This article is part of our weekly series, “The Book of Acts and the Church Today.” You can see all articles in the series here.
The list of everything wrong in the world is long: sickness, poverty, betrayal, murder—and those are only the problems mentioned in Acts 3:1–26!
This world needs to be restored. We long for “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:20). We commit sins that devalue life, and we need forgiveness. And because of the faulty intentions of our skewed hearts, we must constantly be turned in the right direction.
This is exactly what the gospel promises. You and I can be healed of everything that’s wrong with us. Peter used the miraculous healing of a lame man as a sign of God’s ancient promise to restore all things (Acts 3:21).
Miraculous Healings Reveal God’s Compassion
Shortly after Pentecost, Peter and John went to the temple at the hour of prayer. Evening prayers probably coincided with the evening sacrifice (Exod. 29:41). Modern worshipers can be suspicious of fixed spiritual habits, but by contrast, the apostles gladly embraced God’s invitation to routinely “begin and end the day with calling upon the name of God and with worshipping him (Num. 28:2).”[i]
And you never know what God will do in the sacred assembly. On this day, Peter and John met a beggar with a birth defect that made walking impossible. Seeing the apostles, the lame man asked for money. Surprisingly, these good men—followers of Jesus—refused. Instead, Peter commanded him to rise up and walk. This is more than a call to stand; it’s a call to believe.[ii] As Peter would say later, this man was healed by faith in Jesus’s name (Acts 3:16). He believed in what could not yet be seen. So Peter “took him by the right hand and raised him up” (Acts 3:7). As he stood, his feet and ankles were strengthened. God gave him “perfect health” (Acts 3:16).
This miracle hints at our powerful God’s compassionate plan to overcome the curse and make everything right. This lame man didn’t simply walk. He was “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8). He demonstrates what will happen when groaning mortality puts on immortality at the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23). “Many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43). Why? To show that, to our surprise, God is alive and at work in our world! Like an effective billboard—colorful, beautiful, provocative—this sign demanded attention. The complete healing of a man lame from birth filled the onlookers “with wonder and amazement” (Acts 3:10). They were “utterly astounded” (Acts 3:11). And Peter was ready to offer an explanation—an apologetic—for this amazing, hope-giving event.
Every Good Gift Is Tied to Jesus
As the crowds were wondering how this happened, Peter passed on a chance to boast and credited the healing to Christ. Doing good deeds is not a faithful witness to Christ unless we give credit to God for the good he’s doing through us. That is Peter’s segue to the gospel: this lame man was raised up by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Peter’s audience needed the same resurrection power this lame man received. They needed times of refreshing, restoration, and blessing. But the path to the resurrection runs through the cross.
Peter doesn’t hesitate to preach about the dreadful extent of human depravity. He declares to the residents of Jerusalem, The Jesus who has raised up this lame man is the same Jesus you have rejected. You refused to acknowledge Christ as your divinely appointed king and Savior. But God is merciful! Peter’s reference to their ignorant actions opens the door of God’s mercy (Acts 3:17). He isn’t excusing their sin. And ironically, after this explanation, the audience can no longer plead ignorance. They now know that God’s plan was for the Christ to suffer as a payment for their sin. Therefore, they can’t shrug off the sermon. They must respond.
And here is Scripture’s demand: Repent and be converted (Acts 3:19–26)! Stop thinking and living as if you were ignorant of God’s plan for your blessing. Your present way is wicked; you must change direction. Peter invokes God’s covenant with Abraham as an encouragement to repent and receive God’s blessing, urging the people, You have heard everything promised about the Christ. Now listen to him!
You Can Be Healed
The gospel promises that we can be like this formerly lame man. Even the Jewish leaders perceived that the disciples were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). You can have a new life in Jesus no matter what you have done. Is there a worse condemnation than what Peter told the crowd: “You killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:15)? Faith in Jesus can fully refresh you. The word for refreshing is used in one other place in Scripture. God had cursed the sinning Egyptians with a plague of frogs. But when God took them away “Pharaoh saw that there was a respite” (Exod. 8:15)—a time of refreshing. God can relieve us from the curse of sin. And he wants to give us more than we expect. The beggar hoped for a few coins. We also set our hopes too low. God changed his life, and God can change our lives too.
[i] John Calvin, Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, 136.
[ii] John Calvin explains that miracles can serve as types or figures of spiritual realities. Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, 140.