Acts 3: [1 - 2, 6, 9 - 10,] 12 - 19 [my choice]When Peter saw this, (12) Luke begins, indicating that the crowd's reaction to the healing is the impetus for Peter's speech, and without which we would not have had it. The story is necessary to understand the sermon, for that is about the power of Jesus' name to heal, and to save. So I suggest that you provide a few extra verses or a brief introduction.

This passage presents us with another "Jew-bashing" text. How can we handle it properly? First, and very importantly, note that Peter (and Luke) excuses them: "you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did" (17), echoing Jesus' words: "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." (Lk. 23: 34) At the height of the tragedy, the Jews and their leaders were forgiven by Christ, and now Peter (and Luke) remind us of that fact. The Christian Church should sit up and take notice. Why condemn those whom God has forgiven?

Second, note that Peter (and Luke, for his day) says "you handed over" (13), "You denied" (14), "you put to death" (15) and "you see and know...." (16) The second person plural used throughout refers to more than those present, and they knew that as much as Peter meant it; the crowd on Good Friday was probably much larger. The Apostle (and Luke) is referring to all Israel: the children of Abraham.

Now skip between Peter and Luke: Thus Abraham "believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Realize then that it is those who have faith who are children of Abraham. (Gal. 3: 6-7; cf. Rom. 4: 16-17) Luke, following Paul, intends Peter's audience to stand for us, to represent the Church. And the charge is not that the Jews had the Romans crucify Jesus, but that you and I caused Christ to suffer and die because we remain so intractable in our penchant to sin. So God, in ultimate, unyielding love, decided to do away with the problem of sin once and for all.

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them (2Cor. 5: 19). "God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets" (18). That God's "Messiah would suffer" (18) is not the prophecy, but that through the Messiah's suffering God's purposes of forgiveness and reconciliation would be brought to fulfillment.

"Repent, therefore, and be converted" (19) is a parallelism; two ways of stating one thought (with the second part having greater importance) in order to emphasize it. And when you turn back to God and believe the Good News of total redemption through Christ's death on the cross, then "your sins [will] be wiped away" (19) once for all (Heb. 9: 26).

Psalm 4 (2 - 9, NAB)
[W]hen I call is an instance of repentance, and here reminds us that being converted, turning back to God, is not a once-only act, but must be continual. We need constantly to turn, and re-turn to our saving God. Why?

Our troubles are not just in the past, but are present (cf. Psa. 51: 3) and loom in our future, for we are but human. Yet God's solution is in the past, and was a single act, once and for all. Now if we believe God's Word and trust in God's love, then we should accept what we are told: God cleared a way: our sin problem has been taken care of, once and forever, even though our troubles continue. What we need to do, when they beset us, is to turn to our saving God (repent), acknowledge our humanness (confess), recall God's grace in Christ Jesus (receive forgiveness), offer thanks and praise, and move on.

Know that the LORD works wonders for the faithful;

How can we not sin? What should we ponder?

This parallelism (note the progression) reminds us of:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you." (Jn. 14: 27) It is a gift from God. But a gift is not (a) present until it is received. How may we receive this precious gift?

1John 3: 1 - 7

On the surface, this is a very confusing letter. We read earlier: If we say, "We are without sin," we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1: 8) And therefore we confess our sins. Here we read: Whoever sins belongs to the devil (8). Now we can only conclude that our situation is hopeless; our case is lost. With our own mouths we have convicted ourselves. Then we find contradicting statements: if we walk in the light... the blood of [God's] Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1: 7); No one who remains in [Christ] sins; (6) and No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot sin because he is begotten by God. (9) What do we make of this? If we cannot sin because [we are] begotten by God, then why cannot we say, "We are without sin"?

As I presently understand it, John is speaking to us from two perspectives in close alternation: God's righteous judgment, and God's gracious reconciliation. And, from the tenor of the entire letter, the latter wins-- or, really, has won-- out.

Earlier we read: if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with [God], Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for those of the whole world. (2: 1-2) Now: [Christ] was revealed to take away sins, (5) and the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil. (8) These latter two statements are not merely predicting some future event but, rather, disclose God's purpose in Christ. And now is Christ risen; God's purpose has been fulfilled, so that John may proclaim with absolute confidence: See what love [God] has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. (1)

Luke 24: 36b - 48

"Peace be with you." (36) How many times must our Lord tell us this before we understand and accept it? "Why are you troubled?" (38) Christ has set us free from bondage to sin; Christ has reconciled us to God; Christ has brought us God's peace. So "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?" (38) Do you still think we must do something to deserve it? NO! Jesus did it for us!

"Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day" (46). Only two weeks ago, we were joyously acclaiming: "Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!" Well, do you believe that? Do you also believe the Scriptures: you were also raised with [Christ] through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead (Col. 2: 12)? But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love [God] had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with [Christ], and seated us with [God] in the heavens in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2: 4-6)? This is not about some possible future state; this is today, now, in the eyes, mind and heart of our saving God. By grace you have been saved-- your "sin problem" has been dealt with! [T]rust in the LORD.

"Thus it is written... that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in [Jesus'] name" (46..47) And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to [God-]self through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to [God-]self in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in [Christ]. (2Cor. 5: 18-21)(2) Christian, what do you preach? A message of judgment and condemnation for which sacrifices must be made every year and day after day? Or the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ our Lord?

"And [behold] I am sending the promise of [God] upon you" (49). God's promise, the new covenant, was revealed centuries earlier through the Prophets: "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isa. 1: 18, NIV)(3). And: this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and kinsmen how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more. (Jer. 31: 33-34)

hristian, God's gracious works of salvation, redemption and reconciliation have been accomplished once for all, and for all nations, the whole world. "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mk. 1: 15) We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Believe, accept, trust God's Word to you. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (Jn. 8: 36, NIV) For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5: 1) Honor God: Offer fitting sacrifice, the sacrifice of praise, and trust in the LORD. Christ has set us free. Halleluiah!

1. 1 See also Psalm 40: 6-8; 50: 14; 51: 17; 116: 17 and 141: 2.

2. 2 See also Isa. 53: 4-6; Rom. 3: 24-26; 1Cor. 1: 30; Gal. 3: 13 and 1Pet. 2: 24.

3. 3 Also read verses 19-20.

(comments to Phil at )