On Miracles, Qualification, and Worship

Acts 4

When the apostles are put on trial before the Sanhedrin, we see a few very important truths revealed. The first is when we read that “when they saw that they were uneducated and untrained men…” This refers, of course, to any formal religious training. See, the Sanhedrin consisted of the top theological minds of their time; whereas the apostles had training only from being students of John the Baptist (and that only a few of them), the few years that they had spent learning from Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And yet, we see the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the experience of spending time with Jesus transcending all of this earthly teaching. Just as we see in Amos the Prophet, or in the shepherds who received the revelation of the Nativity; it is not those with the best seminary education, the most college degrees, the most letters proceeding their name, that the Lord uses. Not those whom we, in our carnal and finite minds would ever conceive of being the most qualified. Rather, it is he who opens himself up to receive the word of the Holy Spirit, he who walks away from the cares of the world and spends time with the Lord, who is qualified by God; and oftentimes that very person is not the one whom we would deem to be worthy. The teacher, teaching his own theology for fifty plus years, who has founded a prestigious seminary, who has written in excess of forty books, would often be willing to receive a revelation which may contradict his theology, thus, while wee would consider that person worthy, the Lord would be much less likely to use such a one. The apostles on the other hand, who had successful careers, jobs, lives, that they all chose, of their own free will, to surrender, in the name of the Lord, would be fully open to receiving any revelation from the Lord. They surrendered their very lives to live with Him, learning from Him, following Him. They rejected all notions and desires of the outside world and sought only to draw closer to the Lord, thus, they were qualified by God for their very asceticism. They had no reputations to fear tarnishing, no public image to uphold, no ministry that they may jeopardize by learning something contrary to their previously held beliefs.

And then. look at what we see next. These wise and educated men, the Sanhedrin, confess to this notable miracle. They even say, “that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it” (V. 16), and yet, they still refuse to accept this as truth. This displays fully how strongly their years of learning had hardened their hearts. That they could plainly see and confess this miracle and still refuse to accept it shows the danger of this pride that is spawned from human wisdom. Having received their various degrees, they acknowledge these miracles, but, as it would contradict their own teaching, rather than changing their thoughts on the topic, they seek to silence it. To mock it. Imagine, in our generation, someone speaking of an image of the Blessed Mary streaming myrrh and healing those who touch it. How would our leaders respond? How would those very contemporary theologians respond to the idea that an image or a statue could bring about such healing, even in the face of countless witnesses? Would they immediately seek to silence those witnesses? Would they seek to mock those who believe in it? Would they write their next best-seller about how the miracles ceased with the close of canon, blatantly denying the two thousand year old history of the Church? Would they respond in human wisdom, puffed up with pride, like the Sanhedrin, or would they respond in faith, like the apostles?

And then we must turn this question inwards to our own hearts? The history and tradition of the Church and the Scriptures speak of the supernatural powers of our God. The Scriptures tell us that God never changes and nowhere in Scripture do we find that He will ever cease to perform miracles. Thus, the tradition of the Church as well as the Scriptures tell us that He will never cease performing miracles; only an academic and worldly approach to theology would ever state that He would. The history of the Church shows us countless examples of the miraculous after the apostles’ time on the earth had come to an end.

So, bearing that in mind, how do we respond when we hear the story of a miracle truly happening? If we hear of an icon streaming myrrh, or of a statue crying, or some other supernatural miracle happening, how do we respond? Do we respond in faith; or puffed up by our own human wisdom, do we refuse to accept the supernatural abilities of God, thus distilling our faith to a humanistic philosophy and political structure? Do we more highly value counsel meetings and Bible studies, seeking to “unravel the mysteries of God,” or do we enter into a liturgical worship service preferring to experience those same mysteries?

There is one evangelical pastor that is a huge influence over my entire theological outlook, and one of the statements that he made that has always meant so much to me is this: “I wish the people in America would realize that they don’t have to be content to talk to Moses anymore, they can go up the mountain themselves and come face to face with the heavens. Like, they can have their own experience, they don’t have to be content with hearing someone else’s experiences with God.” It’s so true. We can go up the mountain. Worship isn’t about hearing what someone else has done or experienced, it’s about entering into the heavenly kingdom and joining into the eternal liturgy. It’s about experiencing the mysteries of our faith, not trying to solve them. It’s bowing down and saying “Lord have mercy” and praising God, singing, “holy, holy holy, Lord of Sabbaoth.” If you are in a service for an hour, and forty-five minutes of it is listening to one man give you his interpretation of a passage of Scripture, are you truly worshiping God, or the man who is telling you his opinion of who God is?

May the grace of the Lord be with you all, my beloved family. Christ is in our midst.

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