Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Peter - The miraculous nature of Grace

Acts 3:11-12 "While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. 12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?"

Yesterday we looked at Peter's first sermon in Acts 2, noting the essential elements of a Biblical sermon.  Peter was the leader of the twelve who preached the first three of roughly twenty sermons in the Book of Acts.  

In today's post we want to explore his second sermon found in Acts 3:11-26 to discover the four-fold grace that made Peter's ministry a ministry of grace.

Understanding what grace is by way of the healing of a lame man
The context leading up to Peter's second sermon is set in the outer courts of the massive temple complex in Jerusalem.  According to Alfred Edersheim, the temple area had 9 gates that took the worship from the outer court of the Gentiles into the formal temple grounds composed of ascending worship areas called respectively the courts of the Women, Israel and Priests.1  Eight of those gates were side gates, with the ninth and most important one called "the Beautiful Gate.  It was at the Beautiful Gate that we see the miracle of the lame man healed by the power of God working through Peter and John.  Edersheim describes this gate: "The gate itself was made of dazzling Corinthians brass, most richly ornamented; and so massive were its double doors that it needed the united strength of twenty men to open and close them. This was the "Beautiful Gate"; and on its steps had they been wont these many years to lay the lame man..." 2

Now what does this miracle have to do with grace? The man in question had been lame, lying feet away from a religious system that claimed to give worshippers access to God.  He could not help himself, nor could the power of any man.  Grace is God doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. (Ephesians 2:8-9)  Further the man was a beggar, incapable of taking care of himself without the help of others.  When God's grace is extended to a person, the riches of God's love and mercy are extended, meaning that in grace, God gives to us what we do not deserve. (Ephesians 2:4) The outward beauty of the brass and marble of that temple could never compare to the beauty of God's grace, for no unconverted mind has ever conceived of all that God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9) With this miracle and its setting, Peter launches into his second sermon to deliver the ministry of grace that would result in 5,000 conversions! (Acts 4:4)

In understanding what the miraculous nature of grace is, we can now briefly by outline form consider what made Peter's ministry a ministry of grace.  Note the following four-fold grace that marked his ministry:

1. The Grace of the Savior - Jesus Christ. Acts 3:11-18,20-21
As one writer has noted, Jesus Christ did not come merely to bring grace, He is grace.  Grace is not a power, but the Person of Christ.  Titus 2:11 unfolds the idea of the grace of God "appearing".  Jesus Himself is described in John 1:14 as being full of "grace and truth."  Throughout Peter's sermon we see constant reference to Jesus Christ - the Personification of grace.

2. The Grace of the Scriptures. Acts 3:18, 21-26
Grace again is God doing for us what we could never do for ourselves.  Revealed scripture is God unfolding his mind to man.  Apart from the Bible, no one could know Jesus Christ, who in turn reveals God the Father.  The unrevealed things belong to God, and the revealed things belong to us and our children. (compare Deuteronomy 29:29) The scripture is the only instrument by which God effects salvation in the heart for saving faith (Psalm 19:7; Romans 10:17) and ongoing growth in sanctification. (John 17:17) Peter notes that Christ's crucifixion was announced beforehand by the prophets. (Acts 3:18) In the Old Testament the New is concealed, and in the New Testament the Old is revealed.

3. The Grace of the Holy Spirit. Acts 3:19
It is often common in the New Testament to see a ministry of the Holy Spirit without direct reference to Him.  When we compare Acts 3:19 to Acts 2:38, there is only One Agent of grace that could convict, call and draw sinners to repentance and faith - the Holy Spirit. Peter relied ever constantly on the Holy Spirit for the power to preach and relied upon the Spirit for the results of his preaching.  Grace means I am dependant upon God for everything.  Peter's appeal for his listeners to repent and return in Acts 3:19 is among the clearest expressions of the Gospel found anywhere in the Bible.  Only the Spirit can stir the heart to repentance, so that simultaneously the person can repent, believe and be saved. (2 Timothy 2:25; Acts 2:38)

4. The Grace of salvation. Acts 3:19
We have seen the grace of the Savior, Scripture and the Spirit.  What is the fruit of grace? Salvation.  Acts 3:26 concludes the sermon, however Acts 4:4 reports the results: "But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand." Praise be to God for the miraculous ministry of grace!  

1. Alfred Edersheim. The Temple - its Ministry and Services. Hendrickson Publishers. 1994. Page 25 

2. Alfred Edersheim. The Temple - its Ministry and Services. Hendrickson Publishers. 1994. Page 24

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