Whether Miracles Occur Today (Four Views)

Do miracles occur today? I will go over four particular views on whether real miracles occur in the world today. When I say real miracles, I do not refer to natural healings or medical healings. When I say a real miracle, I am talking about a divine supernatural intervention where God uses a messenger of his choosing to perform a miracle, usually an instant miracle such as a budding staff (Nu. 17) or a staff that turns into a snake (Ex. 7:8-10), with the purpose of confirming that the messenger is genuinely appointed by God and that his message is really from God. Real miracles are not performed just to “wow” another person or trick another person like a magician does. Even though Jesus performed miracles, he withheld signs (miracles) from certain people who opposed him or from people who lacked the faith to believe in him (Matt. 13:58). Some of Jesus’ most famous miracles are recorded in the four gospels, including his seven official signs:

  1. Turning water into wine – the first sign (John 2:1-11)
  2. Healing the official’s son and healing many other sick people (John 4:43-54, Luke 17:11-19)
  3. Healing the lame man and healing many other disabled people (John 5:1-15, John 9:1-38, Mark 8:22-26, Luke 13:10-17)
  4. Feeding thousands from just a few fish and a few loafs of bread – more than once (John 6:1-15, Luke 9:10-17, Mark 8:1-10, Matt. 15:32-39)
  5. Walking on water (John 6:16-24, Mark 6:45-52)
  6. Healing a man who was blind from birth (John 9:1-41)
  7. Rising from the dead (John 11:44, Acts 2:22-24)
  8. Many more signs happened that are not recorded (John 20:30), and many other miracles happened that are recorded such as calming a storm (Mark 4:35-41)

God is known to have performed many miracles in the Old Testament such as the parting of the Red Sea, sending manna from heaven, the ten plagues, writing the Ten Commandments, and the burning bush that did not burn up. The reason God performed these miracles was to show his character, his power, and his desire for people to repent from sin and live a holy life.

Unfortunately, a work of Satan will have some kind of power and false sign and wonder (2 Thess. 2:9). However, the author of John explained why Jesus Christ performed the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11:4. Jesus said, “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus explained why he was performing a miracle again in John 11:42. He said the miracle of Lazarus rising from the dead would occur so that the people standing around during the miraculous event may believe that “God really did send Jesus” to earth with a divine message of salvation and a physical resurrection for all.

Strangely enough, differences today among the four views listed below are focused on only three types of miracles. Currently, today’s discussion seems to be centered on a miracle of healing, a miracle of speaking suddenly in a foreign language, and a miracle of speaking forth a new prophecy from God. It is interesting to note that Jesus did speak forth prophecy many times, including end times prophecy mentioned in Matt. 24-25, and Jesus did heal many people. However, he did not put a priority on his disciples to speak in a foreign language nor did he encourage his followers to speak suddenly in tongues before he ascended. Jesus spoke to his audience in the language they could understand, which was in Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek. In Acts 2 when Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit, the immediate task was for the apostles to start the church. This involved speaking to many people near and far in a language they could understand.

The four views presented are labeled in four chapters:

  1. Cessationism
  2. Open But Cautious
  3. Third Wavers
  4. Pentecostal/Charismatic (first and second wavers).

In four chapters below, I will present four basic views, keeping in mind that there is a fifth view I will not be presenting – a view where nothing supernatural happens (i. e. deism). The first two of the four views will affirm that most of the spiritual gifts exist today whereas the last two views will affirm that all of the miraculous gifts exist today, but they actually only refer to the gifts of prophecy, healings, and tongues. Since miracles from the early church occurred by faith, by spoken words, by laying hands on someone, and by power from the Holy Spirit, each chapter will address the nature of what baptism in the Holy Spirit means.

Chapter One

A Cessationist View

Conversion and Spirit Baptism Experiences

According to Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, knowing how the Holy Spirit is working seems to be a paradox because “the Spirit is like the blowing wind, sovereign and ultimately incalculable.”[1] Gaffin’s paradox is this: Can we know how the Holy Spirit is working? We are limited in epistemological pneumatology (i. e. we are limited in knowing how we know the Holy Spirit is working), but we continue to have a rational desire to know in what way the Holy Spirit is working today (John 3:8). My answer to Gaffin’s paradox is that we can know what the Holy Spirit is doing by taking a close look at what is happening.

Being born again is a theistic-evangelistic view, a supernatural conversion that all four views take, unlike the view of deism or even some kind of an intellectualized quasi-deism that thinks nothing supernatural happens. All four views believe that the Holy Spirit supernaturally causes an individual to be born again, which is a supernatural spiritual kind of resurrection (Eph. 2:5-6). Since millions of people are born again, the conversion is not rare. It does not count as a miracle, but it does count as something supernatural that happens. According to Gaffin’s cessationist view, a “baptism” in the Holy Spirit does occur at the same time as conversion when the person becomes a born again believer (1 Cor. 12:13). Baptism in the Holy Spirit refers to the act of a person being identified in Christ. Back at Pentecost, however, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a second experience after conversion (Acts 1:4, 8, 2:1-4, 11:15-17) only because at that time, Christ poured out the Holy Spirit during a specific time when certain followers of Christ were already literally existing.

What is a cessationist? A cessationist is a person who thinks that the signs of the early church apostles have ceased (2 For. 12:12) – i. e. certain miraculous gifts were given to the early church, but they ceased to exist at the completion of the New Testament. The main reason cessationists take this view is because they say such miraculous signs from the early first century were performed to announce a new salvation in Christ, establishing the early church (Heb. 2:3-4). According to cessationists, an apostle must have seen the risen Lord Jesus Christ. They performed unique gifts of healing, tongues, and prophecy. Miraculous signs of an apostle that have ceased include instant healing, directly relating to laying on of the apostles’ hands, and raising the dead (2 Cor. 12:12, Matt. 10:6). Tongues in all its glory have ceased to function in the way that it did in the early church because tongues were a real foreign language spoken suddenly by an apostle who previously did not know that language. The purpose for a believer to speak suddenly in a foreign language was for the benefit of an unbeliever to hear the Gospel message in his language (Acts 2:5-8), knowing then that the miracle of suddenly speaking a foreign language for the benefit of an unbeliever who knew that language came from God. According to cessationists, the true gift of miraculous prophetic eschatological foreknowledge ended with John’s book of revelation and nothing can be added to it.

 

Whether the Miraculous Gifts Have Ceased

What kind of gifts are we talking about? Spiritual gifts that are mentioned in the New Testament include the following: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, exhortation, leading, serving, giving, mercy, miracles, healings, helps, administration, tongues, interpretation, faith, knowledge, wisdom, and discernment. Any possible ceasing of the twenty gifts mentioned in 1 Cor. 12 & 14, Rom. 12, and Eph. 4 is better understood after the purpose and hermeneutics of Pentecost is better understood.[2] Some theologians such as Millard Erickson categorize spiritual gifts into two categories, speaking and service.[3] Scripture is not clear, according to Gaffin, if all the gifts will cease before the Parousia, the return of the Lord (1 Cor. 13:8-12, Ephesians 4), a view that differs significantly from continuationists, but Scripture does say that a ceasing of prophecies, tongues, and knowledge is a promise that those gifts will (at some unknown time) come to an end. Cessationists seem to set their view of the “end of miraculous gifts” apart from the other three views by referring to the other three views as continuationists.

It is important to remember that Pentecost was a one time, very special historical event. Pentecost was the last act of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ after he ascended. Believers today do not need to seek a replica “Pentecostal experience” per se because the act at Pentecost was a one-time unique pouring out of the Holy Spirit as prophesied in the book of Joel (Joel 2:28-29, Eze. 39:29, Mark 1:8, John 1:32-33). This pouring out was done by Jesus Christ right after he ascended (John 16:7, Luke 24:49, Acts 1:5, Acts 2:1). He accomplished the final element of his earthly ministry with the act of Pentecost (Titus 3:5). The eschatological Holy Spirit is now poured out “on all believers” (Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28), but Pentecost is not a repeatable anthropological-experiential event.[4] In other words, Pentecost has already happened.

