The Meaning of Miraculous Healings in Acts (and the Gospels, too)

“This healing [Acts 4, the lame man at Solomon’s Portico] may be thought of as both an X-ray and a preview. As an X-ray, it makes visible to outside observers the unseen inner cure that faith in Jesus produces. Astonishing as it is for a man of forty who has never walked to leap in the temple, the cure of hearts paralyzed in sin is even greater. As a preview, it shows the final completion of Jesus’ restorative work, when believers’ physical bodies will fully experience the salvation which we already taste in the form of firstfruits (see Rom. 8:18-25). Astonishing as it is for a lame man to leap, it is nothing when compared to the cosmic restoration to come– “the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).”  -Dennis Johnson, The Message of Acts, pg. 65

Dennis Johnson’s Observations About Revelation

  1. Revelation is given to reveal.
  2. Revelation is a book to be ‘seen,’ being full of symbolism.
  3. Revelation makes sense only in light of the Old Testament.
  4. Numbers count in Revelation.
  5. Revelation is for a church under attack.
  6. Revelation concerns “what must soon take place.”
  7. The victory belongs to God and to his Christ.

( from “Introduction” of Dennis Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb).

Summary of Gaffin’s argument against Continuing Prophecy and Tongues in the Church

Perspective on Pentecost So, here is my attempt to summarize Dr. Gaffin’s argument for cessationism as found in his book  (pp. 89-116). Keep in mind #1: I have summarized in 350 words what he said over the course of 29 pages. So, all I included was his conclusions, not his exegetical argument for each point. If you want the exegesis and his reasoning, you’ll have to read the book. #2: a hazard of providing such a brief summary is that, despite my best efforts, I may be guilty of over-simplified statements or unhelpfully vague statements (all which concerns could be addressed by reading the book!). Anyway, without further ado:
  1. The Apostolic office was temporary, and thus so are the elements of the church’s life that are integrally related to the office of apostle.
  2. That element that was integrally related to the apostolic office (and was temporary) was their revelatory witness to Christ that served to lay the foundation of the church. That foundation has been laid.
  3. Ephesians 2:20 speaks of others sharing in this apostolic work of revelatory witness. They are “the prophets.” These prophets are New Covenant-era Christian who had the gift of prophecy. According to Eph. 2:20 that prophetic gift was given for the specific purpose of laying the foundation of the church. That foundation-laying work has been accomplished, thus the gift of prophecy has completed its function and passed away, along with the office of apostle and gifts related to it.
  4. Meanwhile, speaking in tongues according to 1 Cor. 14:22 is a sign against unbelievers. They are signs of God’s judgment against unbelief by making the word of God unintelligible to those in rebellion against God at the crucial point of laying the foundation of the new covenant church. They are analogous to Jesus’ use of parables which were for hardening some hearts and softening others. Being tied to the foundational labors of the apostles, tongues too have passed away.
  5. It is stretching 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 beyond its intention to read it as if it is trying to explain how long tongues and prophecy will continue with the church. The point of the passage is the transient nature of our knowledge now. The reality is even Scripture is a word-gift given to the church during this transient time. Yet we certainly don’t believe that God is perpetually adding new inspired Scripture to the canon throughout this transient time. Similarly, one can’t assume that because tongues and prophecy were given for transient times that God is continuing to give more and more. He hasn’t with Scripture, why assume he would with prophecy or tongues?
  6. The best place to go to understand how the gifts of the Spirit play out after the time of the apostles is to consult those New Testament books that speak explicitly to life after the time of the apostles: the Pastoral epistles. These univocally point the church to Scripture as its guiding source of knowledge after the apostles have died.

Magic Eye Art and Revelation


Here is a nice illustration of how the book of Revelation works. It could also serve well as an illustration of the doctrine of revelation itself.

The Magic Eye phenomenon provides a parable for Christian thinking about the world: to see the pattern that counts, you have to focus beyond the surface, to see the shape of deep realities not accessible to casual observer. Like everyone else, Christians spend much of every day with eyes and mind focused on the surface of things–details about deadlines, delays, dollars, dress, food and shelter, going and coming, work and recreation, politics and more. Attending to everyday issues is necessary and right, but out hearts long to see the big picture, the meaning that lies behind the details. The Revelation shown to John unveils this deep pattern beneath the surface of history. (Dennis Johnson, Triumph of The Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, pg. 50).

Epochal Elucidations: Once More, What is Pentecost?

Perspective on Pentecost “The controlling point in the position taken here is that Pentecost is to be understood first of all as part of the once-for-all accomplishment of redemption (historia salutis) rather than as a part of its ongoing, continual application (ordo salutis). Obviously the two are intimately related and inseparable, but they must not be confused. To do so necessarily jeopardizes the absolute sufficiency and finality of Christ’s work. As I have already tried to show, the baptism with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is a unique event of epochal significance in the history of redemption. Therefore it is no more capable of being repeated or serving as a model for individual Christian experience than are the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, with which it is so integrally conjoined as part of a single complex of events (see again Acts 2:32f.).” Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost: The New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, pg. 22.

Epochal Elucidations: What is Pentecost?

Perspective on Pentecost “Pentecost is nothing less than the establishment of the church as the new covenant people of God, as the body of Christ. The Spirit given at Pentecost constitutes the body of Christ as a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:22), as the temple of God in which the Spirit of God dwells (1 Cor. 3:16). Accordingly, all who have been incorporated into that Spirit-baptized body and have a place in it share in the gift of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).” Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost: New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, pg. 21

One Way to Sum Up the Work of Christ

Perspective on Pentecost “At Pentecost it is Jesus who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. In fact, the work of Christ in its entirety may be said to consist in securing and communicating to the church at Pentecost the gift (baptism) of the Holy Spirit.” Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost: New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Spirit, pg. 14.

Epochal Elucidations: Why Pentecost Matters…

Perspective on Pentecost“The New Testament, then, provides a dramatic, historical perspective basic to understanding the work of the Spirit. It is fair to say that everything said in the New Testament about the Spirit’s work looks forward or traces back to Pentecost; everything pivots on Pentecost (along with the death and resurrection of Christ).” Richard Gaffin, Perspective on Pentecost: New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, pg. 14

BW COMMENT: So, whenever you read in the New Testament something about the Spirit working in you, realize this passage could not have happened if it weren’t for Pentecost in Acts 2 (and that couldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God).