A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate
- the Human Condition
- God’s Revelation of His Plan
- God’s Fulfillment of His Plan (Current location of study)
- Our Response
“And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” – Acts 3:16
It’s been a month since my last Bible study post. I took the month to take a break, travel a bit, and focus on some other things, but will pick up today where I left off. As we’ve focused in this portion of the study on God’s fulfillment of His plan of redemption, we’ve seen how He prepared the way for Jesus through the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus’ ministry, death, burial, and resurrection completed the work of redemption and fulfillment of the requirements of God’s Law, and then Jesus’ institution of the Church through the calling of and sending His disciples to carry out His ministry on Earth.
The book of Acts tells the story of the early development and ministry of the church. It begins with the apostles’ preaching and healing ministry to individuals in the regions around Jerusalem, focusing largely on Peter and John. As the early church groups grew, persecution from the Jewish leaders grew and eventually became led by Saul of Tarsus, who would encounter the risen Jesus, become a believer, and be called to be the primary church planter across the rest of the Mediterranean region.
In order to grasp the significance of this week’s 3:16 verse to God’s fulfillment of His plan, we need to look at the full context in which it falls, beginning with Acts 2:42 and continuing through to Acts 4:4.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
This passage is often pointed to as an example of how the earliest Christians operated their lives. Note some important aspects:
- They were devoted to the teaching of the apostles. It is very important for Christians to make sure they are following teachings that are consistent with what the Bible in its entirety teaches. The apostles initially only had the Old Testament as their Scriptures, but the Holy Spirit inspired them in the writing of letters and gospels which became the New Testament (see John 16:12-15).
- They were devoted to fellowship. Christianity was never intended as solely an individual relationship with God. While that is possible, Christians truly need each other for mutual strengthening, encouragement and support.
These two things were the elements which God used to spread the gospel and add to His growing church.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
I’ll be honest. This passage has been somewhat problematic for me over the years. I look at this account and one of my first thoughts is “Why can’t I do something like this?” My wife (of 35 years as of the writing of this article) has a number of physical challenges that I often pray about and ask God to heal her, but for some reason He has chosen not to. I find myself asking Him why, and doubting the strength of my own faith, and even feeling some level of resentment. But through it all, I always return to some basic principles gleaned from the Scriptures. I’ll discuss those a bit later.
Peter addresses the crowd that gathers afterwards and points out some very important things, including this week’s 3:16 verse (bolded below).
While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Peter explained in the 3:16 verse that the man was healed through faith in the name of Jesus. The faith he speaks of is the faith that Peter has in Jesus to bring healing to the man (not the faith of the man himself). Peter was very quick to point out that the healing did not take place because of any special ability or power held by Peter himself, but rather through the power inherent in Jesus and represented by the calling upon of the name of Jesus. Peter continues with his sermon.
“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
Peter finished his message by reviewing the plan of God that was fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Then, in Chapter 4, we read about the results of his sermon: persecution and arrest for Peter and John, and the addition of over five thousand new believers.
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
You can read further about the trials of Peter and John and additional descriptions of the first church in Acts 4:5 through 6:7. I want to turn now to making some observations about things I’ve thought about for this post.
- Does God offer physical healing today? The quick answer would be yes. But I want to think a little more through this issue. Sickness, injury, and the aging process are part of the life we have here on Earth. They can serve as reminders to us that this is not our eternal home and we have better things to look forward too (if we are a part of God’s family). The promise for the future, given in Revelation 21:3-4, for no more tears, death, mourning, crying, or pain, but that’s for the future and does not apply to right now. God does indeed choose to heal at times, but not always. If you look in the Scriptures at illustrations of healing, I believe it is always in the context of bringing glory to the healer (God) and not to the agent of healing. Peter was quick to turn people’s attention toward Jesus. In John 9 Jesus healed a man who was blind from birth. People asked if it was sin which caused the man to be blind and Jesus replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” What I find interesting is that God knew this man was blind and yet chose NOT to heal him for many years (presuming he was an adult by now) for the purpose of being glorified by his healing when that healing finally happens. Whether God heals quickly, slowly, or chooses not to, WE need to remember that ultimately it is to be for HIS glory, whichever the case.
- Does our own faith limit God? Peter pointed to the fact that it was faith in the name of Jesus that brought about healing. It was Peter’s faith, not the faith of the lame man, to which he was referring. Peter had witnessed Jesus’ healing ministry and understood that Jesus had passed that ministry on to his disciples (Luke 10:9). The disciples were overjoyed that they were able to be used in this ministry. There was also the story in Mark 9:14-29 in which Jesus was presented with a demon-possessed boy. The father said, “if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus replied, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes,” to which the father replied, “I believe; help my unbelief!“. Jesus unequivocally says that all things are possible through faith and the father expresses doubt that he has sufficient faith. And then we read in Mark 6 about Jesus returning to his home town and being rejected there. Verse 5 says “he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.” Was it the unbelief of the people that prevented Jesus from doing much? I found an article on Christianity Today’s website called, “Why Jesus Couldn’t Do Miracles in His Hometown” and thought it was quite helpful. In essence it points out that Jesus chose not to do might works there because the people had already rejected him. It’s not that he was limited by their faith. He honored their rejection and chose not to perform miracles except in the case of some individuals.
- What should our focus be in asking for healing? Our focus should not be on the healing itself, but in asking for God’s help to endure and heal in such a way as will bring Him glory. In Daniel 3 (which will be the subject of a study in a few months), three men were ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar to worship him rather than God. If they refused they would be thrown into a furnace to be burned. Their reply? “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” They were committed to honoring God whether or not He chose to deliver them. (Wait a few more months to hear the rest of the story!)
Next time we’ll look at Galatians 3:16.