To Proclaim Christ
2/4 – Repent and Return (Acts 3:1-26)
Introduction — Here Luke highlights one of the wonders and signs (2:43) taking place through the apostles. Peter and John are going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. A man lame from birth was outside the gate of the temple. This man is there to beg alms of those entering the temple. When the man sees Peter and John, he begins asking to them for money. Peter fixes his gaze on the man, and says, “Look at us!” The man expects to receive something from Peter and John, so he gives them his attention. But Peter says, “I do not posses silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” Peter grips the man’s right hand and raises him up. Immediately the man’s feet and ankles grow strong, and with a leap, the man stands right up and walks. And walking and leaping and praising God, the man enters the temple with them. People see him walking and praising God, and they recognize him as the one who used to sit and beg. The people are amazed at what happened to the man. When Peter sees their amazement, he says, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this and why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we made him walk?” Peter proclaims Jesus. He tells them that God glorified Jesus, whom they delivered and disowned before Pilate. They put to death the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead. “Faith in the name of Jesus strengthened this man, and faith through Him gave him this perfect health,” Peter declares. “And now, brothers, I know you acted in ignorance. But the sufferings of Messiah which God foretold, He fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away.” That Peter proclaims Jesus is clear. Peter announces good news. That Peter calls for a response to the gospel is also clear. He directs them to repent and return. Peter wants this group to follow Jesus. How about us? Do we long for people to follow Jesus? Do we seize moments to proclaim Jesus? Do we see opportunities for declare good news? Do we urge people to respond to the gospel?
We have conversations with people all the time. They may express wonder at who God is or what God has done. When they do, we have an opportunity to point people to Jesus. Will we take it? Will we speak the gospel? Will we direct them to the greater miracle of new life in Christ? Will we proclaim Christ?
We declare the glory of God in Christ! (11-26)
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. (13)
We declare who Christ is and what He has done. (14-16)
14 But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 16 And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Comment: Here Luke shares highlights of Peter’s words to those gathered in the temple. These amazed onlookers, seeing a lame man now healed, rush to Peter and John and the man. These folks stare at the three in wide-eyed wonder. These folks are amazed at what God has done. What does Peter do next? Seeing his opportunity, Peter steps forward to declare the glory of God in Christ. Peter proclaims Christ. He directs the people to Christ. He declares who Christ is and what He has done. Peter says that Christ is the Holy and Righteous One. Christ lived a perfect life before them. Christ is the Prince of life. He is the creator of life. He is the author of life. But in their ignorance (17), these same people disowned Christ. They put Him to death; God, however, raised Him to life. Now, on the basis of faith in the name of Jesus, faith which comes through Him gave perfect health to the man before them. Question: What is the message Peter declares? What is the hope he states? Who becomes the main focus of Peter’s words, his sermon to the people? What does this mean for us? When we have opportunity to point people to Jesus, will we take it? Will we speak the gospel? Will we proclaim Christ? Application: Let’s declare the glory of God in Christ. Let’s be quick to declare who Christ is. Let’s be eager to declare what Christ has done. Let’s not shy away from those moments when we can speak up for Christ. Let’s joyfully speak about Christ. Let’s proclaim the gospel of Christ.
We declare our need for Christ. (17-21)
17 And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you,21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.
Comment: Here Luke continues with Peter’s message to the people in the temple. Peter wants them to know they need Christ. Though they acted in ignorance toward Christ, Peter declares that they need forgiveness from Christ. These folks are guilty of rebellion toward God. They are sinners who need a Savior. Peter declares that they need to repent and return. Why should they repent? Because they can trust the promises of God (18) in the past, then they can trust the promises of God concerning the present and the future. As Peter states, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you.” Peter asserts that those who see their need for Christ must turn to Christ. They must repent and return. And if they do, then God forgives and restores them to Himself through Christ. God wipes sin away. God brings them to life. God is with them. God saves them.
