By Edgar J. Dye
My purpose herein is three-fold. First, to define “miracle” as used in the New Testament. Second, to demonstrate my faith in and acceptance of the miraculous as found in the New Testament. And third, to refute the modern-day miracle-worker’s claims that miracles such as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, tongue-speaking, physical healing of the body, etc., do not occur today.
Definition of Miracle
The word “miracle” in the KJV is a translation of the original word semeion (meaning, “a sign”), or dunamis (meaning, “power, powers, act of power, or mighty deed”), or teras (meaning, “wonder”). It is used in the New Testament to describe an act that is both contrary to and in addition to natural causes. So it may be defined as: “the instantaneous effects produced by the power of God in the suspension or alteration of natural law,” or “an extra-ordinary event or effect in the physical world manifesting a supernatural work of God,” and not just “an outstanding or unusual event, thing or accomplishment.” The latter we still have with us today on every hand, but not the former. Therefore, what many call miracles in our day are not, but simply natural (though unusual or outstanding, out of the ordinary) occurrences. The unusual is not necessarily miraculous. To be more specific, miracle means: “An interposition of immediate, instantaneous, supernatural power into the affairs of men which cannot be explained on the basis of any known natural laws.”
Miracles Through Human Agency A Fact of the Past
That Jesus Christ, while on earth, the apostles of Christ, and many Christians of the early New Testament church had miraculous powers and performed a variety of miracles is readily admitted by this scribe.
Jesus, during His personal ministry on earth, miraculously turned water into wine (Jn. 2); fed the 5,000 (Mt. 14; Mk. 6; Lk. 9); stilled the tempest (Mt. 8; Mk. 4; Lk. 8); walked on water (Mt. 14; Mk. 6; Jn. 6); cast out demons (Mt. 8; Mk. 5; Lk. 8); and raised the dead (Lk. 7; Jn. 11).
Besides the above, He miraculously healed a variety of physical afflictions, such as blindness, dumbness, lameness, leprosy, epilepsy, dropsy, withered hands, and curved spines. In fact, without fail, He manifested and demonstrated miraculous powers in the five fields of nature (Mt. 8:26); disease (Mt. 4:23); demons (Mt. 8:16); material things (Mt. 15:15-24); death (reversed it, Jn. 11:43, “; inflicted it, Acts 5:1-11).
Also, “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12; Acts 5:12) were wrought among the people on every hand and in a variety of ways, such as healing the lame, the crippled and the sick (Acts 3; 14; 28:8-9); inflicting blindness (Acts 13); imparting the Holy Spirit to baptized believers (Acts 8:14-18); suffering no harm from deadly vipers (Acts 28:1-6); and raising the dead (Acts 20:9-12).
Early Christians were promised, did possess, and manifest miraculous powers (Mk. 16:17,18; 1 Cor. 12, 13, 14). One thing all these miraculous deeds had in common is the fact that they were all performed by God through human agency or human instrumentality and were in time past, not the present.
Miracles: Their Purpose
Such miracles had a very definite but limited purpose or purposes which have a direct bearing on the duration of miracles through human agency, as well as on the bogus claims of modem-day miracle-workers.
In the case of Jesus they were to establish and confirm His Messiahship and to produce faith in Him as the Son of God and Savior of sinners (Jn. 5:36; 3:2; 10:25,37,38; 14:10,11; 20:30,31; Acts 2:22; 10:38; Mt. 3:16,17; 17:5; Mk. 2:4-12). In the case of the apostles of Christ they were to establish and confirm the divine authenticity of their message of salvation, to enable them to receive and reveal God’s word to men, and in order to make believers of their hearers (Mk. 16:19,20; Heb. 2:3,4; Jn. 20:30,31; 14:26; 16:13; Acts 2:32,33; 4:16,29-33; 5:12-16; 8:6-13; 19:11-20; Phil. 1:7). Also, they were to protect them until their mission was fulfilled (Acts 28:1-6; Mk. 16:18a). In the case of the early New Testament Christians they were for the purpose of enabling them to carry on their spiritual work in the absence of an inspired apostle and before the will of God was revealed fully in written form (Rom. 1:11; 1 Cor. 12, 13, 14; Eph. 4:11-15).
Miracles were not a part of “the fruit” as such, but rather given to bear testimony to the Son of God and to “the faith of Christ,” the gospel of God, which is God’s power unto salvation to believers, both Jew and Gentile (Mk. 16:19,20; Heb. 2:3,4; Acts 10, 11, 15). Modem-day miracle-workers (?) neither recognize the divine purposes of miracles through human agency, nor do they believe Bible teaching regarding them. While New Testament miracles were used to confirm the divinely revealed spoken word, the so-called modern-day miracle-workers try to reverse the procedure by trying to use the divinely revealed and confirmed spoken word to confirm their bogus miraculous claims. The claims of such miracle-workers are totally unsubstantiated, wholly unreliable, and absolutely false because they are completely out of harmony with Bible teaching on miracles through human instrumentality!
