IS THE GIFT OF MIRACLES AS DEFINED AND DEMONSTRATED IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES IN OPERATION IN THE BODY OF CHRIST TODAY?
II Timothy 3:15-16
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
In a sermon preached at his Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, pastor Mark Driscoll, a prominent leader in the Emergent Church Movement and the founder of the Acts 29 organization, stated that he believed that “all of the [spiritual] gifts continue until one very important transitory moment in the history of the world…all of the gifts continue until we see Him [Jesus] face to face, until Jesus comes again.”
Driscoll’s statement was actually a part of a sermon entitled “Can Every Christian Have the Gift of Tongues?” that was divided into three sections: (1) “Can every Christian have the gift of tongues? (1) Does Mars Hill Church believe that the gift of tongues is for today? (3) What happens when the private use of tongues goes public?" In a previous issue of The Fundamentalist Digest—Aug. –Sept. 2013, pp. 1-3—this writer offered a Scriptural refutation to Driscoll’s views regarding tongues.
This issue deals with the larger issue—of which tongues is only a portion: Do all of the “gifts” continue today, as Driscoll alleges, or have they ceased, along with tongues, which has always been, until recent years, the most prominent of the “gifts of miracles, signs and wonders?”
Ever since the advent of the modern Pentecostalist movement at the turn of the 20the century and the rise of the Charismatic movement in the middle of that century, speaking in so called tongues has always been the most prominent of these supposedly restored gifts of miracles, signs and wonders. In fact, until the rise of Charismatic movement, tongues was the major focus within the combined Charismatic/Pentecostal movements.
However, in recent decades, the public projection within those circle has shifted from an emphasis upon tongues to a stress upon the gifts of “miracles, signs and wonders.” While tongues is still almost universally practiced within the Charismatic/Pentecostal movements, the public accent and use within those religious groups has been upon the demonstration of so-called miracles, signs and wonders.
THE BIBLICAL VERSES AUTHENTICATING THE USE OF MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS WITHIN THE INERRANT SCRIPTURES
The Genuine Use of Miracles, Signs and Wonders in Old Testament Times
“He brought them out, after that he had showed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years.” Acts 7:36
The Genuine Use of Miracles, Signs and Wonders in N. T. Times
Long time therefore abode they [In Iconium during Paul’s first missionary journey] speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their [Paul and Barnabas] hands.” Acts 14:3
“God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.” Heb. 2:4
THE SUPPOSED RENEWAL OF THESE MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS IN THE 20TH-21ST CENTURIES VIA THE SO-CALLED “THIRD WAVE” WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
According to Dr. Peter Wagner, Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, there have been three “waves” [Special operations/movings] of the Holy Spirit in the last two centuries: (1) The “First Wave” which was the birth of the modern Pentecostal movement at the turn of the 20th century, as illustrated by the Azusa Street “revival” in Los Angeles in 1906. The product of that so-called “revival” was the birth of numerous Pentecostal denominations, fellowships and schools and a new emphasis upon the “Baptism of the Spirit” and the subsequent speaking in tongues.
(2)The second wave of the Holy Spirit supposedly occurred in the middle of the 20th century, continuing for more than a quarter of a century, when the “Baptism in the Spirit,” supposedly spread to the historic Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church. During this second “wave,” the term the “Charismatic Movement” came into popular usage, basically replacing the term “The Pentecostal Movement.”
(3) The third wave of the Holy Spirit, which is based on “miracles, signs and wonders,” and which began in the last quarter of the 20th century and continues today, penetrating and engulfing the conservative evangelical/New-Evangelical movement via so-called “POWER EVANGELISM.”
“POWER EVANGELISM” THE SUPPOSED UNDERPINING OF THE THIRD WAVE, IS BASED ON THE ALLEGED OCCURRENCE OF “MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS”
“Power Evangelism” has been defined as a “the witness of the Christian accompanied by miracles, signs and wonders." “Power evangelism” is the so-called spoken life and witness of believers plus the necessary additive of miracles, signs and wonders for this current generation. According to “Third wave—power evangelism” advocates, the written witness of the Scriptures is not a sufficient tool in itself for reaching lost souls with the Gospel’s message. Today’s secular unconverted society will no longer be convinced solely by the written Scriptures; there has to be miraculous demonstrations of the Spirit’s power via “miracles, signs and wonders” to convert the unsaved.
It is an undisputed matter of fact that the Pentecostal denominations (wave number one); that the apostate Protestant denominations (wave number two) have accepted this so-called “power evangelism” and that multitudes of all theological shades in professing New Evangelical movement, including the Emergent Church, are buying it by the wagonload!
