Caution: The Dilemma At the Gate of the Temple

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of Christ and community of believers as written and written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke in the book of Acts—an account not of the physical person of Jesus the Christ, but of the body of Christ which would be filled with His Spirit and would be endued with power from on high. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the third chapter begins with the first verse of the third chapter and continues through to the twenty-sixth verse of the same chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the events written and recorded in the second chapter of the book of Acts having been completed and the events of the third chapter unfolding. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning the scripture it’s that when it was written it wasn’t written with chapter and verse. Chapters and verses weren’t included and incorporated in the scripture until centuries later in order that study of the scripture might be easier for those seeking to study it. The nature of such a reality includes in this writing is because when we come to the events which are recorded in the third chapter of the book of Acts, we must not try and understand them as being independent of that which is found in the second chapter. If you turn and direct your attention back to what is written and recorded within the second chapter you will find that when those in the upper room were accused of being filled with new wine—essentially drunk—the apostle Peter stood up in the midst of the crowd and declared unto them that they weren’t drunk for it was only the third hour of the day. Please mark and please pay close attention to what is written and recorded in the second chapter, for what we find concerning the time mentioned in the second chapter is that there is a direct connection between what is written and mentioned in the third chapter. In the second chapter we find the events which took place did so around the third hour of the day, while when the third chapter begins and opens up it does so with the beloved physician Luke writing and recording how at the ninth hour the apostles Peter and John were going up to the Temple at the ninth hour to pray. What’s more, is that the physician Luke also goes on to declare concerning these two apostles that when they were heading and going up to the Temple they were doing so at the ninth hour which was in fact the hour of prayer. Essentially what we must understand concerning the opening of the third chapter of the New Testament book of Acts was that the events which took place here are separated from the events of the second chapter by six hours.

As you draw near and come to the third chapter of the book of Acts you will find the apostles Peter and John heading to the Temple a mere six hours after the apostle peter stood up before the crowd in the city of Jerusalem and spoke unto them concerning the events which transpired on that day. What’s more, is that there is something intriguing and captivating when you come to the final verses of the second chapter, for when you come to the final verses of the chapter you will find the physician Luke writing and recording how all those who were baptized, and all those who had committed and given themselves unto the living God continued daily in the Temple and daily in prayer. By the time you come to the final verses of the second chapter you will find and discover that those who were added to the fellowship and community of one hundred and twenty—together with the one hundred and twenty—continued steadfastly in prayer and in supplication and did so at the Temple. Of course we know from the scriptural account that they gave themselves to the breaking of bread from house to house, but the physician Luke was careful to include the reality that those who made up the early church at the very beginning were those who gave themselves continually to prayer and to devotion unto the living God at the Temple. What we find at the beginning and opening of the third chapter is the direct manifestation of that which was stated in the final verses of the second chapter, for in the third chapter you find the apostles Peter and John going up to the Temple at the ninth hour. Even more than this—not only do you find the apostles Peter and John going up to the Temple, but you find them doing so at the hour of prayer. Thus what we see and what we find in the opening verses of this chapter is a wonderful and powerful reality of these two apostles going up unto the Temple in order that they might serve the living God through prayer, through supplications and through intercession. We dare not forget and lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss and lose out on the incredible importance of what took place in the third chapter. We must acknowledge and be willing to understand that the events we find and read in the third chapter are only a mere six hours apart from the events which took place on the day of Pentecost when there came the sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and all those who were present in that room were filled with the Spirit and spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

