Lame men jumped for joy. Blind men could see. Deaf men could hear. The work of God through the Apostles was evident. The church was growing by the thousands, so what does spiritual revival look like?
Jumping For Joy
Nowadays as you drive around town, you’ve noticed at certain major intersections, there will be a man standing there holding a sign, “Will work for food”, or “Homeless, need food.” If you’re like me, you sit there with mixed feelings of pity and skepticism - you wonder if they’re for real, or if begging there at that intersection is their work.
As a college student in a small town, I was walking through the downtown area one afternoon and I was approached by a homeless man - his clothing was old and his breath had the tell-tale smell of alchohol. He asked me for a dollar - for me, a college student to even have a dollar in my pocket would have been a minor miracle - I told him, “Listen, I’ve got something better for you than money”. He seemed interested so I proceeded by sharing with him a clear presentation of the gospel. He followed every word - and after 20 minutes or so and a few questions I asked him if he’d like to turn from his sin and accept Jesus Christ as His Savior. With tears in his eyes he said “Yes.” I thought I’d make it hard for him and so I asked him if he’d kneel with me there on the sidewalk to pray. To my surprise he said, “Yes he would”. In broad daylight, with people walking around us, we knelt and I led him in a prayer to receive Christ. What a moment! I could hardly wait to get back to the dorm and tell the incredible story of this man’s conversion to Christ. After we prayed we stood back up and he said, “Now, about that dollar . . . can you give me some money.” I said, “You know, I don’t even have any money, but there is a Mission nearby that will help you get back on your feet and begin a new life.” He said, “You mean you’re not going to give me any money?” I said, “No, I don’t have any.” To my utter amazement, he cursed at me turned on his heel and stomped away, stopping only to turn again shout obsenities and other unrepeatable sayings my way. I was shattered - the whole thing had been a skam - that man was a conversion con artist - no telling how many other times he’d been saved.
This morning, I want to turn your attention to the conversion of a beggar - only this time, it’s not a trick or a skam - it’s for real.
It’s the story of a man in desperate need - and he’s about to receive something far different than what he was asking.
His story begins in the third chapter of the Book of Acts - and it weaves it’s way through the middle of chapter 4.
In fact, it will be on the heels of this beggar’s conversion, the persecution of the early church leaders will begin.
Notice 3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. 2 And a certain 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. In just one verse - verse 2 - we discover several things about this lame beggar.
First of all, you notice the Luke tells us he was lame from his mother’s womb. In other words, he was born lame - it wasn’t the result of an accident - he was born lame.
Now if you skip down to verse 7, Luke the doctor actually gives us a medical insight by the use of a medical term - And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. That’s the word - strengthened - literally “socketed”. Hippocrates used the same word to describe a condition of paralysis in the feet and ankles.
Now, the fact that this man was miraculously healed has created movements and ministries throughout the last century expecially that promise physical healing as part of God’s will for the faithful.
And there are a slew of men who parade about as conduits of this special healing power.
So I want to stop here for a moment and provide a Biblical answer - not only to those of us in here, but through us to many people in that movement who will eventually become disheartened and disollusioned simply becuase we all get sick and we will all eventually die - and no one, outside of accidents, has ever died without poor health having something to do with it.
A Caution Concerning Contemporary Miracle Healers:
The miraculous gift of healing was demonstrated through the Apostles only.
In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul says, “I performed the signs of a true apostle among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.”
Just as an Old Testament prophet was authenticated through miracles of prophecy, strength, fire from heaven - so the New Testament era opened with Apostles, authenticated by their Christ delegated power to heal.
No one who saw Elijah go to heaven in a fiery chariot should have said, “Hey, I ought to be able to go to heaven like that too, or God isn’t fair.” No one who saw Moses’ face brightly glowing having been in the presence of God’s glory should have gone to the mirror and said, “Why can’t my face shine like that too?”
The truth is, the early N.T. church body did not experience things the Apostles experienced; nor did they perform the miracles the Apostles performed.
Look back a page or two and notice chapter 2:43. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
John MacArthur makes an important distinction when he writes,
Contrary to the teaching of many today, the early church was not a miracle-working church. Rather, they were a church with miracle working apostles. The gift of healing in the early church was limited to the apostles and their close associates in ministry.
As the church in Acts developed, the miracle ministry of the Apostles diminished.
You only need to prove your point so often. Eventually the Apostles were renowned for their miraculous power - therefore the display of power to prove their mission was indeed from God, became less and less important.
That explains why Paul did not heal Trophimus but actaully left him sick at Miletus in 2 Tim. 4. Epaphroditus nearly died while working with Paul according to Philippians 2, and Paul writes that he was sick to the point of death. Isn’t it strange that Timothy would suffer from a digestive or some intestinal disorder becuase he had abstained from drinking anything but straight water. So concerned was he about his integrity and ministry that Paul had to tell him to drink a little wine for his stomach sake - c’mon Paul - why not just heal him?
As the record of Scripture continues forward, the healing ministry of Apostle’s ceases.
There’s another importnat point to note:
The illustrations of miracles in Acts were not to primarily to heal the afflicted but to authenticate the Apostle and his message.
