Personal Experience in the Charismatic Movement
After becoming a Christian, from a Jewish upbringing, I did not know any other Christians. I went to college and met other Christians for the first time. However, they were mostly Word of Faith. I did not know any better and assumed these people grew up in church and knew the Bible better than I did, so I trusted them. I lacked discernment. They taught me that the gifts continued and pressured me and others to speak in tongues. The pressure was so great that those that did not speak in gibberish had to question our salvation.
When I was a child, my sister and I would go shopping with my mother and we heard people speaking Spanish. The two of us would pretend to speak our own language, which was nothing more than nonsense, gibberish. With peer pressure, that is what I did in college. Everyone was overjoyed as if I just got saved. Then I noticed that as more started to speak in tongues, then others started getting a Word of the Lord. Not to be outdone then others started speaking prophecies. I noticed a spiritual pride in everyone trying to prove they are more spiritual than others with more extreme gifts.
After many years, I was at a Bible study and overheard two men talking about spiritual gifts. One man told the other that not everyone believes that all the gifts continued today. I never heard that before. So, I went home that night and decided to read 1 Corinthians 12-14 in one sitting in context and asked if it told the gifts continued or not. I realized that much of what Paul wrote is condemning the spiritual pride that I saw in college. It became clear that the context revealed that tongues did cease and much of what Charismatics argue is taking those passages out of context. Paul is actually condemning the same behavior of the Charismatics today.
Why Charismatics Get so Upset
For many Charismatics, the issue of cessationism is a highly personal issue. This makes it a very emotional issue for many. Though many will claim that it is a theological issue when pressed they often resort to an emotional appeal of their personal experience. It is always difficult to debate personal experience because most often rationality goes out the window.
When discussing cessationism, those that argue for the continuation of the charismatic gifts often rely on a logical fallacy, called begging the question. The begging-the-question fallacy occurs when the conclusion is assumed to be true in the argument’s premises. Begging the question is a type of logical fallacy that is based on assumption rather than on concrete evidence. Charismatics will proclaim that one must accept that these gifts continue to order to see them in Scripture.
Let us define miracles. Michael Aubrey states, “Foundational to the biblical narrative is the concept that God acts supernaturally with his created world. Sometimes God acts directly in the world. Sometimes he uses an intermediary. Many times these supernatural acts carry with them a greater significance or meaning for the people involved. In informal parlance, a miracle takes place when any of these things take place when the natural order is disrupted by the supernatural. In scripture, however, miracles also function as God-inspired revelations to those who witness or hear of them. The revelation might be an aspect of God’s character. It could be a facet of God’s purpose for the person or people involved. As such, miracles in the Bible are not merely the violation of natural laws. They are divine acts of communication about God and his purposes.” 1Aubrey, Michael (2020). All the Miracles in the Bible. Faithlife.
“Determining what a miracle is grounded in four questions:
- “Can the supernatural event be attributed directly or indirectly to a supernatural agent?”
- “Does the event function to reveal the power or identity of the supernatural agent?”
- “Does the event have a noticeable and, perhaps, alarming effect on the natural world?”
- “Is there a human intermediary performing the supernatural event?”
“These four criteria are ordered in terms of their priority. The first criterion is the most important and most necessary. All miracles require a supernatural agent. Miracles, whether directly or indirectly, must have a supernatural agent behind them. The revelatory criterion is almost as important, but it can be, at times, more ambiguous.”
“The third criterion involving the miracle’s impact on the natural world is true in the vast majority of cases.”
“The final criterion—involvement of a human intermediary—is the expected norm, but it is not absolutely necessary.” 2Aubrey, Michael (2020). All the Miracles in the Bible. Faithlife.
Normal Geisler says, “Each of the three words for supernatural events–sign, wonder, and power delineates an aspect of a miracle. From the human vantage point, a miracle is an unusual event (“wonder”) that conveys and confirms an unusual message (“sign”) by means of unusual power (“power”). From the divine vantage point, a miracle is an act of God (“power”) that attracts the attention of the people of God (“wonder”) to the Word of God (by a “sign”). In short, “A miracle is an act of God that confirms the message as true, substantiates the sermon, and verifies the Word of God.” 3Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles in the Bible. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 480). Baker Books.
Purpose of Miracles
Norman Geisler states, “Those who accept biblical miracles, debate among one another as to whether the special gift of miracles used to confirm a revelation from God has ceased since the times of the apostles. The issue has significance for apologetics. First, the existence of apostolic, sign-gift-type miracles today raises the issue of whether the New Testament miracles uniquely confirmed the truth claims of Christ and the apostles, as recorded in Scripture. Second, if miracles that confirm divine truth claims exist today, are truth claims they accompany to be accepted on a par with those of Scripture? Has divine revelation ceased?” 4Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 468). Baker Books.
Note that Geisler acknowledges the purpose of the miracles was to “confirm a revelation from God”. This is the purpose of humans doing miracles. They are to prove that what they are saying is from God by doing something that no man can do. He also raises some important questions. If the gift of miracles continues today, then what are they revealing and would that be Scripture? If miracles are used to prove new revelation then it is God speaking and must be equal in authority with the rest of God’s Word. Many continuationists want to argue that the miracles done today are from God and even God speaking, yet deny that it is equal to Scripture. Then what makes Scripture inspired if not God’s speaking (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?
2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Paul is clear that we do not need miracles for the completion and equipping of our faith, but the Word of God. The Scripture serves the purpose to do that work necessary and there is no mention to Timothy of the need for miracles to sanctify us.
Miracles by definition are not normative
Let us look at the arguments of the proponents of continuationism. The claims of the continuationists are that miracles must be normative and expected today. Geisler points out four arguments for their case and we will look at each one in detail. He says, “Proponents of the proposition that miraculous gifts do exist in the church today defend their claims on several arguments:“
- “God performed miracles in redemptive history. They are recorded from Genesis through Revelation. There seems to be no reason to believe they would cease arbitrarily with the apostles
- “God has not changed (Mal. 3:6). Jesus is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). If the miracle-working God has not changed, then why would miracles cease?
- “Jesus spoke of continuing miracles. He said, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). In his commission as recorded in Mark, Jesus said that miracles would accompany the gospel as it went out (John 16:17–18).
- “Miracles manifest God’s greatness (Exod. 7:17) and glory (John 11:40), to deliver God’s children in need (Exod. 14:21; Deut. 4:34; Acts 12:1–19), and to communicate God’s messages to his people (Ex 4:8; Heb. 2:3–4). These needs continue today.” 5Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 468). Baker Books.
God performed miracles in redemptive history
Miracles were not performed as often as people think. There was only a total of 265 miracles in the 4,000-year history of the Bible. And when you limit that to human agents performing the miracle that number drops to 81 miracles over 4,000 years. Clearly, miracles were not ordinary in the Bible nor should they be today.
We will see in a bit that miracles were extremely rare in biblical history. Therefore, to argue that something that rarely happened over 4,000 years, now should happen regularly is not logical. If miracles continued until today then logically they should not be so extremely rare as they were in past history. Past history, as we will see, reveals that there were only some 100 out of 4,000 years that had miraculous activity.
Geisler says, “Logically there is no connection between past and present miraculous occurrences. Even during thousands of years of Bible history miracles were clustered in three very limited periods:
- The Mosaic period: from the exodus through the taking of the promised land (with a few occurrences in the period of the judges);
- The prophetic period: from the late kingdom of Israel and Judah during the ministries of Elijah, Elisha, and to a lesser extent Isaiah;
- The apostolic period: from the first-century ministries of Christ and the apostles. Occurrences of miracles were neither continuous nor without purpose.
Theologically, the three great periods of miracles have certain things in common: Moses needed miracles to deliver Israel and sustain the great number of people in the wilderness (Exod. 4:8). Elijah and Elisha performed miracles to deliver Israel from idolatry (see 1 Kings 18). Jesus and the apostles showed miracles to confirm the establishment of the new covenant and its deliverance from sin (Heb. 2:3–4). Those miracles occurred at special times for special purposes is no argument that they will exist when these conditions no longer prevail.”6Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 469). Baker Books.