What I find to be so absolutely fascinating about that which we find and read in the third chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is that what seems to set the stage for the events that unfolded a mere six hours after the experience of the upper room was the apostles Peter and John going up unto the temple for prayer. I happen to find it incredibly intriguing and interesting to think about and consider the fact that when we read of the actual event of what has commonly been associated with the day of Pentecost we don’t read anything concerning healing, signs, wonders and miracles. When the Holy Spirit actually filled the room there the one hundred and twenty were He did fill them completely: and He did baptize them with other tongues and with fire, but we don’t immediately read of those who were present in the upper room going out and healing men and women and performing signs and wonders within the city of Jerusalem. When you read the words which are found in the second chapter of the book of Acts you will find that there is no mention of the city of Jerusalem being captivated and in awe at the signs and wonders that were being performed by the apostles, nor the one hundred and nine others that were present in the room. That which captivated the entire city was the fact that devout Jews from every nation under the sun heard these Galilaeans speaking unto them in their own tongue and their own language. If you read the words which are found within the second chapter of the book of Acts you will find that that which stirred the city and that which captivated and took the city by Storm was the fact that those who were present in the upper room spoke with other tongues, and did so as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. It wasn’t signs, it wasn’t wonders and it wasn’t miracles that initially took place on the day of Pentecost, but rather it was the fact that those who were present in the upper room spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Those one hundred and twenty in the upper room spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance, and those who were present within the city of Jerusalem heard them speak in their own languages and tongues. It was the fact that the nations represented in Jerusalem heard the mighty wonders and works of God being spoken in their own language that captivated the attention of those who were present within the city of Jerusalem. I find this to be absolutely and incredibly challenging concerning the day of Pentecost, for when we think of the day of Pentecost we think of power—and rightfully so. What we don’t think about and what we don’t realize is that the power that was initially displayed on the day of Pentecost wasn’t power to perform signs, wonders and miracles, but the power to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. It might very well be said that the whole purpose and function of tongues on the day of Pentecost was as a signpost to grab and capture the attention of men and women within the city. It might very well be said that what we find and what we read concerning the day of Pentecost was in fact a wonderful and powerful declaration and demonstration of the Spirit first filling those who were present within the upper room, and then giving them the ability to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. We dare not, we cannot, we must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss and lose sight of that which actually took place on the day of Pentecost at the third hour. It was at the third hour when those in the upper room were all with one accord in one place and undoubtedly gave themselves to prayer and supplication. It was at the third hour of the day when the Holy Spirit filled the room with a sound as of a mighty rushing wind, and when cloven tongues as of fire sat and rested upon the heads of each and every one who were present in the room.

Popular Christian author John MacArthur wrote a book entitled Six Hours One Friday, and essentially the entire premise of the book was about the six hours in which Jesus the Christ hung upon the cross of Calvary outside Jerusalem. The entire premise of the book was to describe the events which took place on this particular day when for a period of six hours Jesus the Christ hung upon the cross naked, battered, bruised and bleeding. What’s more, is that if you read and study the scriptural account of the death and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ you will find that from the sixth hour unto the ninth hour there was a darkness which covered the face of the whole land. It was over a period of six hours that Jesus actually hung upon the cross before crying with a loud voice, saying “It is finished,” and before commending His Spirit into the hands of the Father. What’s more, is that of those six hours in which Jesus hung there naked and bleeding upon the cross three of those hours was spent with darkness covering the entire face of the land. As you read the various accounts of the death and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ you will find that the first three hours of His hanging upon the cross seemed to be hours of somewhat calm before the storm would collide all around and upon the cross. It would be at the sixth hour of the day—three hours after Jesus the Christ was nailed to the cross—that darkness covered the entire face of the land. I still to this day firmly believe and am convinced that what we read and what we find during these three hours when darkness covered the face of the land we read of more than just a physical and natural darkness. Oh I do believe that there might have been a physical and natural darkness that covered the face of the land at that time, however, I firmly believe that the darkness we read about during those three hours was a spiritual darkness that was created and manifested by the tremendous convergence of the powers of darkness upon the cross and upon Jesus the Christ. I am completely and utterly convinced that what we find in this passage when we read of darkness covering the face of the whole land is the powers of darkness, the powers of hell, as well we every spiritual wickedness in high places descending upon the cross. I believe that what we find when we read of the darkness that covered the face of the whole land was a darkness that was produced by the immediate convergence of the powers of darkness upon the cross. I firmly believe that while Jesus hung there suspended between earth and sky, and while Jesus hung there fastened to the cross, He hung there essentially as divine bait with which to entice all the powers of hell and all the powers of darkness to converge upon Him there at the cross. I believe with all my heart that what we find in this passage concerning the three hours when darkness covered the face of the whole land was every principality and every power of hell and every power of darkness covering the face of the land as they sought to surround Jesus the Christ. I still believe that when Jesus the Christ cried out with a loud voice asking why God had forsaken Him, He was crying out because in that moment He found Himself completely surrounded on all sides by all His enemies and all His adversaries.

John MacArthur wrote this book which was entitled Six Hours One Friday to describe the events which took place on the cross. For six hours Jesus the Christ hung there suspended between earth and sky, and hung there naked and bleeding upon the cross—not only surrounded by enemies and adversaries in the natural realm, but also enemies and adversaries in the spiritual realm. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we read and what we find in the four gospels is a truly wonderful and powerful picture of Jesus the Christ hanging upon the cross for a period of six hours. We must recognize and understand this reality, for this reality helps shine a great amount of light on what we read and what we find in the New Testament book of Acts. When you come to the third chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find a second period of six hours on a single day taking place. This second period of six hours, however, was not one of death and crucifixion, but rather was one of the divine person and presence of the Holy Spirit. This second period of six hours had absolutely nothing to do with the six hours in which Jesus the Christ hung upon the cross—although it would be precisely because Jesus hung upon the cross fifty days earlier that the events which took place on the day of Pentecost would and could even be made possible. Oh that we would recognize and come face to face with the fact that what we find and what we read in the second and third chapters of the book of Acts deal exclusively and specifically with a period of six hours which took place on a day that was fifty days apart from the death and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. Here fifty days after Jesus Himself hung upon the cross of Calvary we find His spiritual body which was birthed in the upper room within the city of Jerusalem, as well as in the streets of Jerusalem being manifested in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. What we find in the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is a truly wonderful and powerful picture of six hours which dramatically shaped and altered the course of history—much like the previous set of six hours fifty days earlier shaped and altered history. In all reality we must come face to face with the awesome and wonderful reality that it was the first set of six hours that changed and altered the course of history concerning salvation, concerning redemption, and concerning justification, however, it was this second set of six hours that would touch the realm of power, the realm of being a witness for Jesus Christ unto the nations of the earth. It would be the six hours which Jesus the Christ hung upon the cross that would dramatically alter the course of history to begin with, and it would be this second set of six hours that would dramatically alter the course of history, for this second set of six hours would result in the creation and birth of the church of Jesus the Christ.

As you draw near and approach the words which are found in the third chapter of the book of Acts you will find that at the ninth hour the apostles Peter and John were headed up to the Temple in order that they might devote themselves to prayer and supplication before the living God. What we find at the third chapter is that six hours after the events of Pentecost unfolded and were experienced in the upper room the apostles Peter and John would have the opportunity to engage themselves in the works which Jesus the Christ Himself did while He was on the earth. We learn and discover within the final verses of the second chapter of the book of Acts that the Lord confirmed the preaching of the word of Christ through many signs, through many wonders and miracles. When we come to the third chapter of this book of Acts we come face to face with the reality of what this looked like on a personal and indivisible level and basis. It would have been one thing to merely speak of the apostles performing signs, wonders and miracles during the days of the early church, however, it takes on a whole different level when you think about the fact that the apostles had the chance to engage themselves in the works of Christ on a personal and individual level. Within the third chapter of the book of Acts you will encounter and come face to face with a man who was daily laid at the gate of the Temple in order that he might ask and beg alms. Pause for a moment and think about and consider this, for think about the fact that not only was this man daily at and daily outside the Temple, but he was also outside the Temple asking alms and begging of those who went up to the temple daily. Oh I find it absolutely and incredibly intriguing and captivating to think about and consider the fact that this man was asking for alms and begging of others at the Temple, for I wonder how many who went up to the Temple were faced with a decision whether they would give extra money unto this man. I would imagine men and women coming up into the house of the Lord and speaking within themselves that they weren’t prepared to give extra unto this man who sat begging and asking for alms. I can almost hear those who made their way to the Temple saying within themselves and even unto the living God, “God, surely giving unto you would be more important than giving to this man. Surely you wouldn’t ask us to take from giving unto you and give unto this man. Surely you wouldn’t ask us to not only give unto you, but also give unto this man as well.” DILEMMA AT THE TEMPLE! Oh I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that I am sure there was a tremendous dilemma countless men and women faced as they went up to the Temple to give their offerings unto the Lord. I wonder how many men and women walked daily unto the Temple, brought their offerings unto the Lord, saw this man sitting at the gate of the Temple, and walked right past this man in order to give their offerings unto the Lord while completely ignoring him.

A DILEMMA OF OFFERINGS! A DILEMMA OF PRAYER! A DILEMMA OF WORSHIP! I sit here this morning and I can’t help but think about the incredible dilemma those who walked up to the Temple might very well have faced when they say this man sitting at the gate of the Temple. I have to admit that I find it to be absolutely and incredibly telling and incredibly intriguing that Luke not only writes and records that this man was placed at the gate of the Temple, but that he was placed at the gate of the Temple and sat there daily begging alms. It’s quite astonishing and quite remarkable to think about and consider the fact that this man was lame from his mother’s womb and at one point in his life he began to be brought unto the Temple where he was placed in order that he might beg and ask alms from those who would go up into the house of the Lord. Pause for a moment and consider the fact of being so close to the Temple, and yet because of your condition you were unable to actually go up into the Temple. Scripture makes it perfectly clear that this man daily sat at the gate of the Temple and daily sat outside the Temple, and I can’t help but think about and consider whether or not this man ever actually entered into the Temple. Is it possible that while this man was daily brought to the Temple where he would beg and ask alms, he never actually entered into the Temple? Is it possible that more than this man asking and begging for alms of those who passed him by, he desired to enter into the Temple and house of the Lord. Imagine being so close to the house of the Lord, and yet you are forced to remain and abide outside because of your condition. What we don’t find and what we don’t read within this passage of Scripture is that men and women brought this man into the Temple of the Lord, nor even into the courts of the Temple, but rather that they brought him to the gate of the Temple. Think about and consider the fact that they were willing to bring him as far as the gate of the Temple, bout none were actually willing to bring him into the Temple. Is it possible that there were those who were somehow ashamed and afraid to enter into the Temple with this man who was lame from birth? Is it possible that men and women weren’t willing to allow themselves to be inconvenienced by this man who was lame from birth because of the tremendous responsibility it would place upon their shoulders as they themselves entered into the Temple? There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if those who brought this man unto the Temple brought him to the Temple and then departed after they essentially “dropped him off outside the Temple,” or if after they dropped him off outside the Temple, they themselves walked in. Think about what it could have been like as those who brought this man unto the gate of the Temple could very well have brought him as far as the gate of the Temple, left him behind at the gate, and they themselves walked into the courts of the Temple and entered into the courts of the Lord. Think about what it must have been like for this man to be left outside the courts of the Temple and left at the gate of the Temple as those who brought him were able to walk straight up into the courts of the Temple.

I can’t help but think about the tremendous responsibility and the tremendous burden it could very well have placed upon the shoulders of those who brought this man unto the Temple, for they would have to decide whether or not they would bring him into the Temple, or whether they would leave him outside and they themselves enter in. The more I read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture the more I can’t help but come face to face with the tremendous dilemma that surrounded this man who was daily placed at the gate of the Temple—not only by those who brought this man unto the Temple, but also by those who would daily go up to the Temple to worship, to bring their tithes, to bring their offerings, and to bring their worship unto the living God. I read the words which are found within this particular chapter and I can’t help but wonder at the dilemma those who brought this man unto the Temple, for would they go the extra mile and bring this man into the courts of the Temple, or would they stop short and bring this man unto the gate of the Temple and leave him outside while they themselves went up into the Temple of the Lord. LEAVING NEEDS OUTSIDE THE TEMPLE! LEAVING NEEDS OUTSIDE THE HOUSE OF GOD! Oh, as I sit here this morning and read the words which are found and contained within this passage I can’t help but come face to face with the absolutely incredible challenge countless churches face in this generation with actually bringing the needs of those present outside the four walls into the house of God, or whether or not they leave the need outside. What we find and what we read in this passage of Scripture is that there were those who were willing to bring this man as far as the gate of the Temple, however, there is absolutely no indication that they were willing to bring him any further than the gate of the Temple. Pause and consider those who themselves were free, those who themselves were whole, and those themselves who were able to walk freely into the house of the living God, and yet they left this man outside begging. OH what a tremendous indictment of many churches and many houses of worship today that will enter into the house of God themselves, and yet they will leave the needs of men and women outside the walls of the church. I sit here this morning and I can’t help but wonder how many needs are being and how many needs have been left outside the house of God simply because of the tremendous burden and weight it would place on those who are actually able to enter into the house of the Lord. I am convinced that one of the greatest tragedies countless churches and countless Christian circles face today is leaving men and women outside the house of God—not only with their need, but also forced to beg and ask for alms. LEFT OUTSIDE THE HOUSE OF GOD IN THE PLACE OF NEED BEGGING! Think about this reality for a moment and consider the tremendous fact of men and women who might desperately desire to enter into the house of the Lord, and yet they have within their lives a need that somehow keeps them outside the house and begging of others. Oh, how many men and women are currently and presently outside the house of the Lord—not only forced to contend with their need, but also forced to beg from others hoping that there will be someone who will help and reach out to them. If we are being truly honest with ourselves and with the living God we must acknowledge the absolutely incredible reality that there are countless men and women who are and who have been left outside the house of the Lord in their present state of need, and are forced to beg from others hoping for and expecting someone to extend hope unto them.

