Tuesday: A Christ-Centered Sermon

Acts 3:1-26 In this week’s study we see Peter given the authority to heal.
A Christ-Centered Sermon

It is worth thinking about Peter’s statement in verse 6 just a bit. Notice, first, that it was to Peter’s credit that he could utter both parts of that sentence. There is a story from the period of the Renaissance that I have come across in slightly different versions, which makes it a bit suspect as history. But it may be true, and in any case, the version I like best goes like this. St. Thomas Aquinas was in Rome. He was walking along the street with a cardinal. The cardinal noticed a beggar. Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out a silver coin and gave it to him. Then he turned to Aquinas, the great doctor of the church, and said, “Well, Thomas, fortunately we can no longer say, as Peter did, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” St. Thomas replied, “Yes, that is true. But neither can we say, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’”1 

It has always been sadly true that people have used religion as a means of acquiring wealth. We see much of this today, particularly in the way some “ministries” are promoted on television. The heads of these ministries make a great deal of money. Peter was not one of these people. I suppose that in the early church, there were people who kept the church’s money. Later on we find that there was a treasury. But Peter had not dipped into the treasury. Perhaps he had learned something from the case of Judas who, we are told, did do that. Judas dipped into the common purse when he needed something. Peter apparently did not. So when he went up to the temple to pray, he said quite honestly, “I do not have any money.” 

That may even have been a factor in his being close enough to God that he could also say, “But I am going to give you what I have.” When Peter reached down, he took that man by the hand. And Luke, who records this with particularly vivid language and perhaps was interested in it from the point of view of a physician, which he was, records how strength flowed into the man so that his feet and ankles could now bear his weight. He was completely restored to health. And he was so exuberant in newfound health that he leaped. The language itself literally leaps, just as he leaped “walking and jumping, and praising God.” This was a great, great day. And the people who knew the man (because they had gone in and out of that gate many times and had seen him often, there was no question about who he was) were filled with amazement and undoubtedly praised God also. 

In the case of the man who had been born blind, whose story is told in John 9, the man’s appearance was so altered that the people questioned whether or not this was the same man. In the case of the man healed by Peter there was no doubt at all. Everyone understood at once what had happened. A miracle had taken place by the same power that had been displayed in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and at Pentecost. 

At this point Peter began to preach his second sermon.2 It is worth studying this sermon carefully, just as we did the sermon in Acts 2. When we compare that sermon with this, we find that there are some differences. Yet there are similarities too, because, regardless of the circumstances, Peter was trying to do the same thing here as on the earlier occasion. That is, he was trying to point his listeners to Jesus as the Savior of the world. 

We need to look at the various features of the sermon. 

1. Peter’s sermon is Christ-centered. Just as in the sermon at Pentecost, this new sermon focuses on Jesus. I suppose it would have been possible for Peter to have focused on something else. He could have focused on the miracle itself. He could have said, “This really is an important thing that has happened, and I want to make sure that you understand that this really is a miracle. Look at this man. Examine him. Let’s all gather around and do that.” 

Peter’s sermon could have led into a testimony service. He could have said, “Now, brother, you have been healed. Here’s your chance to give a testimony. Stand up and tell everybody what Jesus has done for you.” A testimony like that might have focused on the man. He could have said, “Let me tell you about my experience. Let me tell you how I first came to be part of what is going on here today….” The man could have gotten quite a bit of personal attention out of that. 

This is not what Peter did. Instead, Peter said, “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus” (vv. 12-13). Jesus! This is where the emphasis of the entire sermon lies. 

1The story is told by a medieval writer named Cornelius. See F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 84.

 2Every student of Acts must be struck by the large number of sermons or speeches the book contains. John Stott notes that no fewer than nineteen significant Christian speeches occur in Acts. “There are eight by Peter (in chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 and 15), one each by Stephen and James (in chapters 7 and 15), and nine by Paul (five sermons in chapters 13, 14, 17, 20 and 28, and four defense speeches in chapters 22 to 26). Approximately 20% of Luke’s text is devoted to addresses by Peter and Paul; if Stephen’s speech is added, the percentage rises to about 25%.” (See John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts: To the Ends of the Earth [Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1990], 69.) 

Study Questions
  1. By what authority does Peter command the crippled man to walk? What is the significance of this given what had happened in Jerusalem less than two months before?
  2. Why did Peter not ask the healed man to speak?

Reflection: How can you show caution in responding to ministries that appear to use religion to acquire wealth?

Key Point: Peter was trying to point his listeners to Jesus as the Savior of the world.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Why Miracles?” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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