|Passage: Acts 4-6|
On Saturday, November 22, 2014, Yujin wrote,
Isn't this remarkable? They imprisoned Peter and John. They flogged Peter and John. They threatened Peter and John. Yet, none of this deterred them from teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. In fact, the apostles rejoiced in their sufferings as a privilege (cf. Acts 5:41).
Friends, I rarely see this kind of bold witness for Christ in our day. Even though we are a nation full of self-proclaiming Christians, I do not hear a chorus of voices proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus and decrying the blatantly accepted atrocities of abortion, homosexuality and promiscuity.
Perhaps we are living too "safe." Perhaps we need more of the boldness of Peter and John. They were huddled together scared in the upper room before the resurrection and the coming of the Spirit, and too often I see Christians going back into that upper room, insulated from the world that we are called to impact for Christ.
|Passage: Acts 4-6|
On Saturday, November 23, 2013 (Last Updated on 11/22/2015), Yujin wrote,
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them (Acts 4:8).
And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).
In both of these instances, believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. In both of these instances, after they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke the word of God with boldness.
This was in keeping with Jesus' promise to the disciples that the Holy Spirit will empower their witness:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
This is all good and well, but how can we today be "filled with the Holy Spirit"? How can we have power to be such bold witnesses for Christ?
It is clear that the people filled with the Spirit in Acts 4 were believers, so that they possessed the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:9). Yet, they still had to be filled with the Spirit to speak God's Word boldly. Therefore, the presence of the Holy Spirit within them did not guarantee a continuous stream of power. In the instance of Acts 4:31, the filling of the Spirit happened as a result of the believers' prayer for boldness. In Peter's situation the filling of the Spirit seems to have suddenly come upon him when he was challenged by the religious leaders to give a defense for his act of healing and his message.
The latter example was in keeping with Jesus' promise to the disciples:
Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit (Mark 13:11).
Now, while these examples show how the early disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, it still does not show us how we today can be filled. After all, we are commanded to be so filled:
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
What is interesting here is that the text does not say, "Fill yourselves with the Spirit." No, it says, "Be filled the Spirit." It is similar to the command,
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
We are not the active agents of the filling or the transforming. It is something that happens to us. So we have to ask, then, "What precipitates it?" What causes us to be filled? What causes us to be transformed?
I believe that there is a bit of mystery and sovereignty in the activity of the Holy Spirit to empower believers to be bold witnesses; however, this filling with the Holy Spirit seems always to accompany those that are diligently trusting and obeying God.
John Piper has a good exposition of Ephesians 5:18 that also tries to answer this question of how we might be filled with the Holy Spirit. While I disagree with his conclusions with regard to the continuity of the miraculous and manifestational gifts of the Spirit, I heartily agree with his understanding of the filling of the Spirit, particularly as it is taught in Ephesians 5:18. Find it here:
Don't Turn to Alcohol, Turn to the Spirit
And that brings us to Ephesians 5:18 where the present tense of the verb in Greek means just that: "Keep on being filled with the Spirit." Let's look at the context to see more specifically what this means (5:15–18).
Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
The contrast with drunkenness is the key here. What do people go to alcohol for? For a happy hour. We all want to be happy, but there is a problem: "The days are evil." Notice the logic of verses 16–18:
The days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk . . . but be filled with the Spirit.
Where do you turn when the days are evil, when you are frightened or discouraged or depressed or anxious? Paul pleads with us: "Don't turn to alcohol; turn to the Spirit. Anything of value that alcohol can bring you, God the Holy Spirit can bring more."
There are people who can't begin to whistle a happy tune or sing a song at work because they are so tense and anxious about life. But later in the evening at the tavern with a few drinks under their belt they can put their arms around each other and sing and laugh. All of us long to be carefree, uninhibited, happy. And the mounting tragedy of our own day, as in Paul's, is that increasing numbers of people (even Christians) believe that the only way they can find this child-like freedom is by drugging themselves with alcohol or other mind-benders. Such behavior dishonors God, and so Paul says: There is a better way to cope with the evil days—be filled with the Spirit, stay filled with the Spirit. And you will know unmatched joy that sings and makes melody to the Lord.
The fundamental meaning of being filled with the Spirit is being filled with joy that comes from God and overflows in song. And Luke would agree with that, too, because he says in Acts 13:52, "The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." To be sure, one of the marks of a person filled with the Spirit is that he is made strong to witness in the face of opposition (Acts 4:8, 31; 7:55; 13:9). But the reason for this is that "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). When you are happy in God, you are a strong and brave witness to his grace. So I repeat, whatever joy or peace you find in alcohol, the Spirit of God can give you more. Even the psalmist of the Old Testament had experienced this. He says in Psalm 4:7– 8:
You (O Lord) have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
How to Do What Can Only Be Done for Us
And that psalm leads us now to our final, all-important question of how we can obey this command to be filled with the Spirit. We are in the same predicament we were in last week. We are commanded to be full, and yet we are not the filler; the Spirit is. The answer to this predicament in the New Testament is that God has ordained to move into our lives with fullnessthrough faith. The pathway that the Spirit cuts through the jungle of our anxieties into the clearing of joy is the pathway of faith. Luke says of Stephen in Acts 6:5, that he was "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit," and he says of Barnabas in Acts 11:24 that he was "a good man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith," The two go together. If a person is filled with faith, he will be filled with the Spirit, the Spirit of joy and peace.
The most important text in Paul's writings to show this is Romans 15:13, "May the God of hopefill you with all joy and peace in believing, that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Notice that it is in or by believing that we are filled with joy and peace. And it is by the Spirit that we abound in hope. When we put those two halves of the verse together, what we see is that through our faith (our believing) the Spirit fills us with his hope and thus with his joy and peace. And, of course since hope is such an essential part of being filled with joy by the Spirit, what we have to believe is that God is, as Paul says, the God of hope. We have to rivet our faith on all that he has done and said to give us hope.
Nobody stays full of the Spirit all the time—no one is always totally joyful and submissive to God and empowered for service. But this should still be our aim, our goal, our great longing. "As a hart pants for the flowing streams, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Psalm 42:1, 2). But in order to slake that thirst, we must fight the fight of faith. We must preach to our souls a sermon of hope:
Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God. For I shall again praise him. He is my help and my God. (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5)
We must set before our own soul the banquet of promises that God has made to us and feed our faith to the full. Then it may be said of us as it was of Stephen and Barnabas: "They were filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit."
|Passage: Acts 4-6|
On Saturday, December 8, 2012, Fernando wrote,
|Passage: Acts 4-6|
On Friday, November 23, 2012 (Last Updated on 11/23/2013), Yujin wrote,
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead (Acts 4:1-2).
Sadduccees, unlike the Pharisees, did not believe in the resurrection. This is probably why "they were greatly disturbed." What is more, the resurrection of Jesus is a central part of the Gospel message.
Oftentimes, when people preach the Gospel today, they forget to mention the resurrection. They say, "You must believe that Jesus died for your sins," but forget that part about God raising Him from the dead. The Good News is good because of the resurrection (read 1 Corinthians 15). In fact, Paul even writes,
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
Believing in the resurrection of Jesus is critical for salvation.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
This passage would stand right alongside passages like John 14:6 to show biblically that there is no other way of salvation than through Jesus Christ. That means even the Old Testament believers, who would not have known a fraction of what we know about Jesus, were also saved only through Jesus as well. "How so?" You ask. I'm not sure, but if I might speculate, perhaps God somehow applied the death of Christ to their account. Just as some in the Old Testament looked forward to the Messiah, and we look back to the Messiah, perhaps others simply trusted in God, the Sender of the Messiah, and God applied the death of Christ to their account apart from a specific exercise of faith in Him.
While the Bible teaches that salvation can only come through Christ, this does not preclude God applying the work of Christ to the account of some apart from a specific, knowledgeable and conscious faith in Him. But again, this is only speculation on my part. But this may leave the possibility of God applying the death of Christ to young or unborn children, to mentally disabled people, or even to those that may not have had the opportunity to fully exercise the faith God had given to them.
