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Uncommon Things We Believe Series #5 Miraculous Gifts Have Ceased

22 Apr

 

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One of the most emotionally charged issues in contemporary expressions of religion has to do with the subject of miracles. Most every television or radio program that has a religious emphasis will teach that miracles are an active part of today’s Christianity.

When something amazing happens, we often say, “It’s a miracle!” But more than likely that is not technically correct. It was not a true miracle. It was amazing, it was abnormal, etc., but was it a miracle?

The Jews of our Lord’s day did not challenge the actual events, but rather the power by which these miracles were performed (cf. Mark 3:22ff.). They associated his power to Beelzebub…evil….and Jesus clearly taught them (to their shame) that a “kingdom divided against itself will not stand.”

Nicodemus stated the belief that most of us here today would understand:

(John 3:1-5)  Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. {2} He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

(Luke 7:18-23)  John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, {19} he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” {20} When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'” {21} At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. {22} So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. {23} Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

What is a miracle?

If we look at the words the New Testament uses for miracles we see the following:

(1) It is an act of a supernatural being. The word dunamis has the idea of a supernatural power. It speaks primarily of the agent of the act. That power may be delegated to a human agent.The question is where did Jesus’ power to do the miracle come from. There are two options – either from God or from Satan. Obviously, Jesus’ power came from God.

(2) A miracle is an unusual event. Another word – terasa – speaks of the effect.  Terasa speaks of the wonderment of the event – as in signs and wonders. As a matter of fact, terasa is always used with semeion.

(3) A miracle is a significant event. The Greek word semeion means sign. It has purpose. Matthew, Mark and Luke uses the first two more. John uses the word semion, because he is focused on the purpose of Jesus in performing the miracles.  The concept of semeion is to point to something greater…such as a miracle in John points the participants or viewer to God.

Definition: A miracle is an unusual and significant event (terasa) which requires the working of a supernatural agent (dunamis) and is performed for the purpose of authenticating the message or the messenger (semeion).

I don’t want to imply that God can’t do a miracle without a miracle worker or that He can only do miracles when He needs to authenticate His message. But, examination of Old Testament and New Testament miracles shows that when a human is the agent performing a miracle, the purpose is authentication of the person and his message.

For example: Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Apostles… That is the norm. It is a little oxymoronic to use the words norm and miracles in the same sentence, but I think it is important to establish what the norm is if possible because of what various people teach concerning miracles.

We commonly call God’s work that stays within the recognized laws of nature, “providence.” Consequently we do pray, believing that God hears and will answer providentially.

Therefore, when someone calls something a “miracle,” we should understand that they may simply mean what we mean by the word “providence.” We need to not debate with those with whom we merely differ semantically.

Nevertheless, in a theological manner, we do believe that there is a work of God that is above our common understanding of how nature functions, and we call this kind of work a “miracle.” We commonly believe in this sense of the word that miracles have ceased.

Our basis for this belief is rooted in the Holy Spirit’s teaching in the Scriptures relative to a special kind of work that would cease at the close of the Apostolic Age of the first century. We do not believe that God is incapable of working miracles, but that He has revealed that He would not do so in Post Apostolic times.

Miraculous Gifts: their purpose and method of reception

What was the purpose of miracles in the ministry of Christ, or in the apostolic age? As noted above, their design must be consistent with the lofty theme of redemption.

Of the early disciples who were endowed with spiritual gifts, Mark declares:

“And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed” (Mk. 16:20).

The function of the signs was to confirm the revelatory process, i.e., the word of truth being communicated from God to man.

The writer of Hebrews argues similarly. He declares that the message regarding the “great salvation,” which at the first had been  “spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:3-4).

Of special interest in these passages is the term “confirm” (Grk. bebaioo). The word denotes evidence that establishes the validity of the divinely-given word (Brown, I.658). The supernatural gifts of the primitive age, therefore, had as their design the establishment of the credibility of Christ and His spokesmen, and so ultimately, the validation of their message, namely, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world!

