The Strength of Jesus’ Name
Sermon Text: Acts 3:1-26
Sermon Theme: In Jesus’ name, work and proclaim.
The apostles and the first believers attended the temple worship at the hours of prayer. Peter and John seem to have been led by a Divine direction, to work a miracle on a man above forty years old, who had been a cripple from his birth. Peter, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, bade him rise up and walk. Thus, if we would attempt to good purpose the healing of men’s souls, we must go forth in the name and power of Jesus Christ, calling on helpless sinners to arise and walk in the way of holiness, by faith in Him. How sweet the thought to our souls, that in respect to all the crippled faculties of our fallen nature, the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth can make us whole! With what holy joy and rapture shall we tread the holy courts, when God the Spirit causes us to enter therein by his strength!
Observe the difference in the manner of working the miracles. Our Lord always spoke as having Almighty power, never hesitated to receive the greatest honor that was given to him on account of his Divine miracles. But the apostles referred all to their Lord, and refused to receive any honor, except as his undeserving instruments. This shows that Jesus was one with the Father, and co-equal with Him; while the apostles knew that they were weak, sinful men, and dependent for every thing on Jesus, whose power effected the cure. Useful men must be very humble. Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name, give glory. Every crown must be cast at the feet of Christ. The apostle showed the Jews the greatness of their crime, but would not anger or drive them to despair. Assuredly, those who reject, refuse, or deny Christ, do it through ignorance; but this can in no case be an excuse.
The absolute necessity of repentance is to be solemnly charged upon the consciences of all who desire that their sins may be blotted out, and that they may share in the refreshment which nothing but a sense of Christ’s pardoning love can afford. Blessed are those who have felt this. It was not needful for the Holy Spirit to make known the times and seasons of these dispensations. These subjects are still left obscure. But when sinners are convinced of their sins, they will cry to the Lord for pardon; and to the penitent, converted, and believing, times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord. In a state of trial and probation, the glorified Redeemer will be out of sight, because we must live by faith in him.
Here is a powerful address to warn the Jews of the dreadful consequences of their unbelief, in the very words of Moses, their favorite prophet, out of pretended zeal for whom they were ready to reject Christianity, and to try to destroy it. Christ came into the world to bring a blessing with him. And he sent his Spirit to be the great blessing. Christ came to bless us, by turning us from our iniquities, and saving us from our sins. We, by nature cleave to sin; the design of Divine grace is to turn us from it, that we may not only forsake, but hate it. Let none think that they can be happy by continuing in sin, when God declares that the blessing is in being turned from all iniquity. Let none think that they understand or believe the gospel, who only seek deliverance from the punishment of sin, but do not expect happiness in being delivered from sin itself. And let none expect to be turned from their sin, except by believing in, and receiving Christ the Son of God, as their wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
(From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
- Do we feel so inadequate, so ill-prepared to respond like Peter and John? Let’s not forget their struggles in the first four books of the New Testament. Let’s not forget how ordinary they were, how incompetent, how ill-fitted for tasks Jesus sent them to do. Then they got a glimpse of resurrection power and God filled them, as he does all Christians, with his Holy Spirit. Completely dependent upon him, they encountered situation after situation with total trust that God’s sovereign grace would produce whatever he wished in their lives. Is it possible that we try too hard? Of course, careful preparation for reaching out with the gospel is important, but it can never replace complete dependence upon God for every word we speak. Let’s know the Scriptures so well and trust our heavenly Father so completely that we need never be surprised by our ministry.
- Do we sometimes receive far more than we would have ever dreamed possible – not money or things but that which is a greater blessing — peace, joy, affection for our Lord; being part of the church body? But it was this crippled man that God sovereignly chose to receive healing. Expecting only some money to help momentarily ease his desperate situation, the beggar instead received far more than he would have ever dreamed possible with the result that he praised and worshipped God. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11; cf. John 16:24). The blood of the gospel is more precious than any gold or silver. It springs forth because those people, who had been lying enfeebled in mind before the golden doorpost, was saved in the name of Him who was crucified and so now enter into the temple of the heavenly kingdom.
