We’re reading through the Acts of the Apostles as the gospel is spread from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the outermost parts of the world even as Christ commanded at the beginning of Acts.
Last time we left the Acts, Peter had concluded a powerful Gospel message on the day of Pentecost during which the men of Israel were convicted of their sin and the Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ converted 3000 in to the New Testament Church.
Today is another episode and you’ll notice some striking parallels in the Gospel presentation after the healing of a lame man.
What I want you all to focus upon today as we proceed through this account is the manner in which Peter presents the Gospel to men. What you’ll find in this episode is a close connection to the way he presented the Gospel in Acts Chapter 2. It’s the same way the Gospel is presented throughout the Acts of the Apostles. It is done with great boldness and conviction of sin and impending judgment with the announcement of Christ’s resurrection as the solution to that judgment. The reason we need to focus on this is because we should be examining our own ideas about how the Gospel goes forward and asking ourselves: “Is this what I think the Gospel is?”
Unfortunately, today, the Gospel is often presented as a worried God who desires to love all men if they would simply love Him in return. This is not the message of Peter. God is not in heaven waiting on men to respond but His ambassadors go forward with power to announce Christ’s Lordship and the need that all men repent of their wickedness.
The idea that men are wicked and need of repentance, though, is a foreign concept today – even among Christians who are supposed to understand that Christ came to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World. In fact, most men view the problems of evil as coming from the outside. Man thinks the problem is society or things we eat or drink that defile us or make us evil. In fact, it is from within the heart that wickedness is found. It is the heart of man that is the problem. It is his rebellion against an almighty God that is the problem. Christ’s Gospel goes forward to overthrow that rebellious heart that men might be restored to their Creator.
As the story opens, Peter and John are going to the Temple as was their habit and they encounter a beggar. In this culture, crippled men would not be able to conduct a trade so it was common for the families of these men to leave them in a place where they might beg for money to sustain themselves. From the story, it is plain that this beggar has been dropped off at the temple for years and years because everybody knows this man. Here is the poor man on yet another day begging for the coins of men who are going to the Temple. These men would be going into the Temple with their consciences filled with the guilt of sins committed and would likely take pity on this man as his eyes are downcast and he’s holding out his hand for coins.
But today is a different day. Peter and John see the man and, being led by the Spirit, they walk up to the man. His eyes are downcast as his hand is extended in poverty.
“Look at us!” commands Peter. The man needs to look up because Peter is about to command the man to do something.
The man looked up expecting to receive some coins but, Oh, how much more was he about to receive!
6But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene–walk!”
Now, I can imagine that, just for a moment, the man became downcast as he heard Peter tell him he had no gold and silver to give him. No money to put bread on the table that day.
But then the name that is above every other name was spoken with authority by a man commanded to heal by that name: “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth – walk!”
Now, I want you to notice something. Peter didn’t ask the man if he was worthy of this. He didn’t ask the man if he was ready to be healed. He didn’t ask the man for anything. The man was a beggar. Peter simply commanded the man to walk by the power of Jesus.
Have you ever seen a person who has been in a wheelchair all their lives? How their muscles are atrophied and tight? There is no strength in their legs for this.
But this is no match for the power of God that calls things that are not as if they are. Even as the command was going forward, the legs of the man were strengthened and Peter literally pulled the man to his feet. Bones became dense, tendons were lengthened and improved, muscles were formed, and a man who had been lame from birth could walk again. Praise God!
Isn’t it easy to simply stop at that fact and think it remarkable that the man could walk again? But what good would it be if that man could walk again and still be an unbeliever and perish in his sins? No, in fact, the name of Jesus and what He represented as the substitute for man had also been spoken into that man’s heart. Verse 16 reveals that, at the moment of his healing, not only was this man given new legs but he was given a new heart by the power of Jesus name and He believed in the Savior. When you see acts of healing in the Scriptures, they’re never performed merely to heal the body, which eventually perishes, but the healing of the soul is the most glorious result.
I love this next part as verse 8 tells us: “With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”
Can you imagine the scene as a downcast man, with a miserable life, alienated from God, not only has his legs strengthened but, God in His mercy, visits this man with the Gospel that day? Of course he was leaping and praising God. How could you contain yourself when you’ve been redeemed with such a great salvation? Or maybe you’ve forgotten what God has done for you so it is foreign after all.
But not for this man. This man could not contain the joy of his salvation and makes so much noise that everybody in the Temple area is drawn in a crowd around him as he’s following Peter and John into the Temple.
The Book of Acts records that everybody rushed over to see this powerful work of God. They knew this was the beggar they had seen for years. There was no mistake that something powerful had happened. Nobody was mocking this event as many had mocked the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. They pressed in around Peter and John wondering what this could mean.
