© 2000, J.W. Carter
What do you think of when you consider the word, "Minister?" As a noun, is it a name for a person who has selected an occupation leading and caring for a church fellowship? Is it some super-spiritual person who has some special connection with God? As a verb, what does it mean to "minister?" Does it mean to preach or go overseas as a missionary? In the book of Acts we see the birth of the Christian church, and in this lesson we see the power that Jesus gives to all believers to minister in His name.
In the first two chapters of the Acts of the Apostles we find the apostles commissioned by the ascending Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill that commission. Chapter three starts with Peter and John entering the Temple.
Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
There is no indication of the time period between the second and third chapters, though it probably was in the order of days or weeks. The members of the church were in the habit of going to the temple daily for the required Jewish prayers (9:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 3:00 PM.) As new Christians, this act took on a new, fulfilled meaning when, instead of cold recitations, their prayers were a communion with God. We often find Peter and John together both in the gospels and in Acts, usually with Peter taking the lead and John there with him. The two were part of the three apostles, including James, who were closest to Jesus during His ministry.
And a certain man lame from his mothers womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; 3Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alm.
Describe the plight of the man who was brought to the temple. He was over 40 years old (4:22), and never had the use of his legs. He was brought daily to the gate of the temple, named the Beautiful Gate. We are not sure of the location of this gate. Why would people bring him there? There were many places in Jerusalem where people gathered, but at the gates to the temple were gathered those who, in their pious religion, might be more prone to be obedient to the Jewish law that required the giving of alms to the poor. Furthermore, at the gates were the money changers who would be there to convert their common currency to temple currency for both alms giving and temple giving. This was the ideal place for the lame man to be. It is also the closest to the temple that this Jewish man can get. People who had infirmities were not allowed into the temple, consequently, this man had never seen the inside of the facility, and spend all of his days as an outcast. He knew no other life.
The scripture states that the lame man saw Peter and John as they were entering. The word that is rendered "saw," implies an embracing perception. He could see that there was something different about these two men. What was different about them? Empowered by the Holy Spirit, their nature had changed. They were no longer coming to the temple out of obligation, but doing so in joy and peace. Their faces probably shone with joy and contentment in a crowd that demonstrated somber meaninglessness. Peter and John were probably talking with one another, smiling, and appearing quite pleasant in their demeanor. This caught the attention of the lame man at the gate.
The scripture states that the lame man asked them for money. As an unclean individual, such an act was not that common. The infirmed would generally call out, but to nobody in particular, and he would never look anyone in the eye. Certainly such a man would respond if spoken to, but to initiate a conversation, much less a request, was considered quite inappropriate. Again, because of the boldness of the lame man, we see that he saw something in Peter and John that was different.
When a Christian is in the midst of non-Christians, there should be something about the Christian that stands out. How should the world be able to identify a Christian? They should see a joyful and pleasant spirit, a person who demonstrates kindness and self-control. The fruit of the Spirit should be evident in the persons life, particularly to an unbeliever. A person, such as this lame man, who has studied people all of his life with the purpose of identifying those who might be most profitable to him, identified Peter and John immediately. What did the lame man expect to get from them? His only purpose was to accept the tiny offerings that individuals would make for his behalf, and the demeanor of Peter and John identified individuals who might be more generous, enough so for him to confidently lift his voice and ask them for money.
And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. 5And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
What was taking place here that was unusual? Peter and John passed this way every day, and probably a multiple of times every day. And each day they passed, this lame man was there. They may not have noticed him before because, like the others entering the temple, their minds were on themselves. More likely, they had little or no alms for this man, and they were troubled by this fact. They would have been troubled by the plight of this man, a social outcast, condemned by no fault of his own. They had, for the first time in their lives, a genuine agape-based compassion for this man who they could not help, at least not in the way that they had understood. However, today was different. Maybe Peter and John had been talking with one another about their inability to help the lame man who they saw every day. Most likely they had prayed for this lame man, and in their prayer found Gods will concerning this mans future. So, their compassion for the man was fulfilled in their taking action.
