In our last study, based in John 21:16, we saw the incident in which Jesus was calling Peter to lead in creating a totally new procedure. No longer would God be dependent on the nation of Israel to spread the knowledge of Him. Jesus would change strategies and work through individual fellowships called churches. Peter was to lead in that endeavor. Today we will survey the changing role of the temple, the impact of Peter’s life, and the enlargement of the role of miracles in developing the new movement.
The first topic of our present study relates to the role of the temple (v. 1). As far as we can tell, Christians did not begin constructing places of worship until well into the second century. In Jerusalem, the temple became the physical location for Christians to gather. In other cities, synagogues or individual homes provided such places. We know from Acts 12:12 that Mary, the mother of John Mark, provided a room where the believers customarily gathered for prayer.
But the temple still held their loyalty. After Jesus ascended into a cloud (Acts 1:9), the apostles gathered in an “upper room” for prayer and supplication (1:13, 14). Presumably after Cleopas and another disciple were intercepted by Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke. 24:13, 18), the two returned to Jerusalem where “the 11 gathered together” (v. 33). They knew where to go. Nevertheless, after Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the disciples gravitated back to the temple in one accord (2:46).
Peter and the other apostles kept up their contacts with the temple, as we shall see in our following section. As far as the temple is concerned, its time as a central point of pride and worship for the Jews was running out. Jesus, during what we call Palm Sunday, pronounced the destruction of the temple. As He came from the east across the crest of the ridge, and looked down on the temple, He wept (Luke. 19:41). He then gave a vivid description of the temple’s destruction (vv. 42-44). This came about in 70 A.D. under Titus, a Roman general, who destroyed the temple, brick by brick, the proof of which exists today. The destruction of the temple by Titus helped distinguish the Christian movement from Judaism. Jesus had warned believers to leave the city when they saw it surrounded (Matt. 24:15-24), a warning which they headed.
The Book of Revelation has kept alive the glory of the temple by depicting it in several verses, beginning in Revelation 3:12 but ending all references in 21:22 in which John says he “saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” For now, we note the crucial role of Peter (3:6) in the formation of the church. As Peter and John made their way to the temple, they saw a lame man lying at the Gate Called Beautiful (v. 2). Peter took the man by the hand and healed him in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (v. 6). He had already shown signs of fulfilling the role Jesus assigned him (John 21:16). In an upper room prior to Pentecost, he led the eleven disciples in electing a successor to the fallen Judas (1:15-16, 24-26). He preached the first Christian sermon after Pentecost (2:14-36). He led in exposing the perversity of Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-10). In the name of Jesus he healed Aeneas of Lydda (9:34), raised Tabitha of Joppa from the dead (9:40). To summarize Peter’s impact, note that multitudes of sick people were laid on beds and couches that the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them (Acts 5:15).
The Bible mentions but gives few hints about the appearance of signs and wonders (2:19). Wonders occur in heaven and signs in the earth. Both indicate an unusual occurrence which portends a future event. The phrase can be found also in 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 7:36; and so forth. These events are usually attributed to the apostles, but occasionally to an individual. The Holy Spirit inaugurated the Christian movement with irrefutable physical and spiritual evidence.
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