My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “I will give you the holy promises made to David.” Therefore he has also said in another psalm, “You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.” For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption; but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you: “Look, you scoffers! Be amazed and perish, for in your days I am doing a work, a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.” (Acts 13:26-41)
This passage from the early history of the church is a reminder of several things:
- Those in the position to understand the scriptures sometimes don’t, and those with the authority to interpret them are sometimes wrong.
- Sometimes those who are sure they are doing God’s will are working at cross-purposes with God.
- God still somehow makes the best of things. Sometimes these things are amazing and completely unexpected and unbelievable.
- So God takes a long time to do so — from a human perspective. (“A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone...”) Even though David’s words had been sung for fully a thousand years, they only came to realization in Christ, and then were seen (by those with faith to believe) to mean something different from what people thought they meant all along. Much of the world still rejects this interpretation, even after 2,000 more years.
- Jesus came to bring liberation from sin, which obedience to the law of Moses could not accomplish.
- This too may take a long time to sink in.
- There is abundant evidence to show that the church has changed, developed, and evolved in many of its teachings over time, not just on moral questions but on doctrine. (A clear articulation of the Trinity and the Incarnation took about 400 years. The canon of Scripture itself remains unsettled to this day between the various branches of Christendom. There are many acceptable theories concerning the Atonement.)
- Scoffing is not an appropriate response to the possibility of a new understanding of God’s purpose or plan. A humility that admits one may be mistaken, even after having believed something to be true for a long time, or with great personal conviction based on one’s own experience, is advisable.
- We don’t have all the answers. God does. And even though God has revealed much, we still dare not claim to have understood perfectly — our knowledge is as partial as our love is imperfect.
- It appears there is a relationship between our ability to love one another and our ability to understand one another.
- God commanded the former. Perhaps we should work on that as a way to accomplish the latter.
Tobias Haller BSG