Video Transcript: Miracles and Evangelism

Announcer - This is Dr. Craig keener. In his teaching and the book of Acts, this is session number five, miracles and evangelism.  

Dr. Keener - One of my brothers in law, the one seated to my, to my right, as far  as if you're looking at the front of the picture, one of my brothers in laws, is a  professor of New Testament at a seminary in Cameroon. And he as well as the,  as well as the dean of the seminary, who's also pastor of a big church there and  Cameron. They both introduced me to this man, Pastor Andre Mamadzi. And both attested for his credibility. And he gave me a number of accounts of  healings. They told me that God had blessed him in this way. One of the accounts was an account of a of a girl named Olive, who was six years old. And she had been pronounced dead in the hospital. And the parents had had been  desperate for something to happen. They tried to get a second opinion, but the  doctors agreed she was dead, there was nothing that could be done. So she  brought the parents brought the child to the church, and brought her into the  pastor's office, and layed on a table there, and the assistant pastor because  they were just getting ready to start a prayer meeting, it was now evening, it was maybe roughly eight hours after, after the child had died. She died in the morning. Now it's 6pm. They bought they layed her on the table, they were  saying, Please, can you pray, and the assistant pastor was saying, this is not a morgue. This is not a hospital. This is a church. Please, we're very sorry for this.  But please take the body out. And Pastor Andre said, Now, let me let me pray. I  just feel like the Lord wants me to pray. You go out and start the prayer meeting.  So his assistant went out to start the prayer meeting. And he prayed for Olive. Well, a little while later, during the prayer meeting. The pastor and the  parents and Olive walked into the prayer meeting. Shocking, the assistant pastor. At the at the end of Pastor Andre recounting this to me and by the way,  this was he was recounting this to me five years later, the girl was still well. After  he recounted this to me, my translator turned to me. And they were talking in  French, I understand a little bit of French. I'm not as good in French, as I should  be considering that my wife is Francophone. But in any case, I did have a  translator, but he turned to me and he said, Actually, I heard this story once before. I heard it from the assistant pastor. So she remains well, 

But also I visited Congo Brazzaville where my wife is from and she gave me she put me in touch with a number of people there. These were all people from Eglise Evangelic de Congo. That's the mainline Protestant denomination there in  Congo largest Protestant denomination in in Congo Brazzaville. Congo Brazzaville is fairly small country, it was about 3 million people at the time. And,  you know, Catholics are much larger than Protestants there. So this  denomination, I forget how many people have had, but you know, it's less than a million people. All of these examples are from this denomination. Not because  they're the only ones who have such testimonies. But these are the people that my wife knew, and that we were able to talk with. One was in a previous picture.  The pastor Swami, the president of the denomination had had an account about  his own son being raised. And he's my wife knows him, these others were very  close friends of the family. One is Jeanne Mabiala. She's a deacon in the  Evangelical Church of Congo. She gave me three eyewitness accounts. I count  her as one witness, but some of these other witnesses available who were there, including someone named Emanuel and in one of the cases, one of my brothers in law named also named Emanuel. But one of the accounts she gave me was of a child that that was stillborn. Jeanne Mabiala, was a midwife during  the war in Congo. She'd been trained by the World Health World Health Organization and this So, this child, she helped deliver this child, the child was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. And she wasn't  breathing. She was already gray. It was pretty clear she already had died inside  the mother's womb. The father just went out and started building the coffin. But  But Mama Jeanne, as she's locally called, and two other people, the mother and another woman who was there, banded together and prayed. And when the  father came back in from building the coffin, he learned that he done all that work for nothing, because the child was alive. And they named her Mille Grace 1000 fold grace. She's now in school. 

Another example, and this is an example.  In a sense even closer within the family. Because this is an example from Papa  Albear Baswaysway, and his wife, Julianne Baswaysway And here are  myself and my wife, Papa Baswaysway many years ago was a school inspector in Etumbe in the north of Congo. And one day he was coming back from his office, and he found the crowd gathered around a dead girl. This girl, this one, I don't  have to say like, about quite as ambiguously because this one he gave, he gave the timeframe is about eight hours. And she had she had died in the morning. They had taken her to various traditional healers, who had sacrificed different  animals. Herbs are one thing, but this time they were sacrificing the spirits trying to revive her. They'd smeared the blood in their mouth, nose, eyes and ears.  

And now, her body was there lying in front of Albear Baswaysway’s home. And Papa Baswaysway, said, Why have you brought this dead body here? And they said, Well, we tried all these other things. So we're trying to see if the Christian God can do anything. And he responded, why did you bring her here last, you should  turn from all these other spirits and turn to the true in the living God. He took her aside. He prayed for about half an hour. And then he presented back to them  alive. Well, this made quite an impression in this village. So much so that the next time that a child died, they came looking for him again. But he was out of  town inspecting school somewhere else. They got his wife, Julianne, and they asked her to come pray. And she did. And she said the Lord just gave her the  strength to do it. Because after she did it, she was like, How in the world did I do this. But she she prayed to the to the Lord who raised Lazarus, again, mentioned that account, and the child came back to life. So I asked them, Have you ever prayed for any children who didn't come back to life or anybody else who didn't come back to life? And they said, No, we've never, we've never prayed for anybody else. To come back to life. It was just this is what God chose to do. And it can be it's not, not like this is something normal in our lives. This was years ago. But everybody knew it locally. 

