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Preached:

Memorial Parkway church of Christ (Huntsville, AL) (July 2008)


LR

The Cessation of Miraculous Gifts


Christianity 101: Lesson 12
Introduction
A. We live in a confused religious world. So often, we are told conflicting things
about the same subject; thus the large number of “churches” around us, all
teaching different things about the same subjects. Sadly, so few are willing
to be honest or even open when it comes to thinking about a subject in view
of God’s Word.
B. One of those topics is our subject for this lesson. As per our assignment in
this series, we will be looking at miracles.
1. Recently, I was listening to a program by a denominational preacher, as
he introduced a series on miraculous gifts. I was eagerly anticipating his
lessons for many reasons, but one reason was because of this lesson
tonight.
2. I was upset, though, when he began the series by showing the listeners
two stacks of books. Remember that I was listening to this sermon, so I
couldn’t see what he was doing, but it seemed like he had a stack on
either side of the pulpit.
3. He introduced the series and said that this was an issue with which he had
struggled for many years. I thought that was fine to admit. People need
to know that preachers struggle from time-to-time, too.
4. Then he told them what the books were. One stack, he said, was from
authors that believed that miraculous gifts are still available and used,
and that we should be seeking our miracle. The other stack was by
writers who said that, no, miraculous gifts—at least in the way they are
described in the NT—have no place in the church today.
5. Now here is the part that upset me. I listened to most of that series
despite what the preacher did next. He told the listeners that he had
struggled with the issue, BUT he felt that it was time to preach on it. He
wanted to consider both sides (which is fine), but (now notice) he wanted
to just “see where we end up.” To give a basic summary, he was saying
that he still didn’t know if there were miracles today, but he was going to
preach on it anyway and just see where he ended up. That’s truly sad!
6. Tonight we are going to examine miracles, most specifically in the NT, and
then we will do our best to answer the question as to whether or not NT
miraculous gifts are still available and used today. I know we can find the
answer to that question in the NT.
C. Before looking at modern claims and the Bible, let’s make sure we
understand what we are talking about.
1. As with so many other words, the word “miracle” is used in dozens of
different ways today, and those usages can cloud our thoughts as to what
we are thinking about when we talk about miracles in the Bible.
2. Some use the word often when something amazing happens. We often
hear it thrown around in the world of sports. If one team defeats another
that it was not supposed to beat, we refer to it as a miracle victory. We
talk of miraculous comebacks or catches. I think we understand that we
are using the word miracle in that way just to refer to something amazing.
3. More often, though, people use the word miracle in reference to
something medical. Most specifically, we will hear the word used in
reference to the birth of a baby. “He’s our little miracle,”or “That was a
miracle” are statements we hear often just after the birth of a baby. While
totally amazing and awe inspiring, birth happens all over the world every
day. It is amazing, but it is not a miracle.
4. Some of you know that our oldest child, Mary Carol, is adopted, while
Turner, our son, is not. Because he was born after we were told we could
not have children, many call him “a miracle baby.” It was amazing, but it
was not a miracle.
5. So, just what are we speaking of when we refer to something as a
miracle? Bernard Ramm gives this definition that I think is short, but
accurate: “A given, transcendent, supernatural act of God’s power.” Let’s
break that into its parts briefly:
a. “Given.” A miracle is an act that can be reported. While we may not
be able to explain it completely, there are details that are a part of the
action.
b. “Transcendent.” It is above the ordinary. We sometimes speak of
someone in sports having a transcendent moment when he or she has
a great game. From that use of the word, we can get something of the
meaning. It is out of the ordinary. More than that, it is above the
ordinary.
c. “Supernatural act.” This is where we remove such things as the birth
of a child from the realm of a miracle. Having a child, while amazing,
is a natural action. The same is true of great feats of athleticism.
While they may be amazing, and I, personally, may not be able to do
them, they are still natural acts. A supernatural act is something that
is removed from the realm of acts of nature.
d. “God’s power.” When we read of something in the Bible that is a
miracle, it might have been done through the agency of man, but the
miracles could not have happened without God. They are acts from
Him.
6. If I may, let me give one more similar definition. This was written by
George Fisher in his Manual of Christian Evidences. He defined miracle in
this way: “A miracle is an event which the forces of nature—including the
natural powers of man—cannot of themselves produce, and which must,
therefore, be referred to a supernatural agency.”
a. I wanted to add this definition because of one thing Fisher pointed out,
b. He makes mention that a miracle cannot be done by “the natural
powers of man.” He admits in that definition that man can do miracles
(or, rather, he couldin certain times), but not because of man’s own
power. A miracle only comes from the supernatural; it only comes from
God.
D. With the word defined, let us take the next few minutes to discuss miracles in
the Bible, and then tackle our question: have miracles as they occurred in the
Bible ceased, or can men still perform miracles with God’s aid and sanction?

