Sometimes we have taught our children a little ditty which almost word for word mimics the words that we have before us:
Peter and John went to pray,
They met a lame man on the way.
He asked for alms and held out his palms.
And this is what Peter did say:
Silver and gold have I none
But such that I have give I thee
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
He went walking and leaping and praising God
Walking and leaping and praising God
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk
We rejoice in those little songs by which we can teach scripture to our children, but we have here so much more than a children’s song. Here is a picture of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We too are healed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who said to you and me before we were Christians, on the day of our regeneration: “Rise up and walk!”
In this part of the book we see that the Spirit of God had begun in the first century to spread the gospel worldwide. The Father declared Jesus both Lord and Christ in chapter 2. We see the call and the promises of Christ’s gospel, and the parts of the gospel call—repentance and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, identifying with Christ through baptism, seeking deliverance from evil, and the promise of remission of sins. We see the gift of the Holy Spirit and all the benefits of the covenant of grace. And then, just prior to our text, we see how Christ is at work in our worship and in our fellowship, then and now. Christ is at work adding to His Church then and now. In verses 3–10, Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit explains one of the many miracles that the apostles performed in that apostolic age.
The Need for Healing
Not long after the ascension of Christ, there was a lame man who was healed in the name of Jesus Christ. The first thing that we see is that this particular man, as a picture of all of us, was in desperate need of healing. The text tells us that he was lame from the womb. Peter and John go to the temple (Acts 3:1) at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. As we move through the first few chapters of the book of Acts, we notice how Peter and John now, and James later, begin to take the preeminent part. They are the pillars of the church at the beginning. Already during Jesus earthly ministry, He had set these three aside in particular, on several occasions, knowing that He would use them in a mighty way. Peter, as you know, in these first few chapters, has taken the lead and John is following it.
Remember that this is a time of transition in the book of Acts, from old covenant to new—from the types and shadows and ceremonies of the old covenant law, to the fulfillment of those Old Testament promises in our Lord Jesus Christ. The temple is still standing, and at this point it will keep standing for about thirty-five more years. So that is where these disciples go, to the place where Jews have always gone to worship. It’s the hour of prayer and they go to pray. As they arrive there, Luke singles out one of many miracles, no doubt, which the apostles had performed. In the previous verses, we have been told that the Lord had used the apostles to perform many miracles. We read in Acts 2:43 that fear came upon every soul and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. The Holy Spirit does not communicate every one of those miracles to us, and the same is true of the writers of the gospels. We are told that if everything Jesus did was written down, all the libraries in the world could not contain the records of everything Jesus did. So it is with the apostles.
This miracle is recorded because a sermon follows this miraculous healing. The miracle is an opportunity to present the message. There are differences between then and now. There is no temple today. It was destroyed by Titus in AD 70. So there is discontinuity in this transition from the old to the new. But there is also similarity. Why are they going to the temple? Notice the language of the text. It does not say that they were going up to the temple to offer sacrifices. It says that they went up to the temple to pray. There is already a shift here in terms of temple usage. Their purpose in going there was probably twofold: to pray and to evangelize. They were there to perform a miracle in order to proclaim the message of the gospel to those elect Jews whom God had gathered there.
So they broadcasted the message broadly, not knowing the identity of the elect, recognizing that God would use the gospel message to bring His people to Himself. The language of verse 2 explains the awful condition and the great need of this individual they met as they came to the temple. He did not just have some kind of disease he contracted later in life. No, the text makes it very clear; his was a much worse condition than that. This was an individual who was lame since he was born, lame from his mother’s womb.
Here we see a wonderful picture of the salvation we have in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. This man was lame from His mother’s womb; he was so bad off that he had to be carried because he was unable to get to the temple under his own power. He comes to the temple on a regular basis. This is no fluke that he happens to be there on that day, whereas on other days he did not go to the temple. No, it was his custom to go there to ask alms—an act of charity, an act of mercy, a donation or charitable gift, just as today. The text literally says that he went there to beg for this kind of charity.
You notice that his intent was not to go in order to be healed. I am sure that was the farthest thing from his mind. There is no indication in the text at all, even as they begin to speak to him, that he is expecting to be healed. Again here is a picture of our salvation. He was not anticipating what he really needed most of all, but settling for something much less: getting what he could to help him in his miserable state. He figured that his condition was incurable. He had lived with it all his life. All he wanted was something to help him get by. What an example of the non-Christian! What a picture of each one of us outside of Christ: unable to help ourselves. Before regeneration we may have been somewhat conscious of our need for spiritual healing, but in no way anticipating that anything could be done about it, and ignorant of the fact that there is a cure.
