Last week we looked at the remarkable healing of body and the remarkable and instantaneous regeneration of spirit that took place in verses 1-10. And then verses 12-26 give Peter's interpretation of that healing in terms of the kingdom of Christ. But let's start first with the transition in verse 11. Verse 11 says, "Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John…" It would be very easy to fly right over that phrase and miss the significance of this second reaction of the beggar. You will remember from last week that the first reaction was God-wards. Unlike the crowds in verse 12 who mistakenly attribute the power to Peter, the beggar does not do so. He gives all the glory to God. Verse 8 says, "So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them – walking, leaping and praising God." Verse 9: "And all the people saw him walking and praising God." And this God-centeredness and love for God is the first impulse of every new regenerate heart. Scripture speaks of this as a man's first love. God instantly fills the heart with love and praise for Him. And though every regenerate heart is given this love for God, that first love can grow cold in believers if it is not nurtured. You may remember those days when you couldn't get enough of praying to God, thanking Him, telling Him how much you loved Him. Seeing a new believer have this zeal can often rekindle that first love within us, or at least make us long for those days. But there are other things that can be done to renew that love. But that was the first reaction of his regenerate heart.
The second reaction after he had spent time praising God was to hang on to believers. He "held on to Peter and John." This shows that His mind, His conscience and His love have been given a totally new orientation. Did Jesus not say that the ten commandments can be summarized in love – loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (that's his first reaction), and loving our neighbor as ourselves (that's his second reaction)? So where there is a renewed love, there is also a renewed sensitivity to the law, or to pleasing God. When God regenerates a man, He places within that man a new insight (which we call illumination). It is a new way of looking at life. And this beggar was seeing life through totally new eyes. God also creates a sensitivity to pleasing God (which we call a renewed conscience). And thirdly, he places a new love for His people. You don't have to teach a new believer to love God, and you don't have to teach a new believer to love the brethren. Every regenerate heart is given this desire to hang on to believers. 1 John 3:14 says,
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
Why is he hanging on to Peter and John? Because he has passed from death to life and now has a new love for the brethren. 1 John 4:20 is even bolder in this declaration: John says, "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?"
Here's the problem: just as we can lose our first love for God, we can lose our first love for the brethren. Remember when you first became a believer and how much you loved going to Bible studies and hanging out with your new Christian friends? Do you remember how much you looked forward to going to church and meeting with each other afterwards? And perhaps some of that zeal has gone away. Perhaps you have allowed sharp words to divide between friends, and you are no longer holding on to them. Well, Scripture commands us in
Hebrews 13:1 Let brotherly love continue.
Interestingly, nowhere does it have to command us, "Let brotherly love start." Scripture assumes that if you are a believer, love has started. God sheds abroad in our hearts a love for the brethren the moment we are regenerated, and if we have never had a love for the brethren, we were never saved. However, just as we can let our love for God wane, we can kill brotherly love through our thoughts and actions, and so 1 Peter 1:22 tells us to continue to love one another fervently just as we loved one another when we first obeyed the truth of the Gospel. Hanging on to believers in the fellowship of the Gospel is a sign of a church's health. If your love for God or other believers has grown dim, let this beggar's testimony stir up the first good works that you might renew the first love.
Verse 11 goes on: "Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon's, greatly amazed." There is nothing like a changed life to draw a crowd. This man had no intention of going back to his spot where he had been begging for years. He hung on to Peter and John and identified himself with them and their church rather than with his old life. And Peter points to this transformation as evidence of the power of Christ's grace for all.
But I do find it interesting that Peter and John don't give this man a microphone and put him on a speaking circuit. That is the tendency of modern evangelism, to think that effective speakers have to be either notorious sinners or famous speakers. What's the first thing that happens to a converted Satanist (like Lowry), or a converted Hollywood Star or to a converted football player? They are put on a speaking circuit and the church ends up stunting their growth in the deeper things of the Word. Peter has more sense and does not so much as ask this man to say a word. He was anointed by God to preach.
But (on the other hand) he doesn't even want them to focus upon him. Pride is a danger for new believers, but it is a danger for older believers as well, and needs to be guarded against. Verse 12:
So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life…
One of the temptations of many preachers is to softpeddal the Word of God in order to gain the praise and favor of men. But Peter didn't expect praise from the beggar and he wasn't preaching for praise from this audience. If he had been, this was a very poor way of showing it. He was accusing Israel of not only murder, but of regicide and of regicide of the most nororious kind – killing the King of the Jews; the Messiah; the anointed one of God. But preachers, like Peter, are called to represent God and His message, not the message he thinks will be most appealing to the crowd. And that calls for courage; a courage you need to pray that your preachers would have.
But let's take apart those verses in a bit more detail. Verse 12 says, "So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people…" When he saw it [that's the people's ungodly reaction], he responded to the people by preaching. Peter's preaching was directed to the real life situations he was confronting. He saw a sinful response and he confronted it. He didn't preach on topic A to people who needed topic C. He spoke to the needs of the hour. This too is uncomfortable for preachers. Now granted, we're not talking about singling out people in the congregation to preach at, and hammering on them. I don't do that. But I am saying that godly preaching will be informed by what it sees in the congregation and generalize to all – because if two or three people are struggling with a given issue and you know about it, then it is likely that others will be struggling with that too. Jay Adams says that God has not called preachers to simply be informed by theology books. That gives theoretical preaching. We need to be informed from real life. And this means that you will sometimes mistakenly think that you are being singled out in a sermon given by Glenn or myself. I've had visitors whom I have never met before ask me after the sermon "Who told me that I was coming?" One man insisted that someone had to have told me he was coming because it was obvious that I was preaching at him. And my response was three-fold. 1) that I really didn't have any idea who he was or that he was coming. 2) But, secondly, if what I preached is true, and if the shoe fits, then he needs to wear it. I told him to forget about how I knew and focus on what God knows and his need to respond appropriately. And I told him, "Count it a joy that the Spirit has convicted you, and make sure that you repent so that you don't quench the Spirit." 3) and then thirdly, I told him, that even though I didn't know about him, his problem was common to man, and others no doubt thought I was preaching to them as well. I would much rather have people accuse me of singling them out then of having my sermons utterly irrelevant to the needs of the hour. Peter preached to the needs that were before him. You need to value preachers that do that.
Verse 12 goes on: "So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this?" Now doesn't that seem like a strange thing to say? Wouldn't you marvel if you saw a man who was lame from birth, instantly walking and leaping? I would. But that may say something about our own substandard Christianity as much as it says something about their dullness of mind. Jesus had been doing miracles for three and a half years. The apostles had been doing numerous miracles both before and after Christ's death. For the apostles, this was normal evidence of the coming of the kingdom, not something to marvel at. Matthew 12:28 said, "if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you." If we are living in the kingdom, we shouldn't be surprised if we are tasting of the power of the age to come. That age has already intruded in all of history.
He continues: "Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?" What a slashing indictment this is to the whole Roman Catholic theology of merit, whether you call it condign merit, congruous merit or the extra treasury of merit that the saints have supposedly piled up in the Roman Catholic church. Peter absolutely denies that he provided any merit whatsoever in this healing, and rebukes them for thinking that he did. This truly is a rebuke to the Roman Catholic Church. Peter upholds the Reformation cries of Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone and to the glory of God alone. We need to recognize that to even take a tiny fraction of the glory that rightfully belongs to God is theft. It is stealing from the glory of God. And we are ever prone to steal glory from God by coveting the praises of men and rejoicing in the praises of men, or being upset when people don't praise us. Thanks for what is truly thankworthy is one thing. But Peter recognizes that in himself he has no power to heal. So he directs the attention of the people to the Lord.
Verse 13: "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers." Peter is also making it clear that his God is the God of Israel, and that the events they were witnessing was simply the fulfillment of the promises given to their fathers. Christianity is not a new religion, but simply the fulfillment of everything that Israel had been looking forward to for so many centuries. We do not worship a different God than Abraham. Sometimes Christians act as if we do – a different God, different laws, different desires. But the Bible says that our God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. In fact, it is precisely the God of their fathers who stands in judgment upon their unbelief.
"The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus." By referring to Jesus as the servant of the Lord, he would have immediately reminded them of the prophecies of the Lord's Servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. That's the servant of the Lord passage, and what is remarkable about that passage is that every detail of Christ's rejection by Israel, His pain and His crucifixion, the plucking out of his beard, the scoffing of the priests, etc were prophesied in vivid detail. Using that phrase would have made an explosion of horrendous realization in their minds. But, just in case they didn't get it, Peter describes the details of Isaiah 53 by explaining that they themselves were the culprits that Isaiah prophesied about.
