Miracles Versus Miraculous Gifts

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It is written:

1 Corinthians 13:8-10-Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When God has revealed new truth to mankind, He confirms such with miraculous signs.

Mark 16:17-20-And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18  they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19  So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20  And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

John 3:2-This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

John 5:36-But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

John 7:31-And many of the people believed in Him, and said, “When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?”

John 9:30-33-The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 31  Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32  Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 33  If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

Acts 2:22-Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—

2 Corinthians 12:12-Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

Hebrews 2:4-God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?

However, the Lord promised that when His Word was fully given to mankind, the miraculous gifts would cease (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). This makes sense from an apologetic point of view. Only the baptism of the Spirit conveyed by laying on of the Apostles’ hands could confer such gifts (Acts 6:1-6; 8:12-18; 19:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:6); and since there have been no Apostles since the Apostle Paul (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 15:8), then the ability to pass on those miraculous gifts ceased with the death of the Apostle Paul. This would mean that the miraculous gifts would have ceased sometime in the second century A.D. (when the last person upon whom the Apostles laid hands had passed away).

Does this mean therefore that God no longer answers prayers supernaturally and miraculously?

Furthermore, what about the claims of those who have experienced supernatural healing in our world today?

Let’s notice two things.

First, the fact that miraculous gifts have ceased does not mean that miracles have ceased. God’s Word declares that God answers the prayers of His people!

2 Chronicles 16:9-For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”

Jeremiah 33:3-Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

Matthew 7:7-11-Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9  Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Ephesians 3:20-Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

James 5:13-Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.

The miraculous gifts were given to confirm the Word of God.

However, God worked miracles throughout the Bible as a demonstration of HIs love for His people.

Norman Geisler has well written:

“The view that sign miracles ceased with the apostles does not demand that God has performed no miracles since the first century. It argues that the special gift of doing miraculous feats possessed by the apostles ceased once the divine origin of their message was confirmed.” (Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker Reference Library), 470 (Kindle Edition); Baker Books)

One author, Craig Keener, provides hundreds of accounts of people who have experienced supernatural healing in his books (Miracles: The Credibility Of The New Testament Accounts, Volumes 1 And 2, Kindle Edition; Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; and Miracles Today: The Supernatural Work Of God In The Modern World, Kindle Edition: Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic).

Consider these words from Lee Strobel’s interviews with Keener:

