Advanced Bible Studies
20. What About Miracles?
What About Miracles?
That miracles are a reality in Biblical teaching no believer could deny. But many individuals have a wholly inadequate view of the true nature of miracles. In general a “miracle” should probably be defined as “an event in the external world wrought by the immediate power of God, intended as a demonstration of His purpose and will.” In Scripture there are three terms used to define and describe the idea of “miracle”:
- “Signs” – The purpose of miracles is to point to something or someone greater than the miracle.
- “Wonders” – The effect that the miracle would have upon the human heart would be to create a sense of awe.
- “Powers” – The nature of the miracle itself that manifests the might of God.
These three terms come together in the work of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22), the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 2:4), and the Apostles (II Corinthians 12:12). We need to understand that Biblical miracles are always: (1) Theological in Nature – Befitting God’s Purpose in Salvation History. (2) Religiously Practical in Purpose – Benefiting Man’s Need in Salvation History. (3) Scripturally Supportive in Essence – Benefiting the Revelation of Salvation History. (4) Extraordinarily Exceptional in Form – Fitting Perfectly into both Nature and History. All Bible miracles are an essential and indispensable part of Salvation History.
The Purpose of Miracles
Most importantly, it must be understood that the ultimate purpose of Bible miracles was to confirm the Word of God: Mark 16:17-20; Hebrews 2:1-4 … John 20:30-31. See II Timothy 3:16-17 and Jude 1:3 … Romans 10:17 cf. Romans 1:16; I Corinthians 1:18. This means that the message of God’s Word is always more important than the miracle itself. (The only “exception” would be the greatest miracle of all – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, this is the very message of the Gospel. No miracle was/is as important as the resurrection of Christ: I Corinthians 15:1-19. If this miracle were not true, no other miracle makes any difference.) If the message is more important than the miracle, then why is it that so many in the religious world make the miracle more important than the message? Why is it that so many churches put so much emphasis on miracles to the virtual exclusion of what the Word of God actually says on most biblical doctrines? Why is it that so many individuals believe that “getting a miracle” is the most important thing in faith?
According to the principles of Scripture, the Word of God has been and is fully confirmed. In fact, its Truth stands as complete and final for all time. Once the Truth was fully confirmed, the purpose of miracles would be completed as well. No more miracles are needed to confirm the Word of God other than the miracles that we can read about in the Bible itself. Consider the purpose of the miracles of Christ (Acts 2:22) and the Apostles (II Corinthians 12:12 cf. I Corinthians 2:4). To say that we still must have these kinds of “confirming” miracles today necessarily implies that the Word of God is not perfect and complete. Recall that the greatest miracle of all (the Resurrection of Christ) only occurred one time and it stands as Truth according to the witness of inspired men who gave their testimony in Scripture for all generations to come. Once the truthfulness of the Word of God has been confirmed, it does not need to be proven over and over again. The truth is, the Word of God has been confirmed, “one time for all times” (Jude 3) and that is the greatest “miracle” of all.
The Means of Miracles
Just consider the process of “how” miracles for the most part were realized in the early church: Luke 24:44-49 and Acts 1:1-11 (See Matthew 16:19; 18:18-19; 19:28 … John 20:22-23) … Acts 2:1-4f. See especially Acts 8:14-18 and Acts 19:1-7 (cf. Romans 1:8-11; II Timothy 1:6). It is crucially important to realize that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles was the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise of the Spirit, not the end. Their experience was unique and exceptional (with the closest, though not precisely parallel case, being that of the household of Cornelius – Acts 10:44-48; 11:15-18 cf. Acts 15:7-11) because of their specific office and work. However, all Christians would receive the benefits and blessings of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. See Titus 3:5-7. The Scripture makes it clear that the ability to work miracles was generally done through the Apostles themselves or through those who had received the laying on of the Apostles’ hands. This is seen by studying through the first part of Acts: Acts 2:1-4; 2:43; 3:1-6; 4:32-33; 5:1-11; 6:5-6; 8:5-6,12; and especially Acts 8:14-18.
