Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, "Look at us." And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's, astounded. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
There is a miracle in this text and there is the beginning of a sermon—a wonder and a word. What I want us to see this morning is three things:
- the content of the word;
- and the content of the wonder;
- and the relationship between the wonder and the word of God preached—a pattern that seems to be developing. Is it a pattern for today?
1. The Content of the Word
Peter's sermon here continues to the end of chapter 3 when the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees cut him off and arrested Peter and John. We will look at the rest of it in the coming weeks.
Very Similar to Peter's Sermon at Pentecost
What we see this week is a part of the sermon remarkably like Peter's sermon at Pentecost. Remember that there the heart of the sermon was to say that God endorsed Jesus as worker of wonders, sacrifice for sins, risen from the dead, exalted to the right hand of God, giver of the Spirit. Over against this his listeners had killed Jesus. Therefore they are utterly out of step with God. They were against God.
Here in Acts 3:12ff. the crowds gather after this miracle of healing and Peter explains what happened in the miracle in verses 12 and 16—which we will come back to when we talk about the content of the wonder (it corresponds, by the way, to his explanation at Pentecost of what the speaking in tongues meant)—in both cases he interprets for them the miracle that had caused the crowd to assemble.
Between these two verses comes the first part of his sermon that is so much like the Pentecost sermon. What Peter does is exalt Jesus in five different ways and show how his listeners have been diametrically opposed to him and heaped scorn on his value.
Five Exaltations of Jesus
I'll point out the five ways Peter exalts Jesus as we read verses 13–15 (learn these five exaltations of Jesus and make them part of your praise vocabulary).
13) The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob [in other words YOUR God!] glorified his servant Jesus [two things: first, Jesus is the servant of the Lord prophesied in Isaiah 52:13; and second, God glorified him—i.e., God gave him the highest place of glory in all the universe at his own right hand] . . . 14) But you denied the Holy and Righteous One [third: Jesus is holy and righteous—THE Holy and Righteous One, not a criminal, not a blasphemer] . . . 15) and [you] killed the Author of life [fourth: Jesus is the co-creator of life with God the Father; and he is the source of all true spiritual life], whom God raised from the dead [fifth, God endorsed this Jesus by raising him from the dead].
So there are five exaltations of Jesus—that's the essence of this sermon, to magnify Jesus. He is
- the long-awaited servant of the Lord;
- glorified by God;
Holy and Righteous One;
- the Author of Life; and
- raised by God from the dead.
The apostles and many others had seen the risen Lord. They were witnesses first hand. They knew these things about Jesus without any doubt.
But the other half of the sermon, as at Pentecost, is to show the listeners how utterly far they are from the truth and how dishonoring they have been to the worth of Jesus.
Four Devastating Indictments of the People
The first two are mentioned in verse 13: "The God of our fathers glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up [that's the first one] and denied in the presence of Pilate when he had decided to release him [that's the second one—they even went farther than the pagan Pilate in denying Jesus' truth and worth]."
The third indictment comes in verse 14: "But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you." You traded infinite righteousness and holiness for a murderer. This shows how suicidal it is to reject Jesus: give us murderers for our streets and for our children, and take away the Author of life!
Finally, verse 15 says, "And you killed the Author of life." He gave you life and you killed him. Peter's point in these four indictments is to paint in blazing colors the insanity of rejecting Jesus: it is taking the life of the giver of life, and worse, it is asking for takers of life to be released on the world instead of the giver of life. Rejecting Jesus is utterly anti-life. It is murderous and suicidal.
Good News for the People
Now Peter has awesomely good news for these suicidal kinsmen of his in verse 19: "Repent therefore, and turn again that your sins may be blotted out and times of refreshing might come from the presence of the Lord." But we will take that up the weeks to come. (But don't miss it this morning, if you are among the suicidal opponents of the Author of life.)
That's the essence of the sermon so far: five exaltations of Jesus and four devastating indictments. (By the way, 4:4 says that about 2,000 people are converted by this message!) That's our first point—the content of the word. Now we turn to
2. The Content of the Wonder
By the content of the wonder, I don't merely mean that a crippled man was healed. I mean how was he healed and what became of him?