I. First, let’s notice the Biblical Classifications of Miracles.


A. In 1998 Wayne Jackson made a list of several types of miracles
recorded in the Bible. (This list is included in an article upon which I
relied heavily for this lesson.) He then listed them with just a few of
each type. All told there are ___ miracles according to ____ recorded in
the Bible. So the following examples of each type of miracle are by no
means meant to be exhaustive of the type.
1. Firstly, there are supernatural acts of creation. Obviously, the
clearest example is found in Genesis 1-2. God spoke everything
material into existence and those things came to be. Psalm 33:9
teaches, “For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it
stood firm.” Creation from nothing by the power of words is a
miracle.
2. Secondly, there were, as brotherJackson words it, “miracles which
involved a temporary and localized suspension of laws regulating
nature.” As we think of this category, we might list events such as
Jesus stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee, or God causing the
sun to stand still so His army would win a grand victory.
3. The third category, and the one that so many still attempt to claim
to perform, involved physical healing of the body. This was done by
Jesus and His apostles, as blind people were given sight, lame and
maimed were healed completely, and those who had issues with
bleeding were healed.
4. Next, and in extension of physical healing, were those instances
where the dead were raised. Elijah raised the dead in the OT,Jesus
raised Lazarus, a widow’s son, a centurion’s daughter and others.
Paul raised Eutychus. The most famous, though, was the
resurrection of Jesus Himself, which serves as the basis of belief in
Him, as Paul reminded us in a powerful way in First Corinthians 15.
5. Fifthly, there were many miracles in the NT that dealt with
exorcising demons from those who were afflicted. At times, these
were connected with physical maladies, too. Maybe the most
famous here was the man from whom Legion was sent, and those
demons then went into a herd of swine.
6. Sixthly, there was the ability to change or overcome certain
material things. Jesus turned water into wine as His first miracle (or
“sign”) in John 2. We also see Jesus appearing on the other side of
a sea, and He was able to feed huge crowds of hungry students
with the meal of a small boy.
7. Seventhly and finally,there are several miracles dealing with the
plant and/or animal kingdoms. Recently I was asked to speak on
one of these miracles, where the donkey ridden by Balaam was
miraculously given the ability to speak human language and
communicate with the prophet. Jesus also withered a fig tree with
the words He spoke.
B. While there are many different categories of miracles, those that are
still claimed in our modern day are most often in two categories:
physical healings and demon exorcism.

II. Before we look at some modern claims, though, let us look at


some Characteristics
A. When Jesus, or others in the Bible, performed miracles there were
certain attributes or characteristics for which we must look if we are to
find miracles today. If –note—ALL of these things are not present, then
the one claiming to perform the miracle is not performing a miracle.
B. What are those characteristics?
1. Firstly, and in many ways most importantly, the miracles performed
in the Bible were fact. To say it a different way, I could choose not
to believe in the power behind the miracle, but I could not choose
to believe it did not happen! Maybe this is best seen in Mark 2.
Jesus healed the man who was paralytic whose friends brought him
to the Lord. Many objected to what Jesus did and were constantly
fighting with the Lord, but they could not object to the fact that a
miracle had occurred. As the conclusion of that account, those who
did not like what was occurring commenting, “We never saw
anything like this!” (Mark 2:12).
2. Add to that, there were always witnesses to these miracles, and
many of them were hostile to the miracle or to Jesus, as in Mark 2.
Miracles were not done in secrecy,rather they were done in front of
people. This was not for show, but for proof and for teaching. Make
sure you note the fact that the witnesses were credible, not “in on
some hoax.”
3. Add to that this fact: when NT miracles were performed, the results
(or effects) were immediate. Often, we read words such as
“straightway” or “immediately.” Think of modern miracles-workers.
There are often claims that there was some pronouncement or
healing and then, at a later service, someone comes to the stage
and says, “The next week I started to get better,” or “Within a
month the problem was gone.” Do you not find it interesting that
the effects of the miracles in the Bible were immediate?
4. Add to that, the miracles performed in the NT had more than just
temporary interest. 2000 years later, not only are we still talking
about these miracles, we are still affected by them. They still hold
our interest and build our faith. Modern claims of miracles might
hold some interest for a few weeks, months, or even a few years,
but usually that interest is no more than the neighborhood or town
in which the claim was made. The miracles of the NT hold the
interest of the world two millennia after the fact.
5. Add to that, every miracle was subject to perception by one or more
of the human senses. There was not some “mystical” effect; the
effects were real and discernable. It is worth noting that these
effects did not even need a second opinion! The results were
obvious. For example, when Jesus turned water in wine, it was
tasted and noted to be the best (John 2:9).
6. Add to that what might be the most important factor for when we
turn our attention to modern claims: there is not possible secondary
source or cause. For example, we have the ear of the servant of
the high priest that was cut off in a brutal fashion. Jesus did not
sow it back on. He simply touched the ear and it was fully restored.
There is no other way to explain this type of action than as a
miracle.
7. Finally, add to our list that miracles in the Bible were done with a
moral and worthy motive involved. There was not a financial
motive, as is so often the case with claims today. The miracles
were done with the idea of proving God was powerful, that the
words spoken were from Him, and with the healing of the people in
mind. One example comes from the life of Peter and John. When
Peter healed a lame man, there was no money involved. In fact,
Peter wasn’t interested in money, since he didn’t have any!

