Read the Passage: Acts 3
Healing the Lame (3:1–10)
Acts 3 records the first specific ministry events of the newly formed church. As a testimony to the Jewish nature of the early church, this passage begins with the information that “Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour” (Acts 3:1). The Jews designated several times throughout each day to pray (cf. Ps. 55:17). The ninth hour, which was the third session of daily prayer, was 3:00 pm. While headed to the Temple, Luke reports that Peter and John were used by God to bring about the healing of “a certain man lame form his mother’s womb” (Acts 3:2). We later learn that this man was at least 40 years old (cf. Acts 4:22). The magnitude of this miracle is seen in that the man was not just lame, but had been so from birth. This parallels the account of Jesus’ healing of the man who was blind from birth in John 9:1–41 (cf. Acts 14:8–10).
As a physician, Luke’s narrative of the physical healing of the man is detailed and thorough, as he writes, “Peter 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 began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Act 3:7–8). A notable healing such as this demands a response from those who witness the undeniable transformation. In this passage Luke reports that those who saw that man began to praise the Lord, which is one of the purposes of miracles (cf. John 20:30–31). Interestingly, when Jesus healed a man blind from birth the Pharisees rejected Christ (cf. John 9:28–34). Similarly, when Paul healed a man who was lame from birth the crowds attributed the healing to false gods (cf. Acts 14:11–13).
Preaching about Christ (3:11–16)
When the people gathered around Peter and John because the miracles that they facilitated, Peter began to teach, as he gave his second sermon. In the first part of his message, Peter tried to focus the peoples’ attention away from the miracle and the ministers and point toward Jesus. The most effective way to get people to gaze upon Christ is to emphasize their need of Him. Therefore, in this narrative we see that Peter highlighted the peoples’ sin of denying Christ, assenting to His death, and even asking for the release of a murderer in the place of Jesus. The substitution of Jesus for Barabbas is a wonderful picture of the gospel. Here Peter explicitly blames the crowd for their lack of faith and for the crucifixion of Jesus; yet, Peter also refers to “the faith which comes through Him” (Acts 3:16), as he emphasizes that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. Indeed, faith itself is a gift of God upon those who otherwise would freely choose to reject Jesus (cf. Eph. 2:8–9).
Exhorting the People (3:17–26)
In light of the Jewish heritage of most of his listeners, in the rest of his message Peter emphasizes that while the people willfully rejected Jesus, this was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy. In his exhortation to repentance, Peter refers to “times of refreshing [that will] come from the presence of the Lord. . . [And] the times of [the] restoration of all things” (Acts 3:19, 21). This speaks to the comprehensiveness of the gospel itself. In other words, Jesus did not die just to save sinners, but to completely reverse the effects of sin. The gospel is no less comprehensive than the fall. As Paul wrote, “The creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Peter would later write, “The heavens will be transformed . . . the earth and the works that are in it will be exposed” (2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 21:4–5).
In Acts 3:18 Peter mentions certain prophets who had predicted Jesus’ atonement, which he again references at Acts 3:24 writing, “All the prophets, from Samuel to those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.” While Samuel is called a prophet at 1 Sam. 3:20, none of his specific, verbal prophesies of Christ are recorded in the Old Testament. Yet, he did anoint David king of Israel (cf. 1 Sam. 13:14). Of course, many other prophets did give detailed prophecies about Jesus. In his message Peter specifically quotes from prophecies recorded by Moses at Deut. 18:15, 18–19 (which Peter cites at Acts 3:22–23) as well as at Gen. 12:3 (which he cites at Acts 3:25). For Peter’s listeners, this teaching was very important, for he was teaching that Jesus was the new and better Moses as well as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.
- What is your ministry within the church? What spiritual gifts do you possess? How could you better serve within the Body of Christ?
- What personal habits or societal customs did you find it difficult to overcome or leave behind when you became a Christian?
- If the Lord facilitated more spectacular miracles in the present time, would there be more believers (cf. Luke 16:31)?
- When you witness effective ministry, are you more prone to focus upon the effect of the ministry, the skill of the minister, or upon Jesus?
- How comprehensive is the effect of the gospel? How has becoming a Christian changed your life? What aspects of your life have been transformed?