Acts~3

Here begins another section in the story of Acts which continues until 6:7 and deals with the events surrounding the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem, and particularly the dealings with the religious authorities.

After a reminder that the apostles went to the temple to pray, Luke begins to set the scene for the first miracle of the apostles which is recorded in detail in Acts. The generosity of Peter (“what I do have I give to you”, v6) and his faith in raising the man up (v7), the immediacy of the recovery (v7) and the response of the people (v9-10) are all noteworthy and impressive. The most important thing for this man, though, was the fact that he could now enter the temple (v8). It wasn’t that he had been physically unable to walk in, but he wasn’t allowed. There were several layers of entry to the temple and points beyond which only certain people were allowed, and a disabled man would not be allowed to go as far as an able one. Given the importance of the temple as the dwelling place of God, the fact that he could enter it would have been far more important to this man than the fact that he could now walk down the road to buy some milk. I think that this miracle symbolises the work of the apostles – going to people who cannot have a relationship with God because they are unacceptable to him and allowing them to have that relationship through faith in Jesus Christ (v16).

When the crowds wonder at what they have seen, he quickly points the attention away from himself and towards God and Jesus. I. Howard Marshall (“Acts”, Tyndale, IVP) points out that here, as in the speech at Pentecost, Peter begins by clearing up the crowd’s misunderstanding, then talks about the power of the risen Jesus which has made the miracle possible, then makes an evangelistic appeal to repent). Peter reminds the Jews of the life and death of Jesus, not avoiding pointing out their culpability in it or the significance of it (“killed the Author of life”, in particular, emphasises how wrong and unnatural Jesus’ death was, and contrasts him with the “murderer”), and tells them about the resurrection to which he and John “are witnesses”. He ends with the statement that it is by faith in the risen Jesus that the beggar has been healed. This is why telling them about the story of Jesus is the cure to the audience being confused by what has happened (v12) – when you realise who Jesus is and that he is alive it stops being surprising that his followers can do amazing things.

After having cleared up how the man was healed – and in so doing demonstrating his importance and reminding those listening of their hand in his death – he turns his argument to look at what they should do about it. He emphasises that God had foretold it, and that by the actions of these people he was actively fulfilling what he had said. He stresses that they must “repent” of what they have done, and that there is forgiveness if we turn to Jesus – the blotting out of sins, times of refreshing and the return (if that is what verse 20 means?) of Jesus. I am unsure of the meaning of “therefore” in verse 19. It may be saying ‘because God has worked to make it possible for forgiveness, repent and be forgiven’ or it may be saying ‘repent because the way that God fulfilled his promise was by your sin (“thus”, v18)’. The later would not be unfair – the fact that God worked through and used the sin of the people didn’t mean that they were not responsible for it.

Peter backs up what he has said with reference to the words of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-20, though “shall be destroyed from the people” does not appear there but is used in Leviticus 23:29 talking about something else) who Peter sees to be endorsing Jesus and the penalty for rejecting him. He then claims that all the prophets from Samuel spoke about “these days” – in Samuel’s case it may be seen that his prophecy of David’s kingdom was fulfilled in Jesus’.

Finally, Peter reminds his audience that they are the descendants of these prophets and of the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 and 22:18. (Paul in Galatians 3:16 explains that this promise means that through Jesus (the offspring of Abraham) everyone will be blessed.) Peter agrees, saying that Jesus has been sent to the Jews to bless them “by turning every one of you from your wickedness”. This is also a persuasion that they should believe in Jesus – they are the sons of the prophets who prophesied him so they should believe in him now he’s here. Jesus’ ministry was first to the Jews, so they have no excuse for ignoring it. The use of “first”, and “all the families of the earth” sets up that the blessing will be taken to the Gentiles as the Jews have ignored it – which we will see happening soon in Acts.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that when you raised Jesus from the dead you gave him authority and power and the gift of the Holy Spirit for his church. I thank you that you are powerfully active in this world, and that you offer forgiveness to everyone. Please help me to be more compassionate and bold with the people that I deal with. Amen.

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