- What do we have besides financial resources that we could give to God’s work? What can we give? Can we pray? Can we write? Can we encourage and affirm, even during this week? Can we invite someone into our home? God never asks us to give what we don’t have; He expects us to give to those in need from what He has given us, and always to do it in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Consider one’s poverty — “silver and gold have I none” — a child of God may be poor. Then God may be specially honoring people, and fitting them for extraordinary careers of usefulness, who are without worldly means or influence. In this materialistic age, when people are judged by their money, and not by their character — by what they have, and not by what they are, it is well to emphasize the fact that character and money are not interchangeable terms. The power that lifts and heals a crippled world is not carried about by people in their pocket-books, nor does it grow out of their bank accounts or social standing. It comes through the right relationship of the soul to Jesus Christ, and absolutely without regard to a person’s worldly condition. Consider their power — “Rise up, and walk.” That is the main power the Church lacks just now to make her ready for the conquest of the world; and that is the power for the exercise of which a crippled world fastens its eyes upon us. Neither wealth, nor education, nor social influence can atone for the want of this Divine imparting of knowledge and power.
- Let me ask you point blank, what is your church-going very often but just that walking past, and turning your blind eye to the squirming wretchedness all around you? When did you put out your hand to alleviate it? When did you utter Christ’s almighty name over it? Yes, this is far too true, that the worship of God with many of us is a denial of God; it is a useless, blind, formalistic, stupid, heartless thing. It has no power towards God or towards man. It is in ourselves and belonging to ourselves — a mere thing of dress, and of Sunday parading to the church and home again. And community is utterly untouched by our Christianity — not so with Peter and John. Do we believe that at bottom of the conclusion of the whole matter is this: sin is here not to defeat us, but to be defeated by us, to be changed into life and holiness by the power of Him who sits enthroned above the stars of God, Jesus Christ. It is time that we did? Christ Jesus is here for the sake of this impotent people, and He has lifted up you and me, if we are lifted up, that we may go and fetch the others who have not been brought yet. This is really the whole scope and purpose of the mighty work which God has done upon us and let us not fear that we are not to forgetting it. But suppose we fed the lost of the world, and suppose we clothed them; after all, what have we done? At the most and best we have only soothed their passage to the grave. Silver and gold can do much, and far more of the silver and gold that belongs to these who call themselves Christians ought to be spent in this blessed way. But there is an end to the power of silver and gold, and the Church was never better in possession of her true wealth than when she was represented by true Christians. Now, what is your highest good? Never go without uttering that mighty name of Jesus of Nazareth. Peter stooped down to grasp that man by the hand, and I see him yielding to the power of omnipotence. Up he came. Hallelujah! Christ is the power that Peter expected Him to be. Heaven has won, hell is baffled. The tide has begun to turn. From this One learn all. There is One who has power over every form of the enemy’s malignant triumph as it extends in all its vastness. Do you not see that it needs all that supernatural work to be wrought upon your impotent soul before you can enter into the temple to appear before God in any profitable way to yourself or in any way that will bring praise and glory to His name? Now what do you know about worship? This is the road to the church, this is the way to the temple. While the cripple lay and lay as helpless and as supine as ever, Peter and John risked everything, and they were justified in it. And the times are ripe for us to do the same thing still. Sinner, backslider, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up! (Most content from J. McNeil)
- Are you looking for life from something or someone other than the Prince of life? Prince of life translates archēgos. It refers to the originator, pioneer, or beginner of something. Hebrews 2:10 uses it in the phrase “author of salvation.” In Hebrews 12:2 it describes Jesus as the “author” of faith. Here Peter uses it to describe Jesus as the originator of life. That is a claim of deity for Jesus, since Psalm 36:9 describes God as the “fountain of life.” The New Testament repeatedly describes Jesus as the source of life. In the prologue to his gospel, John writes, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). In his first epistle, he adds, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11) and “This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). Jesus also claimed to be the source of life when He declared to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies” (John 11:25), while in John 14:6 He says simply, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
- Are you willing to avail yourself of the grace of God in salvation and repentance? Are you willing to change your attitude to Jesus and bring it into line with God’s attitude? Repentance is a key New Testament term. The literal meaning of metanoeō (repent) is “to change one’s mind or purpose.” Repentance involves far more than a mere intellectual decision. It is a change of mind that issues in a change of behavior. Peter’s use of epistrephō (return), a word used frequently in the New Testament to speak of sinners turning to God (Luke 1:16-17; Acts 9:35; 2 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Peter 2:25), reinforces that meaning. In Paul’s defense before Agrippa he said, “I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:19-20).
- Do you feel God’s knocking at your door to repent? Maybe you feel one of these prompters: 1) The knowledge of God’s revealed truth should cause people to repent. God has given men all the evidence they need to arrive at the proper conclusion about Jesus Christ. Those who refuse to repent are without excuse. 2) God uses sorrow for sin to lead people to repentance. Sorrow or regret for sin, however, must not be confused with genuine repentance. Judas “felt remorse” over his betrayal of Jesus, yet never repented. It is possible to have sorrow for sin without repentance, just as it is possible to have knowledge without repentance. 3) God’s goodness and kindness are to motivate people to repentance. In Romans 2:4, Paul rebukes Israel for missing that point: “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” God, in common grace, blesses men with good things to enjoy. 4) A final motivation to repentance is fear of final judgment. The apostle Paul warned the pagan Athenians that “having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). The sobering reality of coming judgment should cause any rational person to repent and turn to God for forgiveness. There is no other way of escape.
- Do you think it is possible to be in the kingdom without accepting the King? The period of restoration of all things is another name for the future earthly reign of Christ, the millennial kingdom. It is reminiscent of our Lord’s description of the kingdom as the “regeneration” (Matthew 19:28). It is then that the apostles’ question in Acts 1:6 will be answered (cf. Mark 9:12). The kingdom will be marked by peace, joy, holiness, the revelation of God’s glory, comfort, justice, knowledge of the Lord, health, prosperity, and freedom from oppression. The universe will be dramatically altered in its physical form (Joel 2:30-31; Joel 3:14-16; Revelation 16:1-21) as the curse on man and his world is reversed. The kingdom will not come about through human efforts but will come from the presence of the Lord. He will bring it to pass according to His own sovereign will. Revelation 5 presents the scene in heaven when the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, takes the title deed to the universe. The unfolding of that scroll (chapters 6-19) describes His method of retaking of what is rightfully His from the usurper, culminating in the coming of the kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6). Rejection of the Messiah would result in loss of the covenant blessings. That was the perilous condition in which Peter’s hearers found themselves. Those who persist in rejecting Jesus Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, will forfeit God’s promised blessings. They will be utterly destroyed from among the people—killed and damned. Israel’s problem was moral, not intellectual; they lacked repentance, not information. Repentance was the key that unlocked everything. And those who refused to turn from their sins would find themselves “cast out into the outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12), where they will “pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Such a fate awaits all those in every age and place who refuse to repent and receive God’s gracious offer of salvation in Jesus Christ.
1) POWER IN THE NAME (By John Cassian): Those men who received power from God never used that power as if it were their own but referred the power to him from whom they received it; for the power itself could never have any force except through the name of him who gave it. And so both the apostles and all the servants of God never did anything in their own name but in the name and invocation of Christ. For the power itself derived its force from the same source as its origin, and it could not be given through the instrumentality of the ministers, unless it had come from the Author.
(From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)
2) Why do Christians go to church? Is it chiefly in order that they may give or receive, through the services and their own part in them? These questions would be answered very differently by different persons. Some go, out of a glad and grateful heart, to show and to express their gratitude to God, and to bear a part in His public worship. Others go in order to gain some personal advantage through what they see and hear and feel while there. The one sort are pretty sure to accomplish what they go for. They swell the service of prayer and praise, and by their countenance and evident appreciativeness they cheer the heart of the preacher, and give added force to his preaching. The other sort often find their church-going a failure. The singing is not what they hoped for; the prayers fail to meet their wants; the Bible selections are poorly timed to their requirements; and as to the sermon, “it does not feed their souls.” It is a great pity that there are comparatively so few of the first class of Christian worshippers, and that there are so many of the second class. And it is a noteworthy fact that those who go to church to do what they can to make the church service a success, grow steadily in character and in intellectual power; while those who go there with a chief desire to be the personal gainers by their going, shrink and dwindle in their personality. The poorest specimens of church-goers are those who are constantly complaining that the preaching “does not feed” them. Hearers of that sort are like Pharaoh’s lean kind; the more they swallow the leaner they look. In this sphere, as well as in every other, the words of our Lord Jesus are true, that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
(By H. C. Trumbll, DD)
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