III. That Leads us to a Key Word: “Confirmation”


A. Mark 16:20 teaches us the reason for the miracles performed by Jesus
and those with Him: “And they went out and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs
that followed.”
B. We also have the same idea in Hebrews, near the beginning of that
great book of belief. Hebrews 2:3-4 speaks of the word, “spoken
through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also
bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by
manifold powers, and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His
own will.”
C. In both references (Mark 16 and Hebrews 2) the word “confirmed”
comes from the same Greek word.
1. The word, bi-bye-ah-o, according to Strong’s can mean, “to make
firm, establish, confirm, or make sure.”
2. According to Colin Brown, the word carries with it the idea of
evidence that establishes the validity of the divinely-given word.
D. So, if the miracles confirmed the word, then they accomplished their
purpose and there is no reason to even attempt to perform miracles
today!

IV. Cessation
A. With all that in mind, let us not turn our attention to our theme for the
evening: have miracles ceased or do they continue to be performed?
B. Before answering that question, let me quickly dismiss one thing. I
have heard people say things to this effect: “If we could just have
miracles,or bigger miracles today, more people would believe and
come to Jesus.” I think we can dismiss that quite easily for one very
simple reason: there is no way we could ever do greater miracles than
those Jesus did, and not many believed Him! Miracles confirm the
word and we have the records of dozens of miracles to help us
establish our faith in Jesus.
C. Now, as we begin to answer our question, let’s turn to the end of the
Gospel according to John. Near the end of that book, John wrote his
purpose statement. John 20:30-31 tells us that Jesus did many signs
which were not recorded, but that the ones in John “are written that
you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” The words
“are written” translate one Greek word that carries with it the idea of
written in the past, but with an abiding effect. In commenting on this
passage, A.T. Robertson said John,“has had precisely this effect of
continuous and successive confirmation of faith in Jesus Christ through
the ages.” Why do we bring that up? Because if the recording of these
miracles is what God, through John, gave us to believe in Jesus, then
why would we need miracles today? These miracles continue to be in
the Bible, confirmed and true, and should be sufficient to help us
establish and grow in our faith in Jesus.
D. But the teaching of miracles ceasing is more fully discussed in two
other passages in the NT that we want to spend the balance of our
time studying.
1. The first is rather lengthy, and runs from First Corinthians chapter
12 through chapter 14. We will focus our attention on certain
verses only in chapters 12 and 13.
a. In 12:8-10, there are nine spiritual gifts listed. Those verses say,
“For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and
to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of
healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of
miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the
distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and
to another the interpretation of tongues.” We don’t have time
this evening to discuss what each of these means, but suffice it
to say that, if there are miraculous gifts today, they would all fall
under one of these 9 categories.
b. Now, from that list, Paul uses 3 in chapter 13, representative of
the entire list. Most scholars say that the 3 mentioned in
chapter 13 (prophecies, tongues, and knowledge) were
considered by some in the first century to be the best gifts. In
other words, those who were blessed with these miraculous gifts
had an even more special miraculous gift than the others. Keep
that in mind.
c. Paul goes on in chapter 13 to teach that these gifts would cease.
Some do not think these have ceased, but many will concede
that they will end. So we need to figure out when they will end,
or if they have already.
d. Read with me from verses 8-13: “Love never fails; but if there
are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are
tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done
away. For we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when
the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a
child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a
child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For
now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know
in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully
known. But now faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the
greatest of these is love.”
e. In verse 9, you will notice that Paul says that the spiritual gifts
were made known “in part.” In other words, they were made
known in a gradual way. The word translated “in part” can have
its meaning expanded to “the part as opposed to the whole,”
