Message – Is what we have now, what they had then?
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Is what we have now, what they had then?
We started out the year looking at the book of Acts which reveals the collaborative works of the Spirit and the Church in the work of the Kingdom. We only got to the 5th chapter before we began to see a pattern of things which occurred frequently in the early church which we do NOT see nearly as frequently today – namely, signs, wonders, deliverance from demonic oppression and healing.
So, for the past two weeks we have begun to examine the scriptures to see why these things are true. So far we have seen clear things which can cause sickness, disease and death in Christians AND we have found at least 3 things the early church practiced which the modern church does not.
The two things which definitely can cause weakness, sickness and death are pursuing the works of the flesh or sowing to the flesh which causes us to reap corruption from the flesh.
This is why Jesus many times had to tell people He had healed to “Go and sin no more lest something worse come on you.” and why Paul said what He did in 1 Cor. 11 regarding the sins of not properly giving respect to the Lord’s physical body through communion AND the way we treat our siblings in Christ.
IF I WERE TO SUGGEST THIS AS A POSSIBLE CAUSE FOR SICKNESS, INFIRMITIES OR DEATH IN MOST CHURCHES TODAY I’D ALMOST CERTAINLY BE LAUGHED BACK OUT TO THE PARKING LOT AND THEREIN LAY A BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM.
Last week we addressed 4 of the predominant reasons given by many mainstream denominational churches as to why we do not see signs, wonders, deliverances and healings as readily as did the early church.
NONE of them held any water when placed under the scrutiny of scripture and it furthermore highlighted reasons why in the modern church we do not see these things as often.
- Universal deep respect for God in the church
- Loving our siblings in Christ even to the point of giving ALL to them.
- Expectation and trust
- We do not seek God because we view everything in life through a humanistic lense. All problems are natural problems as are all solutions.
In fact one of the reasons why we don’t see more of the supernatural is because we have been conditioned to think purely from a humanistic world view, so it doesn’t even occur to us.
We get sick because we were exposed to germs, we have people who are mentally and socially handicap due to genetic issues or biochemical imbalances. It never occurs to us that we are sick or that a birth with a disability was due to sin or demonic influence.
EVERYTHING has a natural cause and solution.
ADHD is viewed as purely physical as if that places it beyond God’s power to address. It never seems to occur to us that it could even be demonic.
Think about it, how many children who you have seen totally flip out, angry, hostile and completely out of control. If you were to step back out of that situation and imagine it happening in an ancient city of Rome with Jesus walking by, might you all of the sudden consider the possibility that this might be demonic?
Yet, in 2021 in the middle of a shopping center, no one gives it much of a second thought anymore. Now you know I am not the kind of person who attributes everything to the devil, but I wonder if he is often hiding in plain site.
It reminds me of a Keith Green song entitled, No one believes in me anymore and I’m going to play it for you right now.
Now last week we concluded that in the modern church
- We often, through our lack of faith, identify more with the single, extraordinary example we saw last week of Ananias and Sapphira than we do with the countless thousands who were healed.
- That regardless of what we have and have not personally experienced, healing is the bread of the children of Abraham or the children of God. It is not the natural born people of Jewish descent that are Abraham’s children, but those who enter into the Kingdom by faith in it’s king – Jesus. If this is NO LONGER true – would He not have told us?
- We need to know how and why things work the way they do in the Kingdom and at least part of that is understanding what IS the work of the kingdom?
Let me say that especially regarding the first one – that we identify MORE with judgment than healing…
On a personal note…
As a child, when I was VERY young, we were your typical American family. We regularly went to the doctor, we were sick several times a year every year, our cupboards were full of pain relievers, nightquil, antihistamines, thermometers, we had humidifiers and vics sav, nasal spray…we were a veritable micro-pharmacy.
Personally I was allergic to nearly everything but air and so was my sister. I got ear infections as a normal course of life. Before I ever even hit the double-digits I’d had 12 bilateral myringotomies with tubes for my ears. My mom had ulcers and migraines…we were a mess.
Finally, my mother was exposed to some Word of Faith teaching, which I now take exception with many of their teachings, but they DID teach some very good and solid biblical truths which I had never heard in the Southern Baptist church.
