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The Bible is full of Miracles. Are divine miracles legitimate today?


Are Divine Miracles Legitimate Today?



The Bible is Full of Miracles. Are Divine Miracles Legitimate Today? Does a tele-evangelist speaking in tongues or healing the sick receive power from God or from somewhere else? Gifts have been given to people throughout the Bible, but the gifts available to us are much different.

 

In our study of certain passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. the “Old Testament”), we have observed many instances of the power of God displayed through supernatural phenomenon.  Examples include the visions and dreams of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the parting of the Red Sea at the hand of Moses; the supernatural and prophetic revelation resulting in the amazing prophecies of the Hebrew prophets (some of which have already been fulfilled) – just to name a few.   

In God’s universe He is both immanent and transcendent.  The powers of nature are limited, but God is able to introduce unto infinity therein whatever He wills to do.  His own works as manifest in creation and providence are hardly to be classed as miracles.  They are rather the normal works of God in His own particular sphere of action.  What is natural with God may be supernatural with man.[1] 

In our study of the Gospels, we have observed many occasions on which Jesus performed miracles of healing, cast out demons or raised the dead (e.g. Matt 4:23-25; 8:1-17, 26, 32; 9:18-34; 12:13; 14:13-36; 15:29-39; 17:14-21; 20:29-31).  The Twelve Apostles of Jesus to Israel were granted authority over demons and power to perform miracles of healing (Matt 10:1, 5-7). 

In our study of the book of Acts, we have seen examples of miraculous manifestations of the power of God in and through the lives of believers. 

  • The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon believers on the day of Pentecost was attended by the supernatural phenomenon of people speaking in foreign “tongues” – languages in which they were not trained and which were not their native language (Acts 2:4). 
  • Philip performed miraculous signs in Samaria which drew crowds of people, many of whom became believers and who received the Holy Spirit when the Apostles Peter and John arrived from Jerusalem and laid hands on them (Acts 8:5-7, 13-17). 
  • Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, received instructions from God through a vision (Acts 10:3) which was immediately followed by a vision received by Peter (Acts 10:10-21) that prepared Peter for presenting the gospel to Gentiles.  When Peter explained that Jesus was the promised Messiah/Redeemer Who fulfilled the prophecies of Scripture, Cornelius and his household believed, experienced the supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and spoke in tongues (Acts 10:43-48). 
  • In Acts 19, Paul encounters twelve disciples of John the Baptizer in Ephesus.  After explaining to them the distinction between the gospel of John (a gospel of repentance in anticipation of the coming kingdom and the coming Messiah) and Paul’s gospel (Jesus was the Messiah promised by John and through Him there is salvation), they spoke with “tongues” and “prophesied” once Paul had baptized them, laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 19:5-6). 
  • Later, in the same city, Paul was able to perform miracles and heal the sick (Acts 19:11ff). 

These are just a few of the many instances in Scripture of miracles and supernatural intervention by God.   What was the purpose of these miracles?  Are miracles still legitimate today?  If not, then why?  If they are not legitimate, then what is the source?

 

Definition of a “Miracle”

Before we proceed too much further, we should pause to define the term “miracle.”  A definition provided by Lewis S. Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary is concise and will suit our purposes.  He states that “a miracle, in the strict use of the word, is some special achievement which is outside the known laws of either human experience or nature.”[2] 

In other words, for an event to qualify as a true “miracle,” it must be something that is outside the normal course of events that characterize our daily interaction with nature and this world.  The birth of a child, while a marvelous phenomenon, is not in the strict sense a miracle.  A beautiful sunset observed in the Colorado Rockies or from an island in the Pacific, while a testimony to the handiwork of the Creator, is not a miracle. 

 Does this mean that God does not heal today in answer to a believer’s prayer?  Does this mean that God cannot respond to the prayer of a husband and wife prior to the conception of a child that the child be healthy when otherwise the child might not have been?  Certainly not!  However, the parameters by which God has chosen to visibly manifest Himself to man today are different than the parameters that God has chosen to establish in order to govern His interaction with man during other periods of human history as we shall see. 

 

Answers to These Questions During Different Periods of Human History

 

The Purpose of Miracles Prior to Jesus’ Public Ministry on Earth

 Prior to Jesus’ Public ministry on Earth, human history consisted of two groupings of several dispensational administrations – the “Age of the Gentiles” and the “Age of the Israel.”[3]   During these two dispensational periods, Scripture documents occasion after occasion of miraculous interventions by God in the lives of men and human history.  There are so many examples that could be cited and most are familiar to even the casual Bible student.    

