Last year at this time we were preaching from Acts called “Walking in the Way.” I covered the man at the Beautiful Gate (3.1-10) and then moved through the pericope on Solomon’s Portico (3.11-26). This is followed by the arrest of Peter and John in chapter 4. It is a story that merits reflection.
Acts 3-4 are essentially the same event and its fall out. Luke devotes considerable space to this event. The event is the “healing” of a lame man at the Hour of Prayer (known as the Tamid). In chapter 4, Peter comments on this man and what happened to him (but I get ahead of myself).
So, the question is, “Did Luke believe this Lame Man was “saved?” That is my question.
It dawned on me that this man is never told to “repent” or “be baptized” and is never so described by Luke. But Peter gives him a gift from the newly crowned Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. This “lame from birth” man is the target audience of Jesus’s own personal ministry. The Spirit came upon Jesus for the purpose of proclaiming Jubilee to the poor, the blind, to set the oppressed at liberty or forgiveness (cf. Lk 4.18) and Jesus’s defense against John the Baptist when the “lame walk” (Lk 7.21-22). So, at the very least Acts 3 is the Way doing what Jesus did (as Luke tells Theophilus).
Acts also hearkens back to passages like Isaiah 35.1-7 where joy and singing come from hands and knees (35.3) that have been strengthened (Luke is constantly grounding the Way in the Hebrew Bible in translation, the LXX). The prophet says “then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, then the lame shall leap like a deer, the tongue of the speechless sing for joy” (35.5-6). The prophet continues, “They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (35.10). But why? Because, Isaiah declares, “He [the Lord] will come and SAVE YOU” (v.4). The result of that salvation is “THEN the eyes … THEN the lame …” in v.5. This is what we see in Acts 3.
The lame man “enters the Temple” (this would be the Court of Women where the Tamid takes place) perhaps for the first time in his life and begins “walking and JUMPING, and praising God” (3.8).
After the Tamid (Hour of Prayer/Sacrifice), the man follows Peter and John to Solomon’s Portico. Peter tells the gathered crowd to “repent and turn so their sins may be wiped out and seasons of refreshment can come from the presence of the Lord” (3.19; cf. Lk. 24.47). This Messiah will, as the prophets promised, usher in a “time of universal restoration” (3.21).
The much-annoyed Sadducees show up. Peter and John are arrested. The next day they give a defense of their actions regarding the man at the Beautiful Gate. Peter says, “if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been SESISTAI …” (4.9). This man has been what?
A few verses later Peter says those famous words, “There is SOTERIA in no one else …” (4.12).
Sozo (v.9) is “saved” or “rescued” or “delivered.” It is the verb (present middle indicative). Soteria is “salvation,” “rescue,” “deliverance” etc and is the noun. (You can find both words in BDAG, pp. 982-3, 985-6).
Peter states this man is in a present state of salvation and the action that led to his salvation can be in no one else’s name but King Jesus who was raised and exalted. The statement in 4.12 points to the saving of the man.
Though most of our common English translations will use the word “healed” or the like in v.9, it is the word Luke uses repeatedly for salvation. For example, in 2.40, the same Peter says to the crowd in the Temple, “save yourselves from this corrupt and wicked generation” is the exact same term in 4.9.
We in our Hellenized, Platonized, doctrine of “salvation” drive a wedge between what call “spiritual” (i.e. deliverance from sin”) and “physical” (i.e. this man can walk). But Luke’s understanding of “salvation” is as comprehensive as Isaiah 35; Isaiah 61 and the Psalms (like Psalm 30, a text I am sure the Lame Man had prayed before).
King Jesus saved this man. He is from the very group the Messiah was anointed to deliver and proclaim liberation/deliverance/forgiveness to.
I know of only one translation that lets the English reader know Luke is using the same terminology (a verb and noun) in 4.9 and 4.12. That is Kingdom New Testament.
“if the question we’re being asked today is about a good deed done for a sick man, and whose power it was that RESCUED him …” (4.9).
“RESCUE won’t come from anybody else!” (4.12).
The Lame Man dancing in the Temple before the Lord is a Jubilee moment of victory/salvation in Luke’s mind as I read it. Salvation is healing creation in all of its dimensions. It is restoring the world, with you and me, to what God intended in the first place. And then some!
The work of King Jesus, crucified and risen, is to heal the world that has been vandalized by the fall (Genesis 3) in all, that is all, areas that finds any trace of the curse. There is no dichotomy between so called “physical” stuff and “spiritual” stuff here or anywhere in Luke’s writings. Luke’s “doctrine of salvation” is cosmic in breadth. It is stunning! The implications of this for the ongoing work of Jesus in local churches are profound.
Luke tells us this story at the beginning of his account of God renewing the people of God. He lingers on it. This lame man saved at the hour of prayer/sacrifice by King Jesus is a microcosm of what the Messiah will do for all creation when he appears. The ravages of sin and death so apparent in his frail body have been vanquished by Jubilee bought in by Jesus. Luke fastens our eyes upon this man and says, This is what salvation looks like.