At a Gate Called Beautiful (Acts 3:1-13) | Jared Betts

The Cleverness of Aquinas

Before we begin our study, I want to share with you all a very brief story of a somewhat controversial figure in church history named Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas was a well-known theologian and philosopher, and influential among the church in the medieval age, though many rightfully disagree with many of his teachings. Because of his physical appearance and gentle speech, his peers referred to him as a “dumb ox.” His teacher, however, made the remark that “this dumb ox will change the world.”

There is one account of him that retells a time when he made a clever remark about the spiritual destitution of the Catholic church to the Pope at the time, Pope Innocent II. Tradition has it that Pope Innocent II called for Aquinas to come and meet him while he was at work counting copious amounts of money. As Aquinas entered, Innocent beckoned him, no doubt with an air of greed, to see that, unlike Peter in Acts chapter 3:6, “The church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold I have none.’” To which Aquinas pointedly replied, “True, holy father. Neither can she now say, ‘Rise and walk.’”[1]

The Suspension of Natural Order

As we can see in our text, we have a miracle occurring here, which is a supernatural event in our natural world, brought about by God through His appointed agents. A miracle is when God intervenes in the natural realm performing a work contrary to the natural law. It transcends the laws of nature, meaning that it goes beyond the scope of science and reason. When one observes a miracle they cannot explain it scientifically because it is above the natural order. Science and reason are wonderful tools in the natural realm, which we should cherish and employ to grasp the complexity of creation and give glory to the Creator of it. Science and reason, however, are of no profit in the event of a miracle other then to prove that a supernatural event did occur when, after exhausting all resources of reason, they fail to explain the phenomenon. When this occurs, there is only one conclusion to come to, which is that God has intervened in our physical realm, suspending the natural order, and has acted for His good pleasure and glory. He has worked a miracle.

We should quickly consider that most things people describe as miracles today are not miracles but providential acts of God. There is a great chasm between these two things. A miracle is when God manipulates the natural realm to fulfill His purpose. Divine providence is when God sovereignly orchestrates events to bring a specific purpose to pass. This means that He does not work in a manner that contradicts natural order, but through that which is natural without manipulation. Providence is the chief means through which God works in this world. Though He is still capable of performing miraculous acts today, they are a rarity.

No doubt due to their being a rarity, there are many who reject miracles believing them to be fanciful and farfetched. One person that always comes to mind is Thomas Jefferson, who put together what is now known as The Jefferson Bible, but what he called The Philosophy of Jesus. In a letter he wrote to John Adams in 1813, Jefferson said:

“We must reduce our volume to…the very words of Jesus…I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.”

He wrote to his friends about his endeavor, saying:

“I have made a wee little book…for my own satisfaction, an extract from the evangelists of his morals, selecting those only whose style and spirit proved them genuine and his own.”

He believed Jesus ascribed “to himself every human excellence” and that “he never claimed any other.”

He, therefore, took a copy of the gospel accounts and literally cut out every miraculous act it records. In so doing, He stripped Jesus Christ of Nazareth of His divinity, and ultimately of His glory. The greatest miracle recorded in the New Testament is the resurrection, which serves not only to justify everyone who clings to Him for salvation,[2] but to vindicate Him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God who is exclusively the way, and the truth, and the life.[3] The resurrection proves He is the only mediator between God and man, and there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.[4] It declares that He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him because He always lives to interceded on their behalf.[5]

Jefferson rejected the reality of miracles and, therefore, his bible ends with Jesus dead and sealed in His tomb rotting away never to live again. If this were true, we would be of all people most to be pitied.[6] We would be preaching in vain and believing in vain.[7] We would be found as false witnesses claiming that God raised Christ from the grave when He has not.[8] Above all we would still be dead in our sin, cutoff from the life of God, and without any hope.[9]

The good news, however, is that Thomas Jefferson was wrong. Christ has been raised from the dead.[10] He is living proof that miracles are a reality. God suspended the natural realm and resurrected His Son, proving Him to be who He professed to be, so that all who believe in Him will live even if they die,[11] that all who believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.[12]