"His servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate…" Peter doesn't preach in generalities. He begins pointing out the specifics of their great sin. The very one whom God has just glorified, you have delivered to be humiliated. If their heart was pumping hard earlier, I'm sure it skipped a couple beats here and began to sink at the realization of what an incredible sin they have committed. But is this not the very heart of mankind's problem? All sin is an attack against God Himself. And what makes these Jews even more culpable is that Pilate tried to release Jesus: "you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go." Nowadays it's not politically proper to accuse the Jews of that time of killing Jesus. It's more politically correct to say that the Romans did it. But Peter, a Jew Himself, does not let them off the hook. They are responsible for His death. Later, in chapter 4 Peter says that Pilate sinned as well. But here, his purpose is not to be fair in sharing the blame evenly around. Sure the Romans were involved, but the Romans aren't his audience right now. His goal is to bring deep conviction to this generation of Jews who rejected their Lord. What is your response when your sins are pointed out? Are you quick to say, "Well he did it too!" Or do you show the work of God's grace in worrying about your own sin and being quick to confess your own sin even if the proverbial Romans don't own up to their own problems? It's so easy to try to divert attention from our own sins by going on the attack. Peter, you're not being fair. We're not the only ones who were involved, you know." And Peter's response would in effect be, "Don't worry about other people's sins. I am confronting you about your sin and your need of a Savior."
Verse 14: "But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you." What an inditement! They preferred letting a murderer get off scott-free than to allow Jesus to live, even though Jesus was Holy and Just. In John 8:46 Jesus said, "which of you convicts Me of sin?" They could not. They scrutinized His life to find fault, and they could not find a single sin. In John 8:29 Jesus told the Jews, "I always do those things that please Him." In John 18:38 Pilate told the Jews, "I find no fault in Him at all." In Luke 23:41 the dying thief told the other thief, "this man has done nothing wrong." He was holy and just. And it was His sinless perfection alone that enabled Jesus to be our Savior. Of course, the prophets called the coming Messiah, the Holy One and the Just One, and so this is also a reminder to them that this was the Messiah they killed. The very one who was God's revealer of true holiness they killed in sin. The very one who was God's revelation of what Justice looked like, they had unjustly traded for a criminal. This is incredibly bold preaching. This crowd could have killed Peter in a heartbeat, but he preached the truth. We need more preaching that exposes sin. Instead, many pulpits will not preach the whole counsel of God because they are afraid that they will lose members, lose money or perhaps lose their position. But that is to dishonor the God that they pretend to represent.
Martin Luther once said,
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.
One of my prayers for the church in America is that God would once again bring Reformation; that He would restore to the church people of mettle and back-bone like Peter and Martin Luther. Reformers usually end up coming under viscious attack, and some even die as Peter later died. But we desperately need such men of boldness. - Not men of unkindness and ungraciousness, but men of boldness and uncompromising truth. Pray for me, that God would make me bold in my teaching. The pressures to compromise are ever present on the mission field and here at home. But we should desire God's glory and the good of the kingdom more than we desire our own comfort and fame. I believe that God has called me to be part of the Reformation of the Church in America and abroad, which means that I will come under attack. It just goes without saying that I will come under attack. So I covet your prayers that I would remain faithful to His Word.