What a picture of our need is set before us here. No doubt that is one reason why, out of all the miracles performed by the Apostles, the Holy Spirit chose this one to set before us. It so graphically illustrates our need for healing before Christ healed us. We are lame from the womb, spiritually. We have no power to move about on our own. We are dead in trespasses and sins. All around us there are people who are spiritually lame from their mother’s wombs. They have a great need for spiritual healing, for salvation. Even worse, they don’t even realize that they have a need for healing. Even if they are told of their need, they cannot grasp it. Even if they have heard of Christianity, they are not convinced that Christ can help them in any way. They need the healing gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But there are Christians around us, too, who are hobbling around. They are getting around spiritually, but they are somewhat crippled as well. Tens of thousands take this very passage and twist it to say that we too, today, should anticipate this ability of healing which the apostles had. Thousands of Christians believe that we too should be able to say to a lame person, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk”! They believe in the “name it, and claim it” theology by the word of faith in Jesus. This is just one example of Christians who are hobbled by false doctrine. They need a place like this, where the Scriptures are expounded, and where they can come to a correct understanding of Scripture in and through this ministry.
The need for healing was great. The need for healing by our Lord Jesus Christ of those around us is great.
The Means of Healing
The heart of the matter is the means of healing. The man in the story fixes his eyes on Peter and John, no doubt anticipating that they are going to meet his physical needs. He hopes that they will help him get along for another day, another week, putting something into his hand. He fixes his eyes on them. That phrase, fixing his eyes, is just one Greek word, which means “to stare at.” The Apostles, like Jesus, selectively healed from among the thousands who needed healing. Jesus didn’t heal everyone that He came into contact with. Jesus, as the God-man, went to those he chose to heal. So, His Apostles were directed by the Spirit of God to this particular lame man. There is no doubt that he was healed that day not only of his physical infirmity, but he was called into the kingdom of Christ as well. So, we see behind this action the Apostles staring at the lame man, and he staring at them, not only God’s general providence, but by the doctrine of election which lies behind our coming to faith in Christ.
Apostles have been given the authority to command to rise and walk in the name of Jesus, yet no sinner can do this by his own power. As they fix their gaze on each other, we see a picture of sovereign, irresistible grace. Verse 5 says, “so he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.” The text here focuses on his reaction. The testimony of Scripture is that when Christ prepares a heart and mind to receive the gospel, He is preparing the soil, as it were, for a harvest. He is already at work in terms of preparation for effectual calling. Just as this meeting was no happenstance, but something ordained by our Triune God before the foundation of the world, so this man, looking for physical healing, is about to confess Christ fully.
We see that effectual call of God, that irresistible grace. As Jesus says, “All who the Father gives to me will come to me.” This lame man is numbered as one of those given to Christ. Peter confesses his inability to help. This isn’t just rhetoric, this isn’t exaggeration or hyperbole when Peter said in verse 6, “Silver and gold I do not have.” They are poor, without silver and gold, yet they utter those powerful words: “but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
Remember that this is the apostolic age. This is a special and unique time in the history of redemption. From the time that the Apostles were commissioned by Jesus until John dies somewhere around AD 100, this is a special time. This was a time when, as Acts 2:43 says, many signs, wonders and miracles were wrought by the Apostles. Scripture teaches us that when that age expired, so did the miracles, signs, and wonders, contrary to popular opinion in Pentecostal churches. But there is still one miracle being performed by Christ, which we will talk about in a moment.
The story is told of a cardinal and a bishop living in the days of Thomas Aquinas. The cardinal, seeing a beggar, expressed thanks that no longer did the ministers of Christ have to say, “silver and gold have I none.” But his companion replied something like this, “Yes, but neither can we say as the Apostles did, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Many Christians today would not agree with that statement. But we need to remember that when we are in the book of Acts, we are at one of those high points of redemptive history, when Christ gave to His Apostles that same authority which He had.
Peter did not point this lame beggar to himself. He pointed this man and every one he came into contact with, to Jesus, the Savior. Peter wanted to exalt Christ as the one who was continuing to perform miracles through His Apostles. Peter was preparing to preach a Christ-centered sermon. Peter could have focused on the miracle itself, speaking of the greatness of this miracle, but He focused on Christ.