The Purpose of Miracles

It is important to understand that when one draws their attention to the miracles recorded in the Scripture, they will have to conclude as Augustus Strong did, that:

“A miracle is an event in nature, so extraordinary in itself and so coinciding with the prophecy or command of a religious teacher or leader, as fully to warrant conviction, on the part of those who witness it, that God has wrought it with the design of certifying that this teacher or leader has been commissioned by Him.”[13]

The work of the miracle corroborated the words of the messenger. This was evident with Moses, and with Joshua, and with Elijah and Elisha, and anyone else whom God sent, especially His Son, Jesus of Nazareth.

The Scripture says that Jesus was attested by God:

“With miracles, and wonders, and signs which God performed through Him.”[14]

He began His miracles at a wedding feast in Canna,[15] and not long after a man secretly approached Him under the cover of night, and said to Him:

“Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

By His own testimony, Jesus declared that the purpose of His miracles were primarily to prove the authenticity of His Person and purpose. When the Jews asked Jesus to answer them plainly as to whether He was the Christ, Jesus said in John 10:25:

“I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.”

He said to them in verses 37-38:

37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

John says in his gospel account:

30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Again, the greatest work which proves this is the pinnacle of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As we see in our portion of Scripture, however, God’s miraculous dealings did not end with raising His dead Son to life. God the Son continued to furnish proof of His vitality and power.

Let us not forget that the book of Acts is a work of antiquity. It was written by a man of reason, a doctor who has been hailed by many as a meticulous historian. This means that when we read Acts, we are not reading a collection of fables fit only for young children and those feeble in mind and incapable of reasoning. We are reading a polished work of history. Not just church history, but world history, for within this reputable account the known world is being impacted by ones accused of having “turned the world upside down.”[16] Their message of life in Christ alone did this because God bore witness through them “by signs and wonders, and by various miracles.”[17]

Acts is written so that people might understand all that Christ continued to do after He was nailed to the cross at the hands of godless men, and raised back to life by God and seated at His right hand possessing all power and authority, which He exercised through His Apostle’s.[18] Acts 4:33 says that:

“With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”

Acts 14:3 says that the Lord was:

“Testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.” 

Many of the wonders they performed were that of healing.

This should not surprise us since Jesus’ ministry was marked by giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute.[19] He healed those with various sicknesses and diseases.[20] Those with leprosy walked away clean after encountering Him.[21] He restored a man’s withered hand to its original state, as well as a man’s ear that had been cut off.[22] He healed a woman who suffered a hemorrhage for twelve years.[23] He gave strength to those whose limbs were lame, and raised back to life several who died.[24]

Several things we should note about Jesus’ healing ministry is that He healed organic diseases. An organic disease is when a body part is diseased, disfigured, physically damaged, or dead. In other words, Jesus did not heal unseen ailments like headaches or back pain. He healed that which was verifiable, and He healed: Instantly, Totally, and Undeniably. Everyone that encountered Christ’s healing power was immediately restored to a state of perfect health, and because the ailments were verifiable no one could deny what they had seen. The only reasonable conclusion, therefore, was that God had condescended.[25] He had taken on flesh and dwelt among us.[26]

After John the Baptist was imprisoned, he sent messengers to Jesus desiring to confirm whether Jesus was the Christ. Jesus said to them:

“Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”[27]

At the Gate of the Temple Called Beautiful

This is the healing power Jesus delegated to the Apostles,[28] and this is what we see being exercised here in Acts at a gate called beautiful. Here, a man crippled in his feet and ankles from birth is healed by Peter and John as they were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer, which indicates this event took place around three in the afternoon.

Let us read the first ten verses of our text, and then we will work our way through this account to discuss the Apostle’s ability to heal and its purpose. Acts 3:1-10 says:

1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.And a 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.When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms.But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 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!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 10 and they were taking note of him as 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.”