But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19-20; cf. Acts 5:29).
While the Bible teaches believers to obey the law and governing authorities(Romans 13:1,5), this would not apply to those laws and authorities that command you to violate God's Word. This is also why the Bible says to pray for secular leaders, so that the Gospel might not be hindered through ungodly officials and laws that might make the practice of Christian faith and morality difficult.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2:1).
Thus, we need to pray for the president, Congress, the justices, and others in government, so that they might not legislate, adjudicate and execute laws that are contrary to the Word of God.
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:33-34).
Notice how the apostles are singled out as the ones exercising "great power," by which I understand this to mean miraculous signs and wonders. It is important to take note of this to understand that such gifts and power were not a universal Christian experience.
The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people... As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed (Acts 5:15-16).
Notice that when healing took place, no indication is given that some were healed while others were not, as is often the case in contemporary healing services. Why would God dishonor His Name in this way? As was the case when Christ walked the earth, so also with His apostles, when healing took place, all were healed. The same cannot be said for what is being practiced today.
They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 5:40-42).
Sometimes I feel that we are missing this today. The disciples rejoiced for being counted worthy of suffering for the Name of Jesus. What is more, even after the suffering and being threatened, they kept on preaching the Good News without a glitch.
Yet today, I feel like when we encounter a little inconvenience we stop reading God's Word or we stop praying. When the boss sends us a warning about our religious emails, we stop evangelizing. When there is a sporting event, we skip church. When our kids have a recital or competition, we cause them to skip church. These things hardly rise to the level of flogging, imprisonment, and death threats, yet even for these smaller things we are willing to compromise our faith and the practice of our faith.
Let us consider our ways today.
They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them (Acts 6:6).
Acts 6 is known as the chapter about deacons, where seven of the disciples apart from the Twelve were chosen to do certain works of service. In fact, when deacons are "ordained" today, the same ceremony of prayer and laying on of hands is performed over them.
Yet, I contend there is a difference between what the apostles did in Acts 6 and what goes on today. When the apostles prayed and laid hands on the disciples, they were not performing a ceremony, they were actually conferring on them the same apostolic power to heal, drive out demons, etc. These seven were to be an extension of the Twelve. That is why we find Stephen and Philip having apostolic power to do miracles.
Today's deacon ordination ceremony holds no such conveyance of power. It is simply a ceremony that shadows the reality of what the apostles did in the first century.
I highlight this verse because some charismatics try to point to people like Stephen and Philip as evidence that miraculous powers were given by God to those other than the apostles. While I leave room for this possibility, I suggest that we take seriously how the Bible is careful to highlight the apostles in the working of signs and wonders (Paul even says that this is the mark of a true apostle in 2 Corinthians 12:!2). Even in the case of Stephen and Philip, they only received such power through the laying on of hands by the apostles.
|Passage: Acts 4-6|
On Wednesday, November 23, 2011 (Last Updated on 11/23/2013), Yujin wrote,
Friends, I would like to make a comment about the nature of New Testament healing from our recent readings. In Acts 3 and 4 we get the story of the healing of a lame man by Peter and John. Notice in Acts 3:2 we read,
Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.
Why do you think, Luke, the author of Acts, found it necessary to include such details, like the fact that this man was "lame from birth" and that he was someone who was carried "every day" to the temple gate "called Beautiful"?
Later on, after he was healed, we read that the people were amazed at him because "they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful" (Acts 3:10). They did not see the act of healing, but they observed that he was indeed miraculously healed. Why? It is because they recognized him as the same man, who was daily carried for many years to the same spot to beg for alms.
Further, when Peter and John were before the religious rulers, we read something remarkable:
But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say (Acts 4:14).
Again, we get another narrative comment by Luke:
For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old (Acts 4:22).
Friends, was it just that they saw any man standing next to Peter and John? No. They saw the very man that everyone recognized as the lame man, who was carried daily for a good part of forty years to the temple gate called Beautiful to ask for alms. The Pharisees were speechless, because even they probably recognized this man. Everyone knew that he was truly lame, and that for a very long time.
This is what we call a "documented" and "organic" miracle. Even though medical expertise may have been limited in Jesus' day - though Luke, a doctor, acknowledges the man was lame - there was still the forty-year record of those that saw him daily. This validated the miracle as genuine.
The tragedy of what passes for miraculous healings today by "faith healers" is the lack of any documentation. Considering the voluminous claims, you would think there would be at least some. But amazingly, a testament to the tragic gullibility of many, there is none. And throughout the twentieth century, where so-called "faith healers" have been challenged by each generation, there has never been any documented healings. There have been many claims, but none with any sort of documenation.
Further, it was an organic healing, and not merely "functional." The man was crippled in his legs. The organs of bones, ligaments and tendons were lame. In functional healings, headaches are relieved, back pains are eased, shoulder pains are removed, legs are "lengthened" (i.e. hips are adjusted), arches are restored to the flat-footed (i.e. the body is relaxed and adjusted). Some people call functional healings "psychosomatic," because there is no real organic damage being healed. It seems miraculous to the persons receiving the help because they themselves did not know what to do to relieve their discomfort. Functional healings are much of what passes for the miraculous today as performed by "faith healers." Since all of the detailed miraculous healings by Jesus, the apostles, and in the NT are organic in nature, the presumption is against what is practiced today. What passes for miraculous healing by faith healers today is certainly not the same as what we find in Scripture.
Finally, I can personally testify that even among those receiving these functional healings, at least three out of the four I know about had a recurrence of the very thing from which they were alledgedly healed, and this was just within months of the healing. I surmise that if I tracked down the fourth person, I would get a similar testimony of failure.
Please note what Peter says in Acts 3:16, "It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see." The lame man was completely healed, so that he would not be lame again but pursue a normal life. There is no indication in any of the NT healings that any of those that were healed fell back into the same malady. The blind, who were made to see, did not become blind again. The deaf, who were made to hear, did not become deaf again. Now, the dead, who were raised, likely died again, but only after a normal and full life. I asked a pastor, "Since you believe in the gift of healing, even faith healers, and you say you were healed by one recently, how is it that you are experiencing the very same pain again today." I appreciated his honest response: "I don't know." As I read, ask, and search these matters out, I am more convinced than ever that what passes for "the gift of healing" today is no gift of God, and what passes for "faith healing" today is no miracle.
Some have asked me why I harp on these issues so much - like election, spiritual gifts, tithing, etc. - why I keep rocking the proverbial church boat? My answer is that these are only symptomatic of a larger crisis in the church, namely, a growing ignorance, neglect, and departure from the truth and authority of God's Word.
The infuence of the occult on neo-charismatic worship, the growing priority of tradition and church dogma over Scripture, the allegorization of Scripture allowing for things like the denial of a literal hell and the acceptance of homosexuality, and the prevailing acceptance of the prosperity gospel should not surprise us. These have all arisen because of the church's ignorance, neglect and departure from God's Word.
Sometimes it is not sufficient just to stay "positive," although I don't feel that I'm being negative by bringing these issues to light, but as the part for the whole, so I am using these specific issues to raise interest, deepen concern, and draw believers back to the larger matter of the truth and authority of God's Word.
|Passage: Acts 4-6|
On Tuesday, November 23, 2010 (Last Updated on 1/17/2013), Stephen wrote,
Praise the Lord for whoever may understand the depth of His Grace! Once again, having been reminded of who I used to be, I became humble before the Lord, and my eyes are in tears for His fathomless love. I "have nothing to boast about, not before God." Amen to every single word of encouragement! Keep on, Yujin!
