3:1-10 A Man Lame from Birth is Healed
Peter and John had previously been trained and sent out by Jesus on healing missions (Matthew 10:8, Luke 9:1, 10:9). But this is the first healing miracle recorded in the book of Acts (see others in 9:34, 40, 14:9, 16:18, 28:8). Luke wants to make clear that these miracles were not done by the power of the apostles, but in the name of the Messiah (3:6, 16, 4:7, 10, 12, 18, 30). The name signified authority, as when an ambassador arrives in the name of his sending country, a general demands surrender in the name of the emperor, a steward signs in the name of his master.
3:1-2 This was the hour of prayer at the ninth hour (3 p.m), and the Beautiful Gate was the eastern entrance to the temple courts. The "prayers" mentioned in 2:42 included private prayer (as in 10:9), and smaller prayer gatherings in homes (12:12), but Jewish Christians were still attending the prayer services in the temple (see 2:46, 3:8). This cripple from birth was carried in to beg from people who were coming to the temple. Alms-giving was a regular duty required of Jews (Matthew 6:2).
3:3-6 Peter and John wanted this man's full attention, and he assumed they were going to give him money. Peter said he had no money to give, but he could give him something far more wonderful in the name (power & authority, reiterated in 3:16, 4:7, 10, 12, 18, 30) of Jesus the Messiah
3:7-8 Peter told the man to stand up and walk (3:6), but obviously the man could not believe he could now do this, so Peter had to lift him up by the right hand (taking the left hand would be considered rude). Once the man realized his feet and ankles were now strong enough for this, he joyfully tested this new freedom to the limit by walking and leaping in full view of the crowd.
3:9-11 The beggar was a familiar sight at the Beautiful Gate entrance to the temple, and the miracle before their very eyes had filled them with "wonder and amazement." They knew, as well as modern medicine does, that the healing of a paralyzing birth defect was one thing, but immediate strengthening of the atrophied muscles could only be by the power of God (as in the restoration of the putrefying body of Lazarus, John 11:39). In our day physicians and surgeons have to admit that in some cases there is healing that is inexplicable by the ordinary "laws" of medicine, and of course the laws of medicine and modern science are only statistical. "A person with this kind of cancer will die within a month" and "walking on water is impossible" (unless God intervenes with the unexpected). If cancers were commonly healed by prayer and people with faith commonly walked on water, these would be added to the laws of science.
3:12-17 Peter's Explanation of the Miracle
The miracle was nothing to do with the power or piety of Peter and John. This was the direct intervention of the same God who made the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) which was repeated to his son Isaac (Genesis 26:3-4) and grandson Jacob (28:13-14). This key fact in the torah (law of Moses) was known to every devout Jew. They mostly missed the importance of the third strand of this covenant as set out in the next section (see 3:25).
Peter then refers to the servant texts (some call them servant songs) in Isaiah. These were equally familiar to Jews. Some of these refer to Israel as a nation (Isaiah 41:9, 44:1, 21), but others point to the Messiah servant of God (3:13, Isaiah 42:1, 43:10, 44:1, 49:1-3, 5-6, 52:13-14, 53:11). Jesus defined his own servant ministry as "Whoever wishes to be great among you mut be your servant. For the Son of Man came not to be served to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45).
What had gone so badly wrong was that this servant Messiah was rejected (3:14). Jesus was the "author of life" (3:15, John 1:4), but they had asked for a murderer to be released instead of him. That was not the end of the story because Peter and John and the other apostles were witnesses that God had raised him from the dead (by the power of the Spirit, as in Romans 8:11). And it was this power of the Spirit in his name (see 3:12) that had given "perfect health" (3:16) to a man who had been hopelessly crippled from birth. In the next section Peter is not interested in blaming, but he invites the Jewish people to retrieve what they had lost.
3:12 Peter and John's denial of their "own power or piety" was to make clear that the healing was by faith in the Messiah's name (3:16). The name refers to the power of authority by which this was done, as Peter will explain in his defence (4:7, 10, 12).
3:13 Ultimately the power and authority derives from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The third part of the original covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), exactly repeated to his son Isaac (Genesis 26:4) and grandson Jacob (28:13-14), was that through Abraham all nations of the world would be blessed. This fact will be the basis of the argument in the next section (3:25).
3:14-15 Jesus the Messiah was clearly the "Holy and Righteous one" (argued in Hebrews 1:8, 5:6, 7:17, 26) and the Author of life (as in John 1:4). Instead of accepting the life and work of the Messiah who had taken birth among them, the Jewish people rejected him and had him killed. But Peter's statement of fact is not a form of anti-semitism. In the next section he warns the Jewish people of the danger of rejecting the Messiah (3:23), but there is still time to turn and share in his blessing (3:26).
3:16 This is a strong statement that spiritual healing is in the name (authority, power) of Jesus the Messiah. Peter will repeat this before the Sanhedrin (4:5, 10). But we should note that in this case it is not the faith of the cripple, but the faith of Peter and John that seems to connect with the Messiah's healing (3:6).
3:17-26 Peter's Invitation for his Hearers to Turn to their Messiah
To understand the logic of this section we should begin with the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which Peter had just referred to in the first part of his explanation (3:13). This covenant has three strands. The first two refer to the land and the people of Israel, and these were shown to be conditional on the Jewish people having a concern for all nations of the world (as in Solomon's prayer, 1 Kings 8:41-43, Isaiah 56:6-7). The third strand was that "in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 12:3), which Peter quotes here as the reason for his invitation (Acts 3:25).
Here anapsuxis (3:20) means renewal of what was lost, and the terms "times of refreshing" and "universal restoration" (3:21) both refer to the original intention to bless people of all nations. Paul said the rejection of the Jewish people from their appointed function was also "the reconciliation of the world" (Romans 11:15).