This next account from Antoinette  Malombe is one that it's not maybe as dramatic as some of the other accounts.  But it had more of an impact on me. Personally, I'd heard this account already.  But I wanted to be able to talk with the eye witness. And so Antoinette Malombe  told the story. When her daughter Torres was about two years old, she cried out  that she was bitten by a snake, her mother got to her and found are not breathing. There was no medical help available in the village. And I don't want  any of you to think that these these miracle stories are meant to be a panacea for you know, health education and providing health resources and so on. You know, there, you may have more accounts of miracles in some parts of the  world, because people desperately need them. But you still have a lot more women dying in childbirth there and a lot of other things. So if we can make medical technology available, these miracles show us the kinds of things God cares about. He cares about people and we should care about the same thing.  So it's not like we're just counting on miracles to accomplish that's that's not the  purpose of miracles. But in a case, Antoinette Malombe found her not breathing, no medical help available in the village, but she knew that the family friend, evangelist Coco Ingomo Moise was doing ministry in the nearby village. So she she strapped the child to her back and ran to a nearby village. And after she got there, Coco Moise, prayed for the child, the child started breathing again. The next day, she was fine. And the child had no brain damage. Now she's an  adult. She's about my age. And she she finished a master's degree in  Cameroon, and is now doing ministry back in Congo. Well, as it turns out, Torres is my wife's sister, Antoinette Malombe, is my wife's mother, and not to question one's mother in law. But we did consult with Coco Moise, and he also confirmed  the story as the other eye witness. And there were other accounts from Congo  as well. Sarah Speer, Canadian nurse there that we know very well. She also reports a baby being raised through prayer 20 minutes after the medical team  had given up on him, they had to give up on him because they were trying to provide the mother they'd had to burst the uterus to get the baby out. But the mother survived and the baby miraculously survived. And mother survived  through medical intervention, the baby survived through prayer. 

Well, whatever  we think about these other cases, nature, miracles are certainly not  psychosomatic. We have a number of these through history and account from 17th century, SriLanka, for example. But I'm going to focus on 20th century accounts, number of accounts in Indonesia. And these had happened during  other Indonesian revivals, you had some miracle reports in Indonesia in the 1860s, as well as in the the early 20th century with a Nias revival, and so on. But particularly now I'm talking about the revival in the 1960s. In West Timor,  there were massive reports and miracles taking place. There was a Western researcher, he did to believe that sometimes God could do a miracle, but he didn't believe any, any kind of miracles, like the ones he was hearing about. Were taking place. He went through research. Now some other people went  later on, and they didn't see anything. They went after the revival and died  down. But he went there in the midst of the revival. And he personally saw blind  eyes opened, and water turned to wine. And he laid his reputation on the line to talk about it. 

And there were, there have been other accounts from Indonesia, from Petrus Octavianus and others. But I'm going to give an account from Papua New Guinea. This, this one was reported to me by Donna Arukua. And she was telling me about a ministry team, she was on working with a leader  named Ken Diwa. And it was during the worst drought in memory, in Papua New Guinea, they came to a village and the well was nearly dry. Not surprisingly, because of this drought. There was just mud at the bottom of the well. And the  people were desperate and the team needed water as well. So Ken Diwa prayed. And then they went to bed. And in the morning, when they when they  got up, they were awakened by a woman who was screaming at the well, she had gone to the well trying to get just just take a little bit of a mud from the  bottom so that she could get at least a little bit of water to give to her baby. And the well was now full, and the water was completely clear. The way it normally was after a lot of rain, but it hadn't rained in months. 

This next example is from China. There are actually a number of examples that could be given from China. In terms of healings, far more of them were associated with John Sung, who  comes from the same period as Watchman Nee. But Watchman Nee also gives this particular report. So I'm citing him on this Watchman Nee in his younger days, he was out with a team doing evangelism in a village. And some of the  village people were saying to the members of the team, well, you know, you want us to believe in your God, but our God is so powerful. Why Why would we  need your God our God is so powerful that for over 200 years, I think it was  something like 276 years. It's never rained on the day that the priests scheduled the festival. Now I don't know what rainy season and dry season was like in in their region. But in any case, they said It never rains on the festival of our God.  And why would we believe in your God? So one of the Christians who at this  time was by himself, and not with the rest of the group said, Well, this year, it's going to rain on that day. And the people laughed at him. And he went back and  told Watchman and the others and they said, You should not have done that.  Because now if it doesn't rain in the day, no one is going to listen to us. Nobody was listening to them anyway. So they went and began to pray. And on the scheduled day, it first you know, the sun, the sun was out that they, they just felt  led, you know, we've already prayed. This is in God's hands, and then they began to hear the rain on the roof. And pretty soon there was a torrential downpour, the largest downpour that they had witnessed in years in this village,  the priest said, we made a mistake, we need to reschedule the festival, the day for which they rescheduled the festival however this time that the Christian said,  No, it's going to rain on that day, too. And in fact, the rain poured down so much in the day, that the priests were swept off their feet is the water rushed through  the streets, the statue of their deity was broken. And many people in that village became Christians, as as a result of this. 

