Resurrection is the fulfilment of God’s promises

If this message about Jesus and the resurrection is bringing in a whole new order of things, then there is a serious theological question. Is this ‘new order’ really something of God, or is it leading people astray? Is this new community displacing the ‘congregation of Israel’ that God led through the wilderness into the promised land? If these apostles have a new message, is it contradicting what God has taught them? Moses himself warned against new teaching—even if the messenger was able to do ‘signs and wonders’ (Deuteronomy 13:1–3). The problem of ‘another teaching’ is one that Paul had to face early on (Galatians 1:6–9), and it is one that faces every generation of Christians.

In Acts 5, Peter and the other apostles are once again before the authorities, following the healing of many and their own miraculous release from prison. Peter’s defence has a triple emphasis on the story of Israel. First, it is ‘the God of our ancestors’ who has ‘raised Jesus from the dead’; it is the living God, worshipped by his living people, who has brought life where there was death. This is characteristic of God from the beginning, when he breathed into the ‘earth creature’ (adam) the ‘breath of life’ (Genesis 2:7). And it marks his relationship with his people, who find renewal in exile when the Spirit of God breathes new life into them (Ezekiel 37:10). Secondly, Peter is clear that the purpose of the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus relates to Israel—to bring them to repentance and forgiveness (Acts 5:31), the hope expressed at the start of Luke’s whole account (Luke 1:77). Thirdly, the signs and wonders of the Spirit are given to those ‘who obey God’ (Acts 5:32)—so the miracles are actually confirmation of the message as coming from God.