It should thus be more than obvious that in the history of the early church the power to work miracles (i.e., the miraculous gifts of the Spirit) was given by “the laying on of the Apostle’s hands.” In fact church history verifies that the power to work miracles through men’s hands gradually passed away. What is more, church history also records that the only ones who claimed to “resurrect” the miraculous gifts were considered heretics! One such heretic by the name of Montanus (A.D. 155) was both Pentecostal and Premillennial and sought not only miraculous spiritual gifts such as the gift of prophecy and speaking in tongues, but he also believed in ongoing new revelations particularly with regard to the coming of Christ in a millennial kingdom.
Miraculous Spiritual Gifts
In order to even begin to understand miraculous spiritual gifts one must carefully read and study I Corinthians 12:1-14:40. Within these chapters, Paul gives us one of the most thorough expositions on miraculous gifts as he presents:
- The Numeration of Miraculous Spiritual Gifts – I Corinthians 12:1-31
- The Duration of Miraculous Spiritual Gifts – I Corinthians 13:1-13 cf. Ephesians 4:1-16
- The Regulation of Miraculous Spiritual Gifts – I Corinthians 14:1-40 cf. Acts 2:4-11
A careful study of these chapters serves as the best refutation of the supposed existence of miraculous spiritual gifts in use in the Charismatic Movement today. It should be noted that there is not a church on earth today that claims to have miraculous spiritual gifts that actually understands or follows the divine directives given in these chapters. What we see in churches that claim charismatic gifts is nothing more than charismatic chaos.
Speaking in Tongues
Concerning the “gift of tongues”: Mark 16:17-18; Acts 2:1-11; 10:44-48; 19:1-2; I Corinthians 12:1-14:40. Tongues, according to the plain and simple teaching of Scripture were/are not unintelligible heavenly languages spoken by angels, but ordinary languages spoken by men. The first recorded instance of “tongue speaking” is found in Acts 2:1-12. In context, the “tongues” were human languages. Luke said “each one heard them speaking in his own native language.” See Acts 2:4,6,8,11. (This fact is stressed three times!) If we let the plain and simple teaching of Scripture define “tongues” rather than the theories of men, we will plainly see that the best meaning and translation of “tongues” is “human languages.” The term “tongues,” in the New Testament, means: “a spoken language or dialect.” (The phenomenon of tongue speaking also is found in Acts 10:46 and Acts 19:6.) The only other place in Scripture where tongues are given any special reference and explanation is in I Corinthians 14:1-40. This is found in the context of miraculous spiritual gifts. See I Corinthians 12:1-14:40. Several things become obvious by a careful study of the context of I Corinthians 12:1-14:40:
- Tongues were one of the least important gifts.
- Tongues were also one of the most easily abused gifts.
These two points must be kept in mind simply because in today’s religious world, tongues have become one of the most important gifts. And, what is more, just like in the first century, they are also one of the most misunderstood and abused gifts. (It also needs to be noted that there is no such thing in Scripture as “unknown” tongues. The King James Version of the Bible wrongly inserts the word “unknown” into the text and actually ends up contributing to the confusion over tongues. The term “unknown” is not in the original text of the Bible. Also keep in mind, that if the term “tongues” had been translated as “languages,” there would probably not be so much confusion over the subject.)
Another point clearly needs to be made. There is much that is made out of Paul’s statement about the “tongues of angels” as if that must be some “unintelligible heavenly language.” But, this is the only place that uses the phrase, “tongues of angels.” The fact is, every single time we see angels speaking in Scripture they only talk in human languages. Another thing that must be noted is the fact that Paul is not saying that angels actually have their own special language. He actually says “if” – “What if I should even be able to speak in the tongue of angels.” He is not saying that such was even a real possibility or a possible reality. (Note, he also says, “If I give my body to be burned.” But, that was only hypothetical.) This passage is thus a poor one to attempt to “prove” that there actually is a “heavenly language.” We may assume that such exists, but we cannot prove it from the Bible.
