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Acts 3:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I wot - Οιδα, I know. Wot is from the Anglo-Saxon, to know; and hence wit, science or understanding.

Through ignorance ye did it - This is a very tender excuse for them; and one which seems to be necessary, in order to show them that their state was not utterly desperate; for if all that they did to Christ had been through absolute malice, (they well knowing who he was), if any sin could be supposed to be unpardonable, it must have been theirs. Peter, foreseeing that they might be tempted thus to think, and consequently to despair of salvation, tells them that their offense was extenuated by their ignorance of the person they had tormented and crucified. And one must suppose that, had they been fully convinced that this Jesus was the only Messiah, they never would have crucified him; but they did not permit themselves to receive conviction on the subject.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And now, brethren - Though they had been guilty of a crime so enormous, yet Peter shows the tenderness of his heart in addressing them still as his brethren. He regarded them as of the same nation with himself; as having the same hopes, and as being entitled to the same privileges. The expression also shows that he was not disposed to exalt himself as being by nature more holy than they. This verse is a remarkable instance of tenderness in appealing to sinners. It would have been easy to have reproached them for their enormous crimes; but that was not the way to reach the heart. He had indeed stated and proved their wickedness. The object now was to bring them to repentance for it; and this was to be done by tenderness, kindness, and love. People are melted to contrition, not by reproaches, but by love.

I wot - I know; am well apprised of it. I know you will affirm it, and I admit that it was so. Still the enormous deed has been done. It cannot be recalled, and it cam not be innocent. It remains, therefore, that you should repent of it, and seek for pardon.

That through ignorance … - Peter does not mean to affirm that they were innocent in having put him to death, for he had just proved the contrary, and he immediately proceeds to exhort them to repentance. But he means to say that their offence was mitigated by the fact that they were ignorant that he was the Messiah. The same thing the Saviour himself affirmed when dying, Luke 23:34; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Compare Acts 13:27; 1 Corinthians 2:8. The same thing the apostle Paul affirmed in relation to himself, as one of the reasons why he obtained pardon from the enormous crime of persecution, 1 Timothy 1:13. In cases like these, though crime might be mitigated, yet it was not taken entirely away. They were guilty of demanding that a man should be put to death who was declared innocent; they were urged on with ungovernable fury; they did it from contempt and malice; and the crime of murder remained, though they were ignorant that he was the Messiah. It is plainly implied that if they had put him to death knowing that he was the Messiah, and as the Messiah, there would have been no forgiveness. Compare Hebrews 10:26-29. Ignorance, therefore, is a circumstance which must always be taken into view in an estimate of crime. It is at the same time true that they had opportunity to know that he was the Messiah, but the mere fact that they were ignorant of it was still a mitigating circumstance in the estimate of their crime. There can be no doubt that the mass of the people had no fixed belief that he was the Messiah.

As did also your rulers - Compare 1 Corinthians 2:8, where the apostle says that none of the princes of this world knew the wisdom of the gospel, for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. It is certain that the leading scribes and Pharisees were urged on by the most ungovernable fury and rage to put Jesus to death, even when they had abundant opportunity to know his true character. This was particularly the case with the high priest. But yet it was true that they did not believe that he was the Messiah. Their minds had been prejudiced. They had expected a prince and a conqueror. All their views of the Messiah were different from the character which Jesus manifested. And though they might have known that he was the Messiah; though he had given abundant proof of the fact, yet it is clear that they did not believe it. It is not credible that they would have put to death one whom they really believed to be the Christ. He was the hope, the only hope of their nation; and they would not have dared to imbrue their hands in the blood of him whom they really believed to be the illustrious personage so long promised and expected by their fathers. It was also probably true that no small part of the Sanhedrin was urged on by the zeal and fury of the chief priests. They had not courage to resist them; and yet they might not have entered heartily into this work of persecution and death. Compare John 7:50-53. The speech of Peter, however, is not intended to free them entirely from blame; nor should it be pressed to show that they were innocent. It is a mitigating circumstance thrown in to show them that there was still hope of mercy.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Observe the difference in the manner of working the miracles. Our Lord always spoke as having Almighty power, never hesitated to receive the greatest honour that was given to him on account of his Divine miracles. But the apostles referred all to their Lord, and refused to receive any honour, except as his undeserving instruments. This shows that Jesus was one with the Father, and co-equal with Him; while the apostles knew that they were weak, sinful men, and dependent for every thing on Jesus, whose power effected the cure. Useful men must be very humble. Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name, give glory. Every crown must be cast at the feet of Christ. The apostle showed the Jews the greatness of their crime, but would not anger or drive them to despair. Assuredly, those who reject, refuse, or deny Christ, do it through ignorance; but this can in no case be an excuse.
Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1056

