Studies in Acts, Lesson 6 Chapter 3
What do you think would be the most helpless feeling in the world? I’ve always thought that drowning would be. Someone else suggested that being paralyzed and blind and unable to speak would be. Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a small merchant who thought he was facing an impossible situation: he refused to sell his property to a group who wanted to build a combination drug store and supermarket, so they built the supermarket on one side of his little store and the drug store on the other side. He solved his problem, though, by having a large sign placed over the door to his little store that said “Main Entrance.”
In the passage to which we now come in our study of the book of Acts, however, we come to a situation that really was impossible, and there was nothing the person involved could do about it. But in that situation God intervened with a great miracle. and I am referring to it as the greatest miracle in the Bible because it is a perfect picture of the greatest miracle that God has ever worked – your salvation and mine. Chapter 2 closes with a description of the early days of the church. Verse 43 tells us that there was fellowship and teaching of the Word of God. And it says that everything the Christians did was accompanied by “signs and wonders” being done by the apostles. As the teaching brought more and more believers into the fellowship the signs and wonders became less and less needed, but they were very important in the beginning. And in chapter 3 we see one of those “signs” and the results it produced. Chapter 3 actually goes through the first 4 verses of chapter 4, and can be divided in this way: In verses 1 through 8 we have the sign Then in verses 10 thru 26 we have the sermon , and in chapter 4: verses 1 thru 4 we have the sequel .
So let’s begin our study by looking at the sign that was given by God in verses 1 thru 8.
The setting for it is given in verses 1 and 2 . And the first factor in that setting is the place where it took place, described in verse 1
Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
Now that verse may not seem significant on the surface, but it actually contains an important reason for the great accomplishment that took place there. And that is that Peter and John in going to the temple that day were being obedient to what Jesus had told them back in chapter 1 verse 8 – be witnesses for me in Jerusalem . . .” They were following a basic principle of fishing and witnessing for Christ: “go where the fish are.” So that what on the surface seemed like a normal everyday Jewish activity was actually a way of serving the Lord. And that is always true, The believer who is committed to being obedient to the Lord will find opportunities for service – wherever that may be. But not only was the place where this miracle took place important, the person in the miracle is important too. Look at verse 2:
And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple:
As I mentioned earlier, this man and the miracle that was done for him is a picture a much more important miracle: your salvation and mine. Look at some of the parallels: First, notice that he was “lame from his mother’s womb.” this condition was not because of any wrong that he had done; he was born that way.
Now it is true that you and I are sinners because of individual sins that we have personally committed, but it is also true that even if we had not committed sin we were born in a sinful condition. If you have a baby more than a week or two old you know how true this is – even at that age they can be rebellious and stubborn – and it is only going to get worse. There is nothing that this man could do to change that condition – no “good works” or “clean living” would bring strength to his legs.
A second thing to notice is what he was doing – laid daily at the gate . . . to ask alms. .. He wasn’t asking alms (offerings) in order to have knee surgery; he was just trying to find a way to exist from one day to the next. Here he was on the outskirts of one or the most beautiful places in the world, but he couldn’t really enjoy it. And this too, is a picture of the unsaved. There is no way they can earn enough money to fix the sin problem and buy “peace with God.” Therefore all of man’s efforts are simply to find some way to get through life with as little discomfort as possible.
Well, that is the setting for the miracle , but verses 3 through 7 give us the statement of it.
Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. (4) And fixing his eyes on him with John, Peter said “Look at us.” (5) So he gave them his attention expecting to receive something from them. (6) Then Peter said, “silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. (7) And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
Here is the miracle, described in detail. Think of some of the lessons we can learn from it: First, notice that it was done “in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” No genuine work of God is done outside of the name of Christ.For those who are spiritually crippled, trying to find some way to get through life, no real help will come except through Christ. Nothing permanent would have been accomplished if Peter had given this man money – it would have just helped temporarily. In the same way , no eternal or spiritual good is done by joining the Rotary Club, or donating to the United Way or delivering meals, (even though those things are fine in and of themselves.)
