Jack Deere (photo courtesy Holy Spirit Activism)
By Spencer D Gear
Please note: I preached on this topic at West Bundaberg Baptist Church (Bundaberg, Qld., Australia) on 3 July, 2005 as a topic assigned to me by the pastor. I commend to you this article, ‘Were Miracles Meant to Be Temporary?’ by Jack Deere, as I am convinced that this chapter from his book, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (1993), very adequately states and refutes most of the main points of cessationism.
Who, do you think, could have said this? “When we declare the miracles which God has wrought, or will yet work, and which we cannot bring under the very eyes of men, sceptics keep demanding that we shall explain these marvels to reason. And because we cannot do so, inasmuch as they are above human comprehension, they suppose we are speaking falsely.” Could that be Billy Graham, John MacArthur, Jr. or Benny Hinn?
It was written by St. Augustine who lived in the fourth & fifth centuries [ca. AD 354-430], and was one of the most prominent church leaders in his era (Augustine 2004, City of God, 21.5).
Have you seen a miracle lately? Do we pray in this church for miracles to happen? Is it the will of God for miracles to be happening around the world in answer to believing prayer? What was the last miracle you saw happen to people in this church?
The subject of this article is: “Are miracles valuable?” We will examine four themes:
1. Can we expect miracles among ordinary Christians today? (I will contend that miracles are a available for all people of the New Covenant age after Pentecost.)
2. What’s the purpose of miracles?
3. How do we respond to counterfeit miracles?
4. What’s the key to more miracles happening in this church?
Before we expound our subject, we should define the term, “miracle.”
A. What is a miracle?
Does this definition by J. D. Spiceland make sense? “The biblical concept of a miracle is that of an event which runs counter to the observed processes of nature” (Spiceland 1984, p. 723). Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225-1274) stated, “Things that are done occasionally by divine power outside of the usual established order of events are commonly called miracles (wonders)” (1905, 3.100). Sounds reasonable to me.
Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, defines it this way: “A miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself” (1994, p. 355). I like this one even better and will adopt it here as a guiding definition: “A miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself”.
“The biblical terminology for miracles frequently points to this idea of God’s power at work to arouse people’s wonder and amazement” (Grudem 1994, p. 356).
Three Greek words are used in the Bible relating to miracles:
1. “Sign” (Greek: semeion)
This “means something that points to or indicates something else, especially (with reference to miracles) God’s activity and power” (Grudem 1994, p. 356).
2. “Wonder” (Greek: teras)
This is “an event that causes people to be amazed or astonished” (Grudem 1994, p. 356).
3. “Miracle” or “mighty work” (Greek: dunamis)
This is “an act displaying great power, especially (with reference to miracles) divine power” (Grudem 1994, p. 356).
a. Signs & wonders
You will see the combination of “signs and wonders” used to refer to miracles in places like:
Ex. 7:3, But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt (NIV);
Deut. 6:22, Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household (NIV)
Acts 4:30, Peter and John, after being released from prison, prayed,”Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (NIV)
Rom. 15:19, “by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God–so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ” (ESV).
There are many other verses that indicate “signs and wonders.”
b. Signs, wonders and mighty works
In other verses, the three words are used together: mighty works, signs & wonders.
- Acts 2:22, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”
- Second Cor. 12:12, “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.”
- Heb. 2:3-4, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
But, these kinds of signs, wonders and miracles were performed by God and his prophets in the Old Testament, by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament, but …
B. Can we expect miracles among ordinary Christians today?
Many people object to miracles for today. Some are
British agnostic philosopher, Bertrand Russell, wrote:
Agnostics do not think that there is any evidence of ‘miracles’ in the sense of happenings contrary to natural law. . . As for the records of other miracles, such as Joshua commanding the sun to stand still, the agnostic dismisses them as legends and points to the fact that all religions are plentifully supplied with such legends. There is just as much miraculous evidence for the Greek gods in Homer as for the Christian God in the Bible” (1953).
