Many “miraculous signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43). Here is one of them.
In such a dynamic book which shows the gospel “on the way,” it is ironic that the first sign should concern an immobile man. This man was obviously totally dependent, having to be carried to the Temple to beg. Another irony is that a man in such desperate need should be placed at the gate called Beautiful (v. 2). He was now over 40 years old (Acts 4:22) and he had been crippled since birth (v. 2). All the world could do for him was to throw a few coins his way. Peter and John, however, were clear that the church could do far more.
Peter has no coins to give him. Rather, he calls on him in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to walk (v. 6). The response is instantaneous. It is not that he got better gradually; his feet and ankles immediately became strong so that he went “walking and jumping” (vv. 7–8 ). This is an incredible creation miracle, removing the cause of paralysis and bringing muscle to existence. Even the Sanhedrin could not deny the reality of “an outstanding miracle” (Acts 4:16).
It is clear that just as God had accredited Jesus by miracles and signs (Acts 2:22) so He is now accrediting the apostles, and therefore their message, in the same way (Acts 14:3). Periods of fresh revelation in Scripture are always accompanied by authenticating signs.
The crowd is “filled with wonder and amazement” (v. 10). Peter takes the opportunity afforded by the gathering of a crowd to preach the gospel to them. The church is mandated to preach the gospel. The sign both draws a crowd to hear the gospel and authenticates the message.
Peter, the source of Mark’s Gospel, would have remembered Jesus’ words from Mark 1:38 when the crowd was looking for Him to heal, that He had come to preach: “That is why I have come.” The healing of the man was a means of solving his deeper need as well as that of the crowd—to become eternally healthy.
In what ways is the beggar’s physical experience symbolic of our spiritual experience? Is there ground here to think that the church’s mandate is to preach and physically heal?
One of the features of our modern culture is our intense population density, yet we lack togetherness. We have proximity without community.
In these verses, we read of the community life of the prototype church. They shared the common experience of hearing the gospel, repentance, and baptism, and now they shared a common devotion. (The idea of the word is attachment like glue.) They stuck to the apostolic teaching and to the community and the breaking of bread. (The “breaking of bread” may indicate the Lord’s Supper or hospitality and prayer—see verse 46.)
Jesus had prayed in John 17:23 for the complete unity of believers. We now see this deep unity built around a common experience and common devotion.
This even extended to a Spirit-motivated voluntary socialism (vv. 44–45). We may think that the church was fairly self-absorbed, but no, their pooling of resources was to meet human need. At a time when government was not concerned for social welfare and life was cut-throat and cheap, no wonder people were impressed with this new society growing up in their midst in Jerusalem “enjoying the favour of all the people” (v. 47).
Again Luke reminds us that this impressive community is not just a matter of people turning over a new leaf, but is superintended by God (v. 43). God enabled the apostles to do wonders and “the Lord added to their” (v. 47). This is God at work through the life and witness of His people.
The church is never to be a closed, secret, and introverted community. All true fellowship is founded upon and focused on the gospel. All true fellowship overflows into evangelism which, after all, is the overarching mandate of the church (Acts 1:8).
You need such a fellowship with your fellow believers. The fractured world needs to see church communities witnessing to the reality of substantially restored human relationships because of the gospel.
How can you encourage your local fellowship to be more like its prototype?
Note how often community words are used in verses 42 to 47. How does this church challenge our unhealthy individualism?
Whenever a crowd gathers in Acts, a believer takes the opportunity of preaching to it. Here is Peter, who a little earlier had denied Christ, now fearlessly and with crystal clarity preaching the gospel. The Day of Pentecost is the day in the church calendar when there is preaching on the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit is not the focus of Peter’s address; rather, Jesus is. Peter speaks only of the Spirit in relation to Jesus.
The big idea of this Pentecostal sermon is that Jesus was crucified, was raised to life and is now exalted to God’s right hand, and that Peter and the others are eyewitnesses of these events. Jesus was “accredited by God” (v. 22), according to the “set purpose” of God, was crucified (v. 23), and was raised from the dead. Death had no claim on Him because He had no sin (v. 24). The proof that He is exalted to God’s right hand is that He now pours out the Holy Spirit (vv. 32–33). The summary is found in verse 36.
Peter’s audience is Jewish. Therefore, he wants them to know they should not be surprised at these events because they fulfil what Joel predicted for the last days (vv. 17–21). In verses 25 to 28, Peter quotes David in Psalm 16. The words of v. 27 are extravagant—Peter says David did not use these words of himself but of one greater than David who “will not be abandoned to the grave.” The Old Testament is Peter’s reference point for the Jewish audience.
Notice also that Peter does not hesitate to be direct. In verses 23 to 24, he makes the clearest contrast between what they did to the Son in God’s name—”put him to death,” and what God Himself did—”raised him from the dead.” The response to this sermon was deep conviction (v. 37). Peter tells them they are to repent and give public witness to their repentance through baptism (v. 38). The Christian gospel involves take and give (v. 38). God takes our sin and deals with it, and then gives us His Holy Spirit. This is the ongoing offer to all those who repent and turn to Christ.
That day 3,000 accepted the message (v. 41).
Think about the twin blessings of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit in your life, and be thankful. In verse 40, Luke describes Peter as warning the crowd. Are we serious enough in sharing the gospel with others? When was the last time you were warned not to neglect the gospel’s promises and warnings? The apostles could say “We are witnesses” of the resurrection and the ascension. What can we say today?