Providence

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.

And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, ‘Look at us!’ And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk! And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:1-10).

David prayed three times a day: “Evening, morning, and at noon” (Ps. 55:17). Daniel also kept a thrice-daily regimen of prayer (Dan. 6:10). By the time of the apostles, fixed hours of prayer were clearly established, about the third hour (9 AM), the sixth hour (noon), and the ninth hour (3 PM). David’s order of evening, morning, and noon expresses the Hebrew custom of day beginning at sunset.

So, Peter and John went to the temple around 3:00 in the afternoon for prayer. On the way, they saw someone carrying a lame beggar to his usual spot outside the temple gate. Some missiologists say that the apostles engaged in “power evangelism”: performing miracles “at will” for the purpose of eliciting a response to the gospel. A better description would be “providence.”

Peter performed the miracle in Jesus’ name; that is, according to the Lord’s empowerment. Miracles are, by definition, events that occur under the direct intervention of God and outside of ordinary agencies. They aren’t anything that we can turn on or off at will. Thus, a miracle is the direct result of God’s gracious providence and serves primarily to give God glory.

Peter commanded the man, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!” We often hear that God will never ask us to do anything beyond what we’re able to do, but that’s just what Peter did – he told a paralytic to walk in Jesus’ name. The man was utterly incapable, on his own, of following the command. It was beyond his own power or choice. So, why did Peter tell him to do? It was to display God’s providence.

The next observation is easily missed, “And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up.” The man did not think about it and choose to comply with Peter’s command by actuating his will. He was still lame. Peter, under the unction of the Holy Spirit, pulled the man to his feet. The entire event occurred outside the paralytic’s will or ability. Every aspect of the episode displayed God’s invading and overcoming grace. Peter didn’t heal the man, God did.

So, by God’s grace, the paralytic walked, but what’s even more profound is that the man, who’d been spiritually dead, now praised God. His walking and leaping drew attention to what really mattered – he was made alive in Christ. The real miracle was that the dead was raised to life! The apostles were going to the temple to pray, but the newly changed man didn’t wait for the official hour of prayer to begin or until they’d arrived in the official place for prayers. He impetuously praised God.

Whereas he was previously unable to lift himself up. Now, he was unable to constrain his praise. In thoroughly undignified fashion, he made a scene – “walking and leaping and praising God.” Everyone saw him and knew that he was the lame beggar who’d sat by the gate for years. There was no denying what God had done. In a miracle of the first order, God had healed his broken body and redeemed his sin-dead soul.

So, everyone who witnessed God’s providence was “filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” Yes, the miracle healing was important, but more important was the change that God had wrought in the life of one man that affected countless others. They weren’t all saved, but many did come to saving faith in Christ because of the change they witnessed in the formerly paralytic man.

May the lives of God’s people be so radically changed that those who know us will be “filled with wonder and amazement” at what has happened to us and give glory to God because of Jesus Christ.

By grace,

Chris

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