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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 5 - Verse 31
In that place he is called "the Prince of life." Here it means that he is actually in the exercise of the office of a Prince or a King, at the right hand of his Father. The title Prince, or King, was one which was well known as applied to the Messiah. It denotes that he has dominion and power, especially the power which is needful to give repentance and the pardon of sins.
To give repentance. The word repentance here is equivalent to reformation, and a change of life. The expression here does not differ from what is said in Ac 3:26.
To Israel. This word properly denotes the Jews; but his office was not to be confined to the Jews. Other passages show that it would be also extended to the Gentiles. The reasons why the Jews are particularly specified here are, probably,
(1.) because the Messiah was long promised to the Jewish people, and his first work was there; and,
(2,) because Peter was addressing Jews, and was particularly desirous of leading them to'repentance.
Forgiveness of sins. Pardon of sin; the act which can be performed by God only, Mr 2:7.
If it be asked in what sense the Lord Jesus gives repentance, or how his exaltation is connected with it, we may answer,
(1.) His exaltation is evidence that his work was accepted, and thus a foundation is laid by which repentance is available, and may be connected with pardon. Unless there was some way of forgiveness, sorrow for sin would be of no value, even if exercised. The relentings of a culprit condemned for murder would be of no avail, unless the executive can consistently pardon him; nor would relentings in hell be of avail, for there is no promise of forgiveness. But Jesus Christ by his death has laid a foundation by which repentance may be accepted.
(3.) His exaltation is immediately connected with the bestowment of the Holy Spirit, by whose influence men are brought to repentance, Joh 16:7-11. The Spirit is represented as being sent by him as well as by the Father, Joh 15:26; 16:7.
(4.) Jesus has power in this state of exaltation over all things that can affect the mind. He sends his ministers; he directs the events of sickness or disappointment, of health or prosperity, that will influence the heart. There is no doubt that he can so recall the sins of the past life, and refresh the memory, as to overwhelm the soul in the consciousness of guilt. Thus also he can appeal to man by his goodness, and by a sense of his mercies; and especially he can so present a view of his life and death as to affect the heart, and show the evil of the past life of the sinner. Knowing the heart, he knows all the avenues by which it can be approached; and in an instant he can overwhelm the soul with the remembrance of crime.
It was proper that the power of pardon should be lodged with the same Being that has the power of producing repentance. Because,
(1.) the one appropriately follows the other.
(2.) They are parts of the same great work, the work which the Saviour came to do, to remove sin with all its effects from the human soul. This power of pardon Jesus exercised when he was on the earth; and this he can now dispense in the heavens, Mr 2:9-11.
And from this we may learn,
(1.) that Jesus Christ is Divine. It is a dictate of natural religion that none can forgive sins against God, but God himself. None can pardon but the Being who has been offended. And this is also the dictate of the Bible. The power of pardoning sin is one that God claims as his prerogative; and it is clear that it can appertain to no other. See Isa 43:25; Da 9:9; Ps 130:4.
Yet Jesus Christ exercised this power when on earth; gave evidence that the exercise of that power was one that was acceptable to God by working a miracle, and removing the consequences of sin with which God had visited the sinner, (Mt 9:6;) and exercises it still in heaven. He must, therefore, be Divine.
(2.) The sinner is dependent on him for the exercise of repentance and forgiveness.
(3.) The proud sinner must be humbled at his feet. He must be willing to come and receive eternal life at his hands. No step is more humiluating than this for proud and hardened men; and there is none which they are more reluctant to do. We always shrink from coming into the presence of one whom we have offended; we are extremely reluctant to confess a fault; but it must be done, or the soul must be lost for ever.
(4.) Christ has power to pardon the greatest offender. He is exalted for this purpose; and he is fitted to his work. Even his murderers he could pardon; and no sinner need fear that he who is a Prince and a Saviour at the right hand of God is unable to pardon every sin. To him we may come with confidence; and when pressed with the consciousness of the blackest crimes, and when we must feel that we deserve eternal death, we may confidently roll all on his arm.
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