There are few topics that will cause disagreements in the church today as much as wonders and signs. Some would say that the same miracles that we read about in the New Testament, can and should continue to operate today. Others would put forward the opinion that they were for a unique period and have since ceased to be a functioning reality in our experience. Still others would be in some broad middle ground; either allowing for them in some unique circumstances such as mission frontiers, or being uncertain and non-committal (‘open but cautious’ as it has been referred to). Whatever our view, we ought to ensure our convictions are led by Scripture.
In Acts 2:43 we see many wonders and signs evident in the very earliest church after Christ’s ascension and the pouring out of the Spirit. How might the presence of miracles in that church be for our good today with all of our differing views?
Just as a road sign is not there for its own purpose but to point to the presence of the junction you are approaching, so the miraculous signs of the church in Acts are to point beyond themselves. I would suggest we could all agree on at least two things that these signs point to.
God’s kingdom is present
One of the main reasons Jesus performed signs was to indicate that the kingdom of God had come. Jesus had to reassure John the Baptist that he was the Messiah of God’s kingdom and he did so by pointing to the signs and wonders he performed (Matt. 11:2-5). The same kinds of miracles being performed in the church during the time after the ascension indicated that the church was still a part of that same kingdom of Christ. The kingdom continues from Christ to his church.
As part of the same continuing kingdom of Christ, whether or not we have the same signs in our churches, at very least we ought to share other hallmarks of the kingdom that are the same. For example, that same message of good news that marked the ministry of Christ and the early church ought to be our message. The same kind of character, the same ethics and pursuit of holiness, the same passionate prayer and unity, the same emphases and expectations should be ours too. Where these and others are evident in the church today it is an indication that God’s kingdom continues to be present.
God’s power is present
These signs are also called ‘wonders’ because there was a clear supernatural work of God’s power behind them that was enough to make people wonder at them. It is no more normal for a blind person to suddenly see than for a lame man to be up and jumping around. What else but God’s power could have caused these, and others, to happen? His power was clearly at work in Christ and in the early church.
Whether or not we continue to see wonders of this nature, there still ought to be evidence of God’s power at work amongst his people. Very often, God’s power is at work in much more subtle ways than we expect, many of which can only be seen over a long time span. God’s power is shown in a chronically ill person enduring suffering with joy as well as in a couple being faithfully married for many decades. His power is demonstrated when a teenager persistently resists temptation, when an employee works for decades with integrity and when an employer cares for their staff. They may not be as dramatic, but they are certainly God’s power at work in his people.
Whether or not we believe that wonders and signs are for today, the truths that those signs point to certainly should be – God’s power and kingdom present and revealed in his people, the church. Whatever evidences of God’s kingdom and power we do see, we ought to long and pray for more.