There are several things to note about the account of this man’s miraculous healing:

  1. He was healed of a verifiable organic disease – Again, this is any ailment where an individual’s body part is diseased, disfigured, physically damaged, or dead.  This certain, unnamed man, in our text is described as having been lame from his mother’s womb. His feet and ankles were crippled to such an extent that he was unable to move on his own and was in need of being carried along by others. His ailment was very much a provable one.
  2. He was not seek after healing – The intentions of this man are very clear. He was not looking for a miracle to happen. He was not even at the temple to pray to God, but rather to prey upon the generosity of others. It was his daily routine to be strategically placed at the gate so that he might beg alms of those who were entering the temple, therefore, when he saw Peter and John coming, he began asking to receive alms.Even after the Apostle’s fixed their gaze on him and spoke to him, he did not anticipate healing, but began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 

The fact that he was not seeking healing, means that his healing was not dependent upon his faith. There is a despicably common teaching among modern faith-healers in the Word of Faith Movement, which says that in order to be healed you must have faith. This is both ironic and convenient.

  1. It is ironic that the supposed “power” the “healer” professes to possess only works when the recipient has faith. This makes their professed power obsolete. If healing is dependent on the recipients faith, then what is the purpose of a healer if they have not the power to heal without the aid of another’s belief? Again, it is ironic.
  2. It is convenient because if someone comes to them for healing but is not healed, they are not to blame and the legitimacy of their “power” is not questioned, because the unbelief of the recipient is what kept it from working. In other words, all those who remained unhealed do not demonstrate that the person lacks the gift of healing they possess to have, rather it proves that the people did not have faith as they should. In the end, the charlatan and snake oil salesman is absolved of the crime, and the recipient is left crushed and questioning how much more faith they need.

Did Jesus not warn us about false teachers who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves?[29] He said that, “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.”[30]They will “show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”[31]

In Acts 20:29, Paul told the Pastors of Ephesus to be on guard for themselves and for all the flock which the Holy Spirit had made them Overseers because he knew that after his departure that “savage wolves” would “come in among” them, “not sparing the flock.”

Paul told the Corinthians that there would be:

“False apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ… disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”[32]

Peter says to the church that:

“There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words.”[33]

Such people are daring and self-willed.[34] They have:

“Eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed.”

They speak arrogantly, and flatter people for the sake of gaining an advantage.[35] They are springs without water.[36] They are hidden reefs which cause people shipwreck when unseen.[37] They are, as Jude says:

“Clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.”[38]

They say, “Peace, peace!” when there is no peace, and they care only for themselves.

We should remember that not everyone who claims Christ is of Christ.[39] We are surrounded by impostors today. As the Parable of the Mustard Seed suggests, Satan has nested comfortably among the visible church which has unnaturally grown through pragmatic means.[40] Rightly did John Calvin say:

“The devil mimics God as a monkey mimics man, and has performed false miracles by which people, whose natural disposition is to demand such illusions, have been deceived.”[41]

Be discerning, and do not be taken captive by such trickery, or tossed here or there by every wave of teaching. 1 John 4:1 says:

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Be like the Bereans, and examine the Scriptures to see whether the things you hear and are taught are so.[42]

May we see in the Scripture here that this man was not seeking healing, which means that his healing was not dependent upon his faith. God sovereignly restored him to health regardless of his belief, as he did with others, which is especially seen when Jesus healed the man by the pool at Bethesda. He who was healed did not know who it was who healed him. If he did not know who it was, who did his faith cling to in order to be healed? It did not cling to anything, because it was not necessary.

  • He was healed by the power of Christ – Peter healed this man by commanding him to walk in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene. When Peter said “In the name of” he essentially said, “I heal you by virtue of Jesus’ character, authority, and power.”

As an Apostle who had been delegated such an ability, Peter acted consistently with the will of Christ on behalf of Christ, through the power of Christ. He seized the man by the right hand and raised him up.

It is worth noting as well, that Peter says to him, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.” Peter did not withhold Christ’s delegated power.

I say this because at many of these healing crusades, multitudes gathering to be healed, but many leave either unchanged or ignored, especially those who possess legitimate organic diseases.