Question: What did that mean for them? What does this mean for us? When we have opportunity to point people to Jesus, will we take it? Will we speak the gospel? Will we proclaim Christ? Will we urge people to repent and return? Will we speak the gospel clearly? Will we affirm the promises of God in Christ? Will we tell the glory of God in Christ? Will we speak of our need for Christ? Application: Let’s declare the glory of God in Christ. Let’s gently, but honestly announce that people must turn to God through Christ. Let’s remind folks that we all need Christ. Let’s be honest that we are all sinners. Let’s speak of our need for a Savior. Let’s declare our need for forgiveness. Let’s urgently share the gospel. Let’s joyfully tell of gospel promises. Let’s direct people to Christ. Let’s proclaim the gospel of Christ.
Word Study for Acts 3:1-26
2 set down (tithemi—put; set; place; deposit; plant; lay down; place in a location)
4 fixed his gaze (atenizo—stare at; look intently; behold earnestly)
6 name (onoma—person; reputation; authority; character)
8 leaping (hallomai—leap up; bubble up; exult; gushing)
8 praising (aineo—glorify; give praise)
10 taking note (epiginosko—recognize; observe; know about; understand; acknowledge)
10 wonder (thambos—awe; astonishment; amazement; stupefaction; surprise; dumbfound; fear)
10 amazement (ekstasis—ecstasy; astonishment; bewilderment)
12 power (dynamis—ability; mighty deed; strength)
12 piety (eusebeia—religion; godliness; devout practice)
13 glorified (doxazo—praise; honor; be wonderful; think; render or esteem glorious)
14 disowned (arneomai—deny; refuse; disregard; say no; refuse to follow)
15 put to death (apokteino—kill; slay; destroy)
15 Prince (archegos—beginning; head; chief; ruler; initiator; pioneer leader; author)
17 ignorance (agnoia—want of perception; not have information)
19 repent (metanoeo—repent; change of mind which results in a change of life; change one’s purpose)
19 return (epistrepho—return; turn about; change one’s beliefs; change one’s ways)
19 wiped away (exaleipho—eliminate; plaster over; wash over; cancel; erase; blot out)
19 refreshing (anapsyxis—breathing space; relief; relaxation from burdensome circumstance; a recovery of breath; revival)
Application Acts 3:1-26
Let’s see people in light of the gospel.
Let’s offer people hope through Christ.
Let’s be quick to praise God for His miraculous work.
Let’s be quick to direct people to the glory of God in Christ.
Let’s clearly state the gospel.
Let’s ask people to respond to the gospel.
Gospel Connections for Acts 3:1-26
Jesus Christ is glorious. He is the Holy and Righteous One. He is the Prince of life, whom lawless people put to death. However, Jesus did not remain in the tomb. God raised Him from the dead. Many saw Jesus alive. They testified to this event. However, many people did not recognize Jesus as Messiah. They acted in ignorance toward Him. But God foretold that Messiah would suffer. And God fulfilled what He foretold about Messiah. And because God fulfilled His promises, He now calls for a response: repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away. God calls people to turn from sin and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thoughts and Quotes for Acts 3:1-26
How quickly we forget God's great deliverances in our lives. How easily we take for granted the miracles he performed in our past. ~ David Wilkerson
I never have any difficulty believing in miracles, since I experienced the miracle of a change in my own heart. ~ Augustine
Men can see the greatest miracles and miss the glory of God. What generation was ever favored with miracles as Jesus' generations was? Yet that generation crucified the Son of God! ~ Tom Wells, Christian: Take Heart
We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders. ~ G.K. Chesterton
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. ~ C.S. Lewis
Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn't mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness. ~ Timothy J. Keller, The Prodigal God
I have a great need for Christ. I have a great Christ for my need. ~ Charles H. Spurgeon
There’s a difference between remorse and repentance. Remorse is being sorry for being caught. Repentance is being sorry enough to stop. ~ Greg Laurie
A guilty conscience is a great blessing, but only if it drives us to come home. ~ John R.W. Stott
Beware of placing even the smallest drop of your confidence in anything apart from the gospel. ~ John Calvin
Commentary of Acts 3:1-26
3:12 Verses 12 and 16 go closely together. Verse 12 raises the question about the power behind the man’s healing. Verse 16 provides the answer. In between is inserted the basic kerygma of the death and resurrection of Christ and the Jewish responsibility in those events. The basic function of vv. 13–15 is to establish the Jewish guilt in rejecting Jesus. The remainder of the sermon is basically an appeal to repent and affirm Christ.
Peter began by seeking to correct any misunderstanding that he or John had healed the man by their own power or piety. No, it was faith in the name of Jesus that healed the man (v. 16). But how could the name of Jesus have such power? Verses 13–15 answer that question. The power is his by virtue of his glorification (v. 13) and his resurrection (v. 15). The “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” had glorified his servant Jesus, raising him from the dead (v. 15). The patriarchal formula was a familiar one in Judaism (cf. Exod 3:6). It is perhaps not by accident that the same formula appears in Luke 20:37, a passage that deals with the resurrection. God is the God of the living. The glorification refers to Christ’s exaltation to God’s right hand. As the glorified, risen One, Christ has the power to grant healing in his name.
3:13–15 One is struck by the unusual title “servant” (pais) applied here to Jesus. It is not a common title for Jesus in the New Testament, occurring only here and in v. 26 and twice in chap. 4 (vv. 27, 30). The usage seems to be basically liturgical in chap. 4, for it is applied there to David as well as Christ (v. 25). Here in chap. 3, particularly in a context dealing with the death of Jesus, it is tempting to see an allusion to Christ as the suffering servant of Isaiah. This becomes even more likely when one considers the possible allusions to the servant psalms that run throughout vv. 13–14, in the references to “glorification” (Isa 52:13), the “righteous one” (Isa 53:11), and being “handed over” or “delivered up” (paradidomi, twice in LXX of Isa 53:12).
Finally, the most likely prophecies of Christ’s suffering, referred to in 3:18, would be those of Isa 52:13–53:12, the passage quoted in Acts 8:32–33. The suffering servant concept is prominent throughout the New Testament. Perhaps the reason the title only occurs in the early chapters of Acts is that the Greek word used in Isaiah for servant (pais) can be translated “son” as well and so was assimilated into the more familiar “son of God” confession in the Greek-speaking church. Indeed, that very tendency appears in the King James Version of Acts 3:13, 26. The emphasis in the use of a servant Christology in Acts 3:13, 26 is not on the vicarious death but on the election of Christ as servant. God has chosen him, sent him, and exalted him. The Jewish guilt lies in their rejection and denial of God’s chosen servant.
Even though God glorified Jesus, the Jerusalemites did the opposite, handing him over to death and disowning him before Pilate (v. 13b). The best commentary on this statement is the passion narrative in Luke 23:13–25. There Pilate is shown to have attempted to release Jesus three times, each being rebuffed by the Jews. So here Pilate is said to have decided to let him go. Both here and in the Gospel, Pilate was primarily a witness to the guilt of the Jerusalem Jews. He “surrendered Jesus to their will” (Luke 23:25). Likewise the Jewish request for Barabbas, a “murderer,” is fully set forth in Luke 23:18–19, 25. One should not miss the irony in v. 14. The Jerusalemites requested that a murderer be released to them, for they were themselves murderers. They killed “the author of life” (v. 15). But the seeming defeat of the cross ended in victory: “God raised him from the dead.” Peter and John were themselves witnesses to the reality of his resurrection. The guilt of the Jerusalem Jews was well established. Their real guilt was, however, not so much in their delivering God’s chosen one to death as in their denial of Jesus (vv. 13–14). Peter continued to emphasize this in the remainder of his sermon. God sent the Christ to bless them, the sons of the covenant (v. 25), but they disowned him.
