3:1-8. In Acts 3, Peter and John heal a man who was lame from birth. There are three ways to look at the miracle of this passage.
First, we can look at the man himself. Over 40 years old (Acts 4:22), he was doubt- less a pitiable sight. It is not unlikely that for 15-30 years he had sat at this spot—long since without hope of health—yet the grace of God reaches him even after all these years have passed. His healing was a token of God’s mercy. Just as the name of Jesus of Nazareth was associated with such merciful healings in His life, so now it would be associated with the same miracles in resurrection life. As Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).
Second, we can look at it as a sign to Israel. It is called a sign by the leaders themselves (Acts 4:16). But what did it signify? In speaking of it, Peter used the same Greek root that can mean both healing (“made whole”) and salvation (cf. Acts 4:8-12). Thus the healing of the lame man is a sign of the spiritual salvation so needed by the nation itself.
From its birth, the nation of Israel had been lame. Their history as a nation, beginning with the Exodus, is marked by their utter inability to walk in God’s laws and statutes. Nor, as their history showed, had they gained the ability since then. Israel needed the healing power of Jesus’ name.
As the lame man sat at the gate of the temple, “the house of God,” so Israel sat, as it were, on the threshold of the kingdom (which is symbolized by the exaltation of the house of the Lord, cf. Isaiah 2; Micah 4). Peter offers that generation of Israel the kingdom in verses 19-21. Sadly, they refused the spiritual healing the sign symbolized, but a future generation will receive it (and enter the kingdom, God’s house). Thus the miracle is at once a sign and a prophecy.
As the lame man was carried daily to the gate of the temple, so Israel will someday be carried by the hands of God to the threshold of the kingdom once more. Perhaps even today this movement to the “gateway” of opportunity has begun.
The lame man asked for money because he had given up the hope of being healthy. Likewise, Israel, during this age, is so oblivious to the hope of spiritual healing as to be almost solely occupied with material things, silver and gold. (Though today in the Jewish state there is an incipient feeling that these are not enough.)
Third, we can take this healing as a picture of ourselves. Each of us, in our pre-salvation state, is pictured here. The man was “lame from his mother’s womb.” He was not a cripple through some misfortune of experience or environment. He was lame from birth. So are we. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:5). We are unable to walk in God’s ways for us from birth and onward.
The man was also a beggar. We are spiritual beggars in the sight of God. The man could not give, only receive. And as spiritual paupers, we too have nothing to give God for our salvation. We can but receive “such as He has.”
The lame man sat outside the house of God, just as sinners are outside God’s house (the Church). But he sat at that gate of the temple which was called Beautiful. In the remainder of the New Testament the word beautiful (hōraian) is only once more used, in Rom 10:15, of the feet of the gospel messenger. The idea being, human feet are usually ugly, yet these take on beauty because of the spiritual beauty of the gospel. The gospel is to be associated with beauty for the loveliness of its message. It is well symbolized by a “beautiful” gate, for it is a gateway to eternal life, eternal blessedness, heaven, and the presence of God. Sinners who are evangelized sit, as it were, at the gate “Beautiful.”
As for the lame man, so for us, there is salvation only in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:12). By salvation our “feet and ankle- bones” receive strength to walk in God’s will (Rom 8:1), and we can thus enter into His courts, as this man, with praise. The miracle occurred at the hour of prayer. And it is doubtful that any soul has received the healing of the gospel apart from prayer by someone, somewhere.
3:9-10. There was no possibility of this miracle being doubted or questioned (as so many are today), for the lame man was a familiar sight to all who frequented the temple. His malady was obvious and well known (e.g., “they knew [epeginōskon] that it was he that sat for alms…”[v 10]). God’s signs give no basis for human doubt.
3:11. There was no effort or intent on Peter and John’s part to gather a crowd through this sign (unlike modern-day publicity techniques). Apparently, since they were now in Solomon’s porch, which was in the Court of the Gentiles, while the Beautiful Gate (so far as we know) was the one leading to the Court of the Women, they had now emerged from prayer and were on their way out. They would have gathered no crowd had not the lame man held them. So different from the deliberate crowd-gathering of professed healers of our day.
3:12. Peter does not commence to speak of his spiritual experience (e.g., Pentecost), not even of the Holy Spirit. Peter is not occupied with himself, nor even with his spiritual experiences (“Why look so intently on us…”). The sermon is devoid of any reference to the Spirit or His work—whether baptism or filling— but it is full of Christ.
Once again we see the Spirit, faithful to His mission seeking to retire into the background and exalt Christ (cf. John 16:13-15). Anyone occupied with their own subjective experience of the Spirit, more than with Christ, know less than they suppose about the Spirit!
