Acts 3:1-26

A Bible Study led by Dr. Larry Reynolds

February 19, 2009


(Acts 3:1-26)


Acts 2 ends with a beautiful description of the church functioning as the church was designed by God to function.  There was a deep reverence for God, a demonstration of miraculous power, a genuine sense of community, meaningful worship, and continuing growth (see Acts 2:43-47).  It would have been wonderful if the church could have continued in that state indefinitely, but that was not to be.  The church is involved in spiritual warfare, and Satan is always looking for ways to attack and weaken the true church.  Therefore, it is not surprising that opposition began to rear its ugly head.


Beginning with Acts 3 we are introduced to a series of events in which the early church comes under attack.  These events include:

·         The arrest of Peter and John after the healing of a lame man in the temple (Acts 3 & 4)

·         The attempt of Ananias and Sapphira to deceive the apostles (Acts 5)

·         The arrest, miraculous release, re-arrest, and release of the apostles (Acts 5)

·         The controversy between the Hellenistic Jews and native Hebrews (Acts 6)

·         The death of Stephen, the first disciple to be martyred and the subsequent persecution of the church led by Saul (Acts 7 & 8)

How the young church responded to these events provides us an excellent model for dealing with the attacks of Satan in our lives.


The arrest of Peter and John after healing a lame man in the temple (Acts 3 & 4)

This is not the first miracle that had occurred since the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  In Acts 2:43 we read that “…many signs and wonders were taking place through the apostles.”  However, this miracle was selected for special treatment by Luke because it caught the attention of the Jewish authorities and led the persecution of the apostles.  As the story unfolds in Acts 3 & 4 there are six main movements:

1.      The description of the miracle (3:1-10)

2.      Peter’s sermon following the miracle (3:11-26)

3.      The arrest of Peter and John by the temple authorities (4:1-4)

4.      Peter’s sermon before the temple authorities (4:5-12)

5.      The response of the temple authorities (4:13-22)

6.      The response of the church (4:23-35)

We will focus on the first two of these movements in this session.


1.      The Description of the Miracle (Acts 3:1-10) - In describing this miracle, Luke, ever the historian, provides us incredible detail.  He tells us who was involved, where it happened, when it happened, the words that were spoken, what happened, and the impact of the miracle on the man who was healed, and those who observed it.


Verse 1 sets the stage for the miracle.  “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.”

“Now” – This is a term of transition.  We are not told how much time elapsed between the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3.  Some have suggested that it was a matter of months.

“Peter and John” – These two seemed to the leaders of the early church. (See Acts 8:14) John was the son of Zebedee and the brother of James.  Peter, James, and John made up the inner circle of the disciples of Jesus.  All three witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:28-36) and they asked to watch and pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).

“were going up to the temple” – The Jews did not stop their Jewish traditions because they were followers of Jesus.  On the contrary, they carried out their traditions with a new enthusiasm because they understood that Jesus, the Messiah, was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises.  They continued worshiping in the temple and observing the temple rituals.  It was not until conflict arose between Christians and Jews in the synagogues that Christian began to meet separately from the Jewish congregations.  The phrase “going up” probably refers to ascending the steps that lead up to the temple mount.  To this day, on the southeastern side of the temple mount those steps are visible and can be traversed.

“the ninth hour, the hour of prayer” – Actually, there were three special hours of prayer observed at the temple each day -- the third hour (9:00 a.m.), the sixth hour (12:00 noon), and the ninth hours (3:00 p.m.).  We saw in Acts 2:15 that the falling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost occurred around the ninth hour.  At the morning prayer and the evening prayer, a daily sacrifice called the Tamid was made by the priest serving in the temple.  The word tamid in Hebrew means always.  Every morning and afternoon the priests slaughtered a lamb as a sacrifice to God.


Verse 2 introduces us to the man upon whom the miracle was performed.  “And a certain man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple.”

“lame from this mother’s womb” – Acts 4:22 tells us the man was more than forty years old when this event took place.

“was being carried along” – The imperfect tense of the verb indicates continuing action.  He was habitually carried, daily carried.  This was the routine of his life.  Often overlooked in this story is the faithfulness of the people who carried this man every day to the temple.  Perhaps they did not have the money to support him, but they did what the could for him.

“at the gate … called Beautiful” – There is much debate among scholars concerning the precise location of this gate.  Many contend that it was the gate that led from the court of the Gentiles to the court of women.  Since the chests for the reception of offerings to support the temple were located in the court of women, this gate would be a likely place for someone seeking money to position himself.

