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HAVE MIRACLES CEASED?


Introduction

"Have miracles ceased?" Some will respond with a quick, "Yes, miracles ended in the first century." Some in our city claim that they are still doing miracles. They will say, "Jesus promised miracles would follow all believers in Mark 16:17-20."
To study the question of miracles today and arrive at what the Bible teaches on the subject there are several matters that must be understood. Our study must focus itself into five topical areas.

      1. A working definition of "Miracle."

      2. The purpose of miracles by men in the New Testament church.

      3. The Gift of Tongues.

      4. "Faith Healing" as practiced today.

      5. God's work in providence and answered prayers.
         

  1. A working definition of "Miracle."

    1. Dictionary, "An event in the physical world deviating from the known laws of nature, or transcending our knowledge of these laws; a wonder or wonderful thing; a marvel."

    2. C. S. Lewis, "An interference with Nature by supernatural power."

    3. Bible Dictionary, "Miracles are events in the external world wrought by the immediate power of God and intended as a sign or attestation. They are possible because God sustains, controls, and guides all things, and is personal and omnipotent."

    4. B. B. Baxter, "God occasionally steps into our universe, setting aside normal, observable laws of nature, and does something beyond the ordinary. This, we believe, is what the Bible means when it speaks of miracles."

    5. Gene Fooks, "A miracle is something that God causes to happen outside or beyond his natural laws which govern the universe."

    6. Let me make some observations about these definitions.

      1. In common usage, the dictionary says that a miracle is anything that is a wonder or a marvel. You will hear people talk about childbirth as a miracle. People will say, after an auto accident, "It is just a miracle that he is still alive." In the Bible, miracles were not natural events that we can not fully understand or explain.

      2. The Bible Dictionary says that miracles are an "immediate" demonstration of the power of God. Not all miracles are immediate. For example: Hannah's conception of Samuel, Elijah's prayer for rain, the fig tree cursed by Jesus, Mary concieved Jesus, and John's birth by Elisabeth.

      3. I like Batsell Barett Baxter's statement that "God occasionally steps into our universe, setting aside normal, observable laws of nature, and does something beyond the ordinary." I also like the statement by Gene Fooks that "A miracle is something that God causes to happen outside or beyond his natural laws which govern the universe."

      4. I must add to the above definition that miracles are of two basic types: [1] God performs an act directly. Virgin birth of Jesus; Balaam's donkey talking AND [2] God uses a human agency. Lame man healed in Acts 3:6.; Philip in Acts 8:6.

       

  2. The purpose of miracles by men in the New Testament church.

    1. Mark 16:17-20.

      1. The problem of the text. ASV footnote. RSV omits. NIV says, "The most reliable early manuscripts omit Mark 16:9-20."

      2. The Great Commission. We are to go and preach the gospel to every creature. Those who believe and are baptized will be saved.

      3. The signs. Cast out devils, New tongues, take up serpants, drink deadly poison, heal the sick.

      4. Who will work these signs?

        1. Does this apply to ALL believers?

        2. No. Acts 8:5-24.

        3. Jesus says that these signs will go where there are believers.

      5. What was the purpose?

        1. Confirm the message of the speaker.

        2. Show as genuine, not a fraud.

        3. God supports their work and teaching.

    2. Hebrews 2:1-5.

      1. This passage is the fulfillment of Mark 16.

      2. Confirmed the message of salvation.

    3. Acts 14:3.

      1. The Lord confirmed the message of Paul.

      2. Jesus enabled them to do miracles.

    4. Acts 8:5-8; 12-13.

      1. Philip preached Christ unto them. (5)

      2. Crowds of people heard the message.

      3. They saw the miracles which he did.

      4. Simon believe the message.

      5. Simon was amazed at the miracles.

    5. Provisional. Creation. The Word of God in earthen vessels. (2 Corinthians 4:5-7)

    6. Confirmatory. John 20:30-31; John 5:36; John 14:11; John 10:25.

    7. Not Accommodative. Phil. 2:27-30 - Epaphroditus; 1 Tim. 5:23 - Timothy; 2 Tim. 4:20 - Trophimus; 2 Kings 13:14 Elisha.

    8. Miracles were essential in creation. They are not needed in procreation. Miracles were essential in revelation. They are not needed in proclamation. Miracles were vital to confirming the message. They are not needed since the completion of the revelation.

       

  3. The Gift of Tongues.

    1. Define the term "tongues" in the New Testament.

      1. FGBMFI, "Acts 2:5 clearly defines 'other tongues' of verse 4 as identifiable languages: e.g. ...every man heard then speaking in his own language."

      2. Other claims made: New Language, Prayer Language, Language of Adam, Unintelligible Language, Inarticular Jargon, Meaningless Syllables, Devotional Language.

      3. Glossolilia, p. 23, "Glossolalia is a phenomenon of abnormal psychology found in most world religions, both ancient and modern, and often completely outside of religious context. It has no rational meaning but consists of mere ecstatic utterances."

    2. Tongues in the New Testament church.

      1. Acts 2:1-13.

        1. Who spoke in tongues? Only 12 spoke in tongues, the apostles. [a] All were Galilaeans. 2:7 [b] "They" = "Mathias numbered with the eleven." 1:26 - 2:4 [c] "Peter with the eleven" 2:14 [d] "to Peter and the rest of the apostles" 2:37

        2. What was the nature of tongues? Common and known languages spoken is parts of the world. Languages which the speaker had not studied or learned.

