Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?
I’m talking about, on the podcast this week, a really, actually debated issue. And that is the one of healing miracles. The question are miraculous gifts for today? When I talk about miraculous gifts, I really am talking about the healing miracles; I’m talking about the spiritual gift of working a miracle. I’m talking about so-called miracle workers. And I’m asking, is that for today? This is a theoretical question that many people ask. It is a question that many people want to know as they’re pursuing what spiritual gift they have that would contribute to the church. They want to know if healing miracles is one of them. It’s a controversial question that people ask because there are people who have so-called healing ministries, and they go on television, and they fill auditoriums, and they go on the road. And the word on the street is that they are faith healers, or healers, or miracle workers. And what I want to do on the podcast this week is answer whether or not biblically that is accurate. Of course, as Christians, our job is to embrace the Bible. We embrace the Bible when we don’t understand the Bible; we embrace the Bible when we don’t prefer the Bible. As the people of God, we are under the authority of God. God has spoken to us in his Word. And it’s our job to figure out what we think based on what he says, not based on our experience, or our desires, or something like that. I want to speak into this issue of healing miracles and are those miraculous gifts for today by trying to shape our thoughts from the Word of God.
Miraculous Gifts Exist
I want to answer the question about whether these miraculous gifts are for today, I want to answer it in a few stages. And the first thing that I want to do is to be very honest that there is such a thing as a miraculous gift. One of the spiritual gifts that is given to the church, by God, through the Holy Spirit are miraculous gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12:9 as the Apostle was talking about various gifts for the building up of the body, and he’s talking about some people get one and some people get another. It says, “To another, faith, by the same spirit, to another gifts of healing, by the one Spirit.” So he’s saying, actually, right next to the gift of faith, the spiritual gift of faith. He says that there is a spiritual gift of healing, and it is one of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives. So if we’re going to have our thoughts about miraculous gifts be shaped by the Bible, then we need to admit that the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that one of the gifts that he’s going to give to his people in the church is going to be healing gifts. Now, there’s a reason why that verse is in the Bible, and Christians still debate whether the gifts are for today. The reason for that ongoing debate is just because the Bible says that a healing gift is a gift that is available to the church. It doesn’t say how regularly that gift is going to be bestowed. It doesn’t say how many people will get that gift. It doesn’t say how long the church will be a recipient of that gift. We can know that at some point at some time in some way, in some measure. Healing is a spiritual gift that the Holy Spirit gives. But in terms of whether that’s for today, whether that’s for right now, whether that’s for you, we got a whole lot more stuff we got to figure out.
What Do Healing Gifts Do?
And it helps to answer this question are miraculous gifts today, not just to acknowledge that healings are a real spiritual gift, but to take a second step, and let’s talk about what the miraculous gifts do. What is the point of a healing gift? Now, of course, there is an element of mercy in the healing. There is someone who is suffering physically, and that suffering is removed. There are examples in the Bible. You think of the Gospel of John and the resurrection of Lazarus, there are people who were so physically suffering that they weren’t even physically alive anymore, and that is reversed. And so there is mercy, an element of mercy in the healing miracles. But that is not the only element. In fact, when you read the Bible, you discover that, actually, even in Scripture, miracles are relatively rare. The Bible is a book that is full of miracles; it has miracles, it endorses miracles, we’re supposed to believe in miracles, we’re supposed to receive the gift of miracles if the Holy Spirit has given us that gift. But as true is all that is, in the grand sweep of the Bible, miracles are relatively rare. In fact, there are a few seasons in redemptive history, a few moments in the Bible, where there is this escalation in miracles, and then they go away. And you might have hundreds of years where there’s nothing. And then you have another escalation. Some big chunks in biblical history where we see some miracles. One is in the Exodus with Moses, and there are the plagues, and there are the snakes, and there is the parting of the Red Sea. It is just miracles everywhere, one amazing event after the other that is inexplicable, apart from the direct divine power of God mediated often through Moses. So that’s one high point. Another high moment in the history of Scripture is in the prophetic ministry of people like Elijah and Elisha. So in those guys, miracles, you’ve got iron heads, swimming, you’ve got kids being raised from the grave, you got chariots coming out of the sky, and angelic visions and all of these kinds of things. You see miraculous ministries and those prophetic ministries.
