The Sure Word of Prophecy
Fulfillmenent in Acts (2)
An Exposition of Acts (13)
Clinton D. Hamtlton
Temple Terrace, Florida
Prophecy is sure because it originated with God. Prophecy, coming not by the will of man but by men who spake from God being moved by the Holy Spirit, is certain or sure (2 Pet. 1:19-21). Since it originated with God, it is more sure or certain than eyewitness testimony of men (2 Pet. 1:16-21). In leading men to faith in Jesus as the Christ, the
Apostles in the accounts in Acts frequently appealed to prophetic evidence. It was not simply a quoting of prophecy and affirming that it had been fulfilled but a demonstrating by evidence that Jesus was the embodiment of all God envisioned in the prophecies.
Two great preachers. Two great preachers grace the pages of Acts. Though many matters are recorded, their labors dominate the account. We have dealt with Peter's second sermon and complementary material. Paul's sermon in Acts 13 together with reference to Peter's sermon in Acts 2 will now be considered. Attention must be given only to selected aspects of the book of Acts due to space limitation, but the sermons chosen seem representative of the uses of prophecy in the Acts record.
Occasions used to point to prophetic fulfillments. Peter used the miracle of the healing of the lame man as the occasion to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the sure word (Acts 3). In his sermon recorded in Acts 13, Paul used the history of Israel as the occasion for his proof to the Pisidian Jews. Both Peter and Paul showed the connection between what they preached and the Old Testament scripture. Look what God has done.
God in Israel's history. Standing in the synagogue and beckoning with his hand, Paul said, "Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, hearken: The God of this people Israel chose our fathers. . ." (Acts 13:16,17). How well these people knew this. Moses had given them the Pentateuch, which recorded God's dealing with these fathers, and from childhood they had known the history. Upon closing his work with Israel, Moses said, "For thou art a holy people unto Jehovah thy God: Jehovah thy God had chosen thee to be a people for his own possession, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth. Jehovah did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all peoples: but because Jehovah loveth you and because he would keep the oath which he swore to your fathers . . ." (Dt. 7:6-8; see also Gen. 12:1-3; 26:2-4; 28: 13, 14).
God's choice of their fathers marked the beginning of Israel's history as distinct from that of others. From this beginning point, Paul proceeds to show the fulfillment of the sure prophetic word.
Not only did God choose the fathers but also he exalted his people in Egypt (Acts 13:17). When Paul said, "And with a high arm led he forth them out of it," the people reflected, no doubt, on these words, "But because Jehovah loveth you, and because he would keep the oath which he sware unto your fathers, hath Jehovah brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Dt. 7:8). God announced to Moses his intention of redeeming the people from the burdens of Pharaoh and referred to their deliverance in fulfillment of the covenant he had made with their fathers (Ex. 6:1-7). These facts were precious to devout Jews and it was not therefore an accident that appeal was made to them in bringing them to the Christ.
Israel was led forth from Egypt (Ex. 13: 1-6, 14) "and about the time of forty years as a nursing-father bare he them in the wilderness" (Acts 13:18). A reprimand for their timidity of heart and lack of faith at Kadesh-barnea was couched in these words uttered by Moses in his recapitulation of their history, "Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them. Jehovah your God who goeth before you, he will fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that Jehovah thy God bare thee, as a man cloth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place" (Dt. 1:29-31). Israel's history in the wilderness was marked with rebellion on many occasions but God finally brought them to the covenanted land (Dt. 9:7). No wonder then that the prophet exclaimed, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for Jehovah hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me" (Isa. 1:2).
Sweeping on through their history, but emphasizing God's work among Israel, Paul said, "And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land for an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years" (Acts 13:19). This land had been given in promise to Abraham (Gen. 15:13-20) and Moses had named the seven nations to be displaced so as to give them an inheritance in the land (Dt. 7:1). Paul's audience was er' rapport with him for this history they knew perfectly well.
After these things God "gave them judges until Samuel the prophet" (Acts 13:20). Again this they knew from the account in the book of Judges and as the period of judges came to an end, the people clamored for a king under several pretenses, l1e chief of which was that they wanted to be like the nations about them (1 Sam. 8: 5). Then came Saul as king who was removed by God to make room for his chosen, David (Acts 13:2122).
God's witness or promise to David. The prophetic argument concerning the identity of Jesus as the Messiah now is brought to focus with the promise made to David: "To whom also he bare witness and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who shall do all my will. Of this man's seed hath God according to promise brought unto Israel a Savior, Jesus" (Acts 13:22,23).