Now observe this very important point. If it can be established that those early miracles do corroborate the testimony of Christ, and those commissioned by Him; and further, that the recording of these events in the New Testament was designed to perpetually accomplish that function, then it stands as demonstrated that the repetition of such signs is not needed today.

The fact is, that is exactly what is affirmed by the apostle John. He declares that the “signs” of Christ, which he records in his gospel account, “are written [gegraptai – perfect tense, abiding effect] that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God . . .” (Jn. 20:31).

It ought to be abundantly clear, therefore, that since the miracles of the Bible continue to accomplish their original purpose, there is no need for a repetition of them today. They are not being replicated in this age!

Next, we should explore the method of gift reception, as that concept is set forth in the New Testament. Christ, of course, was empowered directly by God to work miracles. Such signs demonstrated that He was a “man approved of God” (Acts 2:22).

So far as New Testament information goes, there were only two ways by which others received spiritual gifts in the apostolic era. The first was by means of Holy Spirit baptism, i.e., an overwhelming direct endowment of the Spirit’s power. Second, miraculous gifts were bestowed by the imposition of the apostles’ hands. Let us consider the biblical facts regarding these two matters.

Holy Spirit baptism was demonstrated in only two New Testament situations. It was given to the apostles of Christ (Acts 1:5; 2:4), and then, as a very special case, it was received by the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-47; 11:15-17). Is Holy Spirit baptism available today? We can show that it is not by the following logical arguement.

First, when Paul wrote to the Ephesians (c. A.D. 62), he affirmed that there was but “one baptism” at that time (Eph. 4:5). It is generally conceded that this baptism must be either Holy Spirit baptism, or water baptism. If it can be established that the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5 is water baptism, then it is obvious that “Spirit baptism” was no longer available.

That water baptism is age-lasting is demonstrated by the fact that it is the baptism of the great commission (cf. Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:16). In Matthew’s account, the Lord promised that as long as his people were making disciples, baptizing, teaching, etc., He would accompany them always, even to the end of the age. Whatever the baptism of this passage is, therefore, it continues in force until the end.

This baptism, however, must be water baptism, as evidenced by the fact that it is administered by human beings: “Go . . . make disciples . . . baptizing . . . .” On the other hand, Holy Spirit baptism had no human administrator; it was bestowed directly by Christ (Mt. 3:11).

It must be concluded, therefore, that the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5 was water baptism; consequently, Holy Spirit baptism had become obsolete. Such being the case, spiritual gifts are not received via Holy Spirit baptism today.

The Evidence For Our “Uncommon” Belief.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would lead the Apostles into “all things,” and “all truth” (Jn.14:16-18, 26; 16:13).

(John 14:16-18)  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– {17} the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. {18} I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

(John 14:26)  But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

(John 16:13)  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

It is important that we understand to whom Jesus intended the words of the Scriptures just cited. We must “rightly divide” or “accurately handle” the Bible to determine to whom words are spoken (2 Tim. 2:15).

The words of John 14:16-18, 26; 16:13 were for the Apostles.

The promise included that the Apostles would not forget what Jesus had said to them—we were not alive during Jesus’ ministry and thus He said nothing to us directly. Therefore “all things” and “all truth” came in the lifetime of the Apostles.

The Apostles’ ministry contributed to the “foundation” or initial work of the Church Age (Eph. 2:20).

(Ephesians 2:20)  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

They were told to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and then preach the gospel throughout the world—they received the Spirit and then began to preach (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8; 2:1-4).

(Luke 24:49)  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

(Acts 1:5)  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

(Acts 1:8)  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

(Acts 2:1-4)  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. {2} Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. {3} They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. {4} All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Through them “the faith” was “once for all delivered” (Jude 3). Miracles were a special sign to confirm the work of the Apostolic Age.