Verse 3 says that this lame beggar at the temple asked for some alms. Peter looks at the man (v. 4) and something amazing happens inside Peter (which I will come back to). The man is not exercising faith because verse 5 says he simply expected to get some money. Then Peter says (v. 6), "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." He takes him by the hand and pulled him up and he is healed!
Not Witchcraft or Magic, but What?
Now what happened here? In verse 12 Peter denies every form of witchcraft, magic, sorcery, or mind-over-matter technique. He says, "Why do you stare at us as though by our power or piety we had made him walk?" In other words, the power that healed this man was NOT our power. Nor was our religiousness (piety) the agent of healing here. It is simply not a human act which you have seen.
What then? In verse 16 Peter explains it like this: "His name [i.e., Jesus' name], by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all."
Faith to Heal Given by Jesus
First, notice that the faith to heal (Peter's faith, not the man's; there is no reason in the text to think he was believing when Peter spoke) is "through Jesus"—that is Jesus gave it. It came through the working of Jesus (cf. 5:31).
This, it seems to me, is the key to what happened in verse 4 when Peter gazed at the lame man. Luke tells us in verse 2 that this man was laid daily at the gate. So Peter had passed this man many times before without healing him. But today, when he looked at him, something happened. What? The faith to heal him came THROUGH JESUS. The living Jesus did something in Peter, and Peter knew it was the day. When he said, "What I have I give to you," he probably meant, "Today I have been given something special for you. Jesus has just given me the faith to speak healing to you and I now share this gift with you. Rise."
That's what the last part of verse 16 says, "The faith, which is through Jesus [not in Jesus!] has given this man perfect health." Jesus gave the faith to heal, and Peter acted on it.
Jesus Name as the Healing Agent
But the first part of verse 16 says something different. It says, "Jesus' name, by faith in his name [NIV changes the wording, but you can still see this if you take the verse whole!] has made this man strong." So here the healing agent is said to be the name of Jesus.
So if we put the two statements together (16b: faith has given the man health; and 16a: the name of Jesus has made him strong) the point becomes this: the faith Jesus gives to heal is effective because it is faith in the name of Jesus; and, in fact, the name of Jesus is bringing about healing.
How is that? Because the name of Jesus stands for the reality of Jesus. His name stands for who he is. When Peter said (v. 6), "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk," he meant: "I am speaking the words, but Jesus is now healing you. When I speak in his name, with the faith that he has now given me for your healing, he is acting not me."
Should He Be Praising God or Praising Jesus?
But one more thing needs to be added to really know what the content of this wonder is. Verse 8 says that "Leaping up the man stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God." Now is that right? Should he have been praising God, or praising Jesus?
It is right and there is a verse to show that it is. In chapter 4 Peter and John get out of custody and go to a prayer meeting and ask the Lord to do it all over again. They say in verses 29–30, "And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus."
So who stretches out his hand to heal? God the Father. And through what means? Through the name of his holy servant Jesus. So we have the same cooperation between the Father and the Son that we had while Jesus was on the earth. The Father is the ultimate source of all healing. Through Jesus the Father does his healing will. Jesus, in agreement with the Father's will, gives the faith to Peter. Peter recognizes that this is the time for the man to be healed. And by the faith given him, he speaks the healing in Jesus' name.
And God gets the praise. Abundant. Leaping. Exuberant praise. That is the content of the wonder—the work of the Father and the Son through faith in the name of Jesus, for the praise of God!
3. The Relationship Between Wonder and Word
The relationship between the wonder and the word of God preached is that the wonder attracts the crowd to hear the word (3:11) and the wonder attests to the living truth of the exalted Jesus in the word. That's why verse 16 follows verse 15: You killed the Author of life, but God raised him, and it's his name, by faith in his name, that Peter did this wonder.
In other words, the wonder is a powerful pointer (I won't say absolute proof) to the truth that Jesus is alive and that he is all Peter says he is:
- the Servant of the Lord
- glorified by God
- the Holy and Righteous One
- the Author of Life
- raised by God from the dead
I believe that one of the forms this pattern takes today is in the exercise of the spiritual gifts given to the church according to 1 Corinthians 12—including gifts of faith, healings, and miracles (1 Corinthians 12:9–10). And my prayer is that one of the places where you will be discovering such gifts is in the prayer ministry of the church which is available right now after the service. As you sense the leading of the Lord, come and let them pray for you.