The kingdom of God is set up in our hearts
The gospel is often set forth in that phrase, “the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God is set up in our hearts, the kingdom of the Spirit of grace where Christ prevails over us to set us free from the law of sin and death, the tyranny of the devil, and corruption of the world.
In this passage we see the blessedness of those who enter the kingdom of God. The power of the kingdom of God is displayed in the “signs and wonders” done by the hands of the apostles among the people (verse 12).
People are being healed from all manner of sickness and those afflicted with unclean spirits (verse 16). These Acts of the Apostles are in the context of men in this world suffering bodily and spiritual afflictions due to sin. Men are in need of what only God can do. The kingdom of God comes to us in the midst of our misery.
The miracles are signs that instruct us and direct us. These signs are meant to point us to the power of God for salvation. God is able to deliver us from sickness and death. In Christ, God delivers us from the root of all our misery; our estrangement from God.
The apostles are doing the same miracles that the Lord Jesus did in his ministry. And the now exalted Lord Jesus is behind these miracles. He is doing them through his apostles. Jesus did miracles and told people, “Come unto me.” The apostles are doing miracles but not saying, “Come unto me.” Rather, they are preaching the gospel, and saying “Come unto the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The miracles emphasize our need of bodily and spiritual healing. Only Christ can grant this salvation, and so we must listen to him. The apostles didn’t point to the miracles as an end in themselves, but taught the truth of Christ, of his person and work; the good news of the kingdom of God in connection to these things.
Miracles are not sufficient to prompt one to unite himself to Christ. We see some people were fearful of joining the believers, while others were being added to the church (verses 13-14). Those who dared not join the church nevertheless were impressed (verse 13).
There were various reasons why the people were afraid to join the believers. They knew of the sudden deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. They were also aware of the threats the rulers had made to the apostles. Their refusal to join was a fear of losing their lives, not just fear of death, but their way of life. They chose to stay as they were.
Peter and the other apostles taught very plainly. They proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Christ of the Old Testament prophets. He had been crucified according to the set plan and will of God. He was raised from the dead. He ascended to the throne of God. There is forgiveness of sins in his name and eternal life. But there is no salvation possible in any other way or any other name.
Jesus had also taught very clearly what was at stake in responding to his appeal to come to him. He had said it does a man no good to gain the whole world and lose his soul. He also said you must lose your life for his sake, and that whoever believed in him would have everlasting life. Those who refused would die in their sin and perish.
So it is obvious those who didn’t come to him did not believe what he said or what his apostles said about him. They saw no worth in Christ or his words to come to him. They admired from a distance some of what he said, and the power of his miracles. They were almost Christians.
You can’t be double- minded and come to Christ. What we love carries the soul where it goes. It will carry us to earth if we are earthly and to heaven if we are heavenly. We have sin and corruption in our being. Only Christ can cure that; without him, there is coming destruction.
He alone can give light to your soul, life from the dead, pardon of sin, peace with God, a robe of righteousness, joy of the Holy Spirit, adoption by God, a title to heaven, eternal life, and countless other riches of his grace. He came that we may have life. He is too good to refuse.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is the pastor of The First Presbyterian Church of Union.