The grandest explosion of miracles in the Bible is, of course, in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. In the history of the world, in the history of redemption, in the pages of Scripture, the greatest miracle worker is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is resurrecting people from the dead; he is opening the eyes of the blind; he is opening the ears of the deaf; he is causing the lame to walk; he is healing people who have fevers; he’s exercising demons. I mean, Jesus Christ is a miracle worker. And it is in every other paragraph in the Gospels Jesus is doing something amazingly mind-blowingly miraculous. It’s the high point of miracles in the Bible. And then, of course, there are the miracles in the book of Acts with the apostles. That’s really the last portrait is that moment in redemptive history, the Holy Spirit extending the ministry of Jesus out to the churches in the book of Acts. That’s really the last moment where we see these explosions of miracles until we get to prophesied miracles in the last days in the book of Revelation.
Miracles in the Bible Are Limited to a Few Specific Seasons
Here’s the point. Miracles in the Bible are limited to a few specific seasons. And those specific seasons all have something profoundly in common. What they have in common is that it is times of new revelation. It is times in the Exodus when the first five books of the Bible are being written. In the prophetic ministries, it’s when the historical books and things like that are being written in Jesus, that’s when the Son of God and the New Covenant is being revealed and Acts, the church is growing. Miracles always show up in a massive display in the Bible when God reveals new things about himself. And that means if we’re going to understand miraculous healings, we’ve got to understand that it’s more than just about mercy. It also is about authenticating the messenger. God is sending his messenger with a profound truth that you need to believe, or you will die. The question is, how am I going to authenticate the messenger? How am I going to prove that the person is speaking the words of God? Well, in the Bible, you approve it with a miracle. You know, the person is speaking the words of God because the person is doing the works of God. Miracles are not just about mercy, but they are about authenticating one of God’s messengers as he reveals new truth about himself.
Because we have what we call a closed canon, what we call a completed Scripture because we’re not living out of the benefit of new revelation anymore, but we’re living out of the benefit of the completed books of the Bible. It indicates to us that we should not expect miracles until we expect new revelation. Since we’re not expecting new revelation, we shouldn’t expect that that miraculous demonstration of authentication is going to be something that we’re going to experience, either. Here’s just one passage that I can point you to to help you see it. It’s in 2 Corinthians 12:12, and it says, “The signs of a true apostle, were performed among you with utmost patience with signs and wonders and mighty works.” A true apostle. The New Testament, which completes the Bible, was written by the apostles. And we know we should believe them because God attended their teaching, their preaching, and their writing with miraculous works. And so the same Apostle Paul, who says, miraculous gifts are a spiritual gift that God gives to his church. He also seems to indicate in 2 Corinthians 12:12 that the people he gives those gifts to are the apostles. And they wind up being authenticating marks that these men who are writing the Bible are men who are to be believed, and you can believe it because they’re doing miraculous things that they could only do with the power of God.
A Personal Story
So you put all that together? And here’s my short answer. Are miraculous gifts for today? I think the answer to that is no. I don’t think we’re supposed to look for faith healers; I don’t think we’re supposed to look for people with the gift of healing. I think that’s a gift that God gave to His church that God gave to His people at times of new and expanding revelation, and when we’re not in those seasons, we shouldn’t expect it. But that is very different than saying miracles don’t happen. It’s one thing to say; I don’t think we should look for miraculous gifts, the miraculous healers. It’s another thing to say; we shouldn’t look to see miracles. It’s another thing to say we shouldn’t pray for miracles. You should pray for a miracle. If you are suffering, if you are broken. If you are hurting and you are in pain, you should pray for a miracle. I’ve told this story. I want to give honor to the Lord and tell it again that in a season in my life where I’ve had a total of four brain surgeries, I woke up from the third brain surgery and was completely stone deaf in my right ear. And all of the doctors said your hearing is gone. It is not coming back. They said that what happened in your nerve in your brain, that’s your auditory nerve. They said it’s like running a cheese grater across that thing, and you are never going to hear, and let me tell you what happened. I prayed that God would heal my ear. My wife prayed that God would heal my ear. My kids prayed that God would heal my ear. The people of First Baptist Church prayed that God would heal my ear. And so did a lot of Christians all over the world. I still get notes from them. They prayed for it. And do you know what? I woke up about a week later, and I could hear out of my right ear after the doctor said you couldn’t do it. Listen, that’s a miracle. The Lord did that. The Lord answered that prayer. I’m so thankful to him for that. I would never want to do anything to demean his glory by failing to give thanks for that miracle or by encouraging you to seek one. I’m just saying we’re not looking for faith healers. We’re not looking for miraculous miracle workers. But my goodness, that doesn’t mean the Lord isn’t still working miracles and doing amazing things for us. And I hope he does it for you.