Years ago, a doctor named William Nolen spent several years thoroughly investigation the modern healing movement. He found that no one at any of these events had ever been cured of an organic disease. Nolen closely followed a woman by the name of Kathryn Kuhlman, and made it a point to personally contact those who had claimed healings at her meetings to discern if there was any validity to what was touted. He made the following remarks about one of her services:

“Finally it was over. There were still long lines of people waiting to get onto the stage and claim their cures, but at five o’clock, with a hymn and final blessing, the show ended. Miss Kuhlman left the stage and the audience left the auditorium.

Before going back to talk to Miss Kuhlman I spent a few minutes watching the wheelchair patients leave. All the desperately ill patients who had been in wheelchairs were still in wheelchairs. In fact, the man with the kidney cancer in his spine and hip, the man whom I had helped to the auditorium and who had his borrowed wheelchair brought to the stage and shown to the audience when he had claimed a cure, was now back in the wheelchair. His ‘cure,’ even if only a hysterical one, had been extremely short lived.

As I stood in the corridor watching the hopeless cases leave, seeing the tears of parents as they pushed their crippled children to the elevators, I wished Miss Kuhlman had been with me. She had complained a coupe of times during the service of ‘the responsibility, the enormous responsibility,’ and of how her ‘heart aches for those that weren’t cured,’ but I wondered how often she had really looked at them. I wondered whether she sincerely felt that the joy of those ‘cured’ of bursitis and arthritis compensated for the anguish of those left with their withered legs, their imbecile children, their cancers of the liver.

I wondered if she really knew what damage she was doing. I couldn’t believe that she did.”[43]

Nolan would write elsewhere about Miss Kuhlman suggesting that perhaps she:

“Doesn’t want to learn that her work is not as miraculous as it seems. For this reason, she has trained herself to deny, emotionally and intellectually, anything that might threaten the validity of her ministry.”[44]

Like Pope Innocent II, Miss Kuhlman possessed vast amounts of silver and gold, but people did not want her money. They wanted to be healed, but she could not give what she did not possess.

Peter knew exactly what He possessed, and he exercised it indiscriminately so that people might understand that Christ lives and that there is life in His name.

  • He was healed instantly – The text says immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. He did not have to wait for it or walk it off. Just as people were promptly restored to healthy when Jesus healed them, so was this man.
  • He was healed totally – This is seen by that fact that:

“With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

The man did not have to take a coupe of weeks to recover from his condition. He was completely healed.

  • He was healed undeniably. Consider the crowd in Acts 3:9-10:

And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 10 and they were taking note of him as 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.”

Not only does the crowd note this, but consider also the testimony of the Sanhedrin after they arrested Peter and John for teaching Christ to the crowd. Luke records them saying in Acts 4:16:

“What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.”

By testimony of the very men who not only contrived the plan to kill Christ, but carried it out, Peter and John performed a work identical to that of Christ.

As we can see, the same qualities that marked the healing ministry of Jesus, marked the ministry of the Apostles.

What was the chief purpose of this miracle? Acts 3:11-13 perfectly sums it up:

11 While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. 12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus.”

The miraculous healing confirmed the message of the gospel. Its purpose was to exalt Christ, and Him alone! As one person says:

“The lame man acted as a mirror so they could ponder God’s power.”[45]

Peter will proceed to preach to them the power of God, which was demonstrated in the Prince of life, Who they delivered up and disowned so that He might be put to death, but God raised Him back to life and the proof was the perfect health of this man.[46]

No Different than The Lame Beggar

May we end with a parallel between us and this beggar who has been made whole by the person and power of Christ. Make no mistake it is a salvific parallel. This account beautifully embodies God’s sovereign work of salvation with us.

Consider this beggar who was lame from his mother’s womb. His life was one of complete paralysis rendering him incapable of doing anything for himself. He would have people station him at the gate called Beautiful not because he was seeking God, but because he was seeking to benefit from the charity of others. He perched himself at that high traffic area as the Scripture says:

“In order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple…expecting to receive something.”

