This study on Acts 3:12-26 is a continuation of our previous studies on Peter and John’s healing of the crippled man at the Beautiful gate. As we learned from the previous chapter, Peter used the healing experience to preach the gospel. In this light studying Peter’s sermon in this chapter always presents us with four major aspects including current issues at stake as part of the introduction, presenting of Christ, Scripture and making relevant application of the message to the practical life of the audience.
Peter’s message was a response to a current issue and observation (Acts 3:11-12)
Peter used this healing as an opportunity of the experience to present Jesus and offer forgiveness to the nation. Miraculous events are to be regarded as opportunities to present the gospel. Worth noting here is that genuine manifestations of the Spirit are to be interpreted in the light of scripture.
Peter acknowledged Jesus as the subject of the healing miracle
In presenting the Gospel after the healing event, Peter directed the attention of the people to Christ as the subject of the miracle and not to himself. Peter did not regard himself as the bearer of numinous power but Christ (Acts 3:12). To Peter, the man was healed only through faith in the name of Jesus (Acts 3:16). It is worth noting that, although Peter and John served as human agents, they did not regard themselves as people having power within themselves to do a miracle.
For Peter preached Jesus to them in recognition of his limitations that he had denied Jesus three times just a few weeks ago. Yet, because he confessed his sin and made things right with the Lord (John 21), Peter was able to forget his failure (Romans 8:32 – 34). How does this scenario inform you about contemporary miracles and the disposition of some men or women of God?
Peter’s message was scripturally based
In the sermon, Peter used the opportunity to discuss scripture which mainly revolved around God’s forgiveness of the nation Israel as recorded in the Old Testament. In this regard, Acts 3:17 is most important, for there Peter stated that Israel’s ignorance caused them to commit the awful crime of crucifying Christ. Ignorance is no excuse, but it does affect the penalty handed out. This is why Jesus prayed — “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). God was now giving Israel one more opportunity to receive their Messiah. Peter promised in Acts 3:19 – 20 that if the nation would repent and receive the Lord, He would blot out their sins (Isaiah 43:25 and 44:22 – 23). He would send the Messiah to them and give them “times of refreshing.” These “times” were described in Jeremiah 23:5, Micah 4:3 and Isaiah 11:2 – 9, 35:1-6 and 65:19 – 23. Peter was not describing individual salvation here so much as the blessing that would come to the nation if they would but repent and believe. Of course, national salvation depended on personal faith.
Heaven would receive and hold the Messiah until Israel would repent. Then the “times of restitution” would come. This refers to the kingdom Jesus will set up when Israel turns to Him and believes. Peter states in Acts 3:21 that this event was spoken of by the prophets. This proved that he was not talking about events of the church. The “mystery” of the church was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets. The prophets spoke of Israel’s future kingdom, and that kingdom would have been set up had the rulers and the people believed Peter’s message and repented.
What about the Gentiles? Peter answered this in Acts 3:25. The Jews were children of Abraham and of God’s covenant, and God would keep His promise to Abraham and bless the Gentiles through Israel. “And all the peoples of the earth shall be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3 and 22:18). God’s program in the Old Testament was to bless the Gentiles through a restored Israel and Peter and the other Jewish apostles knew this. They realized that God promised to bless the Gentiles when Israel was established in its kingdom. This is why the apostles could not understand why Paul went to the Gentiles after Israel had been set aside. They did not realize then the “mystery program” that God would reveal to Paul. This “mystery program” was that through Israel’s fall the Gentiles would be saved (Romans 11:11 – 12). This program was a “mystery” hidden in Old Testament day but revealed through Paul (Ephesians 3). When the nation killed Stephen and committed that “unpardonable sin” against the Holy Spirit, God’s prophetic program for the Jews ended. From that day, Israel was set aside, and the church took center stage.
How did the nation respond to Peter’s invitation? Many of the common people believed and were saved, but the rulers had the apostles arrested. The Sadducees, of course, did not believe in the resurrection and rejected Peter’s message that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The Pharisees hated Jesus because He had condemned them (Matthew 23). The persecution that Jesus promised the apostles in John 15:18 – 16:4 began to take place as we will see in the next chapter.
Peter applied the message to the needs of the audience and invited them to make a decision (Acts 3:17-20)
As a characteristic of Peter in presenting the Gospel, Peter invites his audience to decide for Christ. He called them into repentance so they would be refreshed. Here too, Peter drew their attention that true repentance and life change comes from God
Questions and Areas for discussions
- After healing the cripple man, Peter used the opportunity to preach Christ but not Peter’s own abilities. How can we compare that to the contemporary “prophets and miracle workers” in their comments?
- Regarding Acts 3:16, explain the major pre-requisite for experiencing miracles?
- Who is the subject of genuine repentance – the preacher or God? Discuss