On March 1, 2019, I posted some insights titled “Psalm 110:1 and Acts 2:38.” This was a result of my work for a book tentatively titled The Holy Spirit: An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology. As I looked carefully at Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, with its many quotations from the Old Testament and explanations of the meaning of those references, I noticed that the final verse he quoted was Psalm 110:1, the Old Testament verse most frequently quoted, paraphrased, and alluded to in the New Testament: “The LORD said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
After Peter quoted this verse, he declared, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” It seemed clear to me that there was something about Psalm 110:1 and the insight Peter drew from it that cut his hearers “to the heart,” causing them to know there was something they must do. What was it?
Peter’s answer was, of course, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Then, I noticed that Peter reiterated the essence of the closing words of his message in response to the high priest who had imprisoned him and other apostles.
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging him on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him (Acts 5:30-32).
Psalm 110:1 is seen here in the reference to the exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God. The statement about repentance and forgiveness of sins looks back to Peter’s words about the purpose of baptism. The phrase “so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him” connects with the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38.
During the week since the March 1 post I have been doing a lot of reading (as indicated by the pictures on this post!) on Psalm 110. This has resulted in new insights I plan to include in the book, because there are connections between the psalm and Jesus’ work of pouring out the Spirit. As we would expect, this also means there are connections between Psalm 110 and baptism. I will offer a couple examples here.
Peter referred to Psalm 110 not only in Acts 2 and Acts 5, but also in his teaching on baptism in I Peter 3:21-22. You will see it immediately:
There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
It is quite interesting that Peter associates baptism with Psalm 110:1 both in his first sermon and his first letter. But that is not the end of the story. If we continue to read his letter, we discover the context includes a reference to the Spirit that resonates with Acts 2:38:
For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit (I Peter 4:6).
But Peter is not alone in his interest in the significance of Psalm 110:1 and baptism. Paul has the same insights:
In him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. . . . If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God (Colossians 2:11-12; 3:1).
First century people of faith responded with repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ upon hearing the message of Psalm 110:1, with its news of the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. But those who rejected Jesus responded with anger and violence, as in the case of the martyrdom of Stephen, who, “being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:55-56).
As those who have attended any of my classes on the Old Testament, the Poetic Books, or the Book of Psalms know, as well as those who have read my book The Messiah in the Psalms: Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places, I am convinced that the Psalter is rich with messianic insights, far richer than we have exhausted. I will continue to investigate these truths as they relate to the book I am now writing.
For those who may be interested in reading my additional work on I Peter, I have written a verse by verse commentary titled I Peter: Standing Fast in the Grace of God. It is available as a Kindle download, iBook, and at www.pentecostalpublishing.com, both as a hard copy and ebook.