I’m grateful to Roland for taking the Bible Study last Wednesday and for taking us through the story of the lame man who was healed by Peter and John as they made their way up to the Temple to pray. The structure of Acts 3 is actually very similar to the structure of Acts 2. What happened in Acts 2? Well, first of all, there was something miraculous. The Lord’s people were enabled by the Holy Spirit to speak in other languages. Secondly, a crowd gathered who were amazed by what had happened. Thirdly, Peter stood up and preached to them. And in his sermon he explained what had happened and then he went on to tell them about the Lord Jesus. That was chapter 2. And what do we find in chapter 3? Well, first of all, there was something miraculous. A lame man was healed. Secondly, a crowd gathered who were amazed by what had happened. Thirdly, Peter stood up and preached to them. And in his sermon he explained what had happened and then he went on to tell them about the Lord Jesus. Do you see how similar these two chapters are? And do you see how the focus is always on the Lord Jesus? So many people read these early chapters of Acts and they focus on Holy Spirit being poured out at Pentecost. Or they focus on the miracles. But in both cases, Peter focusses our attention on the Lord Jesus. And the reason he focusses on the Lord Jesus is because of what we read in verse 21 of chapter 2. Peter was quoting from the Old Testament prophet Joel. And in verse 21 he says:
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
And Peter went on to demonstrate that Joel was referring to the Lord Jesus. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. So, if that’s the case, then Peter wants to turn our attention on to him. He’s saying:
Let me tell you about him. Let me tell you about the Lord Jesus — because everyone who calls on him will be saved from their sins and will have eternal life.
Remember John in his gospel? He wrote:
these [things] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The focus is on the Lord Jesus. Remember John the Baptiser?
Don’t follow me. Follow him.
The focus is on the Lord Jesus. Remember the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians?
Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach what?
[W]e preach Christ crucified.
The focus should always, always, always be on the Lord Jesus because everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved.
Verses 11 to 16
With that in mind, let’s turn to verse 11. Peter and John and the man who was lame have left the Beautiful Gate and they’re now in the Temple. If you’ve seen pictures of what the Temple may have looked like, you’ll know that there was a large courtyard surrounding the area where the sacrifices were offered. And along one of the sides of this courtyard was Solomon’s Colonnade, a long corridor with a roof over it. In John 10 we read about the Lord Jesus walking along it. And in Acts 5 we read that the early believers used to meet there. Well, now in verse 11 we read how Peter and John and the beggar were standing there, in Solomon’s Colonnade. And the beggar was clinging to Peter and John. And we can probably imagine him, holding them because he’s so grateful for what they’ve done for him.
Word must have got around the Temple of what had happened, because Luke tells us that all the people were astonished and came running to them. And Peter, in verse 12, begins to explain what had happened. And the first thing he does is he deflects attention away from themselves. He says:
Why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us? What are you looking at us for? Don’t think it’s because of us that this man is now healed. He wasn’t healed because we’re powerful. He wasn’t healed because we’re particularly godly. No, this man was healed because of God and his servant Jesus.
Do you see that in verse 13? He mentions the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, what you’re seeing now is not the result of some new religion. We’re not introducing you to anything new. The God of our fathers has done this. And then he mentions the Lord Jesus. And he says that God has glorified Jesus. Now, there are perhaps two ways to understand what he means here when he says that God glorified Jesus. One way is that God has glorified Jesus by raising him from the dead and by exalting him to heaven. Or another way is that God has glorified Jesus through the healing of this man which was done in the name of Jesus Christ. Both are possible and perhaps both meanings are intended because in the following verses Peter explains how God raised Jesus from the dead (that’s one way of glorifying him) and how the man was healed through faith in the name of Jesus (and that’s the other way of glorifying him). But the main thing to notice is that Peter is turning their attention away from themselves and onto the Lord Jesus. They want to glorify the Lord Jesus and not themselves.
So, what does he tell them about the Lord Jesus. He begins with an accusation. You can imagine him pointing his finger at them and saying to them:
You handed him over to be killed. You denied him before Pilate.
And he then adds that Pilate wanted to let the Lord go. And that should be familiar to anyone who has read Luke’s gospel because Luke records for us in his gospel that Pilate told the Jews in Jerusalem that he had examined Jesus and had found no basis for their charges against him. Pilate said to them that, as far as he was concerned, the Lord Jesus had done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, Pilate said, I will release him. But Luke tells us how the Jews, with one voice, cried out:
Away with this man!
And after that, they kept shouting:
Crucify him! Crucify him!
Pilate wanted to release him; but they wanted to kill him. And in verse 14 Peter underlines the wickedness of what they had done. He says to them:
On the one hand, there was the Holy and Righteous One. And on the other hand, there was a murderer. And which one did you want? Which one did you prefer? You had the choice to save one. And you chose to save the murderer and you demanded that the one who never did anything wrong should be killed. What kind of people prefer a murderer to an innocent man?
And Peter is relentless with them. Look at verse 15:
You killed the Author of Life. Here was the Author of Life — the one who came to give everlasting life to the world. And instead of welcoming him and loving him and rejoicing in him and in the gift of life, you killed him.
