This passage is about the power of Jesus to completely forgive sinners. Jesus did not die and rise again in order to make forgiveness a possibility. He did not die and rise again in order that if you do your part, He will do His. No, He died and rose again in order to raise powerless-lame sinners from their guilt and shame, in order to guarantee that times of refreshing would come from the presence of the Lord.
The Text: “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful…” (Acts 3:1-26)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
As Peter and John go to the temple for prayers, Peter heals a lame man begging, who immediately begins walking and leaping and praising God (Acts 3:1-8). This causes quite a commotion, and Peter sees another opportunity to preach the death and resurrection of Jesus and the power of faith in His name (Acts 3:9-16). Peter says that while the Jews and their leaders crucified Jesus in ignorance, it was all part of God’s plan to bring times of refreshing from His presence (Acts 3:17-21). Jesus is the Prophet that Moses foretold would come, along with Samuel and all the prophets, whom God promised Abraham by covenant would come for the blessing of all the families of the earth (Acts 3:22-26).
Remember that Jesus told the apostles that they would receive power to be His authoritative witnesses of the resurrection to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8, cf. 3:15). We believe that God still performs wonders and miracles, but the apostles had the unique authority to command it as proof of that authority, as we see here when Peter heals the lame man (Acts 3:6). This particular miracle echoes one of the early healings of Jesus when the lame man was let down through a roof and Jesus proved that He had the authority to forgive sins by commanding him to rise and walk (Lk. 5:18-26). This miracle is not merely a generic power; it is the personal power of Jesus at work (Acts 3:12), which is why Peter commands “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 3:6) and preaches that it was “through faith in his name” that healed the man (Acts 3:16). But Peter insists that the point of the power is the same as what Jesus insisted on: the forgiveness of sins (Acts 3:19, 26).
REPENTANCE & TIMES OF REFRESHING
The specific command that Peter gives in conjunction with the testimony of the resurrection is: repent and be converted (Acts 3:19). “Repent” literally means to change your mind and “convert” means to turn or turn around. Biblically, when we describe Christian repentance, we mean both of these actions. In Ephesians 4, Paul describes this in terms of putting off and putting on: putting off the old man and putting on the new man, putting away lying and telling the truth, etc. (Eph. 4:22-29). One puritan summarized biblical repentance as sight of sin, sorrow for sin, confession of sin, shame for sin, hatred for sin, and turning from sin, and he said: “If any one is left out it loses its virtue.” Many people feel sorry for sin (at least its consequences), maybe they even feel some shame, but they frequently stop short of hatred, confession, and real change, and so they have not really repented and this is why they have not experienced “times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Often the temptation is to do just enough towards repentance to start feeling better or get others to leave you alone but not enough to actually finish the job.
THE POTENCY OF JESUS
Do not misunderstand: the gospel is not that you must turn over a new leaf, try harder, or make some lifestyle changes. Nor is it that if you do your part, God will do His. The gospel is that Jesus suffered for sinners and rose from the dead in order to raise sinners from the dead. In your sins, you are the lame man begging at the temple gate, from your mother’s womb. You were conceived in iniquity; you cannot lift yourself up to God or please Him. But God sent His Son to be wounded for our transgressions, to be bruised for our iniquities, so that by His stripes we might be healed (Is. 53:5). And the point is that the command to “repent” is the same as the command given to the lame man to rise up and walk. You can’t unless you have believed in His name. But even that faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8). So this is why the Bible describes this power of conversion like God’s command “let there be light.” It is what is sometimes called a performative command: God’s power is resident in the command: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
While the apostles had the unique power to do miracles, proving that they were authorized witnesses, the gospel continues to be “the power of God unto salvation” for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). God “sends” Jesus in the preaching of the gospel (Acts 3:20), and Jesus blesses those who receive Him in turning you from your iniquities (Acts 3:26). The power to turn, the power to repent is all in Jesus. We proclaim Jesus crucified for sin and raised from the dead and command everyone everywhere to repent that their sins may be blotted out, and everyone who does, does so by the power of Jesus.
In the Old Covenant, the priests came from Aaron’s family, but anyone who was lame was not allowed to go into the Most Holy Place or offer anything on the altar to the Lord (Lev. 21:18-23). Part of what is signified here in this healing is the access to God that has been won by Jesus. By His wounds we are healed, and by His blood, we may draw near into the Holy of Holies; we may enter that Beautiful Gate with complete confidence and joy, walking and leaping and praising God, with hearts washed completely clean.
So what is in your file? When God pulls up your file in Heaven, what’s in there? Is it all your filth? All your evil thoughts, words, actions? Or does it say, “Holy One, Completely Righteous, Well-beloved Son, Blessed of God?” If you have been turned away from your sin, than you have only done so by the power that turns you completely toward Christ. To be turned toward Christ is to have His light shining full blast on your heart. So that your file is now filled with praise.