Audio Library

Power in the Name – Acts 3

Second Presbyterian Church
George Robertson
November 26, 2017

 

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

 

In this passage, you will find the promise that Jesus’ power meets the human being’s most desperate needs: healing for the body and restoration of the soul. When a person is desperate in either or both of those areas, he will sacrifice everything else in exchange for healing and restoration. But complete healing and restoration are only found in the power of Jesus’ name.

 

During the middle ages, the church lost its way by becoming enamored with wealth and material riches. Thomas Aquinas once visited Rome during this time in order to pay his respects to the Pope. During the visit, the Pope proudly showed him the treasury, which contained chests of silver and gold collected from the Church all over the world. With a grin the Pope said to Aquinas, “You see, Brother Thomas, we can no longer say as the first Pope, ‘Silver and gold have I none!’” Aquinas eyed the Pope bravely and responded, “Nor can we say, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.’”[1]

 

There are Christians, congregations, and denominations (Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox) who have financial resources the Apostles could have never dreamed of. They can no longer say, “Silver and gold have I none.” At the same time, they have become so intoxicated with those material things which will never last that they have lost the ability to minister the power of Jesus’ name which alone is sufficient to heal the body and restore the soul for eternity.

 

This passage calls us to throw off those temporal idols which distract and contain no power to accomplish anything of eternal significance so that we might return to the Gospel of Jesus Christ which can.

 

Powerful to Heal the Body (1-13)

One of the weaknesses of the church in the last couple centuries is that it denies the existence of miracles. Mark Saucy makes these helpful conclusions about Jesus’ miracles:

 

The miracles in the Gospels first confirm the message of God's in-breaking rule and then reveal the identity of the messianic Ruler (John 2:11; 4:53; 6:14; 7:31; 9:38; 11:4, 15,45; 12:11; 20:30; cf. Matt. 14:22-33 and Mark 6:47-56). . .

 

Jesus' many miracles were significant revelations of the kingdom of God that Jesus preached. They revealed the kingdom's eschatological and soteriological nature according to promises in the Old Testament about the Spirit-anointed New Age. Miracles demonstrated that the kingdom Jesus announced would be Yahweh's promised Sabbath rest, the end of Satan's chaotic exploitation of the creation, the final actualization of divine mercy, and the perfect realization of purity from the heart. They also revealed the kingdom's inherent physicality. They showed that the Old Testament promises regarding the creation, human societies, and individuals called for physical and thus literal fulfillment in this kingdom. The kingdom of God is not a spiritual entity only.[2]

 

In looking at this account, I want you to look beyond the obvious. Look beyond the obvious account of a man’s physical healing to what Jesus is saying about the value of our physical natures to him.

 

More than a Commodity (1-5)

Peter and John encountered the beggar on their way to the Temple to pray. The Jews prayed three times per day in the temple, so the beggar had strategically located himself in a high traffic area. He was at the Gate Beautiful where his presence would pain the conscience of the worshiper into giving him money. Handicapped people were not trained in a vocation and were therefore forced to beg. This man’s presence in the Temple was an indictment on God’s people, who had been commanded in Deuteronomy to allow no one in the community to become impoverished (Dt. 15:4,7,8). Instead, the Jews of the day allowed people to be reduced to such indignity so that they could define their gifts of token alms as rewarding deeds. He was therefore a useful commodity to help assuage a guilty conscience with an act of kindness. Not only did the citizens come to view this man as no more than a commodity, he had come to view himself and others the same way. But Jesus through the Apostles will not allow him to think this way anymore.

 

Inherently Worthy (3-5)

Looking is a prominent part of this passage. Luke makes a special point to say that Peter and John “looked straight at him.” It was probably the first time someone made eye contact with him for a very long while, perhaps in more than forty years (4:22). These apostles looked at him as a human being. They saw him as a man made in the image of God with a soul in need of Jesus, whereas others saw him as a nuisance at worst and a commodity at best. Then notice that Peter commands the man to look at them. He had apparently become accustomed to stretching out his hand and not looking at people as people. He had come to view himself in terms of the money he needed and he equally reduced others to sources of money. Peter and John called him to the Gospel which not only forgives sin, but restores people as people.

 

I also want you to see that you are more than this present body. The obvious lesson of this passage is that Jesus contains all power to heal our bodies of whatever ails them. He is able to do that in this life and often does. But he does not heal every ailment in this life, because it is only temporal. What Jesus promises to his children is absolute and permanent healing of the body at the resurrection.