With all of this being said, I would dare say that there is another dilemma that is present in the account of this man who was born lame from his mother’s womb, and that is the dilemma of worship and prayer. Think about how many countless men and women would have made their way unto the Temple of the living God with the desire and expectation to worship before the throne of the living God with their tithes and offerings, and how many of them would have seen this man sitting at the gate of the Temple begging and asking for alms. How many men and women would see and come upon this man and would think absolutely nothing concerning him because they were focused solely on entering into the house of the Lord and engaging in their worship before and unto the living God. How many men and women were unwilling to allow themselves to be interrupted because they were so bent on going up to the courts of the house of the Lord to worship before the living God? How many men and women were completely and utterly unwilling to stop and pay this man any mind or attention simply because they were going up to the house to worship before the throne of the living God? For such men and women their worship of the living God was more important than the need(s) which were right in front of them outside the Temple and sat at the very gate. Oh how absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that there were countless men and women who much like the Levite and the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan walked right by the one in need, and even passed by on the other side of the gate, thus not paying any attention or any mind to the one who was right before them. What’s more, is that such men and women would enter into the house of the Lord with their tithe, with their offering, with their gift, and not only were they unwilling to be bothered by this man, but they also were unwilling to take from what they had in order that they might give unto this man. I wonder how many men and women passed by this man on a daily basis and gave their tithes and offerings unto the living God, yet they were unwilling to give unto this man in his place of need. I go back to the reality of men and women who might very well say within themselves and unto the Lord that surely God would not ask them to give above and beyond that which they were already giving unto Him. Such men and women would be faced with the dilemma of whether or not they would be willing to give additional resources and additional funds unto this man in order that they might be able to help him in his place of need. Even more than this, there were those who would go up to the house of the Lord to engage themselves in prayer and supplication, and they were unwilling to deviate from their prayer and supplication in order that they might appear before and unto the living God. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many men and women came unto the house of the Lord to give themselves to prayer and supplication before and unto the living God, and yet they were absolutely unwilling to be bothered with and by this man and his need. For them prayer and supplication was of utmost importance, and yet that prayer and supplication would not allow them any type of room for interruptions and distractions. Oh think about what a tremendous tragedy it is to think about and consider the fact that needs outside the house of the living God could actually be perceived as a distraction and inconvenience by those who were going up into it in order that they might offer prayer and supplications before the Lord, and in order that they might worship the living God with their tithes and offerings.

When I read the words which are found in this passage of scripture I find it absolutely amazing that not only does it record that Peter and John spoke with this man, but also the fact that Peter fastened his eyes on him. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women walked right by this man day after day without making any eye contact. How many men and women marched straight up into the temple without paying any attention to this man, and perhaps even ignoring him? How many men and women justified walking right by this man because they were going up to the house of the Lord to worship and to pray? One thing I so absolutely love about this passage is that peter wasn’t willing to simply walk right by this man and pretend as though he didn’t exist. Much like the Good Samaritan who actually took the time to invest in that one who was mugged, robbed and left for dead, Peter and John fastened their eyes on this man and looked straight at him. How truly wonderful and remarkable it is to think about and consider the fact that these two men weren’t willing to pretend as though this man didn’t exist. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder if this man had an inward longing and desire to enter into the Temple and enter into the house of the Lord, and to do so just like he watched countless others do day in and day out. Is it possible that Peter and John sensed and discerned this reality and the desire of this man’s heart and not only fastened their eyes on him, but also acknowledged and addressed him? When peter spoke to this man he stated very clearly that he didn’t have silver or gold, but what he did have he gave unto him. He immediately took this man by the hand, raised him to his feet and declared unto him that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. I find this absolutely amazing, for Peter wasn’t willing to simply pass by this man—even if he and John were going up to prayer at the ninth hour. How absolutely remarkable and astonishing it is to read the words found in this passage and come face to face with the fact that this man was most likely passed by and ignored, and yet even though Peter and John were walking to the Temple to pray they were unwilling to ignore and pass him by. Oh how truly wonderful and amazing it is to think about and consider the fact that Peter was willing to Not walk right by this man, but was willing to look straight at him and fasten his eyes on him. Peter was not willing to ignore this man, nor was he willing to pretend as though he didn’t exist. As we read the words which are found in this passage we must allow ourselves to be challenged at how we respond to interruptions and distractions within our lives, as well as the needs which we are confronted with on a day to day basis—even as we go up to the house of the Lord.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s