I have never understood why the world system trains its first responders to perform miracles and the typical church system does not.
The general military forces, special forces, EMT’s, emergency and critical care medical personnel, police and firemen are all trained to preserve and restore life. In the church people are trained to give up on life. When one of these people come upon an injured, dying or dead person their first response is to heal them or raise them from the dead. They have been trained that the miraculous is not only possible but both practical and expected.
Not so in most churches. Our training institutions train our first responders [paid ministers] to console the sick and bury the dead. The result of this sick mindset is the trainers reproduce people who do not feel it is their responsibility to intervene.
Sympathy sucks! Sympathy is a very poor substitute for compassion because it is powerless to intervene in impossible situations. That is why Jesus never functioned out of sympathy. Jesus was always moved with compassion [with deep passion]. Compassion compels us to intervene.
Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession [lifestyle]. His first disciples were eventually called apostles. After He ascended into heaven more people were called to this strategic and misunderstood office. Today, as throughout church history, apostles exist and have been instrumental in the advancement of God’s Kingdom. The church has had, and still has huge issues with accepting apostles, and prophets. This refusal to understand, appreciate and accept apostles and prophets has resulted in the church being more concerned with its comfort than its call.
The church cannot be apostolic without the grace of apostles anymore than it can be prophetic without prophets. Jesus said this in Matthew 10:41, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive the prophet’s reward. He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive a righteous mans’ reward.” Life flows out of honor. When people do not receive a minister of the Gospel for who they are they eliminate or diminish the reward that they receive. People determine the amount of life that flows into them by the amount of honor they show the man or woman of God. To devalue the gifts [Ephesians 4:7, 8, 11-16] of Christ is to devalue Christ. These gifts are Christ Himself. Jesus gave gifts to men and then gave the men as gifts to the church.
Now, the church is supposed to be charging into the gates of hell [domains of darkness] and delivering people from the ravages of hell [sin, sickness, disease, disabilities, dysfunctions, etc]. Apostles, by their very nature and call, provide the courage to advance in the face of extreme danger. The word apostle was new to the New Testament saints. Jesus borrowed it from the Greco-Roman military vocabulary. The general, or admiral, who was dispatched into new territories with a mandate to conquer and transform the region and the people, were apostles. Their job was to conquer and then create an environment that resembled the nation they represented.
I hope you get the picture. Jesus commanded His apostles to pray – “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it IS in heaven.” He then commanded them to go and disciple nations. Jesus sent them into hostile environments with this assurance, “I will be with you.” Jesus expected them to display courage in the face of real danger. He had told them on several occasions that they would go equipped in the same way the Father had sent and equipped Him.
There is a ton of evidence in the Bible of this truth but I want to focus on two stories that involve the two most prominent apostles in the New Testament, Peter and Paul.
Acts 9:32-43 ~
“Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed.’ Immediately he got up. And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, ‘Do not delay in coming to us.’ So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. But Peter sent them all out 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. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.”
This is a great story for many reasons. The obvious reason is one man was miraculously healed and a woman was raised from the dead. In addition, the first miracle resulted in a whole town coming to Jesus and the second one resulted in many people turning to the Lord.
Before I talk about all the wonderful aspects of this story I want to point out some disappointing ones.
I have often wondered why the saints at both Lydda and Joppa did not heal the sick and raise the dead? By now, miracles were being performed by believers, not just the apostles. I have wondered why they did not go for it. Had they not heard that God was using “normal” Christians? Had some person misinformed them of their rights and privileges to live the normal Christian life? This is possible. Paul wrote to the Corinthians believers that “he did not want them to be ignorant of spiritual gifts” [1 Cor. 12:1]. He wrote those words to the one Christian community that was excelling in giftedness but failing in character.
Why were some of the Corinthians ignorant? The word ignorant means to be uninformed or misinformed, or not taught or taught wrong. This causes me to wonder if there were seeker sensitive pockets of Christianity in Paul’s day. You know, “we believe in that stuff we just don’t teach it or practice it.” Just a thought!
Let us look at what Peter, the apostle did when he entered the environment at both Lydda and Joppa.
Lydda ~ Miracle for a saint
Peter entered into the presence of a man who had been paralyzed for eight years. Oh by the way, when Peter encountered this man it had been nearly nine years since the Day Of Pentecost in Acts chapter two. This baptism was meant by God to empower saints to walk in the miraculous. This also tells us that this man became paralyzed around the same time God was pouring out His Spirit in Jerusalem, and at least three years since “normal” Christians were operating in the miraculous.
Peter’s first action was to speak to the man. He said, “Aeneas, the Lord Jesus heals you.” Peter did not dilly dally around with “I wonder if it is the Lord’s will to heal this man.” He had heard Jesus say, “heal the sick”. He had also seen Jesus speak to people and their condition change immediately. Peter knew what God’s will was. He said the Lord Jesus heals [present tense] you. Jesus paid the full price for every sin and every sickness. If we believe it is God’s will for every person to be saved [forgiven] we must believe it is His will for every sick person to be saved [healed or delivered] [1 Timothy 2:4]. Sin is simply soul sickness. Jesus’ blood purchased full atonement. He did not neglect to cover any malady of mankind.
He then said to Aeneas, “get up and make your bed.” This was a pretty bold move. It could not have been said if Peter did not absolutely know what the will of God was. We cannot afford a debate in our mind as to what the will of God is. “Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done! On earth as it IS in heaven! Is there sin, sickness or death in heaven? NO!
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, demonstrated the will of God. He strode right into a hellish environment and destroyed the gates [place of authority] of hell. Peter acted as an apostolic first responder.
