Mighty Wonders Advance the Gospel
May 7, 2013 Series: Acts: Gospel, Mission, Power
Topic: Acts Scripture: Acts 3:1–4:37
Alright, good to see you. Take your Bibles and go to Acts chapter 3.
As we have been going through Acts, we keep bringing up the three core themes of this book. Acts is about the Gospel, Mission, and Power. Narrative after narrative, that is what we are going to see.
Luke wrote Acts to encourage and show Theophilus how Jesus is building his church. That’s the mission, the spread of the gospel—and the power is the Holy Spirit of God.
And it is put on display, big time, in today’s text.
Now, before we get going, we need to know how Acts, and all books of the Bible are meant to be understood.
Acts is a giant story, made up of stories. So when we read chapter 3, Luke doesn’t want us to forget about what we read in 1–2. They all connect; it’s a flow.
How do you think Theophilos read Acts? Bits and pieces? No way, he would have read the whole thing. Early church would have heard the whole thing in one sitting. I encourage you, read the whole book of Acts this week. 5 Chapters a day.
And today, we are going to read all of 3 and almost all of 4. Luke didn’t write with chapter and verse markers. This section 3–5, is really one unit.
- Look at 2:46, we end 2 with the church day-by-day going to the temple.
- Look at 5:42, this section ends with the same phrase.
- 2:44, “had all things in common” and 4:32 “everything in common.”
Let’s read God’s word, hear from God, 3:1–4:31
God is at work.
In the midst of chaos, persecution, confusion, this few week old Church Plant is on the move.
Mighty Wonders Surge the Gospel Forward
Remember, what Luke is showing us in chapters 3–4 is really an example of what Barry preached on last week.
- 2:43, “many signs and wonders were being done through the apostles.”
Here in Acts 3–4, he shows us a sign, 4:22, and a wonder—the healing of this crippled man.
But notice, it’d be real easy to miss this. Luke said in 2:43, through the apostles, not by. That’s a big difference.
Power-lines. The power isn’t because they are power-lines, the power surges through them. They aren’t the source.
These miracles were done through the apostles, not by—Luke shows us who is doing them. The Triune God.
This crippled man, 40 years of being this way, is carried to the Beautiful Gate to beg for money. He can’t crawl or walk. Totally immobile.
Peter and John aren’t looking to do a miracle. They are headed to the temple for the hour of prayer.
v. 6, “I don’t have money, but I do have Jesus. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, get up!”
The Name of Jesus. The power of Jesus. The personal presence of Jesus. His authority.
Their name dropping. This is the only good kind of name dropping.
The crippled man, is now the healed man. Luke says, he is “praising God.”
Not our power or piety, but God through Jesus of Nazareth made this man well.
The power and authority to heal came from Jesus. It’s personal. It’s powerful. That’s Jesus. We have Jesus—a personal and powerful Savior.
That’s our confidence.
Jesus is at Work.
Acts 1:1—The Gospel of Luke is what Jesus began to do and teach, Acts is about what Jesus continued to do and teach.
Jesus is advancing his gospel. Because what happens next? Peter sees a crowd and then rips into a proclaiming the gospel—just like Acts 2. Mighty act. Crowd gathers. Preach the Word.
Peter and John saw Jesus heal tons of people. They knew he could do it again.
Luke is a medical doctor, and in verse 7 he says, “feet and ankles” very specific and technical greek.
Now, of all people—a doctor wouldn’t really believe that 40 year lame man would immediately stand up, jump around. It doesn’t a take a 1st century or 21st century doctor to know that cripple men don’t leap—it’s not normal, unless a miracle happens.
People want to discount miracles, and discredit the scriptures. “We just know so much more now.” Sure, Luke didn’t have a microscope—but my 4 year old could tell you, “That guys legs don’t work, they sag behind him, like spaghetti noodles.” and “hey, look! He’s jumping”!
This is God’s world. God heals. God restores. And actually, broken legs aren’t supposed to be normal. God is doing something really big here when he healed this man.
Why heal him? It’s a sign (4:22)—sign of what?
There are four things at work here, one is the temple 6 times iv verse 1–10, Luke references the temple—he is healed outside of the temple—which we will talk about.
Secondly, Jesus is the Lord over disease. He can boss broken cells arounds. Lord over death. Lord over sin. Authority over the satanic powers. Jesus is in charge.
Third, miracles and mighty wonders—just like in Act 2, tongues and healing—they are platforms to preach the gospel. That’s what Peter does next.
Now, this is important.
Jesus didn’t heal this guy just because Jesus is a nice guy. Or because he has compassion on people. Which are true. Something particular is happening here.
Miracles, mighty wonders, are like a time-warp. You know how in movies and TV shows, people walk through a portal, and they see the future. Miracles take us back to the future.
Miracles show us what the eternal Kingdom of God is going to be like. Miracles are like that sneak peek bite of sweet potato casserole before the thanksgiving feast. It’s a taste and the rest is coming.
Mighty wonders are a taste from the Lord and the rest is coming.
This lame man was leaping and praising God. This is a glimpse, and fulfillment of Isaiah 35, Isaiah speaks of the eternal Kingdom and says…
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. (Isaiah 35:5–6 ESV)
Acts 3 time-warps us into the eternal kingdom—this is what will be. This will be the normal. There won’t be miracles in the eternal kingdom—it will be the miracle. Mighty wonders are a normalization. Supernatural works of God, take us back to the future of what is natural in the Kingdom of God.
And we invite people to join the Kingdom!
Jesus is at work. The gospel is surging forward—in power.
The other thing at work here is the Temple.
In Jewish life, the temple was everything. But for the mission of the gospel to invade the world—the temple is an obstacle.
God heals this man, outside of the temple—in the name and authority of Jesus, to show—The Temple is outdated.
It is not a coincidence that when King Solomon built the temple, he prayed in 1 Kings 8:29, “God, May Your NAME be here.”
And now Peter stands in Solomon’s Portico and proclaims the Name of Jesus! It’s here. And it’s Jesus.
And we know from later in the New Testament, in Hebrews that the blood of Jesus on the cross, offered once and for all, made the blood of animals pointless. Like a VCR Tape rewinder. Not needed!
This is what Peter preaches, all that we need is summed up in Jesus. Peter rattles off a bunch of Old Testament references, Jesus is:
- The Holy & Righteous One
- The Author of life. Wow! Believe that about Jesus?
- The suffering servant of the prophets
- David’s Son
- The greater Moses
- The seed of Abraham
- the fulfillment of the prophets
He is it!
Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross, with joy, to pay for sins, pay for our crimes, and rose again from the dead and reigns as the King of the Cosmos and is surging his mission forward.
Jesus isn’t done. Nothing can stop Jesus.
But people will try. The world will try. Governments will try—they’ve been at for 2,000 years. They aren’t very good at.
Iran is a closed country, Christians, Missionaries—not welcome. They seem to keep arresting a lot of pastors.
The Ancient Serpent, he too, will try.
And they will all lose.
In Act 4, opposition comes on to the church. But the gates of hell will not stand against the church.
Opposition Isn’t Opposition
While Peter and John were proclaiming the glories of the gospel. The Sadducees, the Religious Leaders, kind of like the Mafia—they had a lot of power—are a annoyed at hearing about the resurrection so they have Peter and John arrested.
Annoyed. That struck me. Used only two times in the Bible. Other time is in Acts, Paul gets annoyed with a demon possessed girl, hounding them and he casts out the demon. Once Greek dictionary––irked.
Peter and John go to jail because they irked the Sadducees.
That’s all it takes. Have your Christianity, faithful, true, right—rub someone the wrong way—out of job, lost the deal, thrown in jail, robbed, lies spread about you.
They are in jail till the next day. Imagine what the church is thinking. “Hey, where are Peter and John?” Imagine what Peter and John are thinking. They are dragged before a 71 man council that interrogates them—Peter has seen this before—at the trial of Jesus’. You know he’s thinking, “Here we go. I’m going to die.”
No fear, remember Jesus words, “Don’t fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Worked for Jesus. He’s alive. We’re cool.
v. 4 But! Too late. A lot of people came to believe. Could be 5,000 men (not including women)—seems like now the total number of men is 5,000—meaning the church is probably close to 10,000 people.
Next day the interrogate them…
v. 7 (power) / (name)
Peter is filled with the Spirit! And he rips into another proclamation that Jesus died to be our savior—he rose again.
v. 12 — there is no one else who can save. Period.
Peter’s words didn’t come from Peter.
