Peter’s Sermon in Acts 3

In chapter 3 Peter is a bit more pointed than in his Pentecost sermon. He says that the people who are hearing the sermon are guilty of killing the Messiah. There are men in the audience who for Barabbas rather than Jesus! Peter accusing the crowd and the Temple aristocracy of killing an innocent man who was vindicated by God by the resurrection and ascension.

It is also more pointed in its description of what will happen when they repent – the “times of refreshing” will come. It appears, then, that Peter is promising the soon-return of the Messiah after Israel repents. The phrase is unusual, only appearing here in the New Testament.  In the  LXX the word “refreshing” (ἀνάψυξις) only appears only in Exod 8:15 to describe a pause int he cycle of plagues on Egypt.  It appears in the Apoc.Sedrach 16.3 as a description of heaven. There is no exact equivalent of the phrase in Acts 3 to describe the messianic age, despite E. Schweizer’s statement that the word refers to “messianic refreshment, the definitive age of salvation” (TDNT 9:644).

Solomon's PorticoThere are, however, a number of similar phrases in the literature of the Second Temple period which indicate that the language would have been well understood by the biblically minded Jews who were congregated in Solomon’s Portico that day.  Referring to the coming kingdom as “times and seasons” is also common, especially using the Greek καιρός (kairos). This word for time has the idea of the right time, the appointed time. Jesus used it in Acts 1, telling the twelve it was not for them to know the “times and the seasons.” It is highly unlikely that anyone in the Jewish crowd would have missed these eschatological allusions, even if they did not agree with them!

If the people repent, Peter says that God will send the Christ, Jesus who will fulfill the words of the prophets. Peter claims here that if the nation repents, then the messiah will return and establish the kingdom promised in the prophets. What is more, the ones who repent will participate fully in that kingdom, since a major aspect of the Messiah’s return (in virtually every view of the messiah) was a separation of “real” Israel from “false” Israel.

When Christ returns, he will restore all things (verse 21), a term which is also unique in the New Testament, yet a theologically packed term. The word does not appear in the New Testament or the LXX, but seems to have the sense of restoring creation to its original state. This too is a major expectation of the Hebrew Bible as well as the Second Temple period, the kingdom would be a restoration of the world to Eden-like conditions.

What we see therefore here in Acts is a clear statement that the Kingdom of God is about to begin. But there seems to be a condition – repent of the sin of killing the Messiah!  Acts 4-8 will describe the response to this offer from the majority of the “men of Israel.” Despite large numbers of Jews accepting Jesus as Messiah and Savior, Israel as a nation continues to resist the Holy Spirit in the chapters which follow.

Acts 2 and 3 are therefore the foundation for the resistance to the Kingdom found in Acts 4-8.  Are there other elements of this sermon which sound like they promise the dawning of the eschatological age?

23 thoughts on “Peter’s Sermon in Acts 3

  1. One of the elements of this passage that stood out to me was Peter and how he instantaneously gave God the glory for this miracle. Directly after the man is healed and the onlookers came running Peter says, “By the faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong” (3:16). This type of humility is truly admirable in Peter because he did not claim any of the glory even when the people came running to him, but instead he deflected all of the attention away from himself and towards Jesus and what he did for us. This humility that was displayed by Peter was not only admirable but also inspiring because it is so easy to get wrapped up in peoples praise for oneself and lose sight of the fact that God does his work through us and gives us all of our abilities.
    I think that it was so intriguing to see how Peter used this miracle and act of God to instantly speak of Gods grace how God is willing to forgive them for what they have done if they repent. It is clear that Peter wants the crowd to realize that they have indeed done something wrong by killing Jesus but Peter also describes how God is gracious and if they repent he will bless them and God will return to restore everything. Similar to what is discussed in the post about how there will be a “time of refreshing.” Gods grace is so apparent through this passage because even though these are the people that killed his son, God still wants to bless them if they turn to him. The most amazing thing about this is that these same people that killed Jesus will “participate fully” in the kingdom that Jesus will establish upon his return. This is truly encouraging to modern day Christians because it puts things into perspective for us and our own sin, because if God wants to show his grace and bless the people that murdered his son, what then does he want to do for us?

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  2. This passage is a very good selling point both for the early reader but also for the modern reader. Early readers would see the miracle done by peter and the instant declaring that God is the one gave him that power as a witnessing tool. Modern readers can see that as well very easily. Another interesting topic that comes up is the element of whether the Kingdom is coming forth.

    Both the early and modern reader can interpret a couple of verses from this passage as possible hints to the coming of the Kingdom. Peter believed that the Kingdom was at hand but over the years, the visual Kingdom has not come yet. Many modern Christian now wonder if this means the Kingdom is still far off or even closer than ever to presenting itself. Acts 3:19-20 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you”, hints at the idea that if Israel will repent and turn from their way, which doesn’t happen completely, then the Lord will bring about time of refreshing, also hinting at the time of the Kingdom. However, if you read on you see Acts 3:21 “Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” This verse hints that the Kingdom will come when Israel repents and turns but also when the time for God to restore everything.

    This raises the question was the Kingdom dawning? (We can determine at least from the time of Peter to present that was not the case, at least in a visual and full sense). However, now reading the same scripture are we in the time of the Kingdom dawning or is the Kingdom still far off in the eyes of God? To be honest, I think you may have hints and inclinations about when the Kingdom is going to arrive but, referring back to Acts 1:7 and that God said it is not for us to know the dates or times, but to serve and announce the coming Kingdom, which is the ending task for all past, present, and future Christians.

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    • This is great, the question you raise at the end is the right question – what *kind* of kingdom is dawning? If it was the one that the Jews in the first century expected, then that does not really happen, does it? There is either a spiritualiztion of that kingdom in the church, or the kingdom is postponed to a (much) later time.

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  3. One thing that was pretty cool a that stuck put was the fact that God gave Peter the gift of healing in this chapter. But Peter had extraordinary faith. To actually say “get up and walk” without studdering or questioning. Peter had the faith that God gave him this gift and he used it the way God wanted him to. So what are we doing. Sometimes we have a hard time believing that God is doing things and we are sometimes scared because we don’t know if it will happen the way we want it to. We need faith like Peter. We need to have unquestionable faith. Peter said in verse 16 “by faith in the name of Jesus this man whom you see and know was made strong”. We are also made strong in the name of Jesus.

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  4. There are quite a few elements that appear in this chapter that seems to suggest the dawning of a new eschatological age. First off are the miracles performed by Peter and John, in particular the healing of the crippled man. What stands out here is how Peter heals him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (3:6).” This power of healing through the name of Jesus Christ shows that the Holy Spirit has come and Christ is empowering his followers in ways not seen before. There were obviously miracles in the Old Testament and by Christ, but never before had such empowerment been given to disciples. Another element is the way in which Peter speaks of the prophets. “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days (3:24).” Here, Peter speaks of Moses’ prophecy in the past, and refers to the present as, “these days.” This language clearly points to the fact that Israel is no longer waiting for hte fulfillment of the prophecy, but are currently experiencing this fulfillment through Christ and the Gospel preached by the disciples.

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  5. Something that came to my mind while reading this was this. Obviously God knew that today believers like us would be reading the Word, people wondering what all this “Jesus” stuff was about. When I read this passage it’s obviously talking about how people denied the Messiah, but I see people denying the Messiah today. I can’t help but think of this passage as almost prophetic in itself. I know that could be a little confusing but if you think about it everything that Peter said relates perfectly to todays culture. As I read Acts 2:13-15 I see this.

    Also, Peter is telling the crowds that they need to repent of killing the Messiah, but I believe that this relates to us in this way. We did not kill or chose Barabbas over Jesus. However I believe that we have other “Barabbas’ in our lives. Things and other gods that we chose and therefore do the same thing that the Pharisees did to the human person, Jesus.

    I love what Nick said about the humility of Peter. This also relates to us today. Many times as a ministry leader when the Lord gives us success in ministry we start to think that it is something that we have done. I could see how easily it would have been for Peter to take the Glory for himself.

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    • I can see where you are coming from Dan. The other elements that make this prophetic are the settings in which this was delivered. It is amazing to see how this was given to people who were fighting against Christ and the message of salvation and that the content of it was apologetic in nature. It can teach us how to better proclaim the gospel and how we can better “take up our cross.” It is awesome to be able to look to this passage and see that we as Christians have come a long way in our acceptance by the world, but it also shows us how far we have gone from the true faith driven ministries and hearts of the Christians today. It can be looked at also like a call out, almost, to those who are not living in the way they should be and that they need to get back to the “grass roots” of Christianity.
      I also love how you talk about the choice of our own “Barabbas” in our day to day lives. I fully agree that it can loosely apply to this day in age in that we choose things over Christ and His path for us. It is a great reminder to be that we need to be living lives worthy of God. I can see that here on campus we strive to be smart for academia’s sake than to further our own understanding of the scriptures and to grow in our own relationship with God.

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  6. In Peter’s sermon to the nation of Israel, he tells them that they sinned by choosing to free Barabbas and denying Christ. It is interesting that Peter tells them that they killed Him by their ignorance, but it was God’s plan for Christ to suffer and to save people to fulfill prophecy (Acts 3:17-18). He tells them to repent of their sin and turn to God so that “times of refreshing may come from the Lord” and Christ will return (Acts 3:19-20). “What we see therefore here in Acts is a clear statement that the Kingdom of God is about to begin” (Peter’s Sermon in Acts 3). However, Israel as a nation did not repent and turn to God. Peter quotes the prophets saying that they foretold the coming eschatological age. In Acts 3:21-24, Peter tells them that the prophets foretold Christ’s coming. Christ is going to come and the Jews will listen to Him, but some will reject Him and be destroyed (Acts 3:22-23). The prophets have been speaking about it since the world began (Acts 3:21, 24). Deuteronomy 15:18-19 speak of how Christ will come, but not everyone will believe. Even though Peter believed and saw signs of the Kingdom beginning (Acts 2), like Lundy said, only God knows when Christ will return and set up His kingdom.

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  7. I think verses 1-3 are also really important. Just keeping our minds on heavenly things, on the kingdom of God. I see it as a call to the people that Peter was preaching. Peter wants them to stop thinking in the ways of this earth and start viewing the world from the view point of heaven. To see the kingdom of God in action.

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  8. Peter is extremely bold in his sermon in Acts 3. The fact that the crowd who are hearing his sermon are some of those who wished Barabbas free rather than Jesus is intimidating to say the least. However, Peter plugs on, practically pointing the finger at those in the audience, intent that they see the consequences for killing the Messiah. He wants them to understand the gravity of what they did. Peter says, “but you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murder to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:14). People cannot repent from their sins unless they recognize it first. However, Peter also is telling them of the “times of refreshing” to come. He points out their grave mistake, but also offers salvation and hope, saying he knows they acted in ignorance (Acts 3:17). I found it interesting that the phrase “times of refreshing” appears only in Exodus 8:15 in the Bible (Peter’s Sermon in Acts 3). It was a very powerful time for Peter to use this phrase; the Jewish crowd had to pick up on the references Peter was referring to.
    Other elements of this sermon which sound like they promise the dawning of the eschatological age can be found in verse 18, where Peter said God foretold Christ would suffer, had been fulfilled. In verse 22 Peter quotes Moses who said that God would raise up “a prophet like me from you brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.” To me, if I were listening, I may think that this next prophet could be Peter, as he is filled with the Holy Spirit and able to perform miracles and clearly knows Jewish readings and the Old Testament.

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    • Good, I think that the allusion to Deut 18 is important (I had another post on it started, but did not get it finished!) This is one of the most clear messianic texts in the Pentateuch, someone in the future is coming like a new Moses.

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  9. One of my favorite things about this sermon is that just before it was given Peter heals a lame man. He goes forward and heals the man without hesitation. While it probably was not difficult for him to believe in the power that God had given him. I think this leads up well to the sermon itself. The man had faith so he was healed. It is obvious that the men that killed Jesus had no faith so it is no surprise that they needed to repent in order to receive the kingdom of heaven. In fact, I find it necessary that they do so! As did Peter. So while this did set up the stage for most of Israel to reject the message of Christ, it was good to see some people receive it that day!

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    • Do you really think the man at the gate had faith? He just thought Peter was going to give him something. There is no real “expression of faith,” is there?

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  10. In relation to the eschatological age, I like what Dan had to say. Living in a post-Christian world today, there are so many things that we tend to put above God. We need to repent of those things in preparation for the coming age when Jesus returns. It is the same for the Jews who killed the Messiah (Jesus) but they are stubborn. Many people possess that same attitude of stubbornness. We’re too stubborn to let go of our idols just as the Jews were too stubborn to look at the facts of Christ’s messiah-ship, and therefore repent. Obviously we see from Peter’s sermon in Acts 3 that the Jews did not repent, leading up to His crucifixion (and subsequent resurrection shortly thereafter). We have become too comfortable to do whatever we please without heeding to the consequences. We need to come to a place of repentance in light of the coming eschatological age to come. This is something that Peter was alluding to when he was trying to confront the Jews and tell them that they need to repent for their part in killing the Messiah.

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  11. The most important piece of this that stood out to me and seems to stand out to the other students is Peter’s faith and power to be able to heal a man and be able to witness to those that stood back in amazement. Peter did not only have enough faith to heal the man, but he had humility. He did not take credit for what he did, and he did not claim to be Jesus, but gave credit to God and the Holy Spirit. He used that opportunity to tell the people that they too can have the Holy Spirit and have salvation if they have faith like that of his own. It wasn’t anything that he did to receive that power but it was a gift and that gift is the Holy Spirit in which all who believe, can receive.. Peter used this first miracle of his to witness to those around him that they also can be forgiven and thet all they need to do is repent. Peter then goes on to explain to the people of what they did wrong and what they need to repent of and who they need to have faith in. He tells them that they killed the messiah and hung Him on a tree. He explains to them that the messiah that they were waiting for was in fact the man that they wanted to kill. Even though Peter makes clear his message and the message of Jesus and salvation, many people continue to reject the Holy Spirit and reject Peters message.

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  12. Peter seems to allude to the coming age in Acts 3:24. He tells the audience that the prophets foretold of these days. This verse seems to tell the audience that these are the last days. Now, the audience would be familiar with prophets like Daniel and Samuel, so I would assume they would understand what Peter is talking about in verse 24. I do not see what else Peter could be referring to when he talks about “these days.” Also, when one reads verse 24 with verse 26, it seems as if Peter is saying that the prophets foretold of the age of grace, in which Jesus came to the Jews first to try to get them to repent and turn from their wickedness. Later on in the New Testament, Paul confirms that Jesus came to the Jews first, and then the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16), and it seems that Peter is telling his audience this fact. Jesus came to the Jews to get them to repent, and the prophets of old all foretold of this event, as well as the age to come.

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  13. Peter is very direct when he is giving his sermon in chapter 3. Peter uses the exact language of saying that the Jews in attendance did kill the Messiah. I think the harsh language was necessary so the audience understood the severity of the situation and the need to repent would be realized.
    I also think that it is interesting that the word used for “refreshing” was only used one time in the New Testament. I would think that the word would be used in the book of Revelation when describing Jesus’ actually coming back. I think with the similar words used to describe this time, combined with Peter’s harsh words, emphasize the need for the Jews in the Crowd to hear what they were hearing.
    When Christ returns, he will restore all things (verse 21), a term which is also unique in the New Testament, yet a theologically packed term. I know that a similar verse is used in Revelation 21:4, when describing that Jesus will wipe away every tear and make all things new. I think that it can be taken at face value that when Jesus comes back he will make everything better than in the time when he was still in heaven

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  14. During Peter’s sermon you claims that they ones he was talking to were the ones who killed the messiah. Peter was very intense and straight forward with the message so that the people would understand what they did and how it has impacted the world. Peter claims to the people that they need to repent and understand the consequences of not following the messiah. The kingdom of God is just beginning and will soon come again. He will come again and some individuals will choose to follow Him and others will choose to deny him again and again no matter how much truth they are revealed. The prophets foretold the days that were to come and what was going to be revealed. “When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

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  15. Peter, like a lot of preachers now days, uses a sense of urgency in his message. If you repent then you will be apart of the Kingdom, God will send Jesus back. I like what a previous blog post said about this being a good selling point. It is possible that Peter thought this coming back of Christ would happen in his lifetime. If he did think in this way then his urgency would be passionate. Almost like pleading with people, or selling it to them. Peter is also calling the people out, using a little bit of guilt to make them listen. He says that they are the ones who killed Jesus. He is definitely hinting toward the end of the eschatological age. He has a sort of complacency or confidence in what he is preaching. He reminds everyone of God’s promises for all people at the end of chapter 2 and then continues by saying “save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

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  16. The way that Peter speaks to the crowd during Acts 3 is spoken with urgency. Peter tries to tell the people that when they denied Jesus and asked for Barabbas instead, they committed a sin against the son of God. Peter and the disciples are witnesses to this and they wanted to show the people that. Peter had a sense of urgency to get the information about what is necessary to experience the kingdom of heaven. Jesus gave the disciples the command to be his “witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The disciples knew the urgency that Jesus had and decided to act upon it. Jipp states that “Peter’s plea is that the ignorance of the people be replaced with the Spirit-inspired apostolic interpretation of God’s plan as prophetically set for in Israel’s Scriptures” (Jipp 53). Peter uses what they are familiar with to show the validity of what he is saying. He quotes part of the old testament that they would have been familiar with and tells them about what will happen if they do not repent. He even encourages them by stating that they are the chosen people of God and to remind them of the blessings that God promised to Abraham. He is hinting at the eschatological age that they are entering while trying to encourage them to repent and receive the blessings.

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  17. This sermon like you said is a lot more pointed. Peter references the coming of Jesus many times throughout it. He says that God raised Jesus from the dead just like what was prophesied, and everyone there was a witness to it. He says all this to tell them that they need to repent from their sins because the time of God’s “refreshing” will be very soon. He was telling them that all of these prophesies were coming true and that they needed to repent fast because judgement will be coming soon.

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  18. There are certainly aspects of Peter’s sermon here that touch on and indicate the dawning of the Kingdom in this section. In verses 19-23, Peter delivers us a message of repentance, claiming multiple things such as, “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” or “Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of the prophets.” That sounds like prophesying of the return of Christ, his Second Coming, and the eternal kingdom, directly being referenced her by Peter and instilled with many of the messages of the New Testament, particularly in some of Paul’s epistles. Acts 3:11-26 is a sermon of repentance, salvation, and rebuke of sinful behavior and actions, so that those listening can get the message of the gospel and be saved, becoming apart of the eternal kingdom.

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