Wednesday, October 11, 2006

more on signs and wonders ...

John Piper asks if we should pray today as it was prayed in Acts 4.29-31; "And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus." 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 spoke the word of God with boldness."

To answer that, Piper fairly addresses both views on this issue, i.e., are these things for today or not. I love how Piper does this (as he does with so many other issues). He respectively and accurately represents each view. He goes through great effort to show love and honor to each.

Regarding the view that signs and wonders are limited to the age of the apostle, he rightly starts by saying this doesn't mean that those in this camp do not believe miracles happen. He explains that this isn't normative today, that Jesus and the apostles were unique.
  1. Luke seems to go through a lot of effort in Acts to show that signs and wonders were the special ministry of the apostolic group and not a common occurence among Christians in general (Act 2.22; 2.43; 5.12; 14.3; 15.12)
  2. Paul defends his apostleship at Corinth based on signs and wonders he performed (2 Co 12.12)
  3. In He 2.4, it appears that miracles were not every day occurrences which is why the work of the apostles stood out
  4. Not everything Jesus told his disciples to go do can be understood as what we should go do. For example in Mt 10.7-8 Jesus tells the twelve to go heal the sick as they preach the Kingdom of Heaven but in verse 5, he also tells them that they should not go to the gentiles. Clearly we do not extrapolate the latter to apply to us.
  5. History tells us that there has not been anyone who performs wonders to the degree and frequency of Jesus
The other view is that these signs and wonders are for today.
  1. Jesus teaches a continuity between His ministry and that of the church (Jn 20.21). He commands the 12 in Lk 9.2 and then the 70 in Lk 10.9 to do and say as He did relative to the Kingdom. Then in Jn 14.12, He tells us that if we believe in Him, we will do greater works than He.
  2. In Acts, Stephen and Philip, deacons, performed signs and wonders in addition to the apostles (Acts 6.5). Then Stephen, in Acts 6.8, also not an apostle did the same. And then Philip in Acts 8.6.
  3. Paul states in Gal 3.5 that the Spirit is now being supplied to the Galatians and is now working miracles among them - while he is not there
  4. In 1 Cor 12, Paul is teaching that the gifts of healing and miracles are for various believers not just apostles
Piper's conclusion; "... we ought to honor the uniqueness of Jesus and the apostles". There is something unique about that moment in history which gave us the New Testament. Then he adds "... we ought to be open to the real possibility that this too might be a unique moment in history ..." God may well again poor out His Spirit to perform signs and wonders among His people today.

Imagining himself as a ship in the sea, "I want to have my keel deep and stable in the once-for-all Biblical revelation of God, and I want to have my sails unfurled to every movement of God's spirit upon the deeps."

I echo that. I want my "keel deep" in the water of the Word of God yet I want to move with Him. I want to enjoy the dance of life with my heavenly Father. Doctrine should keep me from falling over but I should not be so stuck in it that I cannot move with Him.

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