Jesus had already made it absolutely clear that this was his ultimate intention. "God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham" (Matthew 3:9). "Many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11, Luke 13:28-29). "I will put my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles" (Matthew 12:18 quoting Isaiah 42:1, see also 45:6, 49:1, 51:4-5). When Jesus cleared the temple he quoted "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the natinons" Mark 11:17 from Isaiah 56:7).
The great commission was "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). And Jesus' last words before the ascension were "When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (1:8). In the Book of Acts we find the inclusion of gentiles beginning with Peter including the army captain Cornelius (10:34, 44-48), then with Paul's missions, and the "times of refreshing" have gone on wherever churches have been planted among new nations.
The Book of Acts is therefore the account of how a large number of the Jewish people, realizing that they had been wrong in rejecting Jesus as Messiah, joined themselves to his church (2:41, 47, 5:14, 6:1, 7, 9:31). Having done this, it was the first Jewish Christians who also took the very difficult steps of welcoming non-Jews to the new church (10:34, 44-48, 11:18, 11:20-21, 15:8, 12, 19).
But there were other Jews who refused to ally themselves with what God was doing among the nations, and Peter warned them that if they persisted they would be "utterly rooted out" (3:23). This rooting out happened in the total destruction of cities from Galilee (Matthew 11:20-24) to Jerusalem in AD 68-70 (Matthew 21:41, 23:35, 24:2, 21, 39, 50). Paul found this imminent destruction of the Jewish homeland and their subsequent exile very upsetting (Romans 9:27-29), but he realized that God was handing over the task among the nations to others (Matthew 21:41, Romans 11:13) and he had his own part to play in this. But he looked forward to a day of eventual restoration to their destiny (Romans11:12, 25-27).
As we ponder the implications of this momentous change in AD 70, it is important to remember that Jews were not being asked to renounce their nationality. Paul explained that the continuing identity of each nation is important (Acts 17:26-27). A Christian is one who is a disciple, or learner, of the Messiah (Acts 11:26), and neither Jews nor people of any other nation are required to change their nation or their culture when they become Christians. Only recently Christians have learned that Jews can be Messianic Christians and remain loyal Jews.
3:17 In spite of what they have done (3:13-15) Peter does not blame his own Jewish people. They and their rulers (the Pharisee and Sadducee temple authorities of the Sanhedrin) had acted "in ignorance."
3:18 But God had used their criminal ignorance to fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah's death on the cross (as in the verses about the servant in Isaiah 52:13, 53:4-7). This was the passage the Ethiopian ambassador was reading in his chariot (Acts 8:27-34). And Peter will quote this key prophecy of Isaiah again in his letter to the dispersion Jews (1 Peter 1:1, 18-19).
3:19 What was needed was a turning (repentance does not mean digging up our past sins) from the terribly wrong choice they had made. They were asked to realize the enormity of what they had done, and wipe the slate clean by allying themselves with what their Messiah was now beginning to do among the nations.
3:20-21 Preachers often assume that the "times of refreshing" (3:20) and "universal restoration" (3:21) refer to a return of the Messiah Son of God, which is still in the future.. Here anapsuxis means renewal of what was lost. And the terms "times of refreshing" (3:20) and "universal restoration" (3:21) refer to the renewal and restoration of God's original intention to bless people of all nations (Genesis 12:3, as in Isaiah 42:1, 45:6, 49:1, 51:4-5, 56:7). Paul explained that the rejection of the Jewish nation from their function (as the means of blessing to all nations) and the resulting establishment of gentile churches among the nations was "the reconciliation of the world" (Romans 11:15, see Luke 13:28-29).
The timing is important. This would be after the ascension (about AD 30) but during the lifetime of Jesus hearers (Matthew 16:28, 23:36, 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 9:27, 13:29-37, 21:32). And in fact it was the destruction of the Jewish religious establishment in Jerusalem which opened the door for the establishment of churches of the Holy Spirit among all nations (Matthew 24:31 refers to this taking place after AD 70, whereas Matthew 24:14 refers to the church growth through Paul before his martyrdom in AD 64). The times of refreshing have continued throughout church history wherever new churches have been formed among the nations.
3:22-23 Moses had warned that God would send prophets, and if the Jewish people did not listen to them God would hold them accountable (Deuteronomy 18:15, 19). This had already happened in the first exile six hundred years before. But now the Messiah was not just an ordinary prophet, but the very Son of God who had come among them. The words "utterly rooted out" were fulfilled in AD 70 when the religious establishment of Jerusalem (Pharisees, Sadducees, priests of the temple) would be totally decimated by the savage Roman invasion that Jesus had predicted (Matthew 21:41, 23:35-36, 24:1-2, 21, 29). Jesus had explained that the destruction of the city of Jerusalem would be as devastating as the fall of Babylon that ended the Babylonian empire (he used the same portents as in that case, Isaiah 13:1, 9,-10, 13). And the result of this for the Jewish nation would be that "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom" (Matthew 21:43, Romans 11:11).
3:24 Peter has no doubt that the prophets had spoken of events of the period of 40 years from Jesus' crucifixion in AD 30 to the end of the Jewish religious establishment in Ad 70, and the beginning of gentile church growth all over the world.
3:25 As those who lived by the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), they should now take seriously the third part of that covenant "in you all families of the earth will be blessed."
3:26 God has already raised the Messiah (servant, as in 3:13) and sent him first to the Jewish people. Now they should turn from what they had done to work with him in the mission to the nations. The consequence of refusing would be being "rooted out" in the destruction of the Jewish homeland (3:23). Those who heeded Jesus' warning (Matthew 24:16, Mark 13:14) did in fact escape from the siege (as reported by the Josephus, the Jewish historian of those times).