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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Acts 3

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. III.

Peter, preaching to the people that came to see a lame man restored to his feet, professeth the cure not to have been wrought by his or John's own power or holiness, but by God, the Father, and his son Jesus, and through faith in his name: withal faithfully reprehending them for crucifying Jesus: which, because they did it through ignorance, he exhorteth them by repentance and faith to seek remission of their sins, and salvation in the same Jesus.

Anno Domini 33.


Verse 1

Acts 3:1. Now Peter and John went up together, &c.— About that time, according to Grotius and several others; as it does not seem to suit so well with the original, to take it to imply no more than that Peter and John went up together to the temple. It maysuffice, once for all, to observe, that the Jews divided the time from the rising to the setting of the sun, into twelve hours, which were consequently, at different times of the year, of unequal length, as the days were longer or shorter. The third hour therefore was nine in the morning, and the ninth three in the afternoon; but not exactly: for the third was the middle space between sun-rising and noon; which if the sun rose at five, (the earliest hour of its rising in that climate,) was half an hour after eight; if at seven, (the latest hour of its rising there,) was half an hour after nine, and so on. The chief hours of prayer were the third and ninth; at which seasons the morning andevening sacrifices were offered, and incense, as an emblem representing prayer, burned on the golden altar. Though by the death of Christ all sacrifices, and other things required in the ceremonial law, were utterly abolished, and a new covenant was introduced, yet, that the weak might not be offended and estranged from his divine religion, our Lord suffered his disciples to frequent the assemblies of the Jews, and in some points to comply with the observance of the law, till a more pure and spiritual form of worship could conveniently be established. This is the reason why we find the apostles so frequently in the temple, at the stated hours of prayer.


Verse 2

Acts 3:2. A certain man, lame from his mother's womb The inveteracy of this man's infirmity, the notoriety of it to most of the Jews, on account of the place where he was laid, not to mention other circumstances which here occur, were sufficient to prove the reality of the miracle, and to render it more conspicuous. The gate here called beautiful, for its richness and curious workmanship, is by Josephus called "The Corinthian gate." About one hundred and eighty years before this, the city of Corinth had been taken and burned by the Romans; and, in the burning of the city, multitudes of statues and images of brass, gold, and silver, being melted down and running together, they made that mixture which thence was called Corinthian brass, and which the ancients valued above gold or silver. This gate, on the east side of the temple, was made of that brass, and it exceeded the other gates in its dimensions, and in its workmanship, as well as in the richness of the metal, though most of them were covered over with silver or gold. It was thirtycubits high, and fifteen broad, and was added by Herod the Great.


Verse 6

Acts 3:6. Silver and gold have I none; This was after the estates were sold. Ch. Acts 2:45 and plainly shews how far the apostles were from enriching themselves by the treasures which passed through their hands. By his mentioning gold as well as silver, which a beggar like this could not expect to receive, he probably meant to speak of himself, as continuing still a poor man, and not merely to say that he had no gold about him. How unlike those, of his supposed successors are St. Peter's words and actions! Can the bishop of Rome either say or do the same?


Verse 8

Acts 3:8. Walking, and leaping, and praising God. It was prophesied, Isaiah 35:6 that the lame man should leap as an hart. Now was that prophesy fulfilled, as well as by our Saviour's curing multitudes that had been lame. Nothing can be more beautifullydescriptive of the wondering exultation, the joy and astonishment of this man, than the words before us.


Verse 11

Acts 3:11. Held Peter and John, The man still hung about his two benefactors, as fearing perhaps that he should lose the use of his limbs again, if he parted with them; for he could scarce yet, for joy, believe his own sense and experience. See on John 10:23.


Verse 13

Acts 3:13. The God of Abraham, &c.— This was wisely introduced here by St. Peter in the beginning of his discourse, that it might be evident he taught no new religion inconsistent with the Mosaic, and was far from having the least design to divert their regard for the God of Israel into any other channel. Whom ye delivered up, was peculiarly addressed to the rulers and sanhedrim; and denied,—renounced or disowned him for your king, was more particularly addressed to the common people.


Verse 15

Acts 3:15. Killed the Prince of life, Even him to whom the Father had given to have life in himself, John 5:26 and whom he had empowered to give eternal life to those who believed in him. There is a peculiar beauty and energy in the contrast between their killing the prince of life, and their interceding for a murderer, a destroyer of life. The Jews had the testimony of the prophets,—the prediction of Christ himself,—the evidence of the Roman soldiers, of his body's being no where to be found; of the women, the disciples and apostles to whom he had appeared, many of whom bore witness before the Sanhedrim to his resurrection; and who, having just now wrought a miracle upon a lame man, declare that they had done it in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom, say they, you have crucified, but God hath raised from the dead. This surely was evidence sufficient to convince any reasonable and unprejudiced person, and consequently to acquit our Lord of the promise of giving that evil generation sufficient proofs of his being risen from the dead.


Verse 16

Acts 3:16. And his name through faith in his name And by faith in his name he hath strengthened this man, whom you see and known; yea, his name, and the faith which is in him, hath given him this perfect soundness before you all. Heinsius. Dr. Heylin renders it, And his name, through our faith in it, hath procured strength to this man, whom you see and know. The faith, I say, which is by him, hath effected this perfect cure, which you all behold.


Verse 17

Acts 3:17. I wot that through ignorance I know,—I am sensible, &c. Probably if it had not been so, they would have been immediately destroyed, or reserved to vengeance, without any offer of pardon. Yet it is plain that their ignorance, being in itselfhighly criminal, amid such means of information, did not excuse them from very great guilt. See the note on John 9:41.


Verses 19-21

Acts 3:19-21. Repent ye therefore, &c.— Dr. Benson paraphrases these verses thus: "As there is great ground for hope and encouragement, let me intreat of you to repent, and immediately accept of Jesus as the Messiah; that your sins may be blotted out, and the happy and refreshing times may come upon you from the presence of the Lord. I speak not [merely] concerning the safety and consolation which the embracing Christianitywill at present afford you; but [also] of the approach of that glorious time, when God shall send again this same Jesus, who is appointed beforehand to be the judge of the world, and your Saviour, if you believe and obey him. I know you expect a temporal Messiah, to reign in this very age among you here upon earth, and to free you from your present subjection to the Romans; but in vain do you expect it: for the heavens have received him, and there he must continue till the grand time of the restoration of all things. Nor do I speak of things wholly new and unheard of; for these things run through the prophets in general, from the beginning of the Mosaic dispensation, unto the sealing up of prophesy at the death of Malachi." The phrase may be blotted out, Acts 3:19 alludes to the erasing of any thing which is committed to writing. Instead of when the times of refreshing shall come, the Greek should be rendered, according to the above paraphrase, that seasons of refreshment may come. As calamities are compared in scripture to drought and excessive heat; so likewise deliverance from them is represented under the image of a very cool and refreshing breeze. The word αποκαταστασις, rendered restitution, may be well and properly explained of regulating the present disorders in the moral world, and the seeming inequalities of providential dispensations. Since the world began, is in the original, απ αιωνος, that is, from the beginning, of what they usually called the age then present, that is, of the Jewish dispensation: in opposition to which the kingdom of Christ was called αιων μελλων, the age to come. See on 2 Timothy 4:16. To confirm this, it may be observed, that he here begins with Moses, and says nothing of the patriarchs before Moses, particularly nothing of Abraham; but when the writers of the New Testament run back as high as Abraham, the phrase then is προ χρονων αιωνιων, before the times under the law.


Verse 22-23

Acts 3:22-23. A prophet shall the Lord, &c.— See the note on Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:22. The word hear, Acts 3:23 signifies to obey. One cannot imagine a more masterly address than this, to warn the Jews of the dreadful consequence of their infidelity, in the very words of Moses their favourite prophet; out of a pretended zeal for whom, they were ready to reject Christianity, and to attempt its destruction.


Verse 24

Acts 3:24. From Samuel, &c.— All the prophets from Samuel, and as many as have spoken afterwards. Or, And as many of the following ones as have spoken.


Verse 26

Acts 3:26. Unto you first Accordingly the gospel was, by the grace of our blessed Redeemer, every where offered first to the Jews. Had it been otherwise, humanly speaking, many who were converted in this method, might have been exasperated and lost. The word Αναστησας, here rendered having raised up, does not refer to the resurrection from the dead, as it generally does in other places, but to the word αναστησει, Acts 3:22.—raising him up as a prophet in Israel. The next clause may mean, "God sent his Son Jesus to bless you with the highest blessings; namely, to save as many of you as will accept his grace,from your greatest enemies; that is, from your sins, and from the deserved punishment." Many commentators, however, give the sentence a different turn, rendering the last clause upon your turning every one of you, &c. or every one of you turning, &c. that is, "All those of you who through grace turn from sin, shall be entitled to his blessing." But the former seems to me the preferable reading, as the great gospel blessing is the conversion of sinners. Nor can it be any reasonable objection to say, with Orobio, that Christ did not in fact turn every one of them from their iniquities, since it must be allowed, that he took every such step as was proper for that purpose, consistently with his divine perfectio

Inferences.—Happy are those souls, who are so formed for devotion, that the proper returning seasons of it, whether public or private, are always welcome! Doubly delightful is that friendship, which, like this of Peter and John, is endeared, not only by taking sweet counsel together, but by walking to the house of God in company! Psalms 55:14.

If we desire that this devotion should be acceptable, let us endeavour not only to lay aside all the malignant passions, and to lift up holy hands without wrath; but let us stretch out our hands in works of benevolence and kindness. To our piety, let us add the most diffusive charity which our circumstances will permit; and there are none whose circumstances will forbid every exercise of it. As for those who have neither silver nor gold—such as they have, let them give.

The holy apostles, we see, had not enriched themselves, by being entrusted with the distribution of those goods which were laid at their feet; but had approved themselves faithful stewards. The members of Christ were far dearer to them than any temporal interest of their own; and fatally, most certain, would the true church, in all ages, have been mistaken, if it had measured the worth of its pastors by their wealth. They bestowed nevertheless a much more valuable bounty. And if it be more desirable to heal men's bodies than to enrich them, how much more advantageous is it to be the instruments of healing their souls? Which, if it be ever accomplished, must surely be in the same name, even that of Jesus of Nazareth. May he strengthen the feeble powers of fallen nature, while we are attempting to raise men up! And may spiritual health and vigour, when restored, be improved, like the cure wrought on this lame man, in the service of God, and in a thankful acknowledgment of his goodness!

We are not to wonder, that, as the name of Jesus, their great Deliverer, is incomparably precious to all that truly believe, such have also some peculiarly tender friendships for the persons, by whose means he has wrought this good work upon them. O may many such friendships be formed now, and be perfected in glory! And, in the mean time, may the ministers of Christ be watching every opportunity of doing good, and, especially, when they see men under any lively impressions which tend towards religion! May they have that holy mixture of zeal and prudence, which taught the apostles now to speak a word in season—a word which proved so remarkably good, and was owned by God in so singular a manner, for the conversion and salvation of multitudes that heard it!

Happy the minister, whose heart is thus intent upon all opportunities of doing good, as these apostles were. Happy that faithful servant, who, like them, arrogates nothing to himself, but centres the praise of all in him, who is the great Source from whom every good and perfect gift proceeds. Happy the man, who is himself willing to be forgotten and overlooked, that God may be remembered and owned! He, like this wise master-builder, will lay the foundation deep in a sense of sin, and will charge it with all its aggravations on the sinner, that he may thereby render the tidings of a Saviour welcome, which they can never be till this burden has been felt. Yet will he, like St. Peter, conduct the charge with tenderness, and respect, and be cautious not to overload, even the greatest offender.

We see in this speech of St. Peter the absolute necessity of repentance; which therefore is to be solemnly charged upon the consciences of all, who desire that their sins may be blotted out of the book of God's remembrance, and that they may share in that refreshment, which nothing but the sense of his pardoning love can afford. Blessed are those that have experienced it; for they may look upon all their present comforts as the dawning of eternal glory to their persevering souls; and having seen Christ with an eye of faith, and received that important cure, which nothing but his powerful and gracious name can effect, may be assured that God will send him again, to complete in all his faithful saints the work he has so graciously begun, and to reduce the seeming irregularities of their present state into everlasting harmony, order, and beauty.

In the mean time, let us adore the wisdom of his providence, and the fidelity of his grace, which have over-ruled the folly and wickedness of men to subserve his own holy purposes, and have accomplished the promise so long since made of a Prophet to be raised up to Israel like Moses, and indeed gloriously superior to him, both in the dignity of his character and office, and in the great salvation which he was sent to procure. This salvation was first offered to Israel, which has rendered itself so peculiarly unworthy by killing the Prince of Life. May we rejoice that it is now published to us, and that God has condescended to send his Son to bless us, sinners of the Gentiles, in turning us from our iniquities! And viewing this salvation in its true light, may we remember, that if we are not willing to turn from iniquity, from all iniquity, from those iniquities which have been peculiarly our own, it is impossible we should have any share in it!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Among the many miracles performed by the apostles, one notable one is recorded in this chapter.

1. The apostles by whom it was wrought, were Peter and John: they were going up to the temple together at the stated hour of prayer, being the ninth hour, or three o'clock in the afternoon.

2. The poor object, on whom the miracle was performed, was a beggar, a cripple from his mother's womb, who lay at the Beautiful gate of the temple, which was made of Corinthian brass, more precious than gold, and asked alms of them that entered into the temple: seeing Peter and John, therefore, about to enter, he asked of them an alms. Note; (1.) Those who are poor, and incapable of working, are the true objects of charity. (2.) They who are drawn to the temple by the love of God, will have their hearts enlarged in tenderest compassion toward the wants of the necessitous.

3. Peter and John, looking earnestly at him, bid him attend to them, as about to shew him a singular favour; and the poor man, expecting an alms, looked attentively at them: when Peter addressed him, saying, Silver and. gold have I none; but such as I have, and what silver and gold never could procure, give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk; by his authority I speak, and his power shall enable thee for what I command. Then taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up, and immediately the astonishing cure was wrought, his feet and ancles received strength. Note; (1.) The riches of grace are infinitely more valuable than the treasures of both the Indies. (2.) According to our abilities, we must be ready to communicate of the gifts of God with which he has entrusted us, whether temporal or spiritual. (3.) In this impotent man, every sinner may read his own case and cure. [1.] By nature, without grace, from our birth, thus spiritually paralytic are we. [2.] The temple is the place where the poor impotent sinner should be found, for there the Lord dispenses the alms of his grace. [3.] The ministers of Christ say not in vain arise and walk, to those who have no power of themselves to help themselves, but come penitently to Jesus; for he, in whose name they speak, does, by his Spirit accompanying their word, enable the helpless but believing soul for that which they enjoin. [4.] Christ first lays hold of the awakened sinner by the hand of his grace, and then the sinner lays hold of Christ by the hand of faith, and feels an unusual power communicated to his paralytic soul.

4. The lame man, transported with joy at the strange alteration which he instantly felt, leaped up with astonishing agility, and stood firm on his feet, and walked about before all present in token of his perfect cure, and entered with his benefactors into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. Note; (1.) If our souls have received a spiritual cure, then will our hearts and lips be filled with praise and thanksgiving to the God of all grace, and we shall be happy in employing the strength he has given us, in walking in his holy ways. (2.) They who have found a blessing from the ministry of Christ's servants, will not fail to accompany them into the temple, that they may reap farther benefit from their prayers and discourses.

5. The people who beheld him, were struck with wonder and surprize at seeing him thus walking and praising God, knowing that it was the same cripple who had lain at the gate of the temple; and whilst, as in an ecstacy, he hung about Peter and John, expressing his unutterable gratitude for this mercy received by their means, the people gathered round them in the part of the temple called Solomon's porch, greatly wondering at this amazing miracle, and at those who wrought it. Note; They who have been made the instruments of good to our souls, cannot but be dear to us, and embraced with peculiar affection.

2nd, St. Peter, beholding the concourse of people assembled on this occasion, improves so happy an opportunity, to preach the gospel to those who seemed so affected with the miracle before them. A word in season, how good is it!

1. He humbly disclaims all the honour of the miracle, which was due to his Master alone. Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this, when so much greater cures have been before performed among you by the Lord Jesus? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? Note; (1.) The most successful ministers must be the most humble; the more they are admired of others, the lower they must lie down at the feet of Jesus, ascribing to him alone the praise. (2.) We are too apt to idolize the men and ministers, who have been made signal instruments of good to us; but we should look farther, even to him who alone giveth the increase.

2. He preaches to them that Jesus, whom they had crucified, by whose power alone this miracle was wrought. The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, that covenant-keeping God, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus, owning him in this high character; not only by all the miracles which he had wrought, but by his resurrection from the dead, and ascension to heaven; whom ye delivered up as a malefactor into the hands of the Roman governor, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, as your King Messiah, requiring his crucifixion; when he, convinced of his innocency, was determined to let him go. But ye, instigated by the priests and rulers, with savage barbarity denied the holy One, and the Just, whom none could ever convince of sin, and whose spotless purity none could impeach; and as a most provoking aggravation of your guilt, desired a murderer to be granted unto you, in preference to him, and killed the Prince of Life, the author and fountain of natural, spiritual, and eternal life; whom God hath raised from the dead; defeating all the malice of his enemies, rolling away the reproach of the cross, and exalting him to a state of the most transcendant glory; whereof we are witness; have seen and conversed with him after his resurrection, and are endued with these miraculous powers by him, to make our testimony more regarded. And his name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; acting under his authority, and trusting on his power, this incontestable miracle has been performed: yea, the faith which is by him, exercised upon him as the object, and wrought in us by him as the author, hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all; for this thing was not done in a corner, but publicly in the temple; and the perfection of the cure was evident to every beholder.

3. Yet dreadful as their guilt was, he means not to drive them to despair. And now, brethren, exceeding sinful as your conduct has been, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers; I persuade myself that many, I would hope the most, who were engaged in that black deed, were blindly hurried on by their passions and prejudices, and knew not what they did; else they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory, 1 Corinthians 2:8. But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled; and though this be no extenuation of your wickedness, yet since the very end of his dying was, in order to obtain remission of sins for the most miserable and desperate, there is still hope, even for those whose hands are red with his blood. Note; (1.) Love bids us hope the best, even of the vilest; and not to impute to them worse motives than may really have influenced them. (2.) The wickedness of men God can overrule, and bring good out of their evil.

4. He exhorts to an immediate penitent return to him whom they had crucified. Repent ye, therefore, of this atrocious deed; and, since there is yet hope towards God, be converted: turn to this Jesus, as the true Messiah: laying aside your pride and prejudices, yield up your hearts to his guidance and government, and fly to the atoning blood of his cross, which was shed for this very purpose, that your sins, however great, numberless, and aggravated, may be blotted out, and your guilt cancelled, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; those joyful seasons of consolation which now you will experience, when turning unto him you shall be filled with joy and peace in believing, and shall also find favour with him, and, if faithful unto death, be acknowledged by him, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints: in his presence then, if you perseveringly cleave to him, shall you possess bliss unutterable, and under his shadow enjoy an eternal rest from all the burdens of sin, sorrow, and temptation. For he shall send Jesus Christ, this Jesus whom he hath made both Lord and Christ, and appointed the Judge of quick and dead, even him which before was preached unto you, in all the sacred oracles, and by his own blessed ministry; whom the heaven must receive, whither we have seen him ascend, and where he now sits enthroned in glory, until the times of restitution of all things, when the mystery of godliness shall be finished, and his eternal kingdom shall finally come at the great day of his appearing to judge the world. Note; (1.) The great inducement to evangelical repentance, is the promise of pardon and forgiveness. (2.) They who truly turn to Jesus, shall find refreshing and rest to their souls, and reconciliation with a pardoning God. (3.) Though Christ be now exalted to his throne, we expect his coming a second time: Oh that we may be prepared to meet him! then shall it be a time of refreshing indeed; when, seeing him face to face, his faithful followers shall all be changed most perfectly into the same image, be like and with him for ever.

5. He supports what he had said by an appeal and reference to the scriptures, which they professed to believe. For these are the things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began, concerning the kingdom of his Messiah. For instance, Moses, that great lawgiver, in whom you glory, he bore a noble testimony to Jesus, and truly said unto the fathers in the wilderness, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, sprung from the flock of Abraham, like unto me; who shall with far greater dignity be a Mediator between God and you; shall deliver you from worse than Egyptian bondage, and, from the most intimate knowledge of God, shall reveal to you his mind and will, if you believe in him: him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you; embracing his doctrines, obedient to his precepts, and observant of his institutions with implicit faith, unbounded love, and unreserved submission; yielding up your souls to his guidance and government. And it shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear that prophet, and believe and obey him, shall be destroyed from among the people, cut off by some notorious stroke of divine vengeance; or finally and eternally separated from the faithful. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, in whom the spirit of prophesy revived, and those that follow after, in a long succession, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days; speaking of the Messiah, his sufferings, glory, and kingdom, from its beginning on earth, till its consummation in heaven.

6. He draws a most encouraging motive from their relation to the prophets, to receive their word, and believe in the Messiah, of whom they testified. Ye are the children of the prophets, their disciples, and descended from the patriarchs, and heirs of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed, which Seed was Christ, whose salvation shall extend to all nations; therefore, being the immediate offspring of the great Father of the faithful, Unto you first, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sending him in the human nature, and raising him from the dead, hath sent him to bless you, by his own ministry and labours, and now, by investing us with power and authority to preach his gospel, in which the most powerful motives are urged, in order to your conversion; and which his Spirit makes effectual in turning away every one of you, that believe in him, from his iniquities, and bringing you to pardon and salvation. Note; (1.) Jesus is come to be the blessing of the world. Without him, the curse and wrath of God must have for ever abode upon us all. (2.) Iniquity is the cause of all our misery; when Christ comes to the sinner, he not only pardons his guilt, but converts his soul, and thus effectually recovers him to the life of grace, in order to bring him, if faithful, to the life of glory.

 


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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Acts 3:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/acts-3.html. 1801-1803.

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