One of the most important things to do in the study of tongues is to give a very careful reading to I Corinthians 14:1-40. In this lengthy passage, the apostle Paul gives extensive treatment of the subject of tongues. Specifically, he regulates the use and function of this gift. Any comparison with the so-called modern day phenomenon of tongue speaking will quickly reveal that there are some glaring differences between what the Scripture teaches about tongues and how they are currently practiced! To put it another way, none of the modern day charismatic churches follow the Bible’s specific regulations when it comes to practicing the gift of tongues.
It becomes very clear that when the gift of tongues was used in the early church, it was to be used in such a way that reflected the principle of decency and orderliness. The tongues were to be used only when there was someone there to interpret those languages. If there was no one there who understood the language spoken, the individual who could speak the language was to keep silent. Paul warned the church that if the gift of languages was exercised when there was no one who understood that language, the entire service would appear to be chaotic insanity, especially to outsiders. When the gift of languages was used, only one or two, or at the most three, were to use that gift in an orderly way. One was to speak after the other, not all at the same time. And then, those gifts were to be used only if there were individuals present who could understand and interpret those languages.
It needs to be noted that in the context of I Corinthians, the Corinthian church was chaotic and out of control. (Too many Charismatic churches in today’s world can hardly be described in any other way! Paul in I Corinthians 14:32-33 says, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets.” Thus, there is no excuse for allowing oneself to get “out of control” in some charismatic ecstatic frenzy and then attempt to blame it on the Holy Spirit of God. God has called us to a spirit of discipline. See II Timothy 1:7.) This was most obvious especially in her use (i.e., abuse) of the miraculous spiritual gifts. The church at Corinth was filled with arrogant pride and used her gifts in a destructive and hurtful way. Paul in I Corinthians 12:1-14:40 had to set them straight. In I Corinthians 13 – the heart of this passage! – Paul shows them that love is the only way to make any gift meaningful. In this passage he also shows them a more excellent way than miraculous gifts. The miraculous gifts were not ever meant to be a part of the church for all time; but faith, hope and love were to abide forever. Miraculous spiritual gifts were meant for the church in her infancy, and they served a vital purpose in helping the church to grow up. But when the church was fully-grown, those gifts would no longer be needed, because the faith would be fully revealed.
Now here is a very interesting point that must be made. Practically every church that believes in the on-going presence of miraculous spiritual gifts, also believes in on-going revelation in one form or another. Yet, the Bible clearly teaches that the purpose of miracles was to confirm and bring about the full revelation of the Word of Truth. See Hebrews 2:1-4. The fact is, the full revelation of God’s Truth is complete, and has been completed since the close of the New Testament. See Jude 1:3! There is no on-going revelation of God’s Will and God’s Truth. It has already been revealed and it is found in the Bible. See II Timothy 3:14-17. All of these “new revelations” that modern churches claim to be receiving are either not new, or they are not right … they contradict the clear teaching of the Word of God.
Finally, we need to consider one of the more unusual statements found in I Corinthians 14:2 – “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” What exactly is Paul talking about here? If one has the presupposition that “tongues” are “unintelligible heavenly languages” then he will “see” that apparently confirmed in this verse. But, if one takes in the entire context of the Word of Truth on the subject of “tongues” and allows the plain and simple passages to explain those that are more difficult; then we have no reason to come up with a fanciful view that tongues are some kind of “unintelligible babbling nonsensical gibberish.” The fact is, everything we do is to be done not only to men, but especially to God. (This is what is meant by “not to men but to God” in I Corinthians 14:2. When the Corinthians spoke in tongues they were not only speaking to men, but most especially to God. And God was listening!)
