15.08.21 AM Acts 3:11-26 - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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15.08.21 AM Acts 3:11-26

May 2021 onwards
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Peter’s Second Recorded Sermon

Last week we thought about the miracle that was accomplished by Peter and John in Jesus’ name. They were on their way to the Temple at the time of early evening prayer when a lame beggar called out to them asking for money. They stopped and the lame man got a whole lot more than he had ever expected to get. In just a few moments his physical problems that had plagued him since birth were a thing of the past. He could walk and he could jump and he did both as he praised God for what had happened to him!

Such behaviour couldn’t fail to draw attention and he was quickly recognised. But no-one had ever seen him behaving like this before. Everyone knew him as the lame beggar by the Beautiful gate. What on earth had happened to him?

And so a crowd soon gathered – they came running to Solomon’s Portico in the Temple and Peter was presented with another wonderful opportunity of preaching the good news. He took it.

So our text this morning is Peter’s sermon. It is the second sermon that Luke has recorded for us here in the Acts of the Apostles and we’re going to look together at it. As we do so we’ll see what Peter considered to be essential for his hearers to hear that auspicious afternoon. The reason we’re going to do this is that what was important for the crowd to hear that day is important for us too.

The people who came running to Peter and John needed help. They knew something significant had taken place but had no real understanding of just what that was or what it meant. In short they were confused and in order for Peter to give them the clarity they needed he had to begin with some negatives.

I want to begin with those negatives and to add to them by noting just what didn’t dominate Peter’s preaching before moving on more positively to just what and who did.

Some Disclaimers
It was clear to see that the crowd were amazed by what had happened and as they stood there we have the distinct impression that they were gawping at Peter and John as if they were the principal cause of their amazement. Peter was quick to address the crowd and to disabuse them of this notion:

Don’t imagine that by our own power or piety we have been able to make this man walk!

Not for a moment does Peter want to give that impression – he has a far greater message to pass on and he doesn’t delay in getting on with that task.

He wants to speak to his hearers about God and he wants to tell them about Jesus for it was Jesus who had made this man completely well. It was by faith in this name that this formerly lame man was now able to walk and leap about; it was the grace of Jesus mediated through his apostles that had transformed this man’s life and produced such exuberant praise to God.

And that is just about all Peter has to say about this impressive miracle of healing. He doesn’t want his hearers to focus on the wrong thing and how easy that is for all of us. We mustn’t get caught up with the wrong idea and chase the wrong thing. We must take care that we don’t try to force the Bible’s message to make it fit in with our agenda rather than to allow it to determine what ours should be.

Peter’s keenness to move away from the physical healing of this miracle to the God who planned all things including the sending of the one who performed the miracle should make us hesitate before we assume that physical health is the most important thing there is. The application that Peter made had nothing to do with physical healing either for he went on to speak about spiritual needs and the urgency of repentance.

Now I point this out because we don’t naturally tend to think this way. If we share news at the prayer meeting that one of the church members is in hospital we are likely to hear prayers for that person to be made well again. Now there is nothing wrong in that per se but if that is all there is then our prayers are lacking. The person in hospital has a greater need – he/she needs to know that God is with them, looking after them even in sickness. It may be the Lord has other spiritual lessons to teach us through sickness that we would never learn if physical healing was always sought and granted.

Peter quite obviously didn’t put physical needs at the top of the list because he did not use what might have been considered a wonderful opportunity to invite people to come forward for such healing - there is not the slightest hint of that – but instead there is a fervent call to repentance.

What Peter Really Wanted to Focus On
As soon as he can Peter directs his hearers to God whom he identifies and describes as having a great plan of salvation that centres upon the Lord Jesus Christ. God had sent this Jesus to be the Saviour of the World.

This tells us that our first and greatest need is to know about God. We need to know who he is, what he is like and what he has done. And what is true of us is true of every person we might ever meet. Peter seized the opportunity of speaking out clearly and boldly without mincing his words or trying to make them palatable to his hearers and we must try to do the same.

So Peter began by identifying God. The God he was talking about was the One True Living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Peter was talking about the covenant making and the covenant keeping God who had already done so much for his OT people. This God had chosen the less than perfect Abraham, he had given him a son, Isaac, in his old age and Isaac would benefit from the same promises that God had given to Abraham. This was the God who remained faithful to that arch schemer Jacob who tricked his twin brother out of birthright and blessing and he brought Jacob safely back to the Promised Land after years of serving his equally tricky uncle Laban.

The God Peter was talking about was a God who had proved himself over and over again to his people and now Peter wanted to explain something more about what this trustworthy God had done.
He had glorified Jesus!

Now that might come as no big surprise to us but it was something that went right against the thinking of the day. The Jewish population knew who Jesus was, he was that prophet from Nazareth who had stirred up such strong feelings amongst the people. The Jewish leaders in particular hadn’t liked him one little bit and they had done all they could to persuade the people to turn against him too. In short, they had rejected Jesus. They had betrayed him into the hands of foreign powers and disowned him before Pilate. Yes, they had clamoured for his death and they had got their way too. Pilate who had wanted to set him free caved in to their pressure and Jesus had been crucified. That meant in God’s sight he was a cursed man and now here is Peter stating that God had glorified him! How could this be whatever could this mean?

But Peter didn’t back off. Yes Peter knew all about their rejection and denial of Jesus. He was only too aware of how they had cried out for the release of a murderer than have the man from Nazareth set free. He knew and here he was accusing them of killing the very Author of Life! Could Peter be serious when he declared that God had glorified such a man? How could he believe that?

