Sermon title:    The Marvelous Acts of the Apostles

Immanuel Baptist Church – September 13, 2020

 

 

The written Word of God is alive and powerful.

 

We spent over 2 ½ years going through the Gospels

chronologically covering all that our Lord Jesus

said and did.

 

Now, for the past few weeks,

we’ve been looking at the opening chapters

of the Book of Acts,

which is found in our Bibles right after

the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

 

The full title of this book is “The Acts of the Apostles.”

 

And it covers the most significant things that happened

in the early Christian Church,

beginning with Christ’s ascending bodily to heaven

while the Apostles watched him

disappear into the clouds of the sky.

 

And the Book of Acts tells what the Apostles said and did

in the days immediately following that,

and over the next decades,

as they carried the Gospel message

across the Middle East and the

Eastern Mediterranean region.

 

So far, we’ve looked at how the early Church

organized itself and picked its leadership.

 

And we’ve seen how God 

empowered the Church to do ministry

by pouring out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost,

with 120 believers speaking in tongues,

as a powerful evidence of this outpouring

and as a means to give the Gospel message

to thousands of foreign-speaking Jews

    visiting Jerusalem from all over the world.

 

We saw how Peter and the other Apostles

used that occasion to call the crowds to repentance,

with 3,000 getting baptized that day

as followers of Christ.

 

And then we saw how the early Church

provided for all those new believers

by sharing their possessions to care for them

as they remained in Jerusalem

to become grounded in the faith

under the Apostles’ teaching.

 

Now, as we look at the 3rd Chapter of Acts this morning,

we see another event that grew the Church,

as Peter and John

went into God’s Temple in Jerusalem.

 

Beginning with the 1st Verse, we read[ 2 SLIDES ]

1 Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 A certain man who was lame from his mother’s womb was being carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask gifts for the needy of those who entered into the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive gifts for the needy.

 

Jews had synagogues in cities and towns all over the world,

where they gathered to pray and

to read the Hebrew Scriptures.

 

But the Temple on Temple Mount in Jerusalem

was the center of Jewish worship, for Jews everywhere.

 

This is a photo of Temple Mount in modern-day Jerusalem.

 

The Islamic Dome of the Rock is the golden-domed building

that stands now about where the temple used to be.

 

There are many doors or gates to the huge Temple area,

and we don’t know which one was called

“the Beautiful Gate” back in the 1st Century.

 

But it was a large public area,

where large numbers of people would have been

coming and going—

especially at the hour of prayer.

 

And this man who was born lame was a beggar

who was regularly left at that location

to beg for money,

as people passed him to enter the Temple.

 

4 Peter, fastening his eyes on him, with John, said, “Look at us.” 5 He listened to them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, that I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

 

This shows the power of God

that was operating through the Apostles.

 

Peter didn’t ask this man if he had faith to be healed.

 

Peter didn’t tell him about Jesus, and ask if he believed.

 

In fact, the lame man they found lying there

had no idea who Peter and John were—

much less, who Jesus was.

 

But Peter was able to command him, in the name of Jesus,

to get up and walk.

 

It didn’t take faith on that man’s part.

 

He was taken completely by surprise,

when Peter commanded him, in Jesus’ name,

to get up and walk.

 

We read that . . .

 

7 He took him by the right hand, and raised him up. Immediately his feet and his ankle bones received strength. 8 Leaping up, he stood, and began to walk. He entered with them into the temple, walking, leaping, and praising God.

 

Peter never asked the lame man if he had faith,

but the man certainly gave God the credit

for his miraculous healing.

 

He not only walked, but kept leaping into the air,

praising God.

 

He was thankful and appreciative—

as appreciative as one could be,

leaping and praising God.

 

This didn’t pass without notice

in the crowded outer court of the Temple.

 

Continuing in Verse 9,[ 2 SLIDES ]

9 All the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 They recognized him, that it was he who used to sit begging for gifts for the needy at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. They were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 11 As the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.

 

Just inside the Beautiful Gate of the Temple

was this large open area called Solomon’s Porch

or Solomon’s Colonnade.

 

Jesus had taught and addressed crowds there

not many months earlier.

 

But what happened there now,

with this miraculous healing, was something new

that attracted everyone’s attention.

