Luke-Acts: Acts 3

Acts 3 centres on one event, the healing of a man who couldn’t walk. Though it’s a short chapter, there is much to note as we walk through the account.

3:1 The “ninth hour” is 3pm. The Jewish way of keeping time at that time was to count twelve hours starting from 6am. This would be the so-called “evening sacrifice”, though it’s difficult for us to call 3pm evening. But remember that what we call “evening” was really the start of the next day in their reckoning. So dusk - around 6pm - began a new day. (We can see this pattern right from the very beginning of creation. In Genesis 1, we have the pattern: “there was evening and there was morning, the first [second, third, etc.] day”.

3:2 There were multiple entrances to the temple. This “Beautiful Gate” seems to be one that was particularly ornate in decoration. It was likely the one near the porch of Solomon (3:11). It was a good place to seek help from those who were heading to the temple for worship.

3:3 To give alms (money to the poor) was an expected part of Jewish religious life. It was expected that those who had the means would support those who had little. To be lame would most likely have meant the man could not work to support himself, and therefore needed to rely on the generosity of others.

3:4-5 Notice the expectant behaviour of the man when Peter responded. Here was someone who was not just handing out a coin, but actually paying attention to his need!

3:6 There may have been a fleeting moment of disappointment for the man at the first part of Peter’s response, but the actual offer was far, far better than anything the man could have ever hoped for.

3:6-7 This whole account is an example of the “signs and wonders” being done by the Apostles (2:43). Notice how this healing is one similar to those given by Jesus. It’s a continuation of the ministry of Jesus (1:1), now done through His Church.

This is also an example of the “performative” word: the word of God has power to do exactly what it says. We see it at creation (“let there be...and there was...” in Genesis 1) and here now at a re-creation. God’s Word is performative; it performs something when it goes out (see also Isaiah 55:10-11 - and not only for the general promise of God’s Word at work, but notice the fulfillment of Is. 55:10-12 even in this specific case, as the man responds).

Peter takes no credit but immediately points people to Jesus, just as he did on the day of Pentecost. These signs and wonders are glimpses of the kingdom of God being brought into the midst of the people, but they’re not the end goal. They are signs; they point people to somewhere else. That “somewhere else” is someone: Jesus of Nazareth.

This sermon is also a wonderful example of the “whole counsel” of God’s Word, both Law and Gospel. Peter preaches to the people to convict them of their sin (e.g. 3:13-15, 22-23) and to bring them salvation (e.g. 3:19-20, 25-26).

3:15 Peter and John are eyewitnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and Luke documents their testimony (e.g. Luke 24:48, Acts 1:8) Peter reiterates this in his letters (e.g. 2 Peter 1:16).

3:19 The centre (the “high point”, if you will, to continue the theme of earlier in the chapter) of all Christian preaching is repentance for the forgiveness of sins, just as Jesus said it would be (e.g. Luke 24:45-48).

3:22-26 The starting point for Christian witness to Jewish people in the New Testament was almost always the Hebrew Scriptures (what we know as the Old Testament). We’ll see this later in Acts as well, particularly with Saul/Paul.