'Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth. And a certain man being lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid every day at the gate of the temple called Beautiful, to ask alms of those that entered into the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to enter into the temple, asked to receive alms. And Peter gazing on him with John said, Look on us. And he gave heed to them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, this I give thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth walk. And grasping him by the right hand he raised [him] up; and immediately his feet and ankle-bones were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they recognized him that he it was that sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened to him' (vers. 1-10).
The actual circumstances here recounted agree singularly with the special form the truth assumes. God is showing His long-suffering grace toward Israel though He has commenced an entirely distinct testimony and work in the gospel and in the church. So Peter and John, who were certainly behind none in the new position and testimony, are seen going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth. For the time at any rate they seem the better Jews for being so blessed as Christians. Not even their apostolic dignity, nor the power with which they were just clothed, detached them. There at the Beautiful gate when about to enter the temple, a man lame from his birth (often seen, being habitually laid there) asked of them alms, and got a better blessing. For Peter, gazing on him with John, arrested his attention who expected to receive some little boon. But if discouraged by 'Silver and gold have I none,' he hears of something more indeed: 'What I have, this I give thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth walk.' And if the apostle promptly grasped his right hand and raised him up, immediately his feet and ankle-bones received strength, so that leaping up he stood, walked, and entered with them into the temple, praising God. It was not done in a corner. All the people saw and heard, recognizing him to be the same that used to sit there begging; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had befallen him.
It was indeed a sign admirably calculated to awaken the Jews, to attest the grace of God towards their utter weakness, to manifest the power of the risen and glorified Messiah, and so much the more as it was not His presence but His answer from on high to the power of His name appealed to by His servant on earth. If such was the instant virtue of the name of
Jesus for the lame man, what would not follow faith in that name if Israel believed?
'And as he held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the portico that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering. And Peter seeing [it] answered unto the people, Men of Israel, why marvel ye at this [man]? or why gaze ye at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him to walk? The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, did glorify His Servant Jesus; Whom ye delivered up and denied before Pilate's face when he decided [lit. judged] to release [Him]' (vers. 11-13). This was no uncertain sound. But all is in keeping. It is the God of our fathers Who glorified the Messiah, His Servant Jesus. 'Son' is not the thought, but Jehovah's 'Servant' as in Isa. 42, 49, 50, 52, 53, Whom the Jews had denied before the Roman judge when disposed, yea determined, to let Him go.
And who is this that so boldly charged the Jews with denying their own Messiah? The very man who not many weeks before had denied Him with oaths. But Peter immediately broke down in a sorrow which wrought repentance according to God, as he judged not only the ripe fruit but the root of his sin. Now restored, his feet washed, he is so completely cleansed from the defilement that he can without a blush or waver tax the men of Israel with the very sin from which he had been so lately freed himself. For redemption by the blood of Jesus had meanwhile come in, and its enjoyment is so much the greater as the believer judges himself before God. 'But ye denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you; but the Author [lit. Chief] of life ye killed, Whom God raised from among [the] dead, of which (or, Whom) we are witnesses, and on the faith of His name did His name make this man strong whom ye behold and know; and the faith that is by Him gave him this entireness before you all' (vers. 14-16). None can preach, any more than worship, dike a soul once cleansed, having no more conscience of sins. How desperate their position! The Holy and Righteous One (Isa_53:11) they denied; a murderer they desired as a favour: God was distinctly against them in raising up from the dead the Author of life Whom they slew; and the apostles were witnesses of this; as His name through faith in it made the lame man strong whom they looked on and knew. What and where were they in gainsaying unbelief of Him Who responded to the faith by Him and in Him, that gave such a cripple this entireness in presence of them all?
Then does the apostle explain how so dreadful a deed could be on their part. 'And now, brethren, I know that ye acted in ignorance, as also your rulers, but God thus fulfilled what He announced before by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer' (vers. 17, 18). In one way this might aggravate the degraded condition of God's ancient people; for how came they and their rulers to be so ignorant? They knew neither the scripture nor the power of God. They valued neither grace nor truth. They saw works, they heard words, such as man never experienced before; yet were they more besotted than heathen, duller than their own beasts of burden. But He Who suffered for them on the cross prayed to His Father to forgive them, for they knew not what they did; and now the Holy Spirit through the apostle assures them that so it was, as a plea for divine compassion. That His Christ should suffer was no afterthought of God Who predicted it by all the prophets, and thus fulfilled it. So must the people learn their blind iniquity; so would God manifest His mercy Who gave Christ as a propitiation for their offences.
'Repent, therefore, and be converted for the blotting out of your sins, so that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and He may send forth Him that hath been foreappointed for you, Jesus Christ, Whom heaven indeed must receive till times of restoring all things, whereof God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets since time began' (vers. 19-21).
Here we have the condition of blessing to the Jews. Seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord are vainly sought for them as a people, till they repent and turn again for the blotting out of their sins. So the Lord had intimated when He bowed to their rejection of Him, and declared their house left to them desolate: 'Ye shall not see Me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord' - of Jehovah. Whensoever their heart shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away. They will be converted for the blotting out of their sins. They will in heart welcome their long-despised Messiah, and Jehovah will send Him. There will be at least a remnant converted and awaiting His advent, and He will appear to their deliverance and the discomfiture of their enemies, as many scriptures bear witness. Of that godly remnant not a few will be put to death, and these, whether earlier or later sufferers, shall be raised in time to join the saints already glorified, so that they all may reign with Christ during the thousand years according to Rev_20:4. Those who escape and survive will become the first and most honoured nucleus for the kingdom on earth, when heaven no longer has within it the Christ foreappointed for them, Jesus, and times for restoring all things dawn on earth.
For God does mean to bless this long-groaning creation, and He inspired the mouth of His holy prophets to speak of it since time began. They therefore do greatly err who deny the immense and universal blessing in store for Israel, the nations, the earth, yea, even the lower creation. They do not know how God intends to crown men here below with loving-kindness and tender mercies, when He shall open His hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Judgment, undoubtedly, must fall previously; and Jehovah shall punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth on the earth. Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when Jehovah of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion and Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously. For the great distinctive feature is to be, along with the exclusion of Satan and his power, the mighty and beneficent presence and reign of Jehovah-Jesus, Who with righteousness shall judge the poor and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth, after He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall slay the wicked. 'And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse which shall stand for an ensign of the peoples: to it shall the Gentiles seek and His rest shall be glorious' (Isa_11:5-10).
What a gap in the thoughts and desires of saints who expect none of these great and glorious changes in honour of Jesus! How defective the outlook where the grand purposes of God for the reversal of the world's ruin and misery since sin entered it are unknown! It will be noticed that here nothing is said of the still more magnificent circle of blessing revealed in Eph_1:10, when God will place under the headship of Christ all things that are in heaven and all things that are on earth. In our text we have only the earthly things in relation to Messiah and Israel, not the whole universe put under Christ and the heavenly saints.
Meanwhile the Jews refused to repent, and the kingdom, instead of being brought in, is postponed till they are converted for the blotting out of their sins at a future day, so that seasons of refreshing may come from Jehovah's presence, and Messiah be sent from heaven, according to the prophetic word.
'Moses indeed said, A prophet shall [the] Lord our God raise up from among your brethren as [He did] me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall speak unto you. And it shall be that every soul which shall not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those in succession, as many as spoke did also announce these days. Ye are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God covenanted with our fathers, saying unto Abraham And in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. To you first, God, having raised up His Servant, sent Him to bless you in turning away each from your iniquities' (vers. 22-26).
During the interval God turns the time of Jewish unbelief to the gospel call of the Gentiles, as well as to the formation of the body, the church one with Christ, wherein is neither Jew nor Greek. Here Peter is still exhorting them to repent, and in case of it pledging the return of Christ to establish the time of predicted peace and blessing. For Jesus was clearly the Prophet raised up, like Moses, but incomparably greater, as Moses himself bore witness in Deu_18:15: none could refuse His words with impunity, but to his own destruction. 'And all the prophets from Samuel, and those in succession, as many as spoke, did also announce these days.' As the Jews were sons of the prophets and of God's covenant with their fathers, according to the promised blessing in the seed of Abraham, so was Jesus, His anointed Servant, sent to them first to bless them in turning away each from their iniquities.
It is not yet the heavenly testimony of Paul, nor even what Peter preached to those converted and believing in Christ, as in Acts 2, but his call to the Jew responsible to hear the final appeal to that nation.