Their teaching was a second edition of the teachings of Christ, the utterance of simple, grand truths that flashed light into darkened minds, and converted thousands in a day. The disciples began to understand that Christ was their Advocate in the heavenly courts, and that He was glorified. They could speak because the Holy Spirit gave them utterance (Manuscript 32, 1900). 6BC 1056.1

17, 18. See EGW on Joel 2:28, 29. 6BC 1056.2

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 57-60

This chapter is based on Acts 3; Acts 4:1-31.

The disciples of Christ had a deep sense of their own inefficiency, and with humiliation and prayer they joined their weakness to His strength, their ignorance to His wisdom, their unworthiness to His righteousness, their poverty to His exhaustless wealth. Thus strengthened and equipped, they hesitated not to press forward in the service of the Master. AA 57.1

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Ellen G. White
The Story of Redemption, 248-50

This chapter is based on Acts 3 and 4.

A short time after the descent of the Holy Spirit, and immediately after a season of fervent prayer, Peter and John, going up to the temple to worship, saw a distressed and poverty-stricken cripple, forty years of age, who had known no other life than one of pain and infirmity. This unfortunate man had long desired to go to Jesus and be healed, but he was almost helpless, and was removed far from the scene of the Great Physician's labors. Finally his earnest pleadings induced some kind persons to bear him to the gate of the temple. But upon arriving there he discovered that the Healer, upon whom his hopes were centered, had been put to a cruel death. SR 248.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 67

Their Saviour had been rejected and condemned, and nailed to the ignominious cross. The Jewish priests and rulers had declared, in scorn, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.” But that cross, that instrument of shame and torture, brought hope and salvation to the world. The believers rallied; their hopelessness and conscious helplessness had left them. They were transformed in character, and united in the bonds of Christian love. Although without wealth, though counted by the world as mere ignorant fishermen, they were made, by the Holy Spirit, witnesses for Christ. Without earthly honor or recognition, they were the heroes of faith. From their lips came words of divine eloquence and power that shook the world. TM 67.1

The third, fourth, and fifth chapters of Acts give an account of their witnessing. Those who had rejected and crucified the Saviour expected to find His disciples discouraged, crestfallen, and ready to disown their Lord. With amazement they heard the clear, bold testimony given under the power of the Holy Spirit. The words and works of the disciples represented the words and works of their Teacher; and all who heard them said, They have learned of Jesus, they talk as He talked. “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” TM 67.2

The chief priests and rulers thought themselves competent to decide what the apostles should do and teach. As they went forth preaching Jesus everywhere, the men who were worked by the Holy Spirit did many things that the Jews did not approve. There was danger that the ideas and doctrines of the rabbis would be brought into disrepute. The apostles were creating a wonderful excitement. The people were bringing their sick folk, and those that were vexed with unclean spirits, into the streets; crowds were collecting around them, and those that had been healed were shouting the praises of God and glorifying the name of Jesus, the very One whom the Jews had condemned, scorned, spit upon, crowned with thorns, and caused to be scourged and crucified. This Jesus was extolled above the priests and rulers. The apostles were even declaring that He had risen from the dead. The Jewish rulers decided that this work must and should be stopped, for it was proving them guilty of the blood of Jesus. They saw that converts to the faith were multiplying. “Believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” TM 67.3

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