coming had so long cheered and animated the nation. They had now imbrued their hands in his blood, and stood charged with the awful crime of having murdered the Prince of peace.
(2.) It is no mitigation of guilt that we do it by the instrumentality of others. It is often, if not always, a deepening and extending of the crime.
(3.) We have here a striking and clear instance of the doctrine that the decrees of God do not interfere with the free agency of men. This event was certainly determined beforehand. Nothing is clearer than this. It is here expressly asserted; and it had been foretold with undeviating certainty by the prophets. God had, for wise and gracious purposes, purposed or decreed in his own mind that his Son should die at the time, and in the manner in which he did; for all the circumstances of his death, as well as of his birth and his life, were foretold. And yet, in this, the Jews and the Romans never supposed or alleged that they were compelled or cramped in what they did. They did what they chose. If in this case the decrees of God were not inconsistent with human freedom, neither can they be in any case. Between those decrees and the freedom of man there is no inconsistency, unless it could be shown—what never can be—that God compels men to act contrary to their own will. In that case there could be no freedom. But that is not the case with regard to the decrees of God. An act is what it is in itself; it can be contemplated and measured by itself. That it was foreseen, foreknown, or purposed, does not alter its nature, any more than it does that it be remembered after it is performed. The memory of what we have done does not destroy our freedom. Our own purposes in relation to our conduct do not destroy our freedom; nor can the purposes or designs of any other being violate one free moral action, unless he compels us to do a thing against our will.
(4.) We have here a proof that the decree of God does not take away the moral character of an action. It does not prove that an action is innocent if it is shown that it is a part of the wise plan of God to permit it. Never was there a more atrocious crime than the crucifixion of the Son of God. And yet it was determined on in the Divine counsels. So with all the deeds of human guilt. The purpose of God to permit them does not destroy their nature, or make them innocent. They are what they are in themselves. The purpose of God does not change their character; and if it is right to punish them in fact, they will be punished. If it is right for God to punish them, it was right to resolve to do it. And the sinner must answer for his sins, not for the plans of his Maker; nor can he take shelter in the day of wrath, against what he deserves, in the plea that God has determined future events. If any men could have done it, it would have been those whom Peter addressed; yet neither he nor they felt that their guilt was in the least diminished by the fact that Jesus was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God."
(5.) If this event was predetermined; if that act of amazing wickedness, when the Son of God was put to death, was fixed by the determinate counsel of God, then all the events leading to it, and the circumstances attending it, were also a part of the decree. The one could not be determined without the other.
(6.) If that event was determined, then others may be also consistently with human freedom and responsibility. There can be no deed of wickedness that shall surpass that of crucifying the Son of God. And if the acts of his murderers were a part of the wise counsel of God, then on the same principle are we to suppose that all events are under his direction, and ordered by a purpose infinitely wise and good.
(7.) If the Jews could not take shelter from the charge of wickedness under the plea that it was foreordained, then no sinners can do it. This was as clear a case as can ever occur; and yet the apostle did not intimate that an excuse or mitigation for their sin could be pleaded from this cause. This case, therefore, meets all the excuses of sinners from this plea, and proves that those excuses will not avail them or save them in the day of judgment.
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