One of the results of the Industrial Revolution and the “Age of Enlightenment” during the 18thcentury was the undermining of the authority of the monarchy and the Church in Europe. It led to many of the revolutions which occurred during the “Century of Philosophy” (late 1600s to 1789).
The most devastating effect was the rise of liberalism, theologians who tried to explain Scripture using reason and rationalism. This resulted in a deterioration in the acceptance of the miraculous and supernatural material of the Scriptures. Indeed, the Holy Bible was relegated to the place of world literature and considered to be just another academic work of a rather fanciful nature like Gulliver’s Travels (which had as well political undertones). It has been said that the strength of the Anglican Church is that we stand on the 3 pillars of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Overemphasis on any one or two of these results in the church losing its way, as we have witnessed in the post-modern age.
As we have been focussing on the book of Acts the repeated and consistent occurrence of miracles, healings, deliverances, visitations by angels and the Lord, and almost countless acts of guidance through visions and dreams, are apparent. The denial or even the rationalisation of these supernatural events not only reduces the impact of the testimony of salvation but denies completely the power of God to intervene in human history to rescue us.
There are two aspects of this. As Luke began his gospel and Acts, he testified to Theophilus “…after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you… so that you may know the truth…” (Luke 1:3-4). He claimed he was writing the truth from eyewitness accounts, and what he saw when accompanying apostle Paul on some of his journeys. There is nothing more compelling than the factual account of an eyewitness. His integrity is unchallengeable.
Secondly, the power of God is being manifested in the early church in a way and magnitude that has never been witnessed before. Sure, there are supernatural events in the Old Testament, with burning bushes, parting of the sea, healing of a pagan king, Elijah burning up a stone altar etc. But over so many years they do not come very close to the demonstrations of power by Jesus who begins his ministry after it seems Heaven has been “locked up” and there have been no miracles or prophecies for over 400 years!
From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry right through to end of the book of Acts at least, there is recorded virtually daily demonstrations of God’s power. Apostle John helps us to understand why these ‘signs’ are shared with us: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name”(John 20:30-31).
A new Kingdom has come. The King himself is the Creator of all things and has power over all things. This King, Jesus, also gives us life through his death. Surely, we can trust and believe in the King who has done this for us because his power to save and power to bring us all to our own resurrection has no equal.