Everyone was Filled with Awe

Title: Everyone was Filled with Awe

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1psAi4A5YF5jBGtk7yrM1J9mbQkgHYxc2WTBMrRi78lQg_6ZoAz9omByjHuODCyXmQAKf-Hl27RGJ933MOmFcnvA/5-4-08everyonewasfilledwithawe.mp3%5D

Text: Acts 2:43

Time: May 4th, 2008

“Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles,” Acts 2:43. We come to a passage that describes what has been obvious for nearly three chapters in the Book of Acts – miracles. The supernatural, miracles, signs and wonders, all of these fill the pages of the Bible from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New Testament. If there is anything that best describes the faith of the Bible, Christianity, it’s the miraculous. Yet today, many people, more and more it seems each year, doubt the existence of miracles and the supernatural. Not that miracles aren’t believed in by a majority of people – they are, it’s just that more and more people doubt them today than ever before, and more and more people doubt that they ever will experience a real miracle today, at least the kind described in the Bible. With the spread of science over the last few hundred years, more people suppose that what used to be called miracles are really explainable by natural science in some way or another. This modern skepticism has led a lot of people to regard the biblical miracles as really make-believe stories created over time to explain mysterious things that are beyond human comprehension. In other words, people today often doubt whether the biblical stories really happened as they are recorded. They suspect that if we were to really be there when these events happened there would be a better, more natural explanation to account for them, one that didn’t involve the supernatural. But if we try to remove the miraculous from Christianity, or even Judaism the faith of the Old Testament, then it collapses; there is nothing left. The Apostle Paul says that if Jesus didn’t really raise from the dead than our faith is in vain, meaning, if the miracle of the resurrection didn’t really happen, Christianity is meaningless. So the Bible from beginning to end takes miracles very serious, and so do the believers of both the Old and New Testaments – and so have believers of all ages of the church. Today, in this verse, we once again find ourselves confronted with the supernatural, miracles, and we must choose again whether we believe them or not. It says, “Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous sings were done by the apostles.” When I read the accounts of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament, am I held in awe of how God entrusted such supernatural power in the hands of man? When I read about the many and different miracles of the Bible am I filled with awe by the power and presence of God on earth? I should be and so should you. If we can read these historical accounts of miracles and simply yawn or be bored by it all, then the problem is with us, not the Bible. But the bigger question, apart from being inspired by the accounts of miracles in the Bible, is this: should we still expect to be inspired by miracles from God today? I hope to answer that question. I’ll come at that question by raising three other questions, and answer them.

First, what is a miracle? Acts 2:43, “Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” The Greek word “phobos” is translated “filled with awe,” and some Bibles like the KJV translate it “fear,” as in “the fear of the Lord.” Proverbs reminds us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” meaning, the respect, reverence or deep appreciation for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The same idea is here in this passage: the awe or fear or reverence or respect of the Lord was present among the people when the apostles performed supernatural miracles among them. But what is a supernatural miracle from God? What is a sign and wonder from the Lord? What is a miracle? Webster’s Dictionary defines a miracle as “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. Yes, that’s a good definition of a miracle. The people in the early church were in awe because they witnessed extraordinary events by the hands of the apostles manifesting divine intervention in their daily ordinary human existence. So the God of heaven broke through to the world of men through the miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles; this inspired the people, as we can all imagine! But here’s another angle at defining a miracle, let’s talk about the supernatural. What does supernatural mean? Webster’s Dictionary defines supernatural as, “departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature.” So according to this definition, a supernatural miracle would be something that seems to go beyond or even against the laws of nature as we know them. For example, in the Old Testament, the great and powerful prophet Elisha made an ax head float, which would seem to defy the laws of nature, since an ax head is usually made out of heavy metal and when placed in water usually drops straight down because of gravity. But in the account of Elisha in the Old Testament, the prophet made the ax head float, something that would appear to contradict or defy the laws of nature. That’s supernatural. In the New Testament, the biggest example of a supernatural miracle was raising up a dead person to life again. The best known example of this is, of course, Jesus on Resurrection Sunday, but there are other instances of persons being raised back to life, for example, Lazarus, when Jesus performed that resurrection, or even the apostles, when they were able to on certain occasions raise people from the dead. These are supernatural because they defy or exceed or even contradict nature’s normal and ordinary course of operation. They seemingly violate the laws of science. They are miracles. And when they were done, they inspired the people, as they would have inspired us as well. So that’s a definition of supernatural miracles.

