First they witness an amazing miracle. Then they receive a clarifying word of historical context and dire consequences. Then they respond by the thousands. How would you? ◊
“Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
Yes, in the year of 30 AD, Christianity took Jerusalem by storm just 50 days after Jesus was crucified, then resurrected, and then seen by the 11 apostles and hundreds of witnesses.1
Then Peter does it again in Acts chapter 3. Sometime after Pentecost, about 5,000 people heard his “second sermon” and believed.
What Does Peter Say This Time?
Before getting to Peter’s second powerful sermon, it’s important to understand the full sequence of events just prior. In Acts 3:1-10 we read the story of Peter healing the well-known lame man sitting daily outside the temple gate entrance. When Peter and John were asked for alms, Peter replies:
“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” – Acts 3:6
Peter reaches out and helps the crippled man to stand. The man begins to leap around the temple courts praising God. This draws a large crowed filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to this man. The people rushed around him and Peter and John.
Peter questions their amazement, and then links Jesus to the Supreme God of their forefathers, and refers to Jesus as the Holy and Righteous One, the Author of life; the one God raised from the dead, of which both he, Peter and John, are witnesses. Peter says that this man was healed by faith in the name of Jesus:
When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” – Acts 3:12-16
Then Peter highlights their big mistake about misunderstanding Jesus as the Messiah. He calls them to turn to God and repent so that their sins may be forgiven and restoration may occur as promised by the prophets. As with Moses, the consequences of not listening in obedience are dire:
“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.'” – Acts 3:17-23
Going back to the prophet Samuel, even Abraham, Peter reminds these Jewish people of the covenant God made with their fathers – that all peoples on earth will be blessed through Abraham’s offspring. Peter reminds them that God sent Jesus, the savior of the world, first to the Jews, who must turn from their wicked ways:
“Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed. When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” – Acts 3:24-26
How Convictions Turn into Changed Lives
Perhaps not as visually dramatic, but like the people gathered around Peter and John that day, we have all been exposed to variations of miracles and testimonies of life and faith transformation. Additionally, we have all received varying words of Biblical explanation and information. We have also all listened to many strong and effective sermons and teachings.
And throughout human history, millions have responded in repentance and belief in the name of Jesus.
But many have not.
How would you have responded to Peter’s second sermon?
“Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.'” Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:10-12
1 NOTE: Jesus’ ascension was witnessed by the apostles 40 days after his death and resurrection (see Luke 24 and Acts 1:3). Beyond the apostles, Jesus was seen during those 40 days by “more than 500 witnesses at one time” (see 1 Corinthians 15:6). The advent of the Holy Spirit came 10 days later the Day of Pentecost, a Jewish celebration of the Feast of Weeks or celebration of the First Fruits of the harvest (see Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9).