In vv. 14–15 three additional terms are applied to Christ—the Holy One, the Righteous One, and the Author of life. The Holy One is a title in the Old Testament applied to Elisha (2 Kgs 4:9) and Aaron (Ps 106:16, RSV). In the New Testament it appears to be a messianic term. Demons (Mark 1:24) and men (John 6:69) confessed Jesus as “Holy One of God.” It occurs also in 1 John 2:20 (“holy one”) and in Rev 3:7 (“him who is holy”) as a designation for Christ. There is some evidence for the messianic use of Righteous One prior to Christianity; it appears as a title for the Messiah in 1 Enoch 38:2; 46:3; 53:6 and Pss. Sol. 17:35. In Zech 9:9, a Christian testimonium (cf. Matt 21:5), the messianic King is described as “righteous.” The title appears also in Acts 7:52 and 22:14. Finally there is the term “author [archēgos] of life.” The term occurs only here, in 5:31, and twice in Hebrews (2:10; 12:2). The word has a double nuance, meaning either leader/pioneer or author/originator. In this passage either meaning could be applied. Christ is either the author, the originator and source of life, or he is the leader in the resurrection-life, the firstborn from the dead (cf. 26:23). The term is not a messianic title as such but an apt summary of the work of Christ in a context that deals with resurrection.
3:16 Having established that Christ has been exalted by God in light of his resurrection, and consequently that he is now in the position to dispense the divine Spirit and power, Peter answered his original question about the power behind the lame man’s healing (v. 16). The Greek is complex and somewhat obscure, but the NIV probably renders it as clearly as it can be by separating it into two parallel statements, both of which emphasize two things active in the man’s healing—faith and the name of Jesus. Ultimately the name, the power of Jesus, healed the man—not Peter’s or John’s power. But the power of Jesus worked through faith. Whose faith? That of the apostles or that of the man? Perhaps Luke deliberately left it open. Surely Peter worked by faith. But what about the man? If he had little faith to begin with, the miracle that led him to this point—clinging as he did to the apostles (v. 11)—was already bringing about in him the greater miracle of faith in Christ, the Author of life. Perhaps this is what Luke wanted us to see by emphasizing faith alone rather than the possessor of faith. For after all, faith is the greatest miracle of all, and that miracle stood open to all in Solomon’s Colonnade that day.
The concluding portion of Peter’s sermon can be divided into two parts, both relating to the need for the Jews to repent. Verses 17–21 give the basic call to repentance and the blessings God will grant them as a result. Verses 22–26 give scriptural support for the appeal.
3:17–18 One is struck by the conciliatory tone of vv. 17–18. The Jews in Jerusalem acted “in ignorance” when they did not recognize Jesus as the Holy and Righteous One, the anointed Servant of God. In actuality he was the author of life for them, but they sent him to his death. This was a sin of ignorance. Had they known him for who he truly was, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8). Such sins were considered by the Jews as forgivable sins and were distinguished from conscious, intentional sins, which the Old Testament describes as those done “with a high hand” (RSV). Means of atonement were available for sins of ignorance, but not for intentional, deliberate sins (cf. Num 15:27–31). Jesus himself had recognized their ignorance in crucifying him and had already prayed for their forgiveness (Luke 23:34). Thus, Peter was offering the Jerusalem Jews a second chance. Once they had disowned the Christ. It was, however, a rejection in ignorance. Now they could accept Christ and be forgiven. Should they fail to do so once Peter gave them a full understanding of Christ’s true identity, it would be a wholly different matter, a deliberate, “high-handed” rejection.
In these passages that deal with the Jewish responsibility for Jesus’ death, it should be borne in mind that there are four mitigating emphases. One is this emphasis on ignorance. A second is that Acts nowhere contains a blanket condemnation of the Jews: only the Jerusalem Jews are given responsibility in Jesus’ death. In Paul’s speeches to the Jews of the dispersion, he never charged them with any guilt in Jesus’ crucifixion but made clear that only the Jerusalemites were responsible (cf. Acts 13:27–28; cf. Luke 13:33–34). Third, the Gentiles are shown to have shared in the culpability (“lawless men,” 2:23; Pilate, 3:13). Finally, the suffering of the Messiah was bound up with God’s own divine purposes (v. 18): God foretold it, the prophets had spoken it, and the death of Christ fulfilled it. The mystery of the divine sovereignty worked through the tragedy born of human freedom to bring about God’s eternal purposes for the salvation of humanity (cf. 2:23f.). God took the cross, the quintessence of human sin, and turned it into the triumph of the resurrection. But where did the prophets predict this suffering of Christ? Luke referred to such predictions often (cf. Luke 24:46; Acts 17:3; 26:22f.; significantly also 1 Pet 2:21f.). The servant psalm of Isa 52:13–53:12 immediately comes to mind, but the early Christians did not fail to note many other Old Testament passages as finding their ultimate realization in the passion of Christ (e.g., Jer 11:19; Zech 12:10; 13:7; Pss 22; 31; 34; 69).
3:19–20 Peter gave the call to repentance (v. 19) with two expressions: “repent” (metanoeō) and “turn to God” (epistrephō). The Jerusalem Jews were to have a complete change of mind, turning from their rejection of Christ and turning, or “returning,” to God. In rejecting God’s Messiah they had rejected God’s purpose for them. Accepting the Messiah would thus be a return to God. In vv. 19b–20 Peter gave the threefold result of their repentance: (1) their sins would be forgiven, (2) the “times of refreshing” would come upon them, and (3) God would send the Messiah whom he had appointed for them. The forgiveness of sins is clear enough. Throughout Acts repentance is closely connected with forgiveness; indeed it is the basis for forgiveness (cf. 2:38).
The main sin Peter laid upon the Jerusalem Jews was their sin of ignorance in rejecting the Messiah. True forgiveness could only have come from their turning to God by accepting his Messiah. Then only would “the times of refreshing” come from the Lord. The phrase “times of refreshing” (anapsyxis) is difficult. The basic meaning of the word is the cooling off that comes from blowing, like the refreshment of a cool breeze. This rare biblical word occurs only here and once in the Septuagint (Exod 8:11), where it refers to the relief that came to Egypt after the plague of frogs ceased. It appears in the Jewish apocalypse 4 Ezra 11:46, where it refers to the final messianic times of Israel’s redemption. What is unclear is whether it indicates a temporary period of respite during the period of messianic woes preceding the end time or whether it pictures the final time itself. Probably the latter is intended. The term is likely synonymous with the concept of “restoration” in v. 21 and reflects Jewish messianic expectation. It was particularly appropriate to Peter’s sermon to the Jews in the temple square. The same can be said for the third result of their repentance—God’s sending the Messiah to them (v. 20). This seems to reflect a common Jewish expectation that the Messiah would only come on the repentance of Israel. The reference is surely to the Messiah, as the presence of the articles indicates, “the Christ,” the Anointed One. He is described as having been “appointed for you,” i.e., “you Jews.”
3:21 Verse 21 concludes Peter’s appeal with an explanation for why the Messiah was not then present. He must remain in heaven until the final time when God will restore everything. The best commentary on this concept is to be found in 1:6–11. The concept of restoration is basically the same as that about which the disciples questioned in 1:6. The Messiah’s present location in heaven presupposes the ascension and return at his Parousia (1:9–11). The question still remains: does 3:19–21 presuppose a Jewish messianic concept that understood the first coming of the Messiah as being predicated upon the repentance of Israel? The passage could surely be so viewed if taken in isolation from its context. In the context of Peter’s sermon, however, something quite different is expressed. The difference lies in the reference at the opening of his sermon to Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Messiah indeed has come as the glorified Servant, the Holy and Righteous One of God. But the Jerusalem Jews did not receive him as Messiah; they disowned him. He is indeed the Messiah appointed by God, but they failed to recognize and receive him as their Messiah. The Messiah will come again to restore his kingdom to Israel (Rom 11:25–26). Whether that will be a time of refreshing for Israel depends very much on their repentance and reception of Jesus as the Messiah. What was true for the Jews in Solomon’s Colonnade still holds true today. Only in receiving the Christ of God by repentance and turning to him is there forgiveness, refreshing, and restoration.
