Signs and Wonders
This short passage serves as a summary of the Spirit’s work by the hands of the apostles among the people. It is intended to give us a brief snapshot of the goings-on in the church of Jerusalem during this earliest time. Luke gives us the impression that life in the church centered around the apostolic band, as would be expected. The apostles were the ones who had lived with the Lord, heard his words firsthand, saw his miracles, and, most important, witnessed his risen body. They were the ones who at this time were receiving revelations from the Holy Spirit which would eventually find their way into the New Testament Scriptures. Yes, there were prophets in the church at this time as well, Agabus to name just one (11:27-28; 21:10-11), but their ministry seemed to touch more on prophesying specific events and discerning God’s will. The apostles spoke the word of God which became the basis for Church doctrine, and so exercised an unrepeatable office. And they could also work signs and wonders, the purpose for which was to confirm the word (Mark 16:20), that unbelievers might believe the word they preached through the signs they performed through the power of the Holy Spirit. The signs were so great that, as was the case with Jesus just a few months before, people flocked to be healed of diseases and unclean spirits.
We also read that while the apostles worked these signs and wonders, the church was gathered together in Solomon’s Portico (also see 3:11), apparently the place in the temple where Christians preferred to meet. We read that “none of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” I take this to mean that no one wanted to join the Christians in the Portico for fear of being identified with the church, but still had great respect for the signs of the apostles and the holiness of the lives of the Christians. But though they would not join them in the temple, many yet believed on the Lord, primarily because of the miracles of the apostles, for they were carrying the sick and demon-possessed that Peter’s “shadow might fall upon some of them.” So the passage shows us both the fear of the people and their desperation, fear of being identified with the church but desperate to be healed through which they became believers.
And such were some of us, people desperate to be healed but afraid to come out of hiding. God would make us whole again, but that will require surgery producing repentance and faith. And even as Christians we cringe at the words, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). But faith is far better than fear, and the light of holiness far better than the shadows.