Grace in the Portico

Acts 3:17-26 (NLT)

“Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things. Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.’ Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from God’s people.’

“Starting with Samuel, every prophet spoke about what is happening today. You are the children of those prophets, and you are included in the covenant God promised to your ancestors. For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants all the families on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, Jesus, he sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.”


By Chuck Griffin

Just as Jesus had done during his earthly ministry, the Apostle Peter was able to teach and preach in conjunction with powerful signs that drew in the people. In this case, Peter and John had brought healing to a man lame from birth, a man who had sat in one of the temple gates for decades to beg.

The miraculous healing was enough for a crowd of Jews to gather and hear what Peter had to say, similar to the way thousands had gathered earlier at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell on the first disciples of Jesus Christ. On this day, the crowd gathered in an eastern wing of the temple called “Solomon’s Portico.” (You’ll also see the space called a “porch” or “collonade.”)

What’s remarkable about Peter’s sermon is the degree to which grace was once again offered. The people’s participation in Christ’s death, either directly with cries of “Crucify him!” or through association with their leaders, was not a sin so great that it could not be expunged. Redemption through Christ was available even for those who initiated the crucifixion.

Repentance was still required, of course, just as it is necessary today. But the gift of salvation truly is available to all.

Peter did not require these people to reject their Jewish heritage. In fact, his sermon was designed to help them embrace fully the work of their ancestors, accepting that what their prophets had declared for centuries was actually fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Despite the magnitude of the grace offered, many struggled with the message, as many struggle today. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the resilience of these preachers when faced with brutal threats.

Lord, thank you for the torrent of forgiving grace poured upon us from the earliest days of the church until today. Help us to accept your forgiving grace and the grace that continues to shape us into the images of God you made us to be. Amen.

The Zechariah Effect

Zechariah and the Angel Gabriel

Luke 1:18: Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”


There is an odd reaction people sometimes have to gifts from God. I call it the “Zechariah Effect.”

We receive what we have so long desired. Clearly, what we receive is a blessing from God. And yet, we question whether what is happening is real.

I guess we could also call this the “Sarah Effect.” After all, Abraham’s wife laughed when she heard from a divine source that she would bear a child in old age.

The opposite to these startled, inappropriate responses is Mary’s response to hearing from the angel Gabriel that she would bear Christ. After asking a childlike “how” question, she simply replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

Be sure to read the full story of how Zechariah learned he and his wife would have a child in old age, a child who would come to be known as John the Baptist. (I preached about him last Sunday.) There’s no doubt Zechariah knew an angel standing in a very holy place was telling him good news. He simply struggled to believe!

Some of you may have ideas regarding why we might react to divine gifts in such ways. I can think of at least a couple of possibilities.

First, it’s possible we’ve lived with a particular form of brokenness for so long that we have learned to accommodate it, using little mind tricks to keep our related sadness or dysfunction at bay. It can be disturbing to discover God is going to disrupt our stasis, even if we’ve been preserving something negative in our lives.

Second, maybe we’re discovering our faith isn’t as strong as we thought. Even with a miracle before us, our human doubts may briefly outrun the increase in faith we are going to receive from the experience.

By biblical standards, Zechariah’s punishment was relatively mild. Sarah was chastised, but just slightly. It would appear God is patient with our human reactions, even if he does want a more Mary-like faith from us.

Lord, grant us not only the changes we seek for our lives, but the wisdom to recognize when they have arrived. Amen.

Too Easy

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

2 Kings 5:1-14 (NLT)

I hope you’ve taken a few moments to read the above story of two kings, a slave girl, a powerful leper named Naaman, and a healing so simple that Naaman almost refused to accept a life-changing gift from God.

I think of this story as the Old Testament preparing us for New Testament grace. I’ve known people who actually refused to accept Christ as Savior because they thought the path to salvation sounded too easy, like religious pablum spooned out to calm the masses.

According to the 2 Kings story, the Prophet Elisha didn’t even bother to go outside his house when Naaman the Great arrived with his entourage. Instead, Elisha sent a servant out to tell the army commander to wash seven times in the Jordan River, and he would be healed.

Easy peasy!

Naaman was suspicious, though. He was very specific in describing what he had expected to happen.

“I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?”

Arrogance, preconceived notions, and a little ethnocentrism all got in the way. He almost walked away in a huff from a healing. He was blessed to be surrounded by trusted advisers who convinced him to give the prophet’s offer a try.

I’m no Elisha, but if you’re spiritually broken, let me offer you similarly simple advice. Believe Christ died on the cross to save you. You will be healed of your brokenness, your pain and your shame.

That’s it. Believe. Trust. At that point, you will be made right with God. If you’ve not been baptized, you’ll also want to be washed in the water.

You will still have to think through your new situation. You’ll have to work through some complications. Naaman had to do all that. Humbled and grateful, he decided to focus on worshiping in the right way. He also had to learn to navigate the worldliness around him while honoring the God who had healed him.

That’s all very doable, though. Trust me.

Lord, thank you for making salvation simple. We know it was not easy for Jesus; he did the work, he had to bear the pain. Let us never forget the price he paid so we may have access to healing and eternal life. Amen.