Well, I have a very close friend. And  one of my closest friends, Dr. Emanuel Itapson. He's he was a pastor in the Evangelical Church of West Africa, in Nigeria. And he also has a PhD in Hebrew Bible from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. Well, he grew up in the  household of an Evangelical Church of West Africa, church planter, who was  planting churches and in various villages that were unchurched. And around the  year 1975. He was, he and his family were there in a in a village that they just moved to. And he was trying to quickly get a roof on this home that he was he was putting up. And some skeptics were mocking him and saying, This is rainy  season, everything you have is going to be ruined. It's going to be destroyed.  You know, you said your God sent you here, but how haha, everything you have. And he, he got angry. He said, it's not going to rain, one drop of rain in this village until I have a roof on my house. Well, that was going to take four more days. And so they laughed at him and walked out. And he fell on his face before God and said, Oh, God, what have I just done. But for the next four days, rained all around the village. And yet not a single drop of rain fell in the village. And at the end of those four days, those people who knew what rainy season look like in their area. Only one person in that village had not become a Christian. And to  this day, that village still talks about this as the precipitating event that brought about this becoming a Christian village. 

Now I have I have eyewitness accounts of this from people from the West as well. But just all this to say scholars have claimed that I witnesses could not report experiences such as these simply reveal their own very limited exposure to the world. Just because it may not be  your experience doesn't mean it's nobody else's experience. Well, some will  grant that such things happen. But they'll deny that they're really divine acts. They'll say Well, true miracles cannot happen. And usually they're simply assuming is their starting point. A non theistic or atheistic starting point, or sometimes a deistic starting point, well, yes, there was a God that originally set  things up but that God doesn't care about the world doesn't intervene in the  world doesn't act in the world today. Many people who who state that as a presupposition don't even know historically where that assumption comes from. But normally, it's traced back to David Hume. David Hume argued that miracles were not part of human experience. There are other people in his day were considered more persuasive on this point. But Hume's stature as a philosopher  is what caused it to be widely accepted in succeeding generations. David Hume regarded miracles as violations of natural law. This was kind of a dramatic way of putting it. Nobody had ever put it that way, normally in history, because it was as if saying, God would be breaking a law to do them. That's against the way earlier thinkers defined miracles. In fact, most early enlightenment scientists were Christians. So this is a philosophic issue, not a scientific issue. But the way he argued was this. Miracles violate natural law. This is the first half of his essay, miracles violate natural law, natural law cannot be violated, therefore, miracles don't happen. 

Well, who says that God cannot act upon change or if you want to use the language violate natural law, if He wills Hume simply presupposes this without admitting that that's a presupposition. He's just stating his opinion not giving an argument. It's a circular kind of argument. Much of Hume's argument about miracles violating natural law depends on the definition of natural law. Modern Physics has undermined Hume's prescriptive approach to natural law,  it's usually treated descriptively. Today, his argument is supposedly inductive.  But as scholars often note, it's actually circular. He says that experience shows that there are no miracles. Therefore, if you have well supported, eye witnessed claims for miracles, we can reject those, because you can't depend on those because human experience uniform human experience shows us that we can't expect miracles. 

Well, that's a circular argument, because you're saying that human experience is uniform. And then explaining away all the examples that  don't fit your paradigm, rather than taking them into account. It's it's a circular argument. And this is especially in the second half of his essay. And we can see  this in particular, when he cites examples even that were known to him. He cites the example of Pascal's niece with a running eyesore. If you probably heard of David Hume, if you study philosophy, you've even more likely heard of Blaise Pascal, who was a brilliant mathematician, as well as a philosopher. Pascal was a firm believer in Christ. Well, Pascal’s niece had an organic running eyesore. It it emitted a foul odor, it was known to everyone around her, she was instantly and publicly healed. In this case, it was when she was touched with a holy thorn from Jesus crown of thorns in the cross. 

Now personally, I don't believe it really  was a holy thorn from Jesus crown. I don't think it would have survived that long. I don't think it would have been preserved to begin with. And I think that Martin  Luther was probably right about the immense number of relics circulating in his  day. One of his remarks was that there are enough nails from Holy Cross of Jesus circulating today to shoe every horse in Saxony. People were just very  much into relics. But it was a contact point for her faith. She was instantly and  publicly healed. The Queen Mother of France sent her own physician to check  this out. And he verified that she was truly miraculously healed. Now, Pascal's  response to this was, well, this was medically documented. This, this healing  was publicly attested. It was attested by by very credible witnesses and the very, the very kinds of things he says, If you give me a case like that, I'll believe it. He  said, we have all these things. And we know this isn't true. So why would we believe any other and then he can move on? Well, how could he get away with that? Because this monastery where she was healed, was associated with the Jansenist. Who were to Augustinian for the Jesuits of that period. And they were too Catholic for the Protestants. So nobody liked them. 