So, Peter begins by accusing them of killing the Lord Jesus. But then he goes on to explain how God raised his servant Jesus from the dead. And the Apostles were witnesses to his resurrection. With their own eyes, they saw him alive again.
So, Peter is telling them about the Lord Jesus. You killed the Lord Jesus. God raised the Lord Jesus. We’ve seen the Lord Jesus. And now, this man, who was once lame, has been healed. And he’s been healed by faith in the Lord Jesus. Peter says:
It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. This lame man wasn’t healed because I’m powerful. He wasn’t healed because I’m godly. He wasn’t healed because of me. He was healed because of the Lord Jesus.
The focus is always on the Lord Jesus and what he does for us.
There are two further things to notice here. First of all, Peter refers to the name of Jesus. And that makes us think of Joel’s prophecy and how everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Salvation comes from the Lord Jesus and only those who call on him will be saved. There really is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. And then secondly, there’s the need for faith. Now, in this particular healing, it’s not altogether clear whose faith Peter has in mind. Clearly someone believed, but who? Peter and John obviously believed in the Lord Jesus and they believed that the Lord Jesus would be able to heal this man. But since Peter also refers in verse 16 to the faith that comes through the Lord Jesus, then it’s possible that, from his throne in heaven, the Lord Jesus enabled the lame man to believe. Go back to verse 6. Peter said to the man:
Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.
And it’s possible that at that moment, the Lord Jesus, from his throne in heaven, said the word and created faith in the man’s heart so that for the very first time, he believed in the Lord Jesus. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise us because faith is a gift from God. And the only reason anyone believes is because he enabled us to believe. We heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. And God the Holy Spirit came to us and enabled us to believe. Well, the Shorter Catechism, which I quoted from last time, is helpful here. Question 86 asks:
What is faith in Jesus Christ?
And this is the answer:
Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace by which we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is freely offered to us in the gospel.
It’s a saving grace which means it’s a gift from God which he gives to us because he wants to save us from our sin and misery. Just think of the story of Lydia in Acts 16 and how the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to and to believe Paul’s message. Or think of Paul’s words in Ephesians 2 how we are saved by grace through faith — and this is the gift of God. That’s why we pray to God for the salvation of our loved ones, because we believe that he’s the one who is able to make them believe so that they will turn to Christ for salvation. And that’s why we give thanks to God for our own salvation, because he enabled us to believe in the Lord Jesus. And that’s why we’re to pray for the preaching of God’s word, Sunday by Sunday, asking God to enable those who hear the gospel to believe the gospel.
Verses 17 to 21
In verse 17 Peter says that he knows that the Jews in Jerusalem and their leaders acted in ignorance. They didn’t understand what they were really doing when they demanded that the Lord Jesus should be crucified. They didn’t understand what was going on. But God knew. And God knew because everything that happened was part of God’s great plan for our salvation which he had revealed beforehand through the Old Testament prophets who foretold that the Lord Jesus would have to suffer in order to save us. And that’s an important verse for helping us to understand the Old Testament. Often when we read the Old Testament, we struggle to see its relevance for us. What’s it all about? What are we to learn from all these stories of heroes and villains? What are we to learn from all these stories of kings and priests? What are we to learn from all these Old Testament prophets? Well, the answer is: they’re all telling us about God’s great plan to send the Saviour into the world. And so, when we read the Old Testament, we need to look for the Lord Jesus. The kings and priests and prophets, the sacrifices and the temple, the promises and prophecies, are all designed to lead us to the Saviour who was coming into the world. And now he has come.
So, what should we do? Well, look at what Peter says in verse 19:
Repent! Turn to God!
And what will be the outcome? Peter mentions three things: First, your sins will be wiped out. Think of something like a blackboard or a whiteboard. And all our sins and shortcomings are listed on it, one after the other. But through repentance and faith, the board is wiped clean. The record of our wrongdoing is blotted out completely. Our sins are remembered no more. Second, there are times of refreshing. Think of the joy we have of knowing we have been pardoned forever by God. Think of the joy of knowing we have been accepted by God and adopted into his family. Think of the ways the Holy Spirit encourages us and lifts our spirits and refreshes us whenever we’re reminded of the gospel of Jesus Christ who loved us and gave up his life for us. Our sins are wiped away and blotted out. And our souls are refreshed. And, third, there’s the promise that the Lord Jesus will return. And for those who have repented and believed, his coming is something we look forward to. Think of some children whose father has had to go off on a business trip. And they miss him. And can’t wait for him to return. Or their mum has been away all day. And they’re waiting for her to come home. And how happy they are when she appears at the front door. Or dad’s car pulls into the driveway. Well, the Lord’s people love him. And we can’t wait to see him. And Peter says in verse 21 that he must remain in heaven until the right time comes. And the right time is when God restores all things. Think back to the way the world was in the beginning. Everything was very good. But then everything went wrong when Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit and sin and death came into the world. But the day will come when God will restore everything to the way it was intended to be. Christ will return and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things will have passed away. So, forgiveness of sins. Spiritual refreshment. Everlasting happiness in the life to come. And all of it is made possible by the suffering and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ who will come again one day.