Apostolic Evangelism – Acts 3:1-16

 

We can’t be sure where exactly the healing of this lame man took place. Jerusalem, yes; the temple, yes. But I have seen dozens of depictions of the temple in Jerusalem, and they are all a little different. Nowhere else in the Bible are we told about the “Beautiful Gate,” so it may have been a nickname used only in that day. But there is a reference in verse 11 to “Solomon’s Porch,” and in verse 8, after the healing, the three men went “into” the temple. So I am thinking that this took place at one of the exterior gates outside the Court of the Women and outside of Solomon’s porch.

One day, at just before 3:00 in the afternoon Peter and John walked toward the “Beautiful Gate.” On that day, one of the greatest of all human events took place. Two Christians behaved like Christians should and one sick, dead, lost man became a child of God.

Let’s consider the event itself.

This man, because of his malady, had no access to the temple. Because he couldn’t walk and because he couldn’t walk, he was not permitted inside the temple grounds. So metaphorically – symbolically – he had no access to God. He was unable to worship the Lord according to the outline of the Old Testament law. He was spiritually crippled – lost – in reality, he was dead in his trespasses and sin in the sight of God. In fact, he had never been able to walk, even though his legs were correctly formed, despite their weak and thin condition. Apparently there was a neurological problem which kept his cerebellum from commanding his legs properly. Apparently several of his friends made a point to come to his house every morning, and then somehow they carried him to a corner of the gate through which hundreds of people passed every day.

Tabling for a moment his many problems, consider some of this man’s blessings. He had a few friends, and perhaps a loving family. What a blessing there is in that. It offers nothing for eternity necessarily, but in the short term, it is a great privilege to have a friend. Then sitting at that gate, if anything was happening in the temple or even in the city, he knew about it. He had seen the high priest on several occasions, and he could identify members of the Sanhedrin. If there was a hymn, newly composed and sung by the Levites, he may have heard it. If there had been a riot against the Romans across town, eventually people would pass him talking about it. And he heard about Jesus of Nazareth long before he had the privilege of seeing Him on several occasions. But he did see Jesus, or at least he saw the crowd of people who enveloped Jesus as they passed through the gate. And when Jesus cleansed the temple, he may have laughed as some of the money changers ran past. Of course, he knew full well that Jesus had been crucified a few month earlier.

He was living on the edge of spiritual life, attending the house of God, without really participating in it. His income was derived from people who went to and fro from “church.” Perhaps he would have liked to go in himself, but he never could “the good that he would, he could not.” He might have wanted to worship with the others, but in reality it was contrary to his physical nature. He knew the way, but he couldn’t even get to the on ramp. Then one special day, by the providence of God, two of the Lord’s apostles chose to enter the temple through the “Beautiful Gate” rather than one of the others. And in that encounter we catch a glimpse of one way in which WE can serve the Lord and our fellow man.

How often during our lives and our days do we walk right past a “lame” man in need of our help? You may see a tear trickling down the cheek of a stranger; you may hear a gasp or groan. Sometimes they may look right at you and “ask an alms.” Perhaps, in the case of this man, the request may be utterly unemotional or excited. Do we hear or listen?

Peter heard, and the first thing he did was to excite the man’s expectations Look on us,” he said. And the man did just that, but he was instantly disappointed. It didn’t take long to see that these men weren’t dressed any better than he was – they didn’t look wealthy or privileged. And they were obviously Galileans – there even remained a faint odor of fish about them. Galileans didn’t usually have money; that was the part of Israel which was across the tracks from Judea – on the other side of Samaria. When Peter said, “Look on us,” did he mean, “Can’t you see that we have no money with which to help”? Or was he saying, “Give me your undivided attention for a few minutes”?

Peter saw the man’s disappointment and knew he needed to add to it before he could go on. “I am Sorry, but we don’t have any silver or gold to share with you. We are Christian nobodies with nothing in our pockets or in ourselves.” “Look on us.” The most helpful Christian needs to admit to himself and share with others that he lacks those things which the world thinks are important. How many people have come to the doors of this church asking for alms – for money? A hundred over the years? But we haven’t had much silver and gold to share with those people. And when it comes to our ministry, we don’t have the silver of eloquence, or the gold of worldly intellectualism either.

After saying, Look on us” Peter turned the man’s attention AWAY from himself and John. And in the process he tried to suggest that what the man really needed was not what he thought he needed. The world, and the lost people who fill it, ultimately don’t need more silver and gold. While charities, homeless shelters, homes for unwed mothers and children’s may have some usefulness, these are not the greatest needs or answers to the problems in this world. The world doesn’t need psychiatrists with their pills and up-beat perspective. The world doesn’t need more entertainment – better entertainment, or more vulgar entertainment. The world doesn’t even need more Christians and churches it has plenty of those. What the world needs is Christ Jesus. Christians know they “were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold.” And our lame and crippled neighbors need that kind of redemption. The world needs God’s people – genuine Christians – willing to admit that they are nothing and have nothing in themselves. “Look on us” says Peter and “recognize that we can’t help you in the way that you want.” The world needs Christian servants who can lay aside THEIR plans, their strengths, their wisdom and their wealth in order to channel the real power of God.

