“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.
We might wonder why the apostles and other believers would go to the temple. But it must be remembered that they had personally accepted Christ as Savior, and the articles of furniture, etc. in the temple were meaningful to them, they did not have the completed Canon of Scripture as yet, and therefore they found it a wonderful place to go to teach and evangelize, and also to pray. When Peter and John went into the temple they were saying in effect that there is only one way to have your prayers answered, and that is to come through the Lord Jesus Christ, because everything in the temple speaks of Jesus Christ. The hour of prayer is indicated here as the ninth hour which would be three o’clock in the afternoon. Actually, there were three times of prayer every day in the temple. One was at the third hour, which is nine o’clock in the morning, the sixth hour, which was twelve noon, and the ninth hour as we have here.
On their way into the temple on that afternoon they encounter a helpless person. So the helpless man immediately sets up an analogy. The whole principle of the first half of this chapter is to demonstrate the principle: What should the church do about people who are helpless, weak, and in this case, needy? Not only was this man a case of lameness but apparently he had no or very little money and he depended upon the kindness of people in order to survive. He needed money to live and he was now begging at the gate called Beautiful.
Now what is the attitude of the church to be toward people who are helpless, people who are without funds; people who are poor? This passage is designed to explain that and to set a precedent with regard to this problem. Is the responsibility of the church in this world to alleviate suffering, to help the less fortunate? Is the responsibility of the church in the field of “the social gospel (reforming the social ills of society),” or is the purpose of the church to evangelize the unbeliever and teach the believer? Once and for all we get a very clear answer from the manner in which this problem was dealt with by the apostles. So we have a certain man who is helpless, lame, poor, everything that could be described as needy. He even had to be carried to this particular gate of the temple, again and again. There they laid him down in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple.
Verse 3 says, “When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms.” In other words, just as Peter and John were about to enter for a very spiritual operation of the church—prayer—they encountered this helpless man. Immediately we have an interesting situation. It is obvious that the purpose of the Church involves the teaching of the Word of God, but here we find an additional thing. The responsibility of the church is also prayer. Every believer has responsibility for personal prayer, as well as, for collective prayer in a place of worship. Now this person specifically confronts them and asks for money. While believers often help less fortunate people, the primary mission of the church with regard to someone like this is evangelization. Their responsibility to this man was not to simply give him physical food, to provide money to him, or even to alleviate his suffering, if possible.
Their primary responsibility was to provide a permanent solution, and they had that answer in the Gospel. This man’s great problem was the problem of salvation, and since it was the responsibility of Peter and John, and all believers to convey Gospel information above all else, how were they going to handle this problem? They performed a miracle and alleviated the man’s physical problem. But the alleviation of the man’s physical problem did not going to solve his real problem. He could be perfectly well, healed, and run around and walk around and have full use of his physical body, and still be lost.
So what would they do? What was their responsibility and what was/is the responsibility of the Church with regard to social problems in the world? The mission of the church is the dissemination of the Gospel first and foremost. The responsibility of the church is not the social gospel, not socialism, and not the alleviation of one’s human suffering though this sometimes becomes a by-product. So to improve the condition of this man was wonderful but it was nothing compared to providing Gospel information whereby he could have eternal life. The Church is not to be callous and indifferent of others, but Bible makes us see that the greatest need of man is not physical or environmental improvement but salvation. Once a man is related to God such things as physical handicaps and lack of funds and the basic necessities of life become a detail in our relationship to God. What this man really needed was a relationship to God. He needed to become a child of God.
Peter was the spokesman and he began to deal with the problem. Probably one of the biggest things in verses 4-6 is the fact that Peter was without funds. This is very important for one definite reason. We are accustomed to solving many of the problems of life by the use of money. And we do solve many problems in this way, and eventually we come to think that money is the solution to all the problems in life, that all you need is money, and using it properly you can solve any problem in life or you can get anything in life. Probably one of the reasons the church was so powerful at this time, in spite of their many failures, is the fact that they were without funds. Therefore their emphasis was not on money but on divine power. This passage teaches us that it is not providing money to the poor that solves the problem of the poor or the needy or the helpless. And while Peter was going to heal this man it was not healing that was the answer to his problem, and Peter emphasized this.