  What was the purpose of these miracles during these periods?   There was more than one purpose to these miracles. 

  • Purpose of miracles during the Age of the Gentiles
    • To provide divine revelation to man – God communicated directly with Noah and others in order to reveal His Will to man
    • To preserve human history in spite of Satan’s strategy – since human history is the evidence God is using in the appeal trial of Satan, Satan desires to: 1) neutralize the testimony of God through believers; and 2) eliminate the evidence – i.e. human history. 
    • To preserve a lineage that would eventually produce the promised Redeemer of Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed [unbelievers] and her Seed [a reference to the Messiah/Redeemer]; He shall bruise your head [the Seed of the woman, the Redeemer, will destroy Satan’s argument in his appeal trial and thus result in the execution of his sentence to the Lake of Fire] , and you shall bruise His heel [Satan’s desire to eliminate the Redeemer resulted in the Cross which provides Redemption].”
  • Purpose of miracles during the Age of Israel – all of the previous points still apply; however, there is more focused emphasis upon Israel as a theocracy – God’s administrator during that period of history.  Also, as the lineage that would bear the Redeemer became more specifically identified, the need to preserve that lineage was sometimes facilitated through miraculous interventions by God into Israel’s history (e.g. the birth of a child to Abraham and Sarah, Joseph’s ability to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh’s butler that led to his promotion to a high position in Egypt’s government, etc.).  Finally, the authenticity of God’s messenger and the message was sometimes validated by the association of that messenger and message with a miraculous intervention by God.  On several occasions, the miraculous intervention counteracted a miracle that had been or would be performed in the power of Satan and sometimes the miracle accomplished a dual purpose of effecting judgment upon unbelief (e.g. the Red Sea crossing and destruction of Pharaoh’s army, the miraculous events associated with Elijah on Mt. Carmel when God demonstrated His superiority over the prophets of Baal, etc.). 

 

The Purpose of Miracles During Jesus’ Public Ministry and Life on Earth

 During Jesus’ public ministry and life on earth, He performed many miracles of healing the sick, casting out demons and even raising the dead.  He commissioned His disciples to do the same (Matt 10:1, 5-7).  What was the purpose of these miracles and how were they different from the miracles which occurred in the previous centuries of the Age of Israel and even in the Age of the Gentiles? 

The primary difference between the miracles performed by Jesus and those which were performed at the hands of God’s prophets and agents who preceded Jesus is attributable to the fact that Jesus was (and is) the promised Redeemer/Messiah of Israel and the Gentiles.  The miracles performed by Jesus accomplished at least three things:

  • Validated His claim to be the Son of God
  • Validated His message
  • Demonstrated the power of God by which the promised kingdom would be established and ruled

 During Jesus’ public ministry on earth, the gospel of the kingdom was being proclaimed by Jesus and His disciples (Matt 10:7).  That gospel was that the “kingdom of heaven was at hand.”  This message was directed to Israel (Matt 10:5-6) and was designed to effect repentance (i.e. a change of mind or thinking) on the part of Israel. 

The change in thinking that was desired was that Israel would accept Jesus as the long-promised Redeemer/Messiah Who would establish the kingdom once the “times of the Gentiles” (as prophesied by the prophet Daniel) had been fulfilled.[4]  As Israel (and Gentiles) saw the miraculous power of God manifested in and through Jesus and those who carried His message, repentance was the desired effect – a repentance that was necessary by the nation as a whole in order for God to establish His kingdom on earth with Jerusalem and Israel as its headquarters and hub.  Of course, this repentance en masse did not occur during Jesus’ public ministry nor during the period of years in the 1st Century A.D. following His death, resurrection and ascension.   

 

The Purpose of Miracles During the 1st Century A.D. After Jesus’ Resurrection & Ascension to Heaven

The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus were all in fulfillment of prophecy and necessary to make Redemption and its spiritual benefits available to mankind.  Therefore, Jesus had to die a sacrificial death – regardless of whether Israel would have responded en masse to His gospel prior to His sacrificial death or not.  Scripture is very clear on the point that this response did not occur prior to Jesus’ death (nor after His death as we shall see). 

 Scripture is also very clear on the point that the kingdom offer was extended to Israel after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The gospel proclaimed by Peter and others specifically identified Jesus as the long-promised Messiah, a claim that was then validated by the miraculous resurrection of Jesus from the dead and His appearance to so many. 