The miracles confirmed the commission of the Apostles and were given through their hands (2 Cor. 12:12; cf. Rom. 15:18-19; Mk. 16:20; Heb. 2:3-4).  Only the Apostles could impart miraculous gifts.

(Mark 16:20)  Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

(Romans 15:18-19)  I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done– {19} by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

(2 Corinthians 12:12)  The things that mark an apostle–signs, wonders and miracles–were done among you with great perseverance.

(Hebrews 2:3-4)  how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. {4} God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

For a time they were the only ones performing miracles (Acts 2:43; 3:1-10; 5:33).

(Acts 2:43)  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

(Acts 3:1-10)  One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon. {2} Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. {3} When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. {4} Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” {5} So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. {6} Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” {7} Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. {8} He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. {9} When all the people saw him walking and praising God, {10} they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

(Acts 5:33)  When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.

Other than by Holy Spirit baptism, miraculous gifts could be conveyed only by an apostle of Christ. Note the evidence:

  1. Philip, the evangelist (not an apostle), could perform miracles, but he could not pass that gift along to others. Accordingly, apostles, namely Peter and John, were sent to Samaria, where Philip had been preaching, so that the church there might be furnished with certain divine gifts (cf. Acts 8:5-6; 14-17).
  2. In connection with the foregoing circumstances, Simon the sorcerer “saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given” (8:18). He wanted to purchase that privilege for himself, but he was informed that he had neither part nor lot in that matter, i.e., the impartation of spiritual gifts.
  3. At Ephesus, Paul laid his hands on twelve converts and “they spake with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6).
  4. There was an unruly element within the church at Corinth that denied Paul’s apostleship. Such, however, was a very illogical position, for that church possessed spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12-14), and they had received them from none other than Paul. The “signs of an apostle” had been wrought among them (2 Cor. 12:12), so Paul forcefully could say:

“If to others I am not an apostle, yet at least I am to you; for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord” (1 Cor. 9:2).

The Corinthian church (with its spiritual gifts) was, therefore a “seal” (divine documentation of Paul’s apostleship), and accordingly, indirect evidence that such gifts were received only from an apostle!

  1. Paul urged Timothy to “stir up the gift of God,” which, says he, “is in you through [dia – denoting the instrument or agency by means of which the gift was imparted (Arndt, 179)] the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6).

Since, therefore, there is no Holy Spirit baptism today; and further, since there are no apostles (or successors to them) in this age, it should be quite clear that men are not in possession of supernatural gifts of the Spirit in this post-apostolic era of the Christian dispensation.

The miraculous gifts were to cease when their purpose was complete (I Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:11-16).

(1 Corinthians 13:8-13)  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. {9} For we know in part and we prophesy in part, {10} but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. {11} When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. {12} Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. {13} And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

(Ephesians 4:11-16)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, {12} to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up {13} until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. {14} Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. {15} Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. {16} From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Prophecy (miraculous pronouncements, Acts 2:17), tongues (languages given miraculously, Acts 2:5-12), knowledge (miraculous knowledge, I Cor. 12:8), would all cease when they completed their work (I Cor. 13:9-10).

These gifts would cease, but faith hope and love would abide (I Cor. 13:13). The gifts, therefore, were designed to cease before Jesus returned, since faith and hope would end at Jesus’ Second Coming.

The “perfect” was simply the completion of Jesus’ promise to His disciples in John 14:26; 16:13. The gifts were part of a process that went from a partial knowledge to the faith “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

When the “unity of the faith” (the faith as a unit) was realized, the miraculous work of the Apostolic Age would cease (Eph. 4:13). This must be referring to a first century event since the church was to be given no additional instruction beyond the “all things” and “all truth” given the Apostles.

To go beyond Apostolic teaching was to be “accursed” (Gal. 1:8-9).

(Galatians 1:8-9)  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! {9} As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

The Scriptures supply everything we need to do every good work (II Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible has long since been complete—since the first century.

The miracles of the Apostolic Age both revealed and confirmed the truth God had promised to give (Heb. 2:3-4).

