googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: And these signs shall follow them that believe

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

And these signs shall follow them that believe

The Bible records many instances of Jesus’ apostles, disciples, and believers performing miraculous events after His ascension: speaking in tongues, miraculous healings, casting out devils, etc. It even says believers would pick up serpents and drink poison and not be harmed (Mark 16:17-18). Is this a promise from Jesus to all believers?

Today, we do see people speaking in tongues, healing, and even handling snakes. But I don’t believe the events we see today are the same spiritual gifts given to the early church. First, we have to consider why Jesus performed miracles. Jesus Himself tells us why:

“But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.”
(John 5:36)

So the miracles of Jesus were to testify that the Father had sent Him. We see this theme in many of Jesus’ miracles. Consider Matthew 9:4-6:

“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.

Jesus here performs a miracle to demonstrate his authority from God – in this case, the authority to forgive sins. But why did the apostles and early church perform miracles? Pretty much, it was for the same reason. When Jesus commissioned the Twelve, look at what He said:

“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease… These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:1,5-8)

Jesus gave the apostles the ability to do miracles – even raising the dead! – as a sign of their God-ordained authority. We also see similar examples in the OT, such as in Exodus 4:1-8, where God commanded Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. Moses feared no one would believe God had sent him so God gave Moses miracles to perform as evidence.

When Moses led the people out of Egypt, there were no Scriptures. Likewise, when Paul began his first mission journey, there was no New Testament. In both instances, these men were speaking new revelation from God. The only way to show they had the authority to do this was by performing signs. Until the cannon of Scripture was finished, tongues and prophecy were the only way to receive new revelation from God. At Pentecost, for example, when people first began speaking in tongues, the Bible says they heard them “speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). Acts 10:46 says, “For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.” And Acts 19:6 says, “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” So the speaking of tongues was very closely linked to prophesying and magnifying God. These were miraculous gifts given by God.

Today, we have the full cannon of Scripture. Of course it’s true that God is still in the miracle business. But the time of the apostles and the prophets is passed. There is no new revelation from God. We have the Bible and that is sufficient to equip us to do God’s work and to know His will.

Obviously there are still those people who believe these kinds of miracles continue because there are still people who handle snakes, drink poison, and speak in tongues. But I also know that sometimes these people die from snakebites, which cannot be said of the God ordained apostles (Read about Paul’s snakebite in Acts 28:3-6). I’ve also not seen faith healers raising people from the dead as the apostles could (the claims of Todd Bentley not withstanding).

I certainly believe God is capable of anything. But what He can do is not necessarily what He does do. I'm the last person who would doubt the ability of God to perform miracles. God has a perfect place prepared for us. A place that is free of the Curse. This place is not our home and God doesn't intend for us to live here forever. While we're here, there will be death, disease, and suffering. Today, people DIE from snakebites and poison - even believers.

In Biblical times (both OT and NT), God gave us prophets and apostles to let His plan be known to us. So that we could be sure who was of God and who wasn't, He also gave them the ability to work miracles. But now we have the complete revelation of God and there are no more apostles or prophets. The need for signs has ended.

I do not believe that people anymore have the same authority Christ gave to the apostles or prophets. If anyone claims to be speaking the word of God, I will compare what he says to the Scripture. If he claims some new revelation, I will dismiss him outright. If he supposedly performs miracles, I will be all the more skeptical. The next miracle I’m waiting for is the return of Christ.

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