“Pay Attention to What’s at Stake”
You’ve heard the expression, “Ignorance is bliss.” That expression is from a poem by the eighteenth-century English poet Thomas Gray. The full line reads: “Where ignorance is bliss/’Tis folly to be wise.” As the poet looks out at folk frolicking through life as if they have not a care in the world, he resents their carefree attitude before realizing that soon enough life will come calling in all its harshness, as it always does. So, in the meantime, he reasons, let them revel in their ignorance; for now, what they know will not hurt them.
But can we really let folk revel in their ignorance? Not when there is too much at stake for them not to know the error of their ways.
In this section of Acts, Peter is speaking to the crowd of onlookers who have just witnessed the healing of the crippled beggar, who had prior to his healing known nothing but shame. Now, the crowd sees the man on his feet, walking and jumping, and praising God for the healing Peter had brought about in Jesus’ name. The crowd thinks that Peter and John have performed this miracle in their own power, which gives Peter the opportunity to set the record straight and inform them of what’s at stake.
Peter begins by taking on the spiritual ignorance of the people. But rather than chiding them for not knowing the truth, Peter informs them that God has used their lack of knowledge to bring to fulfillment prophecies regarding the Messiah. After carefully explaining to the crowd the significance of Jesus’ suffering, he calls them to repent so that “times of refreshing may come.”
Peter’s sermon points the people to how God’s redemptive purposes were to begin with the Jews, but would soon be extended to people everywhere. The fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3) would through the preaching of the good news of Jesus result in a message of salvation that would go beyond Israel to all who would turn from their own way to His way.
While it’s a sad truth that the people who ought to understand the gospel are the ones who end up understanding it the least, that reality should motivate us to help them see what’s at stake in their response. Ignorance to Jesus is a sin that God may forgive for a season. But now comes the time when salvation is made possible for all who obey Jesus’ teaching and destruction is the end for those who insist on going their own way. When we help people see the consequences of their response to Jesus, some will understand the truth, turn from their rebellion, and find the salvation that God has sent Jesus (and us through our witness) to help everyone know.
Acts 3:11-26 (ESV):
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 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.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 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.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”