In Acts 3:11-26 we have a narrative about the apostle Peter’s encounter with the crowd of Jews who had seen an undeniable miracle in the healing of a congenitally lame man who, because of this physical condition, had been driven to beg for alms in the temple area.
Lest the astounded people would conclude that it was through Peter’s power and godliness that this lame beggar could now walk and leap and praise God, Peter explained who the real source of this miracle was: Jesus. “Jesus…you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses” (verses 13-15). [The story referred to here, about Jesus’ being condemned to crucifixion instead of that murderer (Barabbas), is found in Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; and John 18:38-19:16.]
The clear reference to Jesus as “the Holy One” struck such a deep chord in the hearts of this Jewish audience that some 5,000 of them believed in Jesus that day (Acts 4:4). This topped the 3,000 Jews who believed and were baptized after hearing Peter’s earlier message during the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:40-41).
In his Pentecost message, Peter spoke about Jesus “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:24). Peter then quoted a prophecy by King David about the Messiah (Christ) regarding this: “For You [God] will not leave my soul in Hades [or the grave, there to rot], nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (verse 27).
In John 6:68-69 we have Peter replying to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is how both the King James Version and the New King James Version render that particular phrase. However, based on the original Greek text, the New International Version, the New English Bible and the Revised Standard Version all render this phrase accurately as “the Holy One of God” (Greek, Ho Hagios tou Theou).
These three instances in the life of Peter, the lead apostle to Israel (or the “circumcision”), show that he knew who the “Holy One” was.
What’s the big deal?
What’s so significant about “the Holy One,” anyway? Well, it has a lot to do with the God of the Old Testament! Let’s explore a few key passages in the book written by the major prophet Isaiah, where the use of this title for the God of the Old Testament is rather profuse.
Isaiah 1:4 — “Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupt! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel [Hebrew, Qadosh Yisrael]. They have turned away backward.”
The “LORD” who dealt with the sinful people of Israel was called such here, as in several other verses [Isaiah 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6; 29:19; 30:12, 15;31:1; 41:16, 20; 55:5].
Isaiah 17:7 — “In that day a man shall look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel.”
Isaiah 29:23 — “But when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, they will hallow My name, and hallow the Holy One of Israel, and fear the God of Israel.”
Isaiah 41:14 — “‘Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you,’ says the LORD and your Redeemer, and glory in the Holy One of Israel.” See also Isaiah 43:14.
Isaiah 43:3 — “…I am the LORD your God , the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Isaiah 43:4 — “I am the LORD , your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.”
Isaiah 45:11-12 — “Thus says the LORD , the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: ‘Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons; and concerning the work of My hands, you command Me. I have made the earth , and created man on it. I — My hands — stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.'”
Isaiah 47:4 — “As for our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel.”
Isaiah 49:7 — “Thus says the LORD the Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One…because of the LORD who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel; and He has chosen you.”
Isaiah 54:5 — “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth.”
A change in perspective
A person who might be skeptical about such Scripture passages as John 1:1-14, Colossians 1:15-16; and Hebrews 1:1-3, concerning Jesus Christ being the Creator God of the Old Testament, should stop and think about the preceding passages from Isaiah. They abundantly and clearly link Jesus Christ to the Holy One of Israel: Creator of all things, the Maker and Husband of Israel, the LORD God, the LORD of hosts, Redeemer, Savior and King.
This ought to change one’s perspective about what the “law of Christ” really consists of [see: The Law of Christ]. It should clarify for us what “sins” Jesus came to redeem us from [see: Transgressions Under the First Covenant]. It should help us understand better who the true and real Christ was and is [see: The True Christ]. Hopefully we can yield more fully to the true Christ — instead of the false “Christs” that have been promoted down through the centuries — and truly make Jesus our Lord and Master [see: Is Jesus Your Lord — Really?].
Peter’s admission and admonition
With such a profound understanding that Peter had of Jesus Christ as the Holy One of Israel, it should be easy to accept the sometimes puzzling admission and acknowledgment which he wrote in 1 Peter 1:10-12 —
Of this salvation the prophets [yes, those were Old Testament prophets! — see Romans 1:1-4] have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who [or which] was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things which angels desire to look into.
[For more about the “Spirit of Christ,” see: The Trinity Doctrine Reconsidered.]
The Spirit of Christ was in the prophets of the Old Testament as it also was in the New Testament people of God. That is why Hebrews 11:24-26 rightly says that Moses, a prophet of God, willingly turned his back on the sinful pleasures and riches of Egypt because he esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater” than all these. Moses did it for Christ’s sake! [See: The True Christ and Moses and Jesus — Are They Contraries?]
Because the Old Testament prophets had the Spirit of Christ, they were among the people whom Christ calls “His” (Romans 8:9). They “died in Christ” and will be raised up in the resurrection at Christ’s return — in fact, ahead of those true Christians who will remain alive then (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
A call to holiness
Peter continues with this admonition: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation [that is, the second coming] of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; that as He who called you is holy [yes, “the Holy One of Israel!”], you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:13-16).
If we check where Peter quotes “Be holy, for I am holy” from where “it is written,” we could be blown away! One such place is Leviticus 11:44-45 — which concerns being holy by not defiling oneself “with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (unclean animals, verses 29-31). [See: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats?]
Other such places are Leviticus 19:2 and 20:7 — detailing various statutes on how to relate properly to God and to one’s neighbor.
Indeed, let us pursue holiness, “without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was — and is — “the Holy One of Israel.” The “Holy One” is the true God who is pure and sinless, as Jesus was (1 Peter 2:21-23).
Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience.]
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.