This was indisputable evidence to a Jew and no person other than Abraham was dearer to him than the illustrious David. What Paul here said they recognized, for their scripture so stated. To Saul had the testimony been borne concerning David, "But now thy kingdom shall not continue: Jehovah hath sought him a man after his own heart, and Jehovah hath appointed him to be prince over his people, because thou hast not kept that which Jehovah commanded thee" (1 Sam. 13:14). Psalmodic beauty rang in their ears, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him: With whom my hand shall be established; Mine arm also shall strengthen him" (Psa. 89:19-21).
Great and mighty as a servant of God though David was, he was not that perfect Servant of Jehovah. So from among men God raised up one of his seed born of the virgin. This Servant would cry, "Thou art my Father" and God said of him, "I also will make him my first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth" (Psa. 89:26,27). This seed was to sit on David's throne and bring to man all the blessings that an ideal Servant and King should (Psa. 89: 34-37).
Regal anticipations flooded Jewish minds when they reflected on these promises to David. "When thy days are fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, that shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom" (2 Sam. 7: 12). Fulfilled first in Solomon, this prophecy had a grander and fuller completion in Jesus, the seed of David. Observe that the prophecy is ideally and wholly fulfilled in Jesus who was God's Servant, with nothing lacking.
In majestic language unsurpassed for its beauty and stateliness, Isaiah eloquently foretold the coming of the promised seed, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even forever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:6,7). Paul confidently declared that God, of this man's seed, David's, had brought to Israel according to promise a Savior, Jesus. The king of kings, the Servant of servants, the Ideal, this is Jesus and he is the embodiment of all the prophetic message envisioned.
John's testimony To this promised seed John gave testimony for he had preached "the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel" before Jesus came (Acts 13: 24). But as John was fulfilling his course, he said, "What suppose ye that I am? I am not he. But behold, there cometh one after me the shoes of whose feet I am not worthy to unloose" (Acts 13:25). Of John's work the great Messianic prophet had said, "The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah; make level in the desert a highway for our God" (Isa. 40:3). The Jewish scriptures closed with these words about John. "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Mal. 4:6).
Preaching repentance to Israel, John pointed to the Savior (Matt. 3:11,12; Mk. 1:7; Lk. 3:16). John testified that he was not the Messiah and directed men to the one whom God had shown him, Jesus (Jn. 1:20, 30-34). Thus the point of the time of the coming of David's promised seed is pinpointed and connected with the sure prophetic word. Evidences so strong they could not be denied were advanced to buttress Paul's affirmation. Many voices of prophets in widely separated times and places with a grand sweep of full embodiment were brought together in testifying of one person, the Christ! Hence the beauty and power of the argument from the prophetic word!
Prediction of Jesus' Death. An ignoble death upon a cross hardly appealed to Jews who expected the Messiah to rule in the earthly pomp and power of David and Solomon. But what saith the prophetic word? To this sure testimony Paul now focuses attention relative to the death of Jesus.
Him whom God had anointed was unknown to those to whom he was sent. "For they that dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him" (Acts 13:27). The expression "voices of the prophets" is not a contradiction of the expression "mouth of the prophets" (Acts 3: 18). The latter expression has reference to the unity of the prophetic message in that God spoke through the prophets. They were his "mouth," hence there was one voice. The former expression is viewed from the standpoint of the great number of men used by God in making utterances concerning the coming of the Messiah. Truly many "voices," different prophets, foretold it. However, it should be observed that though they were many voices, yet their messages find fulfillment in the one person, Jesus. What do we have then? There were many prophets but all were the mouth of God. The "voices" were one "mouth."
Sublimely accurate words had foretold the suffering and death of the Servant of Jehovah (Isa. 53:7-9). Minute details of physic happenings had been delineated by the sweet singer of Israel; but one should not become so engrossed with these that he overlooks the righteous Servant suffering by the hands o the unrighteous, and without sin (Psa. 22). Here is brought to fruition the ideal of al that man should be in relation to God. Hi suffering " the righteous for the unrighteous that he might bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3: 18 fulfilled God's great purpose which was in hi mind before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-14; 1 Pet. 1:20).
"And though they found no cause of death in him, yet asked they of Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all things that were written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb" (Acts 13:27, 28, 29). These were uncontroversial facts: Pilate had tried him and delivered him to be crucified and he had been buried. The Jews of Jerusalem knew this.
