|Volume 17 Number 2 February 2015||
The Bible contains a record of many miracles. Some occurred preceding the advent of Jesus. However, during the first century there was an explosion of miraculous activity. John’s Gospel alone records many significant miracles, such as the feeding of 5,000 (Chapter 6) and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Chapter 11). John assured his readers that his writing merely contained a sampling. “Many other [miraculous] signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
It is noteworthy that his eyewitness account was for the purpose of producing belief in the heart of the reader. However, what about the claims of some today that people can still perform miracles? An objective assessment is in order.
First, it seems quite apparent that the miracles recorded in the Scriptures differed significantly from what is being claimed today. For example, Lazarus had been dead for four days and his body was already stinking [the literal Greek meaning] (John 11:39), and family, friends and bystanders all witnessed his return to life. Contrast that with some man, unknown to the audience, who gets up from his wheelchair after some emotionally charged gestures and prayer. A simple reading of New Testament miracles, followed by a comparison to modern-day claims reveals a stark contrast.
Second, those claiming to possess miraculous power today often blame unbelief for any failure in their performance. Yet, in the first century, the apostles instantly healed a lame man who was “more than forty years old” (Acts 4:22) who had been lame from birth (Acts 3:2). The miracle was so uncontestable that the enemies of the apostles asked one another, “What shall we do to these men? For that indeed a notable miracle hath been wrought through them, is manifest to all that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it” (Acts 4:16). Genuine miracles were so extraordinary that even antagonists were left without doubt!
There is an abundance of evidence for the genuineness of first-century miracles. The authenticity of so-called “modern-day miracles” is less than satisfactory.
[Editor’s Note: Even if you or I were to observe something for which we personally had no explanation, there is still the matter of what Scripture says about the purpose (Mark 16:20) and duration (1 Corinthians 13:8-12) of Bible-grade miracles. Miracles were the vehicle for the reception of new revelation from God (i.e., the New Testament), and miracles recorded in the New Testament validated both the speaker or writer and the message of divine origin. Miracles have already served the purpose for which they occurred, and since the New Testament or new revelation is complete, miracles have ceased – nearly 2,000 years ago. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
God had a reason for the performance of miracles in the first century. After Jesus rose from the tomb, He spoke with “the eleven” (remember Judas committed suicide, Matthew 27:5) apostles (Mark 16:14). He gave them the commission to preach the Gospel. “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed” (Mark 16:20). Note carefully that the miraculous signs served to confirm the genuineness of their message.
People were not going to automatically believe the word of some former Galilean fishermen or tax collector. However, their display of divine power was convincing. Please realize also that at this time the New Testament Scriptures were not yet written.
However, God had a plan in place, one that rightly can be termed, planned obsolescence. Normally this is a bad thing. It is unfortunate that some companies purposefully design into a product a limited working life. They want us to buy, use, throw away and buy again.
Consider God’s ingenious planned obsolescence. God gave only a few to be apostles (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:29). These apostles received the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4, 14 “Peter… with the eleven”). According to the Scriptures, the only way others received power to perform miracles was “through the laying on of the apostles’ hands” (Acts 8:18). Acts 8 is a classic case study. Philip the evangelist had gone to Samaria to preach (v. 5). He had been given power to perform miracles (v. 6). Yet, when “men and women were baptized” (v. 12), they sent for Peter and John (v. 14). Since Philip was already there in the city, why did he not just give these new Christians power to do miracles? It was because although he had the power to perform miracles, he could not pass on such power. They had to call apostles away from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1) to bestow miraculous abilities. Read carefully Acts 8:5-19.
As the church grew, slowly the books of the New Testament were being written. Simultaneously, Christians were sharing the message (Acts 8:4). Some Christians, not all, were given power, from the apostles, to perform miracles (1 Corinthians 12:29).
As the New Testament Books were being completed, and the first century drew to its close, the apostles were dying for the faith. The last living apostle was John, and he wrote the last book in the Bible about A.D. 96. Once the apostles were all dead (the means to pass on the power), and once all who had hands laid on them by apostles died, the miraculous gifts died with them.
The written Word was from then on the permanent record of the New Testament of Jesus Christ. The spoken message was confirmed with miracles until the written message was completed. What a plan!