After His resurrection, Jesus recalled Peter to ministry on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:15-19). Within a few weeks, the Spirit empowered Peter in Jerusalem. There and then Peter received a level of courageous speech unmatched in the unfolding of redemptive history. Peter used the Old Testament in his sermons, and his interpretations provide a window for understanding the shift that Jesus’ death and resurrection had brought about in the unfolding of Scripture’s storyline. For Peter and the persecuted believers gathered in Jerusalem, the prophetic witness of the Old Testament pointed to Jesus’ ministry.
(1) In Acts 3:22-23, Peter quoted Deut 18:15-19 to argue that Moses predicted a figure like Jesus would arise and God would speak through Him. In Deut 18:9-22, Moses warned Israel to avoid divination and test prophetic utterances. If a prophet’s word did not come true, the prophet was false. Moses said that the Lord would raise up a prophet from among the people so that God would speak through the prophet and not through His terrifying presence as the Lord had done on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19). After the Lord healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, Peter declared to the people that the ability to heal did not reside in him or John, but Jesus. Those who had witnessed the miracle—those whom Peter identified as “sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your forefathers” (Acts 3:25)—were responsible to believe in the Prophet predicted by Moses in Deut 18:15-19 and listen to Him, to Jesus (Acts 3:22-26).
(2) In Acts 3:25, Peter quoted God’s covenantal promise to Abraham in Gen 12:3, stating that God blessed Abraham’s descendants by raising up Jesus from the dead. In Gen 12:1-3 and 15:1-6, the Lord promised Abraham both land and lineage. Abraham’s descendants would be powerful, blessing the nations. So numerous would be Abraham’s descendants that they would be as the stars in the heavens. Peter addressed the audience that had witnessed the healing of the lame man in the temple as those who were descendants of Abraham. In Peter’s interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant promise, God raised up Jesus and sent Him first to Israel that they would repent, receive the Lord’s blessing, and bless all the families of the earth (Acts 3:24-26).
(3) In Acts 4:11, Peter stated that the rejected stone of Ps 118:22 referred to Jesus. Psalm 118 is a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s mighty deliverance. The psalmist recounted that though mighty nations surrounded him and God’s people, the Lord intervened and made them victorious. While the nations thought themselves builders and attempted to reject Israel, the Lord reversed the fortunes of His people and made Israel the chief cornerstone of His sovereign rule over the nations. When the Jewish leaders arrested Peter and John for preaching Jesus in the temple following the healing of the lame man, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and confronted them based upon Ps 118:22. Peter portrayed Jesus and not Israel as the cornerstone and said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Peter’s interpretation of Ps 118:22 reflected Jesus’ use of the verse at the conclusion of the Parable of the Vineyard Owner (Matt 21:42//Mark 12:10-11//Luke 20:17).
(4) In Acts 4:25-26, the church gathered for prayer and confessed that the Jewish and Roman opposition to Jesus was in accord with Ps 2:1-2. In Psalm 2, the psalmist pictured kings and nations coming against Israel and her king. But their plans were futile. The Lord laughed at those who would oppose Him, and the psalmist urged all nations to kiss Israel’s king, God’s son, and make peace before the Lord crushed them in His wrath. Peter and those in his fellowship understood the referents of Ps 2:1-2 as “Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:27). Though the Jewish and Roman leadership united against Jesus, the church confessed that the Lord had predetermined Jesus’ death and resurrection. And since God was sovereign over the human schemes that led to Jesus being crucified, the church asked God to show His sovereignty by giving them boldness to testify of Jesus in the face of great opposition (Acts 4:27-30).