The real problem with this argument is that miracles were an anomaly in history, not the norm. So, if this argument were valid then we should never see miracles at all because humans rarely did miracles. If the norm is what we should expect, then the norm would be almost no miracles.
God has not changed
To argue that God has not changed therefore these gifts must continue is a logical fallacy. It is a category error. The Scripture is clear that the nature of God and Jesus will not change. However, that does not mean that how God works with His creation does not change. God has changed the way he works with His creation many times.
The nature of God and the way God works with humans are two different categories and to claim they are the same is not logically valid. If that were the case then it would be a sin to not keep kosher for that is another way that God works with humans. Since God does not change must we keep kosher, keep the festivals, etc? After all, God did command the Israelites to keep the Passover forever (Exodus 12:14), so why do we not keep it? To claim God changed those laws are not for the church is to acknowledge that God DOES change how He works with humans over time. Therefore, gifts fit into the same category.
God never changes, but his program on earth does. There are different stages of his redemptive plan, and what is true in one stage is untrue in another. We no longer are required not to eat some forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:16–17). We need not offer a lamb as a sacrifice for sins (Exodus 12). We no longer are led by the twelve apostles and Paul; rather we have God’s final revelation in Scripture. Note that 2 Corinthians 12:12 calls miracles “the signs of an apostle.” 7Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 470). Baker Books.
Jesus spoke of continuing miracles
This argument assumes the conclusion that it is seeking to prove. It is a begging-the-question fallacy. Those that claim that when Jesus spoke of His followers doing “greater things” as referring to miracles are interjecting that into the white space of Scripture. That is to attempt to make the Bible say what one wishes it said rather than what it actually says. The key to the “greater things” is tied to Jesus going to the Father. It is greater precisely because there will be NO miracles to attest to what we do that makes it greater.
“Jesus did promise that miracles would continue after he left, but he did not say they would endure until his return. It was specifically to the apostles that he made the statement of John 14:12. The antecedent of you in that promise is the eleven who were with him. His promise to give the Holy Spirit’s baptism, with which came the gift of tongues, was only given to the apostles (Acts 1:1–2). Only the apostles received the fulfillment of this promise at Pentecost (Acts 1:26; cf. 2:1, 7, 14). Nonapostolic instances of tongues witness the salvation of the first Samaritans and Gentiles and those on whom the apostles laid hands (cf. Acts 8:17–18; 2 Tim. 1:6) or in the presence of an apostle’s proclamation (Acts 10:44; cf. 11:15). The reference to special “signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12) makes no sense if these gifts were possessed by anyone other than the apostles or those on whom Christ and the apostles conferred the gift.” 8Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 470). Baker Books.
There is nothing in the text of John 14;12 that is claiming that Jesus is speaking of miracles. If one was to continue reading Jesus’ own explanation of this statement in John 16:19-24, they would see that He means joy, not miracles. Jesus states clearly that the work is joy in suffering, not miracles. This argument is logically invalid and ignores Jesus’ explanation of the meaning. We should stick with what Jesus says He means by what He says.
2 Corinthians 12:12 – The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
If miracles are “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor 12:12) and there are no apostles anymore, then there is no purpose for the sign of the apostles.
Miracles manifest God’s greatness
Lastly, to argue that miracles must continue today to manifest God’s greatness, and glory, to deliver His children, and communicate God’s message ignores the fact that God has not left us without His Word. We have not only God’s self-revelation but also Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, to indwell and illuminate His Word to us.
“Desire Does Not Prove Fulfillment. There is a desire for ongoing miracles, but not all felt needs are real needs. Job received no miracle cure. Nor did Epaphras. Nor did the apostle Paul, earnestly desired to be healed (2 Corinthians 12).
“When compared with the periods that prompted miracles in Bible times, there is no actual need for sign miracles today. Miracles confirmed new revelation (Exod. 4:6; John 3:2; Acts 2:22). But the Bible is so much more than the New Testament saints possessed, and it is complete and sufficient for faith and practice.