2. Liberal theologians and some philosophers
David Strauss, famous German theologian and philosopher, in the 19th century, claimed that in the Bible, an event is unhistorical “when the narration is irreconcileable with the known and universal laws which govern the course of events.” Miracles and prophecies are “considered as not historical” (1860, Introduction 16.I)
John Dominic Crossan, a current Roman Catholic liberal biblical scholar and member of the Jesus Seminar, states, “A miracle is a marvel that someone interprets as a transcendental action or manifestation.” (1998, p. 303). Then he goes on to say that “Jesus was both healer and exorcist, and his followers considered those actions miracles. But no single healing or exorcism is securely or fully historical in its present narrative form” (1998, p. 302). He declares what he really means is: “To claim a miracle is to make an interpretation of faith, not just a statement of fact. . . I cannot see how miracle status can ever be proved or disproved” (1998, p. 304).
But even among evangelical Christians there are doubters as to the need for miracles today.
3. Some Evangelical Christians
These are people who love the Lord but they have considerable opposition to the idea that God continues to perform miracle. These are only 2 examples
Wayne Jackson, writing in the Christian Courier, states that:
“According to the teaching of the Bible, miracles are not being utilized by God today. They formed a special function in the divine scheme of things, and when their purpose was realized, the Lord suspended his operations via these supernatural phenomena” (2000).
John MacArthur Jr., a leading evangelical Bible teacher today, states:
I am not going to say that God can’t do miracles. God can, and does, whatever He wants to do. If He wants to do something that is against the normal natural law, He will do it. . . Please don’t say that I don’t believe God does miracles — I believe He does. In fact, He does them hour by hour. And the greatest miracle of all is the miracle of the new birth — people created as new creatures in Christ. We are not denying God the power, the desire, or the will to do miracles (n.d.)
But he goes on to say,
People don’t need miracles today, they just need to understand the Word of God. If they won’t believe the Word of God, they won’t believe miracles either. . . miracles had a limited time, only for the early era; limited persons, only the Apostles and prophets and early New Testament preachers; and a limited purpose, only for the confirmation of revelation. They were signposts pointing to God’s revelation, first in the living Word and then in the written Word. Now that the reality is here, we don’t need the sign anymore (n.d.).
4. I am not convinced by these views.
I do not consider this to be a biblical perspective because the Scriptures convince me that miracles are a characteristic of the entire New Covenant age after the Day of Pentecost. That includes today. These are my reasons, briefly:
a. In Mark 9:38-40 we read:
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.”
Jesus is here affirming to John the apostle, that ordinary people can perform a miracle in the Name of Jesus because it is God who is performing the miracles.
b. Let’s go to Jesus again in John 14:12-14 (ESV).
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Who is it who will do “the works” that Jesus does and “even greater works than these”? From the mouth of Jesus: “Anyone who has faith in me.” He does not say, “Only the apostles and early church leaders until the canon of New Testament Scripture is established.”
But, you may ask, this does not say that “whoever believes in me will also do the miracles, and even greater miracles than I, Jesus, do.” That is true. We must understand that the Greek word for “works” (erga) has a broad meaning in John’s Gospel. Australian New Testament scholar, Leon Morris, states:
Of the 27 times [John] uses the word 18 times he applies it to what Jesus has done. He uses the term in a variety of ways. Clearly it applies to the miracles on some occasions, e.g. ‘I did one work and [you] all marvel because thereof’ (John 7:21). On other occasions it refers to the whole of Jesus’ earthly work, as when He refers in prayer to ‘having accomplished the work which [you have] given me to do’ (John 15:24) (Morris 1971, p. 689).
Another New Testament expositor, D. A. Carson, confirms the fact that “works” refers to miracles in John 14:12. He states, “Jesus’ ‘works’ may include more than his miracles; they never exclude them” (1991, p. 495).
What are the “greater works” that those who believe will be available to do? It can mean greater in nature because what could be greater than resurrection from the dead, walking on water, feeding the 5,000. The clue is found in John 14: 12, “Because I am going to the Father.” Jesus was only one supernatural person in one place at a time in the Middle East. After he died, was resurrected, and ascended to the Father, God’s people of the New Covenant are spread throughout the world. Greater works of all kinds will be done among the Christian community because the Holy Spirit is now among us and we are spread throughout the world. When God’s new day dawned at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was set loose among God’s people to do the comprehensive works that Jesus did while on earth – including miracles.
Leon Morris confirms this: “What Jesus means we may see in the narratives of the Acts. There there are a few miracles of healing, but the emphasis is on the mighty works of conversion” (1971, p. 646).
Because of these direct words of Jesus, I am convinced that anybody who had faith in Jesus Christ is available to be used by Jesus in all his “works”, including signs, wonders, miracles and proclamation of the Gospel that leads to supernatural conversions to Christ.
c. Some of you might wonder why I don’t use Mark 16: 17-18 as the most obvious support for miracles today.
