Have Miracles Ceased?

Paul Smithson

There are men and women who claim to perform miracles today. Preachers on T.V. supposedly demonstrate the power of miraculous works on the sick and afflicted. Many people are confused as to whether these things are true or false. So, in our study we ask the question, "Have Miracles Ceased?"

First let us define our terms. What is a miracle? A miracle is "an act of God superseding or suspending a natural law." Many use the term "miracle" in a very loose way, contrary to the biblical concept of the word. To some, almost everything is a miracle; from the trees budding in the spring, to the birth of a child. But these things are not actually miracles. A miracle is not a work of nature or an effect resulting from natural law. Neither should we confuse a miracle with God's providence. Providence is God working, but through a natural means.

The birth of a child is a working of natural law, not a miracle. Though it is a marvelous thing, child birth is simply the working of God's natural order set forth in the beginning-seed bearing fruit after its kind (Gen. 1-2). An example of a work of providence would be the birth of Samuel in answer to barren Hannah's prayer (1Sam. 1). God's hand is seen in Hannah being able to conceive, yet she conceived through a natural means. The virgin birth of Jesus was a miracle. This went beyond the working of nature or providence, it was super-natural.

We learn from the Scriptures that the purpose of miracles were two fold; to cause men to believe in the Lord (Jn. 14:11; 3:32), and to confirm His word (Jn. 20:30-31). Jesus promised His disciples the ability to perform miracles in order to confirm the word they would preach (Mk. 16:15-20). We learn from the New Testament that these miracles were performed and did indeed confirm the gospel that was proclaimed (Heb. 2:2-4).

The apostle Paul, however, spoke of a time when these miraculous gifts would pass away. In 1Cor. 12:8-10 nine spiritual gifts are mentioned, including prophecy, tongues, and knowledge. In the next chapter Paul states, "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (1Cor. 13:8-10).

Note the apostle speaks of the partial being done away when the perfect comes. Some, who try to say miracles still exist, say that the reference to "that which is perfect" speaks of Jesus. But here Paul isn't speaking of Jesus. If so why speak of Him as a thing instead of a person-- "that which is perfect"? The word "perfect" refers to that which is brought to completion, wanting nothing. The thing in the context that would eventually come to be perfect or complete, in contrast to that which was then only partial, is God's revelation. At that time God's revelation was only partially known through prophecy, tongue speaking, etc. It however, would eventually be completed, written down, and preserved.

Today we have God's complete and perfect revelation-- the Bible. Thus, miracles have ceased just as the Lord's apostle foretold. More on Miracles next week.

The fact that miracles are not performed today can be seen in the way in which miraculous power was bestowed in the first century. The New Testament reveals two means by which miraculous power was bestowed upon men; the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the laying on of hands by the apostles. The apostles were promised the Holy Spirit (Lk. 24:49; Ac. 1:1-5) and received Him with power on Pentecost (Ac. 2). Of course the apostle Paul, as a special chosen apostle, also received the Holy Spirit (Ac. 9:17; Gal. 1:11-12). To show God's acceptance of the Gentiles, Cornelius and his household received the Holy Spirit (Ac. 10:44-47; 11:15-18). This was the last New Testament occurrence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (being in the late 30's, early 40's A.D.).

About 30 years later the apostle Paul declared that there is "one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). About that same time the apostle Peter wrote about water baptism which saves (1Pet. 3:20-21). Both Paul and Peter were inspired apostles and would not be in contradiction to one another. So the "one baptism" of Paul would by necessity be the water baptism of which Peter spoke. This is the baptism that Jesus commissioned the apostles to administer and also the baptism that we read of in all the conversions of the New Testament.-- it is the one baptism of today.

Yet there are those who claim to have received something other than the one baptism. Some claim that they have received a baptism of the Holy Spirit. But one can be assured, in light of the Scriptures, there is no man or woman on earth today who has ever received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If anyone today had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit they could do all the miraculous works the apostles did and could speak by inspiration. But there is not a person in the world that can do so today, for God no longer baptizes with the Holy Spirit. His purpose for miracles was fulfilled and they have ceased.

The only other way one could perform the wonderous works of the Spirit was by the laying on of hands by the apostles. The apostles were the only ones in the Jerusalem church who could work miracles until they imparted the power to others. (Ac. 2:43: 5:12). In Ac. 6:6 we read of the seven deacons performing miracles only after the apostles laid their hands on them. Philip, one of those chosen deacons, was performing miracles in Samaria (Ac. 8:6), but he could not impart this power to others. It was only after he sent for the apostles Peter and John, and they came and laid hands on the new converts, that the Samaritans received the miraculous power (Ac. 8:15). It is evident that only the apostles could impart the power to work miracles to others. Everyone else, like Philip, even though they had received the power, could not bestow that power to someone else. The apostles have been dead more than 1900 years. When the last apostle died that ended the passing on of the miraculous power.

As the word of God was completed so ended the generation of those who had received miraculous power. By the time the last apostle died the New Testament had been written. God's revelation was complete and perfect. No longer was there a purpose for miracles and they would thus cease as the apostle had foretold (1Cor. 13:8-10). A concluding study of miracles next week.

Those who claim to speak in tongues today cannot speak in "tongues" as was done in the New Testament times. The speaking in "tongues" of the New Testament times was not unintelligent sounds. The apostles preached the gospel to more than 3,000 people from at least fifteen different nations and "every man heard them speak in his own language" where in he was "born." When they spoke in "tongues" it was not a conglomeration of jibber-jabber or babbling, they miraculously spoke words in languages unknown to themselves which brought conviction to the hearts of those who heard. (Acts 2). Where is the person today who can speak in fifteen different languages which they have never heard or learned?

Some today claim to have the gift of prophecy. To prophesy is to "speak forth the mind and counsel of God." In other words, it is God's revelation through men orally. This miraculous gift was necessary during the time prior to the completion of the New Testament Scriptures. However, now that the Scriptures are complete there is no further need for oral revelation. The Scripture warns not to add to or take away from its teaching (Gal. 1:8-9: 2Jn. 9; Rev. 22:18). Consider this... if we have God's complete and perfect revelation in the Scriptures, what could one prophesy today? If they prophesy less than what is in the Bible they have not prophesied enough. If they prophesy more than what is in the Bible they have prophesied too much. If they speak only what is in the Bible, that is not prophesying. The miraculous gift of prophecy ceased when the New Testament was completed, written down and preserved (1Cor. 13:8-10).

A favorite proof text resorted to by the advocates of modern miracles is Mk. 16:17-18 "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." The fact is this passage is simply further proof that miracles have ceased. Jesus made this statement to His apostles just before His ascension. Mark goes on to state, "And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs" (Mk. 16:20; cf. Heb. 2:3,4). There are many who claim to speak in tongues and to prophesy, but where are those who can "pick up serpents" and "drink anything deadly" and not be hurt? Where are those who can " lay hands on the sick" and see them instantaneously recover as those in New Testament times? Who like the apostles will raise someone from the dead?

God is at work today. His hand can be seen in the creation around us. His work of providence can be seen in answered prayers. His work in conversion through His powerful Word can be seen in the lives of Christians. Miracles however, have ceased, having served the purpose for which they were intended.