Theology (and exegesis) Matters

Sunday morning, as we were wrapping up, Jeff commented on the contrast between two groups of people who heard the word preached:

1) Those Jews who heard Peter preach at Pentecost, were “pricked in their heart,” and asked “what shall we do?” leading to repentance and baptism. And —

2) The high priest and the Sadducees who heard Peter preach, were “cut to the heart,” and took counsel to slay the preachers of the gospel.

In Jeff’s memory, the same terminology was used of each group, but it turns out that the two phrases denoting their heart response were different. Nevertheless, through a bit of careful exegesis, Jeff discovered an even more fascinating bit of info on the words Luke used to describe the activity of God in both groups.

Here’s Jeff’s email (my comments follow)
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I did a little research on the comment I made yesterday at the end of Jim’s sermon – I was assuming that the terminology in Acts 2:37 and Acts 5:33 was the same with “cut to the heart.” I was wrong.

However, I found something more interesting. Acts 2:37 uses a term meaning to “cut or pierce sorely.”

On the other hand, Acts 5:33 and Acts 7:54 both use another term, meaning “to saw asunder or in two, to divide by a saw – to be sawn through mentally.” The Acts 5:33 reference is when they were intending to “slay them” (Peter and the apostles) and the Acts 7:54 reference is when they gnashed their teeth at Stephen’s message and killed him.

Also note, Acts 2:37 is the only place in the NT where that particular word is used. And the Acts 5:33 and Acts 7:54 references are the only places in the NT where that word is found.

I find it more interesting that although “pierce” or “cut” (depending on the translation) is used in all three instances, the 2 Greek words used lead to different results. The first term for “cut to the heart” resulted in a longing for redemption, whereas the other term in the last 2 instances resulted in a vehement hatred.

Note below that in both forms of the verbs used, they are in the “Passive” voice with an “Indicative” mood. The passive voice represents the subjects as acted upon. The indicative mood is a mood of certainty with respect to the completion of the action of the verb. In both cases, the people were “acted upon” – They did not “choose,” after reflection, to love or hate the message they had heard. This “cutting” or “piercing” happened to them upon hearing the message (“when they heard this…”).

In all 3 cases, the Gospel message did exactly what it was intended to do – call sheep and condemn goats. In other words, God is Sovereign!

katanuÈssw ( 1 instance in the NT )
1. to prick, pierce – to be sorely pricked
2. metaph. to pain the mind sharply, agitate it vehemently
a. esp. of the emotion of sorrow

(katenuÈghsan) – 3rd Person Aorist Passive Indicative
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

diapriÈw ( 2 instances in the NT )
1. to saw asunder or in two, to divide by a saw
2. to be sawn through mentally, i.e. to be rent with vexation

(diepriÈonto) – 3rd Person Imperfect Passive Indicative Plural
Acts 5:33 But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and were intending to slay them.
Acts 7:54 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 –

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”
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The preaching of the Word of God is an overwhelming responsibility. As Paul asked, “Who is sufficient for these things?” In preaching the Word, we plead for men to come to Christ, anticipating that God will call out His sheep through the preachment of His gospel. But, the reality is that God also uses the preaching of His word as a method condemn those who have heard the truth and rejected it.

This is not the type of thing we should be trifling with. The ever-living, never-dying souls of men and women, boys and girls are at the very heart of the matter. We are called to preach the truth, the sound doctrine of the things of God, without flinching or covering up the uncomfortable parts. We are called to convict men of their sinfulness and point them to the One who eternally saves.

We are called to tell the truth.

Once again, theology matters.

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