The In-Between Years - Part 25

Series: The In-Between Years

January 31, 2021
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

The In-Between Years — Part 25

Our series, the In-Between years, focuses on the church in the book of Acts. Luke’s companion volume to his gospel not only records the birth and growth of those first disciples, it tells us what their fellowship was like, what was important to them, how they operated.

Last week’s text in chapter 5, though, was jarring. We covered the sad and tragic story of Ananias and Sapphira’s deception and the consequences. You would have thought such a shocking turn in the baby church’s life would have shut things down or at least slowed them down a bit, but it actually had the opposite effect.

I didn’t have time to share this with you last week, but let me take a minute this morning and say the Bible is honest if it’s anything. It shows the world as it is, and tells us why it’s that way (Christianity is the only religion that makes sense of evil and suffering). The Bible never presents a sugar coated version of its heroes either. It presents them warts and all. And even when it comes to chronicling the rise of the newborn church, the Holy Spirit led Luke to be honest, demonstrating the church’s glaring imperfections in the account of Ananias and Sapphira.

Accounts like this make me more confident in the Bible’s accuracy, not less. There’s no fake news in God’s Word. It is truly a true source of truth. Where the Bible is honest, it encourages us to be honest, honest with ourselves, honest with others, and most importantly honest with God. And if you don’t believe me, consider the book of Job or the Psalms. Okay, enough of that. Let’s look at today’s text beginning in verse 12 of chapter 5, which, by the way, is another one of Luke’s snapshots…

12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Acts 5:12–13 (ESV)

Solomon’s portico was a popular and well-visited section in the temple complex where rabbis taught and people gathered to hear their teaching. 

“This portico ran along the eastern wall of Herod’s temple in the court of the Gentiles. [It was] was the scene of Christ’s teaching at the Feast of Dedication (John 10:23), and Peter gave a sermon there after his healing of the lame man (Acts 3:11).” This is where the apostles and disciples gathered together.

Understanding that explains why “none of the rest dared join them.” At first read you think it’s because Ananias and Sapphira died. But actually, it’s because Peter and the apostles were so brazen, sassy, hard-boiled, in your face (take your pick from a Thesaurus). Not only were they disobeying a command not to preach and teach the name of Jesus by the Jewish authorities (remember Acts 4), they were doing it right where the rabbis taught. So many who were interested in learning more about Jesus were afraid to join them out in the open like that. You guys are awesome, we want to know more, but we’ll hang back for now.

Yet everyone held them in high esteem. This is a sermon all its own, but according to this there is a way to defy the governing authorities and still be held in high esteem by the people.

To spite this, revival broke out, and I do mean broke out…

14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. Acts 5:14–16 (ESV)

Peter was imbued with the Spirit’s unction so much so that even his shadow had the power to heal. This is an unusual manifestation of God’s power in the church. Something rare in Scripture, but you do see it again in Acts 19 with the Apostle Paul…

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.  Acts 19:11–12 (ESV)

Even Jesus didn’t heal folks like this.

One of the things about Luke’s snapshots is they show us what the church was like as, well as what it can be like. The same Spirit who empowered and moved among them is active in and among his church today. Way, way more than we realize, at least here in the modern Western church. Which leads us to the question, can we expect to see these kinds of miracles in this day and age?

We can probably accept that the Spirit can lead the church to be unified, of one heart and soul, generous, giving as any had need, and evangelistic, testifying to the risen Jesus. But surely such peculiar miracles are no longer possible.

The question isn’t whether can God can heal. Of course he can. The question also isn’t whether God still heals today. Of course he does. The question is does he still heal to the same extent, with everyone getting healed, and in such odd ways.

Note two things:

  1. This wasn’t the norm over all, when you step back and consider the entire NT as a whole. There aren’t any specific healings mentioned in the Bible after Acts, though Paul does mention the gift of healing being given in his letters. That gift was clearly given not to everyone but certain individuals. 

If healings in general were the norm (something to be expected today), let alone odd ones like this, then we wouldn’t have this…

19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus.  2 Timothy 4:19–20 (ESV)

Or this…

23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)  1 Timothy 5:23 (ESV)

Or this…

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.  Philippians 2:25–27 (ESV)

So overall, the Bible indicates healings such as those performed by Jesus and the apostles were a special move of God and not to be expected.

2.   This was a peculiar time. We talked about this last week with the death of Ananias and Sapphira. You don’t have Jesus appointed apostles walking around today; Jesus hasn’t just ascended; the church isn’t newly born; and so on.

So I will have to say no. Healing in this way and where all were healed is not for today. But you wouldn’t think this if you looked at the ministries of some churches and TV preachers. For them, the odd type of healing is the norm: send in your money for a handkerchief that will free you from your infirmities. Fir them, freedom from sickness and disease is the standard for the believer. So you can presume a cure of you have enough faith. 

These brothers and sisters and others who argue over this, claiming their side is right, miss the intention of the miracles in Acts, and even the gospels for that matter.

You cannot deny the fact that God heals when and how he pleases, but he doesn’t always heal. Here’s what we miss — what I missed for so long: this is here to point us to something much bigger and better than temporary physical restoration in this life. All the healing miracles in Acts (and again, the Gospels), foreshadow the return of Jesus and the resurrection of his followers to a new life in a new heaven and earth. That coming reality will be free of sickness or disease or death forever.

This is why Luke records in one of his snapshots that…

33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  Acts 4:33 (ESV)

Jesus was the first to get his real, physical resurrection body. That’s why he’s called the firstfruits of the resurrection, our resurrection as God’s people. When he returns to set up his kingdom on a renewed earth, we’ll get our new, incorruptible resurrection bodies made to live forever in that kingdom with all its glory. All healings whether then or now were/are God letting glimpses of his coming kingdom glory peak out. That’s what all the miracles are about.

You see, we tend to think of the miracles of the Gospels and Acts as interruptions in the natural order. It’s just nature for there to be disease and sickness. The miracles suspend the rules of nature. Yet German theologian Jürgen Moltmann points out that miracles are not an interruption of the natural order but the restoration of the natural order. We are so used to a fallen world that sickness, disease, pain, and death seem natural. In fact, they are the intrusion. We were never meant to know these terrible things. Ours is a good world gone bad. Moltmann says…

“When Jesus expels demons and heals the sick, he is driving out of creation the powers of destruction, and is healing and restoring created beings who are hurt and sick. The lordship of God to which the healings witness, restores creation to health. Jesus’ healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly “natural” thing in a world that is unnatural, demonized and wounded.”

When we see miracles in the light of God’s sovereignty and plans for making all things good and right again — as it was it so it will be — we realize when and how he heals is his business. The bottom line is one day all his people will be complete and whole.

That encourages me if I’m sick or diseased in that even if God chooses not to heal me in this life, I will be whole in the next. Those who whom he does heal in this life, are just glimpses of the coming glory for me.

Conclusion: Okay, let’s move on and finish for today. What happens next shouldn’t surprise us.

17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. Acts 5:17-18 (ESV)

It’s purely coincidence, but I can’t read what happened here without thinking about something going on right now that’s big in the news. Anyone interested in investing in Gamestop? I’m not going to pretend I understand much if anything about the stock market, but it does seem the guys in suits on Wallstreet cared little about young adults trading stock with their iPhones UNTIL they leveraged themselves into playing with the big boys. Out of nowhere. All of a sudden they knew who these outsiders were and they were jealous and angry. 

When you are jealous of someone you pay much closer attention to what they do and are much more likely to be critical, even combative. Here’s why none of the rest dared join them. These same radicals preaching a resurrected Jesus who were commanded not to do so not only disobeyed, they actually spoke and taught in Solomon’s Portico! That was the religious leaders’ turf. And folks were listening and being drawn in.

Peter and the apostles didn’t do this to be snarky or contentious, though; they saw it as very appropriate considering Jesus was God tabernacling with us in the flesh (a living temple) and how when he ascended he sent down the Spirit to dwell in his followers making them living temples and all. Where else would you proclaim such a life altering truth?

Get this and I’m almost done. This story is actually an answer to a prayer! And even more so as we continue it next week. As I mentioned, this wasn’t their first run-in with the religious leaders. In Acts 4 they were locked up, beaten, then released for preaching Jesus. When they got out, they prayed not for freedom from any further persecution, not for their rights, not for revenge against their enemies. No, they prayed for boldness to preach a risen Jesus in spite of it. And they prayed for healings and other miracles to accompany their witness along the way. Check it out…

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.  Acts 4:23–31 (ESV)

God heard and said: done. Wait till you hear what they pray after this is over.

One last thing. I can’t end without giving you a chance to get in on this. The same God who moved among those first apostles and disciples is still moving among his people today. He is still carrying this world forward towards the day he’ll restore all things. As it was so it will be. He wants you to be a part of that.

All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

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