Before his death, Jesus told the twelve that he had to die and that he would rise on the third day. Looking back upon this passage we see this as Jesus speaking of an event that would change the history of the world. However, it is unquestionable that the disciples were ignorant of its meaning.
“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem,…And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. “ – Luke 18:31-34
After his crucifixion, instead of anxiously waiting his resurrection, the apostles were still ignorant, disheartened at the death of their redeemer, and did not even at first believe the testimony of his resurrection (Mark 16:14, Luke 24:19-24).
It was not until after his resurrection that Jesus appeared to the apostles and ‘opened their understanding’ to the scriptures regarding the necessity of the death, burial, and resurrection (Luke 24:44-47).
However, we must be careful to equate this ‘understanding’ of the cross to the understanding that was given to Paul concerning the meaning of the cross today. As we will see from Peter’s testimony, the apostles did not preach faith in the cross as the means of salvation. Rather the necessity of the crucifixion was revealed as it pertained to the prophetic program and the covenants – the massacre of an unworthy lamb.
Peter’s Murder Indictment
After their understanding was opened in Luke 24, forty days of teaching from the resurrected Jesus, and the supernatural empowerment of the Holy Ghost, surely the glories of the cross and the atoning work of the blood would be expounded by Peter at Pentecost.
Yet, Peter did not preach the cross as a means of salvation, but as a murder indictment against the men of Judea and Israel. Peter testified how that Jesus was approved of God by his works.
“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: “ – Acts 1:22
Yet it was to the shame of Israel that their long-awaited Messiah would come only to be crucified by their wicked hands.
“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:” – Acts 1:23
Peter continues to explain how that God raised Jesus up to sit on the throne as a fulfillment of the promise given to David. So, then Peter again summarizes by saying:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” – Acts 2:36
What an accusation and message of indictment presented against Israel! It is no wonder that many were ‘pricked in their heart’ (Acts 1:37)
‘Repent and Be Baptized’
Subsequent to the appeal of these frightened men at hearing their egregious mistake Peter tells them what to do.
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. “ – Acts 2:38
Suprisingly, Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, does not mention the free redemption by the grace of God as Paul does in Romans 3. Instead he gives them nothing new – repent and be baptized.
We may remember that this was the message that was taught by John the Baptist and the twelve while they were still ignorant of the cross.
“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” – Mark 1:4
To the message of the baptism of repentance, Peter simply adds the promised gift of the Holy Ghost that has now been sent from Christ in heaven.
Done In Ignorance
In the following chapter Peter again is preaching to Israel and again accuses them of murdering the Holy One. However, this time he drops the charge due to ignorant manslaughter.
“But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. “ – Acts 3:14-15
“And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. “ – Acts 3:17
Just as Jesus prayed to God to ‘forgive them they know not what they do’, Peter offers this forgiveness by the mercy of God towards Israel (Luke 24:34).
So then, Israel has a second chance opportunity to believe Jesus is the Christ as Peter continues:
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:” – Acts 3:19-20
It is here that we gain the crucial element to answer our question, did Peter preach the cross for salvation?
Peter vs. Paul
We have read where before Peter offered the baptismal remission of sins through repentance (Acts 2:38). Here Peter says that their sins will be blotted out at the future times of refreshing. In neither instance does he offer faith in the blood for righteousness. Nor are his offers of salvation unconditional or free, but are accompanied with baptisms and repentance.
In contrast Paul preaches the cross ‘according to the revelation of the mystery’ not revealed or known to Peter (Rom 16:25, Eph 3:4). Paul preaches salvation to a man who ‘worketh not’, receives atonement immediately, and is separate from the message of baptism taught by John the Baptist (Rom 4:5, Rom 5:11, 1 Cor 1:17).
Furthermore, whereas Peter preaches the cross as a murder indictment, filled with shame and guilt, Paul preaches glory in the cross!
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” – Gal 6:14
It was this glorious message of salvation based upon the necessary death of Jesus by the cross that was kept hidden from the foundation of the world until revealed to Paul!
“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” – I Corinthians 2:8
If it were revealed or made available to the evil princes of this world or the Prince of darkness, he would not have plotted the death of the promised Messiah.
Peter testified to what was revealed to him as far back as Mathew 16 – that Jesus was the Christ. It was this same Christ that was crucified, and would return to seek vengeance. For salvation, Peter taught belief in the name of Jesus as the Messiah, repentance, and baptism for the remission for sins.
What is left conspicuously absent, or more properly hidden, from Peter at Pentecost is the glory of the cross as a redemptive act necessary for the salvation of us all! It is this manifold wisdom of God that was kept hid in God until revealed to us through Paul.
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” – Eph 3:9-10