Cessation of miracles: two contexts considered

Were miraculous gifts to abide with the church until the end of time, or, due to their specific design, were they only a temporary phenomena? This matter is discussed rather comprehensively in two New Testament contexts. We will consider each of these.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the inspired apostle addresses the duration of spiritual gifts in the Lord’s church. He commences by showing that these gifts must be exercised in love, for miraculous powers, void of love, were worthless. This theme was quite appropriate in view of the disposition of rivalry which threatened the unity of the Corinthian congregation (some exalting certain gifts above others, etc.).

From this initial instruction there is a very natural transition into the character and permanence of love, in contrast to the transitory function of spiritual gifts.

Of the nine gifts mentioned in chapter 12:8-10, Paul selects three to illustrate his argument. Significantly, all three were related directly to the revealing of God’s will to man. The apostle affirms that prophecies shall be done away; tongues shall cease; knowledge, i.e., supernatural knowledge, shall be done away. It is wonderfully clear, therefore, that these three gifts (and by implication all miraculous gifts) were not designed to be a permanent fixture within the church.

In 1 Corinthians 13:9, Paul contends that God’s will, by means of these spiritual gifts (knowledge, prophecy, etc.) was made known gradually, i.e., “in part.” The expression “in part” translates the Greek to ek merous, literally, “the things in part.” It denotes “a part as opposed to the whole” (Abbott-Smith, 284).

And so, we make the following argument;

  1. The “in part” things shall be done away.
  2. But, the “in part” things are the supernatural gifts by which the will of God was revealed.
  3. Thus, the supernatural gifts, by which the will of God was made known, were to be terminated.

But the question is: when were these gifts to pass away?

The answer is: “when that which is perfect is come.” In the Greek Testament, the expression literally reads, to teleion, “the complete thing.” The term “perfect,” when used of quantity, is better rendered “complete” or “whole.”

So, we may reason as follows:

  1. Whatever the “in part” things are partially, the “whole” is, in completed form.
  2. But, the “in part” things were the spiritual gifts employed in the revealing of God’s will (word).
  3. Therefore, the “whole” was God’s will (word) – as conveyed through the gifts – completely revealed.

Within this context, therefore, the apostle actually is saying this:

God’s revelation is being made known part-by-part, through the use of spiritual gifts; when that revelation is completed, these gifts will be needed no longer, hence, will pass away from the church’s possession.

As noted scholar W. E. Vine observed: “With the completion of Apostolic testimony and the completion of the Scriptures of truth (‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints’, Jude 3. R.V.), ‘that which is perfect’ had come, and the temporary gifts were done away” (184).

Remember this vital point. Spiritual gifts and the revelatory process were to be co-extensive. If men are performing miracles today, their messages are as binding as the New Testament record! If such is the case, the New Testament is not the final word.

This theme is similarly dealt with in Ephesians 4, where it is affirmed that when Christ “ascended on High” He “gave gifts unto men” (8ff). The gifts were miraculously endowed functions in the church (e.g., apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers). The design of these capacities was “for the perfecting [katartismos] of the saints.”

The original word denotes “complete qualification for a specific purpose” (Analytical Greek Lexicon, 220). Or, as Arndt & Gingrich render it, “to equip the saints for service” (419).

Moreover, the duration of these supernatural governments was specified. They were to continue “till we all attain unto the unity of the faith” (4:13). “Till” is from mechri, and it suggests a “specification of time up to which this spiritual constitution was designed to last” (Ellicott, 95).

The word “unity” (henotes) basically means “oneness” (Analytical, 119). It derives from the term hen, the neuter of heis, and it emphasizes oneness “in contrast to the parts, of which a whole is made up” (Arndt, 230).

Finally, the expression “the faith” refers to the revealed gospel system (cf. Gal. 1:23; 1 Tim. 5:8).

And so, to sum up: the apostle contends that spiritual gifts would continue until the gospel system, in its individual parts (as portrayed in 1st Corinthians 13) came together in oneness, i.e., the completed or whole revelation (New Testament record) (see MacKnight, 335). Ephesians 4 and 1st Corinthians 13 are wonderfully complimentary.

Two common objections considered

We will now consider a couple of arguments that frequently are employed in an attempt to prove that miracles did not cease with the apostolic age.

First, some contend Paul taught that spiritual gifts would continue to the very end, i.e., unto the coming of Christ. 1st Corinthians 1:6-8 is cited to establish this. We offer the following points:

  1. It is not certain that miraculous gifts are even in view within this context. Meyer argues that spiritual blessings in general are under consideration, not miraculous gifts (I.19).
  2. Even if miraculous gifts are in view, the text no more asserts that they will be operative until the Lord’s return, than it does that the Corinthians themselves would remain alive until that event.
  3. The word “end” can mean “to the uttermost” (cf. Jn. 13:1), and thus the reference may not be to the end of “time.”
  4. One may be confirmed (sustained) through the message of the inspired Word (2 Tim. 3:16,17), hence, be unreprovable in the day of Christ, without needing to possess supernatural gifts.

Second, it is claimed that the Lord is as powerful today as He was in the first century; and so, He can perform signs today.

But the question is not one of God’s power; it is a matter of His will. Does He will to perform miracles today? He does not will to create men directly from the dust of the earth. He does not will to feed us with manna from heaven, etc., though He is powerful enough to do such feats. The “He-has-the-power” quibble proves nothing.

The scholarly T. H. Horne presented a remarkable summary statement of this matter that is worthy of consideration.

“Why are not miracles now wrought? – we remark that, the design of miracles being to confirm and authorize the Christian religion, there is no longer any occasion for them, now that it is established in the world, and is daily extending its triumphs in the heathen lands by the divine blessing of the preached gospel. Besides, if they were continued, they would be of no use, because their force and influence would be lost by the frequency of them; for, miracles being a sensible suspension or controlment of – or deviation from – the established course or laws of nature, if they were repeated on every occasion, all distinctions of natural and supernatural would vanish, and we should be at a loss to say, which were the ordinary and which the extraordinary works of Providence. Moreover, it is probable that, if they were continued, they would be of no use, because those persons who refuse to be convinced by the miracles recorded in the New Testament, would not be convinced by any new ones: for it is not from want of evidence, but from want of sincerity, and out of passion and prejudice, that any man rejects the miracles related in the Scriptures; and the same want of sincerity, the same passions and prejudices, would make him resist any proof, any miracle whatever. Lastly, a perpetual power of working of miracles would in all ages give occasion to continual impostures, while it would rescind and reverse all the settled laws and constitutions of Providence. Frequent miracles would be taught to proceed more from some defect in nature than from the particular interposition of the Deity; and men would become atheists by means of them, rather than Christians” (I.117).

What about modern “miracles”?

How does one deal with the alleged “miracles” of this modern age? In the first place, we really are not obligated to defend, as divine, a modern event simply because it may have certain elements that are difficult to explain.

There are many illusions that modern magicians perform which the average person cannot explain; they do have natural explanations though. They are not miracles.

That aside, there are several possible bases for so-called modern miracles. As an example, let us focus upon alleged “faith healings.”

  1. Some instances of “faith healings” are pure fakery. Consider the case of Peter Popoff, miracle-working cleric of Upland, California. Popoff, who claimed the supernatural ability to provide secret information about people in his audiences (in conjunction with “healing” them), was receiving such data through a tiny hearing aid, the messages being transmitted by his wife from backstage.

Prominent magician James Randi exposed the entire affair on nation-wide television (139-181). Randi also demonstrated that Popoff was providing rented wheelchairs for people who could actually walk; then, at his services, he was pronouncing them healed.

