Summary: Believers need to learn to expect the unexpected and inexplicable from God, but we won’t experience such until we are sold on God’s one agenda and striving with one accord.
The shadow of your smile
When you are gone
Will color all my dreams
And light the dawn…
The year was 1965. The movie was The Sandpiper. The stars were Elizabeth Taylor as the seductress and the late Richard Burton as the Episcopal priest she seduced. The sentiment in the song is that our experiences remain with us in shadow form, but add beauty and brightness where once we knew only the chilling contrast of black and white. The song won an academy award for Best Song and sold in record numbers as recorded by Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Barbra Streisand.
But the song is a lie. Sin does not add bright colors to our lives and change the harsh contrasts of reality into a multicolored dawn. Yet, there is an interesting passage in the Bible about a shadow. In this case, the shadow is treated as it really is, the result of a body intersecting the light source. Let’s read about it. (Read Acts 5:12-16).
In verse 15, we have an interesting emphasis on Peter’s shadow, but in verse 12, we are told that signs and wonders were performed by means of the hands of all of the apostles. Now, even though the word for signs that is used in the Greek is the one from which we get the English word “semiotics,” the idea of meaning, the Greek word used for wonders conveys the idea of something that seems amazing or impossible. It was used for the acts of jugglers and illusionists with an emphasis on the “strange” or “marvelous,” but sometimes merely in the sense of something beyond easy explanation.
So, when we hear of “signs and wonders” performed at the hands of the apostles, we know that these were not easily explicable or ignored phenomena. These were experiences that provided evidence beyond the normal pale of human experience. They were experiences and demonstrations that validated the preaching of these same apostles—preaching that pointed directly toward Jesus, the crucified and risen Savior.
As a result, this verse reminds me of the late Manley Beasley’s teaching on faith. He once wrote in his Faith Workbook, “When you become explainable, you cease to be Christian.” In other words, there ought to be inexplicable things happening about us when God is dwelling within us.
We also see a familiar description that we’ve seen before in this account of the early church that we know as the Book of Acts. They were in “one accord” (KJV), they had the same desires, objectives, and agenda—even as they met regularly at Solomon’s Portico. This word, with its root idea of the same desires, is used 10 times in the Book of Acts. Most of the time it is about God’s people being united in what God wanted them to do, but sometimes, it is about the enemies of God being united in what they wanted to do to God’s people. Regardless, it reminds us of the power of unity.
In a very real sense, the church is like a broom. Would you like to sweep the floor with one straw from a broom? Of course not! But when many straws are bound together and attached to a handle, they have the power to move a lot of dirt. Like the straws, we really aren’t very useful to God by ourselves, but when we are bound into unity with God and each other through the power of the Holy Spirit, we become effective as He wields the handle where He wills it. That’s being of ONE ACCORD!
But there are some people who just don’t want to be associated a bunch of fanatics or they don’t want to take the risk of being persecuted if things go wrong. Just observe in verse 13 that there were a bunch of folks who seem to be hanging around on the fringes. They don’t want to join—even though they held this group of believers in “high regard” (“esteemed them highly”—KJV, “held them in high honor”—RSV). Peterson’s “The Message” words it well, “But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them.”
Some scholars have tried to transform the vowel in the word for “joining” from a short “o” sound to a long “o” sound. Then, they can say that people were afraid to interrupt the group or afraid to disturb the group. But this verb is the one that was often used in the classical world for piecing tile together in a tight inlaid pattern. I truly believe it was clear that while the general populace approved of what the early church was doing—the healing, the charity, and the like—they didn’t really want to become inlaid in the mosaic that the Holy Spirit was creating.
And even today, when the church is what it is supposed to be, people have trouble figuring it out. They approve of our charitable ministries and our disaster efforts, but they don’t want to be locked into a covenant relationship with us. They don’t want to be tied down to Bible-based principles and they don’t want their freedom sacrificed—even when that sacrifice might demonstrate love in its truest sense.