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Acts 3

Luke does not tell us how much time has transpired between the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3.  Luke simply begins with a narrative:  "One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon."

The NIV translates the times correctly but if you were reading the KJV you might see the ninth hour.  Jewish time is calculated from sun rise, which is 6:00am is Israel.  Thus the third hour is 9am, the sixth hour is noon, and the ninth hour is 3pm.   Before we continue with the text, lets do a quick review of the Temple...

The first temple was designed by God, given to David, and built by Solomon.  Construction began in 967 BC, and seven years later, Solomon dedicated it to the Lord. That temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.  They razed Jerusalem and took the best of the Jews into captivity.  (Daniel was among the captives.)  The Persian emperor Cyrus decreed that a second Temple be built on the same site.  The books of Ezra and Nehemiah summarize the construction of this Second Temple between 536 BC and 516 BC.  The Second Temple was in service for well over 400 years when King Herod came into power around 20 BC.

King Herod thought that the Jews would be more accepting of him if he remodeled the Second Temple.  So Herod the Great begins the remodeling project in 19 BC.  He dies in 2 BC and the project gets completed in 64 AD.  Jesus ministry occurred during this remodel period!  It was comprised of an out court (court of the Gentiles), the women’s court, the court of Israel, the court of the Priests, and the Holy of Holies (the large white marble structure).  Herod’s temple was twice the size of Solomon’s Temple.  The second temple was completed in 64 AD and then destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.  (Just as Jesus predicted.)  All that remains of the Second Temple is the retaining wall on the west side of the Temple Mount.  The Dome of the Rock sits where the Temple once stood.

Back to Acts 3:3-6, "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. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 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.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.”

In the first century the Beautiful Gate was just inside the Golden Gate.  The Golden Gate was part of the exterior wall of the Old City and the Beautiful Gate was the inner entrance to the Temple itself.  Just to the right of the Beautiful Gate was the Pool of Bethesda.  Often the lame would sit near the pool because, on occasion, an angel would stir its waters.  The first person to enter the pool following this stirring would be healed.  In this case, Luke informs us that this beggar was sitting on the steps within the Beautiful Gate.  One could assume that this fellow preferred this spot because of the foot traffic - better opportunity to beg. 

Peter and John were drawn to this man.  The beggar was hoping for a few coins, but the Holy Spirit had a far greater gift in mind.  After getting his attention, Peter and John told him that they didn't have any coins.  Rather, Peter continued, "In the name of Jesus get up."  Now it was the beggar's turn to respond.   Would he turn away or would he accept the incredible gift? 

Let us continue at verse 7:  "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. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 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."

God was the source of this healing power, yet it took the faith of Peter to call upon God to act, and the faith of the man to accept the gift. This was not the first healing done by Peter and John. But this was the first done in the name of Jesus Christ!  This is the message that the Holy Spirit attests to us:  it is by faith in the name of Jesus that we have salvation, healing, sanctification, and glorification.   Continue to read at verse 11 to see how this interaction played out...

11 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. 12 When 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? 13 The 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. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 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."

Peter and John use this opportunity to present the Gospel message to those witnessing this miracle.  Most typically, the Holy Spirit works in this manner.  The miracle is used to declare the Gospel of Jesus, rarely does a miracle occur in isolation.  Peter and John now have an audience standing before them and they want to learn more.  Peter and John take the opportunity in the remaining verses...

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 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. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’"

In Isaiah 53:3 we read, He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.  Peter and John often use such passages to demonstrate to their fellow Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.  That Jesus was the source of the healing power used to heal.  They continue to make this point in verses 24-24 below.

24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 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.’ 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.”

A main theme in this sermon is that Christ is the Messiah of prophecy.   To preach forgiveness (love) with repentance (justice) gives license to sin.  To preach repentance (justice) without forgiveness (love) leads to legalism.

Why does Peter use a number of Old Testament characters in his message?

 Why does God heal this beggar?

Posted by Bruce Powers with

Acts 4

In chapter four Peter and John are called before the Sadducees.  Before we look at Luke's narrative, it would be helpful to take a look at the layout of Jerusalem, including its gates.

While Israel has done a remarkable job of maintaining the layout as it was in the first century.  Even so, there are significant differences as one can note from the graphic below.

There are two gates of special interest as we study Acts.  The slide below show current photographs of the Golden Gate and the Lion's Gate.  With these images in mind lets open Acts 4...

Acts 4 beginning at verse 1:  "The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

We think that church denominations are a modern invention.  Even in the first century the Jewish religion was comprised of two major denominations and a few minor group (ie. Essences & Zealots).  The two major factions were the Sadducees and the Pharisees.  The slide above illustrates the primary differences between them.  Who were the Sadducees?  

The Sadducees were a family of priests who claimed to be descendants of Zadok, the high priest during the reigns of David and Solomon.  1 Kings 1:39:   And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon.   In the days of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 44), the sons of Zadok were entrusted with the Temple.  As a result, the Sadducees had authority including the selection of the high priest, and command of the temple guard.  This continued throughout the existence of the second temple.  The Sadducees held the majority of seats in the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court of justice.

What was the Sanhedrin?   In the Gospels and Acts, the Sanhedrin is always referred to as “the council” and the Sadducees were the chief priests. Over the years, the aspirations of the Sadducees went from spiritual to political. They became wealthy aristocrats who protected their social position by acting as men pleasers first to the Greeks and then to Rome. 

How did they differ from the Pharisees?  Both groups were chastised by Jesus for various reasons.  In Mark 7:5-9 we read, "5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?  6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the command-ments of men. 

What gave them the authority to arrest Peter and John?    Why were the priests and Sadducess “greatly disturbed” in verse 2?   The Sadducees were offended by Peter and John for two reasons:  First, that these unschooled fishermen would present themselves as teachers of the Scriptures.  And secondly, that they preached the resurrection of the dead.  Continue reading from verse five:

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

The High Priests ask a good question in verse 7 and Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answers them in verse 8:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’  12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

The Holy Spirit provided Peter with an answer that the Sanhedrin could not defend.  Peter simply quoted Psalm 118:22, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner."  By answering in this way the Sanhedrin was baffled and needed to confer privately.  In doing so, we learn that their motive was simply to prevent them from speaking about Jesus.  Jesus is our cornerstone.  We continue at verse 18:

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

Were Peter and John being rude in verses 19-20?  When is it appropriate for us (you and I) to engage in civil disobedience?   Why do the Temple elite want Peter and John to stop teaching?  Peter again responds with Psalm 2:1-5.  Continue reading at verse 23 to learn the outcome of this story...

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:  “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  26 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together  against the Lord and against his anointed one. 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

The important thing for us to remember is that the Apostles relied on the filling of the Holy Spirit.  This same Spirit is ready, able, and willing to fill us.  When we act and speak under the authority and guidance of the Holy Spirit we can speak boldly and without fear.  Luke finishes off chapter 4 with a brief summary of the early church.  Another good message for our congregation:

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.  36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

What do we learn in chapter four about the early Church?    What do we learn from the early Church? Have you ever experienced the Holy Spirit providing you with the words to say?  How do we draw the line between being meek and being bold?  When you were a child, who taught you the most about prayer?  Why do you think God uses evil men to fulfill His plans?  What do you make of role of the early Church as describe in verses 32-37.

The uprightness and generosity of Barnabas is set in sharp contrast to the scheming couple we read about in chapter 5.


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