Acts 3 sermon
Acts 3 “A Lame excuse to preach a sermon”
Title is not original with me.
Models of ministry
1. Engage in Team Ministry (3:1)
One of the patterns that we see throughout the NT is the concept of team ministry. Jesus certainly did it. He often took disciples with him to learn hands on how ministry was to be done. He also sent the disciples out for ministry in pairs (Mark 6). Paul had Timothy and others who were not only learning from him, but partners with him in ministry.
So in this case we see Peter and John going up to the Temple at the time of prayer. They are an interesting pair. Peter is the fiery and outspoken one who had denied the Lord three times. John was the introspective Apostle of love. They were not identical and their differences together were what made a good team. John did not have to be like Peter and Peter did not have to be like John. God gave them different gifts. The same is true for you and for this fellowship. All of you have been blessed by God with different gifts and abilities. He is glorified when you work together in ministering to those around you.
Notice also that Peter and John were going to the Temple to pray. This is an important aspect of team ministry: prayer. It is very important that the church makes time to pray. I enjoy the prayer times at this fellowship. Even though I do not understand the words that are being said, it is a blessing to join with you in prayer.
Pastor Derek Thomas says of these early disciples, “Prayer is what they relied on, and you can’t get away from it. We saw it [earlier]: that they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. Prayer was one of those marks of the early church, of the early community. They did everything by prayer. That’s why Paul will say, ‘In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.’”
2. Meet physical needs (3:2-10)
Peter and John were ministering together and they were on their way to pray but they were also on the look out for ways that they could minister to people in need. They were going through their normal routine and God put a ministry opportunity right in front of them. I think that it is interesting to observe that this man had been at the gate and had been passed by many pious Jews on their way into the Temple. He had a prime spot and I am sure that he received money from those who went in and came out. But no matter how much money he received, his condition did not change. Money could not improve his condition but it was money that he was seeking.
Can you put yourself in his place? Luke tells us that this man had been crippled since birth and that now he was over 40 years old. He had lived with this condition for so long! He had never known what it meant to walk or run. He was dependent upon others to place him at the gate and to take him home. He was dependent upon others to give him money to sustain his life. His life was the same day after day and year after year with no hope of improvement.
But this day things were going to be different! He looked to Peter and John to provide him with perhaps a few coins that would maintain his life for another day but what he got was a restoration to health! Perhaps he was a pious man who was at the Temple gate as a symbol of his faith that God would provide. He reached out his hand for coins but instead he received health!
Jesus wants His followers to minister to both physical as well as spiritual needs. We tend to swing to one extreme or the other. We can focus on just the physical and ignore or minimize the spiritual or we can focus only on the spiritual and neglect to minister to the physical. I believe this passage shows us the right balance. Peter and John clearly met this man’s physical need (healing) but they tied it to “the name of Jesus Christ”. Peter did not give the man money so that he would just sustain himself for another day but instead he received new life (he went into the Temple walking and leaping and praising God). It is significant I think that Luke tells us that he “went into the Temple praising God”. Before he had been outside, now because of the work of Jesus through the Apostles, this man was healed and able to enter the Temple.
The goal of the church in meeting physical needs is to not only meet the physical need but to meet the spiritual as well. If all we do is meet the physical need without addressing the spiritual we are not ministering as Jesus would have us do.
3. Present a complete message (3:11-26)
Peter takes advantage of the healing of this lame man to preach. The crowds are gathering around and they are understandably amazed at what happened but Peter wants to make sure that the credit goes to the One to whom it belongs and that is Jesus. To these unbelieving pious Jews at the Temple who have just witnessed a miraculous healing Peter is going to present the Gospel. What can we learn about presenting the Gospel to those we encounter?
A. Peter dealt with the issue of sin (13-15)
B. Peter proclaimed Christ
C. Peter offered forgiveness through Christ
Peter dealt with the issue of sin
Peter addresses this issue with his hearers right from the start. Sometimes we do not want to deal with the sin issue because we are afraid. Peter was looked at favorably after being God’s instrument to heal this man. Yet he did not bask in his popularity. He valued God’s approval more than man’s popularity. He got right to the issue with his audience. That issue was their sin. These people had a 4 fold dishonor and Peter confronts them with it. From John Stott:
- They had handed Jesus over to be killed
- They had disowned Him before Pilate
- They had disowned Him and asked for a murderer
- They had killed the Author of life
Our message as the church to a lost world has to include the bad news that people are sinners and that their sin separates them from God. That is bad news and no one likes to be the bearer of bad news but thankfully our news is not all bad.
Peter proclaimed Christ
Peter tells them clearly in vs 16 that “the name of Jesus has healed this man”. This would have been a great opportunity for Peter to promote himself. To grab some of the glory but instead he points his audience to Jesus. We need to remember that. In the words of John the Baptist, “he must increase but I must decrease”. The people that we minister to need Jesus not us. Peter preached a Christ centered, Christ exalted sermon. Because of the Jewish makeup of his audience, Peter’s message is rich with OT allusions. He calls Jesus the Suffering Servant and reminds them that the Messiah that was promised to them would suffer. He reminded them that Moses had promised a prophet like himself and that prophet was Jesus. There was supposed to have listened carefully to that prophet. Jesus was the “seed of Abraham” through whom all families on the earth were to be blessed. Not only that, but Peter said that Jesus was “the Holy and Righteous One” and “the Author of Life”.
One pastor notes:
I know it seems almost unthinkable, but so many today who claim to preach the gospel, do not actually preach Christ – who he is and what he did according to the Scriptures. But this is the gospel. Without Jesus – without his work on the cross and resurrection from the dead – there is no Christian faith. We must tell about him living a life of perfect righteousness before God (a life we cannot live because of our sinful hearts); about him dying the death we deserve (bearing God’s wrath against our sin); about God raising him back to life as Lord of all creation.
3. Offer forgiveness
Peter started off by confronting his audience with their sin, then he preached Christ to them and now he presents the offer of forgiveness to them. As I said earlier, the complete Gospel message has the bad news of sin but it also offers the good news of forgiveness. The Bible tells us in Romans 3 that we have all sinned. That is the bad news. But the good news is that because of the death of Christ we can be forgiven. The sins of Peter’s hearers were awful. Our sins are awful. But God has provided the way for us to have our sins forgiven and our relationship with God to be what He desires it to be. Peter told this crowd that forgiveness was possible for them. Peter offered them forgiveness through faith in Christ. And that is the same message that we have 2000 years later. We offer it to the people in Ankara Turkey and in your home country of Iran and around the world. It is a message of “Good News”. It is a message of hope. May God help us to present it boldly to this generation.
Conclusion and Application
At first, I saw the healing of this lame man as only an “excuse” for Peter’s preaching of the gospel. I now see it as far more than this. This miracle did attract a large crowd, to whom Peter preached. But the miracle of the healing of this man also illustrated the salvation of which Peter preached. This lame man typifies man’s helpless state, and the grace of God which reaches out to touch and to save sinners. Let us conclude by giving consideration to the way in which the lame man typifies the state of lost men.
The lame man of our text typifies lost Israel
The lame man was in a hopeless condition. He was helpless, immobilized, broken. He needed to be healed. His only “salvation” was Jesus, and yet his ailment disabled him, it kept him from coming to Jesus. He would never get to Jesus on his own. He looked to the temple and to the goodness of men, but this could not deliver him. The help which the man cried out for was merely monetary—he cried out for money but hardly seemed to expect that. When Jesus was put to death, it appeared that this man’s hope of healing was gone. And yet it was the risen Jesus whose power healed him.
The Israelites, like this man, were in desperate need, and from birth. From birth, the Israelites were sinners. They were enemies of God. Their sin kept them from getting close to God, even from wanting to be near Him. This was seen by the Israelites’ request that Moses serve as a mediator between them and God. They looked to such things as the temple and their rituals. They sought God’s blessings, but these were primarily physical, material. And when Jesus came, their hopes were initially raised, but when He spoke of spiritual salvation and of giving up one’s material goods, they wanted no part of Him. They put Him to death. But through this death, man’s sins were atoned for. It was through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, that Israel’s spiritual healing was made possible.
The lame man of our text typifies all who are lost
It is not just Israelites who are lost, but all men. To play on words for a moment, when it comes to our relationship to God, to our approaching Him, we “don’t have a leg to stand on.” Our sins have separated us from God and keep us from approaching Him. But just as the apostles reached out to the lame man, giving him far more than he hoped for, or asked for, so the Lord Jesus has taken the initiative to come to fallen men, lost and helpless in their sins. While lost men do not seek God, God has sought out the lost, in the coming of Christ. By His death, man’s sins are atoned for. He takes hold of us and draws us to Himself. All those who have faith in His name, who repent of their sins, and who trust in Him, are healed and are made whole.
To all who believe, who “take heed” to the words of Jesus, there is salvation, wholeness. But to all who refuse to heed His words, there is only the expectation of the judgment which will befall all those who refuse to heed the words of the “prophet like Moses.”
The lame man also typifies many Christians
Unfortunately, this lame man also typifies many Christians. We, like him, may be in great need, and in pitiable state— beggars. The apostles had their eyes fixed on the beggar, but they had to command him to look intently at them. He cried out for help, but of the most meager and material kind. How often do we come to God in prayer for only material things and hardly believing that God cares or that He will provide. We seem to think that our problem is getting God’s attention, when His eyes are fixed on us, to bless us. And what He wants to give us is so much more than anything we might ask or think (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-13).
And we so often attempt to attract a crowd by circus-like antics, rather than by genuine manifestations of divine power. It is not God whose attention we need to attract. It is our attention which needs to be riveted on Him. And we should believe that what He desires to give us is far greater than what we expect to get.
There is a clear evidence of the “supernatural” hand of God in our text. But there is also a clear sense of the “natural.” The disciples were acting naturally; that is, they were on their way to the temple to pray. They did not go out of their way nor did they attempt to attract a crowd. They did not have any money, but they did possess the power of the Holy Spirit, which the Lord Jesus had poured out on them. And so, when they encountered a man in need, they gave what they had; they did what they could. And when a crowd gathered, they shared their faith. A very supernatural thing took place from some very natural actions. That is the way God often works, using vessels of clay through which to manifest His grace and power. May we be faithful as vessels of clay, to be instruments in His hands, to produce marvelous things.