I saw a man Thursday wearing a Christian t-shirt; it had a message about an aviation mission program. I didn’t get to speak to him, but I wondered if he was Christian servant of God. Or maybe he just found the shirt. Then I noticed he was holding a book – maybe 150 pages – and I wondered what he might be reading. Eventually I saw the title; it was something like “How to Raise Money for your Ministry.” Correctly or incorrectly, I assumed that he was just another neo-evangelical trying to employ the techniques of the world to do the work of God. And, brother, it isn’t going to work; that sort of thing isn’t going to help this lame man. Peter admitted to this poor sufferer that he had nothing of the world with which to bless him.

What Peter did was turn the man’s attention toward the Lord. “Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, 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.” The man might have thought, “Ah, here again we have the name of that Nazarine. And, oh yes, I knew right away that these men were from Galilee as well. But why are they talking about Jesus of Nazareth like this? Jesus died on a Roman cross not too many weeks ago.” Unless Peter emphasized it, the man might have missed, just as you missed it – the title “Christ.” “In the name of Jesus CHRIST of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Peter was declaring that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah; the one whom the righteous souls in Israel had been awaiting.

I find it interesting that Peter didn’t go into a theological discussion about the Christ. In fact there wasn’t a word of technical theology in any of this, until Peter began preaching publically to the crowd that gathered later. Peter didn’t discuss depravity, the imputation of Adam’s sin or the curse which made this man lame. There was no soliloquy on election and the sovereign grace of God. He didn’t talk about the Trinity and the Second Person of the Trinity. He simply slid right through the truth that Jesus is the Christ. And he did it in such a way as to suggest that everyone aught to already know this. I am not sure if we should criticize Peter for this or praise him, but he did what he did. He didn’t talk about Jesus’ sacrifice for sin; he didn’t address Christ the Passover Lamb. There would be plenty of time for Biblical doctrine later – even in just a few short verses – but that was not the need of this man at this time. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

Peter basically shot an arrow through the person of Christ right toward the man’s heart – and faith. Now, a discussion of faith can often be a mistake, if not handled properly. Everyone has faith – faith in something. For example, how many millions of people have faith that their baptism made them children of God? They may have true faith, but not faith in something true. How many of those add faith in their church, trusting their membership to meet their eternal needs? And then millions of people outside of religion and church have faith in their intellect and education – their understanding of the universe. Multitudes have faith in their faith. There are all kinds of “faith-based” ministries, and many of them are

like cruise ships looking for rocks on which to wreck. But Peter’s arrow went through Christ Jesus before entering the area of this man’s faith. He said, “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.” “Such as I have give I thee.” Can you tell me what exactly it was that Peter gave the man? As I’ve said, he didn’t give him a lecture on the theology of Christ – “Christology.” There wasn’t a deep discussion of Soteriology” – the theology of salvation. Peter didn’t – and couldn’t – give the man faith to believe on Christ. He couldn’t cut off a piece of his own Apostolic faith to share with the starving man. All he could do was exhort him to trust Christ. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” He hoped that this man was going to do what he suggested. So Peter did the only thing he could to assist a man with neonatal faith – new born faith. Perhaps all he did was reach down and offer the man his hand. “Here take my hand and stand up.”

“Peter said, 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.” “Rise up and walk?” the man thought. “I have never taken a step in my life, and you say rise up and walk.” “That’s right. Let’s experiment with that faith of yours. You do have faith don’t you?” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and stand up.” “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

It may not work in every case, but usually, when you find the word “name” you can substitute “nature” or even insert the person himself who bears that name. “Upon the authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I’m TELLING you to rise up and walk.” Let me rephrase, “In the authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth DO IT. Let’s not talk about it. Just do it.” Here is my hand to help you. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” just as the Lord has saved me.

Most people would have taken a few minutes to think about Peter’s words. “Let’s rationalize all of this – let’s try to make sense out of it.” “To stand and walk is as foreign to me as flying.” But that lost man doesn’t need to make sense out of God’s salvation; he can’t make it make sense. Later with the help of the Holy Spirit he may be able to put some of the pieces together – sin requires a sacrifice – a perfect sacrifice – the son of God was perfect – He sacrificed Himself and offered His blood for my redemption – etc. Some of us may be able to explain salvation on an elemental level. But there is still that enigmatic, eternal question “Why would the Lord want to save me?” This business of salvation – this standing and walking in Christ – makes no sense – it is not logical.

But Peter, the evangelist, didn’t give the man an opportunity to ruminate on this possible restoration. He just put his hand down in an offer to help. Maybe the Spirit gave special direction to the Apostles, indicating that the Lord had prepared this man. Maybe God had given this man faith to trust Him, and this had been revealed to Peter. But I see no reason to make that assumption. Peter didn’t know if this man was elect or not. He simply declared that there is healing – there is salvation “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” So what are you waiting for? “Rise up and walk.” Here is my hand to steady you.

The man received from Christ – by an act of faith – strength to overcome his weakness. Could I say that he received Christ and was made whole? Peter “took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. and he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”

Isn’t this a picture of salvation and at the same time a picture of Christian evangelism? It began with a man who was helpless and hopeless. But in God’s providence, along came an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ is the cure for man’s most horrible malady – sin. When the Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to trust the promise of God, it is because it is God’s will to cure him. And ninety-eight times out of a hundred, the Lord uses one of his servants to strengthen the ankles of that faith. The man whom the Lord intends to save, will reach out to Christ, perhaps through the hand of someone the Lord has already saved. Reaching to the Lord by faith, he will find his life restored.

It’s our job – our God-ordained commission – to reach down to the spiritually crippled in this world and help them up. “Silver and gold have we none; but such as we have we need to freely give. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”