Acts 3:1–26 . . .
“Peter’s Miracle and His Message”
In our Week 3 study of Acts 2, we saw how Peter capitalized on the miracle of speaking in tongues. Week 4's passage highlighted his Pentecostal preaching that directed devout Jews to Joel's and David's prophecies. And last week, in our Week 5 study, we appreciated his sermon's promise: Those who repent and are baptized will receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We got a glimpse into the lives of those early disciples, three thousand of whom had repented and been baptized the day that Peter preached. In today's Week 6 passage, we'll learn that many signs and wonders had been performed by and through the apostles, and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. Chapter 3 begins with a specific example of one of these “signs and wonders,” clearly demonstrating through it how the Lord added many people to his church. While short, this chapter divides itself into two parts: (1) the Miracle and (2) the Message aroused by that miracle.
The Miracle: A Lame Beggar Is Healed (3:1–11)
The Setting of This Miracle (vv. 1–3) Peter and John were going up to the temple at 3:00 p.m., the customary hour of prayer for devout Jews. While they were on route, they came to the gate called Beautiful, which led from the Court of the Gentiles into the temple precincts. It's generally thought to be the gate made of Corinthian brass, which Josephus said “greatly excelled those that were only covered over with silver and gold.” It was about 75 feet high with huge double doors. Just outside the gate, Peter and John came across a lame man, an habitual beggar with a congenital disability, who sought alms as people entered and left the temple. The man was more than 40 years old (v. 22) and had never walked. In that culture, the only option was to beg. Men had to carry him on a cot and set him down every day at the temple gate, which was a good place to beg — worshipers' minds would be more open to charity when they approached the temple to worship.
The Gift of Faith (vv. 4–8) It's interesting how Luke begins v. 4: "Peter looked straight at him, as did John." So many times in Acts, Luke uses the phrases "looks straight at " or "fixed a gaze on" and something miraculous takes place: when Jesus ascended into heaven; when Stephen had a vision of heaven before he died; when Cornelius had a vision; when Peter had a vision; and now, when a crippled man is about to be healed. Peter and John, and for that matter, Jesus, must have seen this lame man begging countless times before, but it was at this very moment that Peter received from Jesus the gift of faith so he'd be able to bring healing to the man in need.
As the beggar no doubt held out his begging hand, Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, . . ." (v. 6a). That fellow was likely disappointed by Peter's comment, probably even wondering, Well, then why are you trying to get my attention? But Peter continued, ". . . but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Here was a crippled man lying down, unable to walk from birth, due to an undeveloped anklebone. Peter, with the faith that the Lord planted in his heart, took hold of the man and lifted him to his feet; immediately the ankle healed. Accompanying Peter and John, the man walked and entered the temple, leaping and praising God. Imagine the stir and excitement that this must have created for the crowd of onlookers.
The Lame Man Is Healed (vv. 9–11) Evidently the man had no strength in his feet or ankles. He hadn't been able to use them his entire life. His leg muscles had become atrophied. First he stood upright — for the very first time in his life. Then he began to walk, which is a miracle in itself, for a baby must gradually learn to walk over time. Yet, he was walking instantly! Then, he began leaping! Oh, the joy he must have felt (as depicted in the video that's linked beneath this summary). That notable miracle immediately attracted everyone's attention because this man had no doubt been there for years and was a common sight to those who worshiped there. And they'd remembered the deformed condition of his feet, which were now straight. The healed man was also hugging Peter and John so that the spectators related the performance of this miracle to Peter and John. They felt somehow, some way, that Peter and John were responsible for this man's ability to walk.
The Message: Spoken to Many Onlookers (vv. 12–18)
Peter Asks the Crowd Two Personal Questions (v. 12) Peter asks his first question in v. 12a to the devout Jews who'd witnessed this miraculous healing: "'Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you?'" The Jews marveled at his inquiry because they'd lost the sense of the greatness of the God whom they served. If they really believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then they'd know, by their reading the Old Testament, that their God was the god of miracles. Peter could well have confronted them by saying: Why do you marvel at this? The Gentiles may marvel at it. But you're sons of Israel, sons of the most high God; why should you marvel at this?
Peter comes back in v. 12b with his second personal, albeit perplexing question: "Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?" People often related the work of God with the instrument through which God works, which is wrong. Sadly, there are many evangelists, especially "healing evangelists," who present themselves as being adequately righteous or holy enough to be able to perform marvelous healing works in their own power. Instead, they should rightly credit the Holy Spirit for having collaborated with them as they coordinated such healing efforts. We must remember to whom we're to always give credit: "Not to us, Lord, but to your Name be the glory.
People have the tendency to exalt the instrument through which God works because they can see, touch, and feel that instrument. Thus, man has the tendency to exalt the instrument itself, rather than God, the provider of the instrument. So if God uses you as an instrument, be careful that you don't take glory for his work. In v. 12b, Peter most appropriately asked the crowd, "Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?"
