REPENT, AND TURN TO GOD
By Nonso Ukeka
Key Verse 3:16
“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.”
In the earlier part of this chapter, we see the disciples are steadfast in their devotion to prayer. On this occasion, as they go to the temple to pray, they encounter a beggar who had been crippled since birth. But who was this beggar? Although the Bible doesn’t mention his name, I believe we all know this person (or a person like this). This was someone who was very lonely in life, somebody who was unable to help himself or others, so he would always depend on other people to do things for him. This is a person who most likely felt the deep anguish of hopelessness in his heart. This is a person who was unable to serve God. In fact, he probably looked at his life and thought to himself, “I have nothing in life to thank God about.” This was a person who was completely crippled from the inside-out and was unable to live the life God created him to live. This beggar needed mercy and healing. So God visited this man’s life, forever changing him. He begged for pity and pennies for a living, but God was ready to give him so much more.
See how God uses his servants Peter and John to bless this man. First, when Peter and John met this beggar, they did not ignore him like most others do; rather, they intentionally gave him their full attention and love. Next, they gave this beggar the name of Jesus. Let’s read these powerful words in verse 6 that’ll forever echo all throughout gospel history, “Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’” The name of Jesus is much more valuable than gold or silver. We Christians are most blessed among all the people of the nations because we bear that name. Lastly, they gave him a hand. This means that they helped this man to put his faith in Jesus. They helped him get up on his own two feet until he was strong enough to stand on his own— and walk— and even leap— genuinely praise God with all his heart, like he never did before. There are many people crippled in their lives and spirits— crippled emotionally, or crippled psychologically, and especially crippled spiritually, who can’t get up from their paralyzed state. May they personally receive Jesus’ name for their healing. May the Lord use every one of us to give them the name of Jesus as well as our own hand of love and compassion to help them get up.
Just as the crippled beggar needed healing, so did the people of Israel as well. They were also all crippled by their sin and paralyzed by their many fears. Even their religious leaders were paralyzed by their own self righteousness and pride. They too needed God’s grace for healing so that they might live by faith in Christ and serve God. And that’s what God really wanted to do for them. Read verse 11, “While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.” This man who was once a beggar and the object of people’s contempt and pity was now a brand-new man. He became the object of God’s love and mercy. God transformed him completely from being a man whose whole life was wrapped up in taking from others, into a man whose life brought glory to Jesus. This one man became a catalyst for mass repentance among the Jews.
When people saw what God had done, they all crowded around Peter and John. This tells us that they too were desperate for something, although they might not know exactly what it was. They needed God’s forgiving grace and healing. They might not have been able to comprehend the miracle that had just happened! All they knew was that the disciples had something they did not; and they too wanted that something. This is how God used Peter to help heal his people by instructing them to repent from their sin and turning to God’s holy and righteous one, Jesus. This was Peter’s gospel message. Though it was simple, it was very poignant. We can see that Peter truly believed that the simple gospel would be enough to help the people understand how this man was healed, and how they too might find healing by the same power in the name of Jesus.
First Peter turns them to Jesus, so they can also put their faith in him and be healed. Let’s read verse 12-13a, “When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.” With so many people flocking to him and viewing him as the new celebrity in town, it’s incredible that Peter did not seize the opportunity for himself. Can you imagine how tempting it must have been for Peter to take some credit for the healing of the former beggar, even just a little praise! I’m sure we can all relate to a degree. It is part of the innate, sin nature to desire recognition and accolade from others. We want to look good in front of the eyes of people. We naturally want attention, or maybe just a little bit of recognition for our part when something good happens. But here, we see Peter overcame temptation by choosing to glorify God rather than taking glory for himself. Peter wanted to help them worship God, rather than accept their worship. He immediately spoke up and denounced any self glory. Instead, he takes that opportunity to honor God by sharing the gospel of Jesus. Look what he says to them: “Don’t look at us! We didn’t heal this man. We don’t have the power to do so. We aren’t godly enough. It was Jesus who healed him. He alone has the power, and he is God’s [chosen] servant.” Peter really wanted to help them understand that Jesus is the one God prophesied about long ago when he said, “Behold, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.” (Isa. 52:13). Every Jew understood very clearly that this was a prophecy about the promised Savior. Peter in essence was telling them that Jesus is the promised messiah that they had all been waiting for; then he continues, but you killed him.
Let’s read verse 13, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.” In order to fully help his people, Peter had to address their sin problem. They continued going to the temple day in and day out, and prayed and worshipped and offered sacrifices. They continued observing the law and the festivals; yet they needed to understand that they had a problem. It was a huge problem before God! He tells them, “you killed and disowned God’s servant Jesus”, even though he was clearly innocent. This was a severe indictment against them. In fact, to help them understand just how severe their sin was, look at how he explains it in verses 14 and 15: “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” He says that this Jesus, is “The Holy and Righteous One”! Jesus is the Holy and Righteous King of all kings, sent by God to rule over all his people. But “you turned on him and cried out to Pilate. He is not our king, only Caesar is our king.” (Jn. 19:15) They disowned Jesus and chose the world instead.