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.  But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead of which we are witnesses.  (Acts 3:13-15)

 Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.  Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing [a reference to the long-promised Messianic kingdom on earth] may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things [the kingdom and it’s temporal blessings], which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.  (Acts 3:17-21) 

 So, for a period after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, Scripture documents that a Transition period from the Age of Israel with a kingdom-centric gospel and the Age of the Body of Christ with a gentile-centric gospel.  Christ’s redemptive work was and is the focal point of both gospels, yet signs associated with the kingdom were needed to validate the message of gospel bearers.  As the rejection of this gospel by the nation Israel became full-fledged (with wonderful exceptions on the part of some Jewish believers), the transition into the new dispensation occurred. 

The signs and miracles documented in the book of Acts were designed to attend the presentation of the kingdom gospel during Israel’s “last days” as prophesied in Scripture (Joel 2:28-32 cf. Acts 2:14-43).  Eventually, as the rejection by Israel became full (the major theme of the book of Acts) and the gospel of grace was received with gladness by Gentiles, the transition to the new dispensation was completed and the signs and miracles associated with the kingdom-centric gospel ceased.  Paul documents this fact in such passages as 1 Corinthians 13:8.  Eventually, during this Transition period, even Gentiles who accepted the grace gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ spoke in tongues (foreign languages) which served as a testimony to Jews that God was going directly to the Gentiles with a message of salvation and hope – a message that a repentant Israel should have been the agents to disseminate.  Early in the Transition period, the conversion of the Samaritans by Philip (Acts 8: 8:5-7, 13-17) and the conversion of the Gentile Roman Centurion, Cornelius, by Peter (Acts 10: 3, 10-21, 43-48) would have been (and was) interpreted by the Jews as consistent with Gentile participation in the coming kingdom.  Later, during the Transition period as the Jewish rejection was becoming fully realized, the sign gifts began to wane based upon Paul’s testimony. 

 

Part 1 – Conclusion

 

The purpose of Part 1 has been to provide a general introduction to the subject of signs and miracles documented in Scripture.  There are still several passages and questions that need to be addressed – specifically regarding the gift of tongues and the other temporary spiritual gifts associated with the Transition period of the 1st Century A.D.  We will continue the examination of this subject in a Part 2 of this Special in our study of the Book of Acts in the next session. 

 

Part 2

In Part 1 of this special study, we noted the presence and purpose of miracles during three major periods of human history:

·        the period prior to Jesus’ public ministry on earth;

·        the period during Jesus’ public ministry on earth; and

·        the Transition period covered by the book of Acts, i.e. the 1st Century A.D. after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. 

 During the period prior to Jesus’ public ministry, we noted that the purpose of the miracles were primarily threefold: 

·        to provide divine revelation to man;

·        to preserve human history in spite of Satan’s strategy; and

·        to preserve the Messianic lineage. 

Also, after the formation of the Jewish race and the founding of the nation of Israel, the miraculous interventions by Yahweh into history were Jew-centric (with tangential benefits to Gentiles of course).  Even so, the three basic purposes of these miracles apply. 

During Jesus’ public ministry on earth, the purpose of miracles documented in Scripture changed somewhat.  The Messianic lineage had been preserved and the advent of Jesus was testimony to that.  The primary difference between the miracles performed by Jesus and those which were performed at the hands of God’s prophets and agents who preceded Jesus is attributable to the fact that Jesus was (and is) the promised Redeemer/Messiah of Israel and the Gentiles.  The miracles performed by Jesus accomplished at least three things: 

·        validated His claim to be the Son of God;

·        validated His message; and

·        demonstrated the power of God by which His kingdom would be ruled. 

After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension to heaven, we witness numerous miraculous events surrounding the salvation of unbelievers and the evangelistic efforts of believers during the 1st Century A.D.  These are documented in the book of Acts and referenced in Paul’s epistles as well as in non-Pauline epistles.  We call this period of the 1st Century A.D. the “Transition” period since there was a transition between the continued offer of the kingdom to Israel and a completely new dispensation which is commonly called the “Church Age” or the “Age of the Body of Christ.  The purpose of the miracles during this “Transition” period were as follows:

·        to serve as a sign to unbelieving Jews;

·        to validate the witness and testimony of those who presented the gospel;

·        to fulfill prophecy.

 These points require more explanation since they are fairly general, yet correct.  As we noted in Part 1 of this special, Israel’s “last days” had been prophesied to be a period during which Israel and the world would witness an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that would attend the presentation of the Gospel and the eventual establishment of the Messianic Kingdom.  Peter makes the connection between the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues that surrounded the Jewish festival of Pentecost and these prophecies (Joel 2:28-32 cf. Acts 2:14-43). 

It is critical to understand that eventually, as the rejection by Israel became full (the major theme of the book of Acts) and the gospel of grace was received with gladness by Gentiles, the transition to the new dispensation was completed and the signs and miracles associated with the kingdom-centric gospel ceased.  Paul documents this fact in such passages as 1 Corinthians 13:8.  Eventually, during this Transition period, even Gentiles who accepted the grace gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ spoke in tongues (foreign languages) which served as a testimony to Jews that God was going directly to the Gentiles with a message of salvation and hope – a message that a repentant Israel should have been the agents to disseminate.

 

Questions and Issues Surrounding the Cessation of the Signs and Miracles

 

v     What are the “Sign” Gifts?

 

Of the twenty spiritual gifts named in Scripture, ten were temporary and are no longer functional or valid.  These gifts are listed in such passages as Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30; and Ephesians 4:11.  They are divided between temporary and permanent as follows:

 

Temporary                                            Permanent

 

Apostle                                                 Pastor-Teacher

Prophet                                                 Evangelist

Word of Wisdom                                   Teacher

Word of Knowledge                               Helps

Discerning of spirits                               Mercy

Faith                                                     Giving

Healings                                                Exhortation

Miracles                                                Governments

Tongues                                                Ruling

Interpretation of Tongues                        Ministry

 

            When we speak of the “sign” gifts, we are referring to their more specific purpose as regards the nation of Israel and the purpose that God was promoting through them, i.e. a “sign” to unbelieving Israel.  As such, the sign gifts were the temporary spiritual gifts of “healings,” “miracles,” “tongues,” and “interpretation of tongues.”  It could be argued that the other temporary spiritual gifts could have had a similar affect upon unbelieving Israel and that is certainly true.  However, we shall concern ourselves with these four spiritual gifts since they tend to be the most controversial today.  In addition, the gift of “Apostle” and “Prophet” continued to a later point in the 1st Century A.D. than did the other temporary spiritual gifts as we shall see. 

 

v     Why Do We Believe and Teach that the “Signs” and “Miracles” of the 1st Century A.D. are No Longer Valid?

 

            The answer to this question should be fairly intuitive based upon the information previously presented; however, in the interest of providing more clarity, more elaboration will be provided.  There are other ways of stating this question.  If signs were given for the sake of the Jews, why should we find them in manifestation in the church which Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, founded?  And if they were in Paul's churches, should they not be in our churches today, if we are supposed to follow Paul?  There are various angles from which these questions can be answered. 

 

Answer – Their purpose was directed toward the Jews and Israel even though Gentiles were involved.

 

While God continued to witness to the nation of Israel throughout the Transition period, the sign gifts (e.g. speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, miracles and healing) continued.  These sign gifts were performed by Jews and Gentiles alike.  The exercise of these gifts by Gentile believers served dual and somewhat simultaneous purposes:

·        Initially, it primarily provided evidence of God’s acceptance of Gentiles associated with the Messianic Kingdom

·        Eventually, as Jewish rejection was becoming final, the sign gifts exercised by Gentiles provided convicting evidence to unbelieving Israel

Eventually, as Paul testifies, these sign gifts began to cease as the “Transition” to a new Gentile-centric dispensation progressed to its conclusion.  As Jewish rejection became final during the 1st Century A.D., there was no longer any object or ministry for these signs to accomplish.  We believe that at that time God withdrew these gifts.  

 

            Answer – God dealt with Jews in signs. 

 

            Paul recognizes this principle and relates it to unbelief.  He states in 1 Corinthians 1:22 that “Jews request a sign” and in 1 Corinthians 14:22, he states that “tongues are for a sign.”  In 1 Corinthians 14:20-21, Paul exhorts the Corinthian believers to be mature in their understanding and know that this pattern of Jewish unbelief in the face of convicting evidence presented by the Gentiles was nothing really new.  Paul uses the example of the prophet Isaiah who indicated that Jews would not listen to God even though He would speak to the Jews in the languages of Gentiles – specifically the Assyrians in Isaiah’s time (Isa 28:11-12).  This pattern was repeating itself in Paul’s day and will repeat itself during the future Tribulation when some Jews will refuse to believe the “gospel of the kingdom” that will be preached to them by both Jew and Gentile believers. 