Well yes, Peter could be serious about all this. He really did believe that God had glorified Jesus because he knew that God had not left Jesus rotting in the tomb but had raised him to life! Peter knew this for he had met the risen Lord and he was ready to testify to what he knew. And after the resurrection Jesus had met with him and the other disciples for some 6 weeks before he ascended into heaven. More than that Peter knew that this same Jesus had all the power and authority in the entire universe – that was what he said at the time of his ascension. So a miracle involving the healing of a poor lame man was no big deal for Jesus - and it was by exercising faith in his name that this lame man was now well.

What a contrast Peter thrusts before his hearers to reflect upon! On the one hand was the Eternal and good God of their Fathers who was declaring his complete and utter satisfaction with the work of his Son and on the other stood another group of people with a totally different assessment of Jesus – they had delivered, denied and destroyed him.

Both sides couldn’t be right. If God was right to give his 100% approval to his Son then the rest of humanity had made a dreadful mistake in rejecting him and in treating him so badly.

I wonder which side you come down on. Anything short of full approval of the Lord Jesus would show you’re not on God’s wavelength and being out of line with him you’re in a grievous predicament.

I wonder whether some of you have been trying to hedge your bets a little when it comes to Jesus. You grant him a certain amount of honour but you really don’t want to overdo things – can’t you have a bit of Jesus and a bit of your own ideas too? Plenty of people attempt that and try to sit on the fence refusing to commit themselves. We’re not against him really they say. But don’t you remember what Jesus himself once said?

Lk.11:23 “Whoever is not with me is against me”

My friends, there simply is no fence to sit on!

Now Peter’s hearers may not before have been confronted with their responsibilities in this way. But now Peter was confronting them directly. Have you realised that you too as a sinner are in a similar position to them? Are you still rejecting, denying and disowning this man Jesus?

Now if you were just to reject or disown some preacher like Peter it would be no big deal. After all Peter wasn’t the one who’d exercised authority or power in healing the man. But when we look at the way Peter describes this man from Nazareth we quickly realise that he’s in a completely different league, he’s in a category of one, and to deny and reject and disown such a one must have catastrophic consequences.

In just a few short verses Peter describes Jesus in highly significant ways emphasising his extraordinary status. Jesus is:

·         God’s child/servant vv.13, 26 cf. Ps.2 or Ps.110
·         The Holy and Righteous One v.14 5 times in the NT Jesus is referred to as the Holy One. In the OT the expression is used 41 times and of these 40 refer to God himself.
The psalms also refer to the Lord God as righteous.
·         The Author of Life v.15
·         The One God raised from the dead v.15                   
·         The One whose name brings healing v.16

And as if this wasn’t enough, Peter would go on to assert that this Jesus was the Messiah foretold by the prophets of the OT. Indeed Peter declared that every prophet from the time of Samuel onwards spoke about these days of Jesus. And even that greatest of leaders, Moses himself, had prophesied his coming when he said:

Deut.18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen”

When Moses came he delivered the LORD’s 10 Commandments to the people. The prophet to whom he referred would bring a deep and robust explanation of the full implication of these laws. And when Jesus came he swept away the years of accumulated scribal error and misinterpretation with his:

“You have heard that it was said... But I say to you” eg. Mt.5:21+22

You’ll remember too that Jesus brought his own, new commandment:

Jn.13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

Let me ask you: what do you think of Jesus? Is he as important to you as he was to Peter, as he was to all the OT prophets, as he was and is to God himself? Do you listen to him or do you prefer some other voice, maybe your own, to his? If you don’t share God’s evaluation of his Son then what makes you think you’re in a safe position? It looks very much like you’re still denying, still rejecting and still disowning him to me.
How wrong the Jews had been about Jesus! How they had failed to recognise his true worth and value!

But all was not yet lost and Peter continued to explain what they needed to do.

They had acted out of ignorance, that is, they hadn’t realised what they were doing but, do you see, that didn’t exonerate them of their guilt. They had found the whole concept of a suffering Messiah too difficult and so had put the whole idea out of their mind and so were not ready when the Suffering Messiah came. They rejected him. But their rejection didn’t cause God to alter his plan and purpose. No, God’s plan would be completely realised. What was called for was a radical transformation on the part of men and women. They would need a complete change of heart – and that could only occur when true repentance was expressed.

And Peter went on and on stressing that he was saying nothing that contradicted what had already been said of the Messiah by the prophets. Everything that had happened did so because God had planned it and he had planned it to provide the very blessing that men and women need – that their sins might be blotted out.

And that is why Jesus came and suffered and died – that your sins too may be blotted out. The Father showed his approval of his Son and his acceptance of his Son’s sacrifice by raising him from the dead.

Peter preached that good news message to his fellow countrymen, the physical descendants of Abraham. Receiving with repentance and faith that message of salvation they would be made a blessing to the nations of the world as they passed on the gospel to others. And what a full message it is! It is a gospel that not only blots out the past but also one which calls for a turning away from all those sins that offend God and corrupt and spoil our lives.

My friends, do you understand these things about which we’ve been speaking this morning? Do you see how you are personally concerned? Do you realise what God expects of you in return for his glorious grace offered to you in Jesus Christ? Have you repented, turned from your sins and turned to Christ in faith? If you haven’t then what hinders you from doing so today, from doing so this very moment?

God wants to bless you but will do so only on his terms so drop your foolish and ignorant resistance and call out for forgiveness and ask him to save you.

May God be pleased to hear the cry of your heart, bless you and make you a blessing to others!

And may Jesus Christ be praised!

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