 

It’s not likely that anyone in the crowd

recognized Peter and John.

 

Even though they must have accompanied Jesus

when he addressed crowds there months earlier,

people’s attention would have been on Christ.

 

But the crowds certainly recognized the beggar

who they always passed

whenever they went in or out of the Temple

by that gate.

 

Yet, here he was,

not lying helpless on a mat on the pavement,

but leaping and praising God,

while he kept clinging to Peter and John,

thanking them for working that miracle.

 

Peter saw the crowds

and seized the opportunity to address them.

 

12 When Peter saw it, he responded to the people, “You men of Israel, why do you marvel at this man? Why do you fasten your eyes on us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made him walk?

 

Peter had no desire to appear important or powerful.

 

Rather, he used the opportunity to talk about Jesus.

 

He went on to explain that it was their faith in Jesus

that allowed Peter and John

to raise up this handicapped man

who had been born that way,

enabling him now to walk and leap about.

 

Peter told the crowds,

 

13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up, and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had determined to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, to which we are witnesses. 16 By faith in his name, his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which is through him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

 

It was a Jewish audience Peter was speaking to.

 

And he explained to them

that he was not introducing any foreign religion,

but rather, it was

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers,”

who raised up Jesus from the dead to heavenly glory.

 

And it was through Peter and John’s faith in Jesus

that they were able to raise up this lame man

by pronouncing Jesus’ name over him.

 

It was their faith in Jesus

that empowered them to do this miracle.

 

But he also reminded the crowd that they had killed Jesus.

 

They had killed “the Prince of life”

a couple of months earlier,

when they had asked Pontius Pilate

to release a murderer

and send Jesus to the cross.

 

Just as he did with the crowds

drawn to the streets below the upper room

by the miracle of tongues on the day of Pentecost,

Peter accused this crowd of their sin—

being complicit in killing the Messiah.

 

But he acknowledged that they didn’t really understand

the gravity of what they did on that shameful occasion.

 

He told them,

17 “Now, brothers, I know that you did this in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But the things which God announced by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled.

 

All the prophecies of Scripture foretold

that Christ would be killed,

and they fulfilled those prophecies.

 

But their guilt remained, for their part in doing so.

 

They had added that sin of killing the Messiah

to all their other sins.

 

Peter called them to repent of their sins.

 

19 “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that he may send Christ Jesus, who was ordained for you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God spoke long ago by the mouth of his holy prophets.

 

Peter called the crowd to repent, and turn to God—

to repent, and change their ways.

 

Then their sins would be blotted out.

 

Their sins would be forgiven.

 

And Peter put it all in perspective—

the perspective of the Old Testament prophecies.

 

Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament promise of a Messiah,

and Jesus would remain in heaven

until the time to complete those promises—

times of refreshing--

the times of restoration of all things”—

the timewhen ‘God’s kingdom will come,

and his will will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.’

 

And then Peter quoted examples of those prophecies,

quoting first from Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy

that the Messiah would be like Moses:

22 For Moses indeed said to the fathers,

 

‘The Lord God will raise up a prophet for you from among your brothers, like me. You shall listen to him in all things whatever he says to you. 23 It will be that every soul that will not listen to that prophet will be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19 24

 

Moses set up the Old Covenant

between God and the Jewish people,

and Christ set up the New Covenant.

 

Just as the Jews needed to obey

the Laws of Moses in order to stay alive,

so now it becomes necessary

to listen to Jesus

the ‘prophet’ like Moses—

in order to gain everlasting life.

 

Peter explained to the Jewish crowds

that Jesus was their new Moses—

the mediator of the life-giving New Covenant.

 

And it was not only Moses who spoke prophetically

foretelling Jesus’ role.

 

The other Old Testament prophets did so as well.

 

Peter went on to tell the crowds,[ 2 SLIDES ]

Yes, and all the prophets from Samuel and those who followed after, as many as have spoken, they also told of these days. 25 You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham,

‘In your offspring will all the families of the earth be blessed.’ Genesis 22:18; 26:4  26

 

Peter pointed out to them that

all the Old Testament prophets pointed forward

to the coming of the Messiah.

 

And he reminded them that God promised

their forefather Abraham that

‘In your offspring will all the families of the earth be blessed.’

 

Unbelieving Jews who don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah

interpret that to mean that

the Jewish people as a whole

would be a blessing

to all the families of mankind.

 

But, what God’s promise to Abraham really meant—

is explained elsewhere in the New Testament.

 

And it’s that Abraham’s offspring

would be the promised Messiah,

who would bless all the families of mankind.

 

And Christ Jesus has fulfilled that

by sending his Gospel of salvation to all nations.

 

Pagan nations have turned from savage brutality

and from darkness and hopelessness

to Christ’s love, joy and peace.

And Christ Jesus will further fulfill that promise

that the seed of Abraham

would bless all the families of mankind

when Christ comes in Kingdom power

to replace corrupt human governments

with the holy Kingdom of God.

 

Meanwhile, people from all the families of mankind

who accept Jesus as the Messiah,

repent of their sins, and follow Him,

are being blessed with everlasting life.

 

But those blessings would come first to the Jews,

as Peter went on to say

to his Jewish audience at the Temple,

God, having raised up his servant Jesus, sent him to you first to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your wickedness.”

 

God sent his Son first to the Jews,

to bless them—each one who would

turn away from their wickedness

to become followers of Jesus.

Peter and the other Apostles would share the Gospel

first with the Jews,

before taking the Gospel to the rest of the world.

 

And, even when Paul would go on missionary journeys

across Asia Minor and into Europe,

he would go first to the Jewish synagogue

in each city and town,

to share Christ with the Jews,

before sharing the Gospel with Gentiles.

-------------------------------------

 

So, what do we learn from this account?

 

First of all, it is a history lesson

in how God used miracles to grow the early Church.

 

Knowing the history of our faith

is vitally important,

because it gives us a foundation

for why we believe as we do.

 

There are many false ‘gospels’ being spread abroad today,

even within many churches

that call themselves “Christian.”

 

And knowing the history of our faith

helps protect us from being misled

by the false teachers who promote

imitation “Christianity.”

 

We also learn from this episode

the sovereign power of God to heal.

 

God gave the Apostles authority and power

to heal in Jesus’ name,

and their ability to do that

rested on God’s power alone.

 

It did not depend on whether the infirm person

had faith, or not.

 

That lame man at the Temple gate

had no idea who Jesus was

or who Peter and John were,

but God’s power healed him, anyway.

 

This shows the hypocrisy of so-called ‘faith healers’ today

who claim to have that apostolic power,

but who blame their failures

on the infirm person’s lack of faith.

 

The so-called ‘health & wealth gospel’ is a false gospel,

and this account in Acts helps us identify it as false.

 

Another false teaching of the health-&-wealth ‘gospel’

is that Christians who are sick are in that condition

because they lack faith.

 

That simply isn’t true.

 

The disciple Timothy was exemplary in strong faith,

yet Paul wrote to him at 1 Timothy 5:23

Stop  drinking  only  water,  and  use  a

little  wine  because of  your  stomach and

your frequent illnesses.”

 

So, Timothy was frequently ill, despite his strong faith.

 

And the Apostle Paul reminded the Galatian church

that he himself was seriously ill

when he first visited them.

 

He told them at Galatians 4:13-15

As  you  know,  it  was  because  of  an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 14 Even  though  my  illness  was  a  trial  to you,  you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.”

 

In fact, Paul told the Corinthians that

he prayed 3 times for relief.

 

At 2 Corinthians 12:8 he said,

“Three times  I  pleaded  with  the  Lord  to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

 

We can pray for healing,

and those prayers are answered when it is God’s will,

but we need to surrender to God’s will.

 

Permanent healing for all believers won’t come until

Christ returns and puts an end to all the ills

of this world.

--------------------------

And a third lesson we can glean from this episode

is to take advantage of every opportunity

to share the Gospel of Christ.

 

If we have people’s attention,

what better thing is there for us to share with them

than our faith in Jesus Christ?

 

So, we applaud sports figures who honor Jesus

and give him credit, when they are interviewed

about their success.

 

And we applaud others who come into

the media spotlight for one reason or another,

and who use that opportunity

to share Christ with the audience,

just as Peter spoke to the crowd

drawn together by the miracle

at the Temple.