Peter Orients the Crowd to Relevant Scripture (vv. 13–15) The Jews knew well of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So Peter got them to focus on patriarchs, then the fact that their God had glorified his Son Jesus (v. 13). The greatness of Peter's sermon is that it's all about Jesus; there was no focus on Peter or anything he or John had done, only on Jesus. Then Peter boldly laid the guilt of Jesus' death squarely where it belonged. They were all aware of what had transpired that year there in Jerusalem. Here, Peter laid the blame upon them, since Pilate wanted to free Jesus, which is one of the ironies of Jesus' crucifixion: While the crowd rejected Jesus, they embraced a criminal and a murderer named Barabbas. Peter boldly confronted this audience, rebuking them for disowning the Righteous One and freeing a murderer. Then he accused them of killing "the author of life." But he quickly reminded them that God had indeed raised Jesus from the dead, and that he and John and others were eyewitnesses of Christ's resurrection.
Were the Jews guilty of the death of Jesus? Yes, but so were the Gentiles. The Romans wouldn't have crucified Jesus without the Jews, and the Jews couldn't have crucified Jesus without the Romans. God made certain that both Jew and Gentile shared in the guilt of Jesus' death. Peter wasn't afraid to confront their sin, and he showed amazing boldness.
Preaching in the Name of Jesus (vv. 16–18) There's tremendous power in the name of Jesus. We ourselves are weak; the power isn't in us, it's in his name. And so Peter said, in effect: Now don't look at me. Look only at Jesus Christ, the one you crucified, who God raised from the dead. It's his name, and through our faith in his name, that this wonder was wrought upon this lame man. The Lord is the one who made his leg straight; it certainly wasn't either of us. Our God is the one who gave him the ability to walk. Peter said that it was in Jesus' name that this man had been made whole. He consciously performed the miraculous healing in the authority and power of Jesus, not the authority and power of Peter. He wouldn't even take credit for the faith that he exercised in the healing.
Despite all the evil the Jews had done to Jesus, it didn't change or derail God's plan. When Peter said, "I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders," he recognized that they'd called for Jesus' execution in ignorance of God's eternal plan. This didn't make them innocent, but it carefully defined the nature of their guilt. For us, if we sin in ignorance, it's still sin, but that's different from the sin we do knowingly. Peter reminded them in v.18: "This is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer." God can take the most horrible evil and use it for good. Joseph could say to his brothers, "you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20). The same principle that was at work with Jesus' crucifixion is at work in our lives (Romans 8:28).
Peter’s Call to Repentance (vv. 19–21)
"Repent then, . . ." As he did in his first sermon (2:38), Peter called upon the crowd, urging it to repent. He was telling them to turn around in their thinking and act differently through repentance, which doesn't describe one's "being or feeling sorry." It describes the act of turning around or away from an undesirable practice. As he used it in chapter 2, here also Peter made "repent" a word of hopeful action: You have done wrong, but you can turn around and make the effort to get it right with God! And, "Your sins might be wiped out" conveys the wiping of ink off of a document. In the ancient world, ink had no acid content and didn't "bite" into the paper. It could almost always be wiped off with a damp cloth. Peter was saying that God will wipe away our [long] record of sin just like that!
What then are "the times of refreshing" that Peter spoke of in v. 19c? He was referring to the time when Jesus will return and rule the earth in righteousness. Peter went so far as to say in v. 20 that, ". . . he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus," thus implying that if the Jews would repent collectively as a nation, Father God would send Jesus to return in glory. Peter made it clear that Jesus will remain in heaven until everything and everyone has been restored. And since Israel's repentance is part of "restore everything" (v. 21), there's a sense that Jesus' return in glory won't happen until Israel repents. Peter essentially offered Israel the opportunity to hasten Jesus' return by their embracing him as Messiah on a national level.
Peter Warns About the Danger of Rejecting Jesus (vv. 22–26)
The Jews of Peter's day were aware of the prophecy of Moses that he cited in vv. 22–23 (as recorded in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18–19 ), but some thought that the prophet would be someone different than the Messiah; Peter made it clear that they were one and the same. Regarding "Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people," in v. 23, that prophecy's promised consequence would become the legacy of that generation of Jews. Many, but not all of that generation, rejected Jesus twice over.
Peter closed his warning to the Jews by saying, "When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” God's desire to bless us and do good for us also includes his desire to turn us all away from our sins. Just as the lame man had been hindered by expecting the wrong thing from God, so it was with the Jewish people then. They were expecting the Messiah's arrival, but they had a different expectation of the kind of Messiah who'd actually make his appearance to them. They'd expected a political Messiah, not a Messiah who'd want to turn every one of them from their iniquities. Are you, today, expecting the right things from God?
- Q. 1 How many facts about Jesus has Peter included in vv. 13–16?
- Q. 2 Despite what Peter says about them (vv. 13–15), how does he give the people hope in vv. 24–26?
New International Version (NIV) [View it in a different version by clicking here; also listen to chapter 3.]
† Watch this "Visual Bible" video clip: Acts 2:14–4:2, starring Bruce Marchiano as Jesus, James Brolin as Simon Peter, Harry O. Arnold as Saul/Paul, and Dean Jones as Luke.
Peter Heals a Lame Beggar
3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer — at three in the afternoon. 2Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Peter Speaks to the Onlookers
11While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
17“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus. 21Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’
24“Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 26When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”