“Though miracles can manifest God’s greatness, glory, and deliverance, he accomplishes these things in other ways. The heavens declare his glory and greatness (Psalm 19; Isaiah 40). Spiritual deliverance is accomplished in the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). God works through general and special providence without suspending natural laws.” 9Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 470). Baker Books.
Miracles are not the only way to manifest God’s greatness, glory, deliverance, or message. Suffer manifests most of these things. So does, evangelizing, worshipping, fearing the Lord, and so much more. The last point of this argument is interesting because we have the written Word of God. As we will see later, miracles point to the Word of God. The primary focus is the Word of God and not the miracles that point to the Word of God. That is where people lose focus.
The Nature of Miracles
The Problem of Sign Gifts
The claim that apostolic sign gifts still exist fails to distinguish between the fact of miracles and the gift of miracles:
|Gift of Miracles||Fact of Miracles|
|Limited to Bible times||Occurs any time|
|Done through humans||Done without humans|
|Confirms new revelation||Does not confirm revelation|
|Apologetic value||No apologetic value|
“The view that sign miracles ceased with the apostles does not demand that God has performed no miracles since the first century. It argues that the special gift of doing miraculous feats possessed by the apostles ceased once the divine origin of their message was confirmed.” 10Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 470). Baker Books. The fact that miracles still exist today does not negate that the gift of miracles ceased with the apostles.
The Characteristics of New Testament Miracles
“First, New Testament miracles were instantaneous. When Jesus or the apostles performed a miracle the results were always immediate. The man with a lifelong infirmity was told to “ ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked” (John 5:8–9). Peter took the hand of the beggar, and “instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong” (Acts 3:7). Even the two-stage miracle of Mark 8:22–25 took moments, and each stage had immediately intended results. There is no gradual healing over days or weeks. They were all immediate.” 11Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 471). Baker Books.
Unlike those today who claim the healing that is often partial, incomplete, and psychosomatic. This is in contrast to the biblical gift of miracles. Biblical miracles were immediate, complete, and performed on anyone, believer or not. This is a sharp contrast to the supposed miracles performed by people today.
“Second, a New Testament miracle never failed. A miracle is a special act of God, and God cannot fail. Further, there is no record that anyone who received one relapsed into the condition again. If there had been relapses, enemies of the gospel message would have quickly used them to discredit Christ or the apostles.”12 Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 471). Baker Books.
Those “prophets” and “apostles” today claim that their prophecies are only about 80-85% accurate. The Old Testament would demand death for every one of them. For example, in 2020, every one of these prophets predicted Trump’s winning of the second term in 2020 and none of them saw Covid and its effects on governments. Those are some major failures.
And their excuse is to claim that New Testament prophecies are different than Old Testament ones and do not demand 100% accuracy. Said NO passage of Scripture ever! If the source of the miracle is God then He cannot fail. God knows all things. Therefore, any prophecy from God will be 100% accurate because that is the nature of God. So, if prophecies fail, that is evidence that they are not from God.
“Third, New Testament sign gifts as exercised by Jesus and the apostles were successful in all kinds of conditions—even incurable diseases and dead people. They healed people who were born blind (John 9) and even dead and rotting (John 11). Further, they healed all kinds of disease, not just the easier kinds (Matt. 10:8). Sometimes, they healed everyone brought to them in the entire area (Acts 28:9). It is a verifiable fact that no one today possesses the special powers of Jesus and the apostles to instantaneously cure all sicknesses and even raise the dead on command (Acts 9; 20). These special “signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12), along with the ability to give people the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18), special gifts (2 Tim. 1:6), and smite lying Christians with death (Acts 5), have ceased.” 13Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 471). Baker Books.
Today’s miracle workers have a clear limitation that those in the Bible never had. Today’s miracle workers require the “faith” of the person being healed to do the miracle. In the Bible, we see even people without faith being healed. This is because the gift of miracles was not based on the person receiving the miracle but on the person performing the miracle. Today’s miracle workers have it backward, for the simple reason that God is not giving the gift of miracles anymore.
