Acts 26:1-21 – Jesus “Fleshed Out” as The Promise

Acts 26:1-21 – Jesus “Fleshed Out as The Promise”
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 26:1-21

Acts 26:6–8 (ESV) — 6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

• These verses capture the essence of Paul’s 5th defense made since Chapter 22.
• The sentiment here is quite similar to the other defenses as well as his sermon in Acts 13.
• We will focus on “the promise” and “God raises the dead”.

1) WHAT WAS THE PROMISE?

We briefly addressed this question when we studied Paul’s sermon in Acts 13.
But because I can hardly remember what I learned yesterday, we shall explore “the promise” again in more detail.
“The promise” is also directly related to how we handle point 2 concerning the resurrection.

The promise is well attested:
Luke 1:70–73 (ESV) — [Quoting Zechariah] “…as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us…”

Acts 3:22–24 (ESV) — Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people [Deut 18:15].’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.

Acts 13:22–23 (ESV) — 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.

Acts 13:32 (ESV) — And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers,

  • Luke, Peter and Paul reminded the Jews that “Abraham”, “David”, “the fathers”, “the prophets”, “Moses”, “Samuel” and “Zechariah” spoke of a promise that would find future fulfillment.
  • And whatever that promise was, Luke, Peter and Paul argued that it found fulfillment in Jesus whom they called the Messiah.

What exactly was the promise Luke, Peter & Paul were referring to?
Acts 3:25 (ESV) – You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’

Acts 7:5 (ESV) — 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession AND to his offspring after him, though he had no child.

Acts 7:17 (ESV) — 17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt

Romans 9:9 (ESV) — 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”

So simply put, the promise had three dimensions (source HIBD).

  • the promise of a seed or offspring (an heir; Gen. 12:7; 15:4; 17:16, 19; 21:12; 22:16–18; 26:3–4, 24; 28:13–14; 35:11–12)
  • the promise of land (an inheritance; Gen. 12:1,7; 13:17; 15:18; 17:8; 24:7; 26:3–5; 28:13, 15; 35:12; 48:4; 50:24)
  • the promise of blessing on all the nations (a heritage of the gospel; Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:17–18; 26:4; 28:14).

In following the cross-references throughout the Old Testament concerning “the promise”, it admittedly can become confusing.

  • It is clear that “the promise” comes to encompass more than just offspring, land and a blessing.
  • Underneath these 3 dimensions are all sorts of related prophecies and promises.

But, to stay on task, we will not explore this here.

What we want to know is how Jesus, from an OT perspective, fits into these three promises?
It seems that as God continued to work in the history of Israel, the 3 promises above were “fleshed out” or “Jesused out” even more.

  • God’s continuing fulfillment of His promises, “began to constitute the continuously unfolding divine plan by which all the peoples and nations of the earth would benefit – HIBD.”
  • And the benefit, of course, would come through Jesus Christ.

So although the first fulfillments or benefits of the promise were found in things like:

  • the birth of Isaac
  • the increase of the Israelite population while in captivity
  • the redemption from Egypt and entry into the promise land

There was also present in the OT aspects of “the promise” (the confusing stuff mentioned earlier) that more fulfillment was on the way.
And looking back, the Christian, can plainly see the person of Jesus coming into sharper and sharper focus ultimately culminating with his birth and life as revealed in the NT.

To get a sense of this, examine the verses below:
2 Samuel 7:12 (ESV) — When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.

Psalm 98:2–3 (ESV) — 2 The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.

Isaiah 7:14 (ESV) — 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 40:11 (ESV) — 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

Jeremiah 23:5–6 (ESV) — 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

Zechariah 2:10 (ESV) — Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD.

Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) — 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

  • In these verses, we are introduced to someone called “offspring”, “his salvation”, “his righteousness”, “Immanuel”, “shepherd” and “righteous branch”.
  • Compared to “the promise” and the examples of its fulfillment revealed in the Pentateuch, we have here a much different picture as to the “who” and the “how” “the promise” will be fulfilled.
  • For the New Testament writers Jesus the Messiah is, was and will be the ultimate fulfillment of the “the promises” God made to Abraham, David and the nation of Israel.
  • So, “Luke never tires of showing, that the reality of Jesus has produced a new understanding of what the Messiah is, and hence of what Scripture says about Him” – TDNT.

POI – It is interesting that a search of the OT for the English word Messiah will come up with no hits.
(The NASB and NKJV translate Daniel 9:25-26 with the word Messiah, but it is apparently controversial).

In fact, “the term ‘anointed’ [messiah] is never used of a future savior/redeemer, and in later Jewish writings of the period between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100 the term is used only infrequently in connection with agents of divine deliverance expected in the future” – AYBD.

We are in a very debatable area when we discuss the development in Israel of Messianic ideas which express the hope that a time of salvation will come with the accession of a king of David’s line—a time that is often regarded also as a last time” – TDNT.

The extensive use of the term Messiah (Christ) as a title of the coming great Son of David is primarily a NT phenomenon” – TWOT.

So when the NT writers used the word “messiah”, they were saying (among other things) that:

  • Jesus’ birth, miracles, message, divinity, death, resurrection, etc., revealed that he was the one used by God to fulfill God’s promises of the “offspring”, “his salvation”, “his righteousness”, “Immanuel”, “shepherd”, and “righteous branch”, etc.
  • “The promise” fulfillment came through Christ’s capacity as prophet, priest and king (e.g., Heb 4:14-5:10).
  • He was “anointed” by God to perform these duties – as was the case with OT prophets (Aaron), priests and kings.
  • Therefore, Jesus was the “Anointed One”, the Christ, the Messiah (Acts 17:3, Luke 4:18-21).
  • How was Jesus anointed? (Acts 10:38)

Summary of this section:
The prophecies listed in this section announce a decisive and lasting change in the plight of the people, brought about by God. War will end, peace and plenty will be restored, Israel and Judah will be reunited, people in Exile will return; salvation has worldwide dimensions. In these prophecies, the central figure is a descendant of David who represents an ideal of kingship in the name of YHWH. The complexity of this ideal allows for all sorts of nuances in the individual texts. The emphasis is not on the person of the future king but on the fact that, at last, the Davidic ideal, which no historical king (including David) ever fulfilled, will be realized” – AYBD.

And in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the New Testament enlarges the ancient promises 3 ways (HIBD):

  • The first, and most frequent, are the references to God’s promises to Abraham about the heir he was to receive, even Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:13–16, 20; 9:7–9; 15:8; Gal. 3:16–22; 4:23; Heb. 6:13–17; 7:6; 11:9, 11, 17)”.
  • A second major grouping may be made around David’s seed and the sending of Jesus as a Savior “according to the promise” (Acts 13:23, 32–33 HCSB; 26:6).”
  • The third major group is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promises appear after our Lord’s resurrection (Luke 24:49; Acts 2:33, 38–39).”

This encapsulates Paul’s argument concerning Jesus throughout the book of Acts and to the Jewish King Agrippa II.
But another question remains, where do the promises speak of a resurrection?
This is the issue that was causing the Jews and skeptics alike so much problem; more next week.