Now the primary reason for the healing is revealed. You see, we like to think of miracles a personal events but miracles are intended to point away from the person that receives healing and call attention to the mighty works of God. Peter notices the crowd and verse 12 tells us: 12But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?”
Isn’t it interesting that, today, those that claim the power to heal are always calling attention to their own anointing? If you talk to a Word of Faith person, won’t they repeatedly tell you that the reason why someone can heal or receives healing is based on the power of their faith or their piety? Peter absolutely destroys such a notion. He tells the men around him. Why are you looking at us as if we have power? Why would you think it is because we’re such good or faithful people that are able to heal men born lame? He wants to point them to Jesus and so he continues in verse 13:
13“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him.
14“But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,
15but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.
We see again something remarkable about the Gospel presentation of Peter that we are not used to expecting if we are simply looking for nice soothing words about how much God loves everyone. Peter is convicting these onlookers of the death of the Son of God. He’s reminding them that they disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked instead for a murderer to be released to them. He’s reminding them that they put to death the Prince of Life whom God raised from the dead and that they are witnesses to it all.
This is the Gospel, the Good News, the announcement of the death and resurrection of Christ but it contains a sharp edge of judgment for these men because they were responsible for rejecting this Man who they should have bowed down to and worshipped. It is really quite impossible, in fact, for a person to understand the Gospel if they don’t understand their Sin. What is the Good News, in fact, except to understand that there is a need to be delivered from something Bad? Is that bad thing simply an unhappy life? No. It is much more profound and frightening to men that they need to understand that they stand under the judgment of God.
Some might think it hateful to speak of God’s wrath for sin but I say the opposite. The hateful thing to do is to lie to men and tell them that there is no wrath but peace with God apart from Christ. They need to understand the wrath and the judgment or they’ll never understand what Christ had to die for to put away.
And so Peter does not shy away from this hard truth but proclaims the fact of Christ’s death and resurrection and their conspiracy to contribute to that terrible act. In fact, beloved, we all bear responsibility for His death for it is for Sin that Christ had to die.
Peter continues: 16“And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17“And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also.
18“But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.
19“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
20and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you,
The Gospel never stops at a simply a reminder of the Sin of mankind but points out that Christ then came to reconcile men.
Peter points out that it is the faith of the lame man that not only strengthened the man but saved his soul as well. This Name above all Names is the Christ who can not only heal but save men utterly.
And so Peter points out that God knows that these men acted ignorantly when they put His Son to death and that it was the Cross itself, a wicked act in the hands of men, that God used to pay the penalty for sin. The place of the Curse becomes the place for Blessing. God had prepared this sacrifice well beforehand that Christ would offer Himself on the Cross and suffer for sin. He has fulfilled this role and Sin is atoned. The wrath of God for sin is completely dealt with in Christ for those that believe.
And so the call goes out again to them: “Repent and return, that your sins my be wiped away!” This is why Christ was sent. He was appointed for this errand. He was marked out to be scorned by you that He might save you by the scorn and by bearing the Sins of all who place their trust in Him.
You see, in the end, the Gospel is really quite simple but, because we are so full of ourselves we need to be reminded of its message.
You are desperately wicked. There is no good inside of you. The purpose of this life is not to look deep within your heart to find truth within you. The reason why you say and do and think wicked things is because it flows out of your heart. You are deceived if you think that good is within you. You are deceived if you think that God looks at your heart and sees something good in it apart from Christ. You are in need of perfection in this life.
But, thanks be to God, perfection has been provided in the life and work of Jesus Christ. His heart was good. His intentions were pure.
And He went to the Cross, scorned by the World that thought its heart was fine. He went to the Cross because men were convinced that they were good on the inside and could please God by their own attitudes, by the sincerity of their hearts and by the sincerity of their deeds. Christ was hated then and is hated today because men are insulted that something is wrong with them and that God doesn’t see how good they are without any need for someone else.
But Christ died for men like us that are self-deceived. He paid the penalty for the wickedness that is in our hearts as a result of Sin in this world. He paid the penalty for the sin that you and I deserve to spend eternity in Hell paying for. He cried out in agony as His Father turned His face away from Him so that we would never have to experience that.
And so the Gospel requires that we turn away from looking within ourselves and stop trusting in our own goodness. It requires that we turn and fix our eyes upon the Cross. The simple announcement is that Christ has come in the flesh and died on the Cross for Sin and was resurrected on the third day and ascended on high to reign forever. All those who stop trusting in themselves and look to Christ will surely be saved from their sins.