Sovereign Grace Blog

Sermon Summary - A Church Unbelievers Feared to Attend (Acts 5:12-16)

A Church Unbelievers Feared to Attend - Acts 5:12–5:16

There are many who say, “If we’re not experiencing the miraculous on a regular basis, then we’re doing something wrong as Christians and churches.” The big question in this passage in Acts - is it descriptive only or is it also meant to be prescriptive? What we read here is mainly descriptive rather than prescriptive, and not normative for the church. This does not mean that God cannot or does not miraculously heal. But the powerful, consistent, regular signs and wonders in this passage and throughout the book of Acts were unprecedented in church history. The apostles were commissioned with extraordinary manifestations of signs and wonders by the Holy Spirit to confirm their testimony that God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:22, Acts 2:43). But Luke also records non-apostles who did signs and wonders like Stephen (Acts 6:8) and Philip (Acts 8:6-7).

The great fear that came over the whole church and over all who heard the fate of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:11) put a stop to outsiders and those who might be “faking it” that might flippantly join the church. But God was still miraculously changing the hearts of sinners and bringing them into the church (Acts 5:13-14). This was a church that unbelievers would not dare to attend. This seems to be the opposite of the modern, seeker-sensitive approach to church. The early church simply believed the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16). God and His church were not to be trifled with.

Remember what the church had prayed one chapter earlier (Acts 4:29-30). God answered their prayer in chapter 5. Notice that not all church members were the ones performing signs and wonders, but it was by the hands of the apostles. Why? The church was being founded upon these apostles, who saw the resurrected Lord Jesus and were foundational eyewitnesses (see Heb. 2:3-4, 2 Cor. 12:12).

Question: Did the signs and wonders and healings help people make the decision to convert to Christ (Acts 2:4, Acts 3:1-10, Acts 9:32-35)? Luke seems to want us to see that signs and wonders are connected to people coming to Christ. But the signs and wonders are not the immediate cause of salvation; new birth is.

Question: Why did the early church pray for signs and wonders if both Paul (1 Cor. 1:22-23) and Jesus (Matt. 12:39) seem to denounce the desire for signs at times? Seeking miracles and signs is evil, when it comes from a heart already resisting the truth of who Jesus is. But the early church prayed from a heart that loved the glory of God and sought for signs so that God’s name would be vindicated. Conclusion: we ought not expect signs and wonders like we see here in Acts 5, but there is no reason we ought not expect and pray for the miracle of new birth, and for God to use signs and wonders to accomplish that end if necessary.


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