Tom: In this our Understanding the Scriptures segment, we’re in the Book of Acts 8. And, Dave, you know, it’s really a privilege for us to be able to discuss the Scriptures before our listeners, but the name of the program is Search the Scriptures Daily, so we want them to - if they don’t follow along, at least, in their own time in the Scriptures, check out what we say. We are giving a perspective, our perspective, but the real Teacher for the Word of God is the Holy Spirit.
Tom: He’s the One who gave us the Word of God, and He’s the One who gives us understanding. So it has to begin that way. And also, for those who have never gotten into a habit or a discipline of reading the Scriptures, we recommend that they start with the Book of John. We’ve gone through the Book of John, which is available through the ministry, but they have to read it themselves. As I said, we’re really blessed to be able to present it, to go through it with our many listeners.
We are, again, in Acts:8:5: “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.”
Dave: I guess we could put more than one meaning on that. It relates back to what we were talking about - miracles. Well, that’s an attraction. Wow! So are they coming just for miracles? It says of Christ, “Though He did so many miracles among them, yet they believed Him not.” There’s a limitation to miracles. Nobody saw miracles like the children of Israel; the Red Sea opening up, you know, and they go through on dry land, and then it drowns the Egyptians pursuing them. They’ve got manna every day, six days a week - not on the Sabbath. They heard God speak with an audible voice, and yet no people were so rebellious.
So anyway, it says he comes down and he’s preaching Christ, but seeing and hearing the miracles that he did, they’re listening, they’re willing to hear, but how many of them came out of curiosity and how many of them came just to be healed, or what not? We don’t know. But “unclean spirits” is giving us an example of some of the miracles: “For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them.”
Now, that raises a question, Tom: are there no more people demon possessed today? I mean, are all the demons retired, or wouldn’t there be people like this today, as well?
Tom: That’s a good question.
Dave: Is there something wrong with the church? We lack the power of the Holy Spirit because of sin in our lives, because of division in the body of Christ?
Tom: Have we psychologized them all away?
Dave: Yeah, that could be part of it. But anyway, “The people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.”
Okay, so we’ve got a big crowd of people, amazing things happening; unclean spirits are crying and with a loud voice coming out - that would be impressive. “And many taken with palsies and that were lame were healed, and there was great joy in that city.” So this is a big event going on: people are getting healed, they’re getting saved.
Tom: Dave, we have many evangelistic crusades throughout the world, especially, it seems, based on what I’ve read when you look at places like Africa and so on - India. But then you have people like Benny Hinn, men like Reinhard Bonnke, which literally millions come to their crusades. Is there a difference?
Dave: Well, Tom, the gospel hasn’t changed, and the need in men’s hearts has not changed. We’re still guilty before God. We still need to be forgiven. Christ is the only way. So he’s preaching Christ, but he is doing miracles as well, because this is what Christ commanded now. Are you saying, “Why doesn’t that happen today?”
Tom: Or with what we see happening, is that is it really the truth? We have, supposedly, resurrections; we have all kinds of medical problems - not just psychological problems, but medical problems. The claim is that people are truly being healed.
Dave: Well, if that’s the case, praise God. But in so many instances it isn’t the case, because those who try to follow up confirm that they really weren’t healed.
Now, Tom, I believe in healing. I have been healed instantly myself. I have seen other people instantly healed as I laid hands on them and prayed for them. But we can’t make it happen; God isn’t going to do it anytime we want it to happen, otherwise we would never die if we were healed of everything every time we cried out to God.
But anyway, there’s great joy in that city over what’s happening.
Tom: Dave, let me go back to the issue of demon possession. Now, I’ve heard people say, “Well, when Christ - even after His ascension to heaven, and there was power among the apostles really to verify that it was God’s Word that they were preaching and teaching, that it was a special time.” Is there a distinction? Was it a special time?
Dave: Well, Tom, I think it was a special time because it was a beginning. You had a special time at the beginning for Israel, when Israel went through the Red Sea and so forth, and they saw all of these miracles. But that special time had two sides to it; it’s a two-edged sword. Someone who picked up sticks on the Sabbath day was stoned; a child that bad-mouthed his parents was stoned; and a few chapters back, Ananias and Sapphira, they lied. Who knows, they may have given 90 percent, you know - people were giving everything away, and they may have given 90 percent. I don’t know. Maybe they gave 80 percent, but they probably gave a whole lot more percentage wise than most people do today, and yet they claimed that it was all. They were instantly killed by God for lying against the Holy Spirit. And I may have mentioned it before, but I remember reading about some amazing revivals across China in those days. By My Spirit, it’s called, and the first night when - wow! These miraculous things began to happen, and - by the way, most of the miracles were the repentance, the conviction of God that came upon these people who…you know, Orientals, they’re not given to confession; it’s face-saving, and here were Chinese who were just openly confessing their sins, repenting, and coming to Christ. And one of the Chinese elders said, “If we are to continue to enjoy the gracious presence that has been with us this evening, we will have to walk softly, carefully and holy.”
So what happened? At the very beginning God is pouring out His Spirit and His power, and yet sin comes in. Well, it’s like in the beginning with Israel: God had to remove the tabernacle. The tabernacle was in the middle of the camp, and God had to remove it. Anyone that wanted to go to consult with God, you go outside the camp to the tabernacle, because God said, “If I continue to manifest my presence among you, I will destroy you because of my holiness and your sin.”
So, Tom, I think that’s the situation in churches today. We’ve got a lot of these TV evangelists, we have people doing miracles, supposedly; they’re homosexual, they’re involved in adultery, fornication, they’re robbing the till, you know, and all kinds of problems, and God’s blessing cannot be upon that. So you might say He’s withdrawn Himself, otherwise He would destroy us.
On the other hand, there are still miracles happening in certain places, but the greatest miracle, of course, is souls to be saved, to come to Christ, to open their hearts to Him. And, Tom, there we’ve got another problem, because we’ve got a lot of false professions - people, as we’ve mentioned, coming for the wrong reasons. So we are in what the Bible calls apostasy, one of the signs of the nearness of the return of Christ.