SHE BELIEVES THE MIRACLES OF
BIBLE TIMES ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE
by Claude A. Guild
The above title does not mean
the church today denies the miracles of creation, the flood, the walls of
Jericho story, the virgin birth of Christ or his resurrection. Miracles
confirmed the sonship of Jesus. "These are written that ye may believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. . ." (John 20:31). To disbelieve these
miracles and look for modern-day miracles outside the Book demonstrates our lack
of faith in the Bible and the Son of God it reveals.
Like scaffolding, a temporary
platform for workmen on a new building, miraculous gifts were temporary to
enable the early church time to mature and grow. Instruction had to be given in
the absence of a written, confirmed, complete and perfect revelation. These
gifts were to last "till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, unto the fullgrown man, unto the measure of the
stature of the fullness of Christ. . ." (Ephesians 4:13).
These gifts came through the
laying on of the apostles' hands. The apostles had to go to Samaria to lay hands
on those Philip had converted and bestow gifts on them, because Philip could not
do it (Acts 8:16). Paul laid his hands on twelve men at Ephesus and they spoke
in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6). The seven deacons, including Philip,
received the laying on of hands of the apostles (Acts 6:6). Paul laid his hands
on Timothy to enable him to receive a special gift (2 Timothy 1:6). Finally,
Paul longed to go to Rome, "that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to
the end ye may be established" (Romans 1:11).
It is very, very important that
we keep in mind the third-persons with reference to miraculous gifts. Only the
apostles could give the nine miraculous gifts (1 Cor. 12:4-11). The ones upon
whom they laid their hands could not impart the gifts to the third-person
Christians. If they could, why didn't Philip bestow the gifts on the Christians
in Samaria? Therefore, when the apostles died, their hands died with them and
the ability to bestow gifts by "the laying on of hands" died also.
We must keep in mind that there
are other measures of the Spirit. One, Christ possessed the Spirit "without
measure" (John 3:34). Two, there was the baptismal measure of the Spirit for
the apostles and the household of Cornelius (cf. Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10:44-45).
Holy Spirit baptism was always spoken of in promise and not commanded (Matthew
3:1; Acts 1:4-5). There is the general measure of the Spirit. I like to call it
the kinship measure of the Spirit. This measure is received by every child of
God and makes us kin to God (cf. Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor 6:19-20; 3:16-17; Acts 5:32;
THE NINE GIFTS
The miraculous gifts are named
in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. He states: "For to one is given through the
Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge according to the
same Spirit; to another faith in the same Spirit; and to another, gifts of
healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another
prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; and to another divers kinds of
tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues. . . dividing to each one
severally even as he will" (1 Cor. 12:8-11). These gifts relate specifically to
the infant church when it did not have the completed revelation of God as we
have today. There was a special need then that does not exist now. The gifts
were to confirm the word (Hebrews 2:1-4). They helped the church grow and keep
out false teachers (Eph. 4:11-15).
The word preached by the
apostles was oral. They didn't have a New Testament like we have today. It was
being written. Therefore, they had these gifts and could bestow them on others
to confirm the spoken word. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a
salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing witness with them both
by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers and by gifts of the Holy Spirit,
according to his own will" (Heb. 2:3-4). When my wife and I married in Altus,
Oklahoma, forty-two years ago, our marriage license was signed and sealed by the
county clerk of Jackson County representing the State of Oklahoma. I do not have
to go back to Altus once a week, or once a year to see if it is still confirmed.
Since Paul said it "was confirmed," and it is in the past tense, we learn two
important lessons: First, the signs, wonders and gifts of the Spirit were
manifested through the miraculous gifts. Secondly, for us to look for confirming
signs today, exemplifies our lack of faith in the miracles of the apostles and
the genuineness of the word of God.
THAT WHICH IS PERFECT
After discussing the nine
miraculous gifts in the 12th chapter of First Corinthians, Paul wanted to point
up a "More excellent way" (1 Cor. 12:31), hence he points to the way of love in
the 13th chapter. He puts a deadline and dateline on the miraculous gifts by
saying, "Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done
away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it
shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that
which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away" (1 Cor.
This passage is like the man on
the Jericho Road. "He fell among robbers who both stripped him and beat him, and
departed, leaving him half dead" (Luke 10:30). The Pentecostal people have
misused and abused this passage with a desire to perpetuate their glossolalia or
tongue speaking positions. The three chapters (12-13-14) viewed in the context
will not allow the miraculous gifts to be permanent; but spiritual gifts, the
more excellent way, are to remain (13:13). But what does the phrase "when that
which is perfect. . .," mean? It does not mean that evidence of salvation was
the baptism of the Holy Spirit and evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit
was the ability to speak in tongues. Wayne A. Robinson, Vice President of the
Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, gave up his association with Oral Roberts
because of the abuse of these gifts. Referring to the questions "Are all
apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have
all gifts of healing? do all speak in tongues? do all interpret?. . ." (1 Cor.
12:29-30), Robinson said, "How about answering the same question that Paul posed
to the Corinthians: 'Have all gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues?'
Internally, I admitted that the implied answer to each question was 'no.'. . .
The New Testament clearly teaches that all Christians have the Holy Spirit, and
the overriding evidence of this presence is never tongues."1
This passage does not refer to
the second coming of Christ. The grammar alone will not allow it. Gary Workman
states, "Paul uses a neuter article and substantive (an adjective used as a
noun). It could therefore be translated, 'the perfect thing.' Jesus, however, is
spoken of not as a thing but as a person. Thus, he is consistently referred to
in masculine terms. Jesus would therefore be a 'he who', not a 'that which.'"2
When the scriptures were
completed; the oral message spoken and the gifts to confirm that message were
recorded, we received that "perfect law, the law of liberty" (James 1:25). It is
therefore the New Testament that circumscribes his church today. H. Leo Boles
said, "We have a perfect record of these gifts which were bestowed to help
confirm the preaching of the word; there was no need for a continuation of them
after his full gospel had been revealed and confirmed and a record made to
Frank Pack states it very well:
"It is incorrect to simply assume that because a spiritual gift is listed in the
New Testament period, it must exist today. . . The form of the questions in 1
Corinthians 12:29-30 ('do all speak with tongues?') points out the self-evident
fact that not every Christian was meant to possess every gift, since all
Christians were not apostles, nor all prophets, neither did all speak with
tongues, nor work miracles of various kinds."4
Finally, with reference to 1
Corinthians 13:9, "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part," we have always
had perfect knowledge in quality but not in quantity. Likewise, we have always
had perfect prophecy in quality but not in quantity. But when Jesus' revelation
came, miraculous gifts ceased and we have today perfect knowledge and prophecy
in quality and quantity.
1 Robinson, Wayne A., I Once
Spoke in Tongues, (Tyndale House, Wheaton, III., 1973) pp. 55, 141.
2 Workman, Gary, Spiritual
Sword, (Getwell Rd. Church, Memphis, Tenn., April, 1981) p. 13.
3 Boles, H. Leo, The Holy
Spirit, His Personality, Nature, Work, (Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville,
Tenn., 1971), p. 175.
4 Pack, Frank, Tongues and the
Holy Spirit, (Biblical Research Press, Abilene, Texas, 1972), pp. 106-107.
In what sense are the miracles
of the Apostolic Age like scaffolding?
How did we receive miraculous
Why were miracles given?
Did all first century
Christians have miraculous gifts?
At what point in history did
the miracles cease?
If divine miracles ceased to be
given at the end of the first century, how do we account for the claims of
modern day miracle workers?