|Passage: Acts 4-6|
On Tuesday, November 23, 2010 (Last Updated on 11/23/2013), Yujin wrote,
A little while ago I addressed the topic of the purpose of prayer. On that occasion I asked the question, "What is a good prayer?" I cited Acts 4:24-31 as an example of a good prayer. Here we have the disciples, faced with persecution by the Jewish authorities, praying together for boldness:
When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
It is a good prayer in result because God answered them in just what they asked for in prayer. And it is a good prayer in content because it was in keeping with God's will. How do we know it was in God's will. They cited the Scriptures (Psalm 2, a Messianic Psalm) and accurately applied the Scriptures to their situation. One of the best ways to pray is to cite and apply the Scriptures in your prayers. In fact, just about every prayer, even praise, in the New Testament is filled with biblical citations and allusions.
Just as an aside, did you notice verse 28: "They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen." Such a text can be easily and quickly overlooked, and often is, but it is profound in its implications. Right after the disciples declare the guilt of Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews in the death of Christ, they immediately acknowledge that all of it was predestined (literally "willed beforehand") by God. The people were guilty in their intentions but it was God who was in control of their actions. So we read in Proverbs 16:1, 9,
To human beings belong the plans of the heart,
Someone once asked me, "How do you reconcile man's free will and God's sovereignty so that man's responsibility is not discounted nor God's power minimized?" You see it reconciled in this prayer. If you can accept that "all have sinned and fall short of God's glory" (Romans 3:23) and that "there is no one righteous... there is no one who seeks God" and that "there is no one who does good, not even one" (Romans 3:10-12), then you can see that people in their "free will" stand guilty before God. And left to themselves, like the generation that brought the Flood in Genesis 6, they would self-destruct. However, while wickedness is the condition of the hearts of man, God directs their actions so that His purposes are accomplished. Just as God restrained the hand of Satan in afflicting Job, He both restrains and releases the wickedness of man so that His purposes will be accomplished in keeping with His Word.
In the matter of salvation, let us understand, because of our natural condition as children of wrath (cf. Ephesians 2: 3), God had to overcome our "free will" with His sovereign will, in order to save us. Faith does not arise out of "free will" but by the power of the Spirit (cf. John 3:5-8 ) according to the grace of God (cf. Ephesians 2:5, 8-9). There is a good reason why John 3:16 follows John 3:3. A person cannot believe unless they are first born again by the Spirit. And this new birth from above is not something that a person wills to happen, but it is the activity of God (cf. John 1:12-13). Many of us, like Nicodemus, wonder, "How can this be?" (John 3:9). Jesus declared that the God accomplishes it according to His own will and pleasure, just as "the wind blows wherever it pleases" (John 3:8). People are saved by the totally free, sovereign, uncontrolled-by-any-influence-outside-of-Himself, will of God. Why couldn't Nicodemus understand this truth? It is the same reason that many people today still think that faith arises out of a person's "free will." They are stuck in the mire of a humanistic, existentialist philosophy that treats "human free will" as an inviolable dogma. Yet, this is nowhere in Scripture. This is the wisdom of man and not the wisdom of God. Consider what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:12-14,
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
How is it that many still think that an unregenerated person can believe in Jesus? Paul clearly teaches that it is impossible for someone to understand and accept the Gospel without the Holy Spirit. They must first be born again by the Spirit, and then they can understand and accept this spiritiual truth. Now, there are some that accept this premise but then argue that a person, who is born again by the Spirit, can still reject the Gospel. Such a person would also have to say then that a person, who is born again, can thereafter be unborn. After all, if one has the free will to believe, isn't it only logical that the same person has the free will to stop believing? This just demonstrates to what great lengths some will go to defend their notion of "free will" in salvation?
The best representative of the human race, who literally walked with God in the paradise of Eden, sinned. If there was anyone that had a "free will," it was certainly Adam. And look where his free will got him. And after Him, no human being was sinless (cf. Romans 5:12). David would even write, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). Free will? When will many believers understand, by free will "every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time" (Genesis 6:5). But praise God that God so purposed before the foundation of the world to overcome our "free will" so that we might declare His praises as a remnant plucked from among the masses of unregenerate humanity to sing His praises in heaven.