Jesus is the Author of Life! To the Jews, this was like saying, “You go around daily observing the laws, and studying the scriptures because you think you can gain eternal life this way. But the very Author of Life was with you, he walked among you, he was in your midst. All you had to do was ask, and he would’ve given you life. Instead, you rejected and killed Him!” (rf. Jn. 5:39-40) This was their great sin against God which severely crippled them. They chose their own way of thinking over God’s truth. And anybody who understood how great this sin is before God couldn’t but ask: “What have we done! I am ruined, what am I going to do? ”For anyone with a conscience, this would have been devastating!
How did Peter help them understand what God was doing among them? Read verse 16, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” Peter did not want to leave them there, in despair. He wanted them to come by faith to Jesus and be healed, just as the former beggar had been healed. “This man you see here was made completely whole again, inside-out, by the name of, and by faith in Jesus Christ…so also can you be made completely whole again, through faith in Jesus.”
What else does Peter do for them? He gives them God’s healing by inviting them to repent. Read verse 19, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Peter did not leave them to suffer in their guilt any longer, but neither did he excuse their sin. This is God’s wisdom and blessing for lost people. Repentance is God’s gift to the whole world to be able to accept the wonderful gift of forgiveness he has already provided in and through Jesus. Look at verses 17-18. This is what Peter is saying: “I know when you sinned, you acted in ignorance. But God’s love is much greater than your sin. God’s grace and mercy are greater than your wickedness. In fact, he foretold all this when he spoke about the sufferings of Christ through the prophets and promised salvation for those who repent and believe.” What would repentance mean for them? Repentance means turning away from those things which dishonor God. It means turning away from their sinful ways, their inclination for wickedness. It means distrusting their own self righteous ways and turning to God to provide his own righteousness through the Savior.
We too must always fix our eyes on Jesus, who is the Savior appointed by God for us, humbly obeying him and always trusting him. This is the way of repentance— the way of receiving God’s forgiving grace and healing. God’s word promises that when we turn to him, he not only forgives us— that is wipes away our sin— but he also promises to give us “times of refreshing”. What is this? Times of refreshing is the new life God gives to those who receive forgiveness and the blessing of the Holy Spirit in their lives. For those who don’t, their lives continue to be like shriveled up plants drying up without the life giving water. God’s word is sure and trustworthy. We can believe the word of God. Why are we so sure about God’s word to bless and refresh us? Peter had already told us why! Because Christ has already been glorified. Look at verse 21. “Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” Peter reminds them and us that Christ has not only been glorified, but that he will surely return. This also is a promise of great hope, as we look to our Messiah Jesus who will return to take us home to be with him.
Peter’s sermon about the Messiah was entirely based on Scripture and prophesy. What he was preaching about, was something they should have already known. All scripture had foretold about Jesus, even Moses whom they respected and honored as God’s prophet. Look at verses 22-23, “For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’” Moses said, “God will raise up a prophet like me.” What did he mean by that? Well think about it: Moses a man who left his Egyptian palace to be numbered among his people and to suffer with them (Heb. 11:24-25). He left his princely title to become a servant of God. God called Moses, the humblest man in all of the earth (Nu. 12:3). He was the first servant God made to be a shepherd over his people, and although they initially rejected him, God exalted him among his people in Israel. But there is one who is greater than Moses: Jesus Christ, the Son of God who left his heavenly palace to dwell with his people. He is the most righteous, holiest, humblest Shepherd the world has ever known. And though many reject him, God has exalted him and continues to exalt his name high above all heaven and earth. All of scripture speaks of Jesus, all of the prophets wrote about him. He is the seed whom God promised long ago to Abraham, our father of faith, the One who would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. Moses was a mere shadow of Jesus. But woe to those who reject Him! It’ll be a tragedy for those who refuse to listen to him because, as Moses warned, those who don’t will be completely cut off from God, and his people. This means that those who turn away from Jesus are in danger of eternal condemnation. Those who reject Jesus are rejecting the life Jesus gives and choosing eternal death in its place.
- God does not desire anyone should remain sick in sin and in heart and in spirit for such a person will surely perish. God rather desires you and me and everyone to be healed from our crippling sin— to receive forgiveness— to be given new life— so that we may all be set free to worship him. Read verse 26, “When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” This is the heart of the gospel message— God raised Jesus from the dead so that he might bless each one of us, by turning us away from our sin and wickedness and turning our hearts to himself. God does this for anyone who believe in Jesus’ name. We who are in Christ are truly blessed. He not only blessed us, but also made us to be a blessing on all people. What does this mean? It means that we not only bear his precious name, but also have the message of the gospel to should share with others as well. May God bless our lives of faith in his name to be a source of healing for all people, beginning with the Triton mission field and young people he has entrusted us with. Let us believe in the power of the gospel of repentance and faith and share it with others. Amen.