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When Jesus ministered here on earth, it was said of him by Peter, how “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with Power, who went about doing good and healing all who were Oppressed of the Devil, for God was with Him” ( Acts 10:38).
These good works of healing and delivering individuals from the power of Satan are termed by the Bible as “Signs and Wonders.” Jesus quoted from Isaiah, when preaching in the Synagogue in Nazareth (Isaiah 61:1-2), that “signs and wonders” would be evident in His Ministry. This was certainly confirmed by the authors of the Gospels, that….
“Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in the Synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing ALL manner of sicknesses and ALL manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout ALL Syria: and they brought to Him ALL the sick who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, and those who were oppressed by demons, epileptics and paralytics, and He healed them.”
Acts of healing, though uncommon, were not unknown in Jesus’ day. In Jewish culture, godly and divinely inspired men were believed to have the power to perform miraculous cures (a few of these instances are recorded in Jewish Rabbinic writings).
However, the accounts of Christ’s healings are remarkable in several aspects.
No one else was known to cure such a wide variety of afflictions, including blindness, paralysis, leprosy, deafness and dumbness, maimed body parts, in which Jesus supplied lost body parts, as such “creation” is an astounding miracle.
Moreover, Christ brought back people from the dead… such miracles of “raising the dead,” were truly wonders, and miracles that could not be duplicated by others unless they were also genuine believers in Christ.
These signs and wonders confirmed Christ’s status with God and calling (Acts 2:22). Nicodemus admitted that he and other Jewish Elders “know that you are a teacher sent from God; for no one can do these Signs that you do, unless God is with him” ( John 3:2).
When Jesus commissioned the Twelve Disciples, He gave them similar power (Luke 9:1) and commanded them to preach the Gospel… and to heal the sick. Luke records that “they departed,..preaching the Gospel, and healing everywhere” (verse 2).
JESUS SENDS OUT THE “TWELVE”
” Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority to cast out demons and to heal all diseases” (Luke 9:1).
Jesus also commissioned 70 others and gave them the same power and authority; so it is seen that casting out evil spirits and healing the sick was not exclusive unto the Twelve.
Indeed, the Seventy came back and told Christ that even… the evil spirits… were subject unto them in His Name. Is healing the sick and deliverance from oppression part and parcel in Preaching the Gospel?
However, Jesus commissioned these Seventy a little differently…
He REVERSED the order of ministry with them, by telling them to “heal the sick… and announce that the Kingdom of God is approaching you.”
Hence, healing the sick and preaching the Gospel, GO HAND IN HAND with the divine commission in preaching the Gospel!
At His Ascension, Jesus told the 500 there (1 Cor. 15:6) to wait in Jerusalem for His Promise to send the Holy Spirit upon them, whereupon they would be equipped with power from on high (Luke 24:49).
The Book of Acts, the second chapter, records this outpouring upon 120 believers. This “full” Gospel continued to be in evidence by the Apostles and believers throughout the Book of Acts. Some examples of this are listed below :
“And…many wonders and signs were done by the Apostles” (Acts 2:43b).
” …stretching forth your Hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the Name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:30).
“And by the hands of the Apostles were many signs and wonders done among the people” (Acts 5:12).
Philip, who was an Evangelist, also performed signs and wonders in his evangelization of Samaria.
“Philip went to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the crowds were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. For many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or maimed were healed” (Acts 8:5-7 NLT).
The same signs and wonders were done by Paul and Barnabas in the city of Iconium (Acts 14:3).
Paul told the Roman church that by mighty signs and wonders through the Holy Spirit of God, that he had FULLY preached the Gospel (Rom. 15:19 KJV) throughout his ministerial travels throughout the mid-eastern Roman Empire.
Indeed, the scripture reading in the Gospel of Mark reveals that this power to FULLY preach the Gospel to available… to ALL believers:
“And these signs shall follow them THAT believe; In my Name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues….they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover “ (Mark 16:17, 18b).
Thus, according to New Testament record, this is the pattern of the preaching of the FULL and GENUINE Gospel.
^ Unlike Philip’s simple evangelistic preaching of the Gospel, today’s mass evangelism uses Madison Avenue advertising, targets special groups, is very well financed, and engages in sensationalism identical… to circus acts and freak shows… Here Billy Graham claims “sin-smashing” success… states that his meetings are a “Revival,” and that it is the “greatest” ever in Los Angeles. Graham claims that 160,000 have heard him with 5000 “conversions” in this 1949 “Crusade.”
Compare this to the “crusade” that Philip had in Acts 8.
There, Philip evangelized by: the Preaching of the Gospel with “signs following.”
This resulted in many miracles and healings being done as evil spirits were cast out of many and many who were lame and paralytic were cured.
…No,… Philip did not need slick ad campaigns and extravagant claims, as the city of Samaria was filled “with great joy” at the preaching of Philip.
Which Gospel would you rather hear if you had a choice today ?
It is apparent then, that the origins of Christianity were based on Signs, Wonders, and Miracles, by the medium of Divine Intervention. THIS WAS A STAPLE OF GOSPEL PREACHING IN FIRST CENTURY JUDEA.
What has happened?
Popular Christianity today, has NO such Signs, Wonders, and Miracles, by the medium of Divine Intervention. Is it really the SAME Gospel…then?
What Happened to the “Full” Gospel?
The Apostle Paul and his apostolic contemporaries all predicted a demise and departure from the truth and power of the First-Century Gospel.
Indeed, Paul told the Ephesian Church that after his departure, there would be “grievous wolves that SHALL enter in among you, not sparing the flock…men shall arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore, watch and remember, that for three years I ceased not to warn you every night and day with tears“ (Acts 20:29-31).
THE APOSTLE PAUL
Paul, warned the Ephesian Church of an approaching Apostasy from the truths and power of the First-Century Church.
Paul had also warned the Thessalonian Church along the same lines.
The Thessalonians thought that the Resurrection and Return of Christ was about to happen. Paul had to explain otherwise (2 Thessalonians 2).
Paul informed the Thessalonians, that before the Return of Christ would occur, that there would be first…a Great Falling Away…Paul implied that this what was…IMPENDING…
Peter, in his second general epistle, predicted the same phenomenon, as Paul did.
In 2 Peter 2:1-3, Peter stressed that he thought the Apostasy was quite imminent. The brother of Jesus, Jude, who wrote the epistle bearing his name, uses very nearly the identical language as Peter, in confirming the prophecy of Peter, of an Apostasy from the practices of the First-Century Church.
Jude, in his epistle, writes that this Apostasy is already happening, as “certain men have crept in unnoticed” (NKJV); or, “some people have infiltrated our ranks” (The Message) in teaching differently from the Original Gospel, or the “faith once delivered to the Saints” (Jude 3-4).
Whether Jude and Peter ever lived in the same locale, or Jude, from reading Peter’s epistle, added his own impetus, or rather, the same Holy Spirit moved upon both men to write in near similar terms, both men warned their respective constituencies of an impending and immediate Apostasy.
The difference between the messages of the two men, is this:
Peter was warning of False Teachers that were coming on the scene.
Jude followed up, with his knowledge of current events, that, indeed, the False Teachers had ALREADY arrived.
Truly, John the Elder, a generation later, speaks of the Spirit of Antichrist, “that is already at work” (2 John 7-10).
THE ELDERS: THE VANGUARD OF THE APOSTASY
After Paul’s departing from Ephesus, which culminated by his warning to them (Acts 20:28-38), in which Paul went to Jerusalem and eventually to Rome, the Apostle John came to Ephesus to strengthen the brethren and to depart from the judgments about to set upon the Jewish Polity, as predicted by Christ.
The Church of Ephesus was, perhaps, the largest church that Paul founded on his missionary journeys. But in conjunction with the Apostle John’s taking up residency there, a group of disciples attached themselves to John, for influence’ sake, just as Paul said.
After John’s decease, these men claimed John’s bishopric and claimed that they were the Apostle John’s protégés, and called themselves “the Elders.” They assumed power and authority over the Ephesian Church by leveraging John’s influence (The Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary, Volume 2, pgs. 944, 950-1; The Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, p. 216; The Original New Testament, pgs.473-477; (as an aside, this author , however, does not understand that the Apostle John was a Levite).
John the Apostle, dictating his Memoirs, to what he thought was a harmless Amanuensis (secretary). Not so. This amanuensis and others took over John’s Memoirs loosely as their own. A particular individual even changed his name and called himself John also, and took on the authority of a Presbyter (Greek term), or Elder. This position was parlayed as an Intimate of the Apostles, as Eusebius cites in his History of the Church. The Elder took this standing, in creating a party faction called the “Johannine School,” the first Clergy format, to take over the Church of Ephesus just as Paul had predicted less than a generation earlier…This group styled themselves, The Elders of Ephesus, who began a subtle influence, and control, of all Christian fellowships of Asia Minor, and eventually, Rome. Elder, a Hebrew word, became known as the Latin designation, Bishop…A leader of Clergy in today’s organized Christendom. An elder in Jewish Polity was only a “servant leader,” not a “a lord over the Flock” as Peter discerned what was going on, yet in his day (1 Peter 5:1-3). False authority and false leadership is the basis of an antichrist system! Just as the House of Annas, in Jesus’s day, held the office of the High Priest amongst themselves, when it rightly belonged to the House of Zadok. This false leadership and authority then, who had bribed the Romans for this position and influence, stood as MARKED opposition, against Christ, or the spirit of antichrist, first revealed.
“The Elders” also tried to extend their “authority” over other churches, as the account in the Third letter of John implies, as Diotrephes rejected John the Elder and his outfit, from imposing their arbitrary “leadership.” As a result, John the Elder wrote his fellow familiar, a Gaius, an intimate associate, and hurled recriminations and accusations against Diotrephes, while praising Demetrius, who was a spy in that fellowship for the Elder, by giving the Elder, “report(s).”
These “Elders” were the first Vanguard of the Apostasy of the Early Church and the Original, or First-Century Gospel. Signs, wonders, healings, and miracles became less and less a staple, and as a result, many doctrinal and teaching divisions came into vogue… primarily, to draw away disciples, just as Paul predicted!
Just after the destruction of the Jewish Polity at Jerusalem, post 70 C.E., the Gospel proceeded from Messianic Jewish control to that of Gentile control and influence, as the Jewish Messianic remnants were scattered and had no further central location as a sphere of influence.
With this ongoing transfer, emphasis was no longer placed on “signs,” such as healing the sick, or miracles, but “gnosis,” or knowledge, sometimes referred to in the Old Testament, and Apocrypha, as “wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22; Paul, in referring to this, apparently had noticed this early trend among the Corinthian Gentiles).
When the Emperor Constantine made Christianity, the “State Religion,” and abolished pagan worship, the Apostasy of the Gospel was made complete with it being syncretized with many pagan elements to make it palatable to the newly “converted” pagan masses.
With this union of Church and State, the then-fragmented Gospel became an accessory to State Power, and no longer possessed any vestige of supernatural or miraculous power as the Original Gospel had. The newly politicized Clergy now treated and interpreted the Gospel accounts of healings and miracles as mostly allegories!
Then, followed for hundreds of years, what scholars and historians call the “Dark Ages.”
Although the Age of the Renaissance, or also called the “Age of Enlightenment” coincided with the Protestant Reformation, there was only enough light to be shed on rescuing the teaching of the Gospel from the most obvious pagan elements. About all the reformer Martin Luther and others could do, was to reveal that the “Just shall live by Faith,” instead of the systematic application of good works promoted as the means of salvation by the then, Universal Church.
END OF PART ONE.
Thanks for reading.
Copyrighted. Joseph Spickard, 2018. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this intellectual property without prior permission from the author is prohibited.