(1) Now Peter and John went up.—Better, were going up. The union of the two brings the narratives of the Gospels into an interesting connection with the Acts. They were probably about the same age (the idea that Peter was some years older than John rests mainly on the pictures which artists have drawn from their imagination, and has no evidence in Scripture), and had been friends from their youth upward. They had been partners as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:10). They had been sharers in looking for the consolation of Israel, and had together received the baptism of John (John 1:41). John and Andrew had striven which should be the first to tell Peter that they had found the Christ (John 1:41). The two had been sent together to prepare for the Passover (Luke 22:8). John takes Peter into the palace of the high priest (John 18:16), and though he must have witnessed his denials is not estranged from him. It is to John that Peter turns for comfort after his fall, and with him he comes to the sepulchre on the morning of the Resurrection (John 20:6). The eager affection which, now more strongly than ever, bound the two together is seen in Peter’s question, “Lord, and what shall this man do?” (John 21:21); and now they are again sharers in action and in heart, in teaching and in worship. Passing rivalries there may have been, disputes which was the greatest, prayers for places on the right hand and the left (Matthew 20:20; Mark 10:35); but the idea maintained by Renan (Vie de Jésus, Introduction), that St. John wrote his Gospel to exalt himself at the expense of Peter, must take its place among the delirantium somnia, the morbid imaginations, of inventive interpretation. They appear in company again in the mission to Samaria (Acts 8:14), and in recognising the work that had been done by Paul and Barnabas among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:9). When it was that they parted never to meet again, we have no record. No account is given as to the interval that had passed since the Day of Pentecost. Presumably the brief notice at the end of Acts 2 was meant to summarise a gradual progress, marked by no striking incidents, which may have gone on for several months. The absence of chronological data in the Acts, as a book written by one who in the Gospel appears to lay stress on such matters (Luke 3:1; Luke 6:2), is somewhat remarkable. The most natural explanation is that he found the informants who supplied him with his facts somewhat uncertain on these points, and that, as a truthful historian, he would not invent dates.
At the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour—sc., 3 P.M., the hour of the evening sacrifice (Jos. Ant. xiv. 4, § 3). The traditions of later Judaism had fixed the third, the sixth, and the ninth hours of each day as times for private prayer. Daniel’s practice of praying three times a day seems to imply a rule of the same kind, and Psalm 55:17 (“evening and morning and at noon will I pray”) carries the practice up to the time of David. “Seven times a day” was, perhaps, the rule of those who aimed at a life of higher devotion (Psalm 119:164). Both practices passed into the usage of the Christian Church certainly as early as the second century, and probably therefore in the first. The three hours were observed by many at Alexandria in the time of Clement (Strom, vii. p. 722). The seven became the “canonical hours” of Western Christendom, the term first appearing in the Rule of St. Benedict (ob. A.D. 542) and being used by Bede (A.D. 701).
Was carried.—Better, was being carried.
The gate of the temple which is called Beautiful.—Literally, door, though “gate” is used in Acts 3:10. No gate of this name is mentioned by other writers, but it was probably identical either (1) with the gate of Nicanor (so called, according to one tradition, because the hand of the great enemy of Judah had been nailed to it as a trophy), which was the main eastern entrance of the inner court (Stanley’s Jewish Church, iii. p. 323); or (2) the Susa gate, also on the eastern side, and named in memory of the old historical connection between Judah and Persia, leading into the outer court of the women. The latter was of fine Corinthian brass, so massive that twenty men were required to open or shut it (Jos. Wars, v. 5, § 3).
To ask alms of them that entered into the temple.—The approaches of the Temple, like those of modern mosques, were commonly thronged with the blind, lame, and other mendicants. (Comp. John 9:8.) The practice was common at Constantinople in the time of Chrysostom, and has prevailed largely throughout Christendom.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth . . . .—The full trust with which the words were spoken was in part a simple act of faith in their Master’s promise (Mark 16:18), in part the result of a past experience in the exercise of like powers (Mark 6:13). And the Name in which they spoke could hardly have been a new name to the cripple. Among the beggars at the Temple-gate there had once been the blind man who received his sight at the pool of Siloam (John 9:7-8). The healing of the cripple at Bethesda (John 5:2; John 5:14) could scarcely have been unknown to the sufferer from a like infirmity. What made the call to rise and walk a test of faith was that, but a few weeks before, that Name had been seen on the superscription over the cross on which He who bore it had been condemned to die as one that deceived the people (John 7:12).
As though by our own. . . . holiness. . . .—Better, purity, or devotion. The words refer to what may be called the popular theory of miracles, that if a man were devout, i.e., “a worshipper of God,” God would hear him (John 9:31). That theory might be true in itself generally, but the Apostle disclaims it in this special instance. No purity of his own would have availed, but for the Name, i.e., the power, of Jesus of Nazareth.
Hath glorified his Son Jesus.—Better, Servant. The word is that used throughout the later chanters of Isaiah for “the servant of Jehovah” (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:11). It meets us again in Acts 3:26; Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30, and as applied to Christ, is peculiar to the Acts, with the exception of the citation from Isaiah in Matthew 12:18. It is, therefore, more distinctive than “Son” would have been, and implies the general Messianic interpretation of the prophetic language in which it is so prominent.
When he was determined.—Better, when he had decided; the word implying, not a purpose only, but a formal act, as in Luke 23:16.
Desired a murderer to be granted unto you.—The fact that Barabbas was a murderer as well as a robber is stated by St. Mark (Mark 15:7) and St. Luke (Luke 23:12) only.
Whereof we are witnesses.—St. Peter falls back, as in Acts 2:32 (where see Note), on this attestation to the one central fact.
Hath made this man strong.—The verb is the same as that which had been used in Acts 3:7 of the “feet and ankle-bones.” It was Jesus who had given them that new firmness.
The faith which is by him.—The causation of the miracle is carried yet another step backward. The faith which was alike in the healer and in the man healed was itself wrought in each by the power of Christ. The man was first a willing recipient of that faith spiritually, and then was in a state that made him worthy to be a recipient also of the bodily restoration.
This perfect soundness.—Literally, this completeness. This is the only passage in the New Testament in which the word occurs. The cognate adjective is found in the “whole” of 1 Thessalonians 5:23; the “complete” of James 1:4.
That your sins may be blotted out.—This is the only passage in which the verb is directly connected with sins. The image that underlies the words (as in Colossians 2:14) is that of an indictment which catalogues the sins of the penitent, and which the pardoning love of the Father cancels. The word and the thought are found in Psalm 51:10; Isaiah 43:25.
When the times of refreshing shall come.—Better, “that so the times of refreshing may come.” The Greek conjunction never has the force of “when.” The thought is that again expressed both by St. Peter (2 Peter 3:12) and by St. Paul (Romans 11:25-27); that the conversion of sinners, especially the conversion of Israel, will have a power to accelerate the fulfilment of God’s purposes, and, therefore, the coming of His kingdom in its completeness. The word for “refreshing” is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but the cognate verb meets us in 2 Timothy 1:16. In the Greek version of Exodus 8:15, it stands where we have “respite.” The “times of refreshing” are distinguished from the “restitution of all things” of Acts 3:21, and would seem to be, as it were, the gracious preludes of that great consummation. The souls of the weary would be quickened as by the fresh breeze of morning; the fire of persecution assuaged as by “a moist whistling wind” (Song of the Three Children, Acts 3:24). Israel, as a nation, did not repent, and therefore hatred and strife went on to the bitter end without refreshment. For every church, or nation, or family, those “times of refreshing” come as the sequel of a true conversion, and prepare the way for a more complete restoration.
Which before was preached unto you.—The better MSS. have, which was fore-appointed, or fore-ordained, for you.
Until the times of restitution of all things.—The “times” seem distinguished from the “seasons” as more permanent. This is the only passage in which the word translated “restitution” is found in the New Testament; nor is it found in the LXX. version of the Old. Etymologically, it conveys the thought of restoration to an earlier and better state, rather than that of simple consummation or completion, which the immediate context seems, in some measure, to suggest. It finds an interesting parallel in the “new heavens and new earth”—involving, as they do, a restoration of all things to their true order—of 2 Peter 3:13. It does not necessarily involve, as some have thought, the final salvation of all men, but it does express the idea of a state in which “righteousness,” and not “sin,” shall have dominion over a redeemed and new created world; and that idea suggests a wider hope as to the possibilities of growth in wisdom and holiness, or even of repentance and conversion, in the unseen world than that with which Christendom has too often been content. The corresponding verb is found in the words, “Elias truly shall come first, and restore all things” (see Note on Matthew 17:11); and St. Peter’s words may well be looked on as an echo of that teaching, and so as an undesigned coincidence testifying to the truth of St. Matthew’s record.
Which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets.—The relative, if we take the meaning given above, must be referred to the “times,” not to “things.” The words, compared with 2 Peter 1:21, are, as it were, the utterance of a profound dogmatic truth. The prophets spake as “they were moved by the Holy Ghost”; but He who spake by them was nothing less than God.
Since the world began.—Literally, from the age—i.e., from its earliest point. The words take in the promises to Adam (Genesis 3:15) and Abraham (Genesis 22:18). See Note on Luke 1:70, of which St. Peter’s words are as an echo.
In all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.—The words are inserted by St. Peter as a parenthesis in the actual quotation, and suggest the thought of a quotation from memory.
His Son Jesus.—Better, as before, Servant. (See Note on Acts 3:13.)
Sent him to bless you.—The Greek structure gives the present participle where the English has the infinitive, sent Him as in the act of blessing. The verb which strictly and commonly expresses a spoken benediction is here used in a secondary sense, as conveying the reality of blessedness. And the blessing is found, not in mere exemption from punishment, not even in pardon and reconciliation, but in a change of heart, in “turning each man from his wickednesses.” The plural of the abstract noun implies, as in Mark 7:22, all the many concrete forms in which man’s wickedness could show itself.