Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the Apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.
-- Acts 5:12-13, ESV
While the divine and human star of the Gospels is Jesus, the cast shifts in the book of Acts. The primary divine presence is the Holy Spirit, and the human actors who steal the show are the Apostles, with a capital "A." We would not have salvation apart from Christ, and we could not know the church as the body of Christ apart from the Apostles. They deserve a special look.
The Apostles of the early church were a small, finite number of men personally appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ and endowed with special powers by God. I have likened them before to Moses and Aaron, and Elijah and Elisha. They were exceptional men granted exceptional gifts during an exceptional period in redemptive history.
Like the immortal Jesus and the few mortals mentioned above, the Apostles could do "signs and wonders" upon people who were "all healed." It was not a show, it was not hit or miss, it was bona fide. The miracles gave these special men the credibility of Christ, which was used to promote the gospel of Christ, and resulted in many new followers of Christ.
The Lord did not call many, and those He called He did so in person, and when those persons died and left the scene, the office of Apostle, and the gifts that go with it, ceased. There is no proof otherwise. Bring me an actual Apostle and miracle worker. If he can restore my myopic eyesight, take arthritis out of my bones, and make hair grow back on the top of my head, I will admit I am wrong and shout hallelujah!
In this scene featuring the Apostles, Christianity is interestingly called the "Life." A few volumes later on it will be referred to as the "Way" (ref. Acts 9:2, 19:9). You remember in the book of John, Jesus called it "the way and the truth and the life" (ref. John 14:6). The gospel of Jesus Christ is the Way people hear the Truth that gives them eternal Life. Clearly, it is the only way to live. And nobody lived it and shared it better than the Apostles.
The principal tasks of the Apostles remain the main things of the church today. They are preaching and teaching. The word used for preaching is where we get our English word "evangelize" and the word used for teaching is where we get out English word "doctrine."
To preach is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is fairly simple and most profound. It is about Jesus' person, "Leader (Lord) and Savior." It is about Jesus' work, "raised" after being "killed" on a cross. It is about the necessity of faith and "repentance" in order to receive "forgiveness of sins" and eternal life. That's the full gospel in any language!
To teach, on the other hand, is to explain God's word to God's people. It is a lifelong project for the Christian and the Christian church. It puts shoes on gospel feet and walks in the doctrines of God and man, sin and salvation, the church and the world, and the world to come for the church. Teaching exegetically and theologically is indispensable, interesting, and integral for a true Christian and true Christian church.
This short chapter contains not one, but two arrests. The angel interrupts the first, but after a brief period of freedom, "The officers brought them (and) set them before the council." This punch of persecution hit hard. The word for "beat" literally means to break the skin and bring forth blood. It made them hurt. It made them cry. It made them remember. It made them rejoice, "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name," the name of Jesus.
John Stott wrote, "Sometimes the church has to bleed to be a blessing." Christ bought the church with His own blood. The Apostles grew the church with their own blood. What are you willing to bleed for today? Like the heroes of this story, I hope it is Christ and His church.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]