“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11–12 ESV)
The Sadducees tell them to stop talking about Jesus. No more Jesus-talk.
A gospel party don’t stop. We can’t stop talking. We won’t. Tell a fish not swim. Tell a Christian not to talk about Jesus—crazy.
Church, opposition is not opposition.
The gospel of the kingdom advances through mighty wonders—and the filling of the Spirit is one of them!
As we go through Acts, we can’t forget Acts 1:8—we are witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter calls himself that in 3:15.
That’s the refrain.
And I know we feel so weak, so inept, so lame—we just can’t do it.
That’s the point. Peter couldn’t either.
They were common and uneducated men.
Normal guys. Simple guys. Greek, “idiotes” — you can hear our English word there. They weren’t idiots—goofs, ignoramus.
Luke is dispelling our excuses that they were slick evangelists, and flat-out naturally gifted guys.
Just like in Acts 2, “hick Galileans are speaking Latin!?”
The power to do the mission is the Spirit.
And here, it’s boldness. 3 times in this text. Filling of the Spirit, boldness shows up.
Peter gets filled with the Spirit—bold to proclaim Jesus’s death, resurrection, and salvation.
4:31 church prays for boldness, in the face of persecution, the Holy Ghost rattles their meeting place—and they continue to speak the word with boldness.
Oh, how we need that!
As our culture becomes more pagan, more hell-bent on hating Jesus, we need boldness.
Rumblings in the military about court-martialing Christians who talk about their faith to other soldiers. Chris Broussard, ESPN analyst, attacked for giving his opinion about homosexual marriage on ESPN—a bold stance on the truth.
Instead of bunkering down, and going Chicken Little—we pray & talk. Just like the church in Acts 4.
“Sovereign Lord” — You are in control God!
No matter the circumstance—it can be used for the spread of God’s fame.
- They weren’t look for prison—but God is sovereign.
- Your job. God is sovereign.
- Your seating arrangement on the plane–God is sovereign.
- Paul, “Im in jail–it’s for the spread of the gospel.” "Oh, I know those guys are preaching Christ, just so I’ll be treated more harshly, and I rejoice because Christ is proclaimed!’
That’s the mindset we need. Opportunities are everywhere—it’s boldness that is lacking.
I bet they had a hunch that persecution wasn’t going to go away—and it hasn’t. It won’t till the Jesus returns. It’s coming to our country.
They didn’t pray for ease, they prayed for boldness. They didn’t pray for safety. They didn’t even pray for a persecution-less church—they prayed for boldness. Jesus told them this would happen.
In Eph. 6, Paul ask the church to pray for him—that he wouldn’t wuss out—that he’d speak boldly—as he ought to.
Boldness to spread the gospel. Frankness.
We need the right kind of boldness. Bad boldness is easy. It’s easy to be mean to sinners, to be a punk, to look down on others.
It’s even kind of easy to call a spade a spade. It’s not that difficult to say, “That’s a sin, and that’s a sin—that’s not marriage—that’s a sin.”
It takes gospel, holy ghost boldness, to call people to repentance and faith in the Risen Christ.
And the Holy Spirit of God gives us weapons-grade gospel power. We tear down strong holds and every lofty argument raised against Christ.
- In Acts 3, God draws a crowd with a mighty wonder—attractional, and Peter preaches. Healing is awesome.
- In Acts 4, God fills his church with a might power, “all filled”—and the church, the people, infect the world with the gospel. Boldness is awesome.
Do you pray for boldness? What’s higher on your prayer list—your kids, your job, success—or you being a bold witness, and Acts 1:8—the purpose that you were created for—to advance the name of Jesus Christ.
I read on the news this week about a man who lost his life savings on a carnival game. Life savings. He had to win the dumb cowboy banana. That was foolish.
But he is a living metaphor for how many people, and some Christians, are wasting more than money—but their very lives—a higher cost—on the world’s carnival.
The sadducees were annoyed by Christian boldness? Are you? Maybe you don’t know Jesus. That the author of life died and rose again to ransom us from our sin and give us new life. That can be yours…repent and believe.
The church saw Peter and Johns’ boldness, and had awe and sought it. If we don’t have awe and don’t seek it… are we ashamed? Embarrased?
Let’s confess those things—as sin, repent, and ask the Lord for extraterrestrial, supernatural boldness to spread his gospel, his mission, in his power.