Remember that Luke has clearly shown us the power and purpose of “tongues” in Acts 2. There we clearly see that tongues are human languages given as a miraculous gift to the individual (who does not know that language) who is then able to preach in a foreign language to others who speak and understand that language. This is one of the ways in which the Gospel was able to “go into all the world” in a relatively short period of time. Tongues were not for “show.” (That is apparently how the Corinthians were using them, and they were condemned for doing so.) They served a definite purpose in the proclamation of the Word of God to the church and to the world.
A little known but clearly documented fact is that when the "speaking in tongues" movement began in the early part of the Twentieth Century and later, various charismatic groups actually believed that the "gift of tongues" was the ability to speak in other known earthly human languages! So they thought they would be able to go into foreign missions and duplicate what was done in Acts 2. How surprised they were that it did not work! And because they quickly realized that they did not have the ability to speak in known foreign languages they began to believe and teach that "tongues" were really not earthly languages at all, but "heavenly languages." How convenient!
So, I Corinthians 14:2 in context can still best be understood in the sense that the “tongues” there are only referring to “spoken human language.” Thus, the individual with the gift of that language would assuredly know that they had that gift. They may not, however, understand the language they were given. (That is why Paul said that they should pray that they may also be given the gift of interpreting that language.) What good is it to speak in a language that no one understands? The only benefit comes to the one speaking who knows that they have this gift, but no one else knows what they are saying (not even they know what they are saying) and thus no one is fully edified. Again, the whole purpose and point of the gift of “tongues” is that the church may be edified (I Corinthians 14:1-5,6-19,26-40), and, most especially, that unbelievers may be taught the Gospel of Christ in their own language (I Corinthians 14:20-25).
There are now many who would make the "tongues" of I Corinthians 14 into some kind of "heavenly, angelic, private prayer language" where one supposedly communicates more perfectly with God. This "private prayer language" is basically used as some kind of “drug” to induce a sort of spiritual high in the believer – like the drug ecstasy! Have we been so contaminated by the world and our culture and the flesh that now religious people have turned into narcissists who live to feed their own egos and are addicted to speaking in tongues? Do we really think that one of the main purposes of the "gift of tongues" was to allow believers to become self indulgent, self centered, selfish little babies? Wait! The problem with too many Charismatics is that they, along with too many pseudo-religious "believers" have made religion more about "feelings" than about a faith based squarely upon the facts of the Word of God. Faith for all too many is now mostly a matter of “subjectivism” – the doctrine or belief that truth and knowledge is all about our personal, spiritual experiences.
When we study the church at Corinth we ought to realize that their problem was that they really were, for the most part, just a bunch of immature babies who were acting like spoiled rotten little children (brats!). And Paul basically had to treat them as such. Do we not realize that the miraculous spiritual gifts and speaking in tongues were for the infancy of the church and that eventually she was expected to grow up and live by faith? When exactly is the church going to leave behind her childish ways and act like a mature adult? There is nothing wrong with a baby needing an incredible degree of support from its parents. But at some point that child is going to have to grow up and start acting like an adult. This is precisely what Paul was “asking” in I Corinthians 13 when he talked about the limitations and the duration of the miraculous spiritual gifts!
It is about time we asked why so many Charismatics are so obsessed by and even addicted to speaking in tongues and the miraculous spiritual gifts, especially when such comes at the expense of biblical truth. If you think about it when Charismatics go about teaching others how to pray in tongues and work miracles they are actually showing that they have no care or concern about what Scripture says because in the Bible "the gift of tongues" was not something that could be taught or prayed for; rather, it was something given directly by the Spirit of God and then, only to a few. Are modern-day Charismatics trying to push "tongues" on others and get them addicted to their "drug" of choice in order to "hook" believers on their charismatically obsessive and compulsive ways? And then they blame all of this on the Holy Spirit? Shameful!
One last point: The greatest tragedy is that the charismatic chaos that was seen in the church at Corinth, and that has been revived in modern-day churches, did not have its precedent or sanction in God’s Spirit or in the Spirit’s Word. Rather it has its origins more in paganism and idolatry than anything else. See I Timothy 4:1-3 and II Thessalonians 2:1-17. It must be noted that throughout the History of the World and the church there have been numerous instances of "tongue speaking" in pagan religions and cults. What do you think the Oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece and Rome was all about? Do you know that tongue speaking is practiced in some of the mystical forms of Islam and it is also practiced in Mormonism? Tongue speaking is also manifested in some occultic and demonic religions? Do you realize that speaking in tongues is found in some African Tribal Religions and even practiced by Tibetan monks? The true miracle of God in the gift of tongues is ultimately seen in giving us the plain and simple Word of God in the words of men that can be understood. The “miracles” of Satan seek to turn intelligible speech into unintelligible language that confuses and confounds and only contributes to the chaos in the world around us. It should always be remembered that not every miracle is from God and not every spirit is holy.
Consider the healing miracles of Christ and the Apostles and then consider the supposed manifestation of miraculous divine healings of the Charismatic Movement.
The Healings of the Lord Jesus Christ:
- The Official’s Son – John 4:46-54
- The Mother-In-Law of Peter – Matthew 8:14-17; Mark 1:29-34; Luke 4:38-41
- The Leper – Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16
- The Paralytic – Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26
- The Lame Man – John 5:1-9
- The Man with the Withered Hand – Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11
- The Centurion’s Servant – Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10
- The Widow’s Son Raised – Luke 7:11-17
- The Daughter of Jairus – Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:41-56
- The Woman Who Touched – Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48
- Two Blind Men – Matthew 9:27-31
- The Canaanite Woman’s Daughter – Matthew 15:22-28; Mark 7:24-30
- The Deaf Man – Mark 7:31-37
- The Blind Man – Mark 8:22-26
- The Demoniac Boy – Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43
- The Man Born Blind – John 9:1-34
- The Woman Bent Double – Luke 13:10-21
- The Man with Dropsy – Luke 14:1-6
- The Resurrection of Lazarus – John 11:1-46
- The Ten Lepers – Luke 17:11-21
- The Two Blind Men – Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43
- The Ear of Malchus – Luke 22:49-51
General Healings of the Lord:
- Matthew 8:16-17
- Mark 1:32-34
- Luke 4:40-41 and Matthew 4:23-25
- Mark 3:7-12 and Matthew 9:35 and Matthew 14:14
- Mark 6:34
- Luke 9:11 and Matthew 14:34-36
- Mark 6:53-56 and Matthew 15:29-31
The Healings of the Apostles:
- The Lame Man – Acts 3:2-9
- Ananias and Sapphira – Acts 5:1-11
- Aeneas – Acts 9:33-35
- Dorcas Raised from the Dead – Acts 9:36-42
- Elymas the Sorcerer – Acts 13:11-12
- The Crippled Man – Acts 14:8-18
- Paul after the Stoning – Acts 14:19-22
- Eutychus Raised from the Dead – Acts 20:9-12
- Paul and the Viper – Acts 28:3-6
- Publius – Acts 28:7-8
General Healings of the Apostles:
Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16 and Matthew 10:1,8; 11:1; Mark 6:7,13; Luke 9:1,2,6 cf. Luke 10:1,9 and Acts 5:11-16; 19:11-12; 28:9.
So, of the twenty-two specific healing miracles of Christ mentioned in the Gospels, and the ten specific healing miracles of the Apostles mentioned in Acts (general mention of healings is made only a few times in the Gospels and Acts), consider the following miraculous healings of Christ and the Apostles in the Gospel of John:
- John 4:46-54 – This is the first of the recorded healing miracles of Christ and in it Jesus raises the issue of belief. See John 4:48!
