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To the Temple to Pray
Two of the apostles, Peter and John, go to the temple together. Although they are Christians through baptism with the Holy Spirit, they still cling to certain Jewish statutes. One of those statutes is going up to the temple at the hour of prayer.
The first period of Christendom is a time of transition. Through the service of Paul, who is called further on in Acts, the truth about Christendom will be fully unfolded. This will detach the hearts from Judaism and connect them with insight to the glorified Lord in heaven. For all those who still find it difficult to let go of Judaism, in the year 70 the final breakthrough by God will be worked through by giving Jerusalem to destruction by the Romans. This will put an end to the possibility to visit the temple.
They go to the temple as a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7; Luke 19:46). The hour of prayer, the ninth – that is three o’clock in the afternoon our time – is the hour of the evening burnt offering. It is the hour at which Elijah received an answer to his prayer (1 Kings 18:36-Zechariah :) and the hour at which Daniel also received an answer to his prayer centuries later (Daniel 9:21). It is also the hour when the Lord Jesus did not receive an answer when He called (Matthew 27:46). At that hour Peter and John go to the temple to unfold the power of the Name of the Lord Jesus in front of the crowd. It is nice to see that the first miracle that is described takes place in the context of prayer.
Healing of a Lame
While the church is gathered together daily in the temple, a lame man is daily placed at the gate of the temple, called Beautiful. The name of the gate, which symbolically expresses the magnificent religion of the Jews, contrasts sharply with the appearance of this lame man who is a symbol of the true condition of the Jews. He can do nothing and depends on the goodness of people who bring him to the temple. And when he is placed there, he is dependent on the goodness of the temple visitors. When people are in a religious mood, they are often more generous. The place he has at the door of the temple is therefore not badly chosen. He will have sat there for many years, because he is over forty years old (Acts 4:22).
This man is reminiscent of the sick man who had been lying at Bethesda pool for thirty-eight years (John 5:5). Like that man, this man is a picture of Israel under the law. The people have wandered through the wilderness under the law for almost forty years and under the law they would never have reached the promised land with the promised blessing. Only God’s grace has brought them into the land. Thus also the sick man at Bethesda has been healed by the Lord and thus also this lame one will be healed in the Name of the Lord.
This man is so close to the holy place and yet so far away from it. And hasn’t the Lord Jesus been there often? Would he never have seen Him enter the temple buildings? In any case, he never appealed to Him.
Without the man realizing it, the end of his misery is near when Peter and John appear among the temple visitors. When he sees them, while they are about to enter the temple, he also asks them for alms. Could Peter and John, who have been there often together with the Lord Jesus, never have been addressed by him before? We do not know. We do know that asking for alms this time will bring him a lot more than gold and silver can ever give. Only God knows why people ignore the gospel for many years and are saved one day.
For Peter and John, the request for alms is the reason to make known the mighty Name of Jesus Christ. Peter fixes his gaze on him. He pays attention to nothing but the lame one. He sees not so much his need but rather the opportunity to glorify the Lord Jesus. John does the same. He too is only concerned with the glorification of Christ. Although Peter is the speaking and acting one, John is one of spirit with him. Their undivided attention is focused on the man.
Then Peter asks him to look at them. The man must renounce everything around him and only look at these two apostles who are standing there in the Name of the Lord Jesus. By looking at them he looks at Him in an indirect sense. He doesn’t realize that, but Peter and John do realize that they are standing there with the power of the Lord. That is why Peter can say: “Look at us.” It is not about them, but about Him Whom they represent.
The man does what is asked of him and looks at them. All he expects is a gift. His thoughts don’t go much further. Our thoughts often don’t go much further either. We are more focused on earthly treasures than heavenly treasures.
Then Peter speaks words that bear witness to what he does not have and what he does have. He has no silver or gold, but he does have the power of the Lord Jesus to heal. In the Old Testament, silver and gold are means of reconciliation, but Peter reminds us in his first letter that true salvation does not come through silver or gold, but through the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-Psalms :). The Name of Christ is the true means of restoration and also gives strength to enter the sanctuary, as we see here.
Instead of earthly fortune, Peter possesses a source of happiness and strength in heaven, in Jesus Christ. He draws from that source to give this man a blessing far beyond earthly prosperity. In the Name of Jesus Christ he gives him the command to walk. Peter calls the Lord Jesus “the Nazarene”, which speaks of His descent from the despised Nazareth. That Name blares over the temple square as the Name that gives strength to heal. The religious leaders thought to be rid of Him, but He reveals from heaven even a greater power than during His life on earth.
