Recently, someone asked me about why Peter’s healing in Acts 3:1-10 was not an example of decreeing and declaring. What follows is this person’s question. I then answer it.
There was an incident when Peter healed a beggar outside the church in Acts 3. Doesn’t it fall under the “decree and declare” category of praying? Please explain more about why it’s unbiblical to decree and declare. May God bless you!
I believe the text you are referring to is Acts 3:1-10. This is a historical narrative. It is not normative. Moreover, Peter was an apostle and one of the twelve disciples. Furthermore, he was someone that Jesus gave authority to heal the sick. Luke 9:1-2 (NASB) states the following:
And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. 2 And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.
We know that Peter was one of the twelve disciples via Luke 6:12-19 (NASB):
12 It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: 14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; 15 and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; 16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
17 Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. 19 And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.
If you read beyond Acts 3:1-10, you will find Peter proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name (Acts 3:11-26; see also Luke 24:36-48). Peter was not decreeing or declaring anything; Peter was simply doing the very thing he was given the authority to do.
It should be noted that only the disciples (who were also apostles) were given the power and authority over all the demons. The office of apostle has closed (Ephesians 2:20). Therefore, Christians do not have the same authority as that of the twelve disciples/apostles. No biblical text commands Christians to decree and declare.
Instead, Christians are to make their supplications (which are requests) known to God (see Philippians 4:4-7, Ephesians 6:16-18, Exodus 32:30-34:9, Psalm 17:1, Psalm 39:12, Psalm 54:2, Psalm 55:1, Psalm 61:1, Psalm 13, Psalm 15, Psalm 71, Daniel 9:1-20). When someone decrees or declares, the word “no” is not an option. For an example of a humble request, I look at Matthew 15:21-28 (NASB):
The Syrophoenician Woman
21 Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.”24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.
Notice that the woman engaged in humble requests. At first, Jesus didn’t answer her a Word despite her humility. She actually prayed back Jesus’ words to Him in verse 27. Seeing her great faith in Christ, Christ answered her prayer (verse 28). Christians are not little deities that decree and declare; they are unworthy servants doing what Christ commanded them to do because of their new nature (Luke 17:5-10; see also Matthew 25:31-46). They’re also not disciples or apostles. Christians would do well to follow the models of prayer that Jesus gave in both Matthew 6:5-13 and Luke 11:1-4. Those models are so good I shall look at them now. I start with Matthew 6:5-13 (NASB):
5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
Here is the Luke passage. It is Luke 11:1-4 (NASB):
It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” 2 And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 ‘Give us each day our daily bread.
4 ‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
Jesus, speaking to His disciples, basically green-lights the above prayer. God’s name is to be hallowed. A Christians asks for daily bread. A Christian asks for forgiveness. A Christian asks not to be led unto temptation. No decreeing or declaring is happening in either model.
Please understand that these models are good to follow only if you are a Christian. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). You cannot please God outright without saving faith in Jesus Christ alone. After all, you were born dead in trespasses and sins.
Ephesians 2:1-10 explains (NASB):
2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9).
If you do not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, I would ask you please look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.
Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48).
Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9).
Thankfully, Jesus came to solve the sin problem over 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.” This is good news.
There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47). Oh may you know His mercy and grace today if you have never repented and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
If you are a Christian and you have decreed and declared, repent and be forgiven (1 John 1:9). Bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).
I hope this answer helps you.