IN JESUS’ NAME
Acts 3–4 “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6).We can have the utmost confidence today in the power of Jesus’ name.
In our society a name is a label that identifies a person. In Hebrew culture the name indicated far more. The name expressed the essence of the person’s being. Thus to preach or heal in the name of Jesus was to release the power of Jesus in that situation. This concept of “name” lay behind magic practiced in the ancient world. People pronounced names in hopes that the power of the being would be activated. What a difference in the use of Jesus’ name by Peter, and by the church. As God, Jesus was actually present in power when Peter healed the cripple, even as Jesus is present in power with His people today. It was not magic that healed the cripple. It was the power of God, and Peter’s use of Jesus’ name was an expression of faith that Christ’s essential power could meet the cripple’s need. Today too we are to pray, speak, and live in the utter confidence that the One on whose name we rely, Jesus, is present with us too. Jesus’ power still flows, and we meet every challenge in His name.
Peter healed a cripple in Jesus’ name (3:1–10), and called the crowd that gathered to repent and believe in Jesus (vv. 11–26). Peter and John were arrested (4:1–4). Peter boldly confronted the men who had condemned Jesus, and credited the resurrected Christ with the miraculous healing (vv. 5–12). The two disciples were threatened, beaten, and released: they were not to speak in Jesus’ name again (vv. 13–22). The church joined Peter and John in prayer (vv. 23–31), and all were filled with the Spirit. Boldness in witness and a marvelous unity resulted (vv. 32–37).
Understanding the Text
“What I have I give you” Acts 3:1–7.
Our society has a “throw money at it” philosophy. For Congress and many Christians, throwing money seems to be the first and last approach to solving social and/or spiritual problems. We throw money and then, feeling our duty is done, we hurry on about our own business. Peter and John had a peculiar advantage. They had no money to throw! Instead, they gave what they had. In this case what they had was the power to heal in Jesus’ name. You or I may not have the power to heal. But we need to follow the two apostles’ example, and give what we have. Perhaps a listening ear. Perhaps a helping hand. Certainly love and concern. These, offered in Jesus’ name, have more power to lift others up than all the money in the world. “Walking and jumping, and praising God” Acts 3:8–10. When the preaching of Wesley began to stir England, the religious establishment was disturbed. Those people had too much “enthusiasm.” And “enthusiasm” seemed inappropriate to the staid churchmen of the era. But how appropriate it seemed to the cripple, who realized he was healed, to walk and jump and praise God! And how appropriate for us, who have experienced Christ’s healing touch, to be excited about our Lord. “Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him” Acts 3:11–26. Peter’s second sermon, while less polished than the first (Acts 2), emphasized the same themes. Jesus is the Christ. He died as the Scriptures predicted, and was raised again. Turn to Him for forgiveness. Every generation or so, someone comes along and claims that for this new day, we need a fresh way to express the Christian message. Usually that “new” way deemphasizes Jesus, questions His deity, doubts His death and resurrection, and ignores the need for forgiveness of sins. There is no “new” way to express the Gospel, for the Gospel of Jesus remains the same Good News it was when first preached by Peter, and believed on by thousands of Jerusalem Jews. If you want to be an effective witness, don’t worry about finding a new way to communicate. Just tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love. “It is Jesus’ name” Acts 3:11–26. A unique aspect of this sermon is Peter’s use of a variety of names for Jesus. Jesus is God’s Servant (vv. 13, 26), the Holy and Righteous One (v. 14), the Author of life (v. 15), the Christ (Messiah) (v. 18), and the foretold Prophet like Moses (v. 22). Each of these names unveils more of Jesus’ essential character, and each displays the harmony of the new revelation of Jesus with the Old Testament. God has fulfilled His ancient promises, and demonstrated this by raising Jesus from the dead. Peter pressed these claims by insisting that his listeners “repent.” The basic meaning of repent is to “change your heart and mind.” Peter’s sermon was designed to unveil the true nature of Jesus so that his listeners, who had hesitated to accept Christ’s claims while He lived among them, would change their minds about Jesus. Anyone who thinks of Jesus as anything less than God, and the Saviour of mankind, must change his or her mind about Jesus to be saved. “By what power or what name did you do this?” Acts 4:1–7 I’m constantly amazed by the gall of those who see God do some great work through others—and then set up an ecclesiastical court to decide whether or not they should have done it. Still, it happens all the time. It was arrogant of the Sanhedrin to arrest Peter and John. Oh, it was their official responsibility to supervise Jewish religious affairs. But when they asked, “By what power or what name did you do this?” they asked a foolish question. Only God had the power to heal a cripple from birth. They knew full well the miracle was from God—and that the apostles had healed in Jesus’ name. I remember in the early days of Billy Graham’s ministry, our little congregation in Brooklyn, New York decided not to support his Madison Square Garden campaign—because he had a “liberal” on the sponsoring committee and sitting on the platform with him. How arrogant of us. God was using Billy and many were being converted. But our church’s little court decided he wasn’t dotting the right theological i’s and crossing the correct doctrinal t’s. So we wouldn’t play. Let’s not deny what we see God doing through other Christians, just because they dot their i’s and cross their t’s differently than we do. It’s far more appropriate if we join those who experience His grace, and are found walking, and jumping, and praising God. “Whom you crucified but whom God raised” Acts 4:8–12. Peter pulled no punches in speaking to the Sanhedrin. They had engineered the murder of Jesus. And God in raising Christ from the dead made it clear that the One they rejected was the cornerstone of God’s plan of salvation! Blunt and fearless, Peter announced, “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (v. 12). How gracious of God! The very men who murdered the Saviour now heard a clear and simple presentation of the Gospel. They had yet another chance to repent, and believe. Let’s be as gracious as God in our dealings with others. However bluntly or forcefully others reject Jesus, let’s give them another chance. “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” Acts 4:13–22. Peter and John were classed by the religious elite as “unschooled, ordinary men” (v. 13). I suspect that most people in our world fit pretty well into that category. But Peter and John, ordinary though they were, had a personal relationship with Jesus that gave them the spiritual power to perform a miracle that not one of the elite could duplicate! Don’t worry about being ordinary. If you too have “been with Jesus” (v. 13), your relationship with Him lifts you far above the ordinary. Confident of your relationship with the Lord, you too like Peter and John will obey God rather than mere men, and speak boldly about what you have seen and heard. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” Acts 4:32–37. Acts 4 suggests two results of filling with the Spirit. They “spoke the Word of God with boldness.” And “all the believers were one in heart and mind.” The Holy Spirit is our living link with Jesus and the Father. It is through Him that Jesus’ power flows. We are to be controlled—for “filled” implies—by the Spirit, clear channels filled to the full by His own dynamic power. But how does a Spirit-filled people display that presence? Not by spectacular signs. But by boldness in sharing the Good News of Jesus, and by loving unity in the body of Christ.
Prayer Power(Acts 4:23–37)
It’s one thing to be told what to do, another to be shown, and yet another to try it yourself. I remember reading about how to drive. Then I carefully watched my dad drive. And then my dad let me try—in a very old 1920 Ford he picked up somewhere. The first time I tried to drive it I went too fast on a turn, bounced over a curb, and blundered up on a neighbor’s yard. I ended up nestled in some bushes just a few feet from the house wall, with my dad tightly gripping the seat beside me. I’d read all about it. I’d seen him do it. But somehow it was different when I tried. Still, I suspect if I hadn’t been carefully watching Dad for some time, I probably would have gone through the neighbor’s house instead of just her yard. That’s why I’m so attracted to this description of the early church at prayer. These Christians faced a crisis. They were in trouble, and needed help. Acts 4:23–37 doesn’t just tell us that they prayed. It shows us how they prayed. Watching them carefully, you and I can learn how we should pray when we too face a personal or corporate crisis. There are 141 words in the NIV version of this prayer. And 104 of them are in praise of God’s sovereignty. They rehearse His greatness as Maker of heaven and earth; they review Scripture’s affirmation of His power; they recall how His Sovereign power was expressed in turning the conspiracy against Jesus to His own purposes. Only then, after affirming God’s sovereignty, do they make their request. And that request is specific, and to the point. Think about it for a moment. Out of 141 words, 104 are in praise of who God is. That means that five sevenths, or 70 percent of the prayer, wasn’t concerned with their needs at all. It was concerned with God. In remembrance and in praise, these Christians not only honored the Lord, but also strengthened their faith in Him. In response to that prayer God poured out His Spirit, and gave the Jerusalem church both boldness and love. What an example for us. And what a challenge. Do I come to God hastily, a runaway Model T bouncing over someone’s yard, so desperate to make my request that I have no time to remember who God is? Or do I come like the early church, affirming my faith and confidence in One who is Sovereign over all? And then making my request, sure that because God is God, He can and will respond.
For prayer power, praise.
“We have to pray with our eyes on God and not the difficulties.”—Oswald Chambers