Verse 4 “But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, ‘Look at us!’” The first thing to do if you are going to help someone is get their attention. You cannot help people until they will listen to you, until you get their attention. Many times people wonder why so many difficult things are happening in their lives and it is simply because they will not listen to the Word of God until they are so badly beaten down that they begin to realize that maybe the Bible does have the answers. They’ve tried everything else and discipline from God finally brings them around to where they are willing to listen to the Word of God. This is learning the hard way. So Peter must first of all get this man’s attention. He must concentrate on Peter. The Word of God is no good to you unless you can concentrate on it.
Verses 5-7, “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.” The beggar then kept on listening to them. He was really anticipating that he would receive something from them. He focused his attention on Peter and John because he was expecting a hand-out. This man has learned to associate his problems with getting some money—silver or gold. The first thing he heard was that there will be no human solution today. This man for the first time was going to come into contact with divine power. So if Peter and John were going to help this man they made it clear that they were not going to help by means of a donation. This doesn’t minimize the necessity of money in the life, but God did not provide Peter with funds, He provided him with divine power. Peter had this power because his emphasis was not on money but on relationship with God.
Money has not solved this man’s problem so far. Peter does not tell him to rise up. That is not found in the original. Peter lifts him up but he does not tell him to rise up. He tells to walk. He has never been able to walk, he was lame from birth and now these men tell him to “walk,” which he does. The lame man walked all over the place even into the temple. Peter couldn’t walk for the man; the man must walk for himself. Peter could give him information but the man must do his own walking. There is an analogy. The mission of the church is to get people to “walk” for themselves by entering into the plan of God. Our responsibility is not to alleviate human suffering, our responsibility is to get people into the plan of God where their problems can and will be solved, in time and in eternity. But there certainly is nothing wrong with lending a helping hand when God provides you an opportunity to do so and provides the means without causing you or your family to suffer as a result.
Verses 8-10,“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.” This was the hour of prayer in the temple, very quiet, and all of a sudden everyone looks up while they are praying and this man comes in walking, jumping, and praising God. They were absolutely astounded at this thing which had happened to him. Now, Peter and John have the ear of the unbelievers in the temple and can begin to share the Gospel and teach them.
According to Hebrews 2:3-4 and Acts 14:3, signs, wonders and miracles were performed for a specific purpose during the early formation of the Church. God gave the apostles and a few others spiritual gifts related to signs, wonders and miracles so people would listen and believe them when they spoke. Even Jesus used many of these same gifts to authenticate His message. Once the Canon of Scripture was complete there was no further need for these particular spiritual gifts. However, spiritual gifts remain as a part of God’s plan for the Church Age. Every believer in Jesus Christ during the Church Age receives at least one spiritual gift (some have multiple gifts) at salvation. A spiritual gift is a specific ability given by God the Holy Spirit to the believer. The purpose for spiritual gifts is for the function of the local church. (Romans 12:4-6; I Corinthians 12:11-31) So we have temporary spiritual gifts and permanent spiritual gifts in the Church Age.
Temporary spiritual gifts were foundational as the early Church was being formed. The purpose of gifts at that time was to confirm the spoken word of the apostles and disciples of the Lord. Some of these gifts were for the detection of heresy in the Church, which was rampant in the first century Church. Some gifts were given to evangelize the lost in their own language. When these known languages were spoken in the local church an interpreter was always required in order that the entire congregation could understand. There were also temporary gifts that established the apostles’ authority over all churches. And finally, there were certain gifts given to men for the teaching of doctrine not yet a part of the canon of Scripture.
Permanent spiritual gifts were given to the early church and continue to be operational throughout the Church Age in which we live. The purpose for these gifts, as stated in Scripture, is for the teaching of the believer, the edification of the believer and for divine production by the believer. Every spiritual need of the believer in this age is met by the function of one or more of these spiritual gifts.
Spiritual gifts are a great blessing from God for the local church. Without the function of these gifts in the local body, the church could not properly operate. Each of us has a spiritual gift/s and it is up to us to discover that gift/s and use them. The discovery of our gift/s may come from recognition from a person in authority in the local church, such as the pastor or a deacon. However, most spiritual gifts are discovered as a believer begins to function in the local church doing things they love to do.