“in order to beg” – In a culture where there was no safety net for people such as the man in this story, giving money to beggars was considered to be an important act of piety.  The Old Testament often stresses the importance of caring for the poor and oppressed.  For those with a legitimate need, begging was not considered a dishonorable thing to do.


Verses 3-7 tell us what happened.

“he saw Peter and John … he began asking” (v.3) – This phrase seems to indicate the man notice Peter and John before they noticed him and repeatedly asked them for money.

“fixed his gaze upon him” (v.4) – Williams paraphrases this, “Looked him straight in the eye.”  This was no doubt an unusual occurrence for the lame man.  Most people probably just looked away and pretended not to see or hear him.  But not Peter and John.  The implication seems to be they recognized this as a divine encounter.

“look at us” (v.4) – The man was so taken back by their intense stare that he looked away.

“I do not possess silver and gold” (v.6) – Peter tells the man that he did not have that for which he was asking.  No doubt the man was disappointed by those words.  But Peter and John had something far better.

“what I have I give to you” (v.6) – One writer points out:

You cannot give what you do not have, but you must have to give.  The impotence of many Christians in this exciting, thrilling hour of history is due to the fact that they simply have nothing of offer but a few coins, and alms will not save a sick society.  Healing, reconciliation, salvation can be shared only when we have it.  We can give only what we have, and some of us are not giving because we do not have. [Richard C. Halverson, quoted in The Book of Acts, the Smart Guide to the Bible series]


“in the name of Jesus the Nazarene – walk” – No less than nine times in Acts 3 & 4 does the word “name” or the phrase “in the name of use” occur (Acts 3:6, 16; 4:7, 10, 12, 17, 18, 30).  To do something in the “name” of another is to act on the authority of another.  It was not through the authority or power of Peter and John that this miracle was performed.  It was the power of Jesus.

“And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up” – Notice Peter did all that he could do.  His part in this event was not merely as a passive by-stander.  He reached out his hand and lifted the man up.  This was an act of faith on Peter’s part.


Verses 8 tells us the effect of the miracle on the man on whom the miracle was performed.

“With a leap, he stood upright and began to walk…” – This was also an act of faith.  He did not reject Peter’s hand.  He did not resist the effort to pull him to his feet.  He participated in the event.  As was true of Peter, he did all he could do as well.

“he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God…” – While he was appreciative towards Peter and John and stayed with them (see v.11), he correctly recognized the miracle was performed by God.  He gave credit to where credit was due.


Verses 9-10 tell us the effect of the miracle on the people who saw the man walking and praising God.  They recognized the man as the same person they had seen day after day begging at the gate.  Two things they knew for sure about him:  First, he had been lame.  There was no doubt about that.  Second, he was no longer lame.  There was no doubt about that.  Their dilemma was that they could not logically reconcile those two certainties.  The result was “…they were filled with wonder and amazement…”


2.      Peter’s Sermon Following the Miracle (Acts 3:11-26) – Before we look at these verses in some detail, I want to point out one of the more interesting things about this sermon.  In this sermon Peter uses numerous names and titles to describe the Lord.  He refers to Him as:

·         “His servant” in verses 13 & 26 – The Greek word is pais and can also mean child.  This phrase looks back to the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the coming Servant of Yahweh.  (See Isaiah 42, 52:13-14, and 53)

·         “Jesus” in verses 13, 16, 20 – This is a reminder of His humanity which was essential to His redemptive mission.

·         “the Holy and Righteous One” in verse 14 – A reference to Isaiah 53:11b which says, “By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”

·         “the Prince of life” in verse 15 – The word for Prince is archegos which means author or captain or leader.  It is used in the New Testament only in Acts 3:15 and 5:31 and Hebrews 2:10 and 12:2.  Each time it is used in relation to Jesus.

·         “Christ” in verses 18 & 20 – This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for Messiah.

·         “Prophet” in verses 22 & 23

The cumulative effect of all these names and titles is to reinforce that the focus of the sermon is obviously on Jesus.


Verse 11 – This verse sets the stage for the sermon.

“clinging” – The root meaning of this word is strength.  The idea is that the man was holding on to Peter and John for dear life!  He would not let them go.

“portico of Solomon” – This was a long, covered porch on the east side of the court of Gentiles.  It is called Solomon’s porch because it was built over a portion of the foundation of the temple built by Solomon.  This seems to have been a gathering place for the early disciples.