“Fourth, unlike the miracles of apostolic times, modern miracles do not confirm new revelation, nor do they establish the credentials of God’s messengers. The person’s fidelity in obeying and proclaiming Scripture now establishes the message. Attempts to stress the miraculous or to claim supernatural gifts have now become a disqualifying, rather than a qualifying, mark. This is especially true among those who claim to foretell the future. For those who make such claims, the biblical standard for accuracy is absolutely no false predictions (Deut. 18:22). Since new revelation ceased with the apostles, prophetic and other miraculous claims should be seriously distrusted.” 14Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 471). Baker Books.
Miracles in the Bible
There are 265 miracles mentioned in the Bible. Jesus was the agent of 104 of them. That is 39% of all the miracles mentioned in the Bible were done by Jesus. The infinitely holy God of the universe became man. That is a central focus of all of history so it makes sense that these would be a unique period in history. Jesus was putting His Deity on display, which explains the overabundance of miracles during this time in history. His miracles were unique to point to His Deity and not the revelation of Scripture as the other miracles in the Bible did.
There are 178 miracles attributed to the Triunity. That is 67% of all the miracles mentioned in the Bible. That leaves us with 87 miracles done by created beings. Six of which are attributed to angels. Therefore, humans account for 81 miracles in the whole Bible. That is less than 31% of all the miracles in the Bible.
One thing that we can conclude is that miracles are definitely not normative in the Bible. In over 4,000 years of recorded biblical history, only 81 miracles are mentioned as done by humans. There were 23 of those in the New Testament. So, 28% of all the miracles recorded in the Bible by human agents are in a 30-year period. The 58 miracles left are primary in two periods of time; Moses and Elijah. Moses and Aaron make up 47% of the miracle in the Old Testament by humans and Elijah and Elisha make up 37%. Therefore, just during the life of those four men 84% of all the Old Testament miracles by humans.
In fact, the total miracles performed by humans outside of the time of Moses, Elijah, or the Apostles total 8 miracles. Again that accounts for maybe a total of 80 years of history. The conclusion that must be drawn is that miracles are extremely rare. So. the arguments made today for a continuation and normality of miracles do not fit with the Biblical record.
Miracles by Agent
When we look at the miracles in the Bible we see that the 265 miracles have 25 agents. Jesus led the charge with 104 miracles, followed by God with 64. However, after that, it drops drastically with Moses in third with 22. It only continues to drop from there.
Miracles in the OT by Human Agent
The New Testament covers about 50-60 years. So looking at the number of miracles by human agents during the 4,000 years of the Old Testament, helps to provide a view of the normative nature of miracles or not. There are less than a dozen agents of miracles in the Old Testament. Notice that two of these agents make up the major of all the miracles done by humans. Just those two make up 59%
We see that there were very few people throughout the Old Testament that were agents of miracles. This is a far cry from those that claim not only the continuation of miracles but their normative nature of them.
Miracles in the OT by Time Periods of Human Agent
When we consider that Moses and Aaron overlapped and did miracles together and the same with Elisha and Elijah. So, when we join them together we see something start to occur. Now those two time periods make up 84% of the miracles done by humans. That clearly proves that miracles are not normative, which as we already said is part of the definition of a miracle.
However, now we start to see that as miracles serve the purpose of pointing to something, we can start to see what they point to. What was unique at the time of Moses and Elisha? Both were at a time when there was a silence of written revelation and then the beginning of it. The miracles of the Old Testament, and even in the New Testament with the disciples, serve the purpose of vindicating the writers of Scripture.
Number of Miracles per Book
As we see the number of miracles throughout the Bible we see they are relatively few and only include a few books. There are only 20 out of 66 books of the Bible that contain miracles. That is less than 1/3 of the Bible books.
Number of Miracles per Book by Agent
When we look at the number of miracles by agents, we see that even though 1/3 of the Bible books contain miracles most of them are done as an act of the Godhead and not humans.
Number of Miracles per Book by Human Agent
Once we limit the number of miracles to human agents we suddenly reduce the number to 12 out of 66 books of the Bible, which is 18% of the books of the Scriptures.