What did Peter do? First, he looked straight at the lame man, again an act that was not typical of their culture. Why did he look at the man when others would not? Peter saw the man, not his infirmity. He had compassion for a real person who has real value, and deserves honor and respect that every one of Gods creation deserves. Undoubtedly, as soon as the lame man found that their attention was drawn to him, he dropped his eyes to the ground, another indication of the caste system in which they lived. What did Peter say to the man? Peter commanded him to look up at them, and by doing so, was breaking through the prejudice that this lame man knew only too well.
Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. 7And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
What was the lame man expecting from Peter and John? All he could possibly expect was money, and maybe an expression of kindness. Apparently, the first thing that Peter communicated to the man was that he had no alms to give. How would you suppose the lame man would respond to this? There was probably some disappointment, but also a confusion as to why these Jewish men who expressed such confidence would otherwise talk to him. What the lame man received was something he never could have imagined.
What was it that Peter and John had that they could give to the lame man? They had the gospel of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Their genuine compassion for this man, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was exercised by their calling upon the Holy Spirit to heal the man. Acts, chapter two, alludes to many "signs and wonders" done within the fellowship after the Pentecost experience, and they had seen Jesus healing prior to His ascension. Perhaps Peter himself had been used of God to provide healing in the fellowship. This is the first recorded instance of this happening outside of the fellowship.
How was the lame man healed? Peter simply told the man to stand up, and called upon the Name of Jesus Christ in doing so. Did Peter heal this man? No, God healed the man. Peter had demonstrated compassion for the lame man, and within the context of all healings that take place in scripture, Peter had prayed prior to this event and was following the lead of the Holy Spirit. God had an additional purpose for the healing of this man. Apparently this mans lameness was in his feet and ankles, and the scripture describes that their weakness was immediately made strong.
When is healing miraculous? Why would the healing of a lame man be any more miraculous than the normal healing of a small cut on a persons hand? We take the bodys ability to heal for granted. The ability to heal is linked to life, itself. Man can only describe the properties of healing, he cannot duplicate it. Let us never cease to praise God for the miracle of every type of healing that takes place.
And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.
There are at least two significant events in verse 8. First, after being helped to his feet (probably more out of disbelief or shock rather than incapability), he immediately began to walk. The miracle herein goes beyond simple physical healing. If the man had never walked before, what would be needed once he get his strength back? Even today when someone is injured and cannot walk for an extended period of time, what is needed once their strength comes back? We call it "rehabilitation." The person has to re-learn how to walk though practice. This man received no such rehab. He stood to his feet and was not only walking, he was leaping as he praised God for what had just been done. This further validates the significance of this miracle.
And all the people saw him walking and praising God: 10And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him. 11And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomons, greatly wondering. 12And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
Furthermore, following the physical healing was an equally important spiritual and social healing, at least in the perception of their culture. For the first time in his life, the man could enter the Temple. Peter and John did not leave the man on his own. They, together, entered into the temple. This man who was despised by the people was now standing upright and was in the company of two men who had, apparently, the power to heal him. This would create a chain of events that would not only draw the interest of the crowd at the temple, but the religious leaders as well.
When the people saw the lame man walking close to Peter and John, they came running. The only history they had known of such healing was done by Jesus, the man that had been crucified during the last Passover. Some may have wondered if Jesus had returned. Peters statement reveals that most were looking, not for Jesus, but were looking at him. The word rendered "stare" or "look earnestly" has a connotation of wonder and awe. They looked on Peter, a man who had a history of self-centered pride, as a God. For someone with a pride problem, such an event could have engendered some personal conflict. However, Peter had changed. The act of healing came from Peters true compassion for this person, not from any form of self confidence or pride.
Ever since Peter was used of God in this miracle, others have come forward as self-pronounced "faith healers" who seek after fame and notariety as they attempt to repeat what Peter had done. If such healing was so common and so available, the medical community would be rallying around it. However, no self-pronounced "faith healer" has ever actually demonstrated the power to heal. When someone would not be healed, the faith healer would announce in a condemning manner that the inflicted persons faith is not strong enough. How strong was the faith of the lame man of Acts, chapter 3? He had none at all. Every faith healer has, at some time in his/her career been exposed as a fraud by those who were not healed. The context of faith healing is entirely contrary to what took place in every scriptural example of healing.
