Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The spiritual gift of miracles given to Christians in the first century is not for today

Men are not endowed with the power today to heal miraculously, like they were in the time of Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha & Jesus/Apostles. Those miracles were for a sign to authenticate the message and the messenger, in the building of the foundation of the church. Today we have the messenger whom we authenticate if he preaches the same Jesus and if his message is consistent with the one delivered once for all to the saints. (Jude 1:3).

In the time of the Apostles, the miracles were authenticated, undeniable, and sufficient. Lazarus was dead. Then he wasn't dead. There was no ambiguity. Jesus healed a man born blind. He could not see. Then he could see. (John 9:1-7).

The one I always got a kick out of was Peter's mother-in-law.

"And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him." (Matthew 8:14-15).

Jesus's touch healed her completely. When you have a fever, you're usually sick for a period of time, days even. You get weak. You cannot keep food down. You body deteriorates and after the fever breaks, you need time to recuperate to get back to 100%. Not so with the miracle of Jesus and His healing touch.

Her healing was authenticated, because there were witnesses. It was undeniable, it is in the bible. It is sufficient, because she was healed and restored to 100% perfect health.

What does one do when they are delivered from a bad situation? You're grateful. Imagine the gratitude of Peter's mother-in-law being delivered from an illness of a person in advanced age. Gratitude, unto service. Her gratitude was so great, she served the Lord. It was so complete, she could serve the Lord.

God can and does still perform miracles today if He chooses. He does not give people that ability any more, those gifts have ceased.

I’m listening to a Phil Johnson lecture in the series Drive By Pneumatology. He defined cessationism and continuationism. Here is Pastor Phil Johnson on the miracle gifts:

“The Holy Spirit is at work in us in the ordinary things of life. A lot of people have an idea that the Holy Spirit is only working if He is doing miraculous or phenomenal things. If it not something that takes your breath away, or amazes you, that if He is not doing things like that, He is not at work at all. But I believe that scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is at work in all the ordinary aspects of life. He orders every minute detail of our lives. It is He who actually gives us life. That’s what it says in Romans 8- He gives life to our mortal bodies… . Most of what he does seems ordinary but it is really extraordinary because He is the Holy Spirit.”

He went on to explain the difference between revelatory gifts and ministry related gifts, revelatory ones (the Charismata) are utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, faith (a supernatural measure of faith, not saving faith we all have) prophecy, miracles, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians) compared to the gifts in Romans 12; preaching, service, exhortation, generosity, leadership, mercy, and teaching. In comparing the two lists of gifts, the Romans 12 one is ministry related, and is neither supernatural in character nor revelatory.

Phil said, "The distinctive claim of the Charismatic movement is that these revelatory gifts of healing, miracles, tongues knowledge/wisdom and prophecy are continuing today just as they were in Apostolic times. The Charismatic person says they continued since then and never ceased. That these gifts are available and operational just as they were since Pentecost. This is the continuationist view."

The opposing view is cessationism. The belief that these revelatory gifts, these sign gifts, have ceased. That they pertained uniquely to the Apostolic age and that those gifts ceased sometime at the end of the first century upon the death of the last apostle.

(Phil is a cessationist).

So the question is, is the Holy Spirit doing everything exactly as He was doing as He did in the book of Acts? Has that stopped, or has that continued? And is there a proof text that shows it has stopped?

The miraculous gifts of the apostolic era had a specific and clearly defined purpose. I contend that it I also clear in scripture that they did diminish in frequency and importance and in fact, faded from use after the era in the Book of Acts ended.

Cessationism is today a minority opinion. It was practically standard evangelical theology for many centuries until about 60 years ago. Prior to the 20th century, it would have been hard at any time to find any protestant who believed that the charismata, the miraculous gifts, continued uninterrupted from the time of the apostles thru all of church history. It is a fact that the most theologically orthodox church theologians all believed the miracle gifts ceased.

In summarizing the next part of Pastor Johnson's lecture, the reason they say this today, that the charismatic gifts continue, he explained, is that they cannot find a proof text or a verse that would support the view that the spiritual gifts of this nature have ceased. Specifically there is no one verse in scripture that says the miracle gifts have stopped at a particular date or time. Bottom line there is no proof text that states that the miracle gifts would end at the conclusion of the Apostolic era.

There is no proof text to show the Jehovah’s Witness to show their flawed view of the Trinity, either. You compare scripture with scripture to show the Trinity and I would say the same method applies to cessationism.

Those of us who are cessationists base our conviction not on a single proof test but is a theological conclusion that is drawn from a number of biblical, historical, and doctrinal arguments.

Scripture does teach that the charismata had a specific, foundational and temporary purpose. They are part of a hierarchy of supernatural signs and wonders that were associated with the founding of the church. That hierarchy is listed in 1 Cor 12. It specifically states not all the miracle gifts were given to all in the church. (He goes on to explains some verses here). Scripture does not have a specific proof text that shows the Apostolic age ended, that there are no more apostles. There is no specific proof text that the canon of scripture is closed. Those arguments are the same exegetical arguments used to also say that the miraculous gifts ended too.

5 comments:

  1. Morning Elizabeth,
    For clarity I would ask this question; if I'm a follower of Christ and I pray in Jesus name for a healing to take place for another person and they get healed beyond any question(a miracle took place), are you implying the Bible says that is no longer possible? In this scenario I have no belief that I actually healed the person, I 100% believe that I was obedient in praying for the person and it is indeed God who healed that individual. What are you saying the scripture actually says?

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    Replies
    1. No. I am not implying that. I stated in the middle of the article in its own paragraph the following:

      "God can and does still perform miracles today if He chooses. He does not give people that ability any more, those gifts have ceased"

      If you prayed and a person got healed, then glory to God! So glad for you!

      Delete
    2. Miracles happening in result of prayer (or absent any action of the believer for that matter) are not the same as the "GIFT" of miracles. The gifts of miracles/healings/etc were actual spiritual abilities, which the possessor could exercise just like they would physical abilities -- at will, without asking God for the power, because they already had it.

      If you need to ask God in prayer to do something, then you do not have that gift, whether it be miracles or healings. If you had it, you could just heal a person instantaneously by putting your hands on them. So there's no contradiction there.

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  2. I'd like to get a hold of the "Drive By.." series someday. How many are there and what are the prices?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The list of drive by series is here
      http://www.wretchedradio.com/store/search_results.cfm

      I have Drive By Discernment, purchased via immediate download, $19.99 fr about 72 lectures. I bought Drive By Pneumatology as a Mp3 disk and had it mailed to me.I think it was $24.00

      There's Drive By Marriage, Drive By Parenting, Drive By Theology, Drice By Church History, and I think there is one on hermenutics, and more besides. There are bundled and paks too, which cost less overall. Check it out.

      Delete

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