Key text: “When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging, at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:9-10).
Main point: Christian ministries to the socially marginalized involve both the act of service and the miracle of a life-changing transformation through the word of the gospel.
What is effective gospel-centered street ministry? With so many needs to be met in our communities and in the world, it becomes difficult at times to distinguish between human acts of compassion and gospel work. Although they overlap, they are not exactly the same.
Because we are all made in the image of God and are therefore stamped with the moral imprint of our Creator, all humans are able to display moral traits. It is true that humanity is fallen and the moral traits that remain are faint, but they are there! This is why believers and unbelievers alike can respond so courageously to catastrophes and human tragedies worldwide, especially when human life is at stake. Nevertheless, gospel-centered street ministries are more than the meeting of physical and emotional needs; they involve the regeneration of new spiritual life via the proclamation of the risen Lord.
Gospel-centered street ministries reach out to the disenfranchised, homeless, panhandlers, mentally ill, addicts, prostitutes, runaways, social outcasts, the battered, abandoned and the defenseless. These are the persons that respectable society shuns, and some of them have given up on society as well. They are found in all the major urban centers of the world. They live in abandoned buildings, cardboard boxes and rescue missions. They eat what they can find, and sometimes eat hot meals in church fellowship halls and soup kitchens. Some are predators that live a life of continual crime and violence, while others live in fear and with fading hope.
While church relief work and government aid can help patch up their wounds, humanitarian help alone can never fully heal them. Only the gospel can do that! Gospel-centered street ministries tend to their wounds and offer them the gospel message of salvation: Jesus is the friend of sinners and will transform the hearts and lives of all who come to him by faith.
When Peter and John were passing by a panhandler near the place of worship, they were aware of a more lasting need than money (Acts 3). The beggar had been placed daily in that one spot for many years, for he was born crippled. Peter and John ministered to his physical needs through a miracle of physical healing. But the more important need was spiritual, and the man was converted by faith in Jesus. What we now see is a transformed new covenant believer leaping, singing and praising God to the extent that he appears not to be the same man he was before! This in turn led to the further proclamation of the gospel and a new call to repentance and acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Christ (Acts 4).
When a street person is transformed by the gospel, this is often followed by a radical change in demeanor and personality, so much so that the person is barely recognizable by those who knew the person before. That is the life-transforming power of the gospel!
Questions for Bible study
Read the following verses and respond to the questions:
1. Acts 3:1-10
a. Where are the two apostles going, and why? Verse 1. The temple was the center of community life in Jerusalem. It was often crowded with thousands of worshippers, merchants and even Gentiles, in the outer courts.
b. Who is placed at the temple gate daily and for what purpose? Verse 2. Can you describe the man’s physical and emotional condition? The Beautiful Gate was one of the passageways leading from the court of the Gentiles into the inner courts of the sanctuary.
c. Seeing Peter and John, what does the man ask for? Verse 3. Why? How does Peter first respond to the man? Verse 4. What does the man then do, and with what attitude? Verse 5. Why do you think this was so important?
d. What negative reply does Peter give the man first? Verse 6. Why? What positive declaration and command does Peter then give the man? In what name is this miracle proclaimed? Why? See Acts 4:8-12.
e. What happens next? Verses 7-8. Do Peter and John just walk away after proclaiming the word? Explain their follow-up with the man. Describe the man’s renewed physical, emotional and spiritual condition.
f. What is the reaction of the people at seeing the once crippled beggar as a radically changed person? Verses 9-10. What was the renewed man continually doing? Why?
2. Acts 3:11-16
a. Why are the people so astonished? Verse 11 (see 4:21-22). Where have they begun to gather? By this time the apostles had made their way back out to the Court of the Gentiles and Solomon’s porch.
b. In Peter’s second recorded sermon, who or what is the starting point of contact between the messenger and the audience? Verse 12.
c. Who or what is the centerpiece of Peter’s sermon? Verse 13. Who in particular is Peter thinking about at this point? Verse 14. See Matthew 27:15-26.
d. What is the cornerstone of Peter’s sermon? Verse 15. What does the apostle Paul call this event in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5?
e. To whom and by what means does Peter attribute this healing miracle? Verse 16. What is the purpose of the miracle? See 4:1-4, 13-16.
3. Acts 3:17-26
a. How does Peter explain the evil intentions and actions of the people? Verses 17-18. Even so, what does Peter call on them to do? Verse 19. Why?
b. What does Peter say about the dawning of the new messianic age and the exalted prophetic office of the Messiah Jesus? Verses 20-23. The messianic age includes the period between Christ’s first and second coming.
c. What blessings are available now for those who believe (Jew and Gentile alike)? Verses 24-26. On account of Peter and John’s street ministry, the crippled beggar at the temple gate was miraculously changed, which caused the people to wholeheartedly listen to God’s word through Peter’s sermon.
1. Do you believe that there are poor and needy people in the world today? Can you describe the living conditions of the poor in other parts of the world? How do you know?
2. Are there any poor and hungry in your nation? Isn’t America so rich that virtually all poverty was stamped out decades ago? Are there any poor in the city or town where you live? Your own neighborhood? Are their handicaps visible or invisible?
3. Many evangelical churches do well in preaching the Word, but is preaching the gospel sufficient for those in dire need? See James 2:14-17. How would you classify your local church — as a “Dead-faith church” or as a “Living-faith church”? How would you classify yourself?
4. Have you ever been involved in faith-based street ministries such as a rescue mission shelter, food bank, clothing distribution center, feeding those in need during Thanksgiving Day or collecting toys during Christmas time? What about helping out migrant families?
5. Have you ever worked as a volunteer for “Hard-core street ministries” such as working with addicts, prostitutes, and gang members? Share your experience with the class.
6. Do you know someone who once was a “street person” and is now converted? How valuable is such a believer’s testimony?
The apostles learned street ministries from the Master, who always showed compassion for the poor and needy. It is not for us to judge the reasons for the poor, but only to count our blessings and share them with the less fortunate.
Author: Lorenzo Arroyo