Better understood as an event in history, i. e. a history of salvation (historia salutis), but also called “redemptive history,” Pentecost refers to a certain time when God accomplished his work of salvation in the person of Jesus Christ just after he ascended. Christology relates to the person, nature, and role of Jesus Christ. His earthly work includes his active ministry on earth, his suffering, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Pentecost belongs in the finished work of Christ since the initial pouring out has already happened. Luke described Pentecost as an eschatological event, not a repeatable event (Acts 1:5, Luke 3:16). Peter described Pentecost as a one-time event when the Holy Spirit was poured out (Acts 2:33). In a very intimate way, Pentecost is also the very way by which the presence of the ascended Jesus is with believers today and forever.

Differing from the history of salvation, the order of salvation (ordo salutis) refers to the time in an individual’s life when he can accept the finished work of Christ by faith, which causes him to be justified. When a believer becomes born again in this day and age, the Holy Spirit causes the person to become a new creature in Christ. Just like a person today does not try to repeat the actual death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, neither does a person today actually involve himself literally with another Pentecost. At conversion, a believer begins to share in the nature of Christ. The Holy Spirit is with the believer at conversion and dwells inside the individual believer. Today, when a believer begins his relationship with Christ, he automatically engages into a fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-10).

Pentecost was a time when the literal visible church began. The Gospel message needed to be sent forth and proclaimed in a powerful way throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1-2). The message of salvation also needed to be written down, recorded by reliable eyewitnesses, and begin the process of distribution to all people. The Holy Spirit caused bold messengers from that specific time to go forth and preach the good news (Acts 1:15-26, Acts 19:11). The pouring out of the Holy Spirit was prophesied in the OT and fulfilled at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is both a gift and a giver of gifts. (Joel 2:28-31, Acts 2:16-21, Gal. 2:20, Col. 2:12-13; 3:1-4).

 

Miraculous Gifts of Prophecy, Healings, and Tongues Today

Cessationists accept an activity of spiritual gifts, but it must be noted that not all of the gifts are seen today in the exact same way as they were in the early church. Gaffin accepts that God heals miraculously today in certain ways, but he is more concerned with all the different word gifts. A miracle, according to Gaffin, is when God does something highly unusual, less common, or extraordinary.

Gaffin described word gifts as prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, the word of wisdom, and the word of knowledge; all giving witness to the work of Christ. He has a few concerns. First, apostolic succession, as the Catholics like to call it, is a contradiction because the apostles were the ones who saw the glorified Lord Jesus Christ; those apostles were called to bear authoritative testimony to his resurrection.

Second, an additional prophetic word of “foretelling the future” (after the completion of the New Testament) would violate the closed canon of Scripture because no one is supposed to add to Scripture (1 Thess. 2:13). Continuationists seem to contradict themselves about the authority of prophecy when they say true prophecy is the very utterance of God. At the same time, they say prophecy is not on the same level as Scripture since the gift can be fallible. In addition, continuationists do not agree among themselves as to how to define prophecy. The inadequacy of Scripture being able to guide us is implied in continuationism. The view could even replace the lens of Scripture. However, prophecy cannot be more useful than teaching (1 Cor. 12:28) because biblical teaching is more edifying than prophecy. God reveals his Word in Scripture and in general revelation, but God does not use prophets today to speak a new prediction of the future. Any so-called prophetic revelation would add to Scripture (Ro. 8:14, 2 Pe. 1:21).

Third, the cessationist view says that the NT does not address whether or not prophecy or any other gift will cease before the Parousia. The timing of when certain gifts will cease is unclear in Scripture.

Today, God heals in miraculous ways, but the original apostles performed healing miracles as a sign of his apostleship while he spread the Gospel (Heb. 2:3-4) and the literal visible church began during that time. Today, believers are called to pray over sick people (James 5:13-15) for healing and forgiveness. It is more important for a person to be delivered from darkness and brought into the eternal kingdom than to be physically healed (Col. 1:13). Sometimes a person is not healed, but God is always more concerned with the spiritual condition of each person more than the physical condition. From an eternal perspective, Scripture does affirm a bodily healing after the believer experiences the first physical death. Unfortunately, unbelievers will have to endure a second death.

Continuationists like Gordon Fee think that we have no way to know if tongues (i. e. glossolalia) are the same today as in Paul’s day. In addition, Fee has difficulty in distinguishing between the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. However, cessationists value the Holy Spirit who gives gifts to edify the believer and brings unity to the body of Christ, knowing that the Spirit does not cause confusion.

