Impotence versus Omnipotence – Acts 3:1-11

I have decided to come back to this scripture this morning, because it epitomizes the very best and worst in our world today.

We have in these eleven verses an ILLUSTRATION of greatest problem that faces humanity.

And I am not referring the problems of disease, poverty or physical suffering.

What makes this scripture so important is that, in addition to the problem, we also have the cure

Not an ILLUSTRATION of the cure, like that of the problem, but a display of the actual cure.

Those of you who were here last Wednesday, heard the introduction to this morning’s message.

Wednesday we looked at the historical aspects of this notable miracle.

And I think that it is very important to remember that it was only Luke’s intention to give us that history.

He was not at this point, as a preacher, trying to craft a sermon, as I am this morning.

He was not trying to devise an illustration of the world’s greatest problem and it’s solution.

Rather, he was describing one man’s malady and the divine omnipotence that overcame it.

If you would like to hear more about the details of the Beautiful Gate or the hour of the day,

I invite you to borrow the tape from last Wednesday or to read the message on our web-site.

But this morning, I’d like to use the historical event to illustrate something much more important.

The title of our message is “Impotence versus Omnipotence,”

And I’d like us to think about three things:

The man’s incurable condition, the Lord’s inauspicious servants and Jehovah’s incomparable miracle.

Let’s make a spiritual application of the man’s PHYSICAL CONDITION.

The poor fella had never walked.

He came into the world with a birth defect of some kind that rendered his legs totally useless.

It may have been only a few hours before his mother recognized that her son had a problem.

He probably never crawled and may have been slow at pulling himself around with his arms.

And of course his parents were probably devastated,

Feeling that they were somehow guilty of hurting their son.

This was a part of the theology of the Jews in that day:

Wealth and beauty were considered to be proof of God’s satisfaction with people,

But poverty and malady were proof of terrible sins and the displeasure of God.

I have often said, and I will continue to plead:

This is not Biblical theology.

Unless you are a scientist trying to figure out how to prevent such human disasters,

It is not a good idea to beat yourself up trying to figure out why these things happen.

This man and his parents might have driven themselves insane with the question: “Why him, why me.”

But for at least 40 years there was no true answer to that question.

Just as there may not be a definite answer to the troubles that you are forced to endure.

By the end of this chapter this fella might have had an answer,

But before that time, the sky was made brass to all of his families prayers and questions in this regard.

So this man had never walked,

And it is unlikely that he ever got farther into the temple than the Beautiful gate.

There are Old Testament scriptures which were interpreted to say that people with deformities were prohibited from the House of God.

There was a spiritual reason for this, but I’m sure that the old Jews totally misunderstood them.

There were laws which forbade the children of priests and Levites from serving God who were incapacitated or deformed in even little ways.

And there were Rabbinical laws and temple guards which kept even the common, crippled beggar out of the temple.

This man’s mobile impotence, and the laws against him, remind us of the effects of sin.

The temple in Jerusalem had been up to that time the place where man met God.

This man by his infirmity was not only, forbidden by law, to enter,

But, obviously, due to his physical condition could not, by himself, pass through the gates of the temple.

It doesn’t matter where you turn in the Word of God;

Whether the prophets, like Isaiah or Jeremiah, the Psalms,

The epistles of Paul or Peter; the Book of Genesis or the laws of Moses,

Everywhere you turn in the Bible you see the sins of man,

You hear the denunciations of God against the sins of man,

And you see the rejection and expulsion of man from the presence of God because of his sins.

“For all have sinned and come shore of the glory of God.”

“And the wages of sin is death.”

Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins had hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).

“Wherefore, as by one man’s sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all man, for all have sinned.”

Just as it was with the man’s lameness, theologians might talk about the cause and the origins of sin,

But for the sinner the important matter is not so much the source – but the fact.

For whatever reason, you and I are sinners and incapable of walking into the throne room of God.

We are both forbidden by the law of Holiness and impotent by our sin to stand before God in our natural condition.

This is true about every single one of us.

Psalm 53 says, “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men,

To see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.

Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

And of course the man’s infirmity forced him to become a beggar.

There were no Jewish affirmative action programs, and no Goodwill Industries for the handicapped.

This man was totally dependent on the generosity, the kindness, and the grace of others.

Just as you and I are before the Lord.

