Acts 2:22 says, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know”.
With these words Peter began his main subject to the crowd gathered on Pentecost. The people had come together because they had heard a sound like a mighty, rushing wind which was heard throughout Jerusalem. The sound accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. This coming had been promised by both John and Jesus, and had been prophesied of by Joel almost 880 years earlier (Joel 2:28-32).
Notice that Peter identified Jesus as “a man” and this was the way Jesus frequently spoke of Himself: “son of man” (Mark 2:10). The deity of Jesus was something Peter dealt with later in his sermon. His purpose as he began was to remind those who heard him that while his nation had rejected Jesus, those who heard Peter that day were familiar with Jesus. They knew that God had shown His approval of Him by the “signs, wonders and manifold powers” He gave Him to work. Peter said those who heard him knew these things.
Peter used three words to describe how God approved of Jesus: mighty works (miracles), wonders, and signs. These three words were also used by the Hebrew writer when he said the apostles had confirmed God’s message by signs, wonders, and mighty works (Hebrews 2:4). Paul also used the same three words to describe the work of the apostles in confirming the message they preached (2 Corinthians 12:12).
The gospel accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry record many marvels by God “working with him”: power over disease, death, and nature. All His works were signs to His nation that God approved of Him and His work, just as they are signs to our present age of the same (John 20:30-31). That Jesus’s words fell on deaf ears and to sightless eyes did not alter the nature of them. Earnest hearts and sincere minds saw His works for what they were. John records that Jesus gave sight to a man born blind (John 9:24). And Luke records that to hardened hearts the works Jesus did was that of a sinner who performed by the power of Beelzebub (Luke 11:15). But to tender, sincere hearts it proved He was God approved. “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing”, exclaimed him who once was blind but was then able to see (John 9:33).
The signs Jesus worked caused a lot of dismay among His nation. Some had no intention of changing their lives, and the works Jesus did made them wonder, “What do we? This man doeth many signs” (John 11:47). The signs Jesus did caused some to bribe the watchers at Jesus’s tomb who witnessed His resurrection to say, “His disciples came by night while we slept and stole his body away” (Matthew 28:13).
This action of the latter causes the conversation between Abraham and the rich man, found in Luke 16, to come rushing to our mind. After Abraham had told the rich man that it was impossible for Lazarus to place a single drop of water on his tongue because there was a great gulf between the two that neither could span, the rich man pled with Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to his father’s house warn his five brethren not “to come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:28). The response that Abraham gave was, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them”. The rich man responded, “Nay, father Abraham, but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent”. Abraham said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). How true his words were. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the Pharisees plotted to kill Lazarus because his resurrection caused many to believe on Jesus (John 12:10-11).
Peter said God had worked many signs and wonders through Jesus to show that He approved of Him. Then Peter turned to Jesus’ resurrection declaring, “This Jesus did God raise up whereof we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). This was the greatest sign God gave to show He approved of Jesus, yet the testimony of twelve credible witnesses that they had see the resurrected Christ could not cause some to believe.
The great salvation, which included both the death of Christ for our sins and His resurrection for our justification and hope, was first spoken through our Lord and then was confirmed to us by those whose heard His words and witnessed both His death and resurrection. Nothing through the span of almost 2,000 years has been able to discredit that testimony nor prove it to have been a false claim. On the day of Pentecost the message that Jesus was approved of God was proclaimed and many did believe. But many did not. Our world has changed little since then. What think ye of Jesus, friend? Do you believe Him to be “a man approved of God”?