The Age of Miracles Through Human Agency Has Ceased
The modern-day miracle-workers (?) lay claim to that which was never promised to believers in general; namely, Holy Spirit baptism, which was promised to the apostles only (Lk. 24:44-49; Acts 1:1-8,26-2:4); they have no proof of, cannot, and have never been able to, demonstrate proof of their claim of healing the sick. They also pervert New Testament teaching on tongue-speaking, which was the ability by divine aid to speak human languages which they had not learned by the natural, normal means of study (Mk. 16:17; Acts 2:4,6,8,11; 1 Cor. 14:13,27,28). The kinds of tongues spoken by modern claimants are not languages of men but some unintelligible, uninterpretable jargon or gibberish wholly unknown to and contrary to Bible teaching about tongue-speaking. Even if they claimed to mean and do only what the New Testament teaches that Christians of the apostolic period did in the performance of miracles, their claim must still be denied and refuted because the Bible teaches that the age of miracles through human agency has ceased to exist.
1 Corinthians 12 enumerates the spiritual gifts available to early Christians. 1 Corinthians 14 regulates their use when they were in force. And 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 reveals their duration or how long they were to exist and when they were to cease. We herein affirm, and offer several reasons why we affirm, that these spiritual gifts and the age of miracles through human agency have ceased.
They have ceased because the need for such gifts has ceased. The need ceased because their purposes have been fulfilled. The basic purposes of miracles in any age of Bible history, from Creation to and including the New Testament age, were to start things and to reveal and confirm the truth, God’s will and way in the matter started. Once started, revealed, and confirmed, the purposes of the miracles connected with the events were fulfilled and they ceased to function. This includes their purpose in the cases of Jesus Christ, His apostles and their message and work recorded in the New Testament, and early New Testament Christians referred to earlier.
They have ceased to exist because the means of obtaining them has ceased. There never has been more than two ways to receive the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit and miraculous gifts such as tongues and physical healing through human agency – that of directly from heaven, as in the case of the apostles and the household of Cornelius (Jn. 14:26; 16:7-14; Lk. 24:47-49; Acts 1:4-8; 2:1-4; 10:44-48; 11:1-8; 15:7-9); and that of receiving them through the medium of the laying on of the apostles’ hands (Acts 6:68; 8:14-19; 19:1-6; Rom. 1:11; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).
Since spiritual gifts are not bestowed upon anyone today directly from heaven; since the baptism of the Holy Spirit was limited to the apostles of Christ; and since we have no apostles of Christ living in the flesh today to confer them on anyone, both the means and the gifts have ceased.
We affirm they have ceased to exist or to be operative today because it is a matter of New Testament prophecy (1 Cor. 13:8-13). Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 declares the enduring quality of love – the most excellent way – in contrast to the transitory nature of spiritual gifts. He declares in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 that love never fails, but the gifts which are transitory will pass away. Whether these gifts be prophecies, tongues or miraculous knowledge, they win pass away (v. 8). Then v. 9 states why this must be: We know in part now (that is during the age of these gifts) and we prophesy in part. And v. 10 teaches that these transitory gifts which are in part will pass away when the perfect (completed thing) comes.
Then in w. 11, 12, he illustrates the meaning of this contrast. V. 11 illustrates it by referring to the time when he was a child and the time when he had become a man. The time when he was a child, speaking, feeling and thinking as a child, corresponds to the time when the church had spiritual gifts. The time of manhood, when he put away all that belonged to childhood, corresponds to the transitory spiritual gifts that were done away with when the complete revelation of God came, much like the scaffolding used to build a house is done away when the house is finished. In v. 12 he again illustrates it by referring to the contrast between seeing in a mirror and seeing face to face. The period of spiritual gifts which were in part corresponds to the imperfect reflection in a mirror, with “now” referring to the time when the church had the gifts. The completed thing (the Bible, the complete revelation of God’s will) corresponds to seeing face to face, with “then” referring to the time when the complete revelation had come.
Finally, in v. 13, he sums up this important lesson on the most excellent way of love, where he mentions “faith,” “hope,” and “love,” as the three things that abide “now,” i.e., after the gifts have passed away and that which is perfect has come. “Now” in v. 13 refers to a logical sequence, not to time. It is not temporal, but logical, meaning “in this condition of things, these things being so.”
One final proof that miracles through human agency have ceased is the fact that they are not present today and no one can demonstrate that they are! That they were at one time doesn’t prove they are presently in existence, nor that God intended for them to be!
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 12, pp. 365-367
June 18, 1987