A Study of Acts 3
Introduction: The story of the healing of the lame man by the beautiful gate is the first biblical text I recall reading in public. I was in the third or fourth grade, I suppose; and in those days our public schoolteachers began every day by reading a bit of Scripture to us and having an opening prayer. Teachers would be imprisoned today for engaging in such lawlessness, but in the early 1960s it was an ordinary part of our day. At that time we didn’t realize how dangerous and corrupting and vile it was to say a prayer or quote a verse of Scripture at school. In fact, in the upper grade school years we students ourselves began selecting and reading the Scripture for the day. One day it was my turn, and I read the first several verses of Acts 3. I had heard this story somewhere and I liked the sound of the words. So now here I am back again at a text with which I’ve had a very long familiarity. The lesson of Acts 3 is: Something beautiful Happens to us, and we must explain it to the world
1. A Beautiful Miracle (Verses 1-11)
Verse 1: One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.
Why were Peter and John going up to the temple at three in the afternoon? Well, remember that chapter divisions in the Bible are relatively recent. When Luke wrote his book of Acts, he did not put the chapter divisions there; they were added later. So chapter 2 tells the story of the exciting birth of the church on the Day of Pentecost. This was the inauguration day of Christian history. This was the inauguration day of missions. Thousand of people were added to the church. Thousands of people turned to Christ as Messiah. And in Acts 2:42, it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together In the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
So these early Christians were gathering by the hundreds and hundreds in the temple courts. And so on this particular day, Peter and John were going up to the temple courts, evidently to meet with another group of Christians there and to teach and give instruction.
Perhaps they were meeting in Solomon’s Porch or Solomon’s Colonnade, which was a very broad covered terrace or portico that ran all the way up and down the backside or Eastern side of the temple complex. It is mentioned three times in the New Testament.
- John 10:23
- Acts 3:11
- Acts 5:12
According to John 10:23, it was here that Jesus did some of His teaching. It was here that Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-29). It was here Peter preached his sermon in our text tonight in Acts 3. And according to Acts 5:12 this was the first regular meeting place for the church: “All the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.”
Here at TDF, we say that our operational philosophy is Big Church/Small Church. This isn’t new with us; it goes all the way back to the very beginning of the church. The very first church, created in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, met in small groups from house to house, but they came together in Solomon’s Colonnade for mass meetings. This large covered porch-like hallway or terrace; and we can say that it was the first church building, as such. People need a meeting place. When large numbers of people get together, they need somewhere to do it. So they used this large portico on the eastern boundary of the temple complex, and that was evidently where Peter and John were headed.
Verse 2: Now 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.
The Greek text literally means that this man had come from his mother’s womb with a deformed leg or foot, and so he had never been able to walk. We do not know from external sources about the gate called Beautiful. It might have been a local nickname for a popular gate. You know, we do that. Here in Nashville, we talk about the naked people’s statute in Music Square and about batman building downtown. Well, we know the gates of the temple, and none of them were officially called the Beautiful Gate. This was apparently a colloquialism. But Luke must have used this term because it signified the nature of the miracle that occurred here. It was beautiful. Something beautiful was about to happen to this man.
In the same way, when we’re without Christ we’re just sitting like a beggar in front of the Beautiful Gate, but we can’t enter on our own. We don’t yet have a Christian walk. We need a miracle. We need for something beautiful to happen to us.
Verse 3: When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. The old translations say that he asked for “alms.” Someone quipped that this man asked for alms and he got legs.
Verse 4: Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
At first, I suppose, the man didn’t really focus on Peter and John. His eyes were darting to all the other people entering the temple. He was probably crying, “Alms! Alms!” Peter and John focused their attention on him and then drew his attention by saying, “Look at us!”
Verse 6: Then 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.”
The most important thing is not where a church has money, but where a church has mercy.
Verses 7-8: Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
In the New Testament, miracles are sometimes called signs. A sign is a message, an indicator. Now, I certainly believe this miracle literally happened. Luke wasn’t just writing this symbolically; it literally happened. But it has significance for all of us. It summarizes and represents the beautiful thing that happens to us when we find Christ.
- We are sitting helplessly in front of the Beautiful gate, so close to the presence of God and yet so far away.
- We are damaged from birth and unable to walk with Him.
- We are spiritually needy; beggars.
- Then someone comes by with the message of the Gospel.
- We look. We are healed, and a great irreversible miracle occurs in our lives.
- We can now enter the temple and come into God’s presence.
- We do so with enormous joy and praise.
- We join other Christians in the church.
- Our miracle becomes an occasion for the proclamation of the Gospel.
Verses 9-11: When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they 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. While 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.
This miracle occasioned the gathering of a crowd. From the very beginning of the church, Christians have been engaged in crowd evangelism or mass evangelism. We have an event – in this case a healing – and that gathers a crowd and we use the occasion to seek to evangelize.
2. A Powerful Message (Verses 12-26)
Verse 12a: When Peter saw this, he said to them…. And now we have a powerful message, Peter’s second recorded evangelistic sermon in the book of Acts. The first was in chapter 2 on the Day of Pentecost. This one is here in chapter 3 under the majestic arches of Solomon’s Portico.
Verse 12b: “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? And now, as we read through Peter’s sermon I want you to notice just one thing—the number of names and titles he used to describe Jesus. I’ll highlight them in the text.
Verse 13: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant…. The Bible constantly presents Jesus as a servant, which is astounding when you think about it. In our world today, once people achieve a high position in life they tend to have servants but they seldom act as one. But Jesus, who has a name that is above every name, rejoiced in His role as a servant. Isaiah pictured Him as a suffering servant. One of the greatest Messianic predictions in the Bible is Isaiah 53, and this majestic passage begins and ends with a reference to the Messiah as a servant. It begins with Isaiah 52:13-15: “See, My Servant will act wisely; He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at Him—His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond human likeness—so He will sprinkle many nations and kings will shut their mouths because of Him.” Then we have the body of the text of Isaiah 53, and then at the end we come to verse 11, which is a prediction of the resurrection: “After He has suffered He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge My righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).