Verses 12-16 – In this part of the sermon Peter corrects a misconception, explains what happened, and stresses the guilt of the people in rejecting Jesus.

·         A misconception corrected – “…why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?” (v.12) – The apostles were always quick to point to the true source of their power (see Acts 10:25-26; Acts 14:11-18). 

·         An explanation of what happened – “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus…” (v.13) - The miracle was performed by the power of God.  Through the Holy Spirit the ministry of Jesus on earth was continuing.  Verse 16 makes it clear that the miracle occurred “…on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which 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.”  The respected New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce writes:

There is no merely magical efficacy in the words which Peter pronounced when, in Jesus’ name, he commanded the cripple to walk; the cripple would have known no benefit had he not responded in faith to what Peter said.  But once this response of faith was made, the power of the risen Christ filled his body with health and strength.  [F.F. Bruce, quoted in The Book of Acts, the Smart Guide to the Bible series]


Peter makes it clear that the miracle was performed by the power of God on the basis of human faith.

·         The guilt of the people – Over and over again Peter drives home the point that they had rejected in whose name or authority this miracles was performed.  Notice the following phrases:

o   “…the one whom you delivered up, and disowned in the presence of Pilate…”(v.13)

o   “…you disowned the Holy and Righteous One…” (v.14)

o   “…[you] put to death the Prince of life…” (v.15)

      This is reminiscent of how Peter ended his sermon on the Day of Pentecost.


Verses 17-19 are a call to repentance.  Even though they acted in ignorance, they were still responsible for their actions (v.17).  Their actions were a fulfillment of what was prophesied about the suffering of the promised Messiah (v18).  The only appropriate response is to “repent.”  As we saw in the previous session, the word is metanoeo from meta (a preposition meaning “after”) and noeo (a verb meaning “to think”).  Literally, the word means “to think after” or “to rethink.”  It means to have a complete change of mind.  The word is used thirty-four (34) times in the New Testament and ten (10) times in the writings of Luke.  It was the heart of the preaching of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) and the preaching of Jesus (Matthew 4:17).


Verses 19-20 list the benefits of genuine repentance.  Three specific benefits are mentioned:

1)      “…that your sins may be wiped away…” (v.19) – This was wonderful news to people who had just been convincingly pronounced guilty of putting to death the Messiah.  This is reminiscent of promises that occur throughout the Old Testament (see Psalm 51:7-9; Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 1:18; 44:22). Notice that forgiveness is linked directly to repentance.  This verse helps us better understand the meaning of Acts 2:38 where some erroneously believe the Scripture teaches that baptism is necessary for repentance.

2)      “…that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (v.19) – It is not precisely clear what Peter meant by “times of refreshing.”  I think the phrase is referring to the spiritual renewal that comes when a person enters relationship with Jesus.  It is the kind of refreshing Jesus referred to in Matthew 11:28 when He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

3)      “…that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you…” (v20) – This is essentially the same promise found in Acts 2:38 which says that those who repent “…shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…”  This is what Jesus promised His followers in John 14:18 when He said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”


Verse 21 explains that Jesus will remain in heaven until all that the prophets said about Him is fulfilled.  John Wesley points out that this one verse sums up the entire period of time from the ascension of Jesus until the return of Jesus.


Verses 22-24  refer back to the Old Testament to remind the hearers that Moses, Samuel, and all the prophets looked forward to the time in which they were now living.  The privilege of living in such a time is accompanied by a great responsibility.  Thus, the warning in verse 23 “…that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people…”


Verses 25-26 remind the people of the special place the Jewish nation has in God’s redemptive plan.  Through Israel the Messiah came and the Israelites were given the first opportunity of respond to Him.


Practical application from Acts 3:1-26

1.      As we do what we know God want us to do, He provides us more opportunities for service.  Peter and John went to the temple for the time of prayer and that led to the healing of the lame man and the preaching in the temple.

2.      Devotion to God increases our sensitivity to human need.  Peter and John did not ignore the lame man.

3.      Even though we cannot do everything, we can do something.  The unsung heroes of this story are those who faithfully carried the lame man to the temple each day.

4.      We must be careful to point beyond ourselves to God.  Peter and John made it clear that it was not their power or their piety that caused this miracle.  God is the one who meets human need.  We are merely His instruments.

5.      The Christian life is two dimensional.  It is both inward and outward.  It involves faith and works, belief and action, theology and ethics.  We must not neglect either dimension.