Number of Miracles per Book Expanded
When we look at the total number of books of the Bible that contain miracles done by humans as compared to the total number of books, we can see that it is sparse.
Number of Miracles per Book Expended by Human Agents
However, once we limit it to human agents, it greatly decreases.
When we look at the total number of miracles throughout time we see that is it very limited. Clearly, miracles are not normative. In fact, thought out history miracles have been extremely rare.
Miracles Timeline by Human Agent
However, once we limit those miracles to human agents the number of miracles throughout history decreases dramatically. In fact, over 4,500 years we only see a total of 81 miracles performed by human agents. This is clearly not a normative situation.
The Waning New Testament Miracles
When it comes to the case of the fading of the New Testament miracles, the question is malformed. It is similar to the question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” The answer is to reform the question by correcting the fact that there are no “good” people. The issue with New Testament miracles is not that they faded. It is a fact that they were an anomaly in history.
We have now seen clearly that miracles are not normative and in fact, are extremely rare in the Bible. So when we discuss the waning of the New Testament miracles, we must understand that miracles themselves are an anomaly in history. During the early part of the church before the New Testament was fully written, we see miracles occurring. Continuationists argue that these gifts continue today. However, the question is, if they are to continue till today, then why did they fade during the early church period?
Miracles have only been active in three periods of history and the other two times they waned after a short time. Therefore, the norm would be for miracles to wane again once the Scripture begins to be written and vindicated by those miracles. The expectation, biblically, is not to expect miracles, unless more Scripture is being written. When we talk of the waning of New Testament miracles it must be understood that history does not support the norm of miracles.
The New Testament also provides evidence of this fact. We see Paul encouraging Timothy to drink wine and not water due to dysentery.
1 Timothy 5:23 (ESV) – No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
Why did Paul not heal Timothy? Why did Paul not tell Timothy to get healed? First Timothy is a later book written. By that time much of the New Testament existed. As we have seen that the purpose of the gift of miracles was for the vindication of the writing of Scripture, then by the time of 1 Timothy there was not much need for the miracles anymore.
By the time that Paul writes 2 Timothy we see that he leaves Trophimus ill at Miletus (2 Tim 4:20). Paul does not heal him. He left him and continued on with his missionary journey.
We can see other examples of miracles fading as more of the New Testament was written. One of the strongest examples would be Paul’s friend Epaphroditus. Paul was in prison. In prison, a prisoner would get the most basic of necessities, old bread, and water. There was no care for the prisoners from the guards. The system was set that the friends of a prisoner would bribe the guards to get food and comfort for prisoners.
Epaphroditus was that person for Paul. He was sent by the Philippians to provide food and care for Paul while in prison. However, he got very sick. Paul even states that he was near death.
Philippians 2:25–30 ESV – I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Toward the end of Paul’s life, he did not heal Epaphroditus. The text makes it clear that he was very sick and meaningful to Paul but Paul did nothing but pray. He did not heal someone that was so necessary to him while in prison. The easiest explanation is that Paul could no longer do such miracles. That is fitting with the fact that miracles served the purpose of vindicating the writing of God’s Word and by now Paul’s writing did not need that anymore.
The Sufficiency of Scripture (Hebrews 2:1-4)
We must ask ourselves, what is the big deal if some people believe miracles continue today and are expecting to see them? This question assumes miracles are normative and we do not see that in Scripture or history. However, there is something greater at issue. When people focus on the miracles that served the purpose of vindicating Scripture rather than focus on Scripture, they have a lack of sufficiency of Scripture.
They are like the foolish people of Romans 1:24-25. They worship the creation rather than the Creator.
Romans 1:24–25 ESV – Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
God has given us all that we need for faith and practice in the Bible. We do not need anything more. To expect miracles is to miss the sufficiency of the Scriptures.
Do we need miracles to know God exists? No, we have the Word of God.
Do we need miracles to worship God? No, we have the Word of God.
Do we need miracles to know that God will care for us? No, we have the Word of God.
