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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
Acts 3

 

 

Verse 1

Acts 3:1

(with Acts 4:4)

St. Peter's Second Apology

If the latter portion of this speech of St. Peter's be examined, it will be found that its central point, on which is thrown the chief weight of exhortation, is precisely the same as in Luke's abridged version of the former speech. "Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," he says here. "Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins," he said then. As though God were beseeching his countrymen through his lips, Peter here prayed them in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God; and he used such motives as, in the mouth of a Jew speaking to Jews, were most fit and likely to persuade.

I. In the first place he suggested, as an extenuation of their guilt, that it had been contracted in ignorance. It may not have been quite true of all, but it certainly was true of the vast mass of the people, who wheeled so readily from applauding Jesus to execrating Him, that neither when they did the one nor the other had they real knowledge on solid grounds who He was. Such ignorance as this does not excuse a crime, but it palliates it. It makes it more pardonable.

II. Further to open his hearers' hearts to penitence, he reminded them, as he had done at Pentecost, how their very crime had been the fulfilment, all unknown to themselves, of those predicted sufferings which it had been God's will to inflict upon Messiah. Through their slaying of the Christ, God had ordained that the Christ should become their Saviour.

III. But the most singular motive by which Peter here pressed his countrymen to repent, is that, upon their doing so, had been made to hinge the return of Christ in glory, and that predicted era of blessedness which is to enter when His personal presence is restored to the earth. The object of our Lord's retirement into the heavens he took to be the conversion of Israel to faith in Himself. So long as He was here they had denied Him; now, in His absence, they were to return and call with tears upon Him whom they had pierced. The faster Israel turned to Jesus, the sooner would Jesus return to Israel; for as Peter wrote a great many years later, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise" to return, He is only "longsuffering, not willing that any should perish." With urgency, therefore, did the preacher that day press upon his brethren, as Israelites, to turn every one from his iniquities, so that there might come the sooner those times of national reviving and restoration, which had so often been predicted to their fathers.

J. Oswald Dykes, From Jerusalem to Antioch, p. 123.



Verses 1-11

Acts 3:1-11

Look (1) at the social side, and (2) at the Apostolic side of this incident.

I. The social side. (1) We may be able to carry the cripple while we are unable to heal him. Do what you can. (2) The commonest minds, as well as the highest, have always associated the idea of charity with the idea of religion. (3) Look at the compensations of the poorest life. The man was carried daily by friendly hands. The man had the temple as his daily hope.

II. The Apostolic side. (a) The Apostles never attempted to do without public worship. (b) The Apostles never neglected human want in their anxiety to render Divine worship. (c) The Apostles never attended even to physical necessities in their own name.

Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 117.



Verse 6

Acts 3:6

I. Man is, by nature, morally crippled and helpless; a beggar, a bondman, carried about at another's will. Great bodily infirmities are the shadows of the sins and weaknesses of the soul. What a cripple is among men, a sinner is before the angels and pure spirits on high. All sin works by privation. It shuts up senses and organs which God meant to be inlets of joy and channels of life.

II. There is a Name which can make us whole again, sound, glad, and free. Your soul wants precisely what that poor cripple's body wanted, power to stand, to walk, to leap, and to utter forth the praises of God. And that power is in Christ, and in Christ alone. Light to the blind, strength to the impotent, life to the dead is He. The more you think of it earnestly, the more you will find that life is just what you need. A man whose system is worn out can be patched up for a while by the physicians, but a new gush of life into it is what it needs. Give it that, or you patch and prop in vain. This is what Christ can truly do for your soul. I am not speaking now of the solace of His compassion, of the joy of His communion, of the sweetness of His love, of the glory of the hope which He inspires. I sum it all up when I say, "In Him is life." That life, God's life, He can give to man, He will give to you. It will be a power in the end, all-mastering, all-ruling, a power unto salvation.

III. This is the time to believe on that Name, and to rise up and walk. Does God care for wrecks? Let that poor cripple answer. Let the Lord's works of mercy answer. They were mostly fragments, broken fragments of humanity that He gathered; they were mostly wrecks that He saved. Publicans, harlots, thieves, prodigals, whatever the world flung out as worthless, He gathered. Such life is in Him, such power of quickening and re-creating souls, that wretched ones, whom Scribes and Pharisees cast out from the decent fellowships of earth, shall be reigning among the angels, white-robed, palm-crowned, through eternity. Lay hold on Christ and the Lord will lift you; you will stand up as a man, and look your tempters and tyrants in the face; you will find strength to defy them, and to win at first, at any rate, an easy victory. You will go forth to the old drudgery with a new and wonderful joy.