-Hebrews 2 makes it very clear that the signs of confirmation were wonders
and miracles, performed through the Apostles as they established the new
dispensation of the Church. Since that miraculous era of confirmation, we
have been building on the foundation of the Apostles.
-Mark chapter 16 tells us that after the Lord ascended, the Apostles went out
and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed
the word by the signs that followed.
-In Romans 15:15, Paul records that he preached the gospel as the apostle to
the Gentiles with signs and wonders.
The Apostles were a part of a miracle age of confirming God’s power through this new community called church, and a new dispensation called grace, and a new theology called the New Testament.
Listen, if the Apostles healed people just becuase they were sick - they would have been incredibly cruel men - Peter and John should have healed every disabled person in Jerusalem - every sick person - every dying man and woman - they didn’t!
Why not - becuase their was a Divine purpose behind each display of power - it proved their apostolic commision from God.
You say, Stephen, why take the time to expound on this issue - are you afraid of the miraculous? No. But I am afraid for you, and I want to warn you just as Paul exhorted the Elders in Ephesus to watch out for their flock - becuase false teachers and decievers would come in and take avantage of them in the name of Christ.
Here’s the principle:
The ability of Satan to counterfeit miracles of healing requires critical thinking among Christians today.
Did you know that Satan and his demonic hosts can produce counterfeit healings and miracles. The problem is they not only accomplish it under the name of false religions but, in our country, much of it is wrapped up under the guise of Christianity.
The Lord Himself warned the “False Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray” (Mark 13)
The Apostle Paul warns that the antichrist himself will come in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders.
(2 Thess. 2)
If you’ve ever wondered how the population of planet earth could unite to actually follow him, Paul tells us how - “He will take his seat in the temple of God” and he will perform irrefutable miracles in the name of religion - and the nations will fall at his feet.
Now, does all this mean that God doesn’t perform miracles of healing today? Does this mean that we can’t pray for healing for those in our body? Oh No!
But here’s the principle: While God’s plan today may include miracle healing, miracle healers are no longer part of His plan. God may choose to heal and he may choose not to - it all ultimately works according to His plan for all our lives.
I want you to listen to what I would call a miracle healing. There’s no prayer of faith for it - there’s no one even praying over this man - he doesn’t expect it - in fact he’s in the process of preaching that God does not guarantee healing for His children - He alone has the sovereign right over life and health. Pastor Miller was afflicted by a virus that invaded his voice box - irreparabley damaging it so that he was unable to speak above a hoarse whisper. He lost his abillity to pastor - resigned from his church and spent 3 years out of the ministry. His church auditorium class had invited him to speak to them - he refused - they insisted - saying they’d put a lapel mic right under his mouth so that he could be amplified and heard. He agreed - and in the process of explaining, correctly, that Christians do not have a right to physical health - God sovereignly chooses to bring glory to himself . . . Focus on The Family has given us permission to play this portion of there broadcast. . .listen to what happens in this auditorium Sunday school class where this man had once faithfully preached the Word.
Incredible! Wonderful! Irrefutable! Undeniable! He wasn’t asking for it - he hadn’t mustered up the faith for it - God just did it - and it brought glory to no one else but God.
Now, let’s go back to the story in Acts - there’s one more thing I want you to know from verse 2. We read that he was carried to the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful.
Josephus, the first century Jewish historian informs us that this particular temple gate was impressive. It was made of Corinthian bronze and then overlaid with gold and silver. The gate was so heavy that it took 20 men to close it. They have written that when the sunlight shone on this gate, it shone with spectacular beauty.
Ironic isn’t it? Something so impressive and beautiful would be the daily post of someone so dirty and pathetic and hopeless.
That gate led from the court of the Gentiles into the court of the women. I think this fella was smart - perhaps he figured that he would evoke more pity from women than men.
I think it is significant as well, that of all the places he could have begged in the city of Jerusalem, he chose the temple - he was hoping for the mercy of those who had money to give to God - surely they could give some to him.
Growing up around the servicemen’s center in downtown Norfolk Virginia allowed us missionary kids the opportunity to explore every nook and cranny of that small downtown area. While the streets were not necessarily any cleaner back then, they were certainly a lot safer. I will never forget that old beggar who was always sitting at the same spot, on the sidewalk at the bottom of the steps of a large department store. He had stumps for legs and he was always seated on a large board with wheels upon which he got around. He always smiled at people, and there were times when I put all I had into his stainless steel cup - which was probably some nickels and dimes. He’d respond with a toothy grin and a big “Thank you sir.”
He was totally dependant upon the pity of downtown shoppers and small kids like me who were going in to the store with money to spend . . . surely those who had money to spend could give him some.
So here sits this beggar according to verse 2 - crying out to those entering the Temple, “Alms for a lame man. . . Alms for a poor beggar!”
Now notice 3 And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. 4 And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, “Look at us!” 5 And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 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!” 7 And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. were socketed - were joined - 8. And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising (Peter?!) No - praising God. 9. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 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.