And Hume's  contemporaries weren't about to try to defend that because of its Jansenist  associations. But it was a healing done through faith in Jesus. Hume, simply presupposes atheism or deism not to say that necessarily what his exact views were on on the subjects, but that's what he presupposes to make his argument work without stating it. He explicitly framed his argument against contemporary Christian Science and apologetics. People like Isaac Newton, and Robert Boyle, the father of chemistry, who actually used science in a way that they believed comported with natural revelation believing that God had done these things. But  Hume's argument is so circular, that there have been a number of Mason's major recent for philosophic challenges to Hume on miracles published by Cambridge, Cornell, Oxford, and so on. So, in the in the live world of academic  philosophy, Hume has been challenged quite a bit. Now the book published by Oxford was titled Hume's Abject Failure. And one critical reviewer said Now this,  this author just doesn't like Hume's argument about miracles because we saw  there was a Christian, to which the author responded, I'm really not a Christian in any traditional orthodox sense of the word. I just thought it was a bad  argument. Part of Hume's argument against accepting witnesses, never mind the Jansenist is that only ignorant and barbarous nations affirm miracles. If somebody said that today, we would call that person an ethnocentric cultural  bigot. And in Hume's case, it was true. Hume was known for his anti semitism,  he was certainly known for advocating slavery. In fact, Christian abolitionists had argue against him, and because of his stature, as a philosopher more generally, his arguments in favor of slavery carried a lot of weight. But Hume, Hume doubted exceptional persons of color, he said, he said, you know, all great  civilizations, all inventions, all great masterpieces of art, music, literature. All of  those have come from white civilizations. All of those have come from white. Well, mainly white European civilizations, but white civilizations, he seemed  ignorant of the great empires of China, of India, of Africa, of southern America and Central America. But in any case, Hume, Hume went so far as to say, you  know, we've had slaves here in the British Empire for generations, and never a  single one of them has achieved any great status of education. 

Well, if you don't  let people get education, how are they supposed to get it? He said, You know,  there is this one Jamaican, of whom had said that he can, he can recite poetry, but any parrot can repeat with tears. This is David Hume saying this. And the Jamaican to whom he referred was was Francis Williams, who actually composed his own poetry, in English, and in Latin. So Hume was coming from a very ethnocentric starting point. He defines the circle very narrowly, and says,  Well, nobody in my circle has had these experiences. And therefore, it's not  rational for me to believe that these experiences happen. Some of his critics responded, just because it hasn't happened in your circle doesn't mean it hasn't  happened in anybody's circle. Look, we do have eyewitness reports of things  that are not familiar to your circle. He says, Well, I'm not going to believe them  because they're not in my circle. It's not rational for me to believe them. 

Rudolph Bultmann, in the mid 20th century. Bultmann was not we have no reason to  believe from anything I know that Bultmann was was ethnocentric in anything  like the way Hume was. But Bultmann said the mature modern people do not believe in miracles. It's impossible to use the electric light in the wireless I think he meant the telegraph machine, and to believe in the New Testament, world of  spirits, and miracles. Bultmann said that the modern world denies miracles, and  thereby excluded from the modern world. All traditional Jews, Christians,  Muslims, traditional tribal religionists, spiritists, and basically everybody except  his mid 20th century Western academic elite. And those were shaped shaped by them. But many people have responded to this. Justo Gonzalez citing Latino  churches, points out that what Bultmann declares to be impossible is not just  possible, but even frequent. Hwa Yung. The recently retired Methodist Bishop of  Malaysia argues that Bultmann's problem is a Western problem. That's not  something here in Asia, we don't really have problems believing in spirits and  things like that. 

Philip Jenkins in his books published by Oxford, notes that  Christianity in the global south tends to be quite interested in the immediate  workings of the supernatural. Well, these are people groups excluded by by  Hume, but not not necessarily by Bultmann. Bultmann probably simply wasn't  aware of these things. But how widespread are healing claims today? Hume wouldn't have had knowledge of this but today we have we have this information available and happening. 

How widespread are healing claims today? Well, if we start with some churches known for that emphasis with Pentecostal and charismatic churches, there have been major academic studies produced on  this for instance, by Oxford. And there was a 2006 Pew form survey, very pure  form is very respected survey Institute for surveying, religion, and so forth. And  they surveyed Pentecostals and charismatics, in just 10 countries, in these 10  countries alone, one from each of the continents except for well, except for  Australia and Antarctica. And so from from these 10 countries alone, and for  Pentecostals and Protestant charismatics, in these 10 countries alone, the  estimated total of people claiming to a witness to divine healings, comes out to  somewhere around 200 million people. Now, what may be even more surprising  is that the survey also, for reasons of comparison, surveyed other Christians  who were not Pentecostal or charismatic or didn't define themselves that way.  And somewhere around 39% of the other Christians in these countries claimed  to have witnessed to divine healings. 

