For the last several months we have been studying what happened on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost was the fulfillment, the anti-type, of the type given to Israel. It was the birthday of the Church of Jesus Christ. God was now to dwell, not in a tent, but with His people. We, the Church, are the New Israel of God, and in us all the promises made to the Fathers are fulfilled.
Pentecost having taken place, and the infant Church having been shown to be established, Luke now goes on to deal with the way in which the infant Church rapidly expanded. In Luke's summary of the life of the early Church, he has told us:
And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. (Acts 2:43 NASB)
Today we are going to see one of the "many wonders and signs" which the apostles did-the story of the lame man who was healed at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. Evidently Luke has selected this miracle in order that it might teach us something very significant.
Nobody knows for sure how much time passed between the events of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3. It was probably a relatively short period of time.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. (Acts 3:1 NASB)
Peter and John being together seems to suggest that the apostles continued to go around in pairs as they had done while preaching during the ministry of Jesus (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1), and as Paul would do in the future. I think there was a reason for this; They were sent out in pairs for encouragement and mutual support. Even today we see the greater effectiveness of believers working together and ministering to each other, encouraging each other.
Here we see the new Christians going to the Jewish temple to worship. At the end of Luke it says:
And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple, praising God. (Luke 24:52-53 NASB)
And then in Chapter 2 of Acts it says:
And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, (Acts 2:46 NASB)
So their place of worship hasn't changed, but they now understand that Jesus is the Christ, and they are worshiping Him. Later they will separate from the temple.
"The ninth hour, the hour of prayer"-It appears that there were three hours of the day destined by the Jews to public prayer; perhaps they are referred to by David:
Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, And He will hear my voice. (Psalms 55:17 NASB)
There are three distinct times marked in the book of the Acts. The THIRD hour, Acts 2:15, answering to our nine o'clock in the morning; the SIXTH hour, Acts 10:9, answering to about twelve with us; and the NINTH hour, mentioned in this verse, and answering to our three in the afternoon.
This afternoon prayer time immediately preceded the evening sacrifices, so by an overwhelming margin this would have been the most highly attended of the prayer times. We're talking about thousands and thousands of people flooding through the gates through this magnificent structure called the temple.
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. (Acts 3:2 NASB)
The Scripture tells us that this man was crippled. But more than that, this man was crippled from birth. Think about the tragedy of that. He had never been able to stand and walk, to run and play like the other boys. His parents had to carry him everywhere. I'm sure many opportunities were denied him because of his affliction. Now, he's a grown man and every day friends must carry him to the temple so he may beg for a living. A tragic situation indeed. We can only speculate concerning what effect this must have had on his heart. He could easily have been bitter. There had never been a day in his life when he had not been a burden to somebody. He could not walk; he could not work. This was not a day when there were concrete wheelchair ramps for those who were crippled. In fact, there were no wheelchairs or handicapped parking places! All he could do was beg, sit there, and hope that people would have pity on him.
Evidently, he had been brought to the temple habitually for a long, long time, and Jesus must certainly have seen him as He passed into the temple. We are not told what this man had heard about Jesus or whether he had ever tried to reach Him to be healed. It would seem that the man would have given considerable thought to Jesus during those times when He visited Jerusalem and especially that final week of His public ministry, before His death. This was a week characterized not only by daily appearances in the temple for teaching but also to heal:
And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. (Matthew 21:14 NASB)
Many had been healed, but here he sat, still lame, and now since Jesus had been crucified, maybe even hopeless. Beggars regularly sat at the gates of temples and shrines hoping to benefit from donors when they would be feeling at their most pious.
In A.D.20 Herod the Great began a building program to take what we know as the Second Temple and make it a grand thing. The Temple of Solomon had been destroyed by the Babylonians. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem , they had built a small temple and tried to make it a thing of honor to God, but without success. So in A.D.20. Herod the Great, a cruel, violent, and proud man, finally decided that he would do something religious on a grand scale, as he always did. He was currying favor with Rome by his generous treatment of its subjects. He was currying favor with the Jews to whom he was partially related. And he was probably trying to buy off God in spending great sums of money to make the temple beautiful.
The temple mount, the platform on which the temple was built, was by the time of Acts quite large-the size of thirty-five football fields. The temple was a towering structure made of white marble and richly ornamented with gold. Josephus tells us that it could be seen from enormous distances when the sun was shining because it would reflect so brightly. The structure was supported by ornately carved oak and cedar beams. Everything about it was impressive and breathtakingly beautiful.
As you came to the temple mount you would have entered the courtyard of the Gentiles, where anybody would be welcome. Beyond that was a gate through which you could pass only if you were a Jew. The inner courtyard was called the courtyard of the women. If you were a Jewish woman you were allowed to go only that far. If you were a ritually cleansed, Jewish man you could enter the temple itself, the holy place. At the front of the temple was the altar, which only priests could attend, and only priests who had no deformities. Beyond the altar in the holy place was the holy of holies, which only the high priest could enter only one day of the year to be in the very presence of God.
The Beautiful Gate was in the courtyard of the women. This beggar didn't go through it to the temple itself, the holy place. Josephus observes (Bell. Jud. lib. v. cap. 5, sect. 3) that the temple had nine gates, which were on every side covered with gold and silver; but there was one gate which was without the holy house, and was of Corinthian brass, and greatly excelled those which were only covered with gold and silver. The magnitudes of the other gates were equal one to another; but that of the Corinthian gate, which opened on the east, over against the gate of the holy house itself, was much larger. For its height was fifty cubits (75 ft.), and its doors were forty cubits, and it was adorned after a most costly manner, as having much richer and thicker plates of silver and gold upon them than upon the other. This last was probably the gate which is here called Beautiful. It took twenty men to open it.
Josephus also tells us that during the siege (66-70) this gate opened of itself. The Jews saw this as a sign that God was leaving the temple.
And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms 4 And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, "Look at us!" (Acts 3:3-4 NASB)
"Look at us," we don't usually look at beggars, we look away. Peter looks right at the man, and tells the man to look at him to get his full attention.
And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. (Acts 3:5 NASB)
Notice that he was "expecting to receive." He expected to receive because giving of alms was a required duty of Israel:
"For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.' (Deuteronomy 15:11 NASB)
So it was a constant custom for all who entered the temple to carry money with them to give to the treasury, or to the poor, or to both. It was on this ground that the friends of the lame man laid him at the gate of the temple, as this was the most likely place to receive alms:
But Peter said, "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 NASB)
This man had never walked-he had no clue how to walk. Yet this is what Peter tells him to do. This is a cruel thing to say to a lame man. Unless you have the power to make him walk, and Peter did.
By "name" he implied "the full revelation of the person mentioned." The title that the angel gave to Joseph for the baby, "Jesus," meant "Jehovah saves." It was our Lord's given name and "refers to his birth, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension." It was a title that encompassed His saving work. The title, "Christ," means "Anointed One" or "Messiah," and emphasizes that Jesus is the "exalted Son of God." Or as Peter adds in his sermon a bit later, Jesus is "the Holy and righteous One...the Prince of life." (Kistemaker, 123)
What Peter carried with him was the authority of the name of Jesus the Messiah of Nazareth. He was here with all the authority of the Messiah. And by that authority he now commanded him to rise from the dust and walk. He thus turned the man's attention wholly on Jesus as Messiah.
The mention of the Beautiful Gate combined with the mention of silver and gold had to draw his reader's attention to the connection between the two comparing, the old temple with its splendor, but ineffective, with the new temple of His people founded on the power of the Lord Jesus Christ:
knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NASB)
That old system with it's silver and gold couldn't redeem, but Jesus the Lamb could.
And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. (Acts 3:7 NASB)
Peter commands the man to walk (literally, continuous action-"be walking") and grabs him by the right hand to raise him up. If Peter had not grabbed this man, he may never have attempted to get up.
Let's remember here that our author is Luke, who is a medical doctor. Several of the terms used in this text are very precise medical terms. For example, when Luke is talking about feet and ankles, he uses two words that are very unique, very specialized. This is the only time these two words show up in the Scriptures. They're medical terms to describe the deformity, the problem with the feet and the ankles. When he talks about the man leaping up, it's a medical term that basically means for the sockets to fall back into place where they belong.
And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. (Acts 3:8 NASB)
He didn't have to go slow until he built up his weak leg muscles. He didn't have to go for months of physical therapy to learn how to walk (remember, he had never walked before!). He not only could walk, he could leap, and leap he did, over and over again! He was instantly healed.
The healed man knew where his healing had come from. He didn't shout praises to Peter and John. He didn't praise his own mental attitude, saying, "I knew that if I kept a positive mental attitude, someday I'd be healed!" He didn't boast in his great faith as
the cause of his healing. No, he simply praised God. God and God alone, by His great mercy, was the cause of his cure.
The very behavior of this former cripple was a sign to those who had eyes to see.
The word "leaping" is the same Greek word used in Isaiah 35:6 in the LXX:
Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah. (Isaiah 35:6 NASB)
When does this happen? In the new age of Messiah. Speaking to true Israel God says:
Say to those with anxious heart, "Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you." 5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah. (Isaiah 35:4-6 NASB)
The word used in Isaiah 35:6 is of the leaping of the lame when they are healed in the new age. Thus this lame man's leaping indicated that the new age was here.
How could Peter heal this man like this? Well remember what Jesus had told him:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. (John 14:12 NASB)
When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples they must have sounded incredible to them. Yet what he had promised was happening. It was as if Jesus were still with them working through them in great power.
Peter could do this because he had the gift of healing. Peter at will healed this man. There is no indication that the man had faith in Jesus to be healed. In 3:16, Peter explains to the crowd that it was on the basis of faith in the name of Jesus that this man
was healed, but Peter seems to be referring to his own faith, not to the man's faith. We'll talk about this more in a few moments.
This lame man at the Beautiful Gate had not been healed by the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh, though He so frequently taught in the temple; but he was healed by the power of His Name, now that He was glorified in heaven.
And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 10 and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:9-10 NASB)
They all recognized him as the lame man who had for so long begged for alms at one of the gates of the temple. He was a well-known, local man and crippled from birth. There could be no question about the authenticity of his condition. And now here he was walking and praising God within the temple.
And while he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. (Acts 3:11 NASB)
That word "clinging" is an interesting word. Most of the time in the New Testament it is translated "arrested." The apostles took a position in one of the open colonnades which faced the inner side of the temple wall, called Solomon's Portico and this man who was healed hung on to them tightly.
It also tells us that the people came running in amazement. We're talking about thousands of people. We'll see in chapter 4 that there were thousands and thousands of people gathered here that came running from all over the courtyard. These people were astonished by this, so much so that they ran. Now there is another crowd and another opportunity to preach and Peter takes it. What did Peter say? Come back next week and you'll find out.
What is the significance of this story?
Well I suppose that Luke's purpose for incorporating this story are many. First, it illustrates the wonders and signs spoken of earlier (2:43). Secondly, in order to illustrate that those who will come to Christ are those who have recognized their spiritual lameness and need, and have looked to Him as the only One Who can heal them. Both the First Testament and the teaching of Jesus stress that those who will be saved of old Israel are like the lame. In Isaiah we read, in the context of the coming of the Lord as Judge, Lawgiver, and King:
Your tackle hangs slack; It cannot hold the base of its mast firmly, Nor spread out the sail. Then the prey of an abundant spoil will be divided; The lame will take the plunder. (Isaiah 33:23 NASB)
The thought here is that it is God's weak and helpless but restored people, who will finally, in God's day, triumph and enjoy the spoils of victory. In Jeremiah we read:
"Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, And I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, Among them the blind and the lame, The woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together; A great company, they shall return here. (Jeremiah 31:8 NASB)
The blind and the lame will be among the people of God who return triumphantly from far off to enjoy God's coming Rule. In Luke the maimed and the lame were the ones who were to be called when someone gave a supper"
"But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, (Luke 14:13 NASB)
This was immediately followed by the parable of the man who made a great supper representing feasting in the Kingdom of God.
Here the Holy Spirit through the apostles makes clear that in the Name of Jesus salvation is offered to 'the lame', and that something better than the temple is among them. This lame man represents those of Israel who recognize their need and are open to God's call. The later mention of his having been lame for "over forty years" may well have been a reminder of the "lameness" of Israel in the forty years in the wilderness. I think there is a comparison here of the old and new temple. The old temple-was no help to him. The new temple-body of Christ brought life.
And thirdly, in order to evidence the fact that the new age had come by the fulfillment of Isaiah 35:6, "then shall the lame man leap like a deer," Luke is telling us prophecy was being fulfilled. The kingdom had arrived!
We see in this text in Acts 3 a remarkable miracle. And because it occurs here in the book of Acts, there are many people who say, "This is what ought to be occurring in the Church all the time. People ought to be healed like this every day."
Remember in our last study we saw the new Church devoted to the apostles doctrine and fellowship ,which consisted of breaking of bread and prayers. I said that this should be a pattern for the Church for all time. If that is true, shouldn't the Church also expect miracles of healing today just as they saw then? Are there people today like Peter who can heal people? As you know, the Church is divided on this issue. So let's try to justify our position from the Scripture alone. Peter could heal people like this lame man, because he had the gift of healing:
to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, (1 Corinthians 12:9 NASB)
This is the spiritual gift of being able to restore to health. A spiritual gift is a God-given capacity through which the Holy Spirit supernaturally ministers to the Church. According to Ephesians 4:11-16 the gifts were to be used to bring the Church from a state of infancy to adulthood. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up the body; once the body is mature, we no longer need spiritual gifts. For more information on this subject, please refer to the message, "The Perfect Has Come."
There is a lot of confusion today about spiritual gifts; do you know why that is? It's because they were for the last days, and when the last days ended, so did the gifts. This is why so many believers have no clue as to what their gifts are, they don't have one. Just as the manna ceased when Israel got in the land, so did the spiritual gifts end when New Israel entered their inheritance in A.D.70. At the end of the forty years the miracles ended.
There is a difference in Scripture between God's healing of individuals and the gift of healing mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. If this were not so, we would find no healing before Pentecost. But we see God healing many people in the First Testament. He calls Himself:
And He said, "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer." (Exodus 15:26 NASB)
God says, "I am your healer". God has always healed independently of any gifts of healing bestowed upon an intermediary. God healed Abimelech in Genesis 20:7; Miriam in Numbers 12:14; King Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:4-5. They were all healed in answer to prayer. All through the First Testament God graciously intervened in the sicknesses of men and healed them.
With the gift of healing God was now doing a new thing. He was endowing individuals with the ability to heal as the Lord heals. Peter had this gift. We see it used here in our text in Acts 3, we see it in again in Acts 5. The gift of healing was an endowment of specific individuals who could exercise the gift at will, independent of faith or expectancy in the individual being healed.
As I have already said, there was absolutely no expectation of healing on part of the lame man at the gate Beautiful. Neither is there any question of whether he had faith to be healed, he wanted money, not a healing. Faith is not mentioned. According to verse six, Peter exercises this gift and heals this man independent of anything in the man.
What was the purpose of the gift of healing? Did God want everybody to be healthy so they could enjoy life more? Does God want everyone to be healthy and wealthy? Absolutely not! But there are those today who say it is actually wrong for a Christian to be sick. They tell us that Jesus died not only for our sins, but for our sicknesses as well. Quoting Isaiah 53, "by his stripes we are healed". They say that this means that in the atonement there is physical healing for everybody. That is a gross misinterpretation of Isaiah 53. It has nothing to do with physical healing.
The gift of healing was a sign!
And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. (Acts 2:43 NASB)
The Greek word used for sign is semeion, which means: "a mark, an indication or a token." It is used of miraculous acts as tokens of divine authority and power. The gift of healing was given as God's signature as it were on the Christian Gospel to demonstrate that it was of Him.
The key to understanding Peter's healing of this lame man starts in verse 12, which we'll look at next week. Peter got the crowds attention and then began to preach Christ. The purpose of the gift of healing was not to keep Christians healthy. It was used as a sign to unbelievers at those times when it was necessary to make the proclamation of the Gospel affective.
Based upon several Scriptures, we could conclude that the gift of healing could have been progressively withdrawn or these Scriptures could simply indicate to us that the gift was not intended for Christians. I don't know of a single time where the gift was used to heal a believer. In Acts 20 Paul raises Eutychus from the dead, but we don't know if he was a believer, and this wasn't really a healing, it was a resurrection.
No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. (1 Timothy 5:23 NASB)
Paul had the gift of healing, why didn't he just heal Timothy instead of telling him to drink some wine? The gift wasn't for believers.
Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. (2 Timothy 4:20 NASB)
That sounds cruel. Paul had the gift of healing why not heal his friend?
For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (Philippians 2:27 NASB)
God healed Epaphroditus, not Paul. Why didn't Paul just do it? Because the gift wasn't given to heal Christians, and the gift was probably fading away as A.D. 70 approached.
A question we need to ask in relation to so called healers today is, "Do the gifts claimed today match the Biblical pattern of Christ and the apostles?"
If it is the same gift, it should have the same pattern. Christ and the apostles healed with a word or a touch; Matt. 8:5-15, Acts 3:1-11, 9:32-35. They healed instantaneously; Mark 7:31-35, Acts 3. They healed totally; Matt. 8:15, Acts 9:34. They healed everybody.