Such an expression of power in spoken words is rare today. Many sincere Christians today are gathering silver and gold for the work of the Lord, while the power of the Name of the Lord remains largely unused. Many today’s healers do speak the Name of Jesus with great power to heal, but cannot repeat Peter’s first words, “I do not possess silver and gold”.
Peter not only speaks words of authority in the Name of the Lord Jesus, but he also seizes the man by the right hand and helps him up. Here we see again that wonderful combination of divine and human action. God does what we cannot do – strengthen his feet and his ankles – and we must do what we can – seize by the hand and raise up.
Effect of Healing
The result is there immediately. The recovery is complete and verifiable. There is no need to present doctor’s certificates. The man leaps up, stands up and walks. His first steps are to the temple which he enters together with Peter and John. He has always sat at its door, now he goes in. He does that together with others. At the same time he personally expresses his gratitude. He walks and leaps and praises God. God gets the honor.
What he does is a testimony for the whole people who see him walking and hear God praised. The people know him. He was part of the daily sight of the temple because he sat there begging every day. Some people may have given him something out of pity, but no one could help him get rid of his lameness. Of course, everyone had reconciled with the thought that he could not be helped. But it is precisely this hopeless case for people that becomes a great testimony of the Name of the Lord Jesus.
The healed man clings to Peter and John, so that it is clear to everyone who has been used for his healing. It also shows the understandable desire of someone who has just been converted to stay with the one who has been the means of his conversion. It is also a proof of new life when fellowship is sought with others who support him spiritually and help him to grow as a Christian. The man wants to belong and stay with Peter and John.
His healing causes a popular uproar. All the people come to the temple, to the so-called portico of Solomon. In the portico of Solomon the Lord walked when He was asked if He was the Christ (John 10:23-Jeremiah :) and there the apostles met (Acts 5:12). It is a place of encounter. The people are full of amazement about the healing. It is also an enormous miracle to see him, who they have had as a lame man in their midst for more than forty years.
Peter Preaches Christ
Peter uses the attention for this miracle to focus on the Worker of it, the Lord Jesus. With this in mind, this miracle has also happened. Unlike Simon the sorcerer who said of himself that he was a great man (Acts 8:9), Peter rejects all honor (cf. Acts 10:26; cf. Acts 14:13-Nehemiah :) and gives it to the Lord Jesus (cf. Revelation 19:9-2 Samuel :). People have a direct tendency to honor a visible person, a creature, and not the unseen God, the Creator. This is the essence of idolatry. Only God and the Son of God are entitled to be honored. As God honors the Son, we must honor Him.
Peter therefore begins his third speech by removing a false impression. In Acts 2 he also starts his second speech with this. There it concerns the wrong impression that speaking in languages would be drunk talk. Here the wrong impression that needs to be taken away, is that they have made the man healthy. Peter points out that it is not by their power that the man can now walk.
He adds that their piety is not the cause of the healing either. Their reverence for God does not give them any advantage with Him, as if He would give them a little honor that belongs to Him alone. He says that nothing in them has made any contribution to the healing. It is exclusively the work of Jesus Christ, about Whom he is going to speak next.
He does this by pointing out the appreciation God has for Him. He calls God by the Name that reminds us of the promises He made to each of the patriarchs individually. Those promises have as a central theme that He would send His Son, the Christ, to fulfill all promises. Well, God has sent Him. Peter calls the Lord Jesus “His servant Jesus” (cf. Isaiah 42:1). This indicates that the Lord Jesus served God on earth.
But what contrast there is between the appreciation that God has for His Son and the appreciation that the people have for Him. The people have not acknowledged Him as the Christ of God and have handed Him over to the authority of the government as a criminal. Pilate, the representative of that authority, testified several times that he found no guilt in Him and therefore judged that He had to be released. But the people were not open to reason. In blind hatred they denied their Messiah, the Christ of God, in front of the nations in the person of Pilate. They wanted nothing to have anything to do with Him and rejected Him.
Was everything now lost? No, for God has resurrected and glorified His Servant Jesus, who served Him so perfectly (Isaiah 52:13). As such, He is presented to the people by Peter again.
It is remarkable how Peter accuses the people twice of their denial of the Lord Jesus, even though only a few weeks ago he himself denied Him three times. But he confessed his denial with shame and under tears and received forgiveness from the Lord for it. Thus, he is free for God to now confront the people with this sin. He does this so that the people will come to repentance and confession of their sin and will be reconciled with God, just as he is reconciled with God.
