The Hands and Shadows of the Apostles

Acts 5:12-16

And 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. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number; 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. And 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.

In the gospel of John, we read, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do;” we clearly see the promise of Jesus coming to fruition here in Acts. As we read the book of Acts, we unlock the Scripture using the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where; Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General, Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. The genre is historical-narative, Luke is recalling the events that happen to the apostles in the aptly named, Acts of the Apostles. Taking our Vitamin E, we have seen that Jesus foretold these days in John 14. But what is the greater context of John 14?

To the dogmatic dispensationalists, John 14 is proof of a pre-tribulational rapture, because Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” But what’s the greater context and how is that proof of a pre-tribulational rapture? The latter is simply not contained in the context. Nevertheless, the conversation that stems from this statement is fulfilled in Acts.

Notice the question Thomas asks Jesus, after he allegedly promises a pre-tribulational rapture which will make room for temple worship, the return of Pharisees and Sadducees and animal sacrifices in Israel; “Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” Perhaps the dogmatic dispensationalists should have kept reading.

We’re going to keep reading; “‘If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, “Show us the Father?” Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

More proof of the “Trinity,” but also, less proof of a pre-tribulational rapture. Ultimately though, we see promises from Jesus, being fulfilled in the book of Acts. Specifically concerning today’s text, the greater works done by the apostles. Jesus uses litotes when he says to the disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me;” it’s an ironically gross understatement. Think about this, “I will not leave you as orphans​.” Juxtapose this statement, with what we have read today. “And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number; 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.” As the “family” grows exponentially, as do the miracles and healings, it is clearly seen that far from leaving them as orphans, Jesus has “come” to the apostles, in his Spirit, and he came in spades, with bells on, as promised, approving of the apostles and disapproving of the Jewish Council. But according to the dogmatic dispensationalists, this is only temporary and parenthetical.

I believe they are correct, concerning the ministry of the apostles, that is. This was temporary in terms of their earthly ministry, but it is absolutely eternal as far as their teachings, that is, Jesus is the only way–change you minds. The completed Bible, which I believe to be complete by 70 AD, is ours from which to see and learn from the apostles. We no longer have, nor need, the office of apostle. Yet, miracles happen every day, we’re simply too blind to see. Perhaps not the types of miracles performed by the apostles, but miracles nonetheless. However, the miracles performed by the apostles were only promised to the apostles as disciples, remember; Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” And, “do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give…Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and bcause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. But whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes.”

“But Russell P, you yourself have said that this was during the life of Jesus.” It certainly was, but consider the context, juxtaposed to the book of Acts, of which, unfortunately for my argument, we are only in the beginning. Nevertheless we see the words of Jesus, which say, go to Israel first, then to gentiles (not, go to the gentiles first and then I will come back for them to make room for Israel to return to temple worship and animal sacrifice) coming to fruition, exactly the way in which he said them.

“But Russell P, did not Jesus say, ‘he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also?'” But to whom was Jesus speaking? To his disciples, alone, did Jesus say these things, it’s why I write, “context is king.” In the same way that Matthew 24 was spoken directly to the disciples, John 14 was also spoken directly to the disciples but recorded for our sake. Does history repeat itself and do we benefit from some of the promises? Of course, but we must consider the greater context and see the sublime string. How do we decipher what is for the apostles and what is for us? Seeing the sublime string and considering the context, consistently.

Notice:

  • “Do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.”
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
  • “And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people.”

Can we see the progression through only a handful of verses, but while considering their consistent context? If we didn’t consistently consider the context, we would only go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. The promises of Jesus, to his disciples in John 14, are being fulfilled in Acts to the newly ordained apostles. Sans Judas, now with Mattias, which is in the context of Acts, the same disciples are now the apostles performing “greater miracles,” less than a few months or so after Jesus promised these things. It is progressive, precise and pervasive, happening quickly, the words and acts of the apostles are permeating and persuading the people, plus some persecution, as promised by Jesus. Do I need to write it again? Yet as many as came, many more wouldn’t, despite the miracles, signs and wonders. Again, many more were not being added than were being added.

“And 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. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem.” Why didn’t people dare associate with the apostles? Wrong reverence. They feared the Jewish community and certainly the Council. This is found in the greater, consistent context. Remember, they are only days, perhaps weeks removed from the jailing of Peter and John. Factor in that the claims of the apostles were contrary to their culture. Also remember that Jesus said, “you will be hated,” and “narrow is the way,” and many other things concerning the difference between the worldly minded and the heavenly minded. Many feared the wrong thing. The people were afraid of the Council and the Council were afraid of the people but the believers feared God–true reverence.

Jesus was making a name for himself by the apostles doing many miracles in his name, as he promised in John 14. By the acts of the apostles, this reverence grew by leaps and bounds. Certainly not all, not even a majority, but a great multitude nonetheless. Notice, “And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number; 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. And 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.”

This book should be called, “Christ’s Coming to do Astonishingly, Amazing Acts by The Apostles, Through the Holy Spirit, In Jesus’ Name.” Perhaps that is a bit long, without telling the full story, but it is a good vision statement as to the context of Acts. However, it doesn’t mention the early church and that is certainly a major theme in this book and there are others. But we want to do what the apostles did. We want to lay hands on people, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead and preaching the cross of Christ with boldness. Maybe not the latter. Let’s ponder this proposal. What if there existed modern day apostles? That is, the office of apostle, not the gift of “one who is sent.” Actual apostles, who are chosen eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ, doing the works of an apostle as prescribed by Jesus, what would we expect to see? Their words continuously confirmed? Major miracles? Them being thrown in prison and miraculously escaping? Multitudes coming to Christ? Consider the context; “And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord…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.”

“But Russell P, that says Peter, he was a super-special apostle, he was the first Pope.” Acts 19:11+12; “And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.” This is proof positive, that we have much more context to consider before we jump to any conclusions.

Something incredible is happening in the book of Acts and it was predicted and promised progressively throughout the pages (anachronism) of the Bible. We don’t want dubious dogma or the desire for prophecy pointing prominently at our period in history, to cloud our judgment concerning the context. History repeats itself, don’t worry, much of what was written applies to us. Nevertheless, see the sublime string of how the gospel is unfolding in the Acts of the Apostles.

 

 

 

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