There was a boy in our neighborhood when I was growing up who was a true delinquent. He had total disregard for the law, and the police were his enemy. It wasn’t that he was actually an evil person. He just did whatever he wanted to do, even if the law said he shouldn’t. He was lawless – and eventually he ended up in prison.
When Peter began his sermon on the day of Pentecost, he was candid and straightforward about who was responsible for the death of Christ. In Acts 2:23, he said, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”
You see, even though God had decreed what would happen, and knew exactly what the Jews and Romans would do, the people were still responsible for what they had done when they crucified Jesus. Now when Peter said that they had done it with “wicked hands”, he didn’t mean that all of the people were wicked and evil (as we tend to understand these words).
The word “wicked” is actually a word that means “lawless.” It’s the Greek word for law – nomos, with the alpha prefix, which means “no, or not.” So anomos, literally means “no law or without law, or lawless.”
The Jewish leadership had pretended to be fulfilling the law. “We have a law,” they said, that if a man claims to be God, “he ought to die” (John 19:7). But everything they did was contrary to the law. The Sanhedrin, by law, was not supposed to meet before sunrise – but they did it anyway. The law said that they had to have two or three witnesses against Jesus – so they arranged to have false witnesses, which was against the law. Roman law said you can’t crucify an innocent man. Three times Pilate declared that Jesus was innocent. Yet they crucified Him anyway. All six trials were a mockery of justice. Jesus was, indeed, crucified by “lawless” hands.
Now you know the real meaning of the word.
Say — As believers, we are thankful that we are saved by grace alone. But that doesn’t mean that we can break the law – either man’s law or God’s law.