A passage from Isaiah comes to mind, as we see this wonderful miracle: Isaiah 53:5 “¼ the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, [our Lord Jesus Christ] and by His stripes we are healed.” Peter was using the occasion of this miracle not as an end in itself, but as a means of exalting the Lord Jesus Christ. He was proving that this Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Remember that there was a crowd of Jews gathered around and he was proving to them that this Jesus they preached was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. He was proving that Jesus of Nazareth, one they knew, was a true and righteous man, and yet more powerful than all creatures—”God with us,” having all authority and power. He alone has authority to say to lame beggars, “Rise, take up your bed and walk!” Without Jesus, you and I don’t have Christianity. Jesus is at the center of Christianity. Miracles are a wonderful thing in the Scriptures, but they are not the main focus of the Apostles or the main focus of the Bible. Miracles are recorded in the Bible to testify to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to authenticate the messengers, in this case, the Apostles.
So Peter takes him by the right hand (v. 7) and lifts him up. Immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. This miracle confirms the message the Apostles were preaching, and confirms that they were the messengers, the ones sent, (that’s the meaning of the word Apostles). They were sent by the Lord Jesus Christ for this very purpose. He sent the Apostles to proclaim the gospel, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk! In both Greek and Hebrew culture, to speak in someone’s name is the same as to speak of their power, their empire, and their government. Jesus as almighty, Jesus as the King, and Jesus as the Divine Ruler is the One, although they despised Him, as one who came from Nazareth. Though there were those who said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Yet now, He is exalted as the only one who has power to perform such a miracle.
Peter is declaring that he himself is only a conduit, a minister, a servant, and that Christ is the author of this miracle. His care and concern was that Christ might be made known unto the world, and that Christ might gather His people into His Church. The very mention of the name, Jesus of Nazareth, filled the minds of some with contempt. His connection to Nazareth underscores the fact that Christ, as Isaiah prophesied, was despised and rejected. But nonetheless, all power is given to Him in heaven and on earth, and this miracle is proof of that fact.
Here is a man who can do nothing to help himself. He is without any ability to stand on his feet, to do what the Apostle commands him to do—to rise and walk. He had never done that for however many decades he had lived. He had no ability, and yet, by the sovereign, irresistible grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ, he not only rises to his feet, he leaps to his feet! Imagine a crippled person you have known as a child, and for decades never having taken one single step. Suddenly you see this individual leap to his feet! The command is given in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of Jesus Christ, through His apostles.
What a picture of sovereign irresistible grace! That’s exactly what happened to you and to me, whether you were two weeks old, twenty years old, ninety years old, or whenever it was that Christ spoke that word to your soul. At that moment, to you a lame individual, to you who were dead in your trespasses and sin, he said, as it were, “Rise in the name of Jesus Christ and walk.” Then that power of regeneration, that irresistible grace took hold of you and caused you to respond in faith. What a picture of salvation! A miracle had taken place by that resurrection power whereby Jesus left the empty tomb behind, and by that same power by which He ascended back to heaven.
Christ has caused you, like this lame beggar, to fix your eyes on Jesus Christ alone. He has said to you in your miraculous regeneration, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” By His atoning death on the cross He has removed the curse from you. By His resurrection He has miraculously given life to you and healed your dead soul so that you could respond to His summons. By His ascension, He has, as it were, taken you by the right hand and lifted you up. He led captivity captive and made you sit with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And as if that were not enough, the Lord Jesus Christ continues, week after week, month after month, year after year, by the power of His Spirit within you, to help you fix your eyes on Him alone. He continues to give you grace to “turn your eyes upon Jesus, to look full in His wonderful face; so that the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Yes, it’s true, as Psalm 103 says, “He heals all your diseases”. Whatever sickness or disease that you have recovered from, you must give credit to this same name, the Lord Jesus Christ, who heals all your diseases. Your spiritual feet and ankle bones receive strength by His Spirit, in His work of sanctification week by week and year by year, so that you don’t collapse. You may say with the Psalmist, “my feet had almost slipped,” but you sense the Lord holding you up even now. Peter expresses it this way in 1 Peter 2:24–25, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
If Peter had the ability to relieve the poverty of this lame beggar, he certainly would have done it. But what good would that have done him? It wouldn’t have done him much good for very long. What is the means of healing? It is the name and power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He says to you today, “What I have, I give to you.” What is the remedy? What is the prescription for non-Christians all around us? They need the gospel. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. But how shall they hear without a preacher? Invite them to church where they can hear the word of God preached. Give them a gospel tract. Give those you come into contact with a card or flyer with information about your church. What is the prescription for crippled Christians around us who don’t even know they are sick, doctrinally speaking? Know and share the doctrinal distinctives of the RCUS. Is the RCUS like the Model T—a 100-year-old relic which has outlived its usefulness in the twenty-first century? No, beloved, direct those Christians who are hobbling along, never having been taught the Reformed faith; direct them to the RCUS website, give them literature; invite them to church, that they may become stronger in the name of Jesus Christ.