When I attended that denomination I had many questions to which I received conflicting answers if any at all. When I pointed out that their answers were in conflict my inquisitiveness was met with something less than enthusiasm.
You would think that a young man of 6-9 years of age who was eager to learn and who was quick enough to recognize conflicts in the answers he was given would encourage the teachers to dive in and seek for truth and spir on my interest, but that was most certainly NOT my experience.
At any rate, my mom decided to just trust God for her healing.
Eventually she dumped her migraine pills into the toilet to just remove any temptation to rely upon something other than God. If God didn’t come through for her, she would just have to suffer.
As a result, she was set free from migraines and never again experienced a one of them… a fact to which I can personally testify.
That began something NEW in our home. My mom never “forced us to believe” , which in reality you can’t anyway. She would present us with a choice. We could get medication or prayer and trust God for healing. Being young, and loving the Lord as much as I did, this was not a hard decision to make. I began early on to associate honoring God in my body with not allowing sickness and disease to take up residence in it – that healing was as much a part of what Jesus paid for and any other thing and so… to not accept it was a dishonor to the price He paid as much as sinning would be.
In relatively short order all my allergies were gone. We retested and they came up negative across the board. However, I still got really bad ear infections anytime I would swim without earplugs and even sometimes when I DID use earplugs.
One day I spent the night at a friend’s house whose mother also believed in healing. She asked if I wanted to swim with my friend and I told her I could not because I did not bring my ear plugs.
She asked me, “Do you believe that if I lay hands on you, you will be healed of that?” I said, “Sure”.
So she prayed and I jumped in the pool without earplugs and never again had another earache.
So for the vast majority of my life I grew up seeing sickness as a choice. I could choose to accept sickness when it came or I could refuse it out of trust and respect to what Jesus paid for. It was a way of life. So much so, that I came to the point that if I ever had the beginning of a scratchy throat, or a fever or runny nose, it never occurred to me that I would be sick.
I began to notice just how sick minded my friends and other family were.
Anytime someone sneezed or coughed they immediately checked to see if they were sick.
Such thoughts were solidly in my past and largely still are.
Don’t get me wrong… I have been VERY sick a few times in my adult life with a flu or strep throat, but I have NEVER failed to be healed from it except one time when I was living alone and passed out for about 1 and a half days – so I was too unconscious to do much in the way of protest.
When I got married, I noticed it all over again.
Teri was raised like most people, she had a very caring mother who knew enough from the medical field to be dangerous to herself and so every little symptom had a pill.
It wasn’t too terribly long into our marriage that Teri began to notice it as well, because she too was beginning to think differently. She noticed how every time we went to see her family nearly someone was sick, and nearly everyone was literally expecting to catch it.
We told them, we don’t believe in getting sick so you don’t have to keep your distance from us and guess what… we didn’t get sick.
Looking back I believe there were times when this was as much presumption and sometimes even pride than it was true faith, but as the years progressed we have come to recognize the difference.
My point is – expectation has MUCH to do with health as does genuine faith itself.
People who live in the mulligrubs and live with expectations of being sick – are almost never disappointed.
The same is true for those who think health.
I’ve witnessed this in people who are very clearly NOT believers, but due to their optimism, their indomitable spirit and their belief in the power of the body and nutrition to heal – have recovered from everything from strokes, to Crohn’s disease to brain cancer.
So, there is MUCH to be said for that!
Now that I have emphasized the tremendous impact your thinking and your expectations has on your general health, how much more is this true if your faith is in the Creator of these truths, is the author of your salvation and is the Creator of our outstandingly amazing and efficient immune systems?
Now…this week we are going to look at yet another excuse offered by the many mainstream denominational churches as to why we see so little of the miraculous signs, wonders, deliverances and healings as the early church did.
We will begin in Heb. 2:1-4 & then move on to Eph. 4:11-16.
This is to address the claim that all of the miraculous signs and healings in the early church only followed the Apostles and some who had been given gifts of healing, but that such people and gifts are no more.