Peter seeks to turn their gaze from himself to his Risen Lord. Happy is God’s servant who can do this. “As though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk…” Human power and human holiness are not the basis of miracles. Note that John the Baptist was a holy man of God, and filled with the Spirit (cf. Luke 1:15), yet he did no miracle. The difference between John the Baptist and Peter here was not one of holiness, but a matter of God’s will (cf. Heb 2:1). John the Baptist did no miracles because this was not God’s will for him. Peter did them because it was. Miracles and the miraculous are not the necessary or inevitable accompaniment of holiness. Indeed unholy men may perform miracles (cf. Revelation 13; Matt 7:21-23). Holiness is determined by obedience to God’s Word.
Note also that this sermon occurs in Solomon’s porch (v 11). This is doubly appropriate because Solomon and his reign are a type of the Millennium, and Peter offered Israel the kingdom (vv 19-21), and because Solomon’s name is synonymous with wisdom, and Peter presented Christ, who is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:23-24).
Conviction of Their Guilt (vv 13-16)
3:13-15. The words of Peter are no doubt totally unexpected by the crowd. They were worshippers who had just been praying to the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Peter does not commend them for this, but instead accuses them of the crucifixion of Christ. They are religious, yet guilty of the world’s greatest sin. The verses of this pas- sage thus give deep insight into the nature of sin.
Peter begins with the glory of God as given to His Son. The enormity of Israel’s sin could only be properly understood when measured by the glory of God (cf. Rom 3:23).
Peter reveals three great insights in regard to sin.
First, sin perverts human will (v 13b). The tragic insistence of the Jews that Christ be crucified even though Pilate desired to let Him go, only exemplifies the deep stubbornness and fixity of will which characterizes the sinner once he sets out on the path of his lust. No opportunity to turn aside, no barrier to the commission of sin, suffices to deter him.
Second, sin perverts human choice (v 14). The unspeakable preference of the Jewish rabble for Barrabas over Jesus, for a murderer over One who was just and holy in word and deed, for a destroyer of life over One who saves it, exemplifies the awful choice of every sinner. Sinners choose that which is ugly, repulsive, and filthy, over that which is holy, just, and good.
Third, sin perverts human action (v 15). Nothing is more incongruous or supremely unnatural than to kill the Prince of life, i.e., the very Author of life upon whom creatures are dependent for every breath they draw. Likewise, sin is itself an unnatural perverted act contrary to the very nature of creation. It is destructive of life and its end is death.
However, their unnatural act was frustrated, for the resurrection of the Prince of life was inevitable (cf. Acts 2:24). So also sin is ever self-defeated, bringing in its wake irreversible consequences: “whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal 6:7).
3:16. The cure for sin, illustrated in the beggar, is faith. The faith referred to is the beggar’s because Peter has so little to say of him- self it is hardly likely he would be speaking of his own faith.
This is an illustration of salvation. Just as in salvation it is the sinner’s own faith which saves, surely it was so here.
Also note, if the Beautiful Gate was that one which led from the Court of the Gentiles to the Court of the Women on the east side of the temple, Jesus must have frequently passed by there, because He often came to and from Bethany and Mt. Olivet. Perhaps the lame man had seen Jesus, but thought he had gone unnoticed in the crowd. He may often have wished that Jesus would heal him. Wonderfully, we may be sure that the Savior had noticed him. And, in grace, the Lord waited for the right moment when He would not only make the man well, but also place him as a mighty sign to the nation of His resurrection power. It is always wise for us to wait God’s time. When, therefore, the words of Peter (Acts 3:6) were spoken and the Apostle’s hand stretched out to him, the beggar was ready to stretch out his hand in an act of faith in the name of Jesus Christ (Messiah) of Nazareth.
No doubt whatever hopes the beggar might have had that Jesus would heal him as He often passed him going in and out of the temple, seemed dashed to earth by the crucifixion. Yet the lame man finds a second opportunity, after the resurrection, through the power of the name of the risen Christ.
Israel might well have supposed (as the believing element did) that the crucifixion ended the hope of kingdom blessings, the times of refreshing (v 19), and the reconstitution of all things (v 21). Yet, as for the beggar, so for the nation, opportunity is renewed after the resurrection. Verses 19-21 constitute a renewed offer of kingdom blessing on the basis of repentance.
The mercies of God are revealed in His willingness to ask a guilty nation (vv 13-15) to reconsider. The renewed offer manifests the matchless long-suffering of God.
It also reveals the effectiveness of the Savior’s intercession for them (cf. Luke 23:34).
The Offer of Mercy (vv 17-21)
3:17. Israel’s ignorance is used by God as a basis for opening a door of mercy to them. Verse 17 is a remarkable statement (especially since it includes the rulers) when we recall the plotting, scheming, jealousy, hatred, viciousness, and mockery of the people and rulers. Yet all sin is rooted in ignorance (cf. Eph 4:18; 1 Pet 1:14). Read John 8:31-32, where it is clear sin enslaves us through ignorance of the truth.
The only sin offering of the Old Testament was for sins of ignorance (Leviticus 4). There was no sin offering for knowing sins (e.g., David’s adultery). In the light of New Testament revelation, we see that Christ can be a sin-offering for the sins of the whole world, for in the last analysis, all sin springs from human ignorance. Thus as Paul grew in the sense of the enor- mity of his sin, he grew also in his sense of the depth of his ignorance which brought him mercy (cf. 1 Tim 1:13-15).
There is no sacrifice for Satan or his angels, and no suggestion that they sin in ignorance. After all, they come from the Divine Pres- ence itself. When they sin against God, they know what they are doing and are eternally doomed. By contrast, “no man has seen God [the Father] at any time” (John 1:18), and we are made that God might be able to have mercy upon us. However, men may choose to remain in ignorance. If the heathen see the evidence of God’s power and divinity in creation, they must realize they do not know God. If they fail to seek Him, and choose ignorance instead, hell is that place where men will abide forever in their ignorance of God.
3:18. Human ignorance is counterbalanced by divine wisdom. God used this means to bring to pass the prophetic word. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You…” (Ps 76:10).
There are but two classes of men: those who fulfill God’s purposes unconsciously, and those who do so consciously. No created being fails entirely to serve the ends of His Creator. May we do so consciously, instead of unconsciously.
3:19-21. These verses describe the “regeneration” of creation (cf. Matt 19:28; Jas 1:18; and Rom 8:12-32). The key expression is the phrase “times of restitution of all things.” Thus there are parallels between the regeneration of creation and the regeneration of the soul.
First, comes the blotting out of sins. In the case of earth’s “regeneration,” Israel’s sins must first be blotted out.
Second, there will be times of refreshing (which can come only from the presence [prosōpou] of the Lord, since earth cannot refresh the redeemed soul, cf. 2 Cor 4:6, “the face of Jesus Christ.”).
Third, will be revealed the personal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ (note v 20), i.e., Christ in us.
Fourth, there shall be the reconstitution (apokatastaseōs) of all things in his experience (cf. 2 Cor 5:17).
According to verse 21 if such “times” arrive, Christ must be here, for it is only in or for such times that heaven will see Him return. “Whom the heaven must receive until…” (It will not relinquish Him till then!) These times then are the times of His personal presence. So also in the individual’s life it is the living, vital presence of Christ that produces a new experience, i.e., a reconstitution (of life). God is not willing to send Him to earth, or to the human heart, until such times are inaugurated.
Motivation to Acceptance (vv 22-26)
3:22-26. Peter presents Israel with three great motivations to accept the kingdom offered by Christ.
First, is the greatness of the Person who had spoken to them (vv 22-23). Jesus is a prophet like unto Moses (most authoritative name in Judaism), to be hearkened to in all things. Disobedience to Him will be visited with severe judgment.
Second, the greatness of the times in which they lived (v 24). They lived in days spoken of by all the prophets. The challenge of living in the prophetic spotlight was to seize the opportunities thereby presented.
Third, the greatness of the privileges they possessed (vv 25-26). They were children of the prophets, and of Abraham, and of the covenant; through them God desired to bless the world; Christ had come to them first. Such were their privileges.
The same three motivations are effectual for God’s people today: the greatness of the Person through whom God has spoken (cf. Heb 1:1-3; 2:2-3; 12:25); the greatness of the times in which we live (cf. 2 Tim 3:1-5; Luke 21:24, etc.); and the greatness of our privileges (cf. Eph 2:12-20, esp. vv 12 and 19). God likewise desires to bless others through us (cf. John 7:37-39). We become children of Abraham by faith (cf. Gal 3:7) and, in Christ, become a channel for Abrahamic blessing.
What God raised His Son (ton Paida autou, i.e., the Servant of Yahweh) to do first for Israel, He raised Him up to do also for the Gentiles (cf. Rom 1:16). We too are blessed when we turn from our iniquities. Verse 26 refers to all the nation of Israel, but as individuals. The national deliverance of Israel will only come when all living Jews in Israel become believers in Jesus Christ and are walking in fellowship with Him.