Now the great evidence of Jesus' deity, the resurrection, is brought to attention. "But God raised him from the dead: and he was seen for many days of them that came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses unto the people" (Acts 13:30,31). We should observe that this is attributed to God just as were the covenants made with the fathers and with David. It is no less God's work than these that they admitted, and the evidence is as irresistible. The evidence is both prophetic and eyewitness.
The promise made to the fathers ultimately depends on the resurrection for so we understand from these words, "And we bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, that (God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus" (Acts 13: 32,33). How will this proposition be supported? Let us note the prophetic foundation in the apostle's argument.
The raising of Jesus was in fulfillment of the second Psalm, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" (2:7). That this begetting refers to the resurrection and not the birth of Christ is also made clear from other scriptures. Christ's exaltation at the right hand of God followed his resurrection (Heb. 1:3) and he received a more excellent name than angels (Heb. 1: 4). Then are added these words, "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee? And when he again bringeth the firstborn into the world he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him" (Heb. 1:5,16). After being in fashion as a man and suffering death, Jesus was crowned with glory and honor (Heb 2:7). In this state of glorification at God's right hand, he was made a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. In proof of this, the writer quoted Psalm 2:7 (Heb. 5:5). It is clear that this being "begotten" refers to his being brought forth from the dead into the world. Consequently Christ's resurrection was according to the prophetic word to which the Jews were wont to make appeal in proof of beliefs.
That Jesus had been raised from the dead never to see corruption again Paul affirmed
God had foretold on this wise, "I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David. Because he saith also in another psalm, Thou wilt not give the Holy One to see corruption" (Acts 13:34,35; Isa. 55:3; Psa. 16:10; 2 Chron. 6:42). Thus God's loving kindness shown David in holy promises had been sure in that he brought the "holy and sure blessings" to them in Jesus, the seed of David.
David's prediction of the resurrection of Jesus is dealt with at more length in Peter's argument in Acts 2. Boldly, without any fear of successful contradiction, Peter declared that Psalm 16: 8- 11 was spoken by David concerning Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 2:22-36).
As God's servant, David served his own generation. "For David, after he had in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell asleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption" (Acts 13:36). By God's appointment David served that generation as king and servant of God but his service was not perfect, not the ideal God desired. But Jesus the Ideal Servant is the great Servant of the ages, serving all generations with remission of sins.
"But he whom God raised up saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, brethren, that through this man is proclaimed unto you remission of sins: and by him every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:37-39). Blood of bulls, goats and the like could not remove sin and for this reason a remembrance of sins was made year by year in the sacrifices offered under the law (Heb. 10:1-4). But now has there come to Israel, a Servant who brings the holy and sure mercies of David to the chosen of Israel. Truly Jesus died for the sins that were under the first covenant (Heb. 9:15) and is set forth as the propitiation (adequate covering or atonement) for the sins of all ages (Rom. 3:21-26).
Through this chosen seed of Israel's race, remission of sins is proclaimed. Now coming to them was one who was perfect or ideal king, prophet, priest, sacrifice and servant! Here is one who is the embodiment of all that the Old Testament scriptures reveal that one should be in relation both to God and man. This Holy One is thus the fulfillment of the scriptures given from God by voices of prophets through centuries of hope and expectation. What an eloquent conclusion to the history of God's dealing with the seed of the fathers!
Reaction to the preaching of Jesus as the Messiah also predicted. But those who heard this message of redemption in fulfillment of scripture could embody all that rebellion to God involves. "Beware therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken in the prophets: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, if one declare it unto you" (Acts 13:40,41; Heb. 1:5) Though this prophecy had reference to God's raising the Chaldeans to punish Judah, yet they could fulfill or embody what was spoken by rejecting the great work of God in refusing him whom God had raised from the dead.
Upon the Jewish rejection of the gospel preached, Paul said, "Lo, ye turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee for a light of the Gentiles, That thou shouldest be for salvation unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 13:47; Isa. 49:6).
And so it was that all the evidence of prophetic utterances were brought to bear on the hearts of Israel so that they might see the embodiment of God's purposes and plan in Jesus, the seed of David. Scriptures are brought to fulfillment in him who was Jehovah's Servant and man's redeemer.
May it ever be that we revere and treasure the sure word of prophecy, looking for "the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2:13).
Truth Magazine VIII: 1, pp. 14-17,24 October 1963