Peter continues in verse 15: "and killed the Prince of life…" Doesn't that almost seem like a contradition? If Jesus is the Prince of life, how could He be put to death? And the answer is that God had planned this, and Jesus had voluntarily laid down His life so that we could be spared from death. If Jesus is the prince of life, then He Himself is God. And of course, that is the Gospel story: God the Son came down to earth, took upon Himself human form so that He could be the Mediator between God and Man. He had to be a Man to represent us to God, and HE had to be God to represent God to man. Jesus lived a perfect life, yet had all the sins of His elect placed upon Him, and Jesus suffered in our place and died in our place. As the passage I referred to in Isaiah 53 said, "All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned, every one, to his own way. And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." He bore our sins and thus had to bear the outpouring of God's wrath. He cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me" so that we would not have to be forsaken. And to all who cast their sins upon Jesus, and by faith receive His righteousness as their own, have forgiveness and life given to them. He is the Prince of life and He can give you life. He has the authority and power to do so. And I urge you, if you have never put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, to do so today. Peter in Acts 4:12 says, "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
But what a contrast we have in this verse. They were givers of death, while Jesus was the author of life. They murdered Him, while God raised Him. And this is a phrase that we see stated over and over again in the book of Acts. Here Peter says, "and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses." You would think that this would strike terror into the hearts of all who heard this message. "The very One whom we have killed and dishonored is God's anointed and cherished Son whom God has honored and has been raised up. Man, are we in trouble!!" You would think that this would be the response of the rulers. But as typically happens, the ones who really should be listening are just as hard hearted as ever, and end up arresting Peter and John in chapter 4. And many of the ones who were not directly involved in the sin are pricked in their consciences and repent and believe. And you know, this continues to happen to this day. A pastor preaches the terrors of the law, and the ones that you hope will hear the Scriptures are utterly indifferent or blind to their own sins and the ones who you think are not that bad off come with trembling consciences. It's an amazing phenomenon. And as preachers we just have to realize that the results are in God's hands. We can't change anybody's heart.
Now there is another issue that I would like to address from this passage, and that is how every member of a covenantal unit (whether that unit is family, church or nation) – every member is responsible in some way for the sins of the family, or for the sins of the church or for the sins of the nation. That's why righteous Daniel confesses the sins of the nation as if they were his own sins, and confesses the sins of his fathers. This is why the sin of Achan affected the whole nation. This is why your sins can make our church powerless. It doesn't seem fair to us Americans who are immersed in a culture of individualism, but this is the way it works. Let me try to highlight the problem by asking a question: "Who actually put Jesus to death?" And the answer is, "It was the leaders. It was the Sanhedrin." Now there was a small crowd who also said, "Crucify Him," but surely not the hundreds of thousands who came to Pentecost. It is clear that the leaders wanted Jesus dead and they authorized His death. But who is Peter preaching at here? Not the leaders. It is the people; it's the followers. In fact, the leaders don't even come onto the scene until chapter 4:1. Look at that. "Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people…" So it seems like they were not even in the crowd in chapter 3. Yet what has Peter been saying in these verses that we just read? Verse 13 says "You delivered up Jesus and denied Him." Verse 14: "you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life…" You did it. Why didn't they say, "No I didn't do it. I wasn't there. It was the leaders who did it." The reason that such an argument would not wash is that in Biblical thought you are guilty of sin by virtue of your covenantal connection with your leaders. It's called federalism. That's why we are guilty of Adam's sin. That's why we should confess the sins of our nation. Since we are part of our nations ungodly imperialism, we are guilty. And so, Peter holds the whole nation accountable for the crucifixion of Jesus even though the whole nation was not present.
And if you once understand that covenantal principle, it will revolutionize your prayer life. If you once understand that covenantal principle, you will understand why I teach people that it is dangerous to stay in a corrupt denomination. Listen to what the apostle John said to true believers who still had not left the Jewish synagogue system. He didn't deny that they were Christians. But he said, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues" (Rev. 18:4). The word for share in that verse is fellowship (koinonia). By fellowshipping with the synagogue they were fellowshipping with its sins; and by fellowshipping with its sins they were in danger of receiving the synagogue's plagues or judgments. The bottom line is that separation from apostasy is not an option.
But this principle also means that we have the privilege of repenting on behalf of a family, a church or a denomination. This is what Daniel did. He couldn't leave his country, but he could confess it's sins. So he said, "I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel." Nehemiah said, "both my father's house and I have sinned" (Neh. 1:6). But any modern observer who heard the specific sins that Daniel and Nehemiah confessed might have been puzzled, because they weren't sins that they individually had committed. Read the passages some time; it's amazing. But they confessed those sins identificationally. They identified with their nation, and as one representative of that nation had the authority to place those sins at the foot of the cross. We have the great responsibility and privilege of praying identificational prayers as well. If you are a wife with a husband who refuses to respond to the Word, you can repent of your family's sins and confess them before the Lord and ask for His forgiveness and grace to break through. So there are two sides to this equation. The one side is that we are held somewhat accountable for the sins of the covenant community. On the other hand, our identification with the community is so real in God's eyes, that our prayers on behalf of that community carry a lot of weight. So hopefully that is just an encouraging sidenote. You are responsible, but there is something you can do about it.
