First Century Conversion
teacher's guide Quarter 2, Lesson 6

Lesson Six

The Sermon in Acts 3

Teachers: Study the sermon in Acts 3 carefully. Become quite familiar with its message. Use any resources available to increase your understanding of any part of the sermon. The following italics contain insights and suggestions. You are certainly free to question any of them. Please note the objective of the sermon was to fix the Jewish listeners' faith on Jesus as the Christ [the Messiah].

The Situation: Peter and John, two of the apostles, went to the temple at three o'clock one afternoon to pray. This three o'clock daily gathering was a time of Jewish worship. People gathered in the temple courtyards, not in the temple itself. Only priests had access to the temple structure.

The temple structure was divided into the holy and most holy sections. The priests performed numerous functions in the holy place. Only the high priest entered the most holy place. His access to the most holy place was restricted to the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:11-19).

In the first century, a courtyard system was part of the temple complex. Anyone could enter the Court of the Gentiles. Only Israelites [men or women] could enter the Court of the Women. Only Israelite men could enter the Court of Israel. It was in close proximity to the courtyard containing the altar. From some locations in the Court of Israel an Israelite could see the animal sacrifices.

The temple courtyards were a popular place for mass meetings of Jewish people in Jerusalem. At the daily hours of prayer, the devout would assemble there for worship. Please note that Peter and John were assembling with a Jewish crowd for worship.

Alms were gifts of charity. People with physical disabilities were expected to ask for alms. While begging commonly is considered degrading by many Americans, it was not degrading in first century Jewish society. The disabled person assumed a level of responsibility for his own care. The alms giver expressed his (or her) godliness by helping the disabled person. [Alms giving to Jewish people was an evidence of Cornelius' spiritual interest (Acts 10:2).]

The beginning of giving of gifts to the poor [alms] seems to have started as an expression of compassion. God was compassionate to Israel (see Exodus 13:14,15). It was only appropriate that Israel be compassionate toward the poor (see Deuteronomy 15:7-11). The Old Testament stresses that Israelites should respond to the needs of the poor and unfortunate (see Deuteronomy 14:28,29).

In the four hundred year period between the close of the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus, giving gifts to the poor became (1) an expression of repentance for those acknowledging guilt and (2) an expression of righteousness for the devout. Expressing righteousness and giving alms were closely associated (see Acts 10:2; Luke 7:2-4).

The lame man was situated at a location that placed him in physical contact with men who were concerned about guilt, about being righteous, or both.

The location is interesting. Numerous suggestions have been made to identify the "Beautiful Gate." Possibly, it was one of the entrances from the court of women [which any Israelite could enter] to the court of Israel [which only Israelite men could enter]. The lame man occupied a strategic location for asking alms. His physical deformity prevented him from entering the court of Israel (see Leviticus 21:17-21). However, he asked the men entering that area for gifts.

The Beautiful Gate was likely a familiar name for this gate to first century Jews who visited the temple. That popular name for the gate did not survive. We are not certain which gate the lame man sat beside.

Luke said three things about the lame man. He was born lame. He had to be carried. While lame, he daily occupied the same place to ask for gifts.

The man's need was beyond question. Many surely knew him by sight.

As Peter and John passed, he asked for a gift. Looking intently at him, Peter said, "Look at us!" Expecting a gift, he gave them his complete attention. Peter said, "I do not have any money, but I have something to give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene--walk!"

Note three things. (1) Peter had no money to give the man. Though he, at that time, had a prestigious position in the Jerusalem church (see Acts 5:15), he had no money to give the man. (2) However, the man expected money. What the lame man received far exceeded money. (3) The faith in Jesus that healed the man existed in Peter, not the man. The lame man had no idea he would receive a miracle.

Peter grabbed the man by his right hand and pulled him to his feet. Immediately, his feet and ankles were strong. Immediately, he stood, walked, and leaped as he praised God. He walked and leaped as he entered the gateway with Peter and John. Previously, he likely was not allowed in that area. His reaction to his healing and the miracle itself attracted attention.

The fact that Peter pulled the man to his feet is an evidence that the man did not expect a miracle. He did not physically try to respond to Peter's command.

Speaker, audience, and location of the sermon's presentation: Peter presented the sermon in the temple area. The text says he relocated to Solomon's colonnade, perhaps an area near the court of the Gentiles [still in the temple area]. The sermon was presented to a Jewish audience.

The fact that people gathered at the portico of Solomon [or Solomon's colonnade] (verse 11) indicates the location of the sermon moved from the location of the miracle. Remember, they were walking. Also remember the locations of the Beautiful Gate and Solomon's colonnade are not established as certain facts.

The opportunity: Everyone saw this man walking, leaping, and praising God. His joy and gratitude overflowed! He clung to Peter and John. Since he sat in the same place daily at three in the afternoon, many who came daily to the temple for afternoon prayers knew him by sight. They were astonished by what they saw! An adult man born lame, who had never walked, did not suddenly begin walking like a healthy, strong person!

To create the opportunity, Peter performed the miracle and responded to people's amazement. From the beginning, Christians create opportunities to share the gospel.

Peter's approach: Peter quickly seized the opportunity. Note he called for the "men of Israel" to listen. He wanted to explain this powerful, wondrous deed. He capitalized on their amazement. He asked, "Why do you stare at us as if we used our power or godliness to make this man walk?"

Peter wanted them to immediately understand that neither he nor John could be accredited for the power that produced the miracle. The power came from God through the name of Jesus, not from them.

"The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did this." Peter took no credit for the miracle. All credit belonged to the God of their ancestors and Jesus' name.

To the Jewish people, "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" identified God. This was the God who created them as a people and a nation.

"This God glorified Jesus whom you disowned. You asked Pilate to kill him when Pilate wished to free him. You requested freedom be given to a murderer. In that act, you disowned God's Holy and Righteous One. You are responsible for the death of the Prince of life."

Note that Peter wanted them to understand the full measure of their guilt and responsibility in Jesus' execution. Their request for Barabbas' release (Matthew 27:20) assured Jesus' execution.

"Faith based in the name of Jesus healed this man known to you. [Note Peter spoke of his faith, not the man's faith.] The faith that comes through Jesus gave this man perfect health."

Note Peter declared the miracle occurred because of faith in the name of Jesus. Jesus was responsible for the miracle. The man they rejected, the man they had executed, this man made the lame man walk.

"I know you and the rulers were ignorant of Jesus' identity. However, God through the prophets foretold that His Christ [Messiah, Anointed One] would suffer, and God kept His promise."

Neither they nor their rulers realized Jesus' true identity. Regardless of what people see and hear, people understand what they allow themselves to understand. Only ignorance could attribute Jesus' acts to the power of Satan (Matthew 12:24).

Peter said if they repented and returned, these things would happen. [1] Their sins would be wiped away (verse 19). [2] The Lord would send seasons of refreshing (verse 19). [3] Jesus would return (verse 20). [4] They would have the Christ God promised Israel (verse 20). [5] The restoration of Israel would occur as promised by God through the prophets (verse 21).

Please note the emphasis on repentance. Today we typically would place the emphasis on baptism. Both the sermon in Acts 2 and 3 note the importance of repentance. Acts 3 places the emphasis on repentance. These people needed to realize what they did, accept responsibility for what they did, and completely redirect their lives. Until that occurred, baptism would be meaningless and ineffective.

Moses prophesied that God would send a prophet like Moses, and Israel should obey everything he said (see Deuteronomy 18:15,18). In fact, all the Jewish prophets spoke of "these days." This was the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham that all families of the earth would be blessed through a descendant (see Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16).

Peter wanted them to understand beyond doubt that these occurrences in Jerusalem fulfilled God's prophetic promises to Israel. [The occurrences: the events surrounding and including Jesus' crucifixion; the events surrounding and including Jesus' resurrection; the events on Pentecost including the Spirit's coming; the healing of the lame man.]

"First, God resurrected His Servant and sent him to you to bless you. [Israel had the first opportunity to be saved through Jesus.] He will bless you by turning you from your evil ways" (verse 26).

It was clearly understood that the Jewish people should hear the gospel first (Acts 13:46; Roman 1:16; 2:9,10).

"If you do not listen to the prophets and respond to Jesus, you will be destroyed" (verse 23).

Acts 4:1 states the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees ended Peter's sermon.

A comparison: In what ways is the sermon in Acts 3 similar to the sermon in Acts 2? In what ways are the two sermons different?

Similarities: Both took advantage of the amazement produced by a miracle. Both focused attention on Jesus. Both made use of Jewish prophecy. Both emphasized the importance of repentance. Both declared God's blessings depended on their repentance.

Differences: The sermon in Acts 2 was allowed to conclude. The sermon in Acts 3 was not. The sermon in Acts 2 emphasized God knew Jesus would be killed. The sermon in Acts 3 emphasized the Jewish people's responsibility (in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion). The sermon in Acts 2 emphasized the people's knowledge of and interaction with Jesus. The sermon in Acts 3 did not. The sermon in Acts 2 emphasized the importance of repentance and baptism in the destruction of sin. The sermon in Acts 3 emphasized the importance of repentance in producing the seasons of refreshing. The sermon in Acts 2 emphasized that God made Jesus Christ and Lord. The sermon in Acts 3 emphasized God declared through the prophets that the Christ would suffer. The sermon in Acts 2 emphasized acceptance of Jesus as Christ and Lord. The sermon in Acts 3 emphasized acceptance of Jesus as the prophet who was like Moses and must be heard.

Considering the audience and the miracle, what evidences did Peter use to focus attention on the origin of the miracle?

The evidences Peter used: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob glorifying Jesus; the miracle itself performed in Jesus' name; the resurrection; Moses' prophecy; the covenant blessing; their ties with their ancestry.

Note the sermon appealed for the audience to understand the significance of Jesus. The identity and significance of Jesus was the central point of the sermon. God glorified Jesus. They had rejected Jesus. Jesus was the Holy and Righteous One. Jesus was the Prince [Author] of life. Jesus strengthened the man who had been lame. Jesus was the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel. Jesus was the prophet like Moses that they must obey. Jesus was the descendant of Abraham that would bring a blessing to all families of the earth. God resurrected Jesus to bless them and turn them from their evil ways.

Please help your class see that Jesus and his identity as the Christ was the central point and theme of this sermon to a Jewish audience.

Link to Student Guide Quarter 2, Lesson 6

Copyright © 2001
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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