A second thing to notice here is that the man did not “do” anything to receive his healing – Peter took him by the hand and he stood and walked. The same thing is true spiritually: All we have to do is turn and look at Jesus (as this man did in verse 5 – “so he gave them his attention . . .” And by that single, simple act God did everything necessary to meet his need and give him a whole new life.
Where are you on this scale of things? Are you just struggling through life trying to get something to help you through your lame existence; not doing anything that will solve your problem? As the hymnwriter said, “there’s life for a look at the Savior” Turn to Him for spiritual healing today! And remember that this same principle is true of Christians who are out of fellowship.
Even though we have been thinking about this miracle as a picture of salvation, there are also some principles to learn here about the true nature of “faith healing.”
First, it always gives all the glory to Christ. – look at verse 6 – “I have nothing . . . “in the name of Jesus, rise and walk. Secondly, “it is immediate” – verse 7 – “immediately his feet and anklebones received strength.” Third, It is recognizable and unquestionable – verse 9 – the onlookers saw him walking around. – verse 10: and they knew that it was he who sat begging alms (as opposed to some unseen illness such as an ear infection or kidney disease, etc.)
So that is the first part of the chapter, the “sign” which God provided in healing the lame man. But, as God intended, it led to the sermon which is found in verses 9 through 26
Peter, like any good preacher, knew an opportunity when he saw one.Look at the reason for the sermon
All the people saw him walking and praising God (10) Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him (11) Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s.
This is a perfect example of the reason for miracles – to get attention for a message or to validate a message already given. By the grace of God, the miracles benefitted people as well, but that was secondary to the main purpose. And that is still true today – if God works a miracle in your life be sure to use it as a testimony. And incidentally, this also gives us guidance in whether or not to pray for a miracle – what is your motive?
So that is the reason for the sermon. But now let’s look at the reasoning in the sermon in verses 12 through 26
The first thing Peter does in this sermon is to make clear what the power behind the miracle was in verses 12 through 16 And first, in verse 12, he very admirably makes clear where the power did not come from:
So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?
Then in verse 13 he clearly ties in the power for the miracle with The identification of Jesus
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.
Notice how he ties in the little carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth, with the heroes of their faith, Isaac, Isaac and Jacob. And just in case there is any question about it, he stresses the fact that this was the same one whom Pilate was ready to release except for their demands. Then he carries it a step further and makes an indictment of the Jews in verses 14 and 15
But you denied the Holy One and the just,and asked for a murderer to be granted to you(15) and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.
Even though it is not obvious on the surface, these verses describe a miracle just as impressive as the healing of the lame man! Think about who it was who made this scorching indictment, and think about who he was saying it to. Only God could have produced this kind of courage in the heart of the man had denied his Lord under the questioning of a teen-aged girl just a few weeks before!And what is so easily overlooked by those who demand”signs and wonders” for our day and time is that God still performs this kind of miracle every day. Then in verse 16 Peter comes back to his main subject and specifies the ignition of the power source.
And this name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes. the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
Here is another statement of the consistent message of the Bible: it is not enough to believe in the power of God or that Jesus is the Son of God as stressed in the previous verses. There must be “faith in His name.” So having explained “the power behind the miracle”, Peter makes a plea based on the miracle in verses 17 through 26
He surrounds the plea before and after with prophecies which led up to it. But the essence of the plea is in verse 19:
Repent, therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
This is part of the same message Peter had preached in his first sermon: “change your mind about Jesus of nazareth.” and he had already explained “through faith in His name.” and the result of that faith is in the last part of verse 19. First, “your sins will be blotted out. And second, “the times of refreshing will come from the Lord.” This is an interesting description of salvation isn’t it? But how refreshing it is when we think about the fact that our sins are blotted out! And this is a good idea from time to time to pause for one of those “times of refreshing that come from the Lord.” They come when we really think about the words of a hymn that we are singing. Or when we hear some familiar truth taught a time when it fits our situation in life.