Written by: Don Carson
ACTS 3 INCLUDES A BRIEF REPORT of a sermon preached impromptu. (Though like many impromptu sermons, doubtless it was made up of pieces Peter had used before!) There are many points of immense interest.
(1) Peter repeatedly ties the coming of Jesus the Messiah with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Acts 3:13), with Moses and the promise that God would eventually raise up a prophet like him (Acts 3:22; cf. Deut. 18:15-18; see also meditation for June 13), with the prophetic witness of the Old Testament (Acts 3:24), and even with God's promise to Abraham that through his offspring all the peoples of the earth would be blessed (Acts 3:25; see meditations for January 14-15). At this point Peter did not have as broad an understanding of these points as he would later have, if we may judge by chapters 10-11. But that his understanding had got so far reflects his trainee period with the Lord Jesus.
(2) Peter does not for a moment let the crowd of onlookers off the hook (Acts 3:13-15). Many of his hearers were complicit in the demand to crucify Jesus; but, like an Old Testament prophet, Peter saw the people as a whole bound up in the decision of their leaders. The people may have "acted in ignorance" (Acts 3:17) — i.e., they did not say, in effect, "Here is the Messiah. Let us kill him." — but kill him they did, and Peter reminds them of their guilt, not only as an unalterable fact of history, but also because it is guilt that Jesus came to deal with (Acts 3:19-20). Moreover, although the people are guilty, Peter understands that it was precisely through the evil execution of Jesus that "God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer" (Acts 3:18). That is the supreme irony of all history.
(3) There is a string of characteristics that unite this sermon with the sermon in Acts 2 and some others in the book of Acts. These features include: the God of our fathers has sent his servant Jesus; you killed him — disowning the Holy and Righteous One, the author of life — but God raised him from the dead; we are witnesses of these things; by the death and resurrection of Jesus God fulfilled the promises he made through the prophets; repent therefore, and turn to God. There are variations on these themes, of course, but these return again and again.
(4) Although "many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles" (Acts 2:43), the apostles themselves are in no doubt that they had neither the power nor the godliness to make a crippled beggar walk (Acts 3:12). Their self-effacement is a perpetual lesson. "It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing" (Acts 3:16).