what the gospel is; what the gospel gives
What the gospel is: Divine Power.
This miracle is an example of the divine power that comes from the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Salvation is all about divine power. That’s why in Romans 1 Paul defines the gospel as the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.
And here we see that divine power on display through the Apostles in the early church.
And if you remember last week in Luke’s description of the early church, we saw that people were filled with awe because the apostles were performing wonders and signs among them; and in this miraculous healing here in chapter 3, Luke is giving us just one example of that:
This man has been unable to walk since birth – his whole entire life – unable to get himself from place to place, reduced to begging and dependent upon people to carry him to the place where his begging might be most effective – right at the temple gate where people were going to worship and so might be more inclined to show compassion to him.
And, on this particular day this man picked some particularly useful people to beg from – the apostles who, possibly unknown to him, were the very ones who have been doing these wonders and signs that we read about last week.
And through his encounter with Peter and John, he’s healed – instantaneously, miraculously – he goes from needing to be carried to jumping around – he’s immediately healed and strengthened such that he can do what he could never do – stand; walk; run; jump.
And the people recognize him – they had either seen him or maybe helped carry him at one time or another – and they recognize him and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened.
And, then, after all this attention had been gathered around Peter & John & this lame beggar, Peter asked, what seems to be kind of a dumb question in v12: “Why does this surprise you?” which seems like a question with such an obvious answer that it’s unnecessary to ask at all!
“Why are we surprised, Peter? Uh, because it’s a miracle! Because you just did the impossible! Because that guy who’s jumping around – we just carried him here because this morning because he couldn’t walk – he’s never walked – and, now he can – that’s why we’re a bit surprised, Peter.”
But it’s not an unnecessary question, because Peter’s point is that the only answer to the question “why are you surprised?” – the only reason they would be surprised is if they are assuming that Peter himself did it – that something in him was the source of power bringing about this miraculous healing. And you see that in his follow-up question in v12 – “Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”
If we look at this and only see human power as the source behind it, then there’s every reason to be surprised. Humanly speaking, this is impossible. There’s no human power that can result in healing-on-command. People can’t just walk up to others and heal them by telling them to be healed. Humanly speaking you need doctors and surgical procedures and medicine and even with those things there’s limits – they can’t heal everything, and even fi this man could be healed through such human means, it wouldn’t bring about such a sudden and dramatic healing as what this man experienced – that his muscles, which would have had not strength and needed years of rehabilitation are suddenly made strong and able to support not just standing – not just walking – but jumping.
If we look at this and only see human power as the source behind it, then there’s every reason to be surprised. But the point of Peter’s seemingly unnecessary question is that if we look at this and see it rightly – that Divine power is the source of what happened and the explanation for what happened, then there’s no reason to be surprised.
In fact, this is a perfect demonstration of what Luke told us the book of Acts was going to be all about – the continued powerful deeds of the risen & exalted Lord Jesus.
Remember, back in 1:1 we were told that while Luke’s gospel account was all that Jesus had begun to do and teach; Luke’s account of the Acts of the Apostles is about what Jesus continues to do and teach – through the apostles.
And so, it’s no coincidence that this miracle account is very similar to the miracles of Jesus in the Gospel accounts – especially if you read Luke chapter 5 – Luke possibly picks this miracle as an example of one of the many miracles the apostles were doing being because of the likeness of the ministry of Jesus, which reinforces the connection between the ministry of the apostles and the ministry of Jesus.
Because the source of power behind the apostles deeds, is Jesus working through the Holy Spirit. It is divine power.
Jesus is in heaven but his power is still present, working in &through his church.
And that’s Peter’s point. Where this would be an opportunity or temptation to point to himself & gain glorify for himself, he is deflecting the attention and the glory all to God.
v12 – not something in me;
v6 – when Peter heals him, he calls attention to this divine power: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
v16 – “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.”
Not any power in Peter; but, Divine Power coming through the name of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is all about divine power for salvation: it is not just the power of positive thinking or human methods for having a better life; it is not a mere human power but it is divine power for the salvation of all who believe;
And, if we have come to Christ in true faith: then just like this man – we have become recipients of that Divine Power for salvation;
and if we have come to Christ in true faith: then just like Peter – we become conduits of that Divine Power which can flow through us into the lives of others.
if we have come to Christ in true faith: then just like this man – we have become recipients of that Divine Power for salvation – even if we haven’t experienced a miraculous physical healing, we have experienced a more miraculous spiritual reality.
Often, miraculous physical healings in the gospel accounts give a picture of what salvation is all about:
Because this man might be unique in the healing he experienced but he isn’t alone in being a lame beggar.
Gospel tells us that we are all beggars. poor in spirit; lacking the spiritual resources in ourselves that we need to earn salvation – nothing to offer; but needing to receive mercy – “divine charity” – the salvation of our souls
beggars; lame – this is a salvation in which we are totally dependent to receive what’s given to us, not one in which we have the strength or ability inside of us to accomplish even just a little bit.
Just like this man was unable to walk; we in our sin were unable – totally unable to please God but paralyzed in our sin;
Just like this man was poor and helpless – couldn’t provide for himself or doing anything for himself to help himself; so in our sin we were helpless to do anything for ourselves to help ourselves;
Just like this man was probably hopeless – he had been this way all his life, and he has no reason to think that his situation would ever be changed because it was, humanly speaking, an impossible prospect to hope for: so sin leaves us hopeless, because apart from the divine power of salvation there is no hope for a solution to the problem of sin and separation from God,
But, just as the power of God came into this man’s life, and caused him to walk, to jump, to leap with joy and gladness, so the power of God in the gospel can come and give us new life, can give us hope, because it can save us from the sin that oppressed us and impoverished us.
When the gospel comes into our lives, it takes spiritual cripples and enables them to leap for God, and to leap with the joy of salvation – humanly impossible, but the gospel can do it because the gospel is divine power.
As Peter summarizes as central to the gospel message – it brings forgiveness – v19 – “repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
And, if you don’t think that the washing away of our sins is miraculous – can only be the result of divine power coming into our lives – then you don’t know anything of the holiness of God or the sinfulness of your own heart.
And to this original crowd hearing Peter’s explanation of what has happened, probably the miracle of this man’s healing becomes nothing compared to the miracle it would take to restore them to God in forgiveness; because they learn who Jesus really was.
v13: God glorified his servant Jesus (& v26 – servant – suffering servant of Isaiah 53 – by his wounds we are healed.
But you: v13-15. You, you, you… but God raised him from the dead; v18 in order to fulfill his plan that he had foretold through the prophets.
v17 – “ignorance” – not guiltlessness, but they didn’t know that he was God’s servant – despite his miracles and plain claims to his identity, they thought he was a blasphemer. (Echo of OT distinction between sinning unintentionally or defiantly – unintentional isn’t “making a mistake”, but contrasted to having a high hand of deliberate defiance against God – in which in those cases, there was no sacrifice for forgiveness (Numbers 15:27).
And so clearly not guiltless, but at the same time, they acted in a degree of ignorance such that forgiveness was available even to the ones who participated in the death of Jesus.
They didn’t know what they were doing, but thankfully, God knew what he was doing. He was sending his Son to accomplish his Salvation to bring divine power to forgive sins and give new life to those who respond to Christ in faith.
Good news for us, because many of us have had times in our lives when we had rejected Christ; and all of us have sin in our lives which make us guilty of those “you’s” – because even though we weren’t there shouting “crucify him”, our sin nailed him to the cross; our rebellion against God before we came to Christ shouted “crucify him”.
But, even we can have forgiveness available to us;
Stott: “As we face the cross, we can say to ourselves both: “I did it, my sins sent him there, and, “He did it; his love took him there.”
but, there is forgiveness – sins washed away – not automatically by by faith & repentance – v19; 22-23
v16 – calling upon the name – in OT, calling upon the name of the LORD was a distinguishing mark of faith; so very bold for the disciples to say that Jesus is the one they must call on for salvation.
Have you experienced this? Have you been a recipient of divine power?
And, if you have, like this man, been a recipient of divine power, then, similarly to Peter, you can be a conduit of divine power.
Peter, in his speech to those who were astonished by the miracle, gives all the credit to Jesus – because all the power came from Jesus.
Because though Peter does the miracle, he is only a conduit of the power of Jesus passing through him.
They are like copper wire – conduits; channels which have no power in themselves, but when they are connected to a power source they pass that power from the source, through itself, to something else.
The church – it’s coming into existence despite being based upon a message that is folly to the world; and it’s growth throughout history despite opposition and persecution — just like this miracle – ought to be something we look at, and conclude that there is no human explanation for – it should baffle us – we should be surprised and astonished at that reality; but when we see the divine power in it, then we realize there’s no reason to be surprised.
the church – it’s birth, it’s continued existence, it’s world-wide expansion – can only be fully explained by divine power.
The life of the Christian ought to be something we look at and conclude there is no human explanation for; but when when we see the divine power in it, then we realize there’s no reason to be surprised.
the life of the christian – & the Christian’s new birth, perseverance, growth & transformation – can only be explained by divine power.
