Acts 3

Another snippet from our new book, The Emerging Ekklesia. This is the chapter that focuses on Acts, Chapter 3:

Chapter 2 gave us a glimpse into the fellowship life of the emerging congregation of Holy Spirit clothed people. We saw a simple outline of how the Spirit’s presence manifested itself in community. Luke shifts in Chapter 3 to give us an early record of how the message of Jesus and the Kingdom of God was being transmitted publicly.

The setting is instructive. We join two of the key believers (Peter and John) after they have climbed up to the temple mount for prayer around 3 PM.

Peter and John are functioning like the rest of their Jewish brethren.The immense changes in their internal worlds and the epoch changing events of Pentecost have not changed their Jewishness. They are still in transition with regard to their identity as well as their understanding.

Near the temple gate called Beautiful, they walk alongside a lame man who was being carried to his normal position to beg for alms. The man catches their attention by asking for money – perhaps with eyes downcast. At this point, things go very differently from what would have occurred in the past.

Three things happen. First, Peter and John fix their eyes on the man and direct him to look in their eyes. It is at this point that the man actually engages with them, thinking he is about to get some money. But Peter responds with a wonderful reply,

“I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6).

I must confess; I prefer the Kings James translation I learned as a child:

“Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

Taking the man’s hand, Peter raises him. As he does, the lame legs strengthen and he “leaps up.” Fantastic! The man is intermittently leaping as he walks along with Peter and John toward the temple, and at the same time, he is praising God. The commotion draws a large crowd as they reached Solomon’s Portico, a long double colonnade on the Eastern side of the Court of The Gentiles immediately outside of the temple itself.

Depending on the exact location along the quarter of a mile portico to which the crowd rushed, Peter had before him a court that could contain a large number of people. The southern court was perhaps 400 feet wide and 800 feet deep. It is there that he addressed those assembled with an explanation and an invitation.

The Anwer to the Question, “Who Healed this Man?”

“Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.” (Acts 3:12-16).

The man had been healed by the “Prince of Life” or at least by action in the name of Jesus who is the Prince of Life. That action was grounded in the faith that came through Jesus. Imagine, the one who has healed the lame man was the one they had “put to death.” Consider the wonder of this proclamation to those assembled! Undoubtedly, some had heard of the Pentecost event, but this was confirmation that the Spirit of God was functioning through Jesus’s emissaries.

“Prince of Life” is a translation of the Greek word “archēgos” which means author or captain. This is the only time in Scripture that the phrase occurs. It is early in the history of the church, but Peter, clearly acting under the inspiration of the Spirit (Luke devotes an entire chapter to this event), recognizes that true life comes from and is under the direction of the One who was just slain. That makes this phrase and the content behind it all the more amazing.

Invitation: Repent and Return

“And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:17-26).

The second part of Peter’s speech begins with, “I know you acted in ignorance.” I can’t help but connect Peter’s kindness in saying this to what Jesus said at His crucifixion and the forgiveness he extended to Peter who had denied Him three times. The Spirit of Jesus was working on Peter. Peter clarifies that Jesus is the one prophesied by the Prophets, but that is just to back up Peter’s strong admonition that they “repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things….”

Repent and return (“from their wicked ways,” verse 26) are the two actions he commands. Peter is speaking boldly with authority, and the authority backing him up is five-fold: the authority of God, the authority of Jesus, the authority of the Holy Spirit, the authority of the Prophets and the authority of Scripture. As on Pentecost, the results he promises to a Jew are staggering: the presence of the Lord will be with those that repent and return and Peter is preaching a Lord who will bring refreshing as opposed to punishment. Plus, their positive response will hasten Jesus’s return where all things will be restored. (Acts 3:21).

We should ask, “Exactly what will be restored?” Peter’s answer is, “All things” – the things spoken by the Prophets of old. The Greek word translated “restoration” is the word apokatástasis that can also mean, “reestablish.” Times when everything would be put together in an entirely new way. Jesus Himself had said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35).

Origin, a Christian teaching doctrinal foundations about 200 years later in Alexandria and Caesarea, gave his thoughts about the restoration: “The consummation of all things is the destruction of evil…. Many things are said obscurely in the prophecies of the total destruction of evil and the restoration to righteousness of every soul, but it will be enough for our present discussion to quote the following passage from Zephaniah: ‘…For my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kings, to pour upon them my indignation…. For then I will bring about a transformation of pure language among the people, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent.’” (Origen “Against Celsus,” 8.72).

We also see a bit of the mystery of God’s restoration revealed by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.” (Ephesians 1:9-10).

Whether Peter knew many specifics of the restoration at this point, I do not know. But He did know Jesus was coming again and that his brothers and sisters, the Jewish community, needed to be ready for His return.

My final emphasis is Peter’s clear understanding that the Jewish people were “the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ We have been amazingly blessed by those God chose to bless, of course Jesus stands out at the top, but I am thankful we live in a time when deep friendships can occur between Gentiles and God’s ancient people. May the Spirit that was on Peter be upon us all!