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Acts 13:36–39

“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (vv. 38–39)

Continuing to present the resurrection of Jesus and explain its meaning, Paul in today’s passage notes that the Old Testament texts he quoted as foreseeing Christ’s rising from the dead could be fulfilled only in Jesus. These texts could not be about David because, as the Jews well understood, David died and was buried, and his body suffered corruption (Acts 13:36). David died, and the ancient Jews laid him to rest in a grave “in the city of David.” He did not leave the tomb and he will not leave the tomb until the resurrection of all the dead at the end of history (Dan. 12:1–2). Jesus, however, after being buried in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, rose again on the third day and walked out of the grave (John 19:38–20:18). He is therefore the One who did not see corruption, as the Prophets foretold (Acts 13:37).

As we saw in our study of Acts 13:32–35, the resurrection of Jesus is the means by which the blessings of the Davidic covenant come to God’s people after the Babylonian exile. These postexilic blessings include the forgiveness of sins (Jer. 31:31–34), which is available only in Christ through His death and resurrection. Paul makes this point in Acts 13:38–39 when he says that everyone who believes in Jesus is “freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (v. 39). The word translated “freed” in verse 39 is the same verb translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “justified.” The two sides to our justification are the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the perfect righteousness of Christ to our records so that we can stand before God’s judgment seat without fear (Rom. 4). Paul emphasizes divine pardon in Acts 13:38–39, and this pardon could not be accomplished by the Mosaic law. As good as the Mosaic law was, its sacrifices did not actually provide atonement for sin. The true atonement occurred when Jesus died on the cross (Rom. 3:21–26), so the old covenant saints had forgiveness not through the sacrifices in themselves but through the Messiah, Jesus Christ, whom the sacrifices prefigured. John Calvin comments: “God did indeed appoint no unprofitable or vain thing in the law; wherefore ceremonies were sure and undoubted testimonies of remission of sins. For God did not lie in these words, Let the sinner do sacrifice, and his iniquity shall be purged. But as Christ was the end of the law, and the heavenly pattern of the tabernacle, so the force and effect of all ceremonies did depend upon him.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

The New Testament tells us in many places that the law of Moses is good but that it cannot actually provide the forgiveness from sin that we need. Forgiveness is a free gift from God that comes entirely by His grace. It is not something that we can in any way merit. If we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we can rest in the free forgiveness that He provides through His death and resurrection.

For further study
  • Nehemiah 9:17
  • Psalm 130
  • Ephesians 1:3–10
  • Hebrews 10:1–18
The bible in a year
  • Ezra 3–5
  • John 20

Fulfilling the Davidic Covenant

Paul’s Warning in Pisidian Antioch

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From the June 2024 Issue
Jun 2024 Issue