The New Testament counterpart of Isaiah 53 is Philippians 2, where the apostle Paul said that the Messiah took upon Him the very nature of a servant. I had never thought of it until I was studying for this message, but it almost seems that Philippians 2 is the apostle Paul’s version of Isaiah 53. The passages are parallel, one looking forward to the suffering servant and the other looking back at Him.
Verse 13a: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus. The name Jesus is the Old Testament name Joshua, and it means, “Jehovah Saves.”
Verse 13b-14: You handed Him over to be killed, and you disowned Him before Pilate, though He had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.
Here is another title for Jesus. He is the Holy and Righteous One. This has to do with His sinless character. One of the things in theology that I don’t fully understand is the full importance of Jesus living a righteous life. Had He been murdered as a child in Herod’s purge of the baby boys of Bethlehem, would His infant blood still have atoned for sin? I believe so, but it was necessary for Jesus to demonstrate a righteous life. He spent thirty-three years proving that the one who gave His life for us was sinless and righteous and holy.
Verse 15: You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
This title refers to Christ as the one who created life to begin with. According to John 1 and Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1, Jesus was the agent of creation. I’m struck by the irony of these titles for Jesus.
- He is the supreme God, yet a servant.
- He is the Holy and Righteous One, yet an offering for sin.
- He is the author of life, yet He was killed.
But out of the irony and the agony come the glory and the grace.
Verse 16-18: By 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. Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what He had foretold through the prophets, saying that His Messiah would suffer.
And there we have another title for Jesus. He was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One predicted in the Old Testament.
Verse 19: Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…
This is Peter’s Plan of Salvation. It corresponds with Paul’s statement in Acts 20:21 of repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice the phrase: “Times of refreshing.” That’s a description of the life Christ gives us. That’s a description of the Christian life. We repent, we turn from our sins, we return to God, our sins are wiped out, and we experience seasons of refreshing while we await the return of Christ, which the passage goes on to cover.
Verse 20-21: And that He may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive Him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets.
Peter doesn’t miss any essential theology in his presentation of the Gospel. Now he brings up the Second Coming, when Jesus will return and restore everything to what it should be. Remember he is preaching to the Jews here. He is telling them that Jesus died and rose again and ascended into heaven, and initiated the Age of Grace during which sins can be forgiven and seasons of refreshing can come. In the future, the Messiah will return and establish His Millennial Kingdom on earth, which was a constant subject of interest to the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament. Now, Peter could have turned to many of the Old Testament prophets to give a Messianic prediction, but he went all the way back to Moses and quotes from Deuteronomy 18.
Verse 22: For 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. Anyone who does not listen to Him will be completely cut off from their people.”
Here is another title for the Messiah—He is a prophet like Moses. Many years ago, I prepared and preached a sermon from this passage and I listed all the parallels and similarities between Moses and Jesus. I went back and re-read that sermon and there were at least 15 points of comparison.
- Both Moses and Jesus were the infant sons of Jewish peasants.
- Both were of royal lineage, heirs to a throne.
- Both were hidden from rulers who were killing Jewish baby boys.
- Both emerged out of Egypt, even as the Bible says, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
- Both grew up hidden from our view in Scripture. We can talk about the hidden childhood years of both of them.
- Both left the splendor of royalty to identify with their own people and suffer affliction with them.
- Both were rejected at first by the very people they had come to deliver.
- Both became shepherds.
- Both became miracle workers.
- Both talked with God face to face.
- Both had outstanding character qualities. Numbers 12:3 says, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” And in Matthew 11:29 says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”
- There are numerical parallels. Moses was 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai; Jesus was 40 days and nights on the Mount of Temptation. Moses was surrounded by twelve tribes; Jesus was surrounded by twelve apostles. Moses was assisted by 70 elders. Jesus sent out his 70 workers.
- Both were mediators, standing in the gap between God and Man.
- Both redeemed their people out of bondage and slavery by the blood of a slain lamb.
- Both stand at the head of God’s great programs for humility—Moses in the giving of the law; and Jesus Christ as the giver of grace. John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Verse 24: Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days.
Peter here is presenting apologetics. In the first paragraph of the book of Acts, Luke tells us that Jesus showed Himself alive with many infallible proofs. Throughout the book of Acts we have miracles done in the name of Christ, including changed lives. And here Peter is appealing to fulfilled Messianic Scripture. The book of Acts is filled with evidential apologetics. The early church didn’t believe in Christ despite the evidence, but because of the evidence, including:
- Infallible proofs of the resurrection.
- Changed Lives
- Fulfilled Messianic Prophecy
Verse 25: And 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.” The study of this phrase, which occurs seven times in the Bible, is one of the greatest studies we could ever undertake, but time does not allow it now. For now, just notice another great name for Jesus—Abraham’s seed or Abraham’s offspring. And then we come to the final verse:
Verse 26: When God raised up His servant, He sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.
Now, Peter wasn’t finished with his sermon, but at this point he was interrupted and taken into custody by the arrival of the temple police. Next week, we’ll see what happens in chapter four. But for now, here is our lesson. We have a beautiful miracle and a powerful message. When we come to Jesus Christ something beautiful happens to us, and what happens to us is the occasion for others hearing about the one who is our Savior…
- God’s Servant
- The Holy and Righteous One
- The Author of Life
- The Messiah
- The Prophet Like Moses
- The Seed of Abraham who came to bless the world.