But the Bible is quite clear that the man was not legless.

He had femur bones, tibias and fibias, with a pair of feet and ankles,

But due to atrophy, or more than that, there wasn’t much more than skin leg covering those bones.

And it all likelihood he was not particularly proud of his deformity, always keeping his legs covered.

And if he had tried to walk into the temple in that condition, his malady would have been that much more obvious.

The harder we try to justify our self-righteousness. the more we prove our unrighteousness before God.

The more we try to prove our spiritual strength before the Lord the more we prove our moral impotence.

How many times has the addict declared that he could quit if he wanted to?

How often have you determined to stop some sin in your life and failed?

And in the sight of God our supposed righteousnesses are nothing but filth.

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;

And we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

We are ALL morally impotent, sinfully bankrupt, and spiritually destitute.

And if you have a quarrel with those thoughts, your fight is not with me, it is with the Lord.

Though we might throw ourselves at the gate of the temple or the door of the church,

The priests, the patrons, and other parishioners can do nothing to solve our spiritual problem.

We can sit faithfully in the Beautiful Gate for 75 years, but if the Lord of the temple doesn’t visit us with His omnipotent grace, we will forever remain spiritually crippled.

To put it in the Lord Jesus’ terms: “Ye must be born again.”

There’s a sense in which this man had to start over again.

As an acquaintance of mine has often told me about himself, “This man needs a new body.”

And just as he needed a new body his dead spirit needed new life as well.

But then in his incurable condition along came the Lord’s INAUSPICIOUS SERVANTS.

There may have been several hundred people that passed the crippled man that day.

He had probably been laid at the Beautiful Gate early that morning.

He might have been there to greet those that went to prayer at 9:00, and then again for those that arrived for the noon-day prayers.

He may, or may not, have collected enough money that day to buy himself a meal for the evening.

But in all probability hundreds of people had passed by ignoring the man and his needs,

Just as they had done for the previous 30 for 35 years.

And then along came Peter and John.

They might have been discussing some of the glorious events of the past few days.

As leaders in the Jerusalem church, they might have been talking about some of the problems that the rapid growth was causing.

They have been may have been discussing deep theological concepts and the best way to teach them to the new believers.

But whatever they were doing there were not too busy to notice this man and his need.

I don’t believe for a moment that Peter and John went into the temple simply because it was the proper religious thing to do.

They may have been going into the temple because they loved the Lord and wanted to be in that place as they prayed.

Perhaps they were going into the temple to meet some of the church members for prayer.

But we also know that they met with the saints for prayer in other places as well.

I have to wonder if Peter and John went through the beautiful gate of the temple that day in order to be a blessing to someone or even more specifically to be a blessing to this man.

Did the Lord awaken Peter the previous night and tell him to help this specific man?

Did Jehovah tell John to look for a crippled man in the Beautiful gate?

Probably not, but we don’t know that for sure.

So as Peter and John were about to go into the temple, one of the many beggars of Jerusalem lifted his hands and asked for gift, hoping for money.

Somehow Peter felt a consciousness of God’s willingness to heal this man.

I can’t explain that feeling, or describe it, because I have never felt myself.

Peter fastened his eyes on the man and demanded his attention.

Notice that despite the collected and combined incomes of many hundreds of the saints,

Peter didn’t have a dime to give him.

The church wasn’t the soup kitchen or the welfare agency of the city.

Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give thee:

In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

Because it is the philosophy and religion of a great many people to cure the problems of the world,

They pass their legislation and laws, and they create their foundations

They organize their telethons and walk-a-thons,

And they budget and give away some of their silver and gold, even that which belongs to the Lord.

And they sincerely believe that a year from now this will be a better world than it is today.

But 6,000 years of history have proven the idea to be a pipe dream; a drug induced haze.

There is no reason to believe that this is a better world socially or morally today than it was in the days of Attila the Hun, Calligulla, Stalin or Hitler.

Technology doesn’t make a better world it only makes an evil world more technical.

If the apostles had given this man 10,000 silver coins,

There wasn’t a single over-paid physician in the world who could have make him walk, leap or praise God.

And if they had given him enough money to keep him from begging for the rest of his life,

He would still have been a cripple and still barred from entering the temple.

If it was argued that 2000 years of Christianity hasn’t made this a better world,

I would have to initially agree,

But then I would point to men like Saul of Tarsus, who by the grace of God were turned from murderers to saints.

And I’d point to Levi, the corrupt civil servant, who became an apostle of Christ.

And I’d point to this man who ran into the temple of God leaping and praising God for his grace.

No, Christianity hasn’t made this a perfect world, because very often Christians have stood in the way of the grace of God.

But there will be a day when people will never beg again,

And no one will carry crippled kids to the Beautiful Gate.

There will one day be an entire world where sin, crime, and their effects will be as rare as hen’s teeth.

The apostles were representatives of that world and it’s true King, but the world wasn’t really interested.

Christ came unto His own and His own received Him not.

We don’t need more hands filled with Palm Pilots; what we need are hands holding the Word of God.

We don’t need ears listening to digital satellite radio signals;

We need ears listening to the preaching of the Truth of God.

We don’t need engineers devising another generation of computer games;

We need an army of Christians willing to use their eyes, tongues and hands to reach down to the morally impotent around them and lift them to their feet.

What is the highest good and the greatest need in our society?

When the man of the world said,

“Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”

God said unto him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12).

One of the great needs in our modern world, are a million old-fashioned prophets of God.

We need apostles and ambassadors, who will pick up the word of God, look the spiritual cripples in the eye and say,

“Ye must be born again. You can’t go on like this!”

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

“Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”

This impotent man met the inauspicious servants of God and it ended in an INCOMPARABLE MIRACLE.

“And Peter took came up by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.”

Luke, our historian was not there that afternoon,

But he did his homework and thoroughly investigated the miracle.

We see that in the tiny details which he describes.

Peter didn’t reach down with his hand, he reached down with his RIGHT hand.

And obviously the crippled man reached up, probably with his left hand.

Somehow he had received just enough faith to trust the words and the gesture of this strange Galilean.

Peter wanted the man to realize that what was happening was under the authority the Lord Jesus.

In fact, Pete called Him Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed of Jehovah.

He didn’t want anyone to think that Peter or John was the source of this miracle.

Perhaps this impotent man had heard of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Perhaps he had actually had heard the Lord Jesus.

Perhaps he had heard that there were other wonders and signs been done by the apostles, and he had faith or hope enough to believe that his could be the greatest day of his life.

In much the same way that this man was raised to walk a new life in Jerusalem,

There have been millions of people raised to walk new spiritual lives by the grace and power of the Omnipotent God.

To take a human spirit and give it life, where before it had been dead in trespasses and sins,

Is a miracle more spectacular and infinitely more complicated than to give this man his mobility.

The God who created legs in the first place can certainly re-empower them.

But to regenerate a soul which is dead through the demand of God’s own law,

Requires a bundle of complicated miracles that involve all three Persons of the Trinity,

And the death of Christ on the cross.

Salvation necessitates the omnipotence – and the grace – of the Almighty.

But also in the salvation of the sinner there is a bit of human instrumentality.

I believe in the existence of angels which serve God and perform His will,

But angels have no part in either the salvation of a soul or the work of evangelism.

And I believe that salvation is the work of God through His sovereign grace and omnipotence,

But rarely do we read or hear of God touching a heart without using some earthly or human means.

Even when Saul Tarsus was converted there were outside influences.

The Lord used these two apostles to be a blessing to this man.

And I further believe God has never, and will never, deliver a single human soul apart from that person’s faith and repentance.

I can’t tell you that I know what that man was thinking when Peter put his hand down toward him.

I can’t tell you that he was really strong in faith.

I can’t tell you that he was sure that he would be healed.

Nor can I tell you that he didn’t think that the whole thing was a joke.

I can’t tell you that he didn’t think that he would pull Peter down onto the pavement beside him.

I don’t know what was in the man’s heart.

But as Peter reached down this man reached up,

There was enough faith given this man to trust the message and the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

And there was an instantaneous healing of an obviously crippled body.

There is a lot that I don’t know about this miracle at the Beautiful Gate,

But there are a lot of things that I do know.

I know that if the Holy Spirit is squeezing your heart and convicting you of your sin before God;

I know that if you yearn for peace with God and the assurance of the forgiveness of sin;

I know that if your heart is aching and breaking in repentance over sin;

That as the Lord leads you to reach out toward Christ, He will receive you.

Just as Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk,”

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”