By Cecil Willis
We continue our study of miracles in this editorial with a study of the duration of miracles. By this, I merely mean, “How long were the miracles to last?” Many of the modern denominational bodies declare that miracles are still being performed today. Other individuals believe that miracles were for a definite purpose, that they served their purpose, and were discontinued. This article shall try to show that miracles were performed for a temporary purpose, and are therefore not performed today. Later we shall study the so-called miracles of today.
We can best understand the duration of miracles by learning what they were performed for to begin with. For example, God created the first man and the first woman, but all men and women have not been created in this manner. After Adam and Eve were created, children were born to them by a natural process, just as you and I were born into the world. So after God’s purpose concerning Adam and Eve’s creation was served, God did not create others. So it is with miracles in the New Testament age. They were for a specific purpose, and after that purpose was completed, miracles were done away.
It is as when one erects a scaffold in putting up a building. The scaffold is not a permanent part of the building, but as soon as the building is completed, the scaffold is removed. Miracles were a scaffolding about the giving of God’s revelation to man. When the revelation was completed, the scaffolding of miracles was no longer necessary. The miracles authenticated the revelation, and once this was done, there no longer was a need for the performance of miracles.
Purpose of Miracles
Once again let us refer to the purpose of miracles, for in studying the purpose of miracles we can ascertain how long they were to be performed. First, miracles were performed as an evidence of divine power. Jesus Christ came to this earth, and advanced the claim that He was the Son of God. God did not expect the people to accept this claim without sufficient evidence; hence, Jesus worked miracles to prove that He was God’s Son. Jesus said, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do them, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (Jn. 10:37,38). So the miracles were to produce faith on the part of those who witnessed them, and to vindicate Christ’s claim to deity. The final miracle, or at least the conclusive one, was His resurrection from the dead. Paul said, concerning Jesus, that He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). So Christ’s claim was definitely established. Miracles are not needed today to establish Christ’s claim to deity.
But neither are they needed today to produce faith. If the miracles that our Savior produced are not adequate to produce faith in our hearts, even if miracles were performed today, they would likewise be inadequate. The apostle John said, “Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:30-31). John states that the reason why his account of Christ’s life was written was in order that when one reads of the miracles performed by Christ, he may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. Now, if miracles are needed today to make one a believer, then John wasted his time in writing this Gospel account, because he thought his Gospel account would do this. But we know that the word of God is adequate to persuade one of Christ’s deity. But some might reply that if they could witness the performance of a miracle today they would believe. But Jesus, in Luke 16, stated that if the people on earth refused to hear Moses and the prophets, they would not be persuaded even if one were to be raised from the dead. If one will not accept the testimony that God has chosen to give us, neither would he be persuaded if God were to give him yet other testimonies.
Now that Christ’s deity has been established, and His miracles recorded, what need is there yet for the performance of miracles? Friend, there is no need. And those who think there is are doubtful of God’s ability to do by the past miracles what He said would be done by them. The so-called miracles of today that are being palmed off on a gullible public are not even directed at serving any purpose except that of a vital element in a fund raising campaign. Do not be deceived; these fellows are carrying off the money with them. A friend of mine attended one of these meetings in which the “healer” only requested that six one-gallon buckets be filled with ten dollar bills. That is not bad pay for an evening’s work!
But another reason why miracles were performed was to confirm the word spoken. In Heb. 2:3-4, Paul said, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? Which having at the first been spoken by the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing wiitness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will.” It should be remembered that at the time these miracles were being performed, all the revelation of God had not been given. In fact, at the time they were begun, none of the New Testament books had been given. So one could not turn to the inspired Scriptures and prove the truthfulness of his message. So God bore witness with them. God showed to the auditors that the spokesman had divine sanction by enabling him to do signs and wonders which no man could do without divine power. God bore witness by empowering his servants to do supernatural deeds, and thus he confirmed their works. So when Paul wrote back to the Corinthians he could say, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Cor. 12:11-12).
Another passage on this same point is Mk. 16:19-20. After Jesus had given the great commission, we read: “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken unto them, was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed.” God confirmed their word by the signs which followed. This is the same thing as when Paul said God bore witness with them. The word “confirm” means “to make firmer, establish, strengthen, to render valid by formal assent; ratify, to administer confirmation to, to give new assurance of the truth, verify, or corroborate.” So God was giving new assurance to their words by giving them power to work miracles.
But how does this understanding of the purpose of miracles bear unto the length of time they were to last or the duration of miracles’! It does in this manner. Once the word was confirmed, nothing can be added by a reconfirmation. “When testimony has once been confirmed by an oath or in other acceptable or legal manner it does not need to be done again. A witness sworn in once before the court does not need to be sworn in again but upon that one confirmation can complete his testimony and it will stand. An instrument once notarized according to law does not need to be notarized again and again. A check once certified does not need to be certified again. The word of God once confirmed does not need confirmation again” (Cogdill, Miraculous Divine Healing, pp. 18-19). However, if some man is preaching some doctrine other than that found in the Scriptures, and is claiming for it divine origin, then he needs to confirm it with miracles. But if he is preaching only the confirmed word of God, there is no need for him to attempt to reconfirm the already confirmed word of God. So when one attempts to prove the divine authority of his message by working miracles, he is admitting that it is some new doctrine which he is teaching, for if it were taken from the Bible, it would need no such confirmation. So miracles are not needed today to confirm the word, and consequently are not performed today.
That Which Is In Part
We want to study one other passage in this article that has great bearing on how long these miraculous gifts were to last. That Scripture is found in 1 Cor. 13, but as an introduction to that statement, let us notice a reference in 1 Cor. 12. During the time of miraculous power, certain gifts were bestowed upon different individuals within the church. The same gift was not given to every person. In 1 Cor. 12:8-11, these nine spiritual gifts are enumerated: “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh the one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” These were all miraculous gifts. But these different gifts were not all possessed by the same individuals. The Spirit gave to each man as he willed. In 1 Cor. 12:29-30, Paul asked, “Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” These are rhetorical questions implying that all do not. These gifts were given “in part.” They were divided to the various members of the church.
But in the following chapter, we find Paul stating that these gifts which were given in part were to be done away. He said, “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether they be knowledge it shall vanish away. For we know in part; and we prophecy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:8-10). Paul is not saying that prophecies shall fail to be fulfilled, but that they shall be done away, or that languages shall no longer be spoken, but that the divine power to speak in languages which one had never learned would be done away, and the miraculous knowledge shall cease. But when is this to be? Some would have us believe that this refers to the coming of Christ. But Paul did not say that these miraculous powers will be done away when “he” that is perfect is come, but when “that” which is perfect is come. In the Scriptures the term “perfect” mean completeness. When that which is complete is come, that which is in part, namely spiritual gifts, shall be done away. Arid James refers to the law of Christ, as the perfect law, or the complete law. He said: “But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing” (Jas. 1:25). So when Paul refers to that which is perfect, he is speaking of the completed revelation. So when the Scriptures were completed, these supernatural gifts were done away. This is exactly what Paul said. And Jude adds that the system of faith was once for all delivered, which implies that it is not yet being delivered today. So if the perfect revelation has come, and it has, then that which is imperfect, or in part, the spiritual gifts, have been done away. And all those who claim to be working these various kinds of miracles are making false claims, and are imposters.
Truth Magazine XXI: 7, pp. 102-103
February 17, 1977