“For you first,” Peter tells the people at the portico of Solomon, “God raised His paida and sent Him to bless you by turning every one from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26).

This “raising up” (anistemi) might be a reference to the incarnation: the Father raised Jesus up in Israel to carry out His mission. This is how the word is used in verse 22, where Peter quotes Deuteronomy 18’s promise that the Lord will “raise up” a prophet. But with the announcement of the resurrection ringing in the background (v. 15, using egeiro), it seems that God’s “raising” of His paida alludes to the resurrection. The Father raised Jesus from the dead and sent Him - first for forty days, then through the Spirit-filled apostles - to turn Israel from their wicked ways.

If this is correct, then Peter offers an important insight into the resurrection. This doesn’t mean simply that the resurrection is first preached to Israel, as Paul’s “to the Jew first” is often understood. It means that the event itself is first and foremost an event in the history of Israel, in and for the people of God. It is as much an event in the history of Israel as the exodus, conquest, and exile are. And it is an event in the history of humanity because it is first an event in the history of Israel.

Now: Have traditional atonement theologies taken sufficient account of that “first for you”?

More on: Acts

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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