Now, if that's anywhere close to  representative, we might have perhaps more than 1/3 of Christians worldwide  who don't identify themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic, claiming to witness  divine healings. Whatever the case, we're probably talking about hundreds of millions of people who claim to have witnessed divine healings. This is true, even in westernized countries, such as the United States, where 34% of Americans claim to have witnessed or experienced divine or supernatural healing. That's not just Christians, that includes Hindus here, although there are  quite a larger number of Christians here than than Hindus in the United States.  

The point is not what proportion of these claims involve divine activity, or miracles. There's really nobody who would say every single claim among these is really a miracle. Nobody would claim that everybody was telling the truth. And nobody would claim that everybody was telling the truth and thought it was a  miracle, that that's the only way to explain it, or sometimes even the best way to  explain it. And God can work through other causes as well. So, you know, there are a lot of cases where we don't have a way to say, Okay, it's only this only  that. But in any case, the point is not what proportion of these involve divine  activity are miracles. The point is whether someone like Hume can legitimately  start from the premise, that uniform human experience excludes miracles. How can you say it's uniform. When you have hundreds of millions of counterclaims, you are at least obligated to go start researching some of those counterclaims, especially some of the more dramatic ones, especially some of the better  attested among them. And this is not only among Christians, but millions of non  Christians have been convinced, to the extent that they changed centuries,  centuries of ancestral beliefs. Because of these extraordinary healings. 

China was not in the 10 countries surveyed above it was more difficult to survey for  some reasons. But one source from within China Christian Council, affiliated with the free self church, estimated that roughly half of all new conversions in the previous 20 years this source comes from around the year 2000. So from 1980s 1990s, roughly half of all this new conversions were due to what they call  faith healing experiences within the rural house churches, some have claimed  figures closer to 90%, probably depends on the house church network probably  depends on the region of China. But in any case, I can't verify whether it's 50%  or 90%. I can't verify the percentage in any case, but we're probably talking about millions of people, people who did not start with Christian premises, but who recognize something so out of the ordinary, something different than just the way people normally get better, something different from what they had expected, in normal religious or other ritual practices, that they were willing to change centuries of tradition on certain points to become followers of Jesus. 

A 1981 study that was done in Chennai and the And you know, surveys are not always precise. But at least according to this study 10% of the non Christians in Chennai then called Madras reported being healed when someone prayed for them in Jesus name. So, some people became Christians when they were healed. Some people didn't become Christians when they were healed. But they still acknowledged that they have been healed when someone prayed for them  in the name of Jesus. 

Just to give one example of that, one of my past students that I taught in a seminary, from comes from India, through prayer for the sick, his Baptist Church grew from a handful of people to about 600, mostly Hindu converts. I, I found out about this sort of by accident. I wasn't really asking about this initially, but in the room where this picture was taken of Pastor Israel, I had  just come in from outside and I had a splitting headache. And he said, Oh,  brother, let me pray for you. And I said, Okay, you can pray. You prayed, and  nothing happened. And I, and I said, I'm sorry, nothing happened. I think it's  because I don't have any faith. He said, Oh, no, brother. It doesn't work here.  Everybody I pray for in India gets healed. Because these precious  people, most of them, they don't know very much about Jesus, and God is  lavishing his love on them to give them a chance to know how much he loves them. Not to say he doesn't love people elsewhere. And that's, that's when he began telling me about he said, Brother, if you come to India, you start praying  for people to be healed. I said, Are you serious? He said, God just wants these  people so much to know His love. While my headache did eventually go away,  obviously. But that's when he began to tell me his his story. 

JP Moreland, a well  known evangelical scholar, who points out that of the rapid evangelical growth  around the world in the past three decades, up to 70% of it is intimately  connected with signs and wonders. And even three decades before that, already, someone who wrote a thesis at Fuller Seminary, surveying over 350 Other theses and dissertations representing most of the world, interviewing  many other missionaries discovered more accounts of signs and wonders in the  growth of the church around the world that he could possibly use. Just people  reading the Bible, people praying and God, God, dramatically answering, not all intentional, deliberate for this, but not exclusively, but most often, it happened in  groundbreaking areas, where new ground was being being broken. As people  were hearing the gospel for the first time, situations very similar to what we see  in the book of Acts. 

God may answer prayer of anywhere, and sometimes does  dramatic things elsewhere. But, you know, a healing. Like the kind James 5 talks about, you know, you can pray for the sick, the sick can be healed gradually.  The sick can be healed through medical means it's still an answer to prayer. But these dramatic kinds of signs, a sign is meant to get somebody's attention, that  if they're if they're willing to believe it's meant to give them some get their  attention, so that they can hear the message so that they can believe sometimes people respond in dramatically negative ways, persecuting we see  that in the book of Acts, but signs are things that get your attention. 

So we see  these special kinds of signs most often during evangelism in largely  unevangelized regions is people hearing the gospel for the first time. That was  also true. In the past. Many church fathers claimed to be eyewitnesses of healings and exorcisms that were converting many polytheists and Ramsey McMullen. Yale historian who didn't seem to be entirely happy with what he  discovered, but he discovered through his research, that this was the leading cause of conversion to Christianity in the third and fourth centuries, healings and exorcisms. It was also prominent many other times in history just to give an example from the from the 20th century. It was a prominent feature of the  Korean revival around 1907, mainly among Presbyterians, again, to show you how widespread it was. And interestingly enough, many of the Western  missionaries who were working among the Korean Christians at this at this  point, had been trained to believe that miracles didn't happen anymore, and that  the demons or spirits were just psychological things that they It didn't really exist. And so they took it with a grain of salt when the Korean Christians were saying this, and they commissioned a study. But the study came back saying,  Indeed, miracles have taken place. And the Korean Christians converted some of the missionaries to believing that these things were were taking place. 

Now, at this point, I want to talk, I want to go beyond the credibility of miracles, which  we've been talking about, and talk some about the unity of Luke Acts, how the  work fits together. And I'm just going to give you samples. So you can see Luke's literary sophistication, if this beautiful when you see how he weaves  together narratives. Luke, already. In the first chapter of Luke, the angel Gabriel  is sent to Zechariah. And then later on the angel Gabriel was sent to Mary. In  both cases, the recipient of the angelic vision is troubled. Both cases, the angel  says, Don't fear both cases, the reason is given for the coming miracle, the  child's name is given in both cases, John and Jesus, the child will be great. Gabriel says In both cases. The child will be filled with the Spirit from his  mother's womb, and in the case of John, will be conceived through the Holy  Spirit in the case of Jesus, then Gabriel announces the mission of each. And  then in each case, there's a question. In Zechariah case, the question seems to  be a bit more of an objection than in Mary's case, then a proof for an explanation is given. Zechariah is muted for his unbelief. And Mary is praised for her faith.  Again, comparing and contrasting characters was common feature of ancient  rhetoric and ancient narrative, and Mary this humble, very young girl from this  village of Nazareth, comes out, looking greater in the sight of God, then  Zechariah was also viewed positively, you could have comparisons between something good and something better. Who's this aged priest serving in the  great temple in Jerusalem at this point, and then, at the end of each narrative,  the child grows, John the Baptist grows in 1:80 and 2:40 and 52, Jesus grows,  

We have a number of parallels between Luke and Acts and actually within a  couple of different sections of Acts. The Holy Spirit comes in Jesus, the Holy  Spirit comes in the Jerusalem church, we see the Holy Spirit continuing to be  poured out the inaugural mission speech of Jesus in Luke chapter 4, you have that for Peter, in Acts 2, you have it for Paul and Acts 13, healing power with  many being unexpectedly with the healing power unexpectedly going forth from  Jesus with touching his garment, in Acts 5, Peter shadow in Acts 19 cloths or work aprons taken from Paul, the healing of a paralyzed person in all of this and some some very similar parallel language in each case, opposition from from Jewish leaders in each case, the raising of the dead, and each case, you also have a God fearing Centurion. In each case, you have a widow's son being  raised in two of the cases. And In Paul's case, it's a youth raised I mean, you  have to go with what information you have, but where he was able to make parallels he did. Jesus journey to Jerusalem, some of the language is very close to Paul's journey to Rome. And you have Jesus triumphal entry to Jerusalem,  you have Paul being received in a triumphal way when he when he goes to Rome, the entering the temple, before trouble arises, you have hostile, serious, Sadducees rejecting the resurrection. And you end up actually having both  Jesus and Paul arraigned before the Sanhedrin. And in the case of the  Sanhedrin. In the case of the Sanhedrin. with Jesus, there's a provocative announcement of the Son of Man at God's right hand. And then Stephen also makes a provocative announcement of the Son of man in God's right hand.  Jesus commits his Spirit prays for his persecutors just like Stephen does, as we  mentioned earlier, securing recognizes God's attestation of Jesus innocence and trying to talk quickly swim, tangling up my tongue, but I'm trying to get through as much as I can. The Centurion recognizes God's attestation of Paul's  innocence. Jesus four hearings Paul's four hearings declared innocent in both cases. And also by the way with the Sanhedrin with with Peter, I'm sorry with  Well, yeah, Peter is arraigned before the Sanhedrin too, but with Paul and with  Jesus, when they're taking the fourth isn't Sanhedrin. In the case of, of Jesus, you've got Joseph of Arimathea. A member isn't Sanhedrin, but he's positive. In the  case of Peter and the other, the other disciples when you get to Acts chapter five for that Sanhedrin account. There's a Pharisee, who sticks up for him. This Pharisee isn't a disciple, but he sticks up for the for the believers Gamaliel I and  then when you get to Acts chapter 23, the Sanhedrin is divided the Sadducees want Paul to be executed, it's not fit for such a man to live, but But the Pharisees stick up for him. So you have that parallel. 

Also, you have a number of Peter Paul parallels. And you could go into a great deal of detail among these the  appointing of leaders through laying on of hands, and so forth. So both confront  false prophets, Paul has to do it more than once. And both reject worship and Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa I wants worship in Acts chapter 12, who receives worship and he struck dead by the angel of the Lord. But the the same angel of the Lord early in the chapter releases Peter from from prison where Herod Agrippa I had him put. Peter rejects worship somebody somebody wants to bow  down before Peter, he says no, I'm just a I'm just a human being. Somebody  bows down before well not just bows down. They're calling Barnabas and Saul,  Zeus and Hermes, Paul and Barnabas, Hermes and Zeus. And in 14:15, they  say, No, we're just human beings like you and they tear their cloaks. And also in chapter 28, Paul is thought to be a god, but he rejects. Well, actually, he doesn't even seem to be aware of that Luke apparently hears about it afterwards. So you have a number of parallels there, both Peter and Paul are imprisoned at a Jewish festival. And both are miraculously released from prison. Although there are differences in detail in the stories. 

The point is, you can see that Luke  designed his work in a very cohesive way. It's a literary masterpiece. And so  we'll keep that in mind. As we're going through the accounts. In the book of Acts, we'll see, we'll see some of these sorts of examples. Now, another issue that's very big, in Luke Acts, is the issue of evangelism and church planting. And so I'm just going to look at that as a sample theme. I have I have some interest in  that myself because of my past own experiences. But there's something very significant that's related to this. And that is, we mentioned before the importance of prayer in the book of Acts, while prayer often comes before the outpouring of  the spirit. It's a frequent theme in Luke Acts the Spirit comes on Jesus when he's praying, and Luke 3, in Acts 1, of course, they're praying and then in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, they filled with The Spirit, Acts 4 the they're praying together, and they pray, God, please stretch out your hand, that people may continue to be healed through the through the Holy Name of Your servant, Jesus. And then in 4:31, they're filled with boldness like they prayed for, and  they're filled with the Holy Spirit. And also, Peter and John prayed for the  Samaritans to receive the Spirit, and then they receive the Spirit. Paul is praying in Acts 9:11. And then in verse 17, he's filled the Spirit Cornelius is praying, he says in 10:30, and he's filled the Spirit. 

Well, if we're talking about evangelism, and church planting, and again, there are a whole lot of different themes we  could approach through Acts, but this is an important one. Paul, is the same  whether he's on a ship and in Malta, is he is when he's preaching to massive  numbers of people in Ephesus. He's a servant serving people. We learn a lot  about Paul's character. He says his in 20:24, calling matters more than life itself. 20:31, he says I was going about Warning each person with tears in verses 33 through 35. In that chapter, he says, I wasn't covetous so I wasn't in this for the  money, I was actually working to support the mission. Very similar, what you see with with Peter and John and Acts 3:6, where they say silver and gold have we none. This was important to emphasize in the in a milieu where there were many charlatans. Clearly these people were not doing it for money. They were not doing it for greed. They were not charlatans. They were doing it to serve the Lord. So we see Paul's character, we also learn about how to evangelize. Now spend a bit more time providing details here. 

Evangelism and church planting  are not exactly the same thing. Phillip, was great at doing evangelism. And he  got things going in various places. But he didn't he didn't stick around to grow  the church afterwards. There were other other people who could, who could do  that. There are different gifts. Ideally, the best way to make things grow is with long range multiplication. Robert Coleman, in his in his work on evangelism points out that multiplication eventually gives you more people than just addition does. That's why in the book of Acts, we see that the part of their agenda was to establish disciples who could carry on the mission, not just conference. That's  why Acts 14:22 When Paul and Barnabas go back among the among the churches that they've briefly planted, they go back there, and they the establish  elders, established leaders, and they warn them in Acts 14:22 through much tribulation, we must enter the kingdom of God, you have to be ready for those things. There has to be follow up with sound teaching, there has to be like in 15:41 warning against false teaching. 

