Connections 04.15.2018: The Source

Acts 3:1-2, 6-7, 11-19

The Flint River flows not far from where I live in Central Georgia. Its headwaters are in Hapeville, Georgia. The river begins as groundwater seepage that goes into a concrete culvert and then under the runways at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Fifty miles or so later the water from several creeks has joined with that seepage to form the beautiful Flint. It runs for almost 350 miles, eventually joining with the Chattahoochee River to form Lake Seminole in Southwest Georgia. The sole river that exits Lake Seminole and goes to the Gulf of Mexico is the Apalachicola, thus we refer to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system.

The Flint is beautiful, but it is also controversial. It gets caught up in the “water wars” being waged between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama over access to the water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint system.

A few years ago I was listening to a rather eccentric fellow up in Minnesota who was holding forth on how important the Great Lakes are to the future of the United States. “If you think wars over oil are bad,” he opined, “just wait until we start fighting over water.” I usually dismiss such talk as paranoid ravings, but he had a point. Nothing is more vital to life than water, so if access to it ever becomes severely limited, things would get rough.

Imagine if the Flint were cut off at the source. What if someone somehow stopped the river before its headwaters could come out of the ground near the Atlanta airport? Much of the life supported by the river would shrivel up and die.

This week’s lesson text includes Peter’s sermon following the healing of a man who had never walked (v. 2). He says that the man’s healing came through the power of the resurrected Jesus (v. 16). He also says that people rejected Jesus, even though he is “the Author of Life” (v. 15)—which means he is the source of life—in favor of “a murderer” (v. 14)—someone who took life away.

Why do we so often reject life? Why do we try to block signs of life, such as love and hope, which flow from the source of the crucified and resurrected Christ? Why do we instead accept and even cling to attitudes and actions that take life away from us and others? Why do we cling to death when life is available, to despair when hope is available, and to hate or apathy when love is available?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this: we need to go back to the Source of life, to the Source of love and hope. We need to stay close to the Source.

We need to focus our lives on the Source, who is the crucified and resurrected Jesus.

Discussion

1. Who lies at our gates and asks for our help?
2. How can we help people in the name of Jesus? What do we have to offer? Do we offer it? How can we better offer it?
3. How do we know that God’s ultimate goal for us is life rather than death?
4. Peter says that God worked through the people’s ignorant actions to fulfill God’s purposes (vv. 17-18). Can we apply this truth to our lives while still taking our responsibilities seriously?
5. How does faith in Jesus bring health to our lives?

Reference Shelf

The primary thing that Peter wants his audience to understand is that the lame man was not healed by the power or piety of Peter and John, but by the power of the name of Jesus and faith in that name (see vv. 12, 13a, 16). Peter is careful to direct attention to Jesus and the God of Israel who stands behind him. By referring to God as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors” (cf. Exod 3:6, 15), Peter is explicitly connecting the healing of the lame man with the activity of the God who liberated Israel from the bondage of Egypt. Thus, God “glorified his servant Jesus” through the healing of the lame man (v. 13). In referring to Jesus as “the servant of God,” Peter is using language to describe Jesus that intersects with the last of the Servant Songs of Isaiah (52:13–53:12, esp. 52:13; 53:11, 12). Such explicit connections with the Jewish Scriptures again show the continuity between Israel’s story and that of Jesus.

Peter insists that the healing was accomplished through the name of Jesus and faith in his name (v. 16). Here, “name of Jesus” refers to some- thing done under the power and authority of the one named. Those acting “in the name of ” are instruments; the one in whose name they act is the real source of power. But Peter also speaks of “faith in his name” and, further, “the faith that is through him [Jesus].” The objective source of power for healing is Jesus the Messiah. Yet it is a power only made effective in the context of human faith.

J. Bradley Chance, Acts, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2007), 70-71.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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