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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

Tue, Aug 09, 2011

36 - A Known Sign [b]

Acts 4:4-22 by Robert Dean
Apologetics. What is that? Does it mean giving an apology for something or to someone? As we learn more about this doctrine, we discover the difference between an "evidentialist" vs. a "presuppositionalist". This lesson explains the Biblical approach for believers who encounter those who say "don't confuse me with the facts - my mind's made up!"
Duration:56 mins 21 secs

A Known Sign. Acts 4:4-22


Acts 4:16 NASB "saying, 'What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.'" The word "noteworthy" is the same Greek word as in Romans 1:19 where it talks about the knowledge of God being made "evident" to us—gnostos [gnostoj]—and it simply refers to that which is known, that which has familiarity; and therefore it came to mean referring to that which was familiar or a friend. But the core idea is gnostos which is related to gnostis, epignosis, the verb ginosko, and it has the idea of that which is known. So what they are saying is that there is a known miracle. But it is not the word dunamis [dunamij] which is the normal word for miracle, which has the idea of a dynamic or a power, it is the word semeion [shmeion]. That is interesting. Here are these unbelieving members of the Sanhedrin and they look at what has happened with this lame man and they don't reject it. The unbelieving mind doesn't have to say, I don't believe that Jesus rose from the dead; it can say, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, it just doesn't mean what you think it means. It doesn't mean that Jesus is God, it doesn't mean that the Bible is true; it just means that something happened we can't explain. So here they make this admission: "What shall we do with these men? … a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it." They can deny the interpretation of it. Why? Because they don't want to believe that that is what is true. It comes back to volition.

Jesus performed tremendous miracles that the rabbis knew only the Messiah would perform—like giving sight to the blind. Ultimately it is not a matter of giving the right argument and it is not a matter of the right evidence, it is a matter of the individual's volition.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean we just do some drive-by evangelism and shoot them with the gospel gun and quote Acts 16:31. That is not giving a reasoned presentation of the gospel, which is what apologia [a)pologia] means; that is just simply throwing a verse out there and avoiding the responsibility of entering into a dialogue with people. Up until the Damascus road many of us would have given up on witnessing to Saul of Tarsus because we would have assumed by all of his actions that he was negative. But that is because we don't know all the facts. We don't know how many times it is going to take to witness to somebody before they eventually trust in Christ. It may be ten, twenty, thirty or forty times before the truth of God's Word finally chips away at their suppression mechanism. We can't just make those assumptions.

Examples of how different people have handled the same sign of a miracle or resurrection. In John chapter twenty Jesus has appeared to ten of the eleven disciples. Thomas wasn't present. John 20:24 NASB "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples were saying to him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.'" He is an empiricist; he has to see the evidence himself. Thomas is already a believer; he is not a believer in the resurrection at this point. [26] "After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, 'Peace {be} with you.' [27] Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.'" Thomas did do that, he just instantly recognized that Jesus had been raised from the dead. [28] "Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'" That is the response of the believer, the positive person who is not suppressing truth in unrighteousness, who sees the evidence. The evidence has its confirmatory value to them, and they interpret it within the grid of Scripture and accept it instantly.

On the other hand we have the case of the apostle Paul. In Acts chapter seven we have the stoning of Stephen. Acts 8:1 NASB "Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles." It was during this time that Saul continued to feed his hostility to the Christians. Acts 9:1 NASB "Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, [2] and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." Is this a picture of somebody who was positive? No, so he is going to have a little something extra in the way he is witnessed to. Here we have a person who at some point in his life is positive at God consciousness. But then he is covering that up with a lot of suppression, just as all of us do at different times. We just don't want God's way to be right at times and are in rebellion against Him. Then Jesus appears to him on the road to Damascus, and again he knows it is true, he can't continue to deny it; now he accepts the interpretation that Jesus is the Messiah. So we have Thomas on the one hand who immediately responds to the Lord as a believer, and then we have the example of Saul. In both cases there is a use of evidence that Jesus rose from the dead but it is not a use of evidence that is setting it apart as something unique and distinct among other aspects of creation. It is a confirmation of the message; it is not overcoming a deficit of knowledge or a deficit of evidence. The evidence has been there all along.