These verses read:
And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.
I don’t use these verses because Mark 16:9-20 is not in the oldest manuscripts of the NT. You’ll find them in the KJV because it is based on Byzantine manuscripts that are much later than that for modern translations, which follow the Alexandrian text of the NT. For example, my edition of the NIV states before Mark 16:9, “The two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20.” I am convinced by the manuscript evidence that Mark 16:9-20 was not in the earliest and best manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel.
However, these verses of Mark 16 were a teaching of the early church after Mark’s Gospel was written and were somehow inserted by later copyists. This suggests it was included in the teaching of the later church. This we do know: John 14:12-14 is most certainly in the earliest Alexandrian manuscripts and it teaches essentially the same as Mark 16:17-18.
Let’s go to other reasons for being convinced that God performs miracles today.
d. In John 3:2,
Nicodemus recognised this about Jesus that “no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
e. In Acts 2:22,
Peter proclaims that “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”
f. Acts 2:43 states:
“Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” So are miracles only available to be performed by the apostles? Not so, according to Jesus in John 14.
g. Gal. 3:5 reads,
“Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” Paul, the apostle, is here assuming that the church of Galatia, where there was no apostle, were seeing evidence of miracles among them.
h. I Cor. 12:7 teaches,
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Then go on to I Cor. 12:9-10 and we read that “to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers. . .” Here we see the the manifestation of the Holy Spirit given to all churches since the Day of Pentecost has included “gifts of healing by that one Spirit” and the gift of “miraculous powers.”
i. I Cor. 12:28,
“in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles . . .” Those who were gifts to the church included “workers of miracles.” While these verses are directed to the Church at Corintha, we know from 12:7 that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” where? In all churches throughout the ages, and miracles are included.
A characteristic of the New Testament church is that healings, miracles and other gifts of the Holy Spirit are available today. Miracles are available for people of the New Covenant age after Pentecost. That includes us today.
C. Is there any evidence of God performing miracles after the close of the New Testament Scriptures?
Recently I have been reading on the www a book from which I have only read bits and pieces over the years. I’m speaking of St. Augustine’s, The City of God. He completed it in AD 426, towards the end of his life (Kelsey 1973, p. 185). Augustine has been called, “not only the greatest theologian of the early Middle Ages but [also] one of the greatest of all time” (Geisler 2002, p. 290). He was certainly the most prominent church leader of his era, based in Hippo Regius, Northern Africa on the Mediterranean Sea. Today it is called, Annaba, in Algeria.
In one of his earlier writings, about AD 390, On the True Religion, he wrote that when the church had been “established through the whole world, these miracles [like those of Christ and the apostles] were no longer permitted to continue in our time, lest the mind should always seek visible things” (25.47, in 1918/1972, p. 41).
But he changed his mind later in life to become an enthusiastic believer in miracles in his day.
The City of God consists of 22 Books. In books 21 and 22, he tells of the miracles that had been happening where he was ministering around Hippo and Carthage.
Augustine does speak of “all the miracles of the magicians, who he thinks are justly deserving of condemnation, are performed according to the teaching and by the power of demons” (2004, 8.19).
He then stated his change of mind that “even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by His sacraments or by the prayers or relics of His saints; but they are not so brilliant and conspicuous as to cause them to be published with such glory as accompanied the former miracles” (2004, 22.8).
Here are a few examples of miracles, performed by the power of God, described in The City of God.
1. In Milan, when Augustine was there,
a blind man was restored to sight… the emperor was there at the time, and the occurrence was witnessed by an immense concourse of people that had gathered to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius…. By virtue of these remains the darkness of that blind man was scattered, and he saw the light of day” (2004, 22.8).
This miracle involved the use of relics associated with the bodies of martyrs. I will address this issue of relics shortly.
2. Innocentius at Carthage had a bowel condition, was “treated by medical men” with surgery but it was not successful. Second surgery was threatened with the surgeons saying “he could onle be cured by the knife. Agitated with excessive fear, he was terrified.” There was such “wailing” in the house. It seemed “like the mourning at a funeral” because of “the terror” the “pains had produced.” He was exhorted “to put his trust in God.” Then they “went to prayer ” with “earnestness and emotion, with what a flood of tears, with what groans and sobs.” When it came time for the proposed surgery, the surgeon searched and searched but there was no disease found. Augustine writes: “No words of mine can describe the joy, and praise, and thanksgiving to the merciful and almighty God which was poured from the lips of all, with tears of gladness. Let the scene be imagined rather than described!” (Augustine 2004, 22.8)
3. A woman had breast cancer and her breast was to be removed because the “physicians” said it was “incurable.” This godly woman went to “God alone by prayer. [At] Easter, she was instructed in a dream to wait for the first woman that came out from the baptistery after being baptized, and to ask her to make the sign of Christ upon her sore. She did so, and was immediately cured.” When the physician examined her and now found no cancer, he asked her what “remedy” she had used. When she told him, he spoke “with a contemptuous tone” and she fearded that “he would utter some blasphemy against Christ.”
He said that he thought that she would tell him of “some great [medical] discovery.” “She, shuddering at his indifference, quickly replied, ‘What great thing was it for Christ to heal a cancer, who raised one who had been four days dead’” (Augustine 2004, 22.8).
4. A Spanish priest, Eucharius, died and “by the relics of the . . . martyr [Stephen]” was “raised to life” (Augustine 2004, 22.8).
A doctor with gout was cured when he was baptised.
“An old comedian” was cured of paralysis and a hernia when he was baptised.
Hesperius, his family, cattle and servants were “suffering from the malice of evil spirits.” Through the prayers of the
elders this demon possession ceased “through God’s mercy” (Augustine 2004, 22.8).
A man with “his eye, falling out on his cheek, hung by a slender vein as by a root” was cured by the power of God.
A tax-collector, the son of a man named, Irenaeus, “his body was lying lifeless” and there was much “weeping and mourning of all.” The body was “anointed with the oil of the same martyr [Stephen]. It was done, and he revived” (Augustine 2004, 22.8).
Eleusinus’s infant son “had died” and he was placed “on the shrine fo the martyr [Stephen]” and “after prayer, which [the father poured out there with many tears, he took up his child alive” (Augustine 2004, 22.8).
I cannot record all the miracles I know. . . For were I to be silent of all others, and to record exclusively the miracles of healing which were wrought in the district of Calama and of Hippo by means of this martyr–I mean the most glorious Stephen–they would fill many volumes. . . For when I saw, in our own times, frequent signs of the presence of divine powers similar to those which had been given of old, I desired that narratives might be written, judging that the multitude should not remain ignorant of these things (Augustine 2004, 22.8).
Read the last book of Augustine’s City of God and you’ll know that God still miraculously heals and delivers the demon possessed.
I must pause to make brief comments about . . .
Faith in the healer, relics, or in God?
I must say that I am not troubled by miraculous healings (I am a convinced supernaturalist who believes that God can perform miracles today). However, the paraphernalia associated with the healings, relics, graves of the martyrs, during Augustine’s time did trouble me. By the time of the 5th century, the church was moving towards a Roman Catholic view of relics, but then I checked the Scriptures.
Do you remember? Are these miracles cited by St. Augustine in association with the relics of St. Stephen, later examples of the type that happened when Peter’s shadow fell on sick people and they were healed (Acts 5:15)? We know from Acts 19:12 that handkerchiefs or aprons were brought to the apostle Paul from people who were sick. We are told that when the handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched Paul’s skin “were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”
Go back to the Old Testament. Remember . . .
The serpent lifted up on the pole by Moses, Lev. 21:5-9 reads:
[The Israelites] spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
But in 2 Kings 18:4 we read, “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.” When people began to worship the relic, the bronze snake, that angered God and he smashed it. It is not the relic that brings healing, but the Almighty God of whom the relic reminds us.
When we worship a physical object, a relic, instead of the living God, we violate the first of the 10 commandments, ”
Remember the bones of Elisha in 2 Kings 13:20-21,
Elisha died and was buried.
Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.
In 2 Kings 5:14, we read of Naaman’s dealing of leprosy,
“So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.”
Also remember that Jesus used natural elements along with healing (saliva and washing).
James 5:14-15 asks:
“Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”
What do all of these verses point to? There are clear examples of miracles associated with physical objects in the Bible. It seems that sometimes the Lord knows that we need a physical point of contact and he provides it. But we call upon the Lord Almighty for the healing.
Remember the first of the ten commandments (Ex. 20:3-5):
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God . . .
The moment we seek the relic and not the Redeemer, we are doomed and committing idolatry.
D. What are the purposes of miracles?
1. One purpose of miracles is “to authenticate the message of the gospel” (Grudem 1994, p. 359).
Remember the words of Nicodemus from John 3:2, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Heb. 2:4 confirms this: “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” “God testified to IT with signs, wonders and various miracles. What is the IT? Heb. 2:3 tells us that it is this “great salvation.”
Miracles are given throughout the church age “to confirm the truthfulness of the gospel” wherever it is preached. Not just by the original apostles, but by anyone who believes and is a Christian.
Concerning Jesus, Augustine wrote:
“He did many miracles that He might commend God in himself. . . the gospel of Christ was preached in the whole world, not only by those who had seen and heard Him both before His passion and after His resurrection, but also after their death by their successors, amid the horrible persecutions, diverse torments and deaths of the martyrs, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost” (2004, 18.46, 50)
2. It is to confirm “the fact that the kingdom of God has come and has begun to expand its beneficial results into people’s lives” (Grudem 1994, p. 360).
Jesus said in Matt. 12:28, “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. According to Luke 9:1-2, Jesus gave his disciples “power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” When God performs miracles in our midst, it lets people know that God’s kingdom is alive and well among us with exceptional results.
3. A third purpose of miracles is declared by Jesus when he healed the two blind men near Jericho.
Matt. 20:30 and 34 state, “Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ . . . Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” Miracles are to help those in need.
In Phil. 2:27, Paul says of Epaphroditus, “Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.” God’s compassion and mercy towards the needy are demonstrated by signs, wonders and miracles.
4. A fourth purpose of miracles is to bring glory to God.
When Jesus healed a paralytic, Matt. 9:8 records, “When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” In Luke 7:16 after Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son, it says, “They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’”
St. Augustine wrote in The City of God:
These miracles, and many others of the same nature, which it were tedious to mention, were wrought for the purpose of commending the worship of the one true God, and prohibiting the worship of a multitude of false gods. Moreover, they were wrought by simple faith and godly confidence, not by the incantations and charms. . . (2004, 10.9).
In the 21st Book of Augustine’s City of God, the 7th chapter is titled, “That the Ultimate Reason for Believing Miracles is the Omnipotence of the Creator” (2004, 21.7). In the 22nd Book of City of God, ch. 8 is titled, “Of miracles which were wrought that the world might believe in Crhist, and which have not ceased since the world believed” (2004, 22.8).
Jesus’ miracles were meant to point to God Himself. Any miracles that God allows to happen among us today are designed to point to the glory of God.
So many alleged miracles today are meant to point to the human healer, whether that person be Benny Hinn, Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, or Reinhard Bonnke. That was not Jesus’ emphasis and it must not be ours. All signs, wonders and miracles are meant to point to the miracle worker, God Himself, and to give him praise and glory.
E. How do we respond to counterfeit miracles?
I am not dealing in any depth with this aspect, except to say that we must be very careful in making sure these miracles have taken place. For example, in an issue of my local newspaper, the Bundaberg News-Mail (June 29, 2005, p. 23) there was an advertisement: “A Church on the Move: Salvation – healing – miracles Spirit filled Worship.”  It is advertised that right here in Bundaberg, healing and miracles are taking place. I don’t know whether that is true or not. I’m wary because of this combination: salvation, healing and miracles.
If I go along to that church can I receive salvation? Yes, absolutely, if there is true repentance and faith in Christ;
If I go along to that church, can I receive healing? Only if the sovereign Lord chooses to give it.
If I go along to that church, can I receive a miracle? Only if the sovereign Lord chooses to give it.
Advertising that a church that is “on the move” offers salvation, healing and miracles in the same breath is sending a mixed message in my view. Placing this kind of message in advertising sends the wrong message as I see it. What would happen if our church advertised something like: “Come to our church and meet the living Christ.” At our church where we proclaim and encounter the living Christ, we pray for the sick, earnestly seek God’s spiritual gifts, and we leave the results to Him. We seek to bring God glory in all that we do. If healing and miracles happen, God will be glorified. But we will not be calling upon people to come to our church with the expectation that they will be healed or that definite miracles will happen in our church services.
I’d want to check the evidence for healing and other miracles before the alleged healing or miracle and the evidence now. Why?
Because of this:
Down through the years, godly believers have exposed counterfeit miracles, as with this book by B. B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (1918);
Peter Masters, The Healing Epidemic (1988);
John F. MacArthur Jr., Charismatic Chaos (1992).
There’s a report going around about the resurrection of Pastor Ekechukwu in Nigeria in November/December 2001.
I’m talking about the … sensational story coming from Reinhard Bonnke who was a guest on Benny Hinn’s program on Feb.28 2002 (and Kenneth Copeland’s program through the week of Aug.19, 2002). On Hinn’s program he showed a video produced by Cfan (Bonnke’s ministry- Christ for all nations) and gave testimony to a man being raised from the dead at a church he was preaching at in Nigeria, Africa. This video is now making the rounds . . . as a [supposed] fulfillment of many people’s prophecies of the great miracles that are supposed to occur in our time. Stories are supposedly pouring in from around the globe of thousands being saved. This is becoming a big story, but is it a fish story that keeps on growing as it’s told? (Come Let Us Reason 2002; for my assessment, see here)
We need to be discerning. There are a number of conflicting elements in this story that I am not able to get to the bottom of. However, we need to remember that one faulty Falcon doesn’t make every Ford a bomb. If there are fake miracles, it doesn’t discount the real. It just means that we need to be ever more vigilant and discerning. I agree with Wayne Grudem,
Christians should be very cautious and take extreme care to be accurate in their reporting of miracles if they do occur. Much harm can be done to the gospel if Christians exaggerate or distort. . . The power of the Holy Spirit is great enough to work however he wills (1994, n31, p. 368).
I am not convinced that we should be advertising: “Come to West Bundaberg Baptist Church for salvation, healing and other miracles.”
F. What’s the key to more miracles happening in this church?
Miracles were continuing in the 5th century when St. Augustine wrote, but what about today? What about in this church?
We have seen some miracles in Christian conversions lately for which we praise the Lord. Have the seriously ill been healed supernaturally? Have the dead been raised? Honest now! If miracles are for today, and I am convinced they are, why are they not happening regularly in association with our church?
I want to make some suggestions and not accusations:
1. First, should Christians ask God to perform miracles? I Cor. 14:1 states, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” Note what it says: “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts.” Can we honestly say that this church encourages all believers to “eagerly desire spiritual gifts.” Are you desiring he supernatural abilities that the Holy Spirit gives, and especially the gift of prophecy? Until we earnestly desire the Holy Spirit’s gifts, which include “the working of miracles” and “gifts of healings”, I don’t expect that many miracles will be demonstrated.
Please understand that we do not manufacture miracles or healings. They only come as sovereign gifts of God, but we must “earnestly desire spiritual gifts.” Don’t you think that would be a good starting point if we are to see miracles? Are we open to the supernatural spiritual gifts in this church? (I Cor. 12-14)
2. Second, miracles are not for entertainment. Miracles are not intended to give limelight to somebody’s ministry. As I mentioned about Luke 7:16 after Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son, it says, “They were all filled with awe and praised God.” If we don’t intend to give praise and glory to God and God alone through the miracles, forget about it. God’s glory is primary. Can God trust us with miracles? Will we draw attention to ourselves, to this church, or to God?
3. Third, James 5:14 says, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”
We need to make prayer for the sick and anointing with oil a regular part of our worship, calling for the elders and anointing with oil. Calling for whom? The elders. But we don’t acknowledge elders by name in this church. Could that be one reason why miracles are not happening? I am not accusing, but simply making a suggestion.
Wayne Grudem has stated, “Miracles are God’s work, and he works them to bring glory to himself and to strengthen our faith (Grudem 1994, p. 371).
4. Fourth, I John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” Are we are people who are asking, and even pleading earnestly, of our God to give us the best gifts? It is His sovereign will whether he chooses to give us miracles. Are we asking?
I conclude with Augustine’s thought: “Even now, therefore, many miracles are wrought, the same God who wrought those we read of [is] still performing them, by whom He will and as He will” (2004, 22.8).
So, are miracles valuable? They most certainly are,
if we are open to such Holy Spirit ministry;
if we eagerly desire spiritual gifts,
and most especially, if we give glory to God, are filled with awe of God, and we praise the one and only true and living God.
2. This is Sims Road Churches of Christ, a charismatic church, in Bundaberg, Qld., Australia.
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Copyright © 2007 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.