We have come to the third chapter of the book of Acts...
Peter and John were walking up to the temple at 3:00 in the afternoon - going to pray. Another man was also coming to the temple, but he wasn't walking - as a matter of fact, he'd been unable to walk his entire life. And he wasn't there to pray - he was there to beg, for it was the only way he could support himself.
When he asked Peter and John for a handout, it was just his standard daily routine - he asked everybody, and wasn't really even looking at them. But Peter demanded the beggar's attention:
Acts 3:4 ...Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, "Look at us!”
"We're not just your average coin-throwers, friend. We are going to give you what we have... but it's not money."
What exactly did Peter and John have? Only faith that Jesus could miraculously give this man the ability to walk.
Saying somebody has faith may not sound like much, but it's huge! Imagine having confidence enough to say, "In the name of Jesus, walk!" and then to pull a lame man to his feet. Wow! No wonder Jesus said,
Luke 17:6 ..."If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you."
When Peter said this and pulled him up, the man's feet and ankles were immediately strengthened. Suddenly, he had the ability not only to walk, but also to jump around!
I think that if I had just healed a man lame from birth, I'd be pretty floored. I'd probably stand there stammering, saying, "D-d-d-did you see that? Hey, everybody! Check this out!"
But for Peter and John, prayer was the priority. And because prayer was why they had come to the temple that afternoon, they kept heading into the temple.
But they weren't going to get the opportunity to pray quietly that day... because the guy was jumping around and praising God - bouncing all around them like Tigger!
A commotion was caused, and a crowd quickly gathered because...
Acts 3:9 ...all the people saw him walking and praising God
The guy couldn't walk before. His life was evident to everybody that he wasn't ever going to be able to. But then the people saw a radical change. They saw him praising God and walking the walk.
Saints, do you realize that you can draw a crowd? Just by your praise of God and your walk with God.
Before you were a Christian, you were lame, I bet. Maybe you were self-absorbed, sexually promiscuous, or a substance abuser. Possibly you were contentious, callous, or just catatonic. However you were lame... you were lame!
But you can draw a crowd now, just by your walk! These people were filled with wonder and amazement when they saw the change in this guy. And you can amaze people, too. Because they know who you USED to be, and see who you are now!
The crowd assembled at the portico of Solomon, which was a long covered walkway on the eastern side of the temple, overlooking the Kidron Valley.
Peter saw the crowd gathering, and the amazement they were experiencing.
He did two things: First, he made sure that he and John didn't get any of the credit. There was no way that he was going to start "Simon Peter Healing And Crusade Ministry, Inc." touring the country in stadiums and sports arenas. No, God got all the credit.
Secondly, he used the opportunity to preach the gospel.
Notice that: the lame man's walking and praise led to the people hearing Peter's preaching. You know, that's what happens here at Calvary Chapel so often. Your life is changed, and family, friends, and coworkers see a huge difference in you. They get amazed and fascinated. They ask about the hope that lies within you. And even those of you who don't feel ready or equipped to preach the gospel find the strength to invite them to church. So, it's your walk outside that leads them to hearing the gospel here inside!
Notice too that Peter's message was just as brutally truthful as the last one in chapter two. Like me, Peter had figured out that a brutally truthful gospel message always bears more fruit than a lovingly whitewashed, watered-down one.
Peter told the crowd that it was they who had demanded Barabbas instead of Jesus, insisting that Jesus be killed.
But God raised Jesus from the dead, as Peter and John affirmed that they were witnesses to this fact.
Peter also pointed out that this had been God's plan all along, and told them that the prophets had written of all these events.
This is yet another time that the Scriptures point out to us the necessity of prophecy.
In the book of Isaiah, God says that fulfilled prophecy is the proof of deity. None of the false gods were ever able to foretell the future with consistency and accuracy. He challenged them, saying...
Is. 41:22-23 ...announce to us what is coming; Declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods...
They couldn't tell the future, but God did constantly - with consistency and accuracy. And Simon Peter would later write that the prophetic Word was more sure than even his own eyewitness testimony of Jesus' resurrection (2Pet. 1:19).
There are 60 major prophecies of Jesus, and 270 ramifications of those prophecies written in the Old Testament. The last of them was written 400 years before Jesus was born. But every single one of them was fulfilled literally and perfectly in Jesus. God had announced it all beforehand to prove Himself to us.
Once Peter made the point of what Jesus had done, it was time to confront the people with what they needed to do.
He was basically said, "Because of your sin and God's sacrifice, therefore you must repent and return. Turn away from your sin and turn towards God. If you do, you'll be saved and blessed with seasons of refreshing. If you don't, then all you have to look forward to is your own horrible destruction."
Peter never minced words. But the truth is not all gloom and doom, either. He told them the benefit of all this: "God has done this to bless you." That's right:
Acts 3:26 "...God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
"Yes, your ways are wicked, but Jesus died and rose from the dead to bless you, by turning you from your wicked ways."
Peter's message had gone on for a number of hours. You can imagine that such preaching would not be approved of by the Jewish leadership. They'd hated Jesus when He was around, and suddenly His followers were creating just as much a a stir among the people. So, they arrested Peter and John and put them in jail.
Within such a short period of time, the church had boomed from just over a hundred people to 5,000 men, not even counting women and children. How had this happened? By comparing chapter two and chapter three, we see a "formula" for church growth:
1) People were praying. (In the upper room, or going to the temple.)
2) God would do something amazing among His people. (Tongues of fire or a lame man healed.)
3) God's work would draw a crowd of non-Christians.
4) The gospel was preached in its entirety to that crowd.
5) Some of the crowd who'd gathered and heard the gospel believed.
That's the biblical way to have "church growth!"