When the gospel was preached as we see in Acts nearly 2,000 years ago, it was a totally new belief to the non-Jewish pagan nations in the known world at that time. Accordingly, the gospel came with powerful accompanying miraculous signs to confirm its absolute truth to people groups who had worshipped foreign pagan gods for uncounted generations and for whom the name of Jesus Christ was completely foreign.
Now let us fast forward 2,000 years to the present day in, say, America—a nation which has been “christianized” with by one estimate 335,000 churches of every stripe, denomination and tradition within its borders. In many if not most of these churches, there is a form of godliness but the power of the gospel as seen in Acts is denied and has been replaced by tradition and outward form. The apostle Paul wrote of this, and it is now being fulfilled in the Church in America during these last days.
2 Timothy 3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
This is what inevitably happens to the gospel after it begins to settle in a nation and “taken for granted.” It is the consequence of sinful human nature. We are more interested in outward religion to assuage the guilt from our ever-present sins and to fulfill the religious obligations we sense somewhere within our spirits. Or we are far more interested in what God can do for us here and now than our reward in eternity. Therefore the miraculous power which accompanies the radical preaching of repentance and bearing the fruit thereof—as seen so vividly in Acts—is no longer.
Even if and when a miracle does take place as the gospel is shared in a western context, the reaction of the people is muted. The “miracle” can be explained away by science, or perhaps it is fraudulent (as indeed has happened in some Christian meetings where “miracles” are pre-arranged).
But when the gospel is preached today in nations having a spiritual environment similar to what the disciples in Acts encountered, we can witness the miracles recorded in Acts—if we have been taught to minister as the early disciples did. Such miracles in a pagan environment can result in a movement toward Jesus Christ just as in Acts.