And you have divine power working God’s salvation in you;
And you have divine power bringing the message of God’s salvation through you.
And, so, if power in the Christian life doesn’t come from something in us, but from God, then our lives ought to be characterized by humility and confidence.
We should be confident, and hopeful in our outlook at our own Christian life, because it is divine power which is what sustains us, nourishes us, grows us, changes us, and, works through us – and so we should be hopeful in God’s ability to work through us because it is divine – not human power – working through the Church for it’s growth and expansion of the gospel.
We ought to be hopeful & confident; but we also ought to be humble:
Conduits can’t boast of their own power, and can’t take the credit for the power that passes through them. They can’t take glory, but only in humility give glory to the source of power – God himself.
It may have been tempting for Peter to take even just a little bit of credit;
But, Peter gives all the credit, all the glory to Jesus – because all the power comes from him. And if all the power come from him, then all the glory should go to him. If we provided a little bit of power, then we could perhaps expect a little bit of glory but we he gets all of the glory because he gives all of the power.
2 Cor 4:7 – “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
& he goes on to describe: All we are are clay pots – empty, cracked, broken, but not crushed & not destroyed. And the only explanation for a clay pot being hard-pressed on every side but not crushed & destroyed, is that there is something inside it sustaining it; And our weakness, feebleness, that’s how the all-surpassing power is proven to be form God – that even and maybe especially through the cracks and the brokenness and the weakness, the power of God shines through.
what we contribute is weakness; sin; foolishness; but what God contributes is divine power – such power that it can work in spite of us, and so we can only give God the glory.
Christians ought to be mirrors such that we are always pointing away from ourselves, to Jesus, always giving him the glory not seeking it for ourselves; always eager to point people away from ourselves to him.
And as long as we do that – we can be a conduit for the power of God to flow into the lives of those around us.
Now, maybe not in the exact same way as the apostles. I believe that miracles – divine miracles – can and do happen today, because just as Jesus was present & active through the church then, so Jesus is present & active through the church now. But, I don’t believe that the gift of “miracle” is continued to be possessed by individual Christians.
Miracles in the OT I believe accompanied 2 purposes:
1. they accompanied God’s acts of revelation & redemption in the OT (for example, the exodus)
2. they authenticated the credentials and message of a prophet proving he was sent by God
And, so, then it makes sense that we would see many miracles occurring in the book of Acts for the same reasons:
1. Accompanying God’s greatest act of deliverance through Jesus.
2. Authenticating the credentials and the message of the apostles and their close associates – proving they were sent by God and are preaching the truth of God.
And so as the new message of the gospel goes forth by these new messengers of it to new places, it is authenticated by accompanying miraculous signs – but both in the gospels and in acts, you see limits to miracles – that miracles by themselves don’t create faith. And especially in Acts, here in this chapter – the thing that creates faith is the message of the gospel preached – the word going forth and being heard and received – and that, not miracles in and of themselves but miracles so long as the serve the greater purpose of the word going forth – that is where the emphasis lies.
And so, if you’re thinking or saying “I just need a miracle;” no, what you really need is the gospel – because the gospel gives us more than what a miracle can give us.
2. What the gospel gives
This miracle shows us that the gospel gives us more than we ask in the present, but not as much as we’ll get in the future.
more than we ask for in the present:
This man asks for what he thinks he needs most and gets something better.
v3 – He asks for money; v4 – probably many people had walked by him trying to avoid making eye contact with him, staring at the ground; but they look straight at him, and ask for his attention; v5 – he is expectant that he’ll get something from them; but then you can imagine how his hopes are raised and then Peter says, v6 – “we don’t have any money” – and you can just imagine that just as quickly as his hopes are raised, so quickly they drop right back down the floor of despair;
but he gets more than he asked for.
Peter says they don’t have silver or gold; but he gives the man something more valuable than that – more precious than any amount of silver or gold:
He gives him healing. And, he preaches the message that gives more than just earthly physical healing, but eternal spiritual & physical healing.
When salvation comes into our life, it often gives us more than we ask for; more than we expected; we think we ask for the thing that we need most but God gives us something far more valuable.
And a church that can only offer silver or gold is a church that has lost it’s power; a church that can only offer the things of this world to the world can’t offer anything that the world needs to bring redemption in that world, because the things of this world can’t change this world;
And Jesus is greater than anything that the world has to offer – all the silver and gold in the world can’t compare to him. And Christ is what Peter & John offer to this man.
and you can only give what you have; they can’t give money b/c they don’t have money; but the reason they can give Christ, is because they have Christ.
They have him in their hearts of faith and they treasure him above all else and so that’s what they have to give.
And a church that has lost Christ, has lost everything – because it’s lost the thing of greatest value.
And the church of course from the beginning and ever since has engaged in works of mercy and compassion to help people in many ways; but it has always sought to give people more than what they asked for with the message of the gospel.
Because, what good is a church or a gospel or a christian if it can give silver or gold but it can’t give Jesus?
And it can only give Jesus if it has Jesus.
This miracle shows us that the gospel gives us more than we ask in the present, but not as much as we’ll get in the future.
Because this man’s healing is only a glimpse – as we saw before, it’s a glimpse of what salvation brings us now in this life that is infinitely more valuable than silver or gold.
Salvation gives us present benefits (forgiveness, reconciliation, adoption, hope of eternal life, presence of God with us), but the present benefits of salvation don’t exhaust all the benefits of salvation, because our salvation in some way is only partial all in this life;
And, though this man gets healed, it’s important to remember that even after getting healed, he still lived in a body of death, that was subject to disease, sickness, injury, suffering, death and decay;
and that the gospel, though it brings us great spiritual benefits in this life, does not promise us physical healing in this life – because though we’re saved we still live in a body of death, in a world of death – both of which remain submerged in death until – v21 – the restoration of all things.
And it’s good and right to pray for physical healing, and it’s good and right to rejoice when physical healing comes, but we can’t expect or demand it from God – and we can’t put our ultimate hope in that; because no matter how health-conscious you are; or how careful you try to be to eliminate any health/safety risks from your life; you will still die – and so our ultimate hope can’t be in this physical life or its circumstances but in the next.
Many preachers promise that if you have enough faith, you’ll never be sick, you’ll never be poor, but that is never taught in the NT.
In fact, Romans 8 assures us that this world is fallen and filled with suffering and characterized by rebellion and judgment and that the whole creation groans, waiting in eager expectation for the full redemption of God – for the day when everything will be made right; and that we too groan with it – even as Christians who are forgiven and who are now filled with the Spirit and now have Christ in us and now call God father and know his love – we still await for the future final state of salvation when then we will be freed from all those things that characterize this world and plague us in this life.
And the resources of the Gospel enable us to endure those things that plague us; they enable us to have hope in the midst of those things and even to rejoice even though we experience them; but the gospel doesn’t promise to remove them, not in this life at least – not until christ comes again to restore everything.
Isn’t there such hope in those words? That for those in Christ – life will one day be what God created it to be – no longer marked by suffering and despair and death; but as Jesus is called in v15 – the author of life, who they killed but who conquered death and reigns in life will bring eternal life to our mortal dying bodies.
There’s a book by one such prosperity preacher titled “Your best life now” – and ok, I haven’t read the book. Maybe there is some truth in it or maybe there’s a nuanced way to understand the title in a way that isn’t heretical but just on the surface of it it is a lie: don’t believe the false promise that God gives you your best life now.
Your best life isn’t now, no matter how good your life might be in this life, your best life is in the next life, if you are in Christ.
And, to think that our best life can be now involves incredible short-sightedness and upside-down values that in the end must prize silver and gold over Christ.
But, the eyes of faith see that our best life is the life yet to come – the “restoration of all things” which this man’s healing is a sneak-preview of – it is “heaven spilling over backwards into this world” – and when we dwell on those things, it ought to make us leap for joy.
“For the non-Christian, this life is the closest they’ll ever be to heaven. For the Christian, this life is the closest they’ll ever be to hell.”
Only a non-Christian can look at this life and think it’s their best life and find any hope in that. For a Christian it ought to depress you more than anything to think this is the best there is – because the promise of the gospel is life as it was meant to be – when God himself wipes every tear from our eyes, and no more will there be death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away; and Jesus seated on the throne will declare: “I am making all things new!”
When you look at your aging, dying, sick, suffering body and the looming reality of your death; that ought to give you hope.
When you look at all the sadness of the world around us that has no human solution; that ought to give you hope.
Maybe you live with physical ailments that prevent you from living the life you would want to live, or that cause pain on a daily basis. You might have it all this life but one day you will not.
Maybe you live with mental illness that makes it difficult to function or see reality clearly. You might have it all this life but one day you will not.
Maybe you live with personality or social/emotional disorder which make it difficult to live with yourself. You might have it all this life but one day you will not.
Maybe you live with depression, that makes it a daily struggle to hold on to even a dim ray of hope in your life. You might struggle with that all of this life but one day you will not.
We all live with temptation in this life; but maybe you live with a particularly strong and persistent temptation which requires daily struggle and sacrifice. You might have that with you all this life, but one day you will not.