The Result of Healing
Verse 8 reads: “So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking, leaping, and praising God.” The cripple was touched by the power of God. Again, what a picture of our salvation. He does not just hobble along. He does not go for physical therapy or rehabilitation, slowly building up his atrophied muscles. No, not only is he walking, but he is leaping. More importantly, he is praising God.
So we who were born in trespasses and sins, spiritually lame from our mothers’ wombs, are made, in Christ, not only able to walk, but by God’s grace to leap for joy in our souls at the sound of the name of Jesus. He fills our mouths with praise to Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Have you known or experienced a time, perhaps in a worship service, perhaps at home singing hymns, or in your own devotions when your soul and body were overwhelmed by the Spirit of God? Your soul leaps within you for joy, and praise fills your heart and your mind and your lips! You can’t help but say, It’s so wonderful to be a Christian! This is what this lame beggar experienced. This was the design of the miracle, wasn’t it, namely, that this man might bring praise, honor, and glory to God. In particular the miracle was designed to bring praise to the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, the one they despised as that imposter from Nazareth. That One who had claimed to be a prophet and was crucified by the Roman government. That One was glorified as the One by whose name and power even the lame can walk and leap.
The last verses in our text focus on the reaction of the crowd around the Apostles. The crowd was “filled with wonder and amazement.” Some of them were filled with wonder and amazement which comes by true faith in Christ alone. Others, though amazed, had no faith or desire to follow Christ. But the former crippled man expresses his thankfulness immediately by praising God. The word translated amazement is our word “ecstasy.” They were amazed at what the Lord had done for the lame beggar, and so the fame of Christ began to spread beyond Jerusalem.
What is the purpose of this miracle? It was not only to heal a lame beggar. Verse 8 tells us that it was designed to bring about praise to the Triune God, that all might know that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God in whom the Father is well pleased. Verse 9 tells us that they knew it was the very same lame beggar whom they knew well. This was no charlatan. They knew the man, and there was no denying the authenticity of the miracle. What was its purpose? It was done that we, according to verse 10, might be filled with wonder and amazement at the power of Christ.
You were spiritually lame, and now you walk. Before your regeneration and conversion, you had no desire and no ability to leap in your soul for joy. Now, by God’s grace in Christ, your spirit leaps for joy. You were without praise, and now you are full of praise by the power of Christ at work in you. Notice what the healed crippled man does. He hangs on to the Apostles, following them into the house of worship. So it is with you, Christian. How beautiful it is, as the old gospel song says, “to walk in the steps of the Savior, stepping in the light.” Scripture tells us to walk as children of light. Christ by His sovereign grace not only gives that spiritual strength to walk and leap and praise God, but He continues, by His sanctifying grace to enable you to walk more, to leap in your spirits more, to praise God more. But the day is coming when you will unceasingly be walking and leaping in your souls and praising God forever and ever.
There are those around us who need to be pointed to Christ. You can testify of how Christ has caused your soul to walk and leap and praise God, how Christ healed you, once a spiritual lame beggar from your mother’s womb. That testimony of God’s grace to you in Christ is what the people around you need to hear. They need to see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. For those of you born again, they need to see the new you. Your neighbors, co-workers, extended family or classmates, perhaps, see no other evidence of the grace of Christ, but what they see in you.
We pray that they may ask you the reason for the hope that lies within you. Be ready to give an answer because you have been shown your need for healing and this is what they need to hear. You have been shown that you were spiritually lame from the womb. You have experienced the means of spiritual healing; the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. You have experienced the results of spiritual healing. Praise God. Tell others, and may they also be filled with wonder and amazement by the power of Christ at work in them.