3:22–23 Still continuing his appeal, Peter then gave the negative side. Jesus is depicted as the “prophet like Moses” whom God will “raise up” and the people must heed (v. 22). Whoever does not listen to him will be utterly rooted out from the people (v. 23). This is basically a quotation of Deut 18:15, 19, supplemented by Lev 23:29. The passage in Deuteronomy gives Moses’ promise that after he is gone God will continue to speak to Israel by raising up prophets who will speak his word.
Already before the coming of Christ, this passage was being interpreted messianically in some Jewish circles. Evidence exists, for instance, that the Qumran community expected a prophet like Moses as a part of their messianic expectation, and the Samaritans hoped in a prophet-messiah called the Taheb. In his Gospel, Luke often likened Jesus to a prophet (cf. Luke 4:24; 7:16, 39; 24:19), and in Stephen’s speech the Mosaic-prophetic typology is treated in detail (cf. Acts 7:37).
Two motifs in the tradition of Deuteronomy were particularly applicable to Christ. One was the prophetic motif. A new prophet would come, a newer and greater prophet than Moses—one whom the people must hear. The second was the reference to God’s “raising up” (anistēmi) this prophet. In the original context of Deuteronomy the word simply meant to bring forth, but in application to Christ it was sure to be seen as a reference to his resurrection. Most significant of all, use of this text shows Moses himself to have been one of the prophets who witnessed to Christ. Leviticus 23:29 originally dealt with those in Israel who refused to observe the Day of Atonement. They were to be “rooted out,” totally “cut off” from the community. The application to Christ means that those who do not listen to him and turn to him in repentance will no longer be a part of the people of God (v. 23b; cf. Heb 2:3).
3:24–25 Moses was not the only prophet who predicted the Christ. “All the prophets from Samuel on” did so (v. 24). Samuel was considered the first prophet after Moses, with Moses being the very first (cf. 13:20). Thus all the prophets foretold these days, i.e., the days of salvation, the coming of Christ. For whom did the prophets speak if not for Israel? The Jews themselves were “the heirs of the prophets” (v. 25). With their fathers God established his covenants. To take comfort in their privileged position was easy. John the Baptist had already warned them of the danger of relying on their descent from Abraham and membership in the covenant community (Luke 3:8). Here Peter reminded them of the content of the covenant with Abraham: “Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.” It was not Peter’s concern to emphasize the missionary imperative implicit in this promise to Abraham (Gen 12:3). At this point he probably was largely unaware of it himself; God had to prod him pretty hard to witness to Cornelius (chap. 10). What Peter was concerned to do was to convince his Jewish hearers that God’s covenant with Abraham was fully realized in Jesus.
3:26 The word “offspring” is singular here. Much as in Gal 3:16, the Abrahamic covenant is related to Christ. He is that sole offspring in whom blessing would come. First and foremost, he was Israel’s Messiah. God sent him “first to you” (v. 26). Verse 26 serves as a suitable closure to the sermon because it recapitulates various earlier themes: the servant role of Christ (v. 13); God’s “raising him up,” with its overtone of resurrection (vv. 15, 22); the need for the Jews to repent and “turn” (v. 19). God sent his servant to them, to fulfill God’s blessing to Abraham by turning each of them from their evil ways. There is significance in the little word “first,” just as there is in Abraham’s blessing extending to “all peoples on earth.” It may have taken the apostles some time to fully realize the implications of the missionary imperative, but there it is. Peter was primarily concerned with the Jews. The gospel was preached to them first. Soon it would reach far beyond the boundaries of Judaism “to all the peoples on earth.”