The Mercy of God
We have been looking at the inception of the church. And as we have looked at the inception of the church we have examined the essential elements that make a healthy church and we have even looked at how God has broken down barriers within the church. Now that the church in the book of Acts has been established we are going to see this morning through the work of two of the apostles of the crowning characteristics of God that has never changed but is being fully realized through the church. This is the characteristic of God has always been a mark of salvation, it is God’s mercy. God did not just let mankind wallow in their sin and sinful condition. His mercy is at work in man’s salvation and bringing Himself glory. It is because of God’s mercy mixed with His grace that man has been spiritually healed. As we look at one of the first recorded miracles the apostles performed we will see something important about God’s mercy.
God’s Mercy brings Spiritual Healing which is Expressed in Physical Praise
God’s Mercy brings Spiritual Healing which is Expressed in Physical Praise
We will see this in Acts 3:1-10, Acts 3:1-10;
1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. 2 And a 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. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. 4 But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” 5 And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 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!” 7 And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. 8 With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 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.
In verse 1 Luke provides the setting. The events of the day of Pentecost are over God is continuing to work in a mighty way in and through the apostles and now Luke gives us the names of two apostles, Peter and John. There is something to be said about the fact that these two men were together. First they were in pairs as Jesus had told them to be when He first sent them out. Peter is the highlight of the first ten or so chapters. Stephen and Philip are also added to the mix but the focus of the first ten or so chapters is on Peter, his actions and his sermons. Stephen and Philip have very special and unique roles in God's plan for the spread of the gospel but Peter is who Luke highlights. We saw this in the last chapter and we will see this again in this chapter as well as the next chapter.
The next element that is unique here in this verse is the mention of who is with Peter. Peter and John were going to the temple. These two are seen together on more then one occasion. It is very possible these two were very close friends. When Jesus asked two of the disciples to go and prepare the Passover meal, Luke tells us it is Peter and John that Jesus asked. When the women come back and tell the disciples Jesus has risen from the grave who are the two that go, Peter and John. t is also believed that at Jesus trial one of the disciples is related in some way to the high priest and gains access to the house where the trial took place and then this disciple let Peter into the courtyard. The mystery disciple is John.And here the very first account after the day of Pentecost the first two we find are Peter and John. The two were close friends and worked together to spread the gospel and worked together to help one another grow in their own walk with the Lord.
The reason why they were going to the temple is proof of both of these facts. They were going to the temple to pray. It is the “ninth hour, the hour of prayer.” The ninth hour is 3:00 p.m. and this is the time of the evening sacrifices. This is a public act of worship on their part. Meaning what has just occured with the Pentecost event didn't cause them to only spend time with one another but because it was a fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures they held to the same regulation they had, because it was ingrained in them, but also because they went with a fuller understanding of what it meant to go and pray in public. They would do this together and they wouldn't just do this on the ninth hour but they would do this continually.
These men are going to the temple for the purpose of worship and they have gone to the temple to worship before but now as they go to the temple after the coming of the Holy Spirit they are going with a different feeling and an overwhelming understanding of what it means to feel and experience the mercy of God because they have felt it in a most powerful way. Now they are going to be the vessels of God’s mercy onto a man who has in this community been written off.
As we look at God’s mercy and how it is demonstrated to this man we will see a five qualities of mercy, The first is; Mercy is Impartial
Mercy is Beautiful
Mercy is Beautiful
Look with me at verse 2; “And a 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.” Now we get to see exactly why they were on their way to the temple on this very day and at this very time. A man, who was born paralyzed without the ability to walk was placed at the gate. Scholar’s are not sure which gate this is. There is no record of a gate called Beautiful. There are a couple of gates in the temple. There is the main gate people would take to go in. Then there was another gate called the Nicanor gate which lead from the court of the women to the court of the Israelites. This was more then likely the gate that separated the court of the gentiles from the court of the women. The court of the gentiles is were Jesus went in and cleared out all the tables and the sellers of sacrifices. So it would be possible this is were the beggar is. This is more then likely an entrance to the temple since he is begging alms from those who are entering the temple.
This is a common occurrence in ancient Israel. People were not taken care of by the government and if they couldn't work and the family didn't take care of them this is how they would make a living and this is exactly what this guy was doing. He was so bad off that others had to bring him to the temple. He had no wheelchair, crutches couldn't help him. So he would be brought to the temple and fall on the mercy of men going into worship God in the temple. It seems as though they are taking advantage of the stipulation in Deuteronomy where God tells the nation to take care of the poor.
We also need to keep in mind a man like this was looked down on as being a sinner or the son of a sinner because for the man to be in the condition he is in and since it was from the time he was born then God was punishing him or his parents for some heinous sin. This is a factor also because some people would take pity on him but not the religious elite they would thumb their nose at him and his condition. The Israelites didn't take care of their own. They didn't show any kind of mercy toward anyone unless the other person was within their own social and economic class. The summary at the end of Chapter 2 leads perfectly into how the church should respond to people like this.