which helps us as we look further into these verses. Now, Paul
says that these “in part” things will be done away with. Since
these “in part” things are the supernatural gifts, the Bible is
saying that these gifts would cease. But the question again is
when?
f. The chapter goes on to say, “When that which is perfect is
come.” “Perfect” is better translated “complete” or “whole.”
J.B. Phillips translates this part of the verse: “When the Complete
comes, that is the end of the Incomplete.”
g. Brother Wayne Jackson, again in his work that I have used
heavily as a source says, “So, we may reason as follows:
Whatever the in-part things are partially, the whole is, in
completed form. But the in-part things were the spiritual gifts
employed in the revealing of God’s will (word). Therefore, the
whole was God’s will (word)—as conveyed through the gifts—
completely revealed.”
h. In other words, what Paul is saying is, “These gifts are being
used to confirm or prove the revelation—the Word of God. When
the revelation is complete, there will be no more need for the
gifts and they will cease.” W.E. Vine said about this: “With the
completion of Apostolic testimony and the completion of the
Scriptures of truth (‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints,’
Jude 3), ‘that which is perfect’ had come, and the temporary
gifts were done away.”
2. The other passage we will look at more briefly is found in Ephesians
4. In this passage, Paul is speaking of several kinds of gifts, but he
specifically mentions spiritual gifts. Note verses 7-8: “But to each
one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore it says, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captives, and
He gave gifts to men.’” In the next verses, we are given a list of
some of the works that Jesus gave “some” to do: apostles,
prophets, etc.
a. We are then told, at the conclusion of the list in verse 12, “for
the perfecting of the saints.” The word “perfecting” means,
“complete qualification for a specific purpose.” Arndt and
Gingrich give it this way: “to equip the saints for service.”
b. Now, as in First Corinthians 12 and 13, we are again told of the
duration of these gifts. Verse 13 tells us they will be “until we all
attain to the unity of the faith.” The word “Until” (or “till” in
other translations) carries the idea of a certain amount of time
up to which something was to last. In this case, we would have
the desired amount of time, assigned by God, through which
these gifts were to last.
c. So what was the time frame God assigned? Until there is a unity
of the faith. “The faith,” as we often see it in Scripture, means
the entirety of the Gospel system. In other words, Paul was
teaching that these gifts were to last until the entire Gospel
system was unified. We might say it better this way: the gifts
were to last until the NT was completed as a unit.
3. One final thingsthat comes as a result from these two passages.
Keep in mind that those who performed these miracles were
allowed to do so by the power of God and the words they spoke (if
they had gifts of prophecy or tongues) were divinely given. In other
words, the words spoken by those with these gifts were just as
binding as the words being divinely penned that would come to us
as the NT. So what? If miracles are still going on, then the words
being spoken are binding and the NT is not the final word from God.
This clearly violates Jude 3 and other passages which teach us that
the NT was finished and unified.
E. So, from a careful and honest examination of the NT record, we can
determine that miracles were a certain activity for a certain time and
were not needed—and did not continue—after the collection of the NT
writings.
1. There are some who say, and I have read several articles from
people who have said similar things to this, “Well, if we had
miracles today, more people would believe. Why would God end
that which would cause people to believe?”
2. There are two responses we may give:
a. First, it is worth noting that not everyone believed the miracles
that were done in the Bible. Even those who witnessed first-
hand the miracles done by Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others did not
believe. So, if we had miracles today, it would not necessarily
mean we would have more believers.
b. Second, we need to teach people to respect and love the Biblical
record. The miracles that are recorded in the Bible bear witness
to the fact of God’s power, love, provision, providence, care and
compassion. If we who love the Bible would do our best to
preach not just the specifics of the miracles, but also the God
behind the miracles we would be more effective, I think in
bringing people to Him through the record of those miracles.

Invitation
A. We do not have miraculous gifts today. They were for a specific time.
B. But the same God Who gave those gifts is still just as powerful and just as
ready to save.
C. He may not have His word confirmed through miracles today, but we have
the Bible, complete and filled with all we need to be saved and live for Him.
D. Have you given your life to the Father?