Thursday, 19 January 2023
“and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Acts 13:39
In the previous verse, Paul stated, “through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins.” This is the heart of the matter. Jesus didn’t come to exalt Israel over Rome. He didn’t come to give the people ease and comfort. He didn’t come to do a thousand things that people think of when they think of their earthly lives and how the Messiah could make them better. Rather, Paul focuses on the forgiveness of sin. This aligns with John’s words from his first epistle –
“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8
Like Paul, John highlights the problem, sin. But he also identifies the source of the problem, the devil. Complete clarity of why the story of the fall of man in the very first pages of Scripture is realized. Everything about what is recorded after that is a part of God’s workings to highlight this, to show that it must be resolved for harmony to be restored between Him and man, and how He would bring that about.
Paul now calls that fact forward, saying, “and by Him.” This is speaking of Jesus. He is “this Man” of the previous verse. He is the One “whom God raised up and saw no corruption” of the verse before that. Paul is revealing to the Jews, and also any Gentiles in attendance, the purpose of Jesus’ coming.
As this is his argument, then it means that everything referring to the Messiah in their Scriptures will support his words. The historical stories, the prophecies, the songs, the genealogical listings, the love stories, and all else are anticipating this great role of the Messiah and those things will in some way be connected to this fact. The words of Scripture cannot be disassociated from the overall purpose of Scripture. And so, to highlight this in the fullest and most poignant manner , Paul continues by saying that “everyone who believes.”
The word pas is a word of totality. It can refer to people, geographical locations, the words of Scripture, and so on. In this case, it is being used to identify people. This is obvious because Paul just said, “through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins.” Thus, it is identifying the category – human beings. In saying “everyone who believes,” it thus extends beyond the Jews to all people without distinction. No matter who hears the words, all are included in the action which is that they are “justified from all things.”
The word Paul uses, dikaioó, is connected to the idea of the forgiveness of sins from the previous verse. Simply, it means “approved.” However, it carries with it a legal and authoritative sense. As the words are connected to forgiveness of sins, Paul is saying that through Jesus, all charges against a person, and the punishment that should be meted out because of them, are cleared.
The slate is wiped clean and total forgiveness is realized. Without Jesus, there is defeat because of sin. But with Him, there is victory and vindication. With this stated and revealed to the ears of his audience, Paul next provides a contrast to Jesus. In doing so, he will highlight exactly what was stated above: that everything in Scripture is ultimately anticipating the great role of the Messiah. He does this by saying that the word of Jesus provides man’s needed justification “from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
Bengel is correct in saying that the words about Jesus, “in Him,” are the antithesis of “the law of Moses.” Moses is the standard set forth by God for justification. That is stated explicitly in Leviticus 18 –
“You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 18:4, 5
The law was given, and it promised life. With it set before Israel, it was then provided about fourteen hundred years to be worked out. The record of the people, both individuals and as a collective, was carefully kept so that Israel could see they needed something else, something even greater than the law to live. The law only brought about the realization of more sin and thus, more condemnation.
Therefore, Paul is not only speaking to the Jews sitting there, but he is speaking to the Gentiles who were curious about the religion of the Jews. If they had the words of promised life for obedience to their laws set before them, and if that law was unable to bring about a state of justification to them, then the Gentiles would be crazy to ignore Paul’s words and place themselves under the law.
*The law is the standard.
*The law is unable to provide what it offers because the law only highlights sin.
*Jesus provides what the law cannot provide because He had no sin and committed no sin under the law.
Because Jesus fulfilled the law through obedience to it, including His death, He embodies the law. In other words, in Him is life – the life promised in Leviticus 18. Through faith in Jesus, that life is imparted to the believer because justification is imputed to him. Forgiveness is realized, the slate is clean, and eternal life is the result. This is the gospel that Paul is meticulously explaining to the ears of his audience.
Life application: If only those who follow the Judaizers and Hebrew Roots Movement cults would think through what Paul is saying to those in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, they would run as quickly as they could to Jesus. They would shun what these heretics offer, which highlight sin, condemnation, and death. Instead, they would hold fast to Jesus which means justification from sin, a declaration of righteousness, and life.
Jesus! It is all about Jesus. In Him and in Him alone comes the forgiveness of our debts and a return to paradise. Who cares about how “holy” you appear because of your dietary restrictions, the days you observe, or the feasts you participate in? These are just shadows and types of the coming Christ. They can never make a person holy. But Jesus can and He will. Just come to Him by faith. This is what God asks of you.
Heavenly Father, forgive us for attempting to earn what You have already offered. Forgive us for our arrogance and pride in trying to do better than what You have done. The perfection of Christ and of His work is all we will ever need to be right before You. So, Lord, help us to hold fast to Him and to Him alone as we await our renewal. And may that day be soon! Amen.