I. The Miracle (3:1-10)
A. The background
- In our study of Acts, we ended by reading about the expansion of the Lord’s body as every day people were being saved. The apostles were preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and multitudes were believing and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins.
- As we begin the third chapter, we read that Peter and John were going up to the temple courts at one of the hours of prayer. Three times a day the people would offer prayers in the temple complex and in Acts 3 we read about Peter and John going to the temple complex at one of those hours, the three o’clock hour.
- On Peter and John’s way into the temple complex through the Beautiful Gate, they come across a beggar who was lame from birth and was placed at the gate daily. We must remove from our minds our prejudice toward begging as we read this text. This is not a person who is refusing to work. This is not a person that we typically find on our street corners today. Further, there was not the type of welfare system in place for those in such a condition in New Testament times as there is today. This person has a legitimate need, being lame from birth. The family or his friends are supporting him as best they can but they bring him to the temple gates to try to receive monetary help from the worshippers who were coming to pray.
- The scriptures commanded the Israelites to help such people. In Deuteronomy 15:7-8 we read the command, “If there is a poor person among you, one of your brothers within any of your gates in the land the Lord your God is giving you, you must not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him enough for whatever need he has.” The people of Israel were to help a person in this condition by lending him whatever he needed to get by. Every seven years the debts that existed would then be cancelled (Deuteronomy 15:1-3). Every day this lame man is begging for help in the temple complex and no one is loaning him the money that he requires.
B. The interaction
- The lame man sees Peter and John enter the temple complex through the gate and the lame man asks them for money. Peter and John looked at the man intently and said to him, “Look at us.” Now, this would have been a good sign for the lame man. What do we as humans do if we are not going to help out someone like this? We put our head and walk quickly on the other side of the path. To have someone stop and address this man would surely mean he thought he was going to receive some monetary support, as verse 5 says.
- What must have gone through this lame man’s mind when Peter said, “I have neither silver or gold but what I have I give to you.” I would surely believe the lame man is what wondering what in the world these men are going to give him if it is not silver and gold. How the disappointment must have begun to set in as he was expecting to receive money and the first words from Peter’s mouth is that they do not have any money.
- But Peter and John were not done. Peter says, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Now, please imagine this scene for a moment. Think about if you were unable to walk under your own power since birth. You are seated at the gate of the temple and these two men come up to you and say that they do not have any money but get up and walk. You know he had to be thinking that these guys were simply mocking him. He had to be thinking, “Rise up and walk? Yeah, right.” If you carefully read the text, it does not say that the lame man simply got up and was healed. Notice that Peter pulls him up to his feet.
C. The healing
- Once Peter pulls the lame man to his feet, the scriptures tell us that the lame man’s feet and ankles became strong. The lame man jumps up, stood, and started to walk and enters the temple complex with Peter and John. Now the lame man is not just casually walking into the temple complex. He is “walking, leaping, and praising God.” The lame man is rightfully causing a commotion.
- All the people in the temple complex see this man walking, jumping, and praising God. Then those people begin to realize who this person is who is making this commotion. It is the man who they pass by three times a day every day on their way into the temple complex to pray. It is the very same man who has been asking for monetary help because he has been lame from birth. This man is the one who is walking and leaping around the courtyard. Therefore, verse 10 says, “So they were filled with awe and astonishment at what had happened to him.” So all the people were greatly amazed and ran toward Peter, John, and lame man to see this amazing miracle more closely. This will provide Peter and John an audience and an opportunity to teach them about Jesus. As we look at Peter’s sermon, I want us to notice that Peter makes the same points here as he did in Acts 2 after the miracle of the Holy Spirit coming on the apostles.
II. Peter’s Sermon
A. The source of power is Jesus
- The first point that Peter and John must make to the people is that these things did not happen according to their own abilities. The people are looking at Peter and John in astonishment wondering how they were able to perform such a miracle. Peter and John tell the people that this miracle did not happen by their own power or godliness.
