A Christian Guide to Acts by R. David Pogge

Chapter 3

Peter's Approach

Acts 3-5

We can learn from Peter's example.

Section 3.1 - Peter Has What You Need

Acts 3 begins with the story of a lame beggar who asked Peter and John for money.

Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. [Acts 3:2-10]

The beggar wanted money; but what he needed was healing. If he had known what Peter could do for him, he would have asked for what he needed. We Christians have what non-Christians need; but they don’t know it, so they don’t ask for it. We know the secret to happiness in this life, and the life to come. We need to reveal the secret so that they will beg for it.

How do we get people to recognize that we have what they need? We need to do the same thing Peter did. No, we don’t need to heal cripples because that isn’t the important aspect of what Peter did.

Peter showed that the power of God was working in him. We need to show that the power of God is working in our lives. We need people to recognize and talk about what God is doing for us. We need to make people jealous of what we have, so they will want it, too. Then we can tell them how to get what we have.

Section 3.2 - Attention, Please

Peter got the attention of the crowd by healing the lame beggar, and he wasn’t about to waste the opportunity. It was the perfect opportunity for Peter to tell the crowd how much Jesus loved the beggar, and Jesus healed the beggar because He loved him—but that’s not the approach Peter took. Instead,

[Peter] said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 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. [Acts 3:12-16]

Peter told the crowd that the beggar was healed by the power of Jesus—but they had sinned greatly by rejecting Jesus. Peter exposed their sin and guilt. They rejected the Holy and Righteous One. They killed the Author of Life. They deserved to die. That isn't the way most modern preachers begin their sermons.

Then Peter gave them hope.

“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 1 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. [Acts 3:17-20]

How could they get that hope? Peter told them they could trust in the prophecies in the Old Testament which they had recently seen fulfilled by the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The prophecies about the Day of the Lord, which they had been waiting so long for, were being fulfilled right before their eyes.

Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’ 2

“Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 3 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” [Acts 3:21-26]

How can we get hope? We can trust in the prophecies in the Old Testament and the New Testament which have already been fulfilled. The only remaining prophecies are a few that deal with events which will take place immediately before Jesus’ Second Coming.

We don’t need to study biblical prophesies so that we can impress our friends with our knowledge about what is going to happen. That might give us a little ego boost—but there is a much more important reason to study prophecies.

  1. Fulfilled prophecies give us confidence in the Bible.
  2. Fulfilled prophecies give us confidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah.
  3. Fulfilled prophecies give us confidence that God is in control, despite appearances to the contrary, as we see the final prophecies fulfilled.

Peter told them how they could get the pardon they needed. They had to repent, listen to the prophets, and act according to their words. Then God would bless them. That message worked.

But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. [Acts 4:4]

That message still applies today.

Section 3.3 - Shut up!

In Acts 4, the authorities arrested Peter and John and put them in jail overnight because they didn’t like what the apostles were saying.

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them. [Acts 4:5-7]

Here is how Peter responded.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,
   which has become the cornerstone.’ 4

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:8-12]

Peter didn't beg for mercy, or say anything that was politically correct. He boldly accused the authorities of murdering Jesus, by whose power the beggar had been healed. Then he quoted a Messianic prophecy to point out their sin.

Then they [the leaders] called them [the apostles] in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” [Acts 4:18-20]

The authorities warned the apostles not to preach about Jesus; but the apostles ignored the warning. It is a warning we, too, should all ignore.

Section 3.4 - A Grateful Prayer

When they were released from prison, the apostles gave thanks by praying. As bad as their prison experience probably was, they did not pray that it never happen to them again. You might be surprised that instead of focusing on themselves, they focused on prophecy. They had what military folks call “situational awareness.” They were aware of the battle going on between Christ and Satan, and knew their part in the conflict. They knew what was happening because they knew the scriptures. Here is their prayer:

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage
   and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
   and the rulers band together
against the Lord
   and against his anointed one.’ 5

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. [Acts 4:23-31]

The reference to creation might seem out-of-place; but it isn’t. Creation is mentioned multiple times in the Old and New Testaments. It is a foundational element of Christianity. Creation only seems out-of-place because many denominations have openly or secretly accepted the theory of evolution, and don’t like to talk about creation.