Let’s look at Heb. 2:1-4 first,
“(1) Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (2) For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, (3) how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, (4) while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
This passage, if taken out of the whole of scripture, could easily lead someone to believe that this was only for the early church and especially through the witness of the Apostles who heard Him first hand. However, we know what we read in Mark 16. It didn’t say, those of you in this immediate generation who believe – it said ALL who believe.
Also, in addition to this 1 Cor. 12-14 make it clear that miracles and gifts of healings are distributed to EACH ONE as the Spirit wills.
But have those “gifts” seen their day?
Were they simply to jump start the early church and now it is no longer necessary?
Many claim that such is what Eph. 4:11-16 says. So let’s look at that passage,
“(11) And he himself gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. (14) So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. (15) But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, Who is the head. (16) From Him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body builds itself up in love.”
Even the words Paul uses here shout back to the passage in 1 Corinthians 12, where each member in the body has received a grace gift to function in the body and cause increase.
The misrepresentation is found in verse 13, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith” which is taken to mean unity in what we are to believe regarding Christ and the Christian message. This is something these same people believe was accomplished once the fullness of all that is in the New Testament was revealed to the early church no later than the death of the last apostle. However, we know that such is NOT the meaning of the verse. We know that because the full statement made by Paul here grammatically cannot and does not allow that interpretation.
Furthermore, a similar teaching is found in 1Cor. 13 which clarifies the meaning of these verses.
We know it grammatically because “Come” is katantaō, meaning “to arrive at, to attain to.” “In” is eis, which here means “into, unto.”
It is therefore set forth as a goal to be striven after. The faith here is NOT “the faith” meaning Christian doctrine, but rather faith as exercised in Christ.
Also Paul taught this using different words in 1 Cor. 13, where he said that the gifts had no meaning outside of love and that we would have the gifts until we had attained perfection in love which he compared to being of full maturity in Christ or rather – had fully taken on the nature of Christ.
Let’s turn there and read it…
1Cor. 13:1-13, “(1) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
(2) And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
(3) If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.
4) Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. (5) It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. (6) It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. (7) It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never ends.
But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside;
if there are tongues, they will cease;
if there is knowledge, it will be set aside.
(9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, (10) but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside.”
Many at this point believe that what Paul was referring to as “perfect” was perfect knowledge of Christian doctrine, which was accomplished in the first century before the death of the last Apostle. However Paul defines what he means with the following words and they speak of the maturity of the Bride…
“(11) When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.
(12) For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.
(13) And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
So we will have these gifts until the bride has been made ready for her groom in maturity through faith in Him.
So if we still have gifts, and we have NO proof that “believers laying hands on the sick” no longer applies in the body of Christ, then why do we see so little?
In truth I do not know. However, the following things which the early church had in abundance, I see as largely lacking in the church today and these things seem to be directly connected to those koinonia experiences with the Spirit of God Who worked these miracles and healings.
- Reverential fear of God has left the building. Most modern Christians are living ‘Christianity lite’. There is little devotion to Christ outside of perhaps attending church and any more, many don’t even do that. As such they are not living testimonies of Christ. Their light is not bright and is often placed under a bushel to borrow from the words of Jesus.
- Because we have options. In the great majority of cases we have trained ourselves to take a pill for everything or seek the advice of the doctor, often God is little more than a last resort and this is a DIRECT result of a lack of intimacy with Him.
- We do not expect it nor truly believe it.
- We are more wrapped up in our own little lives than we are in the greater community of the believers.
- We tend towards self-satisfaction and greed.
- We approach life on our own – we often do not think of the Holy Spirit as our partner in Ministry nor that the unlimited resources He has as God are therefore at our disposal.
- We make our witness (what little of it we do) more about ourselves and how we come off to others than we do about Christ and fulfilling His heart’s desire to honor the Father by inheriting the world.
- We have allowed the world with its humanistic world view to corrupt the purity of our thoughts and beliefs, reducing us to their level.
Any of the above could hold back miracles, signs and healings and if continued in definitely would!
Next week we are going to go on in Acts 5 into verse 17, but we NEED to hold these things we’ve learned regarding the heart, attitudes and expectations of the early church in our minds as we press forward. Think on them, reflect on them, allow and invite the Holy Spirit to scrutinize our hearts and lives in the light of them that we might turn this around.