Second, What miracles did the apostles perform? Acts 2:43, “Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” In this specific passage it doesn’t describe the miracles that so inspired the people who saw them, but in other places in the New Testament we do have descriptions of some of the miracles the apostles performed. For example, in the very next chapter, three, of the Book of Acts, we see the description of a supernatural healing performed by Peter and John in the temple of Jerusalem. Acts 3:1-10 (read). Notice the last verse, 10, “When all the people saw him walking (the healed man) 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.” Again, the same reaction as in our verse: they were in awe of the supernatural miracle performed. But the Apostles performed other miracles too. For example, in chapter five of the Book of Acts, the Apostle Peter has supernatural knowledge in respect to the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. This husband and wife has secretly kept back some of the money from the sale of their property and presented what they said was all the money from the sale to the church. Well, Peter supernaturally knew they were lying and confronted them on it. They both mysteriously dropped dead. In Acts 5:11 it says, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” The same Greek word “phobos” or fear or awe is used here in this verse as in our verse above. In other words, it deeply moved the people in witnessing or hearing of such a supernatural thing happening. Later, the Apostle Paul also does miracles in addition to the original apostles. In Acts 19:11-12, it says, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” The apostles also cast out demons supernaturally. I mentioned before that the apostles also, on occasion, even raised the dead. The Apostle Paul raises Eutychus, a young man who had fallen to his death from a third story window, in Acts 20:7-12. So we see that the early believers were filled with awe and inspired by the many different supernatural miracles performed by the apostles. These were the same kind of miracles that Jesus himself had performed during his three years of ministry, which the original disciples had experienced along with him. Now they were continuing that very same ministry of supernatural miracles themselves, and as a result, they were producing reverence for the Lord. But now comes the really big question.

Three, are these same miracles available today? Acts 2:43, “Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” We know that the believers of the first century were held in awe of the supernatural miracles from God that were performed through the hand of the apostles, but what about today? Are we supposed to look for the same supernatural miracles today? Are church leaders – the heirs of the apostles – supposed to be able to perform them just like in olden days? For example, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches like to claim that their priests, especially the bishops, are the heirs of the apostles, that they represent the class of Christians who lead the church just as the apostles were the original leadership class of Christians who led the church in the first century. Ok, but what about doing what the original apostles did with supernatural signs and wonders and miracles? It seems as if we are going to claim that present day priests and bishops are the equivalent to the original apostles that they should be able to perform the same miracles as the original apostles. But can they? I don’t see it. But maybe the age of supernatural miracles is gone, some may say. Maybe that was supposed to be a special time, a never to be repeated time of great supernatural activity. Maybe modern day pastors, priests, bishops, church leaders really are the equivalent to the original apostle leaders except that we aren’t to expect them to be able to perform the miracles because that was a one time thing. Ok, that may well be, but where does it say in the Bible that miracles would end, or were supposed to end? If the supernatural activity we read about in the Bible was supposed to end, I think that would be pretty important information to pass on to future generations as a warning: Warning, do not attempt to do supernatural miraculous activity, it’s not supposed to continue into the modern era, it’s only for ancient people. That’s crazy. The Bible gives us no such warning. In fact, the Bible tells us “Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” If he’s working miracles in the first century, he’s still available to work miracles in the twenty-first century. In the Old Testament it says, “I am the Lord thy God, I changeth not.” God would have to change his very nature if he stopped doing miracles because that’s part of who he is, a miracle performing God. God wouldn’t be God without miracles, the Bible wouldn’t be the Bible without miracles, and Christianity wouldn’t be Christianity without miracles, and the church wouldn’t be the church without miracles, and Christians wouldn’t be Christians without miracles. I think a better explanation as to why we don’t see miracles (or see more miracles) today is found in Mark 6:4-6, “Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” I think we have our explanation as to why we don’t see as many miracles as the early church: lack of faith. Our culture is too familiar with Christianity. Western civilization has known Christ for nearly 2000 years and in the process of knowing him has grown too familiar with him to the point, just like the people of Jesus’ hometown thought they knew everything about him but really knew very little about him. As a result, they weren’t open to learning from Jesus, or believing very deeply in him. That’s where our culture is today. In other culture’s where Jesus is being introduced anew, there are more supernatural miracles taking place, but in our own Western culture most people think they know it all when in reality they know very little about Christianity. Only when Christianity is successfully re-introduced to America and the West will we once again see the faith needed to experience miracles like they saw in the early church. Let’s pray that day arrives soon.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: