What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
A frequent criticism I receive from continuationists is that the reason I reject the on-going, miraculous work of the Holy Spirit is that I have personally never witnessed any miracles. If I would only witness the power of God healing a sick person I would never be a ceassationist. But because I refuse to have faith and believe, I will never see the power of God at work.
However, my request for evidence is not unreasonable, nor is it rejecting the power of God. If continuationists are correct, that the supernatural signs and wonders level gifts we find recorded in Scripture are still very much active among Christians today, then it is not a lack of faith to ask for some proof. If a man claims he raised a young boy from the dead, can we at least meet the boy? Talk to the parents and other eye-witnesses. If a faith healing evangelist woman claims she cured a young mother of stage four cancer, can we talk with the young mother? Maybe talk with her husband and loved ones? Is that really asking too much?
Instead, inquisitors like myself are rebuffed. We’re told we have no faith. That we don’t believe God. But honestly, if the only stories of extraordinary miracles we hear come from either the inaccessible mountain tops of Peru or from the testimony of a TV preacher saying how he healed a woman’s arthritic knee, you can understand why I want some reliable verification.
The Bible never records vague, unverifiable moves of God. All the miraculous works of God were public and confirmed by eye-witnesses. In some cases, multitudinous eye-witnesses.
Consider a moment the comment recorded in Acts 4:16 cited above. A few important observations about that verse are in order.
First, the statement is made by the religious leaders. In fact, Acts 4:1 says it is the liberal religious leaders, the Sadducees. You know them. They’re the guys who consistently denied any supernatural workings by God, and yet they were among the ones who could “not deny” the miracle. Second, the miracle was evident, meaning that is was undeniable. In other words, it was absolutely clear that a seriously crippled individual was made whole. And third, it was made evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem. Everyone was talking about it. The miracle wasn’t confined to a small number of witnesses, or a small congregation of people, or to the subjective evaluation of two sets of X-rays.
The Miracle in Question
The miracle in question is recorded for us in Acts 3:1-10. Let me cite the entire passage for our benefit.
1 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple;
3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.
4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”
5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them– walking, leaping, and praising God.
9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God.
10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Act 3:1-10)
There are a few things to note about this passage as well.
First, we see that this guy was a regular outside the gate leading into the temple. Thus, ALL the religious leaders would have been familiar with the man and his physical situation. They would have seen him there day in and day out, probably one among many crippled people, and perhaps even giving him alms every once in a while.
Secondly, this man was born without the use of his legs, “from his mother’s womb.” Hence, he was seriously malformed. He had never walked in his life. When the religious leaders passed him by every day, they would have seen his atrophied legs and his otherwise frail body because of his physical condition. Acts 4:22 says this man was over 40 years in age, so he had been in that condition for over 40 years.
Third, it is clear from the text that he was completely made whole. Luke wants his readers to know this guy was utterly incurable by human means and in an instant, his ankle bones were strengthened and he jumped up and began walking about. Additionally, since the man had been living in that condition for over 40 years, the muscle tissue to his atrophied legs had to have been restored and he knew how to walk immediately apart from any physical therapy.
That is an undeniable miracle and one that faith healing debunker, James Randi, could “not deny.”
Now, am I saying James Randi would hand over his million dollars to Peter for doing a genuine act of the supernatural? Well, no. He would probably worm his way out of his braggadocios offer and try to uncover a hoax. But it would had been still “undeniable.”
Truly, Undeniable Miracles
Consider the following fantasy scenario in the context of the claim of modern day miracles and what I mean by undeniability.
Let’s say notable atheist crank, PZ Myers, had a friend who was on the library staff at the state university where Myers teaches in Minnesota. This man had been involved in an automobile accident back in 1987 that left him paralyzed in his legs and with partial use of his left arm. He has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.
This man and Myers are friendly. They have lunch together on occasion. The man and his wife and their daughter even attended a few atheist conventions at the invite of Myers. He even had Michael Shermer hit on his 22 year old daughter at one of those conventions. Myers knows the guy’s background. He has seen his atrophied legs and his withered left arm.
One Monday morning, as Myers drives up to the school, he notices a large crowd of students and teachers gathered at the library. Curious as to what was happening, he joins the crowd and asks about what was going on and someone points to his friend now fully restored and walking about without the aid of his wheelchair and waving with his left arm.
Later, when the mystified Myers has the opportunity to visit with his friend and ask what had happened, the guy tells how he and his wife and daughter went to the wedding of his nephew, the son of his religious nut in-laws. During the reception, some other folks were “sharing” Jesus with him and he says to them, “If God is so good and powerful, why doesn’t he heal me?” One guy in the group responds, “Well. Can I pray that God will do that right now?” Wanting to make the guy look like a fool, he says “sure.” The guy praying lays his hands on his shoulders and begins asking God to heal this man.
“But then,” Myer’s friend exclaims, “my legs and left arm started to feel warm and tingly. When I looked down, I noticed my leg muscles were no longer atrophied nor was my arm withered. I was compelled to get out of my chair and I began walking!”
The fellow goes on to explain how those folks rejoiced with him and told him how Jesus healed him and how He can also save him eternally from the wrath of God, so right there he, his wife, and his daughter, gave their lives to the Lord Jesus.
Obviously something happened to this guy that is not explainable by the means of normal medical procedure. The faculty at the university knew this man. Hundreds of students interacted with him regularly at the library. They knew his physical condition before this miracle. Certainly Myers knew the man’s condition, having spent considerable time with him and his family. What happened to him is a miracle that cannot be denied.
Now. Does that mean Myers will drop to his knees, renounce his atheism, repent of his sin, and embrace Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and become the most outspoken apologist for six day creationism that ever was? No. It does not. In fact, knowing the sinful heart of man, he will probably accuse the guy of perpetrating one of the greatest religious hoaxes ever and that Donald Trump was behind it in some fashion. His reaction, however, really mimics those of the religious leaders in the Gospels when they encountered the undeniable miracles of Jesus. But rather than attributing the healing of his friend to a work of Satan, Myers attributes it to some elaborate, red state evangelical conspiracy.
My point with recounting that little make-believe scenario is to say if people with the gift of healing are exercising that gift with regularity in churches as continuationists claim they are, then I wouldn’t have to research medical records and the like. The reality of the miracles would testify of themselves. A person with significant deformities or other serious medical issues would testify about his healing. His friends would testify to me about his healing. Neighbors and townsfolk who knew the guy before he was healed would tell me of his healing. And most importantly, those who reject miracles, but would refuse to believe God’s healing in spite of him being healed, would testify about his healing, because it is “undeniable.”