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

What to do when the Bible seems strange and even wrong…

Reason for God
  1. Consider the possibility that the passage doesn’t actually teach what it appears to be teaching. The historical distance between this ancient text and us is big enough that some things may get lost in translation (ex: slavery. ALL forms of slavery practiced in the antebellum South are explicitly called sinful by the Bible–1 Tim. 1:9-11; Deut. 24:7. So whatever the Bible has in mind by slave and master relationships, it isn’t the same as what we instinctively think of in the 21st century. More could be said of this complex topic, but this is a start.)
  2. Consider the possibility that the problem is an unexamined belief of your own, by which you have elevated your own cultural viewpoint to a level of infallibility (ex: just because we live in western society in the 21st century doesn’t mean that all our beliefs are necessarily true).
  3. Distinguish major themes of the Bible from less important teachings, and consider these in their proper order. So, for starters recognize that many Christians disagree on secondary issues (gender roles, baptism, etc.), but these are secondary to the bigger question of whether Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Use these as a starting point to branch out into other secondary issues.
These tips come from Tim Keller, The Reason for God, pg.110-113.

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.

Illustrations: The Word of Man and The Word of God

TPG“True Protestantism has always been sincerely and passionately jealous not only for the truth of God’s Word, but for its final, supreme authority as well. To the Protestant, the word of man is to the Word of God less than a guttering candle to the noonday sun.” (The Presbyterian Guardian, editorial, October 7, 1935)