Those denominations have accepted evolution because they have believed the lie that the theory of evolution has been proved by science—but it hasn’t. As a matter of fact, the preponderance of scientific evidence is against the theory of evolution. As the author of more than 700 articles on the Science Against Evolution website, 6 I clearly have more to say on the subject. That would lead to a long discussion which would distract from the current topic, so I will simply refer you to “Evolution Matters!” 7 which was broadcast on The Word With Us. 8

The widespread acceptance of evolution in churches today relates to the premise of this book, which is: The church today is not as effective as the apostolic church—not because society has changed—but because the message has changed. Creation is not emphasized as much now as it was in the past.

The next part of their prayer is the reference to the first two verses of Psalm 2. Since they remembered the first two verses, it is a good bet they remembered the whole psalm, including the last three verses.

Therefore, you kings, be wise;
   be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
   and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
   and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
   Blessed are all who take refuge in him. [Psalm 2:10-12]

The apostles based their faith on the fulfillment of prophecies which promised salvation. They claimed the power of these promises—and the Holy Spirit delivered that power.

Furthermore, they recognized Jesus as the Son of God, whose “wrath can flare up in a moment” against rulers, causing their destruction. The apostles knew they could “take refuge in him” and be blessed.

Section 3.5 - Liar, Liar!

Speaking of wrath flaring up ...

In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira sold some land, and gave some of the proceeds to the church. That was good; but they falsely claimed they gave everything to Jesus. It is a sin to bear false witness. They sinned by lying.

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. [Acts 5:1-11]

Peter gave them both the opportunity to confess their sin; but they didn’t. Since they did not confess, God struck them down right there on the spot.

This passage bothers some people because they have been taught that the Father is the God of the Old Testament, who is cruel and vengeful, and Jesus is the God of the New Testament, who is kind and forgiving.

There are not two different gods. Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Jesus. If you don't believe me, believe Jesus!

I and the Father are one. [John 10:30]

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” [John 5:19]

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. [John 14:10]

Jesus judges people, and condemns them if they are guilty. That’s a message that people don’t want to hear about their gentile Jesus who would not hurt a fly—but it is the truth.

Ananias and Sapphira were good people. They were members of the church. They financially supported the work of spreading the Gospel—but they lied to God, and suffered the wrath of Jesus! Lying to God is not only sinful, it is foolish. Is there anything God doesn’t know?

Lying to God was a mistake—but it wasn’t their fatal mistake. Their fatal mistake was failing to confess their sin. Confessed sins are forgiven—but unconfessed sins aren’t. Peter gave them a chance to confess and have their sin forgiven. They didn’t confess. That's why their sin resulted in their death.

False preachers will tell you that “the law was nailed to the cross.” If sin is the transgression of the law, and there is no law, it logically follows that there is no more sin, and you really don’t need to repent, confess, or reform. It was all done for you at the cross.

Paul didn't say, “the law was nailed to the cross.” What Paul actually said was,

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. [Colossians 2:13-14, KJV]

The handwritten record of your transgressions of the law (not the law itself, which was written in stone) has been nailed to the cross—if you have repented. The New International Version is clearer.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. [Colossians 2:13-14, NIV]

If you confess your sin, your guilt is nailed to the cross and forgiven.

Section 3.6 – Arrested for Preaching

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.

Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. [Acts 5:12-18]

The opposition came from the Sadducees. They were the liberal Jews who did not believe in resurrection. Resurrection isn’t scientific—it is supernatural. They were angry because the apostles kept saying that Jesus had risen from the dead, which proved resurrection is possible—and the apostles were drawing large crowds when they said it!

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.

Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. [Acts 5:19-26]

The miraculous escape did two things. First, it gave the apostles courage because it reassured them that God was leading them and protecting them (not that they really needed the assurance because their faith was obviously very strong). Second, it confused and intimidated their accusers. How did they do their disappearing act? What other power do they have? “The chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.”

The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” [Acts 5:27-32]

Here’s the outline of their defense:

Finally, Gamaliel said,

“Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” [Acts 5:38-39]

Gamaliel was right. Killing Jesus (and the apostles) did not put an end to Christianity because it is from God. It isn’t a fable invented by men. Flogging Jesus' followers doesn't work, either.

They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. [Acts 5:40-42]

They rejoiced because they must have remembered that Jesus said,

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [Matthew 5:10-12]

Back to Chapter 2 Table of Contents On to Chapter 4

Footnotes:

1 Isaiah 53, Psalm 22:14-18, just to name the two of the most famous of those many prophecies.
2 Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19
3 Genesis 22:18; 26:4
4 Psalm 118:22
5 Psalm 2:1-2
6 http://scienceagainstevolution.info/index.shtml
7 http://krsf.net/pdfs/TWWU120212.pdf
8 http://krsf.net/archives.html