Acts chapter 3       Next chapter          Back to Bible Studies  

(The story of the man who asked for alms but got legs instead!) 

The chapter opens with Peter and John being on their way up to the temple 'at the hour of prayer'. There is quite a bit to be gathered from this statement. First of all, they could well have been on their way to go and pray. Alternatively, they were going to the temple because they knew that there was always an audience there. It also tells us that their stopping to talk to the cripple beggar at the gate, was as a result of the Holy Spirit prompting them, because they abandoned their immediate plans and turned their focus to him. Upon Peter addressing him, the man gives them his attention 'hoping to get something' from them and we know from the text that he was expecting money from them. Money which would help support him in his current situation. But God has something else in mind for him altogether. Far from just supporting him in his current situation, God is about to intervene radically and set him free. How often do we as Christians simply support someone in their current situation - praying for them, giving alms as if that is all we can do, and yet, Jesus came to set the captives free! His truth about this life, His power which is available to us, His forgiveness and cleansing which sets us free, causing Satan to lose his grip on us. Perhaps the church in general has also lost this message and the power of God, and exists only to support people in their state of bondage...

However, Peter says to the cripple 'Silver or Gold have I none, but such as I have give I unto thee...' This reminds us of Matthew 10: 5 - 9 where Jesus sends out the twelve saying to them to take no silver or gold with them, for they had a much greater gift to give...It is significant to note that Peter says 'that which I do have'. This implies that before we can give this gift of life, we must first have received it. We cannot give something which we ourselves do not have. If material things are all we have got, then that is all we will be able to give. Often one hears 'being a Christian' described in terms of kindness and almsgiving and good deeds to fellow men. However, the world at large, people who are not Christian at all, are very good at that too, and without the Holy Spirit. If we follow this definition of Christianity, the Holy Spirit can indeed seemingly do no more than the world can. However, in the passage before us we see Christ Himself from heaven healing a cripple and ministering to him through Peter and John - something completely outside of this world. As those who are  indwelt by the living God, it is that much greater gift that we have to give - the gift of abundant life, setting people free from that which keeps them in bondage.

Next we see how Peter uses every opportunity to testify to the resurrected Christ and call the people to repentance. It is highly likely that God healed this cripple with the same purpose in mind as when He Himself ministered on earth, and by miracles drew people to Himself. Peter speaks boldly and preaches the same message again - that they crucified the Christ - the 'Origin of Life' (Greek text) and the need to repent. He also calls attention to the fact that it was not them who had healed the cripple but that the healing had taken place by faith in the name (authority) of Jesus. This issue of 'faith' begs further investigation. We have all probably seen or heard about healings and healing ministries and how often do we hear that a specific healing did not take place because a person's 'faith' was not strong enough. What faith is being meant here? Is it to be understood that the person did not believe strongly enough that they would be healed? Does healing thus depend on the strength of their belief in the fact that they are going to be healed and if that is not strong enough then the healing does not take place...This is nothing more than having faith in your amount of faith - in other words positive thinking. If I just believe hard enough in the fact that I will be healed, then I will be healed. This is not the faith that Peter is talking about in our passage. In fact I would go as far as saying that this is not Christian faith at all.

Let us turn to a number of reference passages to clarify what kind of 'faith' Peter is talking about. Read Luke 8 : 22 - 25 and Matthew 14: 25 - 32. In both these passages we find Jesus asking the question 'Where is your faith'. What does He mean? It is interesting that in both instances Jesus gives a clear instruction. In Luke 8: 'Let us go over to the other side' and in Matthew 14 to Peter: 'Come!'  Having given the instruction, He then expects the disciples to take Him at His word and be calm in the storm (because He is the one who said 'let's go over to the other side' and to Peter 'Come!' All that remains is for the disciples to believe Him and rest in that - 'Well, Jesus said we will get to the other side, so we will' and Peter: 'Jesus said come to me and I believe Him'. Jesus gives the instruction and we act on that, taking Him at His word, believing Him. That is true faith - believing Him when He says what He says. We see many examples of exactly this kind of faith in Abraham, Moses, Gideon and others. In the passage before us, the Holy Spirit no doubt prompted Peter and John that He wanted to heal the cripple, and without hesitation they acted upon that, taking Him at His word. This is true believing, true faith. Miracles do not happen because of the strength or amount of our believing in the fact that they will happen. Miracles happen when the servants of God are completely yielded to Him, filled by His Holy Spirit, following His instruction and He is able to do His work in and through them in this world.

In verse 19 Peter makes an interesting statement: 'Repent then, and turn to God'. In some translations it says 'repent and be converted'. This is interesting because it indicates that there is something that follows repentance. The Greek word is 'Epistrefo' which means 'to be completed/transformed'. Repentance as we saw in a previous study is 'changing ones mind' about something, but this must clearly result in something. Just changing our mind about something is, well... just changing our mind about something! But here is an indication of a specific result of a change of mind - a transformation. To confirm this from elsewhere in Scripture, we looked at the following passages: Matthew 3:8, Acts 28:27 and Matthew 18:1-3. Another interesting reference in this regard is Matthew 27:1 - 5 - the story of Judas Iscariot. We read that he too 'changed his mind' (repented) but instead of turning to God, he turned to the Pharisees, tried to return the money (un-do what he had done) and eventually ended up hanging himself. This is a clear illustration of what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7: 8 -10: 'Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death'. Judas did not display Godly repentance but a worldly type of 'anxiousness after the fact' (Greek word: Metamelomai), tried to make things right by human effort, but it led nowhere, to death.

Peter then goes further and declares that this repentance will bring times of refreshing from the Lord. The Greek word here is 'Anapsuxis' which means 'to breathe breath into again or to revive'. We found the same idea in the following scriptures: Isaiah 57:14 - 15,  Psalm 85: 4 - 9 and Hosea 6: 1 - 3. It is interesting to see how many revivals in history started with repentance. The message we need to share (as non-PC as it may seem today) with those around us is the same one that Peter preached: 'Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come form the Lord...' This message, to the ears and hearts of those the Lord has prepared, is sweet indeed. May we be so yielded and filled by His Holy Spirit, that He will be able to do His work through us, and miracles will happen to His glory.

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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