 

Notice that Peter called on him to believe in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. In other words, to be healed body and soul, this man had to confess fully who Jesus is. He had to believe in the historical man Jesus who came from Nazareth who was also God, the Christ. There is no salvation without embracing the full revelation of Christ in the New Testament. Likewise, the promise is to you that if you fully confess Jesus Christ—fully God and fully man, the Savior of the world—you will be assured of the salvation of your soul and the resurrection of your body.

 

Powerful to Restore the Soul (14-26)

While we recognize the extreme importance and dignity God extends to the body, we must recognize that Christ does not heal this man as an end in itself. Peter makes clear in v.16 that the physical healing was an outward confirmation to his even more important spiritual healing. Jesus similarly healed the paralytic in order to confirm the more important work of the forgiveness of his sins. If you receive him as your Lord and Savior, Jesus promises to restore your soul. In fact, your physical resurrection will be cosmic and eternal proof that he has healed you of your sins.

 

There are three necessary aspects of this restoration of the soul: guilt, grace, and guidance.

 

Guilt (14-16)

Though the people gathered in amazement over what they took to be Peter and John’s power, Peter faithfully used it as an opportunity to preach Christ. Whenever attention comes to us we must take it as an opportunity to testify to Christ’s power and faithfulness and never accept it as our own.

 

The first and most unpleasant thing the Gospel must do is convict us of our sin. We must admit that we were born sinful and also that we still commit sin. When God makes you feel guilty through the work of the Holy Spirit, he is doing it out of love. He loves you too much not to convict you of your guilt and drive you to repentance.

 

Grace (17-20)

But notice, Peter does not leave us there. It is only as one is confronted with the bad news of his sin that he is forced to flee to the good news of grace. God raised Jesus from the dead, proving he was the Christ. And the apostles are witnesses to the resurrection. Their testimony ironically brings good news to Christ’s murderers. While our sins could not ultimately kill him, he alone is able to give life to our dead souls. Only a sovereignly gracious God is able to take something as ugly as Christ’s crucifixion and transform it into that which would fulfill his salvific purposes (18).  

 

So how do we become recipients of this grace? The simple solution is the one which we will find oft repeated in Acts—repentance. Repentance always refers to turning from sin, to the Lord. Literally, the text reads, “flee to God.” The image is that of turning from your sins which will eternally destroy you and fleeing to Christ for refuge.

 

Guidance (21-26)

Guilt leads us to grace and grace then leads us to guidance. Finally, Christ refreshes our souls by constantly guiding us to the day of restoration. As a prophet, he does so through his Word. The day of restoration is that time in which all things will be subjected to the rule of Christ (1 Co. 15:24). It was not a new idea in the New Testament, but something promised by God through the prophets from the time of the fall (1 Pt. 1:10,11; 2 Pt. 1:19-21).

 

Moses was the first and greatest prophet who was called at the burning bush (Ex. 3:4) and identified as a prophet in Dt. 18:18. He is the clearest picture of Christ in the Old Testament. Just as Moses never left the people of God until he led them to the border of the Promised Land, so Christ will never quit guiding his people toward blessing until he completely restores all things. Jesus remains in heaven until the Gospel has been preached to the ends of the earth (Mt. 24:14).

 

Someone tells the story of a poet and an artist looking at the French masterpiece, Nicolas Poussin’s Christ Healing the Blind. The painting represented Jesus healing the blind man at Jericho. The artist asked the poet to examine the canvas and tell him what he saw. The poet complimented the artist’s depiction of Christ, his grouping of the onlookers, and the way he captured the expressions on their faces. But the artist saw beyond the obvious. He pointed to the corner of the masterpiece where there was a discarded cane lying on the steps of the house where the blind man had been sitting. The artist said to the poet, “Now, look! The blind man sat on those steps with his cane in hand. But when he heard that Jesus was passing by, he was so sure that he would be healed that he let the cane lie there and he went to Jesus fully expecting to see!”[3]

 

My friends, in this passage Christ has been set before you. He is presented to you as one powerful to heal body and soul forever. Without any reservation; without any props; without any back-up plans, run to him for complete healing. If you do, his promise is to wipe away your sins, lead you into times of refreshing, and restore your body at the day of restoration. 

 

  

[1] H.A. Ironside, Lectures on the Book of Acts (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1951), 84.

[2] Mark R. Saucy, “Miracles and Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God,” Bibliotheca Sacra 153 (July-September 1996) 281-307.

[3] Myron Augsburger, Matthew in The Communicator’s Commentary (Waco: Word, 1982), 239.