When Peter preached his second sermon to Israel in Acts 3:11-26, one of his main goals was to clarify the identity of Jesus. Fifty days prior to this sermon, the Jewish religious leaders crucified Jesus as a blasphemer. In ignorance, the crowds followed their leaders and demanded that a murderer named Barabbas be released and Jesus crucified. As Peter addressed the crowds, potentially several thousand, he tells them exactly who Jesus is. Peter’s understanding of Jesus is important because it rightly identifies not only the titles, but the function of Jesus in the world. Understanding the seven titles Peter uses is not only important for sharing the Gospel rightly, but having a deep love for our Savior.
Jesus: The first title Peter uses is the word “Jesus.” Peter had just healed a man who had been lame for 40 years (Acts 3:1-10, 4:22). He told the man that he had no silver or gold, but he commanded the man to rise and walk in the name of “Jesus of Nazareth.” “Jesus” is the name that the angel told Joseph to name the child who was coming into the world who was the Son of God. The angel said to Joseph, “You shall name him Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21) The name Jesus comes from the root word “Joshua” which means “Yahweh saves.” What an appropriate name! Jesus came to be a savior to those who put their trust in him. There is no greater name and there is no other name under heaven by which men are saved (Acts 4:12).
Servant: Secondly, Peter says to Israel that the Lord glorified his “servant” (v. 13). This title speaks about the specific role of Jesus given to Him by His heavenly Father before time began. Jesus came to earth to be a servant to none other than His heavenly Father. The Prophet Isaiah wrote approximately 700 years prior that God would send His servant and that the servant would suffer (Is 52:13-53:11). Particularly, the service that Jesus came to do was to do His Father’s will alone (Jn 6:38). And it was the will of the Father that Jesus die on the cross for sinners, so that God would be just in justifying them by faith in His son (Rom 3:21-26). So, Jesus was a servant to God to fulfill His plan, namely that God the Father might be glorified in the forgiveness of sinners secured by the work of the cross.
Holy & Righteous One: Third, Peter calls Jesus the “holy and righteous one.” These titles speak to the character of Jesus. Uniquely like God himself who alone is holy, Peter says that Jesus is both holy and righteous. Peter is affirming that Jesus was sinless which is confirmed throughout the New Testament (Heb 4:15, 2 Cor 5:17, 1 Peter 2:22). Even God says of His own Son, that He wouldn’t allow His “Holy One to see corruption” (Ps 16:10). Unlike fallen humanity, even the demons recognize that Jesus is the Holy One of God (Luke 4:34). Jesus was perfectly obedient and holy in all of his thoughts and actions. And as a result Jesus alone was fit to be the Holy Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29).
Author of Life: Fourth, in spite of the fact that the Jews had Jesus killed by the Romans, Peter says it is Jesus who is the “Author of life.” This word “author” means “originator.” It is the same word that is used in Hebrews 12:2 where it says that Jesus is the “founder and perfecter of our faith.” Peter is telling us that Jesus is the originator of life. Life originates in Jesus, both physically as creator (1:16) and spiritually with the gift of eternal life (Jn 5:26, 14:6).
Christ: Fifth, Peter calls Jesus the “Christ” (v. 18), which is the honorable Old Testament title meaning “anointed one” or “messiah.” Jesus is no self-appointed messiah, but the one whom God the Father anointed and sent into the world (Mt 16:16, 26:63). Even the demons recognized that Jesus was the Christ (Lk 4:41).
Prophet: Sixth, Jesus is the prophet that was anticipated and spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15. Moses said that “the Lord will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers….every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed.” Similar to Moses, this prophet will also be a deliverer who will deliver God’s people from spiritual bondage and the penalty of sin, which is death (Rom 6:23). As the prophet (Jn 1:21,25) sent by God, Jesus spoke the very words of God and the message of life. Jesus was the prophet that was predicted by all the other prophets (2 Sam 7:12).
Seed of Abraham: The last title that Peter attributes to Jesus is that he was “offspring [from which] all the families of the earth [will] be blessed” (Acts 3:25). Jesus was the promised seed from the very beginning when God made a covenant with Abraham that both Israel and all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). God raised up this offspring through the ages, through the line of Abraham. Jesus was God’s ultimate plan to save the world from the very beginning. All of history was orchestrated by God in order that Jesus might be born at just the right time, under the law, from a woman to redeem mankind (Galatians 4:4-7).
Know Jesus/Share Jesus
As believers we are called to know our Savior, but also to share Him with the world. These seven titles are a great discipleship tool to teach every new believer so that we fully understand and know who Jesus truly is. But these titles also give us tools to make us bold witnesses as we tell the world that Jesus alone is the Savior (Jesus), who was sent by God (Christ) to be the spokesman (prophet) for God and to go to the cross (Servant) to die for sinners. Because Jesus was holy and righteous, and the author of life, He alone can provide salvation for the world. May we truly know our Jesus. And may we truly tell the world about Him!