- John 5:1-15 – There were many disabled people all around the pool that received no healing and notice that this miracle had nothing to do with the faith of the one being healed! Even more importantly, this miracle was the basis for the message of John 5:16-47.
- John 9:1-7 – This miracle was “put on trial” and became the basis for Jesus’ ultimate purpose for his miracles revealed in John 9:8-41.
- John 10:22-39 (Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-29) and Acts 4:1-22 – Even the enemies of Christ and His church readily admitted that the miracles were genuine.
When it comes to the manner, method and meaning of the miracles of healing recorded in the Gospels and Acts and that of modern-day claims of miraculous healing there is no comparison. (The "healing miracles" of modern-day religion "fake healers" like Benny Hinn and Kenneth Hagin and a cruel and foolish joke! They are heretics and charlatans!) In studying all of the miracles of healing in the New Testament, we find that Jesus and the Apostles: (1) Healed with a Word or a Touch. Sometimes they were not even present. (2) Healed Instantly and Completely. Even the unusual healing recorded in Mark 8:22-26 proves this very point and more! (3) Healed Specific Organic Disease and Even Raised the Dead! (5) Healed Everyone – Sometimes! Consider the general references to Christ and the Apostles healing everyone. But there were times when only one person in a multitude was healed. And then notice these two critical points:
- Not everyone had the gift of healing in the early church – I Corinthians 12:4-11,27-31
- Not everyone was healed in the early church: Stephen – Acts 7:54-60; James – Acts 12:2; Epaphroditus – Philippians 2:25-27; Timothy – I Timothy 5:23; Trophimus – II Timothy 4:20; Paul – Galatians 4:12-15; II Corinthians 12:7-10; etc.
Too many times Charismatics will claim that when someone fails to receive a miracle and be healed, the reason is they did not have enough faith. But, looking at true Bible miracles it is obvious that sometimes faith was necessary and sometimes it was not. Just consider the case of Elymas the Sorcerer in Acts 13:4-12! He was struck blind for his heresy and for his unbelief.
Therefore, we need to put “miracle workers” into full biblical perspective! Consider Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:14-22 … II Thessalonians 2:1-12 cf. I Kings 22:1-28; II Chronicles 18:1-27 (II Corinthians 11:14-15)! (Remember Pharaoh’s Magicians – Exodus 7:11-13,22-23; 8:7,18-19; Familiar Spirits – Leviticus 19:31; 20:27; I Samuel 28:1-25 [I Chronicles 10:13-14]; II Kings 21:6; Isaiah 8:19; Simon the Sorcerer – Acts 8:9-13,24; Jewish Exorcists – Acts 19:13-16; etc.) Be sure and read and study these verses - especially the passages in Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:14-22! Just because someone works a miracle does not mean we should be impressed. What we must test is the word of the person who works the miracle. Is it from God or is it from someone and somewhere else? God told his people that he may even test them through a false prophet and his miracles to see if they are listening to and loving the Lord their God with all their heart, or not!
The fact is the working of miracles by itself does not prove one single thing! Working a miracle or having a miracle worked on you does not mean that either you or that the miracles are of the Lord. Satan and his followers can work miracles. What is critically important is that we “prove the spirits”! See I John 3:24-4:6. What is important is that we prove the message of those who claim to work miracles. The message (i.e., the gospel that they preach and the doctrines that they teach) of the Charismatics when weighed according to the Word of God is always found wanting.
The sad truth is, with most Charismatics the fact that they supposedly work miracles and have experienced the miraculous in their lives appears to be more important to them than what the Bible actually says. Their faith is all too often based on subjective experiences rather than the objective truth of God’s Holy Word. Because they believe that they have the fullness of the Spirit of God – especially evidenced through claimed miraculous gifts – they frequently manifest what can only be called a kind of charismatic arrogance in their faith. In other words, they seem to think they are right and you are wrong because you don’t have what they think they have – they've got "it" and you don't. What is more, some typically appear to believe that they actually can’t be wrong because they think that having the "Spirit" within them “proves” them to be right and you to be wrong. There is no winning any argument based upon Scripture with them because they believe that the “Spirit” (and the feelings and miracles that “Spirit” produces) in them trumps the Spirit in you. It is almost as if some of our Charismatic friends actually appear to believe that they are practically infallible in their doctrines and beliefs! The real question is, what exactly is the “Spirit” that fills the Charismatics and is “it” from God or not?
Healing and the Atonement
One of the most serious misunderstandings of the Charismatic Movement is the belief that miraculous physical healing is a part and promise of the atonement. As supposed “proof” for this view reference is made by them to I Peter 2:24:
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”
But, the problem is, there is absolutely no reference to miraculous divine healing in this verse! Such is merely assumed by the Charismatics. This verse does not say, “By his atonement all your physical sickness and disease will be healed.” What is referred to in context is the salvation of our souls. When Christ died on the Cross what Jesus bore in his body was our sin, not our physical disease. What is being “healed” in the atonement is our sin-sick spirits. Sin is the ultimate deadly spiritual “disease.” It should be noted Peter says, “you have been healed” (past tense) not “you are going to have and experience ongoing physical healing in your bodies.” That our bodies (not just our souls and spirits) are indeed included in redemption is certain. But that will take place in the Resurrection. And that will be miraculous! See Romans 8:11,18-25. (Note Romans 8:23 – “we eagerly wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”) Consider I Corinthians 15:1-58.
Notice should also be made to Isaiah 53:5 – “by his wounds we are healed.” This is not referring to physical healing as much as it is spiritual healing. Consider the contextual connection with Isaiah 1:4-6 where Isaiah begins his book saying that Israel was sin-sick and spiritually diseased. It is this that the Messiah came to “heal.” What many fail to understand is that “sickness” is a type and metaphor for the disease of the soul. In fact, when Jesus came to proclaim his kingdom he went about everywhere healing every kind of physical sickness and disease to prove that he was Messiah and that he had the authority of Heaven. In doing so he proved that he had the power of the forgiveness of sins in the saving of our souls. Consider Matthew 8:15-18 and Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26. It must be noted that in the healing of the paralytic the physical healing itself was to prove something far more important than just that Jesus could heal the sick – Jesus had the power to save us from our sins! What this means is that spiritual healing is always more important than physical healing and the physical healing of sickness and disease was pointing to the healing of our spirits in the salvation of our souls.
When Matthew quotes Isaiah 53:4 (Matthew says in his quotation, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Isaiah says, "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.") in Matthew 8:16-17, we find the Apostle telling us that in our Lord’s healing ministry this passage was fulfilled – past tense. We are not being told that Jesus was going to be doing this in an ongoing basis for all time. Again, physical healing was a type of the spiritual healing that the Cross would bring. In effect the physical healing ministry prefigured the greater spiritual healing ministry of our Lord.
In studying “Divine Healing” we must never forget that all healing is divine! (Please let that sink in.) Too many fall into the trap of thinking that the only way God can and must heal is through the miraculous and if it’s not miraculous then it isn’t divine. What? Who made up that rule? We also fall into the trap of thinking that physical sickness and even death is somehow an “injustice” to be fought against at any and all cost. Nothing could be further from the Truth! We need to put “Divine Healing” back into the perspective of the total picture of faith. Consider Romans 8:18-30. God is concerned about the problem of sickness, suffering, and death. But that is not what is most important to him and that is not what should be most important to us. See Philippians 1:21-24. But, there is more, we must not miss the practical lessons in all of this – Prayer and Divine Healing: The Example of Hezekiah – II Kings 20:1-11; Isaiah 38:1-22. So, the principle sometimes is, “pray and go to the doctor and take your medicine.” (What do you think the poultice was for?) Also consider James 5:13-16 cf. I John 5:13-15 (Philippians 4:4-7). And, sometimes the principle is, "call for the elders of the church and have them pray for you."
Jesus – Past, Present and Future
One last thing: Many Charismatics sooner or later go to Hebrews 13:8 (“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”) to “prove” that since God worked miracles in the past he always will. It should be noted that this passage in context is not saying anything about “miracles” – that is merely assumed by all too many. It should also be noted that “yesterday” God came down as a Man, was born of a virgin, and was made fully human with flesh and blood and bones. (And all that was indeed a miracle!) Does that mean that he is doing that today and will do so forever? Nonsense! Just because the Lord did something once, does not mean he has to keep doing it forever. What about the Resurrection of Christ? That resurrection was done only once and the truth of it stands forever! Does Hebrews 13:8 teach and demand that God keep doing the miracles of Christ’s birth, death on the Cross and glorious resurrection over and over? Of course not! Their truth stands once and for all, forever.
Hebrews 13:8 is not a “proof text” for the Charismatic contention that if God worked miracles once he must always do so. What is the truth of Hebrews 13:8? Very simply that the essence (i.e., the essential nature) of the Lord Jesus Christ in his very nature is the same as it has always been. The book of Hebrews actually tells us that God has worked in all kinds of ways and means throughout history to accomplish his purposes. See Hebrews 1:1-4. Just because God has done something at one point in history does not mean that he has to do that same thing throughout all of history. Just because he has worked miracles through men’s hands in the early church does not mean that he must do so in the modern-day church history. Sometimes it appears that the real problem is that many just don't have true faith. They think they must see and experience miracles and they apparently believe that on-going miracles are an essential part of the church of the gospel. But Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." (John 20:24-29) Who has the greater faith?
Summary and Conclusion
The real problem that many who insist that God must still work miracles have is really with the principle of the authority of Scripture. (Be sure and study, "It Is All About Authority.") Too many individuals are not satisfied with the final revelation of God in Christ and His Word and they are more interested in some miracle than they are in the Message of the Gospel. Because of this attitude, they stand condemned: II Thessalonians 2:1-12 (For an interesting story that illustrates the principle of II Thessalonians 2 see I Kings 22:1-28; II Chronicles 18:1-27. Consider also Jeremiah 14:14; 23:16,26; Ezekiel 13:2,3,17; etc.) … II Corinthians 11:13-15 cf. Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22. See Luke 16:19-31. Consider Matthew 12:39; 16:4; etc.
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit (false) miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
(II Thessalonians 2:9-12)
What we ultimately find with most who claim miraculous spiritual gifts for themselves is that sooner or later they go beyond the authority of the Word of God in their faith and practices, and they blame it on the Holy Spirit. Many Charismatics actually believe that their faith allows them to go beyond the Word of God because to them the “miracle is more important than the message.” Many actually believe that the Spirit in them is guiding them in a way that is beyond the Word of God and thus the Word of God is secondary in their life of faith and religion. Some even go so far as to supposedly give us “new revelations.” The problem with all such revelations is that they are either not new or they are not right. When compared to the Word of God these “new revelations” are just not according to the Truth. And the “Spirit” that all too many claim is anything but “holy.” Consider the warnings of I John 4:1-3 (II John 1:7-11) – “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist which you have heard is coming and now is already in the world.”
There is one last thing that needs to be clearly understood: In this study no one is saying that God cannot (or does not) work miracles today, or that the Lord cannot (or does not) answer prayer, or that God cannot (or does not) heal people today, or that the Lord does not work in the world today according to his Providence and Power. No one is saying that! What the Scripture clearly teaches, however, is that no man or woman today is working (i.e., performing) miracles or is in possession of the miraculous spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit such as the gifts of healing or prophecy or the gift of tongues. Too many in the religious world today are obsessed by miracles and are seeking for signs. Our Lord said, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for miracles!” See Matthew 12:39; 16:4. So, what are you asking for? What are you looking for? What do you really want?