He speaks of the Lord Jesus as “the Holy and Righteous One”. As “the Holy One” He lived on earth completely separated from the world and for God. He lived only for God. Therefore He was also “the Righteous One”. He always did everything completely in accordance with what is righteous for God and people.
In spite of His life completely dedicated to God and people, from which only goodness and grace came to mankind, they preferred a murderer, someone who takes the life of others. They asked Pilate to ‘give’ them that man, while rejecting God’s Son, the great gift of God. They would rather live with a murderer than with the Prince of life. They killed the Origin and Giver of life and thus cut off every path to life for themselves.
With even more emphasis than in Acts 2, Peter presents the actions of the people with the Son of God to their hearts and consciences. He also shows that God has His own plan and that He triumphs over man’s hatred and evil deeds. Not man, but God has the last word and that in a way that makes man silent.
God has raised His Son from the dead and presents Him to them again. Not only has God acted with Him in a very different way than they did, He has also undone their deed and even attached special consequences to it. That is a great grace and a proof of God’s perfect goodness. Peter declares that he and John are witnesses of Him. He openly and unconditionally joins God in his assessment of the Lord Jesus.
After Peter has thus presented his sin to the people and told them what God has done to His Son, he points to the man who has been healed. They see him, they know him. They know how he was and see how he is now. The change in his situation is the result of faith in the Name of the Lord Jesus. What they see and to which Peter points, is brought by him in direct connection with heaven and Him Who is glorified there. They can look directly upwards from the man, for there is He Who has worked out what they see.
Faith is the mighty principle by which the glorified Christ makes Himself known on earth. Through faith in the Lord Jesus the man has received “perfect health”. Christ does not do half-measures. They all stand there and they all see that the man is completely healed through the Name of Jesus Christ Whom they have denied and murdered.
Call to Repentance and Conversion
The accusations are fixed. The judgment of God is deserved. Then Peter points to a way out. Led by the Holy Spirit, he can tell the people that they have done their terrible deed “in ignorance” (1 Corinthians 2:8) and therefore he can call them to repentance and conversion. Peter can say this based on the intercession of the Lord Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). On this basis mercy was also shown to Paul (1 Timothy 1:13).
Their sin is seen as manslayer, not murder. Someone guilty of manslayer under the law could be killed by the avenger of blood. If the manslayer managed to reach a city of refuge in time, he was safe there (Numbers 35:9-Nahum :). In this way, the people could still take refuge in the Lord Jesus and thus escape judgment. Instead of judgment, they will receive the promised blessing, as Peter will say in a moment. First he speaks about God’s counsel. What they have done with Christ in their wickedness has been used by God to fulfill what He has spoken about through all the prophets. All the prophets have spoken about His Christ suffering.
Here again we see both sides that we also saw in the previous chapter (Acts 2:22-Isaiah :). On the one hand, we see how man reveals his utter depravity by rejecting God’s goodness revealed in Christ. On the other hand, we discover that God has known this in advance and included it in His plans and even used it to fulfill His plans. We, creatures, cannot bring those two sides together, but that is what God is God for, while we are and remain creatures with the limitations that come with it, as in our comprehension. Through their sinful act, God has fulfilled His purpose regarding the suffering of Christ.
That they are completely guilty of their sins is also shown by Peter’s call to the people to repent and convert. He has made it clear to them what they are guilty of. This should lead them to repentance, to the acknowledgment that they have sinned. Conversion is inextricably linked to this acknowledgment and confession. Conversion is a change of thinking about God and the Lord Jesus. Repentance is an inner conviction of one’s own guilt, insight and recognition that I have sinned.
Conversion is a reversal in my assessment of what God has said. First there was rejection of what He said in His Word and of what He gave in Christ. Those who have come to repentance, to acknowledge and confess their sins, will believe God on His Word and accept His gift in Christ. He who repents and converts can know that his sins have been erased. Everything that stood between him and God has been wiped away. The barrier has been removed. This has cleared the way for a life of refreshment that comes “from the presence of the Lord”.
What can be applied to the individual applies here first and foremost to the whole people, for it is to them that Peter speaks. By “times of refreshing” he therefore means the time of the millennial realm of peace where all the blessings of God on earth will be enjoyed by His people. Then the face of the Lord will no longer be turned against them in wrath (Psalms 34:16), but His face will shine like the sun (Matthew 17:2). His people will be able to bask in the warmth of His rays and enjoy the full blessing of life according to His promise in the realm of peace (Proverbs 16:15).
