Sermon: God, Would You Stretch Out Your Hand? Acts 5:12-16

Introduction

I am often torn between the idea of modern day signs and wonders and the sufficiency of Scripture.  It seems that if you believe the Bible is sufficient then signs and wonders are not needed, and yet the early church prayed for both.

Acts 4:29-31 (ESV)
29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,
30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 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 continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

They prayed that God’s Word would be spoken with boldness and they prayed that God would continue to stretch out His hand to heal and perform signs and wonders.

In our text for today, we’ll see that the Lord answered their request and both parts, Jesus Christ accomplished bold proclamation and signs and wonders through His apostles.

This was the type of praying they were devoted to.  Remember from last week, they were devoted to Apostle’s teaching, the fellowship, sharing meals together, and praying.

Primary Claim of the Text

In answer to the church’s prayers, God granted bold proclamation and stretched out His hand with signs and wonders for the advance of His Kingdom.

Human Condition Met By the Text

We have become biased against God’s miracle working power due to abuses in our day.  It is true; we must always rely on the Scriptures.  It is the Word of God that saves, not signs and wonders.  However, signs and wonders done by Jesus in His day and the Apostles in their day were accomplished by God for His glory and for the salvation of many.

We too should pray for boldness in our evangelism and that God would also work wonders in our midst as well.  We must never allow misguided zeal to take away our desire to see God’s Word authenticated by His power.

Please Hear God’s Word…

Acts 5:12-16 (ESV)
12 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.
13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.
14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,
15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.
16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

1.  The Purpose of Signs and Wonders in Acts

12 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.

Luke summarizes the pattern in the Book of Acts when he writes; many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.

This was an ongoing, regular event.  The Apostles would boldly preach and Jesus would boldly heal.  Luke writes that it was the Apostle’s hands that were performing the miracles but what he’s really doing is connecting these accounts of healing with his previous statements…

30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
The Apostles have become God’s mouthpiece and God’s hands in healing.

In the Book of Acts the typical pattern for great movements of God in salvation was to begin the work with a miracle coupled with bold proclamation of the Gospel by an Apostle.  One theologian tells us that he has counted and it is around 17 times in the Book of Acts this was the case.

Acts 9:32-35 (ESV)
32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.
33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed.
34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose.
35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Another example…

Acts 9:36-43 (ESV)
36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.
37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.
38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.”
39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.
40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.
41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive.
42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

 

Why did the Apostles pray for signs and wonders along with bold proclamation?[1]

There is no doubt that the working of miracles—signs and wonders—helped bring people to Christ. That is what Luke wants us to see and that is surely why the Christians would pray in Acts 4:30 that God would stretch forth his hand to heal and do signs and wonders. It would help bring people to Christ.[2]

The purpose for the signs and wonders in Acts was so that men and women, boys and girls would be brought to Christ.

2.  Why the Prayer of the Apostles was NOT Evil and Adulterous

30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.

This is what they prayed for and what God granted and yet in the ministry of Jesus we read…

Matthew 12:38-42 (ESV)
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

What is the difference?  Why did Jesus condemn a generation seeking signs and then the Apostles praying God would grant signs and wonders?

The generation Jesus condemned as evil and adulterous was the generation who would not believe regardless.  Jesus was teaching and preaching and anyone who cared to follow Him a few hours witnessed a miracle or a healing of some kind and yet they still refused to believe.

The answer to the first question is this: seeking signs from God is wicked and adulterous when the demand for more and more evidence comes from a resistant heart and simply covers up an unwillingness to believe.[3]

The evil and adulterous generation tells God that the reason they refuse to believe is that He didn’t perform enough miracles, placing the blame on God.  They are the sinners and He is calling them to belief and yet, in their stubborn hearts, He is not doing enough.  “God we would have believed if You would have performed one more miracle” The problem is that they are trying to cover up the fact that it is their sin and their rebellion by blaming God.
We have the very same thing today when a practicing homosexual says that God made him the way they are.  They tell us, it’s not their fault…”God if You would have made me different I would not be practicing homosexuality”.  That is an example of an evil and adulterous generation…blame God for sin…it’s something He did.

In the case of the generation of unbelievers in Jesus’ day, they wanted more signs not Jesus.  Today, in the example of the gay movement, they want their sin more than they want Jesus.

Seeking signs and wonders is evil if you make them the excuse for not trusting God.

But, if on the other hand, you come to God praying for miracles, as the Apostles did, to bring Him glory through the vindication of His name in the salvation of sinners you are not an evil generation but a God-glorifying generation.  The Apostles prayed for boldness in witnessing and they prayed that God would attest to His Word with signs and wonders for His glory and the salvation of sinners and God answered their request.  God was ready to move in this way, it was time for His kingdom to make large strides toward its fulfillment.

3.  The Result of God’s Hand Working Signs and Wonders

13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.
14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,
There was a sense in which even the lost community in and around Jerusalem had a fear of God…
13 None of the rest dared join them. 

Between Ananias and Saphira’s immediate deaths and all the other healing miracles, the people in Jerusalem had fear and deep reverence for the Apostles.  All the people held them in high esteem.  None of the rest dared join them. 

One result of the signs and wonders was that it brought reverence and awe over the entire Jewish community, believers and even unbelievers.

This is much like when Jesus cast out the legion of demons on Gerasa…

Luke 8:34-39 (ESV)
34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.
35 Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed.
37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.
38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying,
39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

 

The point Luke makes is that for those who refuse to believe the miracles of Jesus and the Apostle bring fear, for the believers it brings appreciation and love for the saving work of Christ.

Another result of the work of God in signs and wonders was the salvation of many.

14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,
The Word boldly preached coupled with Apostolic signs brought conviction of sin and salvation for sinners.

A third result was a deep respect for those preaching God’s Word…

15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.

Those who were speaking God’s Word were highly respected and they carried with them authority of Jesus Christ.

Luke records that the people had such respect for Peter that they though even if his shadow would pass over their sick that they would be healed.
16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

These folks who were healed were restored because of their faith.  This was no magical superstitious event.  They trusted Christ through Peter and the others.  They believed and even the shadow of Peter was sufficient to heal them.  Much like the woman with the issue of blood who believed that if she could simply touch the him of Jesus’ garment she would be made whole again, so to these believed and were miraculously restored.

The early church prayed for bold proclamation and for God’s miraculous works.  They prayed that God would grant them boldness and continue working in miraculous ways.

What should we, in the 21st Century pray for?  The exact same thing…

We should pray that God would grant us boldness and that God would work in amazing ways…any way He chooses to substantiate the Gospel message.  We can plan and organize but unless God moves, it’s all for nothing.  We should pray that His Word goes forth and that He goes along with it making people ready and receptive, whether God chooses to heal in a astonishing way or not, we should go expecting some sort of work of God…

It is perfectly clear that in New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated in this way by signs, wonders and miracles of various characters and descriptions . . . Was it only meant to be true of the early church? . . . The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary—never! There is no such statement anywhere. (The Sovereign Spirit, pp. 31–32)

Lloyd-Jones believed in the steady-state, regular, ordinary ministry of the church. It has its blessing and its glory from the Lord. But I think he became increasingly disillusioned with business as usual toward the end of his 30 years of steady-state ministry at Westminster Chapel in London in 1965.

[We] can produce a number of converts, thank God for that, and that goes on regularly in evangelical churches every Sunday. But the need today is much too great for that. The need today is for an authentication of God, of the supernatural, of the spiritual, of the eternal, and this can only be answered by God graciously hearing our cry and shedding forth again his Spirit upon us and filling us as he kept filling the early church. (Joy Unspeakable, p. 278)

What is needed is some mighty demonstration of the power of God, some enactment of the Almighty, that will compel people to pay attention, and to look, and to listen . . That is why I am urging you to pray for this. When God acts, he can do more in a minute than man with his organizing can do in fifty years. (Revival, pp. 121–122)[4]

In answer to the church’s prayers, God granted bold proclamation and stretched out His hand with signs and wonders for the advance of His Kingdom.

God, Would You Stretch Out Your Hand?

 

LORD’S SUPPER

 

 

 

 

 


[1] John Piper Sermon on Acts 5:12-16 (Used and studied for this current message)

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

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