The Miracle Explained
P. G. Mathew | Thursday, May 28, 1998
Copyright © 1998, P. G. Mathew
While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." Acts 3:11-16
A True Miracle
The third chapter of the book of Acts speaks of the miraculous healing of a lame man. Acts 3:1-10 tells us about the performing of the miracle, Acts 3:11-16, gives us an explanation of the miracle that was performed, and Acts 3:17-26 gives an exhortation for those who witnessed this mighty demonstration of the power of God to repent and be saved.
In this study we will examine the explanation of the miracle. Now, when I say "explanation," I do not mean an explanation of how the miracle took place but, rather, who caused it. Why? Because if reasons can be given for a miracle, it is not a miracle.
Do you believe in miracles? I certainly do. Authentic miracles are due to the direct activity of the true and living God; therefore, believers in God will necessarily believe in them. I have no intellectual problem believing in miracles because I believe in a God who created the universe out of nothing and sustains it by his word alone. The biblical God is a God of great power and wisdom, and the Bible tells us he is a God who performs miracles.
In Acts 3 we see a forty-year old man who was lame from his mother's womb suddenly walking, leaping, and praising God. Filled with wonder and astonishment, the people who observed this amazing sight ran to the apostles, Peter and John, to find out what happened. They found the man clinging to Peter and John as though he was telling everyone, "Look at me! God has done a marvelous thing in my life. He restored me!" The perfect, instant and public healing of this man was an illustration of God's salvation and his mighty miracle-working power.
This was a true miracle. Let me assure you, most modern "miracles" are false and caused by demons. Most of these miracles cannot stand thorough investigation. Many are proclaimed by so-called healing evangelists who are trying to make a living by fooling naive people who are only interested in economic or physical "miracles," and do not know what a true blessing is. A true blessing is the blessing of salvation from sins.
The miracle of Acts 3 was a true miracle. People familiar with the beggar had no doubt that he was healed, and so they gathered together, wondering among themselves what had caused his healing. They thought that Peter and John may have produced this remarkable healing because of some unusual powers or exceptional piety they possessed.
The First Reason
This crowd had gathered at a covered porch called Solomon's Colonnade, located on the eastern side of the Court of the Gentiles in the temple built by Herod the Great. Jesus himself had taught there on several occasions when he was in Jerusalem.
This crowd wondered what had caused this man's healing, but the reason they came up with was wrong. Natural men, unbelievers, can never understand spiritual things correctly. They will always misinterpret them, as they did when Jesus' disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. There we are told that some thought the disciples were drunk while others grew thoroughly confused at the phenomena they were observing.
This situation was the same. This crowd deduced that Peter and John performed this miracle because they were people of unusual power and godliness. Peter rebuked them. "Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?" he asked.
God Is the Reason
What was the reason for this miracle? The first reason is God. Any authentic miracle is a sign which points us to God. When we study the gospel of John, we find seven miracles performed by Jesus Christ, again for the reason of pointing us to God.
Peter told the crowd, "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?" In other words, Peter was saying, "Listen, people, we are not the cause of this miracle. It is not our own power or might that did this."
We must note here that many modern evangelists would not speak like Peter. They love man's praise when they can get it, and they would gladly tell the crowd, "We are so glad you noticed that we did this wonderful thing. Aren't we great? Why don't you come to our meetings and see even more wonderful things?" But Peter was saying, "It is not our own power or piety that did this. We are only servants of God, channels of his blessing. We are not the source. God is the cause of this man's healing."
Who is this God? He is not the god of philosophers, speculators, or unbelieving theologians of liberal churches who give such names to their god as "The Ultimate Reality," "The Thinking It," "The Ground of All Being," "The Prime Mover," "The Uncaused Cause," or "The Force."
No! The cause of this miracle is the only true and living God--the infinite God, the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, and God of our fathers. He is the personal God--not a theory or an abstraction, but God, who said, "I AM that I AM," the self-sufficient, self-existing God--the God who confronts us whenever we open the Bible. In fact, we read about him on the first page: "In the beginning God. . ." He is the creator God who created all things and reveals himself to us. He is the God who can be known by human beings in the Bible.
The God who performed this miracle is also the God who is concerned about people and who cares for us--so much that he has purposed to save us. Remember when Peter and the other disciples asked Jesus, "Don't you care if we drown?" That is a foolish question. God is the one who cares in the ultimate sense, because he is the one who saves us from perishing by his eternal determination.
This God is also the holy God. It is he who told Moses, "Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy ground." He is the covenant God--the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who has purposed to save his people because of his love for us; the God who is faithful to his covenant.
This God is the unchanging God. The Bible tells us he is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is this God and no other who spoke to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and many others throughout the history of man. He is the God who sent his Son Jesus to save us in fulfillment of his covenant with Abraham.
Thus, Peter told the crowd, the first reason for this amazing miracle of the healing of the crippled man was God. "Don't look at us!" Peter was saying. "We did not produce this miracle. The infinite personal Creator God of the covenant is the cause of it. God did it!"
Jesus Is the Reason
The second reason for this miracle is Jesus Christ. Peter reminded the crowd that God had recently glorified his servant Jesus, who is the Christ, the servant of God, concerning whom all the prophets of the Old Testament spoke, especially Isaiah. For example, in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 we read about the suffering servant of God. Isaiah began in Isaiah 52:13, "See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted." These words were spoken 750 years before the birth of Jesus Christ about God's intention to glorify his Son, the suffering servant. And in Acts 3:13 Peter said, "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus."
Not only is Jesus the servant who fulfilled his Father's will and glorified, but he is also called the Holy One. In verse 14 Peter said, "You disowned the Holy and Righteous One." The term "Holy One" is a messianic title used by both the disciples and demons to describe Jesus Christ. Several times we read their confessions that Jesus Christ is the Holy One, meaning he is sinless, meaning he is God.
Peter also called Jesus the Righteous One. Can anyone convict Jesus Christ of sin? No! In fact, we see that title used in reference to the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:11: "After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many."
What else did Peter say about Jesus? In verse 15 he calls Jesus the author of life. Jesus Christ is the prince and pioneer of life. In verse 18 Peter tells us Jesus is the Christ, the anointed Messiah, the deliverer of his people. And in verse 13 Peter calls him Jesus of Nazareth, which speaks of his role in our salvation. The name Jesus, or Joshua, means the Lord is salvation, as we read in Matthew 1:21, "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
Finally, Peter said, this Jesus is the prophet Moses spoke about in Deuteronomy 18. "For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people." (Acts 3:22-23).
Jesus is the prophet, teacher, and God-sent witness to God's truth. Every person in the universe has an obligation to listen to him, believe in him, trust in him, and be saved by him, or judged by him. We must listen to Jesus! Peter declared. So the second cause behind this miracles is the suffering servant, the Holy One, the Righteous One, the author of life, the deliverer and prophet, Jesus Christ.
Killing the Author of Life
"But the question is," Peter was asking the crowd, "what did you do to Jesus? God raised him, exalted him and glorified him. What did you do to him?" Why was Peter asking these questions? He was showing these people their sin.
In modern times many people do not want to talk about sin, but here in Acts 3:13-15 we find Peter speaking very clearly about the sin and guilt of these people. This was the reality of the situation, and so it must be clearly declared. Why? Salvation means nothing if there is no sin, no guilt, no hell, no punishment and no wrath of God.
Do you hear much preaching today about sin? No. People simply will not put up with it. Who wants to listen to a sermon about sin, law, and the violation of God's law? In fact, I know of ministers who have been told, "Why don't you say something nice to the people instead of always talking about sin and guilt? Don't you understand that when you preach these things, people will either go to sleep or they won't come back? You should always say something nice and be sure you smile frequently. Don't you know you can catch more flies with honey?" No wonder why the church is so weak!
As a minister of the gospel I am accountable to God; therefore, I must speak about sin. In fact, Jesus himself spoke more about sin and hell than anyone else. So when Peter told the crowd, "You handed him over to be killed," he was emphasizing the tremendous guilt these people incurred in handing over to death the suffering servant, the Holy One, the Righteous One, the author of life, the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet whose testimony is infallible.
I want to settle one very important issue at this point. Some people think that the Jewish people are more sinful than anyone else because they handed Jesus over to death. That is not true. The Bible defines sin as being against God and declares that all have sinned and are enemies of God. There is no difference, Paul says in the third chapter of Romans. All are sinners and enemies of God until they repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation.
Jesus Was Handed Over
In fact, the Jewish people were not the only ones responsible for the death of Jesus. In Acts 3:13 Peter told the crowd, "You handed him over to be killed," and here he was speaking about the crowd. But in Mark 15:1 we read that the Council, the Sanhedrin, meaning the Jewish authorities, handed Jesus over, in Luke 22:21 we read that Judas handed him over, and in Luke 23:25 we read that Pilate handed him over. All of these people had a part in handing Jesus over to be killed.
In John 3:16 we read an amazing thing: God himself handed Jesus Christ over to be killed. John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world that he gave up his one and only Son." In other words, Jesus was delivered over to death by his own Father. God did not spare his own Son but delivered him over to death on our behalf. Why? Because he loved us sinners. Isn't that amazing?
But in Galatians 2:20 we find that there is something even more amazing than God handing Jesus over to death. There Paul writes, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." Jesus Christ gave himself, meaning he handed himself over, to death for us.
Many sinful people delivered Jesus over to death, and they are guilty of this great crime. But the truth is, God himself delivered his Son over because God loved us, and Jesus Christ himself freely handed himself over for our salvation. Why? It was the will of God that Christ must die. The entire Old Testament prophesied that Christ must die in behalf of sinners.
The Guilt of the Crowd
However, in this passage Peter was focusing on the sin and guilt of this crowd. First he said, "You handed him over to be killed," meaning they had delivered Jesus over to be crucified on the cross.
Second, Peter told the crowd, "You disowned him before Pilate. . .you disowned the Holy and Righteous One. . ." Jesus came to his own people, but they disowned him, as we read in John 1:11. I am sure Peter himself felt some conviction when he said this because he had also disowned Jesus three times in the courtyard of the high priest.
Third, Peter said, "You . . . asked that a murderer be released to you" in place of this suffering servant, this Holy One, this Righteous One, this author of life, this Christ, this Jesus, this Prophet. These people had traded Jesus Christ for a murderer named Barabbas and in so doing had, in effect, said, "We hate this Jesus so much that we would rather have a murderer and insurrectionist released than to let Jesus Christ live." Just witness the enmity of the human heart against God!
Finally, Peter said, "You killed the author of life." They had delivered over their own Messiah, the Savior, the Holy One, the Prophet. Oh, the enormity of guilt these people were bearing!
Do you think Peter was using a lot of honey in this sermon? Not really. But as those entrusted with the words of eternal life, we have to let people know their sins before we can present to them a Savior.
The Exaltation of the Son
Peter did not stop with telling the people of their guilt. "You killed the author of life but God raised him from the dead," Peter told the crowd. God had heard the prayer of Jesus which he prayed right before his crucifixion as found in John 17, verse 1, "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you" and verse 5, "Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." This was what was prophesied in Isaiah 52:13 when God said his servant would be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. In effect Peter was telling the crowd, "Yes, you killed the author of life, but God glorified and exalted him by raising him from the dead. Jesus of Nazareth has been highly exalted by God."
The exaltation of Jesus Christ by God the Father is mentioned several places in the Scriptures. In Ephesians 1:20-23 Paul wrote that God, by his mighty strength, "raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." The people had treated Christ with contempt by condemning and killing him, but God reversed their verdict of condemnation and death by raising him up, exalting him and making him Lord of all.
In Philippians 2:9-10 we read, "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Every tongue means every person who ever lived in the universe must confess and honor Jesus Christ as Lord. That is exaltation!
What is the greatest sin in the world? It is not the murder of Jesus Christ; that can be forgiven. The greatest sin in the world--the most terrible, unpardonable sin--is unbelief in Jesus Christ. Why? Because this Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and ruler of all.
Confronted by Christ
Peter told the crowd that it was by the authority, power, and godliness of Jesus that this man was able to walk, leap, and praise God. He repeated it when he stood before the Sanhedrin: "Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed" (Acts 4:10). The Sanhedrin had condemned Jesus of Nazareth, killed him and rejoiced at his death, but the party was short-lived. God raised Jesus from the dead and glorified him, exalting him and declaring him Lord of all.
Imagine how confused Caiaphas and the other members of the Sanhedrin were! Through the apostle Peter, Caiaphas and the other members of the Sanhedrin were being confronted by the glorified Jesus, who was now ruling and reigning as the Sovereign Lord of the universe. These Jewish leaders had secured the tomb of Jesus with a seal and a guard, but it did not remain secure. God had raised his Son from the dead and now, in the name of Jesus Christ and by his power, a man had been healed and made perfectly whole.
Not only were the leaders being confronted by Jesus at that time, but they would also be confronted by him at the moment of their death. Even then they would not be able to get rid of him. Jesus Christ confronts all people after death as well. In Acts 10:42 Jesus commanded his disciples to preach and testify that he is the one whom God appointed as Judge of the living and the dead. And in Acts 17:31 we read, "For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
Jesus Christ confronted the Jewish leaders and the crowd, and he is confronting all of us as well. No matter who you are--professor, scientist, rich man, powerful woman, politician, philosopher--he is confronting you even this day. How do we know that? Because he is not in the grave anymore. God has glorified him and there is no way we can get rid of him. Jesus Christ has been exalted far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. He is Lord, and he is the second reason for this miraculous healing.
