Comparing Healing In the Early Church to What Passes for Healing Today
Ongoing Biblical Study Series on the Social Gospel Blog with Rev. Paul J. Bern
The Apostles Peter and John Heal a Paraplegic In Front of Over 100 Eyewitnesses
Authentic Healing Compared to Modern T.V. Preachers
(Acts chapter 3, verses 1-15)
Last week when we closed out chapter 2 of the Book of Acts in our ongoing study of the writings of the apostle Luke, I presented some discussion points regarding how churches and local economies operated back in the first century AD. The difference between then and now are so far removed and the contrast between them so stark that there is really no comparison at all. This week as we move on to the first half of chapter 3, we find Peter and John performing a healing on a man crippled from birth – today we would call this man a paraplegic, perhaps a victim of polio – which, as before on the Day of Pentecost, drew a large crowd of curious onlookers. So let's begin this week's study at verse one of Acts chapter 3.
Part One of This Week’s Verses
“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at a time of prayer – about three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put there every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked him 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 have I give you. In the name of Jesus 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, verses 1-10)
Notice in the very first verse that Peter and John, two Jewish men, preached the good news of Christ while still clinging to their traditional Hebrew upbringing. They had both been raised that way from birth. Notice too that Luke is not with Peter and John, and that this story is being told by Luke in the third person. Why? Because, as I wrote at least once before, Luke was the only Gentile out of the Twelve – the other Eleven, and Matthias after that, were all practicing Jews. Non-Jews were not allowed inside the temple or near the surrounding area at all.
Health Has far More Importance Than Mere Money
The next thing that happens is the encounter between the crippled man and Peter and John. The two apostles, when asked for money by the crippled beggar, gave him a lot more than he requested. “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 have I give you. In the name of Jesus 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.”
This Is What Real Love Looks Like
Again, as I pointed out in last week's study, the early Church was not cash flow driven or profit-focused anywhere near as much as much of it is today. They healed that crippled man and never asked him for money. Instead of giving him a handout, they made him self-sufficient again. Now there, right there, is an authentic example of what true love looks like. Not the romantic kind of love, although I certainly think that has its place, otherwise none of us would be here. But I'm talking about a love so real and so genuine that all the available resources the apostles needed was provided by the Holy Spirit that resided within the hearts of both men.
That very same healing Spirit enabled the now-formerly crippled man not only to walk, but to leap and jump as he praised God with all his might. If the Spirit of the Living God can do that for a man crippled all his life, he can surely do great things for us. As you can also see from verse 10, everybody was shocked and in a state of disbelief when they saw the formerly crippled man walking, jumping and praising God at about 100 decibels! To find out what happens next, let's move on to the second half of today's study, starting at verse 11.
Part Two of This Week’s Verses
“While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: 'Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we 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 all witnesses of this.'” (Acts 3, verses 11-15)
The Contrast Between Peter and John and Modern “Faith Healers”
Let's pause right here for a moment and consider this event. When Peter and John healed the crippled man with a simple command – “Walk!” – Peter then took the man by his right hand and helped him up. Next, they walked into the Colonnade together as the newly healed man stood before them, clinging to Peter and John to steady himself, but he was evidently getting stronger by the minute. Contrast this with the phony “faith healers” on “Christian” television, who walk up to people who have come to the “altar” for healing, smacking their foreheads with the open palms of their hands, which knocks them off their feet! It's exactly the opposite of Peter and John's example as recorded by the apostle Luke in Acts chapter three. Are any of these people in the faith healer's audiences truly healed? Just go and ask one and see what they tell you. That's all I'm going to say about that for now.
Peter Convicts the Onlookers
Then Peter speaks up and asks them, “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.” Just like before, as well as in last week's study, Peter confronts the onlookers with the reality of a risen Christ. They tried to kill him because they could not silence him, because absolute Truth can never be silenced permanently – it's impossible!
If God can and has raised Jesus Christ from the dead after being in the grave for 3 full days, why should they – or any of us – be surprised that a former paraplegic can now walk on his own due to the power of a single spoken word? Granted, he may have needed a little help walking from the gate called “Beautiful” to the courts of Solomon's Colonnade, a distance of at least 100 feet to possibly 100 yards or more. But this poor man had never taken a single step in his whole life, and with no relief in sight prior to Peter and John's arrival. Now he could jump, walk and stand, and it blew the minds of everybody there, which underscores Peter's accusations all the more.
Peter, John and the Other Apostles’ Eyewitness Testimony About the Life of Christ
“You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go..... but God raised him from the dead. We are all witnesses of this.” Peter again confronts the mostly-Jewish crowd in the Colonnade, which was near or adjacent to the temple there, with the reality that they had killed the promised Messiah written of by the prophets of old. Peter and John, together with the rest of the apostles, plus the majority of the disciples who were succeeding them, were eyewitnesses to the entire 3 ½ year ministry of Christ Jesus, to his crucifixion and death, and to his subsequent resurrection. They had seen it all from start to finish, and they were on a mission from the Son of God to tell the entire world about what they had seen and learned.
Also, as you know by now, Peter, John and the rest of the apostles were not the least bit shy about letting the whole world know what had happened to Jesus and why. Next week, when we examine part 2 of our study of Acts chapter 3, we will find out what else Peter said. Specifically, what parts of the Bible as it was known then predicted the coming of Messiah, his violent and shameful end and his triumphant resurrection, and how the salvation of Christ is a win-win for the entire world.
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