Acts 3:1-4:31 – Healing the Lame Man


Acts 3:1-4:31


After Peter and John heal a man and preach in the Jerusalem temple, they come to the attention of religious authorities who admonish them not to speak of Jesus. Peter and John return to their sisters and brothers in the faith, and they all pray for boldness of speech rather than silent tongues.


This long passage tells about Peter and John’s healing of a man lame for forty years and the consequences of that public healing. The healing at the temple is itself important as an example of the wonders and signs mentioned in 2:43. It is also important as a parallel to Jesus’ healing a paralyzed man in Luke 5:17-26. The power of the Holy Spirit is available to Peter to provide experiences and glimpses of the coming reign of God, even as Jesus did. This story is also noteworthy for four additional reasons. First, it shows the public character of the apostles’ mission. The man is healed at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, where he resides by day, necessarily coming into contact with many people to receive alms. Second, the story clarifies that the power given to the apostles to do signs and wonders is from Jesus and for the purposes of God. They have not become powerful in themselves, nor do they work magic. Third, we get a glimpse of the life within the community of believers, as the disciples return from the public arena to speak of what has happened and to pray together. These verses remind us of the nature of this community and the power available to it from God. Finally, the “bold” speech of the apostles is highlighted in 4:13, 29, 31. Such speech, which might also be translated as “free” or “confident,” was not expected of uneducated persons of a low social class. It is seen as a marvel by the authorities (4:13) and as a great gift from God, and therefore a marvel, by the community (4:29, 31).

Part of the message Peter speaks to the people of Jerusalem presents a succinct and unusually worded picture of God’s promised salvation (3:17-26). These verses offer the possibility of repentance for what was done in ignorance. God had long planned that salvation would come through a “prophet like Moses” from among the Jews and had said this quite directly in Scripture (Deuteronomy 18:15). God had also promised in Scripture that in Abraham “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). God keeps these promises in Jesus of Nazareth and manifests them now in the community of believers. When Jesus returns, there will be a time of “universal restoration” (Acts 3:21). This is the time when all families of the earth shall be blessed. Such present and future blessing, refreshment, and restoration are connected with repentance, whether from ignorance or wickedness, so that one’s sins are “wiped out” and life in the community of God’s people can be engaged.