He was not in pursuit of finding healing in Christ, but his own benefit, yet God sought Him out and gave Him something far greater than what he was seeking, which left him in a state of active praise.

Was this not our condition apart from Christ? In our mother’s wombs we were conceived with sin.[47] We were born spiritually bankrupt and lame.[48] We had eyes that could not see, and hears that could not hear.[49] We had minds which were darkened and futile.[50] We had wicked and stony hearts incapable of feeling for the things of God.[51] As the Scripture describes, we were “walking according to the course of this world.” We were “living in the lust of the flesh” doing nothing but indulging in the sinful desires both of our bodies and of our minds. We were not seeking Him, but self.[52]

Our condition was desperately hopeless, yet God did for was, what He did for this man. According to His great love with which He loved us, when we were dead in sin, He made us alive together with Christ. He healed us of all our spiritual infirmities. He removed our hearts of stone and gave us hearts of flesh.[53] He opened our minds to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.[54] He gave us eyes to see, and ears to hear.[55] He strengthen our spiritual legs and gave us the ability to walk according to His will and in a manner worthy of His calling.[56] As Calvin once said:

“If this poor lame man was moved to thank God for a blessing to his physical body, are we not the more constrained to glorify His holy name for the many spiritual and physical benefits we receive from His goodness daily?”[57]

What does the Scripture say, but that:

14 The love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all…and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”[58]

How then are our lives to be lived? They are to be lived as living sacrifices to the praise of the glory of the One who loved us, and died for us, and now forever lives for us as we draw near to God through Him.[59] Truly, He is worthy both to be loved, and to be lived for!

[1] Cited by F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), pp. 77-78.

[2] Romans 4:25

[3] John 14:6

[4] Acts 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:5

[5] Hebrews 7:25

[6] 1 Corinthians 15:19

[7] 1 Corinthians 15:14

[8] 1 Corinthians 15:15

[9] 1 Corinthians 15:17

[10] 1 Corinthians 15:20

[11] John 11:25

[12] John 3:16

[13] Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: Judson, 1907), 118.

[14] Acts 2:22

[15] John 2:1-11

[16] Acts 17:6

[17] Hebrews 2:3-4

[18] Matthew 28:18; Acts 1:1-11

[19] Matthew 9:27; Mark 7:31-37;

[20] Luke 4:40

[21] Mark 1:40-45

[22] Mark 3:1-6; Luke 22:50-51

[23] Mark 5:25-24

[24] Mark 2:3-12; Mark 5:22-24,35-43; Luke 7:11-17; John 11:1-44

[25] Philippians 2:6-7

[26] John 1:1,14

[27] Matthew 11:4-6

[28] Matthew 10:1; Mark 6:7,12-13

[29] Matthew 7:15

[30] Matthew 24:11

[31] Matthew 24:24

[32] 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

[33] 2 Peter 2:1-3

[34] 2 Peter 2:10

[35] Jude 16

[36] 2 Peter 2:17

[37] Jude 12

[38] Jude 13

[39] Matthew 7:21-23

[40] Mark 4:3-4, 15, 30-32

[41] Sermons on The Acts of The Apostles: Chapters 1-7, John Calvin; Page 90

[42] Acts 16:11

[43] William Nolan, Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle (New York: Random House, 1974), 60.

[44] Ibid. 107.

[45] Sermons on The Acts of The Apostles: Chapters 1-7, John Calvin; Page 83

[46] Acts 3:13-16

[47] Psalm 51:5

[48] Matthew 5:3

[49] Isaiah 6:9-10; Jeremiah 6:10; John 8:43; Romans 1:21-22

[50] Ephesians 4:17-18

[51] Ezekiel 36:26a; Mark 7:20-23

[52] Romans 3:10-12

[53] Ezekiel 36:26b

[54] 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

[55] John 3:3

[56] Ephesians 4:11

[57] Sermons on The Acts of The Apostles: Chapters 1-7, John Calvin; Page 83

[58] 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

[59] Romans 12:2

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