By Phil Sanders
When people claim to speak from God and claim to work miracles to prove that their claim is true, Christians have a right and the duty to test those claims (1 John 4:1; Rev. 2:2). Many persons are arising today claiming to have miraculous gifts, saying that the miraculous gifts of the Bible are for people today. Citing such passages as Mark 16:17-20; John 14:12,13; and Hebrews 13:8, they think that there are no differences between the first century and the present. Our purpose is to ask why God gave miraculous gifts, how people got them, if they would cease, and what differences are there between modern faith healers and the healing one can read about in the New Testament.
First, the Lord gave men the power to work miraculous gifts in order to confirm the preaching of the gospel by the apostles and prophets (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:3,4). These miraculous signs were proof or guarantees that they were speaking God’s Word with God’s blessing. God gave Moses a miraculous rod for this same purpose (Ex. 4:1-5), “that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.” The writer of the book of Hebrews, however, tells us that the preaching of Christ and His apostles “was confirmed” by such signs and wonders (Heb. 2:3,4). The confirmation spoken of here is like that of a governmental seal upon a legal document; once the confirmation has been made, further proof is never needed. Now since the preaching of the gospel “was confirmed” in the first century, it no longer needs confirming. There is no longer a need for miracles. It also needs to be said that Jesus promised that all truth would be revealed to the apostles (John 16:12,13; Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; 2 Pet. 1:3; Jude 3). This revelation is complete and once for all; God is no longer inspiring men to reveal new truth. If this is the case, no miraculous signs are needed today.
Second, miraculous, spiritual gifts were given to the apostles directly by Christ Himself (Matt. 3:11; Acts 1:1-8). In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit was indeed poured out upon the apostles. Paul too received apostleship and power from Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 11:5; Gal. 2:11-17); Paul displayed the “signs” of an apostle (2 Cor. 12:12). The only persons “baptized with the Holy Spirit” other than the apostles were the household of Cornelius (Acts 10-11:16). But this happened to them before Peter began speaking to them and before they were believers in Christ (Acts 11:4,15). This baptism with the Holy Spirit took place to convince the Jews and Peter that the Gentiles were also granted repentance (Acts 11:15- 18). No one else, however, is ever mentioned as being able to work miracles unless the apostles laid hands on them (Acts 2:43; 3:6; 5:12-1 5; 6:5-8; 8:5,6). A close reading of Acts 8 shows that while Philip had received power from the apostles, he could not pass it on to the Samaritans. Only the apostles could give these powers to others. (Note also Acts 19:6 and 2 Tim. 1:6.) If only the apostles could give these miraculous gifts, then after the apostles died and those on whom the apostles laid their hands died, the miraculous gifts would cease to be. This agrees with the purpose of the gifts coming to an end.
Third, Paul clearly states the miraculous will cease in 1 Cor. 13:8-13. Paul used three chapters in I Corinthians to discuss miraculous gifts. In the middle of this discussion he declares that love is more important than any miraculous gift (13:1-3), Then he describes love (13:4-7). In the final section of the chapter (13:8-13), he shows that love is greater because it will outlast the spiritual gifts. Paul said, “Prophecies will fail, tongues will cease, and (miraculous) knowledge will be done away.” These gifts caused Paul to say that “we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (9,10). These miraculous gifts were to cease when “that which is perfect is come.”
What is “that which is perfect”? Since “perfect” means complete,” it stands in contrast with that which is in part.” The “part” is miraculous knowledge and prophecy, which revealed the Word of God orally. It is most natural, then, to realize that the complete or “perfect” is the full revelation given to man in the written record of the New Testament. This complete revelation of God’s will, “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), came into general possession about the end of the first century. When the complete came, the partial was done away. Since the New Testament records the complete will of God (2
Tim. 3:16,17; 2 Pet. 1:3), there is no longer a need for miraculous gifts in the twentieth century to give us any more revelation.
Fourth, the last reason for denying miraculous gifts today comes from experience with those who claim these gifts. Just as there was a difference between Simon the sorcerer and Philip in Acts 8:5-13, so there is today a difference between so-called faith healers and the miracles Jesus and His apostles performed. Note these things about the biblical miracles:
(1) Jesus healed everyone who came to him without fail (Matt. 4:23,24; 8:16; 9:35; 12:15; 14:34-36; 15:29-31; Acts 5:16).
(2) Jesus healed everyone completely; no one came back in a few days still suffering. Crippled persons who had lost arms and legs and eyes were made whole, so that the crowd could see immediate physical changes (Matt. 15:29-31; Mark 7:31-37; John 7:23; Acts 3:7-11). (Maimed persons are crippled with arms or legs missing. (See Matt. 15:29- 31; 18:8,9.) Who is putting on arms and legs today? I know no one!
(3) The enemies of Jesus admitted that he could work miracles (John 11:4648; Acts 4:16), but today faith healers are regarded as frauds.
(4) Jesus and His apostles did not use their miraculous powers to become wealthy as Simon the sorcerer did and as some do today (Matt. 10:8-10; Acts 3:16). The apostles earned their living from their work, but they did not live lavishly. (See I Corinthians 9.)
(5) Jesus did not require a person to be present at a healing service to be healed. He could heal from afar (Matt. 8:5-13).
(6) Jesus did not require faith of everyone before He healed them; some did not believe and some could not believe, for they were dead (Luke 7:11,12; 8:54,55). Jesus worked miracles to cause people to believe (John 11:42; 20:30,31; Acts 13:11,12). Jesus never said that He could not work miracles because unbelievers were present. Jesus never made excuses, for He healed everyone. Some today claim to be able to heal but fail, and then they make excuses for their failures. The truth is that they never had the power to heal.
(7) Jesus did not require great stirrings of emotions or a special atmosphere to heal anyone, but modern, fake faith healers always have them.
(8) The apostles did not exalt themselves or use their powers to form a new denomination. Rather they pointed to Christ and to the one true church that Jesus died for. They taught against division (Acts 4:10-12; 1 Cor. 1:10-13).
The Holy Spirit’s work was to guide the apostles into all the truth (John 16:12,13). The Holy Spirit does not lie; nor does the Holy Spirit say one thing to one person and another thing to another person. He does not cause confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). He does speak but one gospel (Gal. 1:6-9) and have but one faith (Eph. 4:5). Yet those who claim to be inspired and work miracles disagree among themselves as to what God says. They often contradict the plain, Bible teaching on baptism, on the plan of salvation, on Jesus Christ, and on the nature of the church. They also break God’s commandment by having women preachers (1 Cor. 14:34-37; 1 Tim. 2:8-11). Does the Holy Spirit lead men to disobey clear teachings of the Word of God? Is the Holy Spirit trying to confuse men? These things are not the Holy Spirit’s work but the Devil’s (Matt. 7:15-23; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 2 Thess. 2:8-12). Sometimes false teachers have powers too. God gives them this power to test us to see if we will follow His Word (Deut. 13:1-5). If a man teaches a gospel that is different from the true gospel, he is to be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9). If a man does not have the doctrine of Christ, he does not have God and is not to be followed or supported (2 John 9-1 1). Christians, beware!
Study the Word of God and prove all things (1 Thess. 5:21,22; 2 Tim. 2:15). Always follow the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament (John 12:48), for it truly has the whole counsel of God, all that pertains to life and godliness, and is able to completely furnish man unto every good work (Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1:3). Since we have the Lord’s Word, we do not have miraculous gifts today!