SOME SUPPOSED ILLUSTRATIONS OF THIS “THIRD WAVE” HOLY SPIRIT MOVEMENT
1. Fuller Theological Seminary instituted a course entitled “Signs, Wonders and Church Growth,” which swiftly became the fastest growing and most popular course on the FTS campus. John Wimber [now deceased] the course’s instructor, reportedly performed “miracles, signs and wonders” regularly during class sessions. Interestingly enough, over one-third of the FTS student body are Charismatics!
2. Richard Roberts, on his “Richard Roberts Presents” telecast, had his father Oral Roberts appear on his program [Oral Roberts is since deceased], promoting the Third Wave Miracles, Signs and Wonders phenomenon. Roberts stated: “Take the signs and wonders away and you have to wonder if you have the Word of God.” Roberts declared that his forthcoming Charismatic conference would emphasize “unity and love through signs and wonders,” and that the Holy Spirit would be “confirming His Word with signs and wonders.”
3. The former “Campus Crusade for Christ” organization, now known simply as “CRu,” [Its hip name!], dropped its ban against staff members adhering to speaking in tongues or actually speaking in tongues along with its former prohibition of the charismatic movement.
THE CRUX OF THE “THIRD WAVE-POWER EVANGELISM” MOVEMENT
The crux of the “Third Wave” movement is that the book of Acts is not actually finished; that those miracles, signs and wonders which occurred hundreds of years ago in the first century A.D. never actually ceased, but that they were simply diminished and downplayed for centuries, and now via the “Third Wave—Power Evangelism” movement, they are simply being re-emphasized and renewed.
Some Statements Promoting The “Miracles, Signs and Wonders” Third Wave Movement
1.”No passage or combination of passages in the Bible reveal the Bible as the all-sufficient source of blessings…the Bible is not an all sufficient source. The gifts of the Holy Spirit must still be in effect and profitable [today].” (Letter to this evangelist from a Charismatic who attended several sessions of one of the F.D. editor’s evangelistic crusades.)
2. “We believe in a continuing revelation. We say the book of Acts is not finished…I believe God can speak today. He can enlarge on the written Word.” Juan Carlos Ortiz, leading Charismatic preacher
3. “We’ve come as far in what we’re called to do as we're going to get, until we come together and receive additional revelation from the Lord.” Kenneth Copeland
4. “Once I accepted the fact that all the spiritual gifts are for today, I found a key for effective evangelism; combining the proclamation of the gospel with the demonstration of the gospel.” Dr. John Wimber [now deceased], Vineyard church denomination founder. Vineyard also claimed that the “signs and wonders’ phenomenon would soon become as common a part of church life as Sunday School" itself. Unfortunately, in many so-called “evangelical” circles, his prediction is becoming a reality.
THE HISTORIC BIBLICIST DISPENSATIONALIST BELIEF ABOUT THE OCCURRENCE OF MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS
The position of Biblicist Dispensationalists is that in the first century, during N. T. times, miracles, signs and wonders were a legitimate part of first century churches; that they were part of the credentials of genuine first century apostleship, but that this apostleship was not a permanent office, and that these “sign” gifts ceased with the completion of the N. T. Scriptures and the termination of the Apostolic offices. There is therefore no need for their function or use today, and thus they do not truly exist. Any such occurrences are thus fraudulent and come from either Satan or self, not God.
A Significant Statement by a Highly Regarded Conservative Theologian
“They [miraculous gifts] were part of the credentials of the apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confined them to distinctively the apostolic church, and necessarily passed away with it.” Dr. B. B. Warfield
SEVEN BIBLICAL FACTS THAT CAN BE ASCERTAINED FROM A STUDY OF THE SCRIPTURES WITH REGARD TO MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS
1.In the last days, there will be a great apostasy (falling away—II Thess. 2:3) and departure from the faith—I Tim. 4:1, a turning away from the truth—II Tim. 4:4, resulting from a lack of enduring sound doctrine—II Tim. 4:3a—and a craving to hear something new and sensational—II Tim. 4:3b.
“Let no man deceive you by any means, for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition—II Thess. 2:3”
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils—I Tim. 4:1.”
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned into fables—II Tim. 4:3-4.”
2. The craving for the miraculous is characteristic of an evil and unbelieving generation: “An evil [wicked] and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas—Matt. 12:39.”
3. Satan and his agents do have the power to perform miracles in opposition to truth and righteousness:
(a) Past: “And Pharaoh called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments—Ex. 7:11.” “And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt—Ex. 8:7."
(b) Present: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel: for Satan is transformed into an angel of light—II Cor. 11:13-14.”
(c) Prospective: “For I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of devils, working miracles…Rev. 16:13-14a”
4. The miracles of false prophets will be great in the last days, so great that only the elect of God will escape their deceptions, refusing to join their cause. “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect—Matt. 24:24.”
5. God does allow some miracles to be performed by Satan’s agents, so as to test those professing to follow Him. He thereby distinguishes those who are truly following Him by faith from those who follow the miracles or miracle workers out of fascination or fear. “Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him and cleave unto him—Deut. 13:3-4.”
6. Some miracle workers, professing to be genuine Christians—believers—will be shocked to discover that the miracles they performed in Christ’s name were illegitimate, and that they were not actually born-again believers. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into that kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity—Matt. 7:21-23.”
7. God has ordained His Word to be the only authoritative means through which the Spirit of God speaks, rather than the performance of miracles. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God—Rom. 10:17.” “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever—I Pet. 1:23.”
The Definition of Biblical Miracles
Incorrect: An action that only God can perform: Not so! Satan and his demons [fallen angels] can also perform miracles.
Correct: “An event or effect in the physical world deviating from the known laws of nature or transcending our knowledge of those laws; an extraordinary anomalous or abnormal event brought about by super-human agency.” Dr. Herbert Lockyer.
A BIBLICAL FACT NO ONE CREDIBLE BIBLE STUDENTS DENIES
God gave miraculous gifts signs and wonders in Bible times, in the O. T. and N. T.?
1.In the O. T., God sometimes authenticated His messenger and His message via spectacular miraculous demonstrations: Exodus 4:4-5 [Moses use of the rod]; I Kings 17:14-24 [Elijah raises the widow of Zarepath’s son from the dead]; I Kings 18:36 [Fire from heaven when Elijah faced the prophets of Baal]; However, those miracles were not a continual activity. Miracles in the O. T. occurred in “clusters” and only during certain periods of Israel’s history; when God desired to reveal himself directly to Israel and to speak directly to them.
2.In the N. T., Christ performed miracles for the purpose of authenticating Himself as the prophesied Messiah: John 3:2: “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God with him.” John 20-:30-31:“And many other signs and wonders truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Acts 2:22:“Ye men of Israel, hear these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God among you by miracles and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you as ye yourselves also know."
3. The Apostles also performed miracles and signs for the purpose of confirming them as authentic representatives of Christ. II Cor. 12:12: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience in signs, and wonders and mighty deeds.”However, not all miracles—signs—wonders—were performed solely by the Apostles. Those gifts were also given to some members of the Corinthian church, as I Cor. 12:27-31 readily confirms.
Since some ordinary believers possessed these gifts as well as the apostles, what was the distinguishing mark of an Apostle? ONLY the Apostles had the ability, under divine power, to confer the sign gifts on other believers through the laying on of hands. The transferring of miracles-gifts-signs-wonders to other believers was the authenticating sign of an apostle
Acts 19:6: “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied.” Read also Acts 8:15-17 where the Apostles prayed for believers in Samaria who had not yet received the Holy Spirit. After Peter and John laid hands on them, these believers received the Holy Spirit.
A SCHOLARLY EVALUATION CONCERNING MIRACLES
“Miracles do not appear on the page of Scripture vagrantly here, there, and elsewhere and indifferently without assignable reason. They belong to revelation periods and appear only when God was speaking to His people through accredited messengers declaring His gracious purposes.” Benjamin Warfield, noted Biblical scholar
THE BIBLICAL TEACHING REGARDING GENUINE APOSTLES
The word “Apostle” occurs 80 times in the N. T. and refers to an individual delegated to represent another; specifically to individuals who were delegated by Christ with full authority from Him to be his representative before others. The apostleship specifically referred to 12 individuals selected by Christ to speak for Him.
An apostle was a “sent one,” an officially commissioned agent of Christ. By his betrayal and death, Judas Iscariot was deleted from this select number, and Matthias was chosen to take his place. The Apostle Paul stated that he was divinely commissioned as an apostle, as one “born out of due time.” The Apostles were a “unique group of chosen men who lived in the first century with special representative and delegated authority from Christ. They were a specific group of men personally selected by Christ to be His witnesses, and to testify to His doctrines, to the facts of His life, death, resurrection and ascension.”
The Biblical Qualifications for Apostleship
1. They had to possess an independent knowledge of the Gospel.
2. They had to be personal witnesses to Christ’s person after His resurrection.
3. They had to be authenticated as Apostles by adherence to the true Gospel, success in preaching and by miracles, signs and wonders that the Holy Spirit produced through them.
4. Their Biblically recorded words were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Their teaching was thus infallible and inerrant in their utterances. This infallibility of words uttered sometimes years afterwards, was exactly as promised by Christ in the Gospels. The Holy Spirit gave them exact remembrance of Christ’s words.
“But the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you—John 14:26” “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ—Gal. 1:11-12.”
The Tenure [length] of the Apostles Office
How long did this gift—in the form of the apostleship’s office—last? Was this a permanent office or a temporary office?.
SOME BIBLICAL PROOFS THAT THE APOSTLESHIP WAS A TEMPORARY OFFICE: THAT IT IS NOT IN EXISTENCE TODAY BECAUSE IT IS NO LONGER NECESSARY
1. If an individual had to be a personal witness of the sufferings, death and resurrected Christ, and be personally commissioned by Him while He was here on earth, then continuation of this office is impossible.
2. According to Eph. 2:20, the Apostles are declared to be, along with the prophets, the “foundation” of the church, with Christ being the chief cornerstone. You only build a foundation once: That foundation was the life of the apostles and prophets who are all dead today. Only Christ and the teachings of the Apostles presently exist.
3. Our doctrine today is simply the WORD that the Apostles proclaimed as Christ’s authentic agents—the preserved Word of God. To authenticate our doctrine, we do not need any gifts of miracles, signs or wonders, or speaking in tongues. We would need the special gifts only if there was a need to authenticate some new revelation. Since the Word of God has been totally completed, there is absolutely no need for any new authenticating revelation!
4. The Christian lives today TOTALLY by FAITH produced by the WRITTEN WORD OF GOD—“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God—Rom. 10:17.” God’s Word is the all sufficient source of faith and practice for the believer’s edification, for his/her spiritual maturation. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect [completely mature-spiritual maturation] thoroughly furnished unto all good works.—II Tim. 3:16-17”
5. Any so-called “new revelations,” since they are unauthorized and non-apostolic in nature, are a detraction from the faith and a delusion created by Satan.
SOME VALID FACTS BASED ON THE ABOVE STUDY
1. Miracles, in themselves, do not prove or validate the truth, since Satan also has miracle powers—Rev. 13:3, 11-15.
2. Miracles, signs and wonders were given in Biblical times before the completion of the Word of God to authenticate God’s message and God’s messengers.
3. The Apostles and Prophets laid the foundation of N.T. churches. The inspired words they penned infallibly declared the life and words of Christ.
4. The Apostles possessed the unique power to confer miraculous gifts on other believers by the laying on of hands.
5. The “miracle” gifts gradually decreased in prominence as N.T. apostolic churches matured. These miracle gifts completely ceased altogether when the Word of God was completed.
6. The last days of this dispensation will bring a renewed satanic emphasis upon the miraculous as a real test of Biblical orthodoxy. The great test will be the following: Will believers be willing to live solely by faith in the written Word of God or will they look for and seek after extra-Biblical apparitions and revelations to sustain their religion? So-called “new revelations" constitute part of the end-time anti-Christ religious system predicted in II Peter 2, the book of Jude and the book of Revelation, chapters 13 & 17.
Some Important Truths to Ponder
1. Though the gift of miracles, signs and wonders does not exist today, God is still a God of miracles. Though not conferred as a special gift, God does perform physical miracles in the healing of believer’s bodies. However, these miracles are not imperative to validate the veracity of God’s written Word—Heb. 4:12, II Tim. 3:16-17.
2. The “gift” of miracles is not possessed by any believer/s today. God’s miracles come either in answer to prayer and/or His divine sovereign will—James 5:15-18.
3. The greatest miracles that God performs today are the salvation of unconverted souls and the sanctification [edification] of saints. Believers’ greatest concern should be involvement in the Great Commission Mandate, the salvation and sanctification of individuals both home and abroad—II Cor. 5:17, Matt. 18:18-20.
4. Genuine believers should permit the “miracle” of growth in grace to flow and proceed in their lives through submission to the Holy Spirit and obedience to the Word of God—II Peter 3:18
Note: Much of the content for the above article was culled from a study by Dr. Edward Gross, former professor at the now defunct Faith Theological Seminary, as printed in the Christian News, 2-2-1987. The F. D. editor freely injected his own views into the above study.
Also in this issue:
|Editorial – DECEMBER 2013 - JANUARY 2014 The Fundamentalist Digest; Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given.|