- Verse 13 says that God has glorified His servant Jesus. This miracle was to glorify Jesus and show His power. The rest of verse 13 through verse 15 is a parenthetical point that we will consider in a moment. Verse 16 picks up this point that the power is in Jesus: “By faith in His name, His name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. So the faith that come through Him has given him this perfect health in front of you all.” Peter wants the people to know that the power to do this has only come through the authority of Jesus. This miracle was not the work of man. Nor was the miracle the work of God glorifying this lame man. This miracle was the work of God glorifying His Son Jesus to show them the power that exists in the authority of Jesus.
B. The people crucified Jesus
- Peter and John must show the power is in Jesus for them to be convicted of their sin of killing Jesus. By showing that Jesus is God, now Peter and John point the finger to the people for crucifying Jesus.
- The people are the ones who handed Jesus over to Pilate. The people are the ones who denied Jesus in the presence of Pilate. Remember that Pilate announced, “Behold your king.” The people responded, “We have no king but Caesar.” Peter goes further by reminded the people that they denied the Holy and Righteous One by releasing a known murderer, Barabbas, instead of Jesus. The people made that choice when they could have freed Jesus. Again, Peter says that the people killed the Source of Life as we remember the people shouting so strongly “Crucify Him, crucify Him” that a riot was forming.
- To show the greatness of God’s glory found in Jesus, Peter preaches that this Jesus God raised from the dead and the apostles are witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Peter made this very argument to the multitudes in Acts 2, convicting them of crucifying the Messiah, but pointing out that God raised Him from the dead.
C. God prophesied these events would happen
- In Acts 2 Peter quoted the prophecy of Joel and the statements of David to show that these events concerning Jesus had been foretold by God hundreds of years earlier. Peter does not make a direct quotation at this point, but does tell the multitudes in the temple complex that these things had been spoken by all of God’s prophets.
- We will return to this point later as there are two other things that were to take place when the Messiah came that was predicted by God’s prophets. But Peter decides it is enough at this point to remind the people that God’s prophets spoke of the Messiah’s suffering.
- Since they are the ones that crucified the Savior and Son of God, the people needed to do something based upon their actions. In verse 19 Peter says, “Therefore, repent….” Peter says it is time to turn back to God. I have always found it interesting that Peter says “Repent and turn back.” We often define repentance as turning back, and if that is case, then Peter is being redundant. Repentance has to do with the change of mind, will, focus, and purpose. It was time for the people to change their focus and purpose to live for God. The “turning back” is the action backing up the mental change. Another way to understand Peter’s language is to repent and flee to God. We are to move ourselves closer to God, as God has commanded “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.“
- This is a necessary step for salvation. Peter had already preached repentance in Acts 2 to another audience and now in Acts 3 he preaches its necessity again. This is how our sins will be wiped out: by changing our focus in life to serve and obey the Lord. The image that Peter uses here is a beautiful one where our sins are described as being wiped away. In Acts 2 Peter described God passing forgiveness upon our sins. In Acts 3 Peter describes God wiping our slate clean from sins. Our past is completely wiped clean when we come to God in repentance.
- If you recall in Acts 2 Peter said to the multitudes that there was more to be received than the forgiveness of sins. Peter also said, “and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 3 Peter does not simply tell the people they can have their sins wiped clean. Peter says, “that your sins may be wiped out so that season of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and He may send Jesus, who has been appointed Messiah for you. Heaven must welcome Him until the times of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about by the mouth of the His holy prophets from the beginning” (Acts 3:19-21).
- There is much said that is taking place in this section of scripture. But the scripture is the best commentary upon itself and we will consider the context of Peter’s words to get a handle on what Peter means here in Acts 3:19-21. The first key is in verse 21 where Peter says that these things have been spoken about by God’s holy prophets from the beginning. Peter proves this by quoting Moses in verses 22-23. Did Moses ever prophecy about the second coming of Christ? Did the Old Testament prophets predict the second coming of Christ? Many people understand Peter to be preaching that the people needed to repent because Jesus will not return a second time until the restoration of all things take place. Of course, they will argue the restoration of all things is the restoration of the nation of Israel and the establishment of God’s government in Jerusalem so the premillennial end times theory can begin. But the prophets never spoke of the second coming of Christ. Moses certainly did not and Peter does not use a quotation concerning Moses that has anything to do with the second coming.