  1. Some “miracle cures” are claimed by people who honestly believe that God has healed them. The fact is, however, they had nothing organically wrong with them. Their ailment was psychosomatic. This means that though some bodily feature was actually affected, the real root of the problem was mental or emotional; hence, by suggestion a cure might be effected.

It has been estimated that some 55% (or more) of the patients applying for medical treatment in the United States suffer from psychosomatic illnesses. In fact, Dr. William S. Sadler has written:

“It is generally believed by experienced physicians that at least two-thirds of the ordinary cases of sickness which doctors are called upon to treat would, if left entirely alone, recover without the aid of the doctor or his medicine” (15).

Taking advantage of this type of sickness, the faith-healer, in an atmosphere of hysteria and feverish emotionalism, produces some phenomenal “cures.” But there is nothing miraculous about such cases.

A physician in Toronto, Canada investigated thirty cases in which Oral Roberts claimed miraculous healing was effected; he “found not one case that could not be attributed to psychological shock or hysteria” (Randi, 288). Dr. William S. Sadler affirmed that after twenty-five years of sympathetic research into faith-healing, he had not observed a solitary case of an organic disease being healed.

It is commonly known that an African witch-doctor can literally command a believer in voodoo to die, and within the prescribed time, the victim will expire. This evidences the powerful control of the mind over the body. Surely no one will claim, though, that a witch-doctor has “the Spirit of God.”

  1. Another explanation for some so-called faith cures is a phenomenon known as spontaneous remission. Spontaneous remission is an unexpected withdrawal of disease symptoms, and an inexplicable disappearance of the ailment. It occurs in about one out of every 80,000 cancer patients.

Joseph Mayerle of Bremerton, Washington had exploratory surgery; it was discovered that he was consumed with cancer. His physicians gave him only a few months to live. Months sped by and his disease utterly vanished. There was nothing miraculous about it. According to newspaper accounts, Mr. Mayerle, a bartender, made no claim to faith, prayer, or a miracle-cure. Wouldn’t a faith-healer have delighted in taking credit for that case?

Conclusion

There is one final point of this presentation that needs to be pressed with great vigor. There is no alleged miracle being performed today by Pentecostals, or those of a similar “Christian” persuasion, that cannot be duplicated by various cults and “non-Christian” sects.

Those who practice Christian Science, Mormonism, Catholicism, Transcendental Meditation, Yoga, Psychic Healing, Scientology, New Age Crystal Healing, etc., claim the same type of “signs” as the Pentecostals. In fact, more than 20 million Americans annually report mystic experiences (including healing) in their lives (Psychology Today, 64).

Since the Scriptures clearly teach that the purpose of miracles, as evidenced in biblical days, was to confirm the message proclaimed, hence, to validate the Christian system, do the multiple alleged examples of miracle-workings indicate that the Lord has authenticated all of these woefully contradictory systems? Think of the implications of that – especially in light of Paul’s affirmation that God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).

There is abundant evidence that genuine miracles were performed by divinely appointed persons in the first century, but there is no proof whatever that such wonders are being replicated in this modern age.

Practical considerations.

The miracles of Jesus and the Apostles would fully heal large crowds instantly (Matt. 4:23-24; 8:16; 14:14; Acts 5:16; 8:7). Do people go into hospitals today and heal everyone?

Even Jesus’ strongest critics could not dispute His healings—where is the indisputable evidence today?

Additionally,…Where are the dead being raised? Where are thousands being fed from a few scraps of food.  Who is walking on water?

Can God heal us? Certainly, and we should pray for that if it is His will, but we must also seek His wisdom in finding other solutions (diet, medical help, etc.) and have the faith to rest in what He wants to do in and through us in the process.

Above all, we know He wants to mature us spiritually regardless of whether He suddenly or gradually heals us or not. Our need is to seek help, pray for wisdom, removal if it’s His will, but above all to rest in His fatherly grace and plan.

God is still at work on earth and in the church, but we are convinced that what we have defined as miracle is no longer a part of the Father’s plan.

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2021 in Church, Doctrine

 

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