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A NOTABLE DEED IS DONE ( Acts 3:1-10 )
3:1-10 Peter and John used to go up to the Temple at the hour of prayer at three o'clock in the afternoon, and a man who had been lame from the day of his birth was in the habit of being carried there. Every day they used to put him at the gate of the Temple which is called the Beautiful Gate, so that he could beg for alms from the people who were going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the Temple he asked to be given alms. Peter fixed his eyes on him with John and said, "Look at us." He paid attention to them because he was expecting to get something from them. Peter said to him, "Silver and gold I do not possess, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth walk!" And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up. Immediately his feet and ankle bones were strengthened, and he leaped up and stood and walked about; and he went into the Temple with them, walking about and leaping and praising God. Everyone saw him walking about and praising God; and they recognized him as the man who had sat at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple to receive alms. They were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.
The Jewish day began at 6 o'clock in the morning and ended at 6 o'clock in the evening. For the devout Jew there were three special hours of prayer -- 9 a.m., 12 midday and 3 p.m. They agreed that prayer was efficacious wherever it was offered; but they felt that it was doubly precious when offered in the Temple courts. It is very interesting that the apostles kept up the customs in which they had been trained. It was the hour of prayer and Peter and John were going into the Temple to observe it. A new faith had come to them but they did not use that as an excuse for a licence which broke all law. They were aware that the new faith and the old discipline could walk hand in hand.
In the East it was the custom for beggars to sit at the entrance to a temple or a shrine. Such a place was considered the best of all stances because when people are on their way to worship God they are disposed to be generous to their fellow men. W. H. Davies, the tramp poet, tells how one of his vagrant friends told him that, whenever he came into a new town, he looked for a church spire with a cross on the top and began to beg in that area. Love of man and love of God must ever go hand in hand.
This incident brings us face to face with the question of miracles in the apostolic times. There are certain definite things to be said.
(i) Such miracles did happen. In Acts 4:16 we read how the Sanhedrin knew that they must accept the miracle. The enemies of Christianity would have been the first to deny miracles if they could; but they never even try.
(ii) Why did they stop? Certain suggestions have been made. (a) There was a time when miracles were necessary. In that age they were needed as a guarantee of the truth and the power of the Christian message in its initial attack on the world. (b) At that time two special circumstances met. First, there were living apostolic men who had had an unrepeatable personal intimacy with Jesus Christ. Second, there was an atmosphere of expectancy when faith was in its floodtide. These two things combined to produce effects which were unique.
(iii) The real question is not, "Why have miracles stopped?" but, "Have they stopped?" It is the simple fact that any doctor or surgeon can now do things which in apostolic times would have been regarded as miracles. God has revealed new truth and new knowledge to men, and through that revelation they are still performing miracles. As a great doctor said, "I bandage the wounds; but God heals them." For the Christian there are still miracles on every hand if he has eyes to see.
THE CRIME OF THE CROSS ( Acts 3:11-16 )
3:11-16 As he clung to Peter and John everyone came running to them in the colonnade which is called Solomon's, in a state of complete astonishment. When Peter saw them he said to them, "Men of Israel, why are you surprised at this? Or why do you keep staring at us, as if we had made him walk by our own power or goodness? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, your fathers' God, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and disowned before Pilate, when he had given judgment for his release. You disowned the holy and the just one and you asked for a man who was a murderer to be given to you as a favour. You killed the pioneer of life but God raised him from the dead; and we are his witnesses. And his name, through faith in his name, has given strength to this man whom you see and know. It is the faith which is through him, which has thus given him back his health in presence of you all."
Here sound three of the dominant notes of early Christian preaching.
(i) The early preachers always stressed the basic fact that the crucifixion was the greatest crime in human history. Whenever they speak of it there is a kind of shocked horror in their voices. They tried to stab men's minds with the realization of the sheer crime of the Cross. It is as if they said, "Look what sin can do."
(ii) The early preachers always stressed the vindication of the resurrection. It Is simple fact that without the resurrection the Church would never have come into being. The resurrection was proof that he was indestructible and was Lord of life and of death. It was the final proof that behind him there was God and therefore a power which nothing could stop.
(iii) The early preachers always stressed the power of the Risen Lord. They never regarded themselves as the sources of power but only as channels of power. They were well aware of their limitations but were also well aware that there was no limitation to what the Risen Christ could do through them and with them. Therein lies the secret of the Christian life. So long as the Christian thinks only of what he can do and be, there can be nothing but failure and frustration and fear. But when he thinks of "not I, but Christ in me" there can be nothing but peace and power.
THE NOTES OF PREACHING ( Acts 3:17-26 )
3:17-26 "Now, brothers, I know that it was through ignorance that you did it, just as your rulers did. But God has thus fulfilled those things which he foretold by the mouths of all the prophets that his anointed one should suffer. Repent, then, and turn so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come to you from God, and so that he may send Jesus Christ who has already been preached to you. It is necessary that heaven should receive him until the times when all things shall be restored, times of which God spoke through the mouths of his holy prophets since the world began. Moses said, 'The Lord, your God, will raise up from your brethren a prophet like me. You must listen to him in everything that he will say to you; and it will be. that everyone who will not listen to that prophet will be utterly destroyed from the people.' And all the prophets who spoke from Samuel and those who succeeded him, also announced the tidings of these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers when he said, 'In your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed.' It is to you first that God, when he raised up his son, sent him to bless you by making each one of you turn away from your evil deeds."
Almost all the notes of early Christian preaching are sounded in this short passage.
(i) It begins with a note of mercy and warning combined. It was in ignorance that the Jews perpetrated the terrible deed of the crucifixion; but that ignorance is no longer possible, and, therefore, there can be no excuse for their further rejection of Jesus Christ. This note of the terrifying responsibility of knowledge sounds all through the New Testament. "If you were blind. you would have no guilt; but now that you say 'We see,' your guilt remains" ( John 9:41). "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin" ( John 15:22). "Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin" ( James 4:17). To have seen the full light of the revelation of God is the greatest of privileges, but it is also the most terrible of responsibilities.
(ii) The obligation this knowledge brings is the obligation to repent and to turn. The two words go closely together. Repent might simply mean to change one's mind; and it is an easier thing to change one's mind than to change one's life. But this change of mind is to issue in a turning away from the old way and a faring forth upon a new.
(iii) This repentance will have certain consequences. It will affect the past--sins will be wiped out. This is a vivid word. Ancient writing was upon papyrus and the ink had no acid in it. It therefore did not bite into the papyrus like modern ink, but simply lay on top of it. To erase the writing a man simply wiped it away with a wet sponge; so God wipes out the sin of the forgiven man. It will affect the future; it will bring times of refreshing. Into life will come something which will be a strength in weakness and a rest in weariness.
(iv) Peter goes on to speak of the coming again of Christ. Whatever else that doctrine means, it means that history is going somewhere.
(v) Peter insists that all that has happened has been foretold. The Jews refused to assimilate the idea of a Chosen One of God who must suffer; but Peter insists that if they search their own scriptures they will find it all there.
(vi) Peter reminds them of their national privilege. In a very special sense the Jews were God's chosen people.
(vii) Finally, he lays down the inescapable truth that that very special privilege brings very special duty. It is the privilege not of special honour but of special service.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Barclay, William. "Commentary on Acts 3". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany