Jesus said to his disciples, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). The disciples said to Jesus, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). Few things in the Bible are as important as faith in Jesus. Our lessons for this quarter focus on faith—the faith proclaimed by the early church, the example of faith evident in the life of Daniel, and the call to be measured and upright in faith.
Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith’s importance is underlined by “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6a). But at the end of the day, faith is simply saying “Yes” to Jesus. That is what Peter and John had done (John 14:1), and it was what the lame man did at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-11).
Faith and Healing
Scholars sometimes refer to Acts 3-5 as one literary unit under the heading of “The Echo Effect.” The apostles preached, were imprisoned, were released, gathered the church for prayer, exercised church discipline, worked miracles, and were arrested again and beaten. But the incident that drove all of those narratives was the healing of the lame man near the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem. Peter made it clear that faith in Jesus’ name is what brought about the healing. The word “name” appears 14 times in Acts 3-5. It is like the “name of Jesus” is the grand echo of the chapters.
Salvation is more than forgiveness of sins. Salvation also encompasses the healing of bodies and the restoration of all creation. This lame man became a microcosm of a restored universe. He got his life back (to say nothing of his job, family, and dignity). No wonder he went walking and leaping and praising God. “This man” (a phrase that appears three times in this paragraph) held on to Peter and John. The phrase indicates “clinging” or “grasping tightly” to someone. No doubt it was due to his gratitude.
A crowd began to gather. (This always happens when miracles take place.) Peter saw an opportunity to connect a message to the miracle so he began to preach. His pulpit was the open air, and his church building was Solomon’s Colonnade in the temple. Peter quickly dispelled any notion that he or John was responsible for the healing of the lame man. The apostles did not have the power or the piety to heal the man. Peter and John deflected to God any potential glory that might come their way.
What had happened was God, working in perfect solidarity with his promises to the patriarchs, glorified his servant Jesus. As soon as Peter said the “name” of Jesus he launched into his sermon. The message contained three points: (1) You handed Jesus over to Pilate, even though Pilate wanted to release him. (2) You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked for Barabbas. (3) You killed Jesus, but God raised him from the dead.
Let the record show: God is the one who heals. Peter and John’s part was to have faith that God would heal. The lame man’s part was to have faith that he could be healed. Be careful of assuming that faith is a necessary prerequisite to healing. Sometimes God heals people whether or not they have faith because it is what he wants to do (see John 5:1-18). But God is more glorified when our faith in Jesus meets his power.
Faith and Repentance
If all the sermon we had was Acts 3:13-15, Peter would have sounded quite accusatory—“You, you, you.” But his compassion comes through in his redemptive appeal in this paragraph. Peter showed his solidarity with the Jews by referring to them as fellow Israelites. He also acknowledged that they acted in ignorance (without knowledge).
Peter called upon the Old Testament prophets to underline his appeal about faith in Jesus. He reminded the people that the Messiah would suffer (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), and he called them to repent (the very same word used in Acts 2:38 meaning to change the mind, direction, desires, and affections). Three wonderful promises are attached to the people who have the kind of faith that demonstrates itself in repentance: (1) Sins wiped out (removed or cancelled). (2) Times of refreshing (renewal or new life) come from God. (3) The Messiah will return to restore all things. Faith in Jesus can unlock healing. Faith in Jesus can lead to restoration.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.