J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, Oct. 18th, 1876, p. 248.


Note:—

I. The lame man. It is a fact that almost all the alms of the world are administered at the gate of the Temple. Almost all the charitable institutions of the world are dependent for their moral and pecuniary support; and almost all the benevolent movements of society are dependent for their success, on them that go up to the Temple at the hour of prayer. When money is needed to assuage the world's grief, to relieve the world's distress, men go straight to the gate of the Temple to beg. Christianity is founded not so much in the powers as in the needs of the race.

II. The cure of the lame man. The man sought alms—but the Apostles gave him what was better; they gave him health. Health without money is infinitely better than money without health. Moreover, by endowing him with health, they were conferring on him the ability to earn money; by imparting the greater they were also giving the lesser. In this the miracle was a sign, and typifies to us the Divine method of saving the world. The Gospel does not aim directly at improving men's circumstances, it aims at improving men themselves. But no sooner does it bring about a moral improvement in the men, than the men bring about a noticeable improvement in their surroundings. The Gospel converts the man, the man converts the house. Men need better houses and purer air, and more wholesome water; but the great want of men is life—more life; and Jesus Christ came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly. Utilitarianism does men good, Christianity makes them good.

J. Cynddylan Jones, Studies in the Acts, p. 52.


Look:—

I. At that which Peter had not, "Silver and gold have I none." The question as to whether the Church's power is increased by worldly possessions is one of the very last importance. It was an essential condition of the prevalence of the Gospel that men should be holy, and if they were determined to cling to their sins it was a necessary consequence that the only way to peace should lie through contention. So, though it be the future of the Church to inherit the glory of the Gentiles, it is an essential condition of her power that she shall abandon all selfishness and covetousness, and if men will cling to selfishness and covetousness, then the only way to power is by stripping herself of her earthly possessions. God only knows whether that be necessary for the Church. Now, if ever, we must gird up our loins and trim our lamps, taking up the pilgrim's staff and scallop-shell, seeking upon the hard rough sands of the world's desert the way to the heavenly Jerusalem.

II. Notice next the positive aspect of the text. (1) The completeness of the miracle. The Apostle did but speak, and straightway by the Almighty power of God—it was as if an electric shock had passed through him—the impotent man could leap and walk. And so it is in the conversion of the soul. "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation." (2) The name and means by which the miracle was wrought. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." There is the explanation of all; there is the explanation of the miracle; there is the secret spell of Apostolic power. Just at the time when His people are passing through gloom and sorrow, the highest heavenly power is wielded with a tenderest human pity, so that when we come in our weakness, our sin, our loneliness, and look up to heaven, we see not the naked blinding glory of the Deity, but the face of the High Priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities bending over us in pity and love.

Bishop Moorhouse, Penny Pulpit, No. 407.

References: Acts 3:6.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 189; Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 3. Acts 3:6-8.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 60. Acts 3:7.—New Outlines on the New Testament, p. 81.


Verse 10

Acts 3:10

The architecture of the old Jewish Temple may serve us for a parable today. The truth that it suggests will be the harmony between a noble undertaking and a beautiful beginning—that every true temple ought to have a beautiful gate. The importance of beginnings is the veriest commonplace of practical virtue. Think of the wisdom and love of God who has put the beauty of youth at the entrance of every human life, and especially now consider the child's religion.

I. The religion of childhood is not only possible, but it is the normal type of religion; is that which Christianity most contemplates; and that which, when Christianity shall have really entered into her power, all men shall accept as the very image and pattern of religion. The current idea of the Churches, that adult conversion is the type and intended rule of Christianity, comes largely from the fact that the first preachers of Christianity had of necessity to be largely occupied with men who had known nothing of Christianity in their youth. The evident design of God's creation, the comprehensive form of the incarnation, the clear presence in children of the power and the need of religion, these are the forces which, in spite of every tendency of the grown people to make children wait till they grow up, has always kept alive a hope, a trust, however blind, that a child's religion was a possible reality; that a child might serve, and love, and live for God.