This was prescribed to the nation in Deuteronomy
4 “However, there will be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess,
Solomon, who is the wealthiest man alive, says this in Proverbs 14:19-20;
19 The evil will bow down before the good, And the wicked at the gates of the righteous. 20 The poor is hated even by his neighbor, But those who love the rich are many.
And Isaiah encourages the nation to care for the poor in Isaiah 58:10-11;
10 And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. 11 “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Mercy is a beautiful characteristic because mercy doesn’t look down on someone but helps bring the other up. This man should have been helped but instead they wealthy of the day would maybe throw him a denuris and go on their way. Not even looking at him. These people are cruel and heartless.
Mercy is Beautiful and Mercy also Removes shame and Guilt.
Mercy Removes Shame and Guilt
Mercy Removes Shame and Guilt
In verses 3-5 we find out what happens when mercy finds this poor man. Verse 3 reads “When he was Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. 4 But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” 5 And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.”
Now the men meet one another for the first time. The beggar notices Peter and John coming toward him and asks for alms. He is seeking charity looking for a hand out. Peter and John both stop and stair at him intently and what they say to the beggar is very telling. "Look at us!" The beggar notices them but when he asks for the alms he asks with his head down, he is not looking in their eyes.
Anyone who asks for charity usually asks with shame. There is nothing this man can do and he has no other means of support. It is very possible his family has put him out or can’t support him now that he is old. It is possible he is living from house to house and it is obvious this man can't take care of himself. This is not the most respected means of making a living and what kind of a living is this. He isn't faking it this is not just a ploy to make money it is shameful to the point he can't even look up to ask for the money.
It isn't until Peter and John call for his attention that he looks up at them. He figures if these guys are calling for his attention they are going to give him money. In a society where social and economic class reign, if someone were to give money they would want the one who recieved to know the face of the one who gave it to him. So he looks up at them.
Mercy takes away shame and guilt. When Mercy is demonstrated the mercy shown provides a sense of relief in this man’s heart. He is told to look at them and what happens is by looking up he is about to see the glory of God which is poor out in the mercy He is showing through His servants.
16 Let Your work appear to Your servants And Your majesty to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.
10 Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 11 When David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 12 “Go and speak to David, ‘Thus the Lord says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.” ’ ” 13 So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.” 14 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, 2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Mercy is of Greatest Value
Mercy is of Greatest Value
But he doesn't get what he expected. He got something better. Peter tells him, "I do not possess sliver and gold, but what I do have I give to you." He has no money he has nothing monetary to give to the man but he will give him something that the man isn't even asking for and probably has prayed for and seeks in his heart but he can't ask people for it. That is what Peter offers him, he offers the man the ability to walk. It is not in Peter's power but in the power and the name that is above every name, Jesus Christ. There is power in the name of Jesus but it is not just some formula tacked on the end of a prayer and voila it comes to be. That is not what this means. Yes the name of Jesus has power but the power is from God through the work of the Holy Spirit that is God's will for the person and persons. This doesn't mean that once you pray something and add Jesus' name at the end of it the prayer has to come true. It has to be within God's will.
This event obviously was within God's will because this event was used by God to bring Him glory and honor and to demonstrate to the nation of Israel He is still working and now He is working in and through the apostles, these fishermen from Galilee. Now it is not just thus saith the Lord, now the power is attributed to Jesus Christ, God's anointed, chosen or called One who God has sent to die to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind. He has authority and power and He has the authority to bring about life in the heart and He has the authority to heal this man physically but for a deeper purpose to bring about a spiritual healing for this man and for many others. This healing was also an immediate healing. It didn't take time but it happened immediately and it didn't relay on the faith of the crippled man it was only in the power of Jesus Christ.
7 But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. 8 I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.
5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Mercy Provides Strength
Mercy Provides Strength
Luke also has a knack for describing things well. He writes here that Peter 'seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened' which seems to indicate two things. First the man didn't just try to get up but was forced up by Peter. No faith was required or demonstrated. Second, the mention of the feet and ankles goes to show were the issue was.
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah.
3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. 9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
Mercy Drives Worship
Mercy Drives Worship
Luke description of the man's ability doesn't stop with the strengthening of the feet and ankles but continues to his actions in response to the strengthening of his feet and ankles. The healing is so amazing and so radical the man begins to walk and leap and praise God. This is actually more amazing that we can imagine. This man has never walked or leaped, for him to just get up and right away begin to walk and lead is a miracle, a true miracle. Think about it when kids learn how to walk, it takes time they have to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and they are still weak so they fall. This guys doesn't fall this guy leaps and praises God. He recognize were the miracle comes from and who did the work here and so did all those who saw him walking and leaping and praising God. God was using this guy to draw people to Himself and that is what the signs and wonders are for. They are to strike wonder and amazement in the hearts of those who witness these incredible.