DO MIRACLES STILL HAPPEN?
By Wayne S. Walker
There is a large denominational “mega-church” building just off a freeway not far from Dayton, OH, where we used to live. It has a large, noticeable flashing sign. One evening while driving past this building on our way to visit a gospel meeting, we saw that the sign had the following message: “Miracles still happen, Mark 16:17; There is power in the name of Jesus.” For years, many radio evangelists have told people to expect miracles. Various religion-based television shows promote a belief in miracles. Pentecostal and Charismatic religious organizations claim that miracles still happen. The real question is, what does the Bible say?
Certainly, Christians believe, in contrast to modernists and humanists, that miracles did occur in Bible days. In Mark 16:17-18, the passage referred to on the sign which we saw, Jesus promised His apostles the power to perform miracles. “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.” However, does the Bible teach that we can expect such miracles today? We shall examine the question by looking at four aspects of New Testament miracles.
The Purpose of Miracles
What was the purpose of miracles? It was to confirm the word as it was being revealed (Mark 16:19-20). However, the Bible plainly says that the word “was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:1-4). Once something is confirmed, it needs no further confirmation (see Galatians 3:15). When a person makes a will and confirms it with witnesses, he does not need to do anything else to confirm it, unless he changes it. And God’s word does not change; it is “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude v. 3). Because God’s word has already been revealed and confirmed with miracles, it does not need to be confirmed on a continual basis with further miracles.
The Duration of Miracles
What was the stated duration of miracles? As noted previously, miracles were a part of the process of God’s word being “revealed to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:3-5). Thus, the duration of miracles was only for that time when the word was being revealed and confirmed. In 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Paul points out that the miraculous gifts were revelation “in part,” but “when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” The word “perfect” means complete and simply refers to God’s revelation in its entirety. We now have “the perfect law of liberty’ (James 1:25). Therefore, there is no longer any need for miracles.
The Nature of Miracles
What was the nature of New Testament miracles? Just consider a few examples of healing. They were instantaneous and complete (Matthew 8:1-3, 20:29-34). There was no gradual improvement over time. They often involved diseases and conditions that were quite open and visible (Luke 6:6-11, 22:50-51). There was no room for any doubt about the reality of the illness. And they were so powerful that even enemies could not deny them (Matthew 12:22-24, Acts 4:16). If miracles are still for today, then we should be seeing these same results today, but we do not—not to mention walking on water, feeding five thousand, raising the dead, etc.
The Means of Receiving Miracles
What was the means of receiving power from God for miracles? For the apostles, it was being baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-8, 2:1-4). The only other recorded instance of Holy Spirit baptism in Scripture was Cornelius (Acts 10:44-46). The purpose there was not to endow with power but to show that God accepted the Gentiles (Acts 11:15-18). And the fact that Peter likened it to what happened “at the beginning” indicates that Holy Spirit baptism was not a common, everyday occurrence and hence not for everyone.
Paul had the same power as the other apostles (2 Corinthians 12:11-12). Whether he received Holy Spirit baptism or not is debatable, but however his power came, it was directly from Christ and not from man (Galatians 1:11-12). For everyone else who had miraculous power, it came by the laying on of the apostles’ hands (Acts 8:14-18, Romans 1:11, 2 Timothy 1:6). As there are no living apostles today, there is no means to transmit miraculous power today. Besides, we do not need miracles performed today because we already have God’s divine record (John 20:30-31).
Yes, we certainly do believe that “There is power in the name of Jesus.” However, this power is not found in the performing of miracles today, but in the gospel. Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Therefore, rather than waiting for some miracle, we need to learn and obey the truth of the gospel in order to be saved and be right with God.
—taken from Biblical Insights; March, 2001; Vol. I, No. 3; p. 17