In Acts 4:16 the Sanhedrin says, "the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place." They can't deny it; everybody knows that this healing has taken place. Nobody questions it or raises an issue, they all knew and had no doubt whatsoever. It was called a known sign. A sign is simply a confirmation or validation of something; it is not evidence in the sense of proof that something is right or wrong, it confirms that it is. 

Matthew 12:38 NASB "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.' [39] But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and {yet} no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; [40] for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'" The sign here was the sign of the resurrection. Jesus condemns them and chastises them for asking for a sign rather than saying Oh, you really just need a little more evidence.

Matthew 16:1 NASB "The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven." He has already given them numerous signs, they always want something else. They are asking for proof on their terms, and this is the problem; and they have already been given objective validation for the claims of Jesus. [2] But He replied to them, 'When it is evening, you say, '{It will be} fair weather, for the sky is red. [3] And in the morning, '{There will be} a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot {discern} the signs of the times? [4] An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.' And He left them and went away."

1 Corinthians 1:22 NASB "For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom." Again what he is pointing out is that the human viewpoint of the Jewish mentality is asking for something on their agenda in terms of proof, not a confirmation in terms of a sign. The Greeks want to have wisdom. They are going to validate on the basis of human wisdom. They already know God exists (Romans 1) but in their suppression technique they are saying: You don't exist and you have to prove yourself to me on my terms. But they are still not going to accept it because they are already suppressing truth in unrighteousness.

In John 20 the context has been that Thomas wanted to see that physical evidence. John 20:29 NASB "Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed {are} they who did not see, and {yet} believed.'" Then John inserts his comment, the doctrinal teaching point. The Gospel of John is well known as having eight signs. The eighth and final sign is the sign of the resurrection. John 20:30 NASB "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; [31] but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." The purpose of the signs isn't to provide truth in the sense of appealing to a higher authority or as if these are of a higher nature of demonstrating the existence of God and the claims of Jesus and every aspect of creation. What does a sign do? It points to something. It doesn't prove that something exists, it identifies something that it claims what it claims to be; it is confirmatory. So these signs confirm the claims that Jesus is making that He is the Son of God and that He is the Messiah as promised in the Old Testament. 

Evidence is not neutral. Any fact, any event, is going to be immediately interpreted based on the presuppositions of the person there. If the person is an unbeliever and their presupposition is that God can't work this way because that would be grounded in arrogance. Arrogance is tenacious; arrogance doesn't want to give up. When one is operating on arrogance it doesn't matter how much evidence there is. We live in a time when nations all over the earth have been operating on models of economic theory that have brought us to the brink of worldwide economic collapse. They are not going to believe that the problem is their whole approach to money and to then economy because to admit that means that everything that they believe is false, and they can't accept that. That version of their pagan arrogance is tenacious. In the conflict between Christianity and non-Christians is that the non-Christians are committed in arrogance to a position of suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. You can't change that by evidence if that is their decision.

When it comes to witnessing the bottom line of all of this is that it gives us tremendous freedom to be able to simply know the gospel, understand all the aspects of the gospel to the best of our ability, and to the present it clearly to the person who needs to hear it. We don't have to have a Master's degree in theology; we don't have to control all of the data in Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be familiar with some of these things but that is not the ultimate issue. We are going to try to convince the reason the unbeliever is an unbeliever is because he doesn't have enough evidence and it hasn't been presented to him correctly. No, the reason the unbeliever is an unbeliever is because he chosen up to that point in his life to not believe the gospel. He has chosen to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, and that is exactly what we see exhibited by the Sanhedrin in Acts chapter four. Acts 4:16 NASB "saying, "What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. [17] But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name." That is, we have no rational case anymore, all we can do is get angry and threaten them because we are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. We stuff God down into a box and we put the lid on and nail it down. They are trying to take the top off the box and let God out, and we can't let that happen so we just have to threaten them. That's all that is left.

Acts 4:18 NASB "And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus."