And I’m Tyler.
This is Scripture Central’s Come Follow Me Insights. This week, Acts 1 through 5.
This is a real treat to be able to cover Acts 1 through 5 as we’ve finished up our study of the four Gospels, and now we go to Luke, his volume 2 in his series, Writing to Theophilus. I have to say, I love the Book of Acts because it is so extremely relevant to things that we experience today in the latter days. Almost every historian here can find application in our Church, in our world, and in our lives today. So if you like stories that are really applicable and create a positive sense of urgency for moving forward, then you’ve come to the right place to study the Book of Acts.
It’s a great book, too. It gives us a sense of what happens after Jesus is resurrected and returns to heaven. What happens to the community that he starts? How does the church grow? And we get that story in this narrative here. And I also love how when we’re connected to Luke, we see this common thread of Luke showing the emergence of the church. And sometimes I wish that the way the New Testament been set up, I wish we’d kept Luke and Acts together. I think most of us miss the fact that it’s a two part book and John gets stuck right in the middle.
That’s right. Now, before we dive into verse 1, let’s look at the title itself. So it says, The Acts of the Apostles. Well, back at a CES conference in the year 2000, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland came to BYU in the Marriott Center and he gave a talk about this book. We were coming into a New Testament year of study in seminary back in 2000, and he proposed a name change. He said, The Acts of the Apostles is not a very accurate title for this book. And so here is his proposed name change. He said, I would call it the Acts of the Resurrected Lord working through the Holy Spirit in the lives and ministries of his ordained Apostles. If you want the reference on that, you can find it in the January Enzyme of 2003, page 33. Did you catch that? These aren’t the Acts of the Apostles working in isolation. It’s the Acts, as Taylor said, where the Savior has now ascended to heaven, but it’s still the Church of Jesus Christ. It’s not the Church of Peter or the Church of the Apostles. It’s the Lord’s Church, and he’s going to continue to guide it.
He’s just not walking on the street with them anymore. He’s guiding it from heaven through the Holy Spirit in the lives and ministries of his holy Apostles. But then, Elder Holland said, But you can see why the translators opted for the shorter title. But he said, My title is more accurate, and I totally agree with him. And we will see that. We’ll bring that theme back again and again as we work our way through the Acts, where you’re going to see that it’s really the Lord who’s doing this work, which for us today is both a blessing and a privilege, as well as a deep responsibility in our callings, in our families, is to remember, it’s not about me. It’s not about my acts. It’s not about what I’m doing. It’s about keeping my focus fixed on the Savior and seeking to do his will and being meek enough to act on those impressions that come through the Holy Ghost, to be able to be on his errand, rather than consistently trying to put him on my errand to do the things that I want him to do to reverse that. It’s a beautiful principle.
What I love about this, we look at the scriptures and we think, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s stories of people long ago. But the unfolding restoration, which is happening right now in your life and throughout the world, in centuries in the future, people will look back and they will have stories from your life and our lives and the Church and where it is going. And it will be, again, the acts of God working through the Holy Spirit with his people. So we are in the middle of this story still unfolding that God is working our lives. And so the invitation is, are we seeing how God’s hand is unfolding his work in our lives? And are we willing to be humble enough to let him work his will in our lives?
Isn’t this fun? What a privilege to have access to scriptures that are so relevant and applicable. So here we are in verse 1, The former treatise have I made, O theophilist, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach. So it e’s referencing his first volume in his two book series, the Gospel of Luke, back in Luke 1 verse 3, you can see how he addresses that one to theophilist as well. Theophilus, that name means lover of God or a friend of God. I love that name because even though there was a guy back in the first century that’s Luke’s audience, you and I can now become Luke’s audience because you’re a friend of God. We are lovers of God. So we are a theophilist in this context. And so it makes it a little easier to personalize this book if you picture, hey, Luke’s writing this to me, too. Not just a single guy to two thousand years ago. Now, notice verse 2, until the day in which he was taken up, so this is speaking of the Savior’s ascension, after that he, through the Holy Ghost, had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.
Verse 3, To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them 40 days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Now, let’s dive in here for a minute in this verse because this is Luke, he’s a physician. He has traditionally been the gospel writer who focused more on the corporeal aspects of Jesus’ suffering, his ministry, his healings. He pays more attention to human suffering and relief than perhaps the other three gospel writers. And so you’ll notice here he says he’s showing himself alive after his passion. You and I, usually in a Church setting in the Church of Jesus Christ, the Latterday Saints, we don’t often refer to the Savior’s suffering as his passion, which is a very common way to refer to it in many Christian faiths in the world today. They’ll refer to the passion of Christ. We would say the atonement of Jesus Christ, his suffering. So after his suffering, his passion, he shows himself alive by many infallible proofs. The Greek word here techmarion or techmarion, it’s if you look this up in Strong’s Concordance or in a Greek lexicon, it’s a fascinating word that is signs or shore tokens.
There are these signs that he’s showing them in a live body that are infallible. You can’t be deceived. And if you break that down a little bit and say, Well, what could that be? We know that the Savior retains in his resurrected body the marks of the cross of his crucifixion, the marks in the hands, the wrist, the side, and in his feet. Well, if you stop and think about this for a minute, all resurrected bodies, we learn from the Book of Mormon that they’re restored to their perfect form, their perfect state. There are no scars, which means there would only be one resurrected body that in its perfect form, at least to present himself to the people, it would have scars because no other resurrected body could. So if you see a being of light, a heavenly being, and he has a body of flesh and bone, and he also has scars, that would be an infallible proof. I take Mary on. There is nobody who could appear to you in a resurrected form with those marks but one person alone. And I love that Luke opens his second volume with, from his perspective as a physician, he’s saying, this is it.
There is no doubt that Jesus is alive.
I love the humility that Jesus conveys that here the perfect Son of God is willing to inhabit a resurrected body that has what seemed to be imperfections. And he does that because he wants you and me to have perfect knowledge of who he is.
That’s beautiful. He is engraving you and me on the palms of his hands. Our walls are continually before him to refer back to Isaiah. So now, verse 4 says they’re assembled together, and he commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father. And then he tells them that not many days hence they’re going to be baptized by the Holy Ghost, by fire. So let’s do a quick timeline here of events. So we had the crucifixion. If you do Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s timing, it’s the day after their Passover. If you do it with John’s timeline, it is on Passover. Either way, it’s right here near Passover. Then he’s three days in the tomb, so the part of the Friday, then all of Saturday and resurrection on Sunday. Then after the resurrection, we’re told he spends 40 days, and that could be literal, or it could be symbolic of a long passage of time.
We saw that in the Old Testament that the number 40 means a long time, but also could be the exact.
Number 40. And in this case, this is one of the few cases where I would lean more towards a literal interpretation of the number 40 instead of the symbolic long passage time because we have this other feast that is coming 50 days later from the Passover. Every year, Pentecost is going to occur 50 days after Passover. It’s a week of weeks. It’s seven weeks, which is 49 plus a day. So we know that the events in Acts 2 are going to occur on this feast in Jerusalem. So the 40 days plus the three puts us at 43, which puts us now within seven days or one week. So it orients us here that when he says, stay in Jerusalem, don’t go back to Galilee, stay here until the Holy Ghost comes, we’re setting the stage for what’s about to occur in Acts 2, probably within a handful of days. Now you come down to verse 6, and they asked him whether he was going to come and restore the kingdom to Israel. There are all kinds of prophesies in the Old Testament, and they’re wondering and their prophecy is referring to the Savior’s second coming. And so they’re looking at him saying, So are you going to come and fulfill all these prophesies?
And here we are. He’s just barely resurrected, and they’re already anticipating his second coming, and I love his answer in verse 7, He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in his own power. Did you notice he didn’t look at them and smile or chuckle and say, No, it’s not even close. He seems to want people to keep a sense of urgency in their life for some reason. And for them, for all intents and purposes, they need to prepare for the coming of the Lord. It just won’t be the fulfillment of those second coming prophecy from the Old Testament. But I love that he told them, Look, it’s not for you. You can ask the question, but it’s not for you to know the answer. And then you get verse 8, But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost has come unto you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. That verse right there could be appropriately labeled the thesis statement for the entire Book of Acts.
Did you catch it? This is the entire Book of Acts in one verse that you’re going to receive power from heaven. You’re not going to do this on your own. Remember Elder Holland’s title for the book, The Acts of the Resurrected Christ? You’re going to receive power after the Holy Ghost has come upon you. And then what do you do? You become witnesses of me in three layers, in Jerusalem and in all Judea, then into Samaria, and then unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Are you seeing that there are three major groups of people associated with the gathering of Israel? You have Jews in Jerusalem. You have scattered Israelites, so scattered Israel, the 10 tribes that were lost. And then you have the gentiles. And the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. So in the Savior’s dispensation, you’re going to first go to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. Then you’re going to go into Samaria, which is considered at that point a part of mixed Israelites with other nations. And then eventually, you’re going to go into all the uttermost parts of the earth, where the gospel is going to bless everybody, which ties us back into the original covenant given to Abraham back in Genesis 12, that through Abraham and Sarah and their seed, all the nations and kindreds and tongues and people of the earth would be blessed.
So we have to get there. In the Savior’s ministry, it was predominantly all of the teaching and all of the blessing was for the Jews. Now he’s saying it’s time. It’s time to take it out.
We should read those verses again because they’re crucial. They really serve as a foundation back in Genesis 12, 1 through 3. This is a foundation for God’s work, and we’re seeing it being fulfilled right here in Acts and it’s being fulfilled in our day. God says this to Abraham in Genesis 12, verse 2, And I will make of thee, Abraham, a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseeth thee. And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. What’s powerful about that final promise is that the blessings that Abraham receives from God is not simply and exclusively just for him to hoard for himself. It’s intended to be for everybody, but that God begins with an individual, an exemplar of how he will interact with each of his children on earth. Abraham is that exemplar. And now we’re seeing this be fulfilled that through Abraham, all the families of the earth will be blessed.
So with that overview, let’s jump in. Verse 9 says, When he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. So this is the ascension into heaven of the resurrected Lord who had shown himself alive for 40 days with these infallible proofs, and now he’s up in heaven. And while they looked stead fastly toward heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which has taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven. Brothers and sisters, the theological implications of verse 11 are grand here. The idea that as you have seen him go, he will return in like manner coming from the pen of Luke the Physician. The idea isn’t that Jesus went up into heaven and then somehow disposed of his body. He still sits enthroned in yonder heavens on the right-hand of glory, on the right-hand of God in his resurrected, perfected form, and he will one day return as they saw him go.
He will return in like manner. There’s a powerful testimony of the resurrected Lord being born here by Luke.
What I love is that at the beginning of the restoration, Joseph Smith has this glorious first vision. And among the many things he learns is that Jesus has a glorified, physical, tangible body. And we get a similar witness here from Luke. And across human history, that was not always clearly understood. But it is clearly now, with the restoration combined with these ancient sacred records that we have.
So now we jump to 12, Then return thee unto Jerusalem from the Mount called Ollivet. And verse 13, they’re in an upper room and they list all the people that are there. We have 11 Apostles, so they’re continuing with the cord, with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women.
And that word, one accord, literally means with one mind. It’s not like somebody’s preaching one doctrine and somebody something else. They are unified. And think about how many nations, communities, families, religions struggle to stay unified with one mind. And really, the gospel is quite simple. We need to stay fixated on loving God through Jesus and loving our neighbor. And I love how they immediately they’re unified with one mind. And we’ll see that through Acts, that there’s this attempt for these early leaders. How do we stay unified to spread this message of the unity of Jesus?
Taylor, that is such a beautiful concept for us. Once again, you’re going to see repeatedly the applicability from the Book of Acts. What an amazing thing if you analyze struggles that might come up in your ward or your stake or in a quorum or a class setting where there’s disagreement or argument or frustration, it’s probably going to be over some doctrine or fact or perspective that’s multiple layers away from the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So what a great reminder to bring us back to the very center of, wait a minute, let’s not talk about and argue and dispute about these things that we’re having different opinions on. Let’s find ways to keep our focus fixed on the Savior, Jesus Christ, on how we’re loving God and how we’re loving each other. All these other things, they might be fun to talk about, but at the end of the day, they’re probably not going to unify us like the Lord can unify us through the power of his Holy Ghost and through that oneness, that one accord of praying over things that really matter, which is how are we treating each other and how do we feel about God.
Now, you look at the number, verse 15, In those days, Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples and said, The number of the names together were about 120. This is a significant starting point for our story and Acts.
Well, also notice that that’s like a small ward or a large branch. That’s it. We are not starting with a massive crush of people.
Now, and some people might be saying, Wait a minute, didn’t Jesus feed 5,000 people up in the Galilee? And didn’t he heal dozens and dozens of people? Yes, he did. And you’ll remember the bread of life sermon when multitudes of people stopped following him because he was giving them hard sayings and they weren’t able to bear. So it’s fascinating if you look at this beginning point of the Book of Acts. We begin with largely 120 disciples assembled here in Jerusalem, and that number will come in handy when we get to chapter 2 and then again in chapter 4. So then they need to replace Judis in the quorum of the 12. They gather together, look at the requirements for that replacement. They describe Judis’ demise in verse 16 through 20, and then they jump into 22 and say, Beginning from the baptism of John unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. Don’t you love this that an apostle, the number one thing that an apostle needs to do is to testify or be a witness, a special witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And even in this context, first century, all the way back to the baptism of John. So they appointed two, Joseph, Barsabas and Mathias. And then they pray unto the Lord. Once again, these are not just the Acts of the Apostles. These are the Acts of the resurrected Christ running and guiding and leading his church through these ministries of the Apostles with the help of the Holy Ghost. So they’re praying, Who, show us, whether of these two thou has chosen. It’s a beautiful thing in the Church today when a leader in any layer of the organizational structure is given that responsibility to call counselors or to call a teacher or to call an advisor, and they pray to find out who heaven has already appointed for that position. They’re not trying to sway heaven into saying, Okay, I need so and so, so make them the right person. It’s rather, Who has thou already chosen? Help me to know. And I love this pattern. So after they prayed, they cast lots, they put forth their lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was numbered with the 11 apostles. So now we have a complete quorum of 12 yet again, and it sets the stage for this outpouring of the Holy Ghost in chapter 2.
The word quorum, by the way, means sufficiency. And so there’s this essence or this idea that there’s a sufficiency to direct the work of God through the help of the Holy Ghost.
So here we are at the Pentecost. It was fully come. So it’s 50 days after Passover, and they were all with one accord in one place. Here we are again, same focus. It says, Zion, one heart, one mind. And what did that bring? Verse 4, They were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
This is interesting. When you have the Spirit of God with you, God has enormous power and capacity way beyond what a typical human does. One way to demonstrate you have the Spirit with you is to be able to do things that only a God could do. So to have inspiration or the Spirit in you, or to have enthusiasm, God in you, is to be able to say God can speak in any tongue. So if he is now inhabiting you with his spirit, one way to express that he is now with you is to speak in other tongues, or to have greater faith, or to be able to trust in other people’s faith. And that’s what we see throughout, even in the Restoration, is the gifts of the Spirit, representations or evidences that God is with you. And that is what they’re experiencing here.
I love that. Now, this next part, to make sense of it, we have to understand that there are those three major feasts or festival times of the year on the Jewish calendar, which is at the core of their faithful practice of worship, is to come to Jerusalem at Passover, 50 days later, Pentecost, and in late September, early October, depending on the lunar cycle of the year, the Feast of the Tabernacles or the Feast of the Booths. So there have been lots of Jewish faithful come to Jerusalem for this Pentecost. So the city would be bursting at the seams with formers from all around the diaspora, the scattering of the Jews throughout the entire Mediterranean region, Northern Africa, all the way through Eastern Mediterranean, all the way through Turkey and Greece and Italy and over into Europe.
Mesothamia. Mesothamia to the east, exactly. So they’re all coming. Well, look at verse 6, Now, when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together and were confounded because that every man heard them speak in his own language. So we have the gift of speaking in tongues in verse 4, and now we’re going to see the gift of the interpretation of tongues in verse 6 through 11 or 12 because everyone’s hearing them speak in his own language. Have you noticed that in the work of the Lord, it’s not just what you’re able to do or what you’re able to produce or speak or say, it’s also what people hear and see and perceive. And the Holy Ghost helps with both sides of that. And I love those two gifts of the Spirit that are complementary to each other being portrayed here, the gift to speak in tongues and the gift to hear and interpret tongues. So both are in force right here. They were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? How hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? And then he lists all of the different locations, and it is all over the map in verse 9, 10, and 11.
And verse 12 says, They were all amazed and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? So you’re watching the Lord Jesus Christ begin to do his work of spreading the good news, beginning first with this group of Jews in Jerusalem who have gathered from all these different parts of the world. Then in that same audience, you have other people standing back mocking them. You’re always going to have some opposition, it seems. And so now there’s this group mocking them, saying, Well, they’re just drunk, basically. They’re full of wine. I love Peter, when he stands up and he says, It’s not even the third… It’s like nine o’clock in the morning. Nobody’s drunk here. That is not a great hypothesis to this scenario.
Look, skepticism is not inherently a bad thing. It’s useful to ask good questions, but these are not questions asked in humility with an intention to learn. I see an invitation here that all of us should be willing to ask good, inspired, humble questions with the intention to learn. And that is how you get into a Zion society of one heart and one mind, a willingness to learn when people may be saying things differently or doing things differently than you had expected. Instead of criticizing, saying, what can I learn here? And is there an opportunity for me to be aligned with the larger group that is being inspired by God?
What a great approach that we could all take in our families and in our church settings.
One more thought here is when they’re speaking in tongues, it’s powerful that God will speak to everybody in their own language. The message here is God will speak to everybody in a way that makes sense to them. And we should welcome that. And instead of insisting that everybody speak or think exactly like us, that we should learn how God is working through other people to help them come to know him as we do. Even if he might use a different dialect with them, he might with us. He might use different teaching examples with them or life experiences than with us. We still can have unity even when there is difference.
I love that. It’s an echo from something that Nephi taught us back in 2 Nephi 31, verse 3, when he says, My soul delighteth in plainness. For after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light and understanding, for he speaketh unto men according to their language and unto their understanding. I love that. So as you lead, as you teach, or as you’re in missionary efforts, it’s that idea of not just learning the gospel and not just learning about the Lord, but learning about your audience so that you can be a more effective instrument in the hands of the Lord to speak the words of Christ unto those people according to, as you said, their traditions, their stories, their perspective. It’s powerful. Now, in chapter 2 verse 16, Peter quotes the Prophet Joel from chapter 2 in the Old Testament, where Joel said, In the last days, sayeth God, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And then there are other prophsies about the sun and the moon.
And he says, verse 21, And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
What I love here is this phrase, the last days. If something is ending, it means something else is beginning. So we’re at a turning point in history that Jesus has now done this great act of salvation. He has now gone into the heavens, and it’s those last days of those Acts, we’re now moving into a new book. We’re no longer in the Gospels. So we’re getting a new chapter, a new book, a new flourishing of new things, which is God is now working through his church and his church leaders to flourish the Spirit throughout the world. So again, whenever you see things like last or last days, it means that serves as the foundation for the new beginnings. So instead of maybe being afraid of like, oh, my gosh, it’s the last days, we get excited about the beginning of new days and that we are in that transition zone.
Love that. Now, he then preaches the doctrine of Christ, his mission, his ministry, his miracles, his teachings, his perfection, and ultimately his resurrection to these people. And the result, we jump over to verse 37, Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart and said unto Peter… Sorry, and said unto Peter, Peter and to the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? If you want to mark your scriptures, that is a power phrase. What shall we do? Or maybe even personalize it. What shall I do? I don’t know of very many questions that are more effective in prayer than to turning to the Lord in complete meekness, submissive, humble, willing to do anything that he asks you to do, and then asking that question with all of your heart, dear Father in heaven, what would thou have me do with this relationship, or with this calling, or with this assignment, or with this decision, or with fill in the blank? So they asked the question, what shall we do? Because they’re pricked in their heart. Once again, Peter couldn’t prick them in the heart. The Apostles couldn’t do that.
This is the Lord Jesus Christ doing that through the Holy Ghost.
Sometimes we think about the word prick in English as just like a very, a light touch, like a little tiny needle. It turns out it’s a much more intensive word. It means to be hit at depth. If we turn to the Book of Enos in the Book of Mormon, remember, he also is pierced to the heart. The words that he’d heard his father speak sunk deep into his heart. So when you read this word, piercing here, think about the depth that somebody has been pierced all the way down through the depth to the deepest recesses of their heart and soul. So this is not a light pricking. This is all the way down. So the invitation is, have you had those moments in your life? Can you recall when you have felt the depth of God’s love in your life? And can you feel so now?
That’s a beautiful reference back to Elma 5, this idea of remember that in English, if you look carefully, at the core of your heart is an ear. I love this idea that this is not just a surface level pricking or tickling of the outer part. It’s a deep sinking feeling where they feel things or with their spirit, where they can actually hear him. It’s a powerful reminder of keeping our focus on him. Now, look at the answer that Peter gives to their question, what shall we do? Peter sayeth unto them, repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. They’ve already manifested a degree of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by even asking the question and being there. Now you get repentance, now you get baptism, now you get the gift of the Holy Ghost. Our first principles and ordnance is the gospel.
Beautifully contained. And I really like this word repentance in the Greek, it’s worth repeating, it means to change your mind. We might use the phrase to have your heart changed. They definitely had their heart changed because it had been pierced all the way through. And if you think sometimes we think repentance is this big, massive, mighty change. In this case, it clearly was. But consider, on a daily basis, do you ever change your mind on things in a positive way? You get a little bit more information on something and you upgrade your thinking. That is repentance. Anytime you change your mind in a positive step to being more like God, in any way, that’s repentance. It doesn’t have to be a massive life change. It’s great to have those moments. But just step by step, God asks us to be in the covenant path. He’s not asking us to just rush through it with one single moment of change, but little by little, and sometimes having transformative moments, persistently finding our way closer to God, changing our mind.
Can I just add here, the idea of repentance? I think many of us were raised in the Church or have been taught in such a way that we see repentance as a one solution to one issue, sin, that I did something wrong, so I need to repent of that and make it right with the Lord, which is absolutely true. That is not being removed. What Taylor is teaching and what President Nelson has taught about the word in the Greek, this change the way you think, the way you feel, even the way you breathe and the way you see the world. And then you combine it with the Hebrew context of the word repentance, which is now in that context to turn, well, now all of a sudden you can say, oh, I can discover the joy of daily repentance because it’s to turn more towards the Savior Jesus Christ and fix my focus on him more than anything else. And now all of a sudden, repentance can involve more than just overcoming something bad that I did. In fact, repentance can become this beautiful turning and changing the way I think and the focus of my life.
Even if I didn’t do something wrong, even if somebody did something wrong to me, I can repent, not because I have to fix something I did, but because I need the Savior to help me work through fixing something that somebody else did. Repentance doesn’t have to be just associated with my sins. It’s this beautiful process every day of saying, heavenly father, help me be more focused on the and on the sun and finding what I need to do today to fulfill my life’s missions more fully, which means some of us have some baggage that has been inflicted upon us by other people, which means I need to repent, not because I did something wrong, but because I desperately need the Savior’s help to be able to move forward because of those wrongs that have been done to me. It’s discovering the joy of daily repentance as President Nelson.
Has talked about. Amen.
Now in verse 41, it says, Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. We just took a large branch or a small ward and turned it into a stake in one day. That’s significant growth and it’s going to bring with it great opportunities, great blessings, but also some great challenges as we’re going to see as the story unfolds. Verse 42 says, And they continued stead fastly in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers. So they’re off to this great start. Verse 44 tells you they have all things in common. They’re continuing daily together. And verse 47, they’re praising God, having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved. So you get this influx that’s happening daily at this point in these early days of the church, right after this Pentecost experience, which now brings us to one of my favorite stories of all time in the scriptures. In Acts 3, this man, we don’t even know his name, this lame man, his story has been such an inspiration to me.
Verse 1 begins, Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. So it’s about 3 PM. Did you catch this? Peter and John and the Apostles and all of these disciples, they don’t see themselves as having left their Jewish faith. They don’t consider themselves as having a faith crisis with their Jewish upbringing. They are fully practicing Jews. They see the higher law of the gospel that Jesus taught as a fulfillment of all of their Jewish and Judaism upbringing and their religious fervor. They are going into the temple at the hour of prayer. They’ve kept the feast of the Pentecost. They are practicing what they feel is the fullness or a fulfillment of their Jewishness, their Jewish religion. It’s later on that leaders of the Jews are going to push them out and create a new label for them, Christians. Up in Antioch is where that label is going to be placed. But it wasn’t the disciples who created that label. It was Jewish leaders who are now going to basically push them out of the Jewish faith. So they’re coming in verse 2, and they see a certain man lame from his mother’s womb, who was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple.
Did you catch this? He was lame from his mother’s womb. So if you look at his legs and his feet, you can imagine what he would have looked like. He’s never walked a day of his life. There is no muscle structure there, and they have to carry him and lay him daily at that gate. And we find out that he’s over 40 years old later on. So he’s been there a long time. And he’s seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked in alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heat unto them, expecting to receive something of them. So you can picture this begger, somebody says, Look on us. It’s like, oh, this is going to be good. What are you going to give me? And I love this response. Peter said, Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. I love this moment. I can’t give you money, but, oh, I can give you something way better. This story is the essence of Church welfare principles.
It’s not just to feed people, which we do that. It’s not just to clothe them, which we do that. The ultimate goal is to try to create resources to help people gain capacity to now act and be self sufficient with the help of the Lord moving forward in their life, empowering their agency, giving them capacity to make choices and live their life more fully. It’s beautiful.
The word here, when he says rise up, is the same Greek word that we use to speak of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Resurrection means to be able to stand up again, upright.
So here’s the command. Oh, by the way, if we push pause here, time out. Picture being a person who’s standing there watching this interaction. What might the thoughts be in your mind as you’re looking at this man who has never walked a day in his life? He’s over 40 years old. He has no sense of balance, no strength in his legs and feet. And you just heard Peter say, Rise up and walk. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, do that. I can picture these people thinking, What? They’re impossible. This can’t happen. And then Peter doesn’t stand back and wait for it to happen. Notice what he does. And he took him by the right-hand, that covenant hand. He connects with him, and he lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he, leaping up, stood and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising Peter. Did you catch that? What do your.
Scriptures say? I have a different version of the Bible. It doesn’t put Peter’s name there.
Yeah, I misread that on purpose. Because if we’re not careful, brothers and sisters, when we are instruments in the hands of the Lord, if we’re not careful, we’ll inhale praise and adulation that President James E. Faust and President D. D. R. F. Uchdorff have talked about. We’ll inhale those praises and we’ll think, Yeah, I did that. I misread that on purpose because the power of this story to me is that a man who had never walked a day in his life was commanded in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to get up. And then Peter, this chief apostle, reached down and helped him up. And then for the first time in this man’s life, he’s not just walking, but he’s now going into the temple in what you could call full fellowship, because previously, he would have never been seen as worthy, so to speak, in the temple because of his physical disability. And in their culture, in their time, any physical disability is a sign of divine disfavor for wrongdoing. So you’re a sinner, you must have done something really bad, or your parents, because look at what God has done to you.
And now, nobody can claim that anymore because he’s walking. He’s not just walking, he’s leaping and praising God. I love that that Peter’s not walking around saying, Look what I did. Give me the glory, which would be the devil’s way of doing things. But he’s following the Savior’s pattern of give the glory to the Father. Don’t praise me for this.
Peter demonstrates that. If we go to verse 12, when Peter saw all these people come together and they want to find out from Peter what have you done, and almost as if they want to praise him. And he says, verse 12, he answered the people, You men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us? As though by our own power or holiness, we had made this man to walk. The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his son, Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. And it goes right back to the Abrahamic Covenant. God revealed himself in the Old Testament through the Abrahamic Covenant, proving, I am the God who provides. Remember at the sacrifice of Isaac, when Isaac was saved, Abraham renames a place which is actually happening right here. It’s the same location, Jehovah Jireh, which means the Lord will provide. And that is one of the core essences of the character of God. He has covenanted to provide physical and spiritual salvation to every individual.
And so they are tying this back in. Peter understands this covenantal connection. And by the way, you are a child of Abraham. You have same access to these same promises that Abraham and anybody else you’ve seen in the scriptures, having access to. God will provide for you. And it’s not humans that make it happen. They might be mediators. They might be participating in God’s great work. We call it the Acts of the Apostles, but it’s really God’s Acts through the Apostles and others. So the invitation is, are we willing to trust that God will provide? And Peter is giving a demonstration. It’s not about us. This proves that God is the one who provides for us.
Jehovah, I love that. Now, as we come to this point in this man’s story, can we pause for a minute here and let’s focus on timing for a moment? Let’s rewind the clock a little bit. Let’s go back a year in this man’s life. We know that he’s laid daily at the gate of the temple. He’s always asking alms. People are walking by him. Thousands of people are walking by him. If his entire life, he’s been placed at the temple to beg, the possibility is pretty high that this man would have seen Jesus of Nazareth come and go multiple times in the temple. It’s even possible, if not probable, that this man might have seen the Savior heal other people in Jerusalem. He would have for sure, we would assume, have heard about the healings that Jesus of Nazareth was performing because that name meant something among the disabled community. And it’s even possible that he witnessed, for instance, the miracle in John chapter 9, which happened at the gate of the temple with the healing of the blind man who was sent down to the pool of Siloam. Which then causes this question to arise, if he saw or witnessed any of these events, is it possible that he would have thought, Well, what’s wrong with me?
Why don’t I get a miracle like they’re getting? Or why won’t he heal me like he’s healing them? Maybe I am a big sinner as bad as people are telling me that I am because of my disease or my disability in this case. And you could cause, or this could cause all kinds of questions of self doubt or discouragement. It’s an amazing thing to consider that it would have been very simple for the Lord Jesus Christ to come and heal this man during his ministry. But when it comes to trusting God, Elder Maxwell has said, we also have to trust his timing. And for that man, the timing wasn’t right. And it probably didn’t have very much to do with his faith, or his worthiness, or his desires. But it had everything to do with the Lord being the one in charge of his will and doing his work. Because of this event, you now give Peter, the chief apostle, and John an opportunity to experience this miracle with this man in such a way that it makes a profound difference in the early days of this growing group of disciples. Because you’re up in the temple, you have Peter now talking to these leaders of the Jews, telling them that they turned the Savior over to the Romans.
And again, he’s not talking to all the Jews. He’s talking to a very specific small group of the Sanhedrin, the leaders, the chief priests, as he’s telling them in verse 19, Repent, ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. Now you come over to chapter 4, and it says, As they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being grieved, that they taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
So they’re mad. Stop teaching this message about Jesus. We try to get rid of them. We don’t need his words.
Here anymore. And especially when you have Sadducees involved who don’t believe in the resurrection. They’ve adopted the Greek philosophy that the body is bad, if you will, baggage, that there is no resurrection. So they’re really frustrated with this. Verse 3 says, They laid hands on them, put them in hold until the next day, because it was now event tied. So we’re just going to put them in the prison and we set a guard. But you’ll notice verse 4, How be it many of them which heard the words, believed? And the number of the men was about 5,000.
We had about two stakes.
Are you seeing? You went from 120, and within a matter of days, we now have 8,120 plus any of the other trickle in converts that have come along, as it described, daily adding to their numbers. This is significant growth in the Church when you consider that you’re exploding the population of the Church. And isn’t it fascinating if you look at this through the lens of Zenis’ allegory in the Book of Mormon, Jacob chapter 5, it talks about how in the second visit of the Lord, it did grow quickly, and it led to the third visit, which was a state of a whole bunch of fruit, but none of it was tamed. And in the fourth and final visit, in the latter day visit of the Lord, the servants say, Let’s be careful. Let’s not do what they did before and graft in converts so quickly that it over powers the roots. Let’s do this slower, more methodically. And it’s a hearkening to this where this group is now overpowering the roots of the leadership that the Savior had set up through his three years ministry. So let’s look at verse 7, When they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have you done this?
Have you noticed how power, or by what name? It’s being used almost as a synonymous connection here, the names of Christ and the power that comes with the name of Jesus Christ and acting in the name of Jesus Christ in our callings, in our families, in our missionary efforts, in all of these things that we do in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we don’t do it alone. It’s once again the acts of the Lord working through our lives and ministries. And then verse 8 says, Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people and elders of Israel.
I love, again, filled with the Holy Ghost. Back to what Elder Holland said. This book is really a set of stories about how God is acting with his people through the Holy Ghost.
So then he preaches to them Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, there in verse 10, whom God raised from the dead. That’s the doctrine of the resurrection that those Sadducees aren’t going to like. Even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. It wasn’t us, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the stone which was set at not of you builders, which has become the head of the corner. Beautiful. Because what Peter just did here in front of the leaders of the people, the chief priests, he quoted Psalm 118 22 and Isaiah 28 16, and he interpreted it. And he said, You’re the ones who fulfill these prophesies of the Old Testament in your law by rejecting Jesus of Nazareth. At which point they, in verse 13 says, Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled. They’re sitting there scratching their chin, saying, Wait, how are you quoting scripture to us and interpreting it when you’re ignorant and unlearned? Now, really quick Greek lesson. Those two words in the Greek, the first one, unlearned, comes from the word aggromatos.
So gromatos means you’re literate. Aggromatos means you’re illiterate, you can’t read, you can’t write. So they’re looking at them saying, You’re illiterate. And the ignorant word is one of my favorites in Greek. And I don’t think you need any of us to translate this for you into English because the Greek word is idiotes, you’re illiterate idiot s, and you’re teaching us the gospel. You’ll notice this sense of pride and hotty puffed up in what we know. And how could you possibly teach us anything? We’re the experts in this. I love how the Lord calls the weak and the simple, the farm boys, the fishermen, if you will, to do his work and to spread this message to the world. So in verse 15, They commanded them to go aside and they conferred among themselves. So it’s the huddle time. And then when they bring them back together, they said in verse 18, They called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. So we command you, you can’t speak at all and you can’t say anything about Jesus anymore.
I love what he says in verse 19, Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye, for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
We’re not going to be dictated by you. Right. I love that. Verse 22 tells you, For the man was above 40 years old on whom this miracle of healing was showed. And it’s got all of Jerusalem in this uproar. And so verse 23, Being let go, they went to their own company and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said unto them.
So we do have another case of where the Holy Ghost is influencing the people. Verse 31, When they prayed, the place was shaken, where they were assembled together, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. Again, the invitation for us is to be connected to the spirit of God. Every week we go to sacrament, we promise to remember Jesus, and in return, we will have his spirit to be with us. The Book of Acts is examples of what happens when people always remember Jesus. We can have the same thing in our lives.
Now we go over to chapter 5, which has a story right here at the beginning that is a little troubling for a lot of people in latter day perspective. It’s the story of Ananias and Sophia because they’re living this common property, Zion approach, all things in common. Well, Ananias and Sophia sold the possession, but they kept back part of the price, and then they donate that in to the mix, and then they lie about it. Peter, talking to Ananias in the bottom of verse 4, says, Thou has not light unto men, but unto God. That’s at the core of what’s going on here. It sounds harsh. It sounds a little over the top, perhaps, to our sensitivities today. But if we keep that eternal perspective and say it’s the Lord Jesus Christ who’s governing this work, and it becomes a powerful lesson for that early body of saints and believers to say, keep your perspective on the Lord, not on earthly, worldly possessions and trying to get gain. So then you see the outcome in verse 11, Great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. So it had a major effect.
So to finish off chapter 5, this is a beautiful story where the Apostles are doing amazing signs and wonders. Even look at verse 15, In so much that they brought forth the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. This is how powerful the Lord is showing his miracles through the lives of his Apostles. Then, verse 17, The high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, which is the sect of the Sadducees, and were filled with indignation. So they threw them into the common prison. But the angel of Lord, by night, opened the prison doors and brought them forth and said, Go, stand and speak at the temple. In the temple to the temple, to the people all the words of this life. So in the morning when the high priests assemble, they’re like, Okay, we are ready for our court case again. We commanded them and they’re still doing it. So go get them out of prison. So they go, the guards are standing there, the prisons shut, they open the door and the Apostles aren’t in there.
They had arrested.
They’re in the temple teaching again and the Sadducees are just so flummoxed and confused. And they go to them in verse 28, Did not we straightly command you that you should not teach in this name? Verse 29, Peter and of the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. Just love his boldness. And we live in a world where sometimes people want us to hide our testimonies. And the invitation is we can let our lives shine the love of Jesus. And we don’t have to hide that we love Jesus and we show that by how we treat one another.
I love this character that comes up in verse 34 now. He’s a pharisee on the council by the name of Gamaliel, who actually is Paul’s or Sol, his teacher under the phariseic law. So later on, his name will come up again. He stands up in that council and he basically says, verse 38, Refrain from these men and let them alone. For if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to not. But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it. Lest happily you be found even to fight against God. Some of the wisely words given in this Sanhedrian counsel of, leave them alone, let things play out. So they departed, verse 40 says, To him they agreed. And when they had called the Apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. Brothers and sisters, can you picture this? They get brought out of the prison again. Now they beat them and then they let the Apostles go. The Apostles would be justified or have every earthly human right of saying, How fair is this? I’m on the Lord’s errand.
I’m doing what he wants me to do, and look what I give for it. I got beaten for it. And they could become bitter. They could shake their fist at heaven. I love what they did instead of that negative response. Notice verse 41. This is a verse you could mark as a pattern for us of how to endure tribulation, persecution, and pain and trials. They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing, that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. You want to talk about a repentance? They didn’t do anything wrong, but they repented. They turned towards God instead of turned against him or away from him. They changed the human natural man perspective. This is repentance, but they didn’t do anything wrong. But they discovered joy that comes from truly turning to the Lord and changing our heart and our focus to be put on him to say, I was worthy to suffer shame for his name. What a blessing. Hallelujah.
This is a very aspirational verse.
Yes. And then verse 42 ends by saying, And daily in the temple and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach. Jesus Christ. I love this. So, brothers and sisters, as we close this episode, whether you’d be waiting for a miracle that you’re seeing other people receive miracles, whether you’re waiting for an outpouring of the Holy Ghost to give guidance and direction or gifts of the Spirit, or whether you’re enduring intense pain and persecution and suffering or any struggles of the flesh. The fact is, if we keep our focus fixed firmly on one person, if we turn and look to the Savior Jesus Christ and to God, our Father, and invite them to send the Holy Ghost and trust in their will and trust in their timing, then we too will be able to move forward in the name or power of Jesus Christ and perform the works that he has laid out for us to fulfill in our day and in our families and in our callings. And we leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Know that you are loved.
And spread light and goodness.