The Book of Acts Part 7

 

The Book of Acts (Chapter 3:1-10) (Part 7)

The New Testament says that “Jews demand signs.” (1 Corinthians 1:22) When you look at Israel’s long history there were signs, miracles and wonders displayed to the people of Israel by the LORD. Whether through prophets or signs in nature they saw time and time again the supernatural power of God because God is a supernatural God. He is very much alive, not like the lifeless idols that people have worshipped and substituted for God in their human way of thinking. The days following the outpouring of the Spirit there was still a lot of religious activity in and about Jerusalem. Many of those in the religious camp may have heard about the supernatural and unusual event that had transpired in Jerusalem but had not been present when these things were happening.

God hates religion!

Did you know that God hates religion! It drives people mad! The reason the LORD gave the Mosaic covenant with its ceremonies and regulations was to teach His people that they needed to have a relationship with Him and that they had failed to keep His commands and statutes and that they could never keep them by their own will power. The most important and central aspect of Biblical Mosaic Judaism was the sacrificial system. This sacrificial system focused on the fact that God’s chosen people needed to be put back into a right relationship with Him through the atoning blood of innocent animals and even birds. Of course all of the sacrifices mentioned in Torah were to be made continuously as they all pointed to the ultimate final, perfect and complete atoning sacrifice through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, “The Passover lamb of God without spot or blemish that has been sacrificed for them,” once and for all time and never to be repeated. However, at this time in the book of Acts Mosaic Judaism had become spiritually bankrupt and even though the believers in the Lord Jesus tried to work within the Temple system it would eventually drive them out. As we will now see the LORD had a “religious busting event” that shook up the religious thinking of those who regularly attended worship. What happened here will happen again in the Last Days.

(Vs.1)   “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.”

This day was the ninth hour and like any other day when the religious people from every walk of life went up to the Temple to pray. Peter and John, being Torah compliant Jews, were going up to pray as was their regular custom. Now God had a surprise in store for those gathered to worship him on this day. Many of these worshippers were regular and very religious and Torah observant Jews. The tragedy was that the Temple itself pointed to the Living Temple of God the Lord Jesus Christ. They missed this entirely! The Lord Jesus was about to break up this sanctimonious religious service! He did this not through a great sermon or a display of some great sign in the heavens but through a blind beggar that everyone was familiar with. So then Peter and John were going to the Temple to pray and we read…

(Vs.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.”

This man had been a cripple from birth and of course had never walked in his life. Day after day for many years I suppose he had been begging at the Temple Gate and had undoubtedly received alms from many religious people passing by. The fact is that their religion had no power to change this man’s circumstances. Of course when we see a man crippled from birth in the Bible we are reminded that all of us by birth and by nature are spiritually crippled by sin and that religion cannot enable us to walk in God’s way.

All of us are spiritual beggars and basket cases spiritually and only the power of the Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit can enable us to walk in a new spiritual way of life. When the Lord Jesus made the crippled to walk it was pointing to Him as the One who could empower those crippled by the power of sin to rise up in a new way of life and victory over the power of sin. Now the Lord Jesus was going to display that same power through His servants Peter and John. The Gate of the Temple was called Beautiful and at this place something beautiful was about to happen to this crippled man.

(Vs.3-5)   “When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.”

This man thought his life was to be a never ending cycle of begging. Religion had done nothing for his situation. The religious people could give him money but that did not solve his problem in that he just could not walk at all. Many had silver and gold in plenty but no one had the power to make him walk. Many churches are like this today especially the ones that are not open to the gifts of the Spirit or relegate them to antiquity and only for the first century before the Canon of the New Testament had been completed.

Now there was nothing out of the ordinary about Peter and John. They, like everyone else, were going to pray in the Temple. They looked just like any other Jewish person going to the set prayer time in the Temple. The difference was that they had the power of the Risen Lord Jesus down on the inside of them. They were living temples of the Holy Spirit. (The Shekinah Glory was resting on the altar of their hearts) They were humble men but open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The man was distracted by all of the people going into the Temple and Peter and John had to grab his attention. There was a lot of religious activity going on that day and the crippled man could have missed his chance to be healed. When Peter and John fixed their gaze on him and said “Look at us” they were not drawing his attention to them or to their ministry. Peter and John knew who they were in the Messiah and what they had in Him and through Him alone and so we read…

(Vs.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!”

K. Chesterton, was an English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic told the story of the time that St. Francis of Assisi visited Rome and the pope of the day proudly showed him all the wondrous treasures of the Vatican. Referring to a story in the Biblical Book of Acts in which St. Peter spoke with a beggar in Jerusalem and told him he had no money, the pope pointed to the treasures around him and said, “Peter can no longer say ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” St. Francis’ response: “Neither can he say, ‘Rise up and walk.’” St. Francis’ point was that the triumphal, institutional church of his day was prestigious and wealthy, but it had lost the inner fire and dedication that made Christianity a world-transforming faith.

Peter and John knew that money was not this man’s problem. They did not have silver or gold to even donate to the poor fund but they did have the power of the Lord Jesus Christ resting upon them and knew how to release it God’s way. These men did not just go around laying hands on everyone that they could but were open to the leading of the Spirit as the Lord Jesus had been when He has been ministering to people. Peter and John knew that God had placed all power and authority in the name of the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth and used that name as the means to seeing this crippled man walk. They placed all of their confidence in the Lord Jesus and the power available in His name and had no reliance upon their own power or will in this matter.

(Vs.7-8)   “And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”

As believers we should all pray for the sick but if we are going to command someone to come out of a wheelchair then we need to have the faith imparted by the Holy Spirit to believe that the healing will come. Also there needs to be faith in the person receiving the healing. We read about this in connection with healing. This happened with the Apostle Paul. “In Lystra sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. This man was listening to the words of Paul, who looked intently at him and saw that he had faith to be healed” (Acts 14:8-9). It was the same in the ministry of the Lord Jesus. We read about this; “One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing” (Luke 5:17). On another occasion the Lord Jesus healed a woman by the power of the Holy Spirit and said to her; “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34).

Now Peter not only released the faith he had been given through the Holy Spirit but acted on the faith he had and reached out and grabbed the man’s hand. Peter was putting his faith into practice and had the Spirit-empowered confidence to take the man by the hand and pull him to his feet and we read what happened next, His healing was immediate. His healing was not by his own will power or strength as he had been crippled all of his life and did not even know how to walk or even what it was like to walk. He leapt up and began to walk and walked and leaped and praised God and went into the Temple with the apostles.

When a person is really empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life they will also have a spontaneous response to the LORD who has healed them and set them free. This man was no exception. On this particular day the LORD arranged “a religious busting party!” Sometimes the LORD needs to break through the religious barriers and traditions that man attaches to worship. This characterised the ministry of the Lord Jesus because on more than one occasion when He entered the Temple some perfectly religious worshippers present suddenly went out of control and fell down on the floor of the Temple because they were demon possessed while others were miraculously healed, something that even the religious hierarchy could not do.

In the last Days, just before the Lord Jesus comes back, His body the faithful church will be one of spiritual power. The last great arena of conflict will not be in the area of doctrine primarily but in the arena of power. The supernatural power of God will be desperately needed to challenge the power of demons. With the apostasy well under way there are many today within the professing Christian Church who are demonised and counterproductive to evangelism and discipleship. When the Lord Jesus was healing people sometimes it was a physical affliction only but at other times it was related to demons. It is interesting that wherever the Lord Jesus was healing the sick He was also driving out demons at the same time. Not all sickness is connected to demon possession but wherever and whenever you find sickness, disease and death you have the work of Satan in some way. Now let’s move on.

(Vs.9-10)   “And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 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.”

Everyone in the Temple knew who this man was that had been crippled since birth and was now healed! The religious leaders had the religion and even the Word of God but not the power of the Spirit that accompanies the Word of God. It was a challenge to their whole system of theology. This encounter with the supernatural power of God was something that showed up the formality and legalistic nature of their religious services. In the Last Days the same thing will happen again. You will never find religious people walking, leaping and praising God. No wonder they were filled with wonder and amazement. The power of the Holy Spirit working in and through the apostles challenged the rather dry, formal and legalistic nature of the worship in the Temple. The physical healing was merely a catalyst the LORD used to bring about spiritual healing and salvation.

The truth of the matter is that It is not the signs, the miracles and the wonders that saves people but the preaching of the Word of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, focusing on the salvation only to be found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Signs, miracles and wonders always follow the preaching of the Word of God and are not a substitute for it. When you look at the ministry of the Lord Jesus and the apostles there was an abundance of spiritual gifts happening but they were never substitutes for the preaching of God’s Word. During the ministry of the Lord Jesus multitudes saw His miracles, signs and wonders but were never saved. Only when He preached and taught the Word of God empowered by the Holy Spirit were sinners saved and saints sanctified.

It was the same in the First Century and has been the same in every genuine Biblical revival down through the history of the Church and especially in the future. The emphasis has always been on the preaching of God’s Word and not focused on the healings or on those through whom the healing is being released. This pattern of ministry continues right through the Acts of the Apostles. In the next study we will see that that the healing of this crippled man was only the means to draw people’s attention to their need for spiritual healing but it was the Spirit anointed preaching of God’s Word that brought results!

Signs, miracles and wonders have their place in God’s purposes and never died out or ceased to exist after the First Century. Those who promote this idea that we no longer need spiritual gifts quote the following verses. “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). They say that the phrase “When the perfect has come” refers to the completed Canon of scripture and that because we now have the Bible we do not need spiritual gifts anymore. Of course this is an interpretation that the text in its context does not even teach. It is not even implied in fact. If you keep reading the text you will find the context in verse twelve. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” This is referring to the Coming of the Lord and to the rapture and resurrection when, in our glorified bodies as believers, we will most certainly no longer need spiritual gifts because we will know fully as we are fully known. This is the context then.

Nowhere else in scripture do we find any reference to spiritual gifts ceasing. In these last days with spiritual deception spreading like gangrene through the rank and file of Christendom we need the gifts of the Spirit more than anything. Yes we have the Word of God and there is no more scripture to come but only a deeper understanding of what God has already put in the Bible. However, without the operation of the Spirit “breathing on the pages” as it were and imparting the truth of the Bible supernaturally to our minds and hearts we will not understand the Bible in the way God intended it to be understood. As it is also written; “But the natural man (carnally minded, unspiritual man) does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The unsaved person without the indwelling Holy Spirit cannot understand spiritual truth at all, however, it is possible that a believer who has the Holy Spirit living down on the inside of them can be ignorant of spiritual gifts and the deeper dimension of livong in the power of the Spirit. Sadly, those who are in cesassionist Churches are at a disadvantage when dealing with darker spiritual forces that can only be defeated through a proper use of spiritual gifts.

A Christian believer who has never been baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit and believes that the Gifts of the Spirit have ceased is like a soldier enlisted into the army who does not have the weapons and armour needed to fight the battle. When the battle really hots up they are unable to overcome those evil forces especially when demonic spirits and principalities are involved. Spiritual battles need spiritual weapons. Yes we have the Word of God but for it to be effective then it must be preached and shared in the power of the Holy Spirit otherwise, as inspired as it is, the use of it without the power of the Spirit will at best only produce a religious legalism in those who are hearing it.

Genuine spiritual gifts will never contradict or go against the Bible but in fact affirm it. We need real and genuine spiritual gifts practiced Biblically today because there are many who are manifesting so called ’spiritual gifts’ but who are teaching error and leading God’s people astray. Not all supernatural manifestations are of God. Satan is very good at counterfeiting genuine gifts of the Spirit. He did this in the situation with Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh and he is already doing the same thing today in the Church. In fact counterfeit signs, miracles and wonders will precede the coming of the Antichrist. They will open the door to his power. The Apostle Paul spoke about this when he wrote; “The one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9b-12).

Those who insist on following false teachers and prophets are those who do not receive the love of the truth and get saved. Those who are really saved and have the Holy Spirit and have a heart for the LORD and the Bible will get up and leave when they recognize spiritual deception. However, there will be those who know that what they are into is not really Biblical but stay with it anyway and in those circumstances God Himself will send them a delusion and if He sends it then they will no longer be capable of receiving the truth even when they hear it. In fact Paul goes on to say that those who believe the lie of Satan are those who are taking pleasure in wickedness.

Paul also spoke about this kind of spiritual deception that would be well entrenched in the Church in the Last Days. He writes; “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2) Paul also wrote; “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

When dealing with the whole subject of signs, miracles and wonders we need to remember what the Lord Jesus said to the religious leaders who were leading His people astray. Matthew records this. “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-40) In other words what the Lord Jesus was saying is that the only sign that really counts is His atoning death and resurrection. Anything else other than that great central Biblical truth comes from a wicked and adulterous generation who do not want the cross but want to see and experience for themselves signs, miracles and wonders. Those who only seek after signs, miracles and wonders Jesus calls a wicked and adulterous generation.

Unless we believe in Him who shed His blood for us we cannot be saved. Miracles, signs and wonders may point to the Lord Jesus but they will not be the means by which God saves sinners. The only way for anyone to be saved is to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus for them personally, to repent of their sin and turn to Jesus for cleansing, for mercy and forgiveness of their sin. Paul had it right when he wrote; “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) All Biblical truth must be subordinate to this great central truth as it is of first importance. As we will see the miracle of healing that occurred through the hands of Peter was not the main event. It was Peter’s sermon that pointed the crowd to the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, Lord and Messiah.

Go to Part 8