- Further, our second key is in verse 24 where Peter says that all the prophets have spoken about these things. Every single one of God’s prophets spoke of these days when the seasons of refreshing would come and the times of restoration would take place. We must ask ours elves a very important question: what common theme did all the prophets speak? Peter says all the prophets, even from the very beginning, spoke about these things. Whatever they were speaking about is the answer to what Peter means in verses 19-21 of Acts 3.
- All of the prophets spoke about the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom He would set up. All of the prophets spoke of the blessings that would come to those in God’s kingdom when the Messiah came. All of the prophets spoke of the judgment that would come upon the disobedient when the Messiah came. That is what Peter is quoting in Acts 3:22-23. Moses said that God would raise up a prophet like Him from among the people. The One would be the Messiah. The people had to listen to what he said, and if they did not, those people would be completely cut off from the kingdom.
- So what is Peter saying in Acts 3:19-21? The same thing he said in Acts 2. The Messiah has come and all the prophets said He would come. The prophets also told us that when He came there were going to be great blessings poured out on all the people who were His and there was going to be great destruction and judgment upon those who did not obey. It was time for the people to be restored to God. This would be the restoration or establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah. The people had previously violated the covenant with God and had been cut off. The Messiah had now come and these were the times for the people to be restored to God. This is also what the apostles were asking about in Acts 1:6, “Lord, at this time are You restoring the kingdom to Israel.” Now the restoration of Israel was taking place. This was the seasons of God’s blessings and it was time return and be restored to God or experience the judgments.
- Key in on verse 23 again. “And it will be that everyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely destroyed from among the people.” Peter is preaching the same judgment to this audience that he preached in Acts 2.
F. God’s blessings
- Remember we also saw in Acts 2 that Peter spoke about the blessings that would come upon all flesh, as Joel prophesied. Peter ends with this promise of blessings upon all God’s people again.
- Verse 25 says, “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your forefathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ God raised up His Servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.“
- This is the description of the great blessings that God was pouring out upon them. (1) They are children of the prophets. The prophets were chosen by God to deliver a message. The people who would obey are also chosen by God. (2) They were given a covenant that God fulfilled. God promised that in Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. When we read of God’s promises, this is the great one that the people of Israel were looking for. I believe this is the same promise described in Acts 2 where Peter told the people “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, for the promise is to you, to your children, and to all those who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). What promise was given that was to the people of Israel and to peoples far off that had not been fulfilled yet? I submit to you it is this promise in Acts 3:25 that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. That promised has now been fulfilled and the people of Israel were the first to experience this great blessing, as verse 26 points out.
- This was the time the prophets were pointing to. Peter reminds them that the Messiah was going to bring two things: the blessings of the God to those who obeyed and the judgments of God to those who disobeyed, just as Moses said. Peter is telling the people that it is not only about having their sins wiped out because of what they have done. It is the fulfillment of God’s promise that the Messiah has come through their people and first to their people offering God’s hand of blessings, fellowship, restoration, and partakers in the kingdom of God. God had established His kingdom and those in this audience, as well as all who heard this message, can become sons of God, heirs of God, and fellow partakers in the blessings that God bestows on His children. After suffering the silence of God for over 400 years as God had cut His people off, the arm of the Lord had now been extended to all the world that whoever would obey Him can be a child in the house of God, with all the privileges of sonship. No wonder the people were so excited to hear this great news and we must also be excited to know all that we have in Christ when we obey Him.
- How would you like to have your sins wiped out? How would you like the barriers that keep you from being in fellowship with God removed so that you can talk to God and know He will answer? How would you like to call the Almighty One who created all things your Father? Would you like God to be with you as you live day to day, as He gives you hope, strength, and encouragement? God set up His kingdom and it is time for us to be citizens of our heavenly calling.
- To have these things we must do as Moses said: listen to Jesus and do as He says. If we will not listen, then we will be cut off the people of God and destroyed. Come to God today and repent (change your focus and submit to the will of God) and be baptized. Only then will you called a child of God and have true life now and eternally in heaven.