The world sees healing just as the people saw this one. They looked to Peter as the source of the power to heal, and if the Holy Spirit had not given Peter victory over his pride, he could have been swept up by it. However, if Peter had been led by pride, the healing would not have happened.
Do you, as a Christian have the same resource for healing that Peter had? Yes we do. Why can we not simply call upon the name of Jesus and heal those who are afflicted? Each healing done in the power of the Holy Spirit has some similarities. (1). The power for all healing comes directly from God through the Holy Spirit, (2) The act of healing always came from a demonstration of pure and true compassion for the one healed, and (3) every act of healing was used by God to bring glory to Himself. In no instance was the glory for God initiated by man himself. Healings were not scripted. They were spontaneous acts of true agape love.
I once experienced miraculous healing. I and my family were visiting in the home of close friends who just returned from an extremely traumatic experience in the missionary field. Their experience was so traumatic that it received daily world-wide news coverage for the months of its duration. They were still suffering the post-traumatic shock of that experience. While doing some repair work around their house, my hand was cut deeply by glass that I was trying to remove from a broken window. The cut was about 2½ " long, across the palm of my hand. I immediately made a fist went into prayer mode asking God to please help. If my hosts knew that I was injured it would only add to their stress. They would feel responsible for the injury. After filling several paper towels with blood, closed my fist around a paper towel and held it there for the two hours prior to dinner. I completed the repair of the window while holding my hand in a fist. By dinner time there was only a thin red line on my hand and the next day the line was completely gone. It was a couple of years before I told this missionary couple of the incident, and together we praised God. It has also strengthened my own faith and brought glory to God whenever the event is recounted.
Upon retrospect I see that this experience contained the three similarities mentioned above.
The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus;
Did Peter turn to the crowd and take a bow? Did he proclaim himself a "faith healer" and invite another to come forward to receive this miracle? No, the work of a miracle was always used of God for His purpose, not for the purpose of the one doing the miracle. Peter immediately addresses the crowd and identifies the source of the power of the healing was the same God they came to worship, the God of their patriarchs, and through the same Jesus that was crucified. He goes on in his second recorded "apostolic sermon" to show them, calling upon their knowledge of the prophets, how Jesus is the Messiah who they crucified, how he is now resurrected, and how He is the only way for salvation. He called upon them to repent and to turn to Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham.
And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. 4Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
About three thousand came to Christ following Peters sermon at Pentecost. As a result of this event, the number of Christians rose to about five thousand. Many who were in the temple that day believed Peter and accepted Jesus as the Messiah.
"No good deed ever goes unpunished," is the old saying, and when done in the Name of Jesus, it is most generally true. What happened to Peter and John as a result of this event? The priests, the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees who were in the temple arrested Peter and John and placed them in prison for the night. What angered them so? First, they felt responsible for maintaining peace and control in the temple. The gathering of an excited crowd certainly attracted their attention. Then, on temple grounds, Peter addressed them with the authority of a priest, accusing them of killing Jesus, declaring his resurrection (which the Sadducees violently disavowed) and calling upon them to repent. It was too late in the day for any action to take place, so Peter and John were placed in prison for the night.
What, do you suppose, the religious leaders were doing that night? Certainly they were recounting the events of Jesus crucifixion and the disaster of that event. They thought they were rid of that nuisance to their positions of power, and now Peter and John, two of Jesus followers are apparently performing the same miracles that Jesus did, and is doing it on temple grounds. Furthermore, they proclaim that Jesus is not dead. This is not a good day to be a temple priest.
