In an earlier study I pointed out that Acts is a transition book, somewhat like Joshua in the Old Testament. Joshua is a transition from the days of Moses, which were days of wandering and preparation, to the age of Joshua, which was a time of conquering and settling into the land. Acts is like Joshua in that respect.
For one thing, Acts comes between the gospels and the epistles. When we begin to read it, the Lord Jesus Christ is still here. The characters we come across are people who knew Jesus, those who in many cases had traveled with Him during the days of His ministry. Most of them were witnesses of His resurrection. But then as we go on through the book, we come to people who did not have those experiences. Paul himself did not live with Christ during the days of His earthly ministry. And there are people like Timothy, Titus, Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos, who had not even seen Him. The flow of the book is from those early days in Jerusalem where Jesus is still present, to Rome, which is where Acts ends. Acts is a transition in other ways, too. It is a transition from an age in which miracles were common to a time more closely resembling our own.
At the beginning we have some miracles, the first in Acts 3. There is a bridge here to what we were told in the previous chapter, because there Luke described the early fellowship of believers by saying, “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles” (v. 43). In that chapter Luke does not give us any indication as to what those miraculous signs may have been. But now, when we come to chapter 3, we have the account of at least one of them.
Why did Luke choose this particular miracle? The answer is twofold: 1) because it was the occasion for a second sermon of Peter’s, which Luke wants to give us; and 2) because the miracle and sermon were the cause of the first persecution of the church. The persecution is going to be recorded in the fourth chapter. So the miracle performed by Peter is selected at this point for its role in the book’s structure.
“Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer” (v. 1). Again we have a connection with the previous chapter. We were told there that one of the things the early church did was gather in the temple courts to pray. In time God would cause a break with formal Judaism. But the break had not come yet. The apostles and other early believers were still Jews, as well as being Christians, and they were continuing to take part in the worship that their people had enjoyed for centuries.
As Peter and John were doing this, they met a man who had been placed at the temple gate to beg from those who were entering. He was unable to walk. But he had friends, and they had put him in what was obviously a good position. They must have reasoned that it would be difficult for people to enter the temple, offer heartfelt worship to God, and then leave while utterly ignoring a poor man who clearly needed help. Peter and John saw him and stopped. We are told that Peter fixed his attention on him and demanded that the man look at them.
That is what the man wanted. I can imagine that if his experience was that of most beggars, most people would simply have walked by. If you see somebody who is needy and you do not want to help, you try not to notice him. That is what most people would have been doing. So when Peter and John stopped, looked at him, and said, “Look at us,” the man must have looked up very hopefully, thinking that they were going to give him something. I do not know what they begged with in those days. But if he had owned a tin cup, I imagine he would have held the cup out to them, no doubt thinking, “This is going to be a good day. These people are going to give me money.” Then Peter uttered the words which most of us know very well: “Silver or gold I do not have …..”
Can you visualize what must have happened at that moment? The man was expecting silver or gold. So when Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have …” his eyes must have dropped, and he must have put his cup down. But Peter went on, adding, “What I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (v. 6).