Faith in Christ Is the Reason
What is the third reason? Faith in Jesus. In other words, this miracle did not happen automatically. The apostles believed in this Lord Jesus, as did the cripple, and we see that demonstrated when Peter told him, "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk." No one will be saved without exercising faith in this Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the one whom God glorified, the one who is Lord of all.
What does it mean to have faith in Jesus? First, we must understand that faith is based on revelation. Faith comes by hearing, we are told. It is not a hunch or a leap in the dark. It is based on God's truth especially about his Son revealed to us in his holy book.
In Acts 3:16 we read, "By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." Just as the crippled man put his faith in Christ, we must do the same. We must put our faith in this Jesus Christ who died for our sins and was raised for our justification. We must stand completely upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ, believing and trusting in him, both now and forever.
How can we have faith in Christ? The Greek text tells us this faith is a faith that comes through Jesus Christ. He is not only the object of your faith, but also the author of it. If you have not trusted in Jesus Christ, it is because he hasn't given you faith. If you are trusting in him, that shows that he generated faith in you to be put in Jesus Christ. Those who are not Christians must cry out to God to give them faith to believe in him and be saved. But we who are Christians should praise the Lord for granting us this faith to trust in Jesus Christ who died and was buried but now is glorified Lord of the universe--our Savior and our Lord! We can now face death with confidence and joy because we trust in Jesus Christ.
The Gift of Faith
Not only is faith is to be put upon Jesus, but it is also a gift from Jesus. Faith is a gift from God, and that is why the doctrine of regeneration is important. In Acts 18:27 we read, "When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed." The disciples believed by grace, meaning faith is a gift. And in Philippians 1:29 we read, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. . ." Faith is a gift of God!
Therefore, as Peter stood before the Sanhedrin, he told them that Jesus, who these people killed and disposed of, who God raised from the dead and highly exalted, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, is the Sovereign Lord of the universe who healed the lame man through the apostles. No one can be healed without faith in him. Jesus alone granted the crippled man faith to trust in him for his healing and for his salvation now and forever because he alone is the Healer and the Savior.
Peter told the Sanhedrin this in Acts 4:12. Filled with the Holy Spirit and great power, he proclaimed boldly, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." I don't know how more clearly this great fact can be stated. The truth is, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
The Grace of God
What do you think God should have done to these criminals--those who disowned Jesus Christ, traded him for a murderer and handed him over to death? What should God do to those who killed the Prince of life, the Holy One, the Righteous One?
It would be just to condemn them all and send them to hell forever, would it not? But the God of the Bible is a gracious God. That is why the hymnwriter says, "Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sins." Here we see the great generosity and munificence of God. God offered to save even the murderers of his only begotten Son.
This is amazing grace! Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, and now the cursed are blessed in Christ who became curse for us. This is the glorious generosity of God's grace: unmerited favor shown to us who are murderers of his Son, enemies of God.
Paul spoke about this grace in glowing terms in his epistle to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 1:6 he wrote, to the praise of the glory of his grace," and in 1:7 he spoke of the "riches of his grace." In chapter 1:8 he spoke of "abounding overflowing grace." In Ephesians 2:4 he wrote of "rich mercy, great love, and Ephesians 2:7 speaks of "incomparable riches of his grace."
"God performed this miracle," Peter was saying. "Don't look at us as though our power or godliness did this. God's Son did it on the basis of faith, and he even gave the man the faith so that he could believe and be healed."
The Highest Blessing
The miracle of healing the crippled man experienced was certainly a great blessing. God is a blessing God. But he wants to bless us, not only by healing us, but also with a higher blessing. In Acts 3:26 we read, "When God raised up his servant he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways." The greatest blessing is not money or wealth. It is salvation.
We need someone to turn us from our wicked ways because we cannot do it ourselves. But, Peter said, God sent his Son to turn us from our evil ways and make us love and praise God. That is the greatest blessing. That is the glorious grace of God. God is a blessing God who forgives all sins, including the murder of his own Son. It is he who gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and be raised for our justification.
It is my prayer that God will bless you with this great blessing of salvation even now. Remember, there is no other Savior and no other God. Our greatest need is not money or health, but to be turned from our wicked ways, forgiven and cleansed from all our sins, and to be granted the gift of righteousness. Arrayed in Christ's righteousness, we may then come into the very presence of God without fear of anything--the devil, the wrath of God, the law of God, or the flesh--and live with him forever and ever and ever. May God grant us this great blessing in Jesus' name. Amen.
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Copyright © 1998, P. G. Mathew
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