Do we need miracles to defend the faith? No, we have the Word of God.
Do we need miracles for anything for faith and practice? No, we have the Word of God.
The writer of Hebrews makes this argument in Hebrews 2:1-4.
Hebrews 2:1–4 ESV – Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
The word “attested” is an aorist, indicative making it a past tense event. The aorist verb tense is used by the writer to present the action of a verb as a “snapshot” event. The verb’s action is portrayed simply and in a summary fashion without respect to any process. In the indicative mood, the aorist usually denotes past time, while an aorist participle usually refers to antecedent time with respect to the main verb. So this attesting of miracles was a snapshot event in past history.
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear, as we have said throughout, that the signs, wonders, and miracles are tied to the revelation of Scripture. The revelation written in the past was attested in the past and since the cannon is closed we should not expect miracles to continue.
“Indeed, the apostles claimed this revelatory power (John 20:31; 1 Cor. 2:13; 1 Thess. 4:2; 2 Thess. 2:2; 1 John 2:19; 4:6), claiming the church was ‘built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). The early church recognized this authority and ‘they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching’ (Acts 2:42). The apostles were the eyewitnesses of Christ (Acts 1:22), even Paul (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:5–9). Since these divinely authorized channels of “all truth” died in the first century, it follows that divine revelation ceased with them. If revelation ceased, there was no longer a need for miracle signs of a new revelation.” 15Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 471). Baker Books.
“Arguments for the continuance of gift miracles miss the mark. While God does not change, his actions differ at different times. The purpose of signs and wonders was to confirm new revelation, but revelation ceased with the apostles. This is substantiated by the fact that no one since their time has actually possessed their unique power to instantaneously heal and even raise the dead. This does not mean God cannot do miracles now. But such miracles are not connected with any truth claims, nor are they a gift possessed by an individual.” 16Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 471). Baker Books.
Why is this issue so important? Because far too many Christians are focused on the miracle that is pointing to the Bible rather than focusing on the Bible Itself. This is to miss out on what God has provided for the Christian. When we focus on the wrong elements for spiritual maturity, we will eventually run astray. We need to make the Scripture the primary, and in fact, the only source of ultimate authority for faith and practice.
For more information on the subject of tongues, reference Biblical View of Tongues and Have Tongues Ceased.
Data for Charts
Miracles by Agents
(Note: 10 miracles had two agents, i.e. Moses and Aaron did the same miracle together. So those are counted twice.)
|Elijah (prophet)||847-798 BC||7|
|Twelve Disciples||30-90 AD||6|
|Joshua (son of Nun)||1300-1200 BC||3|
|Daniel (prophet)||711-621 BC||2|
|Exorcist of Demons||30-36 AD||2|
|Isaiah (prophet)||750-701 AD||2|
|Philip (evangelist)||30-90 AD||2|
|Samuel (prophet)||1105-1013 BC||2|
|Ananias (disciple)||30-90 AD||1|
|Israelites (the Conquest)||1300-1200 BC||1|
|Man warning Jeroboam||1000-900 BC||1|
|275 Total Agents|
Miracles by Book
|265 Total Miracles|
Miracles by Book by Agents
|Book||God||An Angel||Moses||Aaron||Joshua||Samson||Samuel||Unknown||Elijah||Elisha||Isaiah||Daniel||Holy Spirit||Jesus||Peter||12 Disciples||Stephen||Philip||Ananias||Paul||Barnabas||Totals|
Miracles by Time Period
- 1Aubrey, Michael (2020). All the Miracles in the Bible. Faithlife.
- 2Aubrey, Michael (2020). All the Miracles in the Bible. Faithlife.
- 3Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles in the Bible. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 480). Baker Books.
- 4Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 468). Baker Books.
- 5Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 468). Baker Books.
- 6Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 469). Baker Books.
- 7Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 470). Baker Books.
- 8Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 470). Baker Books.
- 9Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 470). Baker Books.
- 11Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 471). Baker Books.
- 12Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 471). Baker Books.
- 13Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracles, Cessation of Sign Gifts. In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (p. 471). Baker Books.