Acts 5:12-16 The Shadow of Peter
As we continue our studies of Acts, there will be times we will need to slow a bit, just do digest something of great value. This is one of those times. In this study we are going to consider the apostolic signs, and what their purposes really are.
This is Acts013 - Acts 5:12-16 The Shadow of Peter.
One concern of the church has always been to what extent there was to be a continuation of apostolic ministry. The truth is that while healings and miracles of all sorts will always be with us, there are certain works of power that were exclusive to the apostles. These works of power were to validate their place in the kingdom of God. This is why you will often hear me say that there are no apostles or prophets in the same sense as the apostles and prophets who gave us the Bible.
Now for our Scripture readings:
Vs12: "At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico."
The word sign 'semeion' speaks of something that serves as a pointer or an aid in perception or insight. Semeion carries the idea of a distinguishing characteristic, such as a miraculous event that serves to confirm something. In this case the 'signs' confirmed the apostolic ministry.
The word wonders 'teras' is similar. It speaks of something that is so unusual that it causes wonderment among the peoples.
Notice that at this point, these signs are taking place only through the apostles. Also notice that the apostles are in the temple area. So what would be the purpose? Once again, it would be to establish the spiritual authority of the apostles of the Lamb. These signs are a sign to Israel. And they point to Israel's Messiah. The apostles are the witnesses of Jesus.
(We will discuss another side to signs and wonders a little later in this study. There is a dark side. Interested?)
Vs13: "But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem."
Who are these who dare not associate themselves with the apostles? These are Jewish people who have not come to the place of accepting Jesus openly, or fully as Messiah. Why are they so fearful of associating with the apostles? There could be multiple reasons, but one reason would simply be to recall the story of Ananias and Sapphira.
Also notice that these same peoples are holding the apostles in high esteem. This tells us that they haven't rejected that apostles. Who these people are in particular is only a guess. Some of them could actually be priests or even members of the Sanhedrin. We do know that a great many priests came to accept Jesus as Messiah.
Vs14: "And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number ... "
We might have expected a decrease among believers after Ananias and Sapphira, but the ranks of believers are swelling. God is pulling to Himself a people. And the apostles of the Lamb are ministering right under the nose of Caiaphas and the high priestly authorities. (Jerusalem is where it began. Jerusalem is where it ends.)
Vs15,16: "... to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed."
Notice that these awesome healings and miracles are taking place through the apostles. Some are being healed when Peter's shadow passes over them. We didn't even see this with Jesus. Perhaps these are some of the 'greater things' He said the disciples would do. Have you seen anything like that? Have you even heard of anything like that?
No --- Because there has never been anything like this in the history of the Church. This is what historians mean by the apostolic age. These awesome miracles are for one purpose --- not only the spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, but they served to validate the apostles of the Lamb as His witnesses. And to give them their rightful place in laying the foundation for the Church. (Remember people taking handkerchiefs or aprons from Paul's body and demons and diseases left the peoples. These are apostolic miracles.)
Also keep in mind that it is these apostles alone who have the full right to determine what true doctrine is to be. They had particular authority that would be given to no other person. And this is why that any Church tradition that disannuls the writings of the apostles, is a tradition that can be considered a false doctrine.
This brings is to a most important Scripture. Paul said, "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord..." (Eph2:19-21)
We are very carefully warned through the Scriptures, that if men do not speak according to what is written, it is because they do not speak for God. The prophet said, it is because they have no dawn, or light. In other words, they are false prophets or false apostles.
Now comes a clincher. Remember I said that there is a dark side to signs and wonders. And so the question is, 'To what extent are we to depend on signs and wonders as validations of the gospel?' Interesting question. Listen carefully to Jesus; "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." (Matt24:24)
The Greek words for signs and wonders are the exact words used for the apostolic works of power. There are two considerations to be had here:
(1) The Lord said, "So as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." The Greek language allows that this is impossible. But the purpose is singular --- these workings are an attempt to mislead God's true people.
Why is it not possible for God's true people to be misled by signs and wonders? For one thing, they know the Lamb personally. Jesus said, "When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." (John 10:4,5) --- Its all in the voice.
(2) The context places these works of signs and miracles as being in the last days. In other words, there is going to be an upsurge of the seemingly miraculous. Remember Jesus says these are "false" Christs, and "false" prophets. That implies that the signs will be counterfeit signs.
Is there other Scriptures that point to the issue of falseness? Yes, Paul directs our attention to the same issue, when he spoke of antichrist.
The apostle said, "...the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness." (2Thess2:9-12)
What Paul said needs to be broken down a bit. Notice these things:
(1) The power, and signs, and false wonders are an activity of Satan. (Satan is a spiritual being. Remember the magicians of Egypt, who attempted to out man Moses?)
(2) The followers of these signs are not lovers of truth. They were sign chasers.
(3) This special activity will be "sent" by God. This is the hard one. The Greek word for sent, is 'pempo.' It speaks of causing movement from from one place to another. Which brings us back to the 'Lo, Christ is here,' that Jesus spoke of. (The 'Lo Christ is here,' is another way of saying, 'Come over here. Here is the anointing, etc.')
(4) Notice it is "them" that God sends the deluding influence upon. The them are people who are not true believers. (Deluding influence can also be translated as 'activity of error.')
So then, should believers believe in healings and miracles? Absolutely. Especially in regard to prayer and faith. But should believers to be seekers of signs and miracles? Absolutely not.
Jesus said, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah." (Matt16:4) The sign of Jonah refers to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This study was originally part of a series on the book of Acts given to members of Hebraic Foundations from July 10, 2002 through January 19, 2003. They were written by Pastor Buddy Martin, a former United Pentecostal Church minister, who founded Christian Challenge International. Writings are the copyright of Buddy Martin and reprinted on this site by permission.
Page added October 22, 2004
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