The return of Christ Jesus to fulfill this depends – and still depends – on the conversion of the Jews. Peter makes it clear that God desires to send His Christ, of Whom he says He is “the Christ appointed” for them. Here we are made aware of God’s great love for His people.
The first sending of Christ to His people has not been a mistake. God is once again offering this Christ appointed for them, Who is none other than the “Jesus” rejected by them. What a persistent grace of God, Who does so in spite of their rejection of His Christ! He can do so, once again, based on the intercession of the Lord Jesus on the cross.
We see how God does everything possible to bring the nation to repentance in order to be able to give them the promised blessings. Only when they also reject a glorified Lord, just as they rejected Him in His humiliation, does God’s judgment come upon the people. In order to prevent this, God is still looking, as it were, at this moment for a possibility to send His Son to bring about the period of the restoration of all things.
Christ has been taken up into heaven. Rejected by the earth, heaven had to receive Him. Heaven did not do so reluctantly, but – seen from the purpose for which He had come to earth, namely, to establish the kingdom of God there – did so prematurely.
The original goal, however, will be reached. The moment of the restoration of all things points to the millennial realm of peace. During the kingdom of peace, everything in creation will be restored to the situation God had in mind when He created heaven and earth. God has always spoken about that situation through the mouths of His prophets. He has been pointing forward to that.
When His Son came, that time could come when Israel would have accepted Him. But He was rejected. That does not mean, however, that God’s plan is cancelled now. Through the mouth of Peter, God offers to fulfill His plan. That will happen when the people as a nation repent. We know that the people did not do this. Yet even that does not mean that God can no longer fulfill His plan. It has been postponed once more and will be fulfilled in the end time.
The Prophet Raised Up by God
That God will let the times of the restoration of all things come, has everything to do with Him to Whom Peter refers again by a quotation from one of those “holy prophets from ancient time”, that is Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-Psalms :). Like David, who Peter quoted in Acts 2, the Jews had great admiration for Moses. Moses spoke of a Prophet Who would be raised by God in the same way that God had raised him.
Moses was raised by God as a prophet for His people at a time when the people were in bondage and in great need. This also happened to the Lord Jesus. Just as Moses was raised in the midst of his brethren, so the Lord Jesus also came in the midst of his brethren, that is to say, by being born an Israelite, he became an Israelite. In the quote Moses calls upon to give heed to everything He says. That is what Peter presents to his audience.
Besides the similarities between Moses and the Lord Jesus as a prophet, there is also a big difference. Moses was an instrument that passed on the words of God. But not everything Moses said were words of God. However, what the Lord Jesus would say and did say, were all exclusively words of God. That is why Moses says that the people should hear “to everything He says to you”. “Everything” means every word, not a word excepted. Moses also adds the serious warning that whoever does not hear to that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people. As a result, such a person is forever cut off from the blessing that is the part of that people when He will reign.
And not only Moses spoke about the coming of that Prophet, the Lord Jesus. From Samuel, the first prophet appointed by God in His people, God has pointed out the coming of His Son. All the prophets who came after Samuel did. Peter points out to the people their privileged position as sons of the prophets. By this he also means to say that they must walk in the way the prophets have shown the people because only through that way the blessing of God can be received. That way is always the way of repentance and conversion.
Furthermore, they are not only sons of the prophets, but also of the covenant that God made with their fathers and in which He promised them His blessing. In that covenant God has pointed out blessing for the bodily offspring of Abraham, that is the people to whom Peter speaks here. God also promised blessing to all families of the earth through the offspring of Abraham (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:3-Numbers :; Galatians 3:8). God’s blessing in the realm of peace goes through Israel to the whole earth. That is why God has first of all sent to them the Lord Jesus, Who again is called God’s “servant” by Peter (Acts 3:13).
The “raising up” does not refer to the resurrection, but to the conception of the Lord Jesus as a Man on earth. When it comes to the resurrection from the dead, we do not read that God resurrected Him, but that He Himself has risen. When it is about God’s work in the resurrection, we read that God raised Him up. The ‘raising up’ refers to the first coming of the Lord Jesus to earth, His birth and His life, as we find it described in the Gospels.
The blessing God wants to give with the sending of the glorified Christ is to take the people away from their wicked ways. The wickedness is the hindrance to receive the blessing. When those who confess their wickedness, that hindrance is taken away. This is already a great blessing that also opens the door to the even greater blessings of the realm of peace.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Acts 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany