The Guide To Life
June 30, 1996
日本キリスト教団 大阪のぞみ教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Osaka Nozomi Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA. Translated July 31, 2009
1. In the place that I read to you today is recorded Peter's second sermon in The Acts Of The Apostles. I would like to read with you today from there, laying stress, in particular, on the first half up to verse nineteen.
2. Well, this sermon was given at a place called "Solomon's Portico" in the temple in Jerusalem. A large crowd of people had gathered over by where Peter and John were. If I ask why did they gather, it is because the man who was born with the lame feet had been miraculously healed. The details of it are written in chapter three from verses one to ten, which I read to you last week. It is a very curious thing that happened, but wondrous works of healing like this have been seen in churches throughout the world throughout history and are not peculiar to the apostolic age. Christ still heals sickness and does mighty miracles. Works of healing are signs of the kingdom of God. They can take place even in this place today.
3. However, the crucial thing, what happened to this man, was more than the healing of his physical body. It says he "leaped up and stood, then began to walk. Then he walked around, danced, and praised God, and he entered the [temple] grounds with both of them," (3:8). As I gave it in the message last week, he thought that the grace of God had no connection to him. He himself thought he was cursed. Therefore, he had lost hope, never expecting anything new. But, here now, he was changed into a person who lived praising God. His life was changed at the core root.
4. For a human being to be changed is a greater miracle than the healing of the body or the liberation from poverty. And it is a miracle anybody can experience. Unless you are sick, you cannot experience the miracle of healing. And the sick are not necessarily bound to [stay] healed because their body will ultimately deteriorate. But the true nature of the miracle that happened in this man's life is something anybody can experience. He used to live in resignation, ready to give up, but then he started to live with an expectancy towards God and the eternal hope. His life used to be heading for death and the grave, but then he started to head for life. He used to be guided by lust, but he started to live for the glory of God and to live for the world of eternity. He had lost his joy, but then he changed into a man who danced with joy unto God. The body of Mr Genzoh Mizuno, who had been paralyzed since a fourth year student in elementary school, was never healed even until he finally died. Yet he wrote the following poem. "O sorrow, o sorrow, I truly thank you! / Had you not come, Had you not been strong What would I be now? / O sorrow, o sorrow, You led me / To the Lord Jesus / I have the great joy which this passing world does not / I have unchanging peace / O sorrow! (Genzoh Mizuno)." There is a great miracle here, there is the work of Christ here. He sounds like the man who was lame footed. The scripture says he was over forty years old. He had days and days of sorrow which looked as if they had been lost in futility for more than forty years. But, that past of his could not make him sad and sorrowful anymore because he was re-made by Christ and made into a man who gave glory and praise to God. The past was not a problem now because his life had started, that life in which he would be walking with God for all eternity.
5. [What happened] happened externally through the man named Peter. But Peter knew full well that he was no more than a passageway for Christ's grace. Therefore, he says to the assembled people. "O Israelites, why are you amazed at this? And why are you staring at us, as if we made him walk by our own power and piety?," (verse twelve). Peter was trying to turn the eyes of the people onto Christ alone; because as long as [the people] were turning their eyes on humans, salvation would not come from that [direction]. The point is it's in a relationship with Christ.
6. Even if we meet the most devout and pious of believers when going to church, salvation does not come from that. Even when we are amazed and impressed at how someone is, it has nothing directly to do with that person's salvation. We could even say the opposite. Even if we are disillusioned and disappointed with how someone is in the church, it is very foolish if ever the matter of one's personal salvation is influenced by that such a thing; because it is always and ever one's relationship with Christ that has to do with one's salvation.
7. Therefore, Peter makes the following statement in regard to this healed man. "The name of Jesus made strong this man whom you see and know. It comes from the faith which believes that name. The faith that is according to Jesus has perfectly healed this man right in the presence of everyone of you in this group," (3:16). On the one hand, he says, "The name of Jesus made [him] strong," on the other hand, he says, "The faith that is according to Jesus has healed [him]." It is Jesus himself who did the work. However, this man had received the grace of Christ by "faith."
8. Peter commanded him, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk!" Had this man rejected the name of Jesus by saying, "Don't say stupid things!," would the legs of this man have been healed? I don't think his life would have been changed, he would still just be carried and put in front of the temple and would have lived out his days without hope. But, when Peter took his right hand and made him stand up, he took Peter's help, believed the name of Jesus, and accepted the gift of salvation. We could actually say that God had extended his hand through Peter. Emil Brunner, a theologian, expressed it as "Faith is gripping onto the hand of God offered by God in Jesus Christ." He certainly did [that], he firmly gripped onto the hand of God as offered through the name of Jesus. Opening his heart he accepted the gift of grace. Whereupon, the miracle of salvation occurred. The name of Christ made him strong.
9. Well, Peter's wish in what happened to this man also happened to many others. All of them came to live in true life by the name of Christ. For that reason, what the problem is must be made clear. So, Peter began to discourse in verses thirteen and following. Please look.
10. "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors gave glory to Jesus the servant. However, you have handed Jesus over even though Pilate decided to release him, you refused him before [Pilate]. You refused the holy and righteous one, and asked that he pardon the murderer," (3:13-14).
11. In this way then, Peter turned the eyes of the people from himself [and John] unto Jesus himself. He says the event that happened right in front of the eyes of the people did not come from the strength of Peter [or John], rather, God had given glory to Jesus the servant. The word, "servant," probably comes from Isaiah chapter fifty-two and verse thirteen. "Look! My servant will prosper. He will be lifted up high and worshipped." This is the passage which has been read in the church as a pointer to Jesus, with the top part called "The Song Of The Suffering Servant." As sung in it, Jesus goes through the cross, is resurrected, and lifted up to [his] seat of divine authority. The glory of Jesus is manifested in this miracle of healing, says Peter.
12. And he declares to them that that same Jesus is the very one whom they have rejected. "You have handed Jesus over even though Pilate decided to release him, you refused him before [Pilate]. You refused the holy and righteous one, and asked that he pardon the murderer." He thrusts their sins right in front of their eyes. However, Peter does not simply blame them for committing the evil of putting a righteous man on the cross. He says their having rejected Jesus and putting him on the cross means precisely this, that they ended up murdering the one who is "the guide to life."
13. "The guide to life" is a phrase which has rich content having been translated variously in other translations as "the lord of life," "the creator of destiny," and other ways. Jesus is the one who demonstrates God's love, and has shown us the true life found in a rich relationship with God, and the eternal life. And Jesus came in order to guide [us] into the life that is in a relationship of love with God. Even in The Gospel According To John Jesus says the following. "The reason I came is so the sheep will receive life, and furthermore, so they will receive it abundantly," (John 10:10). But the people dismissed Jesus. They rejected the guide to life and killed him. Why [did they do that]? Various reasons can be offered, but to get to the main point, it was because the foundation for their way of living, their beliefs, and their positions were shaken by Jesus. The outlook on religion that they had, the outlook on human life that they had, and the outlook on the world that they had were all shaken [to the core]. That was necessary in order [for them] to obtain true life. But they rejected Jesus. They clung to themselves and cancelled out Jesus.
14. We see in this text the problem of their stubbornness and arrogance. However, this is not somebody else's problem. We of today are shown by this text our own problems. The fundamental sin of humankind is that stubbornness, it is that arrogance. It is arrogant for us to think we ourselves have the path to life. Whenever we think we can lead ourselves to true life on our own determination and strength, or whenever we feel we can lead our families and children to true life, that is a terrifyingly arrogant act. As a matter of fact, [we] are not leading [them or anyone] to life. The effects of this arrogance [of ours] lead to finding ourselves controlled by sin, controlled by Satan, controlled by our wants and self-centeredness, and far far away from life. That's the way we human beings really are in the real world.
15. They rejected the guide to life and killed him. But, "God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this," says Peter. The people had put God's grace aside by that sin. But, God is stronger than human sin. He who is stronger did not desert them. God did not desert this world. God raised the rejected and the murdered Jesus from the dead, and as the one who is the life guide to eternity, he stood up as the lord of eternity. Here is where the victory of God's grace is. Christ actually re-made a man before their very eyes and made [him] live in the true life.
16. Therefore, Peter continues to address the listening people, that the same thing might happen to them as well. Please look beginning at verse seventeen.
17. "However, brothers, I understand that you did that out of ignorance, just like [your] leaders. But, by what you did God has fulfilled the suffering of the messiah predicted through the mouths of all the prophets. Thus, repent and return, so that your sins will be erased away!," (verses seventeen through nineteen).
18. These words of Peter bring to mind the words of Jesus on the cross. During [his] suffering to death the Lord prayed, "O father, please forgive them. They do not know what they are doing," (Luke 23:34). When it is a moral sin, I and most anyone else see it for what it is. But, the real dreadfulness of sin lies where often times sin is not recognized as sin. There is a truly greater sin in thinking we have no sin. A more dreadful sin lies hidden away in thinking we are righteous. Most of the time, our arrogance, haughtiness, and stubborn hearts cannot recognize [these things] on their own. God is the one who can make us recognize [them].
19. Now, during the sermon, their problem became apparent to them through the workings of the Holy Spirit. In addition, God calls out to them through the apostle Peter. "Repent and return, so that your sins will be erased away!" God is amazingly forbearing and kind. The only thing God requires is repentance, that is, that you change direction. The only thing needed to reach life is that we are to turn to God. We're not asked how we have lived so far. We are re-made into persons whose sins are erased and who live praising God. And looking to the time of ultimate salvation, looking to that "time of comfort" as is written in verses twenty on down, "that time when all creation will be new," that is, that time when Christ will come back, we are made into persons who live looking in hope for the world of eternal blessings.
20. "You are the descendants of the prophets, you are the children of the covenant God made with your ancestors. 'Every nation on the earth will receive blessings by those born from you,' God said to Abraham. Thus, God established his own servant, and he sent him to you first. He did it so you would be separated from evil one by one and so you would be entrusted with that blessing," (3:26). Finally, Peter addressed the assembled Jews like this. Christ came to entrust them and furthermore every nation on this earth, every people, with blessing. Today, we too are being invited and called to the same blessing, that we might not be omitted from this blessing by rejecting the guide to life.