So let's see, let's say we're, we're not just  adding, but we're multiplying. Well, in the first year, this is purely hypothetical,  but but if if you could keep the camera on this for a while, the first year, if you,  you go out and you win a disciple, well, then you've got two disciples are well,  sorry, you win you when two disciples, you win one, and then you win another you have two people that you've wanted the Lord the next year. And I think it was right the first Anyway, the next year you have you have the original  two, you have you and the person you won to the Lord, but each of you wins two people, the Lord. So that's each of you wins, four to the Lord. And then it's four  plus the original two, so you've got six. If you're just adding up so far, it wouldn't  be that much. But pretty soon, it's going to change. Third year, you've got 20, the 4th year you've got 62. If you're you've got 188, look at year 15 you've got over 11 million. Now, that's more than if you just one two people to Christ a year, each year, that would be great. You'd want 30 people to Christ, but if each of them can also win people to Christ if you if you disciple them so that they can  carry on the mission. And by year 22, you've got you've got something like 16 billion people? Well, in 2015, the world's population was only 7 billion. I say only, but compared to this, in 21 years, it may be between 8 and 9 billion. But this is like reaching more than the total number of people in the world. Now, of course, that's not completely realistic. That is an ideal situation. And Acts shows us that  there are obstacles there's persecution, there's internal strife, more persecution, more divisions, and so on. But on the other hand, who says we can win and disciple just two people to Christ a year? Why stop with that? So if we multiply, if we're not just winning people to Christ, and then abandoning them, but we are winning the Christ, and teaching them how to do the same, and helping them to  be grounded in the faith, then things are going to grow all the more.

Well how to  evangelize the content is very important. The Gospel message, and we see that  the content, even though the content isn't changed, the Gospel isn't changed. It's contextualized. So Paul preaches one way to to synagogues he's quoting scripture. Another way to follow Farmers what he says is scriptural but, and even as a quote from scripture, but they wouldn't know it. He doesn't identify it as such. Paul preaches to farmers about the God who gives us rain and fruitful seasons. He speaks to philosophers and and philosophically educated city  leaders in Acts 17, in ways that would be intelligible in their context. But the  central message remains throughout the book of Acts, Jesus died and rose again. And when you're talking to non monotheists, you also talk about the one true God. 

Now, how do we get people's attention, we need to think creatively, and especially strategically, we need to think about our culture's openings. We need to contextualize we need to allow for local culture. And that's something  that Paul did and Acts 15:20. Jesuits did that when they were sharing the gospel first in China. But then it got shut down by the Vatican of that period. Because  some other people were complaining about the Jesuits, there was a bit of  politics going on back home. And that shut down the witness of Jesuits in China for many generations. Because of that. Paul rarely missed an opportunity to speak of Christ. He would try to give it in contextually relevant ways, but he rarely missed an opportunity to speak of Christ. He introduced the gospel only  briefly where he was driven out quickly. Sometimes that happened, for example, with China inland mission, but he stayed longer where he could 18 months in  Corinth, two and a half years in Ephesus, he got to know the people he got to  know the culture. Studies have shown, at least in the United States, that a church really flourishes when a pastor is part of the community for at least a couple of years, especially five years or more. Because the pastor knows the community, the community knows the pastor, and so on. Now, Paul often was raising up leaders within local congregations. So they already knew that knew  the community. But having some time in the community allows for more stability, where that's possible. Again, there are different gifts and different callings.  

Synagogues already there was belief in in one God. So was it was strategic in a  way that they already had a connection with people in the synagogues. Synagogues also use scripture. If you want to reach Gentiles, well, the Gentiles who believed in the one true God, are most likely to be hanging out in  synagogues, or even, sometimes the one greatest God, they believe that that  was the God of Israel, they would hang out in synagogues. There were  also public discussion forums. For example, on the street, Acts 14:9, Paul appears to be preaching on the street, that was permitted back then it was understood as something you could do back then. So that was one cultural form. It was available for this. Educated Christians tended to use that method more,  you see that both educated and uneducated sometimes would signs and  wonders with draw attention to the gospel. You have that with Peter is a fisherman who may have had some education, but certainly not the level of  Paul. And you see it with Paul. Apollos is educated young to have any signs and wonders recorded with him just like you don't with John the Baptist, but  nevertheless, Apollos is well trained intellectually. So he, Stephen and Paul,  emerge in these public debate settings where they can get people's attention that way. 

There were certain forms that were available for communication. Paul  does that with philosophers he's reasoning with philosophers who like to stand  around and talk with each other about new concepts. So Paul's doing that and  Acts 17:18. Then they bring him before the Areopagus, the city council, maybe  about 100 people. And he's he's has an opportunity to present his his case there. Acts chapter 19:9, Paul sets up a place for lectures in the School of  Tyrannus, this apparently looks something like a philosophic school. In Paul's  day, when outsiders would look at Christianity. They wouldn't think of it usually  as a religion. Because it didn't have a cult. Excuse me. It didn't have sacrifices.  What they had instead was that they they would have lectures, they would have dialogue and so on. Well Paul says, Okay, people on the outside they  would view this as a philosophic school. Some, some people have viewed the  synagogue the same way. Paul says, Okay, that's how they view us. We can use that to our advantage. And so he teaches that way. He also uses relational  networks to get the gospel out and others use relational networks to get the gospel out. And we'll talk more about that in the next session.  

Announcer - This is Dr. Craig Keener in his teaching and the book of Acts. This  is session number five, miracles and evangelism 

Last modified: Monday, May 1, 2023, 12:38 PM