What, do you suppose Peter and John were doing that night? Certainly, they were afraid. This is not what they were expecting. The last time this happened, it was Jesus who was imprisoned for the night and He was crucified the next day. However, where was Peter the last time? Where John stayed by Jesus even to the cross, Peter ran away into hiding, fearing the very persecution that he was now looking toward. Peter and John had no experience to draw from, other than that of Jesus. They must have talked of their expectations of the next day, and spent a lot of time in prayer. The night gave the Holy Spirit time to comfort them and prepare them for the next day. Jesus did not go to the cross unprepared, and these apostles would not go through a similar trial unprepared.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, 6And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Note that the trial was similar in structure to the one held for Jesus. The same players were there. Annas, the previous high priest was really the one in control. Caiaphas was the current high priest. Also the family of the high priest was there. The rulers, elders, and scribes would be a reference to the Sanhedrin. Many members of the council were witnesses to the healing that took place, so they did not doubt the event. Their concern was centered around their own power and authority, and they saw Peter and John as operating outside of that circle of authority. Furthermore, their culture attributed sickness and infirmity to demonic influence brought on by sin. To heal was to both cast out a demon and to forgive of sin. Nobody has that authority, not even the Sanhedrin. Consequently, their question was one of authority. They asked, "by what authority" was this work done.
Peters answer caught them entirely off-guard. What was the source of Peters answer? Luke recorded in Luke 12:11-12 Jesus comforting words that the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say when called upon to give an account for their faith, and this was such an occasion. Peter used the opportunity for yet another presentation of the gospel. He again declared Jesus as the Messiah, accused them of crucifying Him, declared his resurrection, and pointed to Jesus as the way of salvation. He referred to Psalm 118:22 when describing Jesus as the cornerstone, or capstone that they, the builders of the nation of Israel, had rejected. Jesus referred to Himself using the same quotation, recorded in Luke 20:17.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. 14And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. 17But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
The council saw in Peter and John a courage and confidence that they could not understand. They included in their number many who were considered the most learned scholars of scripture, yet these two men who had little comparative education, were able to make arguments that they could not deny. The Holy Spirit gives your knowledge of God a context that unbelievers cannot understand. When a Christian speaks of his faith and his God, he speaks from a position of vitality and life that is filled with the presence of a relationship with God. When an unbeliever speaks of God he is speaking only what he knows from the teaching of others. The testimony of the most unlearned Christian can confound the wisest of the worlds scholars.
How would the council deal with Peter and John? If the disciples of Jesus have this kind of authority over sin and sickness, they certainly could not crucify all of them. They thought they held the power of life and death over all of the Jews in the region, so they came up with a plan. They would command these two disciples to stop speaking of Jesus. It would never enter their mind that these two might not obey, since they should be so intimidated by being in their presence.
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. 21So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done
Peter and John still had no idea of the punishment they would receive. The Holy Spirit had given them confidence, courage, and the words to speak. They must have been praying for their own safety at this time. The people also knew that these two had been taken prisoner. The lame man had come back and was standing with them (verse 14.) So, the council gave Peter and John an offer they could not refuse. They would be set free if they would simply promise not to teach of the Name of Jesus.
How did they respond? It would have been easy to capitulate, knowing that they would be freed. To do otherwise would place themselves back into the mercy of the council. Instead of capitulating, they showed even more courage then before, basically telling them that they could not agree to those terms. They would rather face punishment than to deny their faith. They had not seen such a show of courage since Jesus silently endured the brutality of His passion. This is not the Peter who cowered by the fire during Jesus trial. Peters refusal to accept their terms again left the council without a planned response, so simply after subjecting them to more threats, they simply let them go unharmed because of how the people would respond if they actually did punish Peter and John.
Peter and John went back to their fellowship and told them all that had happened, praising God and praying together.
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
What was the result of this experience? Christians are called to minister to those who are in need. All Christians are ministers. God had demonstrated Himself in power to those new Christians who were just beginning to reach out in ministry. They had met resistance from the second most powerful force in their political world, and God had protected and sustained them. This gave each of them the confidence to speak the word of God boldly. They found out that the forces of this world are not as powerful as they had always known. They found that when confronted by the power of the Holy Spirit, the powers of Satan will always capitulate.
Should fear of reprisal or persecution keep Christians from a vital relationship with God or keep us from the ministry to which they are called? When a Christians speaks out or act on the gospel of Jesus, the world will act to stifle it. But never fear the power of the world that is impotent against God. Fear instead the loss of the joy and peace that the knowledge of your obedience, and the tremendous blessing that comes from expressing love for one another.