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Don Stewart :: Why Don't Believers Today Perform the Same Miraculous Works as Early Christians?

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Don Stewart

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The Bible records that the early Christians performed mighty works.

And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people . . . So that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed (Acts 5:12,15,16).

These miracles were not limited to the apostles. Stephen, who was not an apostle, also performed miracles.

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8).

Caused Belief

The New Testament says the miracles caused many to believe in Jesus. The signs that they performed were not denied by the unbelievers. After one particular miracle, the religious leaders concluded:

What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it (Acts 4:16).

Though there are those who contend that the same miracles are occurring today, they are certainly not happening with the same regularity as in the New Testament period. Moreover it is not the normal experience for any church or believer. Why don't we see the same type of things happening today? Should the believer expect to see these miraculous signs? The following answers are given for the lack of miraculous deeds performed by the church today:

1.The miracles were limited to the apostolic age as a confirmation of the truth of the gospel.

Sin and a lack of faith on the part of believers keep miracles from occurring.

Miracles are still possible but not the norm.

Limited To The Apostolic Age

Among the reasons for the miracles was to establish the truth of the gospel. There are verses that speak of the confirmation of Christ's message by miracles.

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (Hebrews 2:3,4).

If the confirmation of the gospel were the only reason for these miracles, then after the word had been confirmed there was no further need for signs. Some people argue that this is why we do not see the miracles performed today: B. B. Warfield gave a classic statement of that position:

Had any miracles perchance occurred beyond the Apostolic age they would be without significance; mere occurrences with no universal meaning. What is important is that the Holy Scriptures teach clearly that the complete revelation of God is given in Christ, and that the Holy Spirit who is poured out on the people of God has come solely in order to glorify Christ and to take the things of Christ. Because Christ is all in all, and all revelation and redemption alike are summed up in him, it would be inconceivable that either revelation or accompanying signs should continue after the completion of that great revelation with its accrediting works (B.B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles, Banner of Truth Trust, 1918, reprinted 1976, pp. 27,28).

This argument sees the purpose of miracles as limited to confirmation of Christ. If that were the purpose for the miracles, then we should not expect see modern-day miracles. Yet, if this were the purpose of the miraculous gifts, we should expect to see it every time, or at least more often, than it does occur in the New Testament. If that were the case, we should expect to see the miracles on every occasion of the early presentation of the gospel.

Sin And Lack Of Faith

There are others who feel the lack of miracles lay not so much with God but with man's spiritual state. People have refused to believe in God for the miracles and that is why they do not occur. Yet, this position also assumes that miracles should be the norm for the New Testament era and the Bible does not portray it that way.

Possible Today But Not The Norm

It seems better to take the position that miraculous signs could have intensified during various periods of the history of the church without dying out altogether. Miracles, on the order of those performed by the apostles, have not been the norm for the church age. There have been reports of some of these miracles occurring on occasion, but their frequency and verifiability has not been the same as with the apostolic times.

While it does not seem right to rule out the possibility of modern-day miracles, we should not expect this to be the norm.

We conclude:

1. The apostles clearly performed miracles, but miracles were not the norm.

2. One reason these signs were performed was for the establishment of the truth of the gospel.

Some believe that the confirmation of the gospel was the only reason miracles were performed. Once the message had been confirmed, miracles of that order ceased. However this argument does not fit the facts.

4. Others see the lack of miracles as due to sin and faithlessness in the church.

5. It is better to realize that miracles are not the norm for the church age, yet still can occur on occasion when God sees fit.

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