Joppa ~ miracle for a saint
Peter accepts the invitation of two men to leave Lydda and come to Joppa. The local saints were clueless and powerless, except they did have enough sense to go find a man of God who believed in God, and more importantly believed God. He enters into the room where death was ruling. He graciously listened [put up with] to all the widows doing the religious thing of moaning their loss and reminiscing about all the wonderful things Dorcas had done.
After he had heard and seen enough of the doubt and unbelief he sent them all out of the room. Next is where it really gets interesting. Peter prayed! What did he pray? Did he pray, “Lord, do you want me to raise this fine lady from the dead?” Or, did he pray, “Lord, how do you want me to raise this lady from the dead?” The Bible does not tells us but what it does tell us about Jesus and His commands to His disciples/apostles I can come up with only one conclusion. Peter had to have prayed the second prayer.
Jesus had healed too many people to count. He had also raised many people from the dead. The Bible does not record every miracle He performed. Jesus had used different techniques to heal the sick and raise the dead. I am sure Peter was thinking about all of the ones that he witnessed as well as all the ones recorded in the Old Testament. But I can guarantee you he was reminded of Jesus’s words by the Holy Spirit, “heal the sick, raise the dead, heal the lepers, cast out devils, etc” [Matthew 10:1,7,8; John 14:25,26].
“Should I lay on top of her like Elijah had done to the young boy? Probably not a good idea, what would that look like?”
“Should I take her to a graveyard and toss her into the tomb of some prophet like they did in the Old Testament so when she hits his bones she will come back to life? Nah, probably not a good idea.”
“Lord Jesus, how are we going to raise Dorcas from the dead.” This is the only conclusion I have been able to come to.
Then Luke tells us Peter “turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, arise!” This is so amazing. Did you see what he did? Or, did you see what he did not do? Or did you see both what he did not do while seeing what he did?
Peter did not turn to the problem [dead person] until after He prayed and received the word of the Lord. Saints of God, here is an important key to living successfully as a supernatural saint. Do NOT look at the problem until you have God’s word for the problem. Peter did not focus on the problem. Peter focused on the Lord and then he still did not focus on the problem. He spoke to the person and said to the lady, not to the problem, “Tabitha, arise!” Peter got a revelation from the Lord to totally bypass the problem and speak to the person.
There may be times when the Lord may say to us, “speak to the problem”. He did say in Mark 11 to “speak to the mountain”. But in this story He told Peter to speak to the person and tell her to arise. Did you know that the Bible tells us the dead can hear the Lord’s voice [Isaiah 26:19; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16]? Trumpets represent prophetic voices. Prophetic ministry is about seeing past what is visible [the obvious in the natural] and seeing what is obvious in the spirit.
Oh by the way, both miracles led to revival where many people came to know the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That is the real purpose of a miracles. Miracles reveal the nature of God and they carry with them an invitation to know God as a very good daddy.
Now on to Paul the apostle.
Acts 28:1-10 ~ I am not going to write the entire text here. I invite you to read it on your own. But I will comment on certain verses that stand out to me.
Malta ~ miracle for the sinners
The context of this story is Paul, along with other prisoners, is on his way to Rome to stand before Caesar for his faith in Christ Jesus. Their ship wrecks and they all swim ashore. Once on land they built a fire to dry off and warm up. As Paul is placing the wood he gathered for the fire a viper struck his hand and fastened to it. The natives saw what had happened and immediately determined Paul must be a murderer. This is a typical religious response to negative circumstances. Only in this case they were both right and wrong. Paul WAS a murderer BUT the Cross of Christ changed everything. Paul slings the viper into the fire, which by the way is the only place vipers belong, and is not harmed. This elicits a conclusion that he must be a god.
It just so happened that nearby the father of Publius, a leader on the island was sick. This Publius, along with all the natives had shown great hospitality to everyone. Luke tells us in verse eight that this was a recurring problem for the man. He also tells us that Paul “went in, prayed and then healed him.”
First, as an apostolic first responder Paul went in when no one else would. This behavior is the very same that Peter demonstrated and is the very nature of first responders. They run in when no one else will or when everyone else is running out, or away from the problem.
Second, Paul prayed. Again, what did he pray? I do not believe he was asking if it was God’s will to heal the man. I believe, like Peter, he was praying how to heal the man.
In this instance the word of the Lord was to “lay hands on him”. It does not say Paul laid hands on him and asked God to heal him. It says Paul “laid hands on him and Paul healed him.” This communicates to me Paul’s willingness to get involved at a deeper level. He was willing to touch a man who had dysentery. Dysentery is an ugly disease. Dysentery is an infection of the intestines resulting in severe diarrhea with the presence of blood and mucus in the feces. YUK! Talking about getting your hands dirty.
This strikes at the very heart of supernatural living. Did God heal the man or did Paul? Yes!
It is never an either or. It is always a both and.
We cannot heal without God and God wants to heal through us. Does God need us to heal someone? No! But God has covenanted with man who is in right relationship with Him and is led and empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles. So in one regard, it is true to say God needs us to heal people.
Paul, like Peter did not face the problem until he had the “how to do it” word of the Lord.
The result in this case was that many other people on the island received the healing love of God. It does not say they put their faith in Christ but that did not prevent the Lord from lovingly healing their hurts. The people responded with even more generosity than what they had already shown – to prisoners!
The church must decide who they are. Are we first responders or are we first non-responders. Do we walk into dire circumstances with the word from God on how to perform miracles or do we assume it is not God’s will and do nothing but give the typical religious response?
Peter and Paul operated from a different spirit [God’s Spirit]. They refused to stand-off at a distance. They both went in. They both got involved. They did not absolve themselves of their right and responsibilities. They heard the word of the Lord and they had the word of the Lord.
And that is the Gospel!
For HIS Glory!
Dr. Kevin M. Drury