II. What is the true character of the religion of a child? Certainly to be sweet and real, it must be the possession by God of the faculties and qualities that belong especially to childhood. (1) The first and most prominent of them all is the faculty of genuine, unhesitating, unqualified admiration. (2) Another thing in a child's religion is the perfect healthiness of his traditionalism, of his belonging to a certain sect, and holding certain opinions. Grown people often cling to the faith of their fathers controversially. Their love for it is mixed up with jealousy and spite and pride. A child knows nothing of all that. (3) The simplest and primary form of the presentation of the Gospel is the one which is preserved most truly and necessarily in the teaching of children. The child is a little Athenian, always listening for some new thing. And so the child is ready, if it can be rightly told him, to hear, above all the other messages that come to him out of this ever-opening and surprising world, the best and highest news of all, the Gospel, simply as glad tidings of the love of God and the salvation of the world by Jesus.

Phillips Brooks, Twenty Sermons, p. 127.


References: Acts 3:11, Acts 3:12.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 459. Acts 3:12.—R. W. Dale, The Evangelical Revival, p. 171.


Verses 12-26

Acts 3:12-26

The speech of Peter may be regarded in four aspects:—

I. As showing the false method of looking at human affairs. "As though through our own power of holiness we had made this man to walk."

II. As showing the true method of regarding the most extraordinary events. "God hath glorified His Son Jesus."

III. As showing the only method of setting man right with God. "Repent ye therefore and be converted."

IV. As showing the sublime object of Jesus Christ's Incarnation. "To bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities."

Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 119.


References: Acts 3:12-26.—R. W. Dale, Evangelical Revival, p. 171; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 314. Acts 3:13, Acts 3:15Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 460. Acts 3:14, Acts 3:15.—J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 321. Acts 3:16.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 461; vol. xix., p. 301.


Verse 17

Acts 3:17

The Danger and Results of Unbelief.

Consider:—

I. How St. Peter came to have a right to make allowance for the Jews. When the Apostle states that what the Jews did, they did through ignorance, he must be considered as conveying the idea that they were not acquainted with the actual character and dignity of Christ. They did not crucify Him as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, but as one who pretended to be the Messiah, and who blasphemed in calling Himself the Son of God. But were the Jews, then, innocent in this their ignorance? We may not venture to say this; we may not venture to think that St. Peter implied this; for this would evidently impeach the whole course of Christ's ministry on earth, representing His miracles as defective credentials, inadequate to the establishing of the character which He claimed to Himself. The Jews, beyond all question, if ignorant, were to blame for their ignorance. They might have known, they ought to have known, that Jesus was the Christ, and ignorance can only be an excuse when we do not ourselves cause it, whether through wilfully neglecting means of obtaining information, or cherishing prejudices which bar out the truth. It was not in crucifying Christ, but in rejecting the final evidence afforded by the descent of the Holy Ghost, that they perpetrated the sin for which they were cast off.

II. Contrast the case of the modern unbeliever with that of the Jews and judge whether it be an exaggerated charge which would fix on the latter the far greater criminality. The Jew crucified Christ whilst His appearance was that of an ordinary man; we crucify Him afresh when He has assumed the glory which He had from the beginning with the Father. It was the Son of Man on earth who was crucified by the Jew; it is the Son of God in the heavens who is crucified by ourselves. Christ had not then given the most touching proof of His love and His compassion. He had not yet died for His enemies; neither was it understood, even by His disciples, and much less by His adversaries, that the death which He was willing to undergo was to serve as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. The Jew, at the time, and in the act referred to in our text, had not the power of sinning such a sin as any one of us sins, when, through not believing in Christ, he crucifies Him afresh. It is Christ's having been once crucified in the flesh, which gives such immeasurable heinousness to His being crucified again in the spirit.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1498.

References: Acts 3:17.—Contemporary Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 170. Acts 3:17, Acts 3:18.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 462. Acts 3:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 804; J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 8; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 8; W. Hay Aitken, Around the Cross, pp. 33, 49. Acts 3:19.—J. H. Thorn, Laws of Life after the Mind of Christ, 2nd series, p. 105. Acts 3:19, Acts 3:20.—R. S. Turner, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 264; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. ii., p. 172; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xix., p. 115.


Verse 19

Acts 3:19, Acts 3:21

The Restitution of All Things will be:

I. A clearing away of suffering. Earth shall be restored to its original beauty; its face shall be wiped from tears; its scarred and stained countenance shall be radiant again with a more than Eden loveliness: for it is one of those "all things" which must receive restitution when the heaven which has received Him shall send Jesus back.

II. We pass to a thought not less bright, and far more practical, when we say that man, his soul and body, his very being and life, is among these "all things" which are awaiting a restoration. Who that has seriously tried the struggle to be holy, the warfare under Christ's banner with indwelling, obstinate, inveterate sin, has not found himself vexed and irritated, if not reduced to despair, by perpetual failure; has not felt times without number that without a promise he would surrender, he would capitulate on the instant, and that the promise which keeps him fighting is not more that of "strength as his day," than that of victory in the end? If there be a restoration of all things at the Advent, and amongst these "all things" I am, then I will arise, if need be, from a thousand falls in one day, cast down, but not destroyed.

III. That restitution of all things which thus affects earth and the man, has an aspect, finally, towards God. It is one of the express revelations of the times of refreshing, that then the conscious presence, the spiritual Shechinah, the Divine companionship, will be restored. In the light of that sun all lesser luminaries will pale, if not vanish. That only can live there which can bear the light of God. Sin will be destroyed, and all that is of it; selfish affection, creature worship, idolatrous love. All that then survives will have fallen into its place by instinct; all other love will shine in the love of God; stronger, more intense than ever, yet entirely pure, entirely devout, absolutely sinless and selfless. In the prospect of that admission into the very presence of God, let us be willing to endure now the difficulty of the pursuit and the delay of the attainment. If we give up the search, we must abandon the hope, if we will only seek on, we shall surely find.

C. J. Vaughan, Temple Sermons, p. 66.


References: Acts 3:19-21.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 35; Homilist, 1st series, vol. v., p. 260; T. L. Cuyler, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 352; J. Keble, Sermons for Lent and Passiontide, p. 318; C. J. Vaughan, Church of the First Days, vol. i., p. 111. Acts 3:20.—Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 368. Acts 3:21.—S. Martin, Pulpit, vol. iii., No. 1625. Acts 3:22.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 217. Acts 3:22-26.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 36.


Verse 26

Acts 3:26

Here, in few words, is the plan proposed by our heavenly Father to make us happy, a plan well worthy to be considered.

I. God does not secure happiness to his people by making all of them rich. Instead of saying "Blessed are ye rich," he says, "Blessed are the poor."

II. Our heavenly Father does not propose to make us happy by bestowing on us the empty honours of the world.

III. God's plan for making His people happy does not consist in affording them a large share of worldly pleasure.

IV. There can be no salvation for us unless we are delivered from our sins. God only makes men happy by making them holy. The object of the coming of the Son of God in the flesh was that "He might save His people from their sins."

J. N. Norton, Old Paths, p. 159.


Note:—

I. The boldness and loftiness of the claim which is here made for Jesus Christ.

II. The dawning vision of a kingdom of world-wide blessings.

III. The purely spiritual conception of what Christ's blessing is "To bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities."

A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 1st series, p. 245.


References: Acts 3:26.—W. Hay Aitken, Around the Cross, p. 97; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 377; C. J. Vaughan, Church of the First Days, vol. i., p. 130. Acts 3:26.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 190; T. M. Herbert, Sketches of Sermons, p. 55.

Acts 3

The Lame Man Healed

We are reminded by this incident:

I. That there are some things more valuable than money. Peter with his gift of healing was of infinitely greater service to this lame man than if he had possessed the riches of Croesus. The moment wealth becomes an end to be sought simply for its own sake, it ceases to be a blessing.

II. That fidelity is the true kindness in the end. Mark how pointedly Peter here addresses the multitude. He charges home upon them, in unmistakable terms, the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Faithfulness is to be tempered with justice in all things, but especially when we are dealing with the unconverted.

III. That the enjoyment of times of refreshing from God's presence is inseparably connected with our return to God.

W. M. Taylor, Peter the Apostle, p. 185.


References: Acts 3—J. Oswald Dykes, Preacher's Lantern, vol. iv., p. 385. Acts 4:1, Acts 4:2.—Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 335. Acts 4:1-4.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 37.



 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Acts 3:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/acts-3.html.

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Thursday, July 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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