        3. How was this power received? The Holy Spirit came upon them directly. 1:4-8 This power "endued" them. Luke 24:49 It came directly, without any human intervention. Acts 2:1-4

        4. What was the purpose of tongues here? Fulfilled Joel 2:28-32. Tongues was the visible and external demonstration of Holy Spirit Baptism.

      2. Acts 10:44-48. It was a "like gift" - tongues. It came "as it did" on Pentecost - directly. Acts 11:14-17 The purpose was to convince the Jews that the gospel is for all men. 10:45-47 Tongues has nothing to do with salvation. Cornelius spoke in tongues before he was baptized with water.

      3. Acts 19:1-6. The tongues came by the laying on of an apostle's hand. Their faith was looking the wrong direction. They needed to be baptized "in the name of the Lord Jesus."

      4. 1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14 (Brief Summary)
        Chapter 12 - List of nine spiritual gifts; discussion of which were most important; points out that the church is a body and needs all the various parts.
        Chapter 13 - Love is greater than these spiritual gifts because: [1] Gifts minus love = nothing. [2] Love lasts forever. [3] Gifts are temporary. Gifts will cease - Love will abide.
        Chapter 14 - Shows that prophecy is more useful in the worship than tongues; Gives rules for prophets in the worship services; Gives rules for tongue speaking in the worship services.
        NOTE: The term "unknown tongues" is any language which has not been learned. An unknown tongue is not a language unknown to man. It is a language unknown to the speaker or hearer. We can not say, "Amen" unless we understand the language. 14:16

 

  1. "Faith Healing" as practiced today.

    1. The Issue is NOT:

      1. Yesterday, in the Bible.

      2. God's power or ability.

      3. A question of prayer for the sick.

      4. A question of divine healing.

      5. A matter of testimonials.

    2. The Issue IS:

      1. Does God work miracles through healers today?

      2. Does God use the agency of men to perform miracles today?

      3. Scriptures used to support miracles today.

        1. Heb. 13:8 and Mal. 3:6. God does not change His nature, moral attributs or character. God does alter how he deals with man. Methods change. Heb. 1:1-3

        2. Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-20. [1] "Lo I am with you always." Is he with the Mormons, Scientists, Catholics, cults, etc? Is he with all healing groups? [2] Is the promise in Mark for every believer? Why do many NOT heal? Why do many NOT speak in tongues?

        3. John 14:12. What is the "greater work" of this verse? Not miracles. Preaching the gospel. Saving souls. This is the greater work.

      4. Other arguments presented for faith healing.

        1. If miracles have ceased, then prayer is useless. This assumes miracles are the only way God works. It assumes that God does not work directly. It ignores the providence of God. We pray for daily bread, but God does not drop it through the roof.

        2. If no miracles, you can't tell who is ordained to preach. Christ worked miracles to prove his divinity. John 20:30-31 The apostles confirmed their message by miracles. Today the New Testament is confirmed. Miracles do not prove ordination. There was a gift of discerning spirits. See 1 John 4:1; 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:21; Rev. 2:2.

 

  1. God's work in providence and answered prayers.

    1. James 5:13-18.

      1. Prayer is still powerful.

      2. God does not need an apostle to heal the sick and answer prayer.

      3. God can answer prayer directly. He can answer prayer by providing, guiding, and leading. He can answer prayer through natural means.

    2. Mark 11:24.

      1. NASV, "Believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted unto you."

      2. God answers prayer. God is ready and willing to answer prayer. Psalm 65:2 - "O thou that hearest prayer."

    3. Luke 11:9-13.

      1. God promises to answer prayer; To help us find answers; To open doors.

      2. These promises are to "everyone." v. 10

      3. We know how to respond to requests from our family and others. God knows what is best for us. He will give good gifts to His children.

    4. John 14:12-14.

      1. "Some restrictions apply." [1] Ask. [2] In faith. [3] By the authority of Jesus. "In my name." [4] Love Jesus. [5] God is glorified. [6] Keep the commandments of Jesus.

      2. The "greater works" of verse 12 refers to the salvation of souls. This is a greater work than mending a broken leg, healing a limp, or raising the dead. These miracles are temporary. After feeding the 5,000, they got hungry again. After raising the dead, they died again. After stilling a storm, they were in other storms.

  1. Conclusions.

    1. Miracles.

      1. The miracles of the New Testament church were temporary. They were to confirm the word and to help the church mature.

      2. God still does miracles. This has never stopped. God can still heal the sick, provide bread for the hungry, make it rain, direct affairs on this earth.

      3. MIRACLES THROUGH THE AGENCY OF MAN HAVE CEASED.

    2. Tongues.

      1. Tongues in the New Testament are ALWAYS a known language which the speaker has not studied or learned.

      2. Tongues helped in the rapid spread of the church.

      3. This gift was primarily evangelistic. It helped in teaching the lost. It was not for personal use in the church assembly.

      4. TONGUES HAVE CEASED. 1 Cor. 13:8

    3. Healing.

      1. God has not lost the ability to heal. He has not stopped healing the sick.

      2. Divine healing is still part of the active work of a loving God.

      3. HEALING BY THE AGENCY OF MAN HAS CEASED.

    4. Prayer and Providence.

      1. God still "guards, guides and directs" us.

      2. God is still the ruler of this planet.

      3. God still cares about our hurts, needs and desires. He can still respond to those needs in two ways: [1] He can perform a miracle. There is no passage in the Bible that indicates that God has limited Himself in this area. [2] He can provide by natural means. He can open and close doors.

    5. GOD HAS NOT STOPPED BEING A LOVING, CARING AND PRAYER-ANSWERING GOD.


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