Can you picture it. He’s walking and leaping! Not only does this miracle invovle the creation of muscles and the joining of bones and tendons and muscle memory implanted in his brain - he’s able to immediately walk. It takes a child two years to learn how to walk - we parents wish it took much longer - it takes even longer to learn how to run and jump - he’s doing it all - and in the Temple.
Men with long faces are praying long prayers - people are moving about fulfilling their ritual duties - suddenly they see movment - this man’s head appears above everyone else’s - he’s laughing - jumping up and down - He breaks out with a Halleluia! Yeeehaa! - an ancient Hebrew word - and people stared at him. . .
The shock wave spread throughout the temple - hey, this is the lame beggar - he hasn’t walked in forty years - it can’t be.
Then with this man holding onto peter’s arm, like a living illustration, Peter begins to preach - and in the next few verses he explains that this man is indeed an illustration of the power of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Peter explains that Christ has a kingdom that will one day come to earth - and in that kingdom, guess what the prophets declared? “The lame will leap like a deer.” Isaiah 35:6.
This man is an illustration of what it will be like in the kingdom - and you will be a part of it if you receive now the Lord Jesus Christ as your Messiah.
Imagine preaching about the promise, while the foretaste of that promise dances around you all the while.
Like the beggar’s condition, our situation is helplessly crippled unable to walk spiritually.
He was born physically lame -
we are born spiritually crippled.
He was poor, unable to survive without someone’s help;
we are bankrupt unable to live forever without the help of Christ.
He was “outside the place of worship”,
so we also are separated from God, no matter how near to the door.
He was totally healed by the grace of God,
and so we are brought to life by grace through faith in Him alone.
Like the beggar’s cure, our spiritual healing is available to those who will simply ask.
It really depends upon that which you beg - in fact, all of humanity is hungry and thirsty - we’re all in deep need - from which well will you try to drink for satisfaction?
Sensuality, business, materialism, power, popularity, philanthropy?
They will all leave you hungering for another drink - only Jesus Christ can truly satisfy.
READ CHUCK SWINDOLL’S STORY FROM “Come before Winter.”
My friend if you haven’t recieved the free gift of eternal life, offered to beggars who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter how successful, how dynamic, how wealthy . . . one day, if not on earth, in eternity, it will all take wings and fly away - and throughout the eons of everlasting judgment - you will be forgotten - your life wasted - just another casuality who took the broad road that leadeth to destruction.
But for those who’ve recieved Him, to them He gave the power and privilege to become the children of God. (John 1:12)
One more application of this beggar’s story to your story -
Like the beggar’s commitment, our response to God’s free gift should be a public testimony.
I love this - notice chapter 4:13 Now as they (the religious leaders) observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who
had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.”
He might have still had on his street clothes - they recognized him! These religious leaders had passed him on the steps day in and day out - some of them may have put some coins in his stainless steel cup.
Now, here he stands - I imagine he’s still jumping up and down! I can see grinning from ear to ear as he stood there - he recognized them too! “Hey fellas! Can you believe this - isn’t the Son of God good?”
And they could not reply.
Warren Weirsbe wrote, “Now that this man could stand, there was no question where this man stood.”
May it be for all of us as well, who have been resuced from the hopeless slum of sin and placed under the care of our Great Physician - who has guaranteed the well being of our souls for all eternity - may we stand for Him - our living Lord and Savior.
He was a routine admission to busy Bellevue Hospital. A charity case, one among hundreds. A bum from the New York slums with a slashed throat. The details of what had happened in the predawn of that chilly winter’s morning were fuzzy. The nurse probably shrugged it off. She had seen thousands and she was sure to see thousands more. Would it have made any difference is she and those who treated him had known who he was? Probably so. His recent past was the antithesis of his earlier years. He had reached the dead-end street of an incredible life. But all that was over. He was one among many. Like all the rest, he now lived only to drink. his health was gone and he was starving. On that icy January morning before the sun had crept over New York’s skyline, a shell of a man who looked twice his age staggered to the wash basin and fell. The basin toppled and shattered. He was found lying in a heap, naked and bleeding from a deep gash in his throat. His forehead was badly bruised and he was semiconscious. A doctor was clalled, no one special - remember, this was the Bowery. he used black sewing thread somebody found to suture the wound. That would do. All the while the bum begged for a drink. A buddy shared the bottom of a rum bottle to calm his nerves. He was dumped in a paddy wagon and dropped off at Bellevue Hospital, where he would languish, unable to eat for three days. . .and die. Still unknown. When they scraped together his belongings, they found a ragged, dirty coat with 38 cents in one pocket and a scrap of paper in the other. All his earthly goods. Enough coins for another drink and just five words that read, “Dear friends and gentle hearts.” Almost like the words of a song, someone thought. It was then that someone arrived who was able to identify him - and give the answer to why in the world would a forgotten derelict carry around a line of lyrics in his pocket? Maby he he still believed he had it in h im. Maybe that derelict with the body of a bum still had the heart of a genius. For once upon a time, long before his tragic death, he had written the songs that literally made the whole world sing. Songs like:
Camptown Races Jeanie with the light brown hair
Oh Susanna. . . and 200 more that had become deeply rooted in our rich American heritage. Thanks to Stephen Foster, who at the time of his death, nobody knew, and for whom nobody cared.