Who does this today? Today the supposed healings are selective. Jesus and the apostles healed organic disease, the deaf, dumb, blind, and crippled. They also raised the dead. I submit to you that this pattern of Christ and the apostles is not found today.
Dr. William Nolen in his book, Healing, A Physician in Search of a Miracle, has a section on Charismatic healers. He writes:
Finally it was over. There were still long lines of people waiting to get onto the stage and claim their cures, but at five o'clock, with a hymn and final blessing, the show ended. Miss Kuhlman left the stage and the audience left the auditorium. (If you had the gift of healing would you quit while there were still sick people there?)
Before going back to talk to Miss Kuhlman I spent a few minutes watching the wheelchair patients leave. All the desperately ill patients who had been in wheelchairs were still in wheelchairs. In fact, the man with the cancer in his spine and hip, the man whom I had helped to the auditorium and who had his borrowed wheelchair brought to the stage and shown to the audience when he had claimed a cure, was now back in the wheelchair. His cure even if only a hysterical one, had been extremely short lived.
As I stood in the corridor watching the hopeless cases leave, seeing the tears of the parents as they pushed their crippled children to the elevators. I wished Miss Kuhlman had been with me. She had complained a couple of times during the service of the responsibility, the enormous responsibility, and of how her heart aches for those that weren't cured, but I wondered how often she had really looked at them. I wondered whether she sincerely felt that the joy of those cured of bursitis and arthritis compensated for the anguish of those left with their withered legs, their imbecilic children, their cancers of the liver.
Two years ago I began looking for a healing miracle. When I started my search I hoped to find some evidence that someone, somewhere, had supernatural powers that he or she could employ to cure those patients we doctors, with all our knowledge and training, must still label "incurable." As I have said before, I have been unable to find any such miracle worker.
Yes, many today claim to be able to heal but can their claims be verified? Or are they just hype? I believe the gift of healing today can be successfully challenged. Yet people continue to run to these healing services, why? There is a certain desperation that comes with disease.
How do we explain the claims of healing today? It can't be denied that things happen at their services and on their programs. People fall over, supposedly slain in the Spirit. People jump up from wheelchairs, shouting that they are healed. What exactly is going on? How do we account for all of this?
The healings may be Psychosomatic, this word literally means: "soul and body," referring to the close relationship of body and spirit. The soul affects the body, and the health of the soul may be an indication of the health of the body.
Dr. Nolen explains that physicians as well as Charismatic healers can often influence a patient and cure symptoms of disease by suggestion, with or without the laying on of hands. These cures are not miraculous, but result from corrections that the patient makes in the function of his autonomic nervous system.
There is also the fact that Mayo Clinic says 85% of the people that come there are psychosomatically ill. And so there's an awful lot of people to deal with in that case. So just because healings are apparently taking place, they're not necessarily verifiable by Scriptural principles, nor are they activity of God.
There is a condition called "Pseudocyesis," which illustrates Psychosomatic conditions. It is where a woman thinks that she is pregnant, and not only thinks it, but begins to show all the signs including actually swelling up and looking pregnant when there is no real pregnancy. Women who have false pregnancies will claim to have—and in some cases, actually exhibit—the following true pregnancy symptoms:
* cessation of menstruation
* morning sickness
* widening of the abdomen
* enlargement of the breasts
Experts are unsure as to why women experiencing pseudopregnancy sometimes exhibit true physical signs of pregnancy.
How do we explain the claims of healing today? Well, many are psychosomatic, but there are some real healings going on today, the work of the Lord our Healer. These, when they occur, are independent from any healer or healing meeting. Distinction should be made between miracles and healings, and the gifts of miracles and healings.
To sum it up there is a difference between the gift of healing and God's generalized healing. God heals today, but not through the gift of healing. God has always healed and always will, but the gift of healing was temporary.
If the spiritual gifts were still functional, which one would you like to have? If I could receive the gift of my choosing I would choose the gift of healing. I have been in many intensive care units, I have been there as a patient and a pastor, and have experienced the heart break of illness and suffering. I have visited friends and loved ones, young and old, and have experienced the pain that illness brings. I have on many occasions wished I had the gift of healing. Think of how rewarding it would be to be able to heal with a word or touch, to instantly end a person's suffering.
Peter had this gift, and at will he heals this lame man, a crowd gathers, and he preaches the Gospel to them and many of them are saved. We'll look at Peter's second sermon next week.
|Continue the Series|