 

Other Scriptures show that God has always dealt with Israel in signs. (See especially Exodus 4:8; Deuteronomy 28:46; Joshua 4:6; Matthew 12:38, 39; 24:3, 30). 

 

The word "sign" occurs seventy-three times in Scripture which is dispensationally Israelitish, and only three times in Paul's epistles, and all of Paul's references clearly refer to Israel (Romans 4:11; 1 Corinthians 1:22; 14:22). Israel was born nationally in a cradle of signs when God delivered them from Egypt by mighty signs and wonders.  Christ produced many mighty signs in proof of His Messiahship.[5]

 

Signs were thus a part of Israel's program. Christ wrought many signs, and He promised that His disciples would do even greater signs or works (John 14:12). In the so-called Great Commission of Mark 16:15-18, Christ promised that these signs would follow them that believe:

· Casting out demons.

· Speaking with new tongues.

· Taking up serpents or drinking poison without hurt.

· Healing of the sick.[6]

 

We believe the reason signs continued even after the new church, the Body of Christ, began under Paul's ministry is this: God did not in one stroke cut off and cast away His people Israel. That is not His way of doing things. Paul quotes Isaiah to the effect that "all day long" God had stretched forth His hands unto this disobedient and gainsaying people of Israel (Romans 10:21). It was not that God was offering the establishment of the Millennium to Israel after Paul came on the scene, but as Paul says, God was trying to provoke Israel to jealousy by beginning a new dispensation with Paul and by sending salvation to the Gentiles (Romans 10:19; 11:11). Remember that the Body of Christ is a joint body of Jews and Gentiles. Even though God had cast aside the national kingdom promises to Israel for the duration of this dispensation, He still had a purpose in saving some of them before the final blow of judgment would be struck in the desolation of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.[7] 

 

The coming in of this established order awaited the complete judgment of Israel

nationally and the completion of the revelation of truth for the Body of Christ.

 

We are now in a position to answer the question why these signs are not for us today.  Not only do we have the fact that they were designed for Israel and that Israel has been cast away (Romans 11:15), but Paul clearly states that these signs are to cease.  After speaking about the excellence of love in I Corinthians 13 he says:  Whether there be [gifts of] prophesies, they shall fail; whether there be [gifts of] tongues, they shall cease; whether there be [the gift of] knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For 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 (vv. 8-10).  To illustrate this further he likens the existing conditions of the dispensation to childhood and the coming mature  condition to manhood.  The sign gifts belonged to the childhood stage, but Paul says, "When I became a man, I put away childish things" (v. 11). Therefore, it is very evident that these sign gifts were to cease as soon as the dispensation had grown up.  And we believe it did grow up to maturity with the final epistles of Paul.  Some people suppose these sign gifts continued right up to Acts 28:28 and then suddenly ceased. There is no more a basis for this supposition than for the one that God cast Israel aside with one sudden stroke. One who has studied the book of Acts is aware these signs seem to gradually diminish. W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, states:

 

There is no record of the continuance of these latter [signs, such as tongues] after the circumstances recorded in Acts 19:1-20. 

 

We do see Paul manifesting the signs of an apostle in Acts 28:5 after the shipwreck. (See also 2 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 15:18, 19.)  For a special reason, Paul was not healed of his thorn in the flesh, even during the Acts period. After the Acts period we know of several cases where Paul did not exercise any gift of healing on his most trustworthy co-workers. We may not know exactly when the last divinely wrought sign was manifested, although we do know the final prophecy to be fulfilled upon Israel came as late as 70 A.D.[8]

 

v     What About Those Today Who Claim to Speak in Tongues – Isn’t Their Experience Valid?

 

            The crucial question here is what is the source since all that is “real” is not necessarily from God.  If the purpose of tongues and the reasons for their cessation as presented in this study are correct, then the “source” of any tongues speaking today is not of God.  There are several possible sources of the tongues experience today:

·        Emotionalism or emotion produced jibberish

·        Self-induced jibberish

·        Demonism (only applicable to the unbeliever)

 

What one may observe in a setting where speaking in tongues is promoted is definitely real; however, all that is “real” is not from God.  Ignorant, deceived believers can have a “real” emotional experience that is produced by their sincere desire to do something for the Lord and conform to whatever pseudo-spiritual pattern of behavior may be promoted by misinformed leaders.  However, that “real” emotional experience is no more sanctioned by God than is the “real” emotional experience that is associated with sins such as “anger” and “jealousy.”  In both cases, the experience is “real,” but not of the Lord. 

 

Modern Pentecostal people put the emphasis upon tongues and even claim that

one does not have the Holy Spirit if he has not spoken in tongues.  Paul classifies tongues as the least of the gifts, even when it was in God's will, and says that he would rather speak five words in a known tongue than 10,000 words in an unknown one.  Modern tongues people tell us that the lack of spirituality is the reason why Christians do not have these miraculous gifts today. Paul tells us that the most carnal church of his day, namely that at Corinth, abounded in the gifts, and further that these gifts were bestowed in a sovereign manner by the Spirit of God.[9]  

 

We recognize that there are a few sincere Christians who are not Pentecostalists who agree in general that what we have said is true but who reason that perhaps under certain conditions today God may exercise His sovereign power and give to one here or there one or more of these gifts.  Perhaps such gifts would be

given to a missionary opening a new field of work.  Such people might seek to exercise the gift of tongues in the privacy of their own room, feeling that it might

come as an indication that God was putting His approval upon their spirituality.

Such people might shy away from all of the emotionalism and confusion of the

more rabid type of Pentecostalism, but the same answer must apply to them as it

does to the most radical.  We grant that God is sovereign and can do anything He wants to do and no one can stop Him. But we question whether God would go against His revealed will and Word. We know that Jesus Christ has the power to come back to earth and appear here in His glorified body at any time on any day, but although He has the sovereign power to do it, we do not believe He will exercise that sovereignty; for He has revealed that He will not come back to this earth again until the end of the great tribulation. We believe likewise that God has revealed that tongues and similar gifts have been done away for this present dispensation, and therefore we do not expect Him to exercise His sovereignty and contradict His Word in so doing.[10] 

 

v     What About Those Who Claim to Have the Gift to Heal People?

 

Here again, as in the case of any apparent supernatural phenomenon, we must distinguish as to the source of such phenomenon.  Modern-day so-called spiritual “healers” are not consistent with Scripture to put it mildly.  The source of such modern-day healing phenomenon is one or a combination of the following:

·        Fraud

·        Psycho-somatic

·        Satanically empowered

As in the case of modern-day tongues speaking, all that is “real” is not necessarily from God.  Please note that I am not teaching that God does not heal people today, especially at the behest of the petition of his saints.  I am decrying those who claim to be a channel of God’s healing or possess the God-endowed power to heal like the Apostles of the 1st Century A.D. 

 

In the first place, the Scripture reveals that Satan has power to work lying signs (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:14). Since Roman Catholics, Spiritists, Christian Scientists, and others all claim authenticated cases of so-called faith healing, it is evident not all healing miracles are from God. If Satan is energizing in these false cults, may he not also deceive even Christians to get them on the wrong track and away from God's purpose in this dispensation? Then, of course, there is no doubt many supposedly miraculous hearings are of a psychosomatic nature. Finally, the majority of cases of supposed hearings, when investigated, are proven to be exaggerated or even fraudulent.[11]

 

While the gift of healing has passed away, as Paul said it would, we do have today what we might call elective healing. God is the sustainer and upholder of all life.  We have full confidence in the efficacy of prayer, and we are sure God restores people to health when it is His will. Practically all so-called "divine healers" begin with the false premise that sickness is the result of unfaithfulness or sin, and that it is not the will of God that many of His people should be sick. There are many scriptural proofs to the contrary. Paul's thorn in the flesh, which he called an infirmity, apparently plagued his body to the end (2 Corinthians 12:5-10). Timothy was Paul's most faithful co-worker, yet he was often sick (1 Timothy 5:23). Trophimus, another faithful servant, had to be left behind sick (2 Timothy 4:20). Epaphroditus became deathly sick because he labored so fervently for the Lord (Philippians 2:25-27).  Healing was just one of the several sign gifts. If one of the gifts is here today, there is no reason why all of them should not be.  (Dispensational Relationships, 56)

 

Generally the only ones we hear about now are healing and tongues. Why can't these people who claim to have such gifts also cleanse lepers and raise the dead to life? The answer is obvious.  (Baker, Disp Relationships, 56) 

 

We believe in the kind of healing for today that Paul mentions in his prison  epistles, but not in the gift of healing. In other words, we believe that God in His sovereign mercy heals His people in answer to prayer when it is His will, but we do not believe in divine healers. Any one who claims to have the gift of healing should read Matt. 10:8: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." This command of our Lord makes several points very plain. When the gift of healing was given it enabled the healers to raise the dead just as easily as to heal the dying. The healers were to bestow their blessing upon all of the sick freely, without price. If nothing more

was said than this, modem healers would be proved unscriptural. But there is

more. The power of the apostles to heal depended not upon the faith of the sick,

but upon the gift of healing. When Peter and John healed the lame man at the

Beautiful Gate, they did not ask him for a big offering and tell him if he had faith

enough he could be healed. Instead, he was asking money from them, and they

bestowed the divinely given gift freely upon him and he was immediately made

whole. It would be ridiculous to say that a dead person had to exercise enough

faith to be raised up, and yet the divine healers try to cover up and excuse their

many failures by saying that the unhealed sick just did not have enough faith to

be healed. What a travesty upon the Word of God and the work of the blessed

Holy Spirit.  There are many, and perhaps they are the majority, who believe that if a person can perform seemingly miraculous healings it is a proof in itself that he is truly sent of God. The great shrines of the Roman Catholic church boast as many as or more authenticated cases of healing as do the Pentecostalists. Practically every convert to Christian Science can testify to healing through Mary Baker Eddy's scheme which denies every fundamental of the Christian faith. So-called Spiritualists claim the powers of divine healing. Now if physical healing of the body is a proof of a divine work, then Roman Catholicism and Christian Science are proved to be preeminently divine, and by the same token Protestant

Christianity is proved to be spiritually poverty-stricken.[12]  (Baker, What We Believe, 46)

 

v     If the Gifts of Speaking in Tongues and Healing are No Longer Valid, When Did They Cease?

 

While we cannot know the day, nor the hour when these temporary spiritual gifts ceased, it does appear that at least by A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, these two supernatural gifts no longer had a purpose and would have no longer been extant.  In addition, there is reason to believe that these gifts had ceased several years prior to A.D. 70. 

 

There are two ways of stating when the sign gifts were to cease. In line with what has been said above, they were to cease when Israel was finally given up to judgment by God. We may say this happened judicially at the end of the Acts period, but actually the sentence was not carried out for another ten years.  On the other hand, we may say the sign gifts were to cease when "that which is perfect [mature] is come" (I Corinthians 13:10).  The coming of that which is complete or mature does not mean our going to heaven, but the bringing in of the mature course of this dispensation of Grace.  (Baker, Dispensational Relationships, 53)

 

It is not necessary to suppose that they were withdrawn all at a certain hour or on a certain day, but rather that they gradually diminished and passed away during that immediate era.) After the complete setting aside of Israel and the cessation of the sign-gifts God brought to maturity or perfection the revelation of truth for this present dispensation and we find that filling up of truth in Paul's prison  epistles. Therefore when Paul enumerates the gifts in the prison epistle of Ephesians, he makes no reference to the sign gifts. We believe that this is the plain, Scriptural explanation of what happened to the sign gifts, and we further believe that when one seeks to revive them for the church today he manifests his ignorance of the purpose and will of God for this dispensation of the grace of God. (Baker, What We Believe, 44)

 

v     What About the Other Temporary Spiritual Gifts Such As Prophecy Since We Have Scripture Written After A.D. 70?

 

The gift of prophecy was also a temporary spiritual gift.  The gift of prophecy, like the gifts of healing and tongues, most likely did cease to be dispensed to believers who were not Apostles by at least A.D. 70.  However, the office of Apostle continued to function throughout the remainder of the 1st Century.  Prophetic abilities were bestowed upon the Apostle John at the end of the 1st Century in his writing of the book of Revelation.  These prophetic abilities which were given to the Apostles were not designed to be “sign” gifts, rather they were consistent with the office of Apostle and given for the purpose of finalizing God’s revelation to man.

 

It is to be understood that the offices of apostle and of prophet were also to

cease, but for a somewhat different reason. All that the apostles or the prophets

had to give to the Body of Christ is now written down in the Scripture. At the time

Ephesians was written there was still a ministry for the apostles and prophets to

perform. That the gift of healing had ceased is evident from the fact that Paul,

who before had performed every type of healing miracle, now leaves behind sick

one of his most faithful workers (2 Tim. 4:20), and for another he prescribes a

remedy for his oft sicknesses. Surely if Paul had the gift of healing at that time he

would have exercised it upon these most faithful fellow-workers.[13]

 

v     Will There be a Time When Speaking in Tongues and other Such “Signs” and Miracles Ever Be Valid Again?

 

Yes.  Prophecies regarding Israel’s “last days” (a period that spans the Tribulation, 2nd Advent and Millennium) such as Joel 2:28-32 indicate that there will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit during Israel’s last days.  In context, Joel’s prophecy centers around events leading up to and immediately following the establishment of the Messianic kingdom.  When we combine this passage with others that relate to the same period, we know that the preaching of the “gospel of the kingdom” during the Tribulation will be attended by some of the same phenomenon that was witnessed during those early days of the 1st Century A.D.  We also know that there will be pseudo-christs and that the dictator of the Revived Roman Empire is called the Anti-christ in Scripture.  He and his minions will be capable of performing counterfeit signs and wonders in the power of Satan. 

 

Consideration should be given to the supernatural power of Satan (Rev 13:13-15; cf. Isa 14:12, 16-17).  That Satan has power to perform supernatural things is clearly indicated in the Scripture (2 Thess 2:9).[14]

 

v     What is the “Danger” or “Harm” of Believers Today Seeking to Reproduce the Sign Gifts in Their Lives? 

 

Believers who seek to reproduce the sign gifts of the 1st Century A.D. are ignorant of God’s purpose in history and the purpose of these gifts.  They will be easily manipulated by false teachers and susceptible to deception.  They will funnel their money to promote a false understanding of Scripture and what they believe and what they do with their resources will be judged at the Bema Seat – a judgment seat before which all of us shall one day stand as believers.  Furthermore, by pursuing and encouraging the pursuit of such invalid phenomenon, they are setting the stage for the deception and confusion of others. 


[1]  Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas, Texas:  Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), Volume VII, 239. 

[2]  Chafer, Systematic Theology, Volume V, 170. 

[3]  The word “dispensation” is the anglicized form of the Latin word dispensatio which was used in the Latin Vulgate to render the Greek word oikonomia.  This Greek word referred to the administration of the affairs of a household and theologically it refers to the manner in which God chooses to relate to mankind and the human agents whom He chooses to be primarily responsible for the receipt, preservation and dissemination of His Truth – His message to mankind.  Paul uses the term in  Ephesians 1:10; 3:2, 9; and Colossians 1:25 in reference to a future dispensation or stewardship, the current dispensation, and a previous dispensation – all of which are distinguished from each other in terms of differing policies governing the relationship between God and man.  Thus, dispensations correspond to periods of time in human history; however, a dispensation does not inherently mean a period of time.  The position of The Church of the Servant King is that there have been at least 8 dispensations throughout human history:  1) Age of Innocence; 2) Age of Conscience; 3) Age of Human Government; 4) Age of the Patriarchs or Promise; 5) Age of the Mosaic Law; 6) Age of the Body of Christ (a.k.a. the Church Age or the Age of Grace); 7) the Tribulation; and 8) Age of the Kingdom of Christ on Earth (a.k.a. the Millennium, the Messianic Kingdom or the 1000 year reign of Christ).  Sometimes we use the term “Age of the Gentiles to refer to the first three dispensations as a group since during these three dispensations, the Jewish race had not yet been established and in order to reduce verbiage where possible.  We also sometimes combine our reference to dispensation 4 and 5 and refer to them as the “age of Israel” or the “age of the Law” even though we recognize the technical differences between the two.  We recognize the fact that there are transitions between the dispensations during which certain legitimate practices in one period are superseded by a different order (e.g. the transition between the Age of Israel and the Age of the Body of Christ in the 1st Century A.D.).  Finally, we acknowledge the Scriptural basis for considering dispensation 7 as a vital part of the “Age of Israel.”  As a matter of fact, dispensation 7 is the last seven years of the “Age of Israel” and is yet future. 

[4]  We must distinguish between the meaning of the phrase “the times of the Gentiles” and the group of dispensations referenced as the “Age of the Gentiles.”  The former is a reference to the period of human history that spans from Daniel to the 2nd Advent of Jesus – a period during which Israel is dominated by Gentile nations. 

[5]  Charles F. Baker, Dispensational Relationships (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Grace Publications, 1989), 82. 

[6]  Ibid.

[7]  Ibid., 83.

[8]  Ibid., 84-85.

[9]  Charles F. Baker, What We Believe and Why We Believe It? (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Grace Publications, revised edition 1995), 46.

[10]  Ibid., 45-46.

[11]  Baker, Dispensational Relationships, 87.

[12]  Baker, Dispensational Relationships, 46.

[13]  Baker, What We Believe, 45.

[14]  Lewis S. Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas, Texas:  Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), Volume VII, 239. 


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Pastor, Steve Ellis · The Church of the Servant King