“A physician picked up Craig Keener’s two-volume book on miracles with one goal in mind: to reinforce his highly skeptical worldview. “I was ready to ‘see through’ yet another theologian who didn’t know much about psychosomatic illnesses, temporary improvements with no long-term follow-up, incorrect medical diagnoses, conversion disorders, faked cures, self-deception, and the like,” he said. But he admitted, “I was blindsided.” After plowing through the philosophical chapters, he came across the thousands of case studies that form the core of Keener’s book—reports of extraordinary healings and other incredible events backed up by eyewitnesses and, in many cases, clear-cut corroborating evidence. “I read them with the critical eye of a skeptic having many years of medical practice under the belt,” the doctor said. Many reports weren’t sufficiently documented to convince him. In other instances, he could envision alternative, naturalistic explanations to account for what happened. But not in all cases. “Not by a long shot,” he said. “I found [hundreds of case studies] to be stunning. They couldn’t just be dismissed with a knowing answer and a cheery wave of the hand. With respect to my worldview, I had had the chair pulled out from underneath me.” 1 Such is the persuasive power of the evidence for many miraculous claims. It’s even enough to win over, well, Keener himself…. My mind flashed to a professor I had interviewed at a highly respected public university. He told me in detail how he had been incredibly healed of a brain tumor after praying to Jesus. But he wouldn’t allow me to publish his story. Why? “I’m up for tenure,” he said. “I’m afraid my colleagues would skewer me.” Nevertheless, Keener told me he “tried to maintain intellectual honesty” in his research and to “follow the clues wherever they led.” And where did those clues take him? “Everywhere I looked, I came across miracle claims that better fit a supernatural explanation than a naturalistic conclusion. Pretty soon, there was a tidal wave of examples.” “Such as?” “Such as . . . ,” he repeated, eager to take up the challenge. Keener mentally scrolled through examples from the case studies he had encountered, and he began speaking in a tone that was at once urgent and earnest. “Cataracts and goiters—instantly and visibly healed,” he said. “Paralytics suddenly able to walk. Multiple sclerosis radically cured. Broken bones suddenly mended. Hearing for the deaf. Sight for the blind. Voices restored. Burns disappearing. Massive hemorrhaging stopped. Failing kidneys cured. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis—gone. Life given back to the dead, even after several hours. “I have accounts from around the world—China, Mozambique, the Philippines, Nigeria, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Indonesia, South Korea, and other countries. Multiple and independent eyewitnesses with reputations for integrity, including physicians. Names, dates, medical documentation in many cases. There’s even a peer-reviewed scientific study confirming the healing of the deaf. “And the timing is usually the most dramatic element—instantaneous results right after prayers to Jesus. Lots of cancer healings too—malignant brain tumors and reticulum-cell sarcoma, for example—but I didn’t include most of those in the book, since I knew people would write them off as spontaneous remissions. Still, when the remission happens so quickly and completely after specific prayers, that’s very suspicious.” “And your conclusion from all of this is—what?” “That apart from some sort of divine intervention, many of these phenomena seem inexplicable. In other words, a lot of these cases better fit a supernatural explanation than a natural one….. “I knew Keener could go on for hours talking about the cases he unearthed in his admittedly limited survey of miraculous claims. For example, he has accumulated 350 reports just of people who have been healed of blindness. Here are several cases taken at random from his book: • A welder named David Dominong suffered extensive third-and fourth-degree burns when he was electrocuted in October 2002. Hospitalized for more than five weeks, he was told it could be five years until he would be able to walk again. He was confined to a wheelchair and considering amputation when he received prayer and was promptly able to walk and run without assistance. • Dr. Alex Abraham testified to the case of Kuldeep Singh, who had intractable epilepsy to the point where he would lose consciousness during frequent seizures. Ever since Pastor Jarnail Singh prayed that God would heal him fifteen years ago, he has had no more seizures or treatment. Abraham, a neurologist, said the abrupt, permanent, and complete healing of epilepsy this severe is highly unusual. • Matthew Dawson was hospitalized in Australia with confirmed meningitis in April 2007. He was told he would have to remain under hospital care for weeks or months. But he was abruptly healed at the exact moment his father, on another continent, offered prayers for him. • Mirtha Venero Boza, a medical doctor in Cuba, reports that her baby granddaughter’s hand was severely burned by a hot iron, resulting in swelling and skin peeling off. Less than half an hour after prayer, however, the hand was completely healed without medical intervention, as if it had never been burned. • Cambridge University professor John Polkinghorne, one of the world’s foremost scholars on the intersection of science and faith, provides the account of a woman whose left leg was paralyzed in an injury. Doctors gave up trying to treat her, saying she would be an invalid for life. In 1980, she reluctantly agreed to prayer from an Anglican priest. Though she had no expectation of healing, she had a vision in which she was commanded to rise and walk. Said Polkinghorne, who has doctorates in both science and theology, “From that moment, she was able to walk, jump, and bend down, completely without pain.” • Physician John White reports that a woman with a confirmed diagnosis of tuberculosis of the cervical spine had been unable to walk, but she was instantaneously healed after prayer. He said her doctor “was bewildered to find there was no evidence of disease in her body.” Said Keener, “Her illness was certain, her cure permanent, and the witness virtually incontrovertible.” Not only was White the doctor who prayed for her, but he later married her. • Joy Wahnefried, a student at Taylor University in Indiana, suffered from vertical heterophoria, where one eye viewed images at a higher level than the other. This triggered debilitating migraines that could last up to a week. A professor and students prayed for her during three consecutive prayer meetings, and Joy was suddenly healed—her eyesight now 20/ 20 and her incurable medical condition gone. Her eye doctor said she “can’t explain it” and has never seen anything like it in four thousand patients. Keener, who has copies of her before-and-after medical reports, confirmed that she no longer even needs corrective lenses. • A grapefruit-sized flesh-eating ulcer, with the wound going to the bone, was boring through the calf muscle of a seventy-year-old Florida man. After treatments failed, doctors declared the wound incurable and amputation was scheduled. However, one physician laid his hands on the oozing wound and prayed for healing. Recovery began immediately; within four days, the ulcer was melting away and new skin forming. By the following week, the leg was restored to normal. The doctor’s opinion: “It can’t happen on its own. Impossible.” The patient’s wife summed it up: “God’s real. God healed his leg.” 10 • University professor Robert Larmer reports that Mary Ellen Fitch was hospitalized with hepatitis B. She was turning yellow; her abdomen bulged with her swollen liver. She was told she would remain in the hospital for months. After a week, though, she had a deep experience with God and committed her condition to him. The next morning, her blood tests were normal. Bewildered doctors repeatedly tested her, with the same results. Years have now passed, and she remains healed. 11 • The director of a clinic for voice and swallowing disorders reports the case of a fifty-two-year-old man who suffered a severe brain stem stroke in the region of the medulla. Strokes in this location irreversibly damage the ability to swallow. After prayer, though, the man regained his ability to eat and swallow normally. The patient told the startled experts, “I know, it’s a miracle.” This was the only such recovery the clinic’s director had seen in fifteen years.” (Lee Strobel, The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural, 95-113 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan)

The Word of God has been given and confirmed (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and so the miraculous gifts have been long since terminated (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). However, God still answers the prayers of Christians (Revelation 8:1-6).

Second, the Bible also warns us of false signs that our demonic foes can accomplish and work in order to try and lead people away from God and His Word.

For example:

Matthew 7:21-23-Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Matthew 24:24-For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

2 Thessalonians 2:9-The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,

2 Timothy 3:8-Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith;

Revelation 16:13-14-And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14  For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

Jack Cottrell has well written:

“I am not saying that God is not working in the world today. He is definitely intervening in the world in many powerful, supernatural ways. But I am saying that God’s mighty works do not have to be miraculous events. The best understanding of Scripture is that God has not been giving miracle-working power to individuals after the apostolic age. I believe that miracles are occurring in the world today, and that certain individuals do have miracle-working power, often even within Christian contexts. But I believe these powers are demonic in origin, and are the result of demonic deception. See 2 Thessalonians 2: 9; Matthew 7: 21-23.” (Jack Cottrell, Spirits: Holy and Unholy (The Collected Writings of Jack Cottrell Book 8), 537-566 (Kindle Edition); Mason, OH: Christian Restoration Association)

How do we tell if an alleged miracle is of God?

I ask these questions.

First, does the act display the goodness of God in response to the prayers of His people?

Second, does the act lend support to any teaching that is contradicted by the Word of God?

Let us be people of prayer, believing in the power and goodness of God. Let us also be people of the Word, which warns us about false signs and wonders in the Christian Age.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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