Now in verses 16-20 Peter goes on to give the good news. There can be forgiveness if you will but trust in Jesus and repent of your sins. Beginning at verse 16:
And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.
Notice first that Peter brought the bad news of verses 13-15 before he brought the good news. There is no point in bringing good news of forgiveness of sins if you have not demonstrated clearly that people are sinners. Bring the law to bear that people might be prepared to enjoy the sweet nectar of the Gospel.
Notice second, that Christ's name brought the healing. "And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong." The phrase "through faith in his name" is an explanatory phrase, and if you take it out, the sentence would read "And his name… has made this man strong." What was the means of Christ's name bringing healing? It was faith in His name. A brief study of Christ's name shows that everything – absolutely everything flows through Christ's name. Look at verse 6. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." In the New Testament we are commanded to pray in His name (John 16:26), gather in His name (Matt 18:20), cast out demons in His name (Mark 9:38), work miracles in His name (Mark 9:39), preach remission of sins in His name (Luke 24:47), are justified in His name (1 Cor. 6:11), plead with people in His name (1 Cor. 1:10), give a cup of cold water in His name (Matt 10:42), trust in His name (Matt 12:21), receive a little child in His name (Matt 18:5), and on and on. In fact, Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." The commands to do all in the name of Jesus is repeated so frequently that I think we need to spend a bit of time explaining what is meant. Look at Acts 4:7 for the meaning of the term. The enemies of Christ capture Peter and John and are about to interrogate them, and in Acts 4:7 it says, "And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, "By what power or by what name have you done this?" To do something in someone's name means by someone's authority or with their authorization. So when police arrest someone in the name of the law, it is with the authorization of the law. Or when someone comes in the name of the king, he is representing the king and has been authorized by the king to come. The action of that officer was the action of the king. When you sign your name to a credit card, you are authorizing a deduction.
Let me give you a parable to help you to understand this. Let's say that you were a criminal who had daily broken the law for years and years. Sometimes you broke the law deliberately, and sometimes it was unknowingly. But you were a hardened criminal. And I think that is a fair picture because the Bible says that all of us sin daily in this manner. So here you are, a repeat criminal. Finally, you were caught and thrown into jail. And while there you noticed all kinds of people in a similar predicament. And they are all making excuses. Some think that the fault is with the law - the laws are too hard to keep, and they yell curses at God. Others blame the system, or blame their parents or rationalize that they aren't so bad. Some even think of themselves as victims. But you sit there with your head in your hands knowing full well that you are deserving of hell.
But to your surprise, Jesus comes into the jail room and calls you by name. And you are surprised that He even knew you. You are even more surprised that He starts telling you about all your sins - even sins you had long forgotten about. He knows everything about your life. And yet, He tells you that He is willing to be your attorney. And he tells you that every case that He has taken on, he has gotten the person off the hook. Well, for the first time you get your hopes up and say, "Sure, I'd like to be your client,, but I can't afford it." And he says, "Don't worry about it, you can charge it all to my account. Well, you are downright thrilled. And you say yes.
But Jesus jolts you into reality when he says, "I insist that you declare yourself guilty of every crime we have talked about." And confused, you begin to protest, saying, "But they will throw the books at me. I can't admit to those sins. What would my neighbor's think of me? What would my mother think of me?" Jesus says, "Well, then. I won't be your attorney. You're going to have to trust me, and the first step of trust is to admit guilt to everything." Your pride hurts; you are nervous; but you finally say, OK."
Jesus says, "Here's what I plan to do. I plan to go into the court room myself wearing your name. The court will declare you guilty. I will then go and be crucified as specified by the law on behalf of you and all the other clients I have taken on." When you get into the court room and they accuse you of these crimes, admit to them, but say, "I already died. Just look in the books." And they look in the books, and sure enough. It says, "In 30 AD Phil Kayser died and paid the penalty for every crime that he has committed." And because there can't be double jeopardy, you will go out a free man. The law will not be able to touch you.
Well, you are thrilled, but Jesus gives one more shocker. "There's one catch" He says. "From that time on, as far as the law is concerned, it means that you no longer exist." Since you died with me in 30 AD, you no longer have a separate ID apart from me. Dead people can't purchase things. Why? They don't have any legal rights. They don't exist. Dead people have no authority to enter into contracts, or to marry, to start a business or to do anything else. You'll have to do everything in my name. The moment you try to do things in your own strength and in your own name your spiritual checks will bounce, your spiritual credit card won't process and you will be frustrated. It can't be done. From here on in, you are both legally and experientially dependant upon Me [Jesus] for money, for love, for strength for everything. If you don't do it My name, you are doing it in your own name and strength, and the law will come after you and render you powerless. You now have a bank account in heaven, and I have already blessed you with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. When you pray for something at that bank, sign it in My name, or you won't get a dime.
Are you beginning to catch the significance of why Christ's name is repeated so frequently? Without it we can do nothing. To come in His name is to come in His power, His authorization, His authority. And it takes faith to do that. But what is encouraging about this passage is that Jesus not only provides the healing, the forgiveness but (amazingly) He provides even the faith and repentance. Look at verse 16 again. "And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know." [And notice this next phrase:] "Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." He speaks of the "faith which comes through Him [through Jesus]." Faith is not something that we can provide. Paul said, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." That's why we come in His name. We can't provide anything. We can't pay the attorney's fees. We can't even make the phone call to ask the attorney to come. He came to us. We love Him because He first loved us. So this verse says that faith is a gift of God. It comes through Jesus. That's why Acts 18:27 speaks of those who "believed through grace." It takes grace to bring a person to the place of faith. Let me give some other passages which speak of faith as a gift:
John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:65 And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."
Galatians 5:22 says that part of the fruit of the Spirit is "faith". The Spirit produces faith.
Ephesians 1:19 speaks of those "who believe according to the working of His mighty power." It takes His power to make people believe.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says that "it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast."
Look at Acts 5:31 and you will see that repentance is also a gift of God that is granted from God. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. He gives repentance.
Look at Acts 11:18. "When they heard these things they became silent: and they glorified God, saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.'" God has granted repentance.
What an encouraging thing this is when we pray for someone's salvation or when we evangelize. No matter how hard hearted that person may be, we can have confidence that God's grace can break through and give him faith. That's what Christ did to the apostle Paul. He instantly turned that faithless scoundrel who was murdering Christians around into a man of faith who was winning new believers.
The point is that having taken away all hope from these people he was preaching to, He proceeds to show that Jesus alone is the source of hope for any of us, and when we put our hope in Him, He will not let us down. Not only does He give forgiveness and salvation, but we will see next week that He sends times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord and the renewing of all things. The contrast is between no hope to those who have no faith to riches for those who do have faith. Don't ever think that Christianity, because it is a religioun of repentance and a call to daily crucify our flesh, that therefore Christianity is a joyless religion. Quite the contrary, Christ came to give us fullness of joy. And even in the Old Testament, Psalm 16:11 promises:
In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
But the irony is that no one can taste of those pleasures until they have given up their pursuit of sinful pleasure. No one can have the fullness of life that comes from this Prince of life until they have died to self. But to those who die to self, and want to live every moment for Jesus, Jesus says, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
And part of those riches includes the gracious provision of healing. We saw last week that we can't demand healing because the main time of healing is the end of time, when our bodies will be raised. Romans 8 speaks of that time as the redemption of our bodies. But God still delights in giving us foretastes and downpayments of that final healing even now. The new heaven and new earth have intruded into history now and as Hebrews says we can taste of the powers of the age to come. And it is faith that receives such miracles from the bank account of heaven. Galatians 3 reinforces that our whole Christian life must be lived by faith. It doesn't just start with faith; it continues with faith. In this chapter verse 16 says that it was faith in His name that
has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
Now He is not calling you to have faith in your faith, but to have faith in Jesus. Always fix your eyes on Jesus who is the author and finisher of your faith. The more you are in the Word; the more you fix your gaze upon Him, the more your faith will grow. If you look within to try to rouse up faith, you will start sinking in the waves just as Peter sank in the waves of Galilee. Look to Jesus. He is the Author and Finisher of your faith. He is the Prince of life. Amen.