Church Today

In the church today, according to Gaffin, some of the gifts have ceased to operate in the same way as in the days when the literal visible church first began. Each believer has at least one spiritual gift from God (1 Cor. 7:7). Believers are not limited to the list of twenty gifts mentioned in the NT. Spiritual gifts are either word gifts or deed gifts to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ and should be identified, and at least one gift should be exercised by all believers. Some of the dangers for cessationists include overlooking a genuine work of the Spirit in Pentecostal/charismatics, diminishing the Holy Spirit’s activity, and a hermeneutic struggle to interpret Scripture relating to the work of the Spirit. 

Chapter Two

An Open But Cautious View

Conversion and Spirit Baptism Experiences

Representing the broad center of evangelicals, Dr. Robert L. Saucy is a member of the Conservative Baptist church who agrees with the cessationist view that a two-stage experience of conversion and a post-conversion (i. e. a subsequent act) for believers is not Scriptural. “The model of a two-stage experience for the believer in the church is in my mind not sustained by Scripture.”[5] A distinction needs to be made between believers today and the early church. Believers at Pentecost existed when the Holy Spirit was poured out (Acts 2 & 8). Thus, they do not represent any person who becomes a believer after Pentecost (John 7:38-39). Faith in Christ is associated with being joined with Christ, becoming part of his body, and it takes place when the Spirit is received, which is also called a Spirit baptism or being baptized in the Holy Spirit or being baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16-17, 1 Cor. 12:13, Gal. 3:2, 13-14).

What is an open but cautious view? This view falls somewhere between the cessationist view and the third wave view. It does not want to limit God’s working nor does it want to limit the Holy Spirit giving the gift of miracles to believers, but it does not want to be ignorant to believe in such miracles that are not real miracles. Open but cautious people are not identical to cessationists. Open but cautious views welcome a miraculous work more than the cessationists do. Like cessationists, however, they will examine any so-called miracle to see if it is truly a miracle. (While some people say just “living” is a miracle, open but cautious views will say “living” is a common occurrence and therefore, cannot be technically considered a miracle.)

 

Whether the Gifts Have Ceased

The exact same type of apostolic era is not the same era that exists today. We do know the church has been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets who already came before us – with Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone. The apostles and prophets proclaimed the new message of the Gospel, performed special miraculous acts, started the literal visible church, and wrote the New Testament. The phenomena of miraculous gifts, experienced during the early church, has not been the standard throughout the entire church age because the first messengers of the churches in the apostolic era had a unique work set before them to start the church and write down the New Testament. God gave certain gifts in the early church such as apostles, prophets, teachers, gifts of healing, helping, administrating, miracles, and various tongues. (1 Cor. 12:28-31). A true apostle was graced with a particular gift for ministry, accompanied by signs and wonders and mighty works (2 Cor. 12:12, Acts 5:12). Scripture does not affirm exactly when certain gifts will cease or whether they will all continue until Christ returns. Many unique acts occurred at the time of the early church such as:

a.) Appearances of the angel of the Lord,

b.) Speaking in other tongues when receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3),

c.) Ananias died instantly for lying (Acts 5:5),

d.) An obstructer (Elymas) of the gospel was blinded for a time (Acts 13:8-11),

e.) An angel appeared to Peter in prison and literal chains fell off Peter (Acts 12:7),

f.) An angel of the Lord opened prison doors (Acts 5:19),

g.) The sick were healed and those afflicted by unclean spirits were healed (Acts 5:16),

h.) Healings occurred from Peter’s shadow, and

i.) Healing power came from items or material that Paul had previously touched.

Miraculous activity is found in the OT and NT at many different times such as with Samson (Judg. 14-16), Moses, Elijah and Elisha, and throughout Israel’s history (Jer. 32:20). Miracles were a sign that pointed to the credibility of the messenger and his message from the Lord. In addition to Samson, Moses, Elijah and many other messengers, the miracles of Jesus also were a sign to validate Jesus was the Son of God who came from God (John 3:2). Just like prophets in the OT, the purpose of the apostles’ miraculous activity was to testify to the original proclamation of a divine message, the message of salvation in Christ.

 

Miraculous Gifts of  Prophecy, Healings, and Tongues Today

Even though the miraculous acts of the early apostles were unique, Scripture does not say which gifts if any have ceased at a certain time in church history. Therefore, we must be open at all times to what God desires to do and understand each gift. God distributes the gifts according to His will (1 Cor. 12:7-11).

A prophet who prophesies under divine authority speaks newly inspired utterances that come directly in a revelation from God, as distinguished from a personal guidance or divine illumination of special revelation (Mat. 16:17). Scripture does not deny the possibility of prophets today (Rev. 11:3, 10), but the latter epistles focus on a ministry of teaching, exhorting, and public reading of Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13). New prophecy must include the following:

  1. Any new Word from God must be in alignment with Scripture, not opposing or contradicting it.
  2. Any new Word of God must be evaluated and judged by the community of God’s people (1 Cor. 14:29).
  3. Any new Word of God must be edifying to the community (1 Cor. 14:31).
  4. Any new Word of God must be done in an orderly, instructive way (1 Cor. 14:19).

As defined by Dr. Norman Geisler, a prophet has more than one meaning. A prophet who predicts the “end-time” future such as Daniel and John is the kind of prophet that has ceased. A prophet who is forth telling with Truth does exist today as well as the kind of prophet who edifies the body of Christ with God’s Word (1 Cor. 14:3).[6] Thus, asking if the gift of prophets has ceased is not a cut and dry yes or no answer. For the most part, the gift still exists today.

Miraculous healings were instantaneous and performed by an individual or as a sign in the spread of the gospel message for God’ glory and for our ultimate good. Faith in God can produce bodily healing, but God has equipped the body with various healing systems. Sin can cause sickness (Ps. 38:3), but not all sickness is due to sin. Satan struck Job with sores (Job 2:7), and Daniel was sick for days after receiving a vision that appalled him (Dan. 8:27). A joyful heart is good medicine (Pro. 17:22). The body is doomed to death because of sin (Rom. 8:10, 2 Cor. 4:16).

The only way tongues would be edifying in church is with an interpretation of intelligible content. Speaking in a tongue properly at church is a sign for unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:22), and it is a gift that could be used today. People began to speak in tongues when the Holy Spirit was poured out (Acts 2:4). The one who speaks in a tongue without any interpretation builds up himself, but the one who prophesies is greater because prophecy builds up the church. The writer, Robert Saucy, failed to mention that speaking in a tongue with an interpreter is just as great as the one who prophesies (1 Cor. 14:4-5). When Peter was preaching the gospel, the Holy Spirit fell on the people, and some people spoke in tongues while extolling (enthusiastically praising God) (Acts 10:46). When Paul laid his hands on about twelve disciples at Ephesus, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying (Acts 19:6). Singing in tongues is not encouraged in Scripture.

People are in a spiritual warfare involving demonic attacks, but the believer is called to put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:13) and resist anything demonic (James 4:7). While unbelievers are in bondage of personal sin (Jn. 8:34, Ro. 6:17) and evil powers, believers can be influenced by sin (Ro. 6:12) and evil powers, but not necessarily enslaved to it (Gal. 4:3). Believers can gain spiritual victory over sin (Eph. 2:1-3) and the enemy. Resisting demonic attacks include the following:

  1. Proclaiming the truth of the gospel (2 Cor. 11:4) and walking in truth.
  2. Not cherishing anger (Eph. 4:26-27).
  3. Rejecting deceit and renouncing lies of Satan (Gen. 3:13, Rev. 20:8).

While Scripture does not say for a believer to choose a particular gift on his own, Scripture does say to desire greater gifts that are in God’s control. Scripture encourages believers to have a humble attitude, serve one another, and love one another in the ministry of the church.

 

Church Today

In the church today, the supernatural God-given gifts we find include that which involves speaking and that which involves common acts of service. Supernatural gifts do not necessarily cause instantaneous miracles, but they build up the body of Christ in love (Eph. 4:16). Speaking/communication gifts include teaching Scripture (2 Ti. 2:2), ministering the gospel and truth (2 Ti. 13:15), exhortation, admonishing, encouragement, rebuking, counseling, singing, and evangelism. Service gifts focus on helping one another with an act of love in order to help others give glory to God (Mat. 5:16). Human training is not involved in giving the gift of tongues, interpretation of tongues, or prophecy. All of God’s people have certain gifts given by God to serve one another (1 Pe. 4:10). Gifts do not cause people to shake or fall down (Gal. 5:23) nor is shaking or falling down the fruit of the Spirit. The gifts can cause people to weep or have expressions of joy. Believers must evaluate prophecy (Acts 17:11, 1 Cor. 14:29) because being led by the Spirit is not the same as prophesying. Being led by the Spirit is divine guidance that differs from the gift of prophecy.

The open but cautious view has one main danger. The other views have dangers as well. Open but cautious believers might end up having no expectation for instantaneous miraculous gifts, a similar danger for the cessationist. The cessationist view can lead to excessive closure to any possibility of miraculous acts and can lead to living in skepticism. Charismatic views might cause some people to end up struggling with elitism, inferiority, a false hope, disappointment, and a lack of value on the fruit of the Spirit or valuing common acts of loving service.

Chapter Three

A Third Wave View

 

Conversion and Spirit Baptism Experiences

Associate pastor of the Metro Vineyard Fellowship of Kansas City, Dr. C. Samuel Storms, agreed with both Gaffin and Saucy by rejecting the doctrine of subsequence. All three views agree that a person today receives the Holy Spirit “baptism” when he is converted as a born again Christian. Storms stated a perspective of Spirit-baptism as a “metaphor that describes what happens when one becomes a Christian” (1 Cor. 12:13).[7] Spirit-baptism is a metaphor for a one-time conversion when Jesus is the baptizer agent who engulfs, saturates, and deluges a person in/with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5, 11:16). However, post-conversion experiences with the Holy Spirit do happen after conversion, described as “drinking to the fill of the Spirit,” being “filled with the Holy Spirit,” (Eph. 5:18) or a special “anointing.” Post-conversion experiences with the Holy Spirit could be any one of the following:

  1. Equipping for service or ministry (Luke 1:15-17, Acts 9:17).
  2. Continually being perfected (Gal. 3:3).
  3. A mark of increasing wisdom and revelation of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:17).
  4. Helping through a hard time (Phil. 1:19).
  5. Fleeing from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:19).
  6. Intensifying the reality of God’s love and increasing in truth (John 14:17, 23, Rom. 5:5, 8:16, Eph. 3:16-19)
  7. Knowing gifts given by the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).

What is a third wave view of miracles? This view began in the 1980s with a new value on expecting miracles, often referred to as “power evangelism,” but differing from charismatic and pentecostal groups. Third wavers welcome gifts of healing and insist on discerning true miracles from fake ones or natural healing. This view began with a literal class on “signs and wonders” taught at Fuller Seminary by John Wimber and can be commonly found in Vineyard churches.

Whether the Gifts Have Ceased

All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available for the literal visible contemporary church of believers. What is the purpose of someone using miraculous gifts? The purpose for miraculous gifts is to affirm a divine message from a genuine messenger. Messages include the gospel, affirming a miraculous event such as the virgin birth, or a doxology praising God for his good work. Accompanied with evangelism, compassion and love for the hurting, and building up the body of Christ, miraculous gifts distinguish real messengers from false apostles, fallible messages, or pretenders.

Three main periods of miraculous phenomena are recorded as the time of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Jeremiah insists there are other signs and wonders that have not been recorded (Jer. 32:20) throughout the ages. John also affirms that Jesus performed many other miraculous signs that are not recorded (John 20:30, 21:25).

People other than the apostles performed miraculous signs and wonders such as the seventy (Luke 10:9, 19-20), Stephen (Acts 6:8), Philip (Acts 8:13), Ananias (Acts 9:17-18), Ephesus (Acts 19:6), Philip the evangelist’s four unmarried daughters at Cesarea (Acts 21:9), brethren of Galatians (Gal. 3:5), believers in Rome (Ro. 12:6-8), and in Corinth (1 Cor. 12:10).

 

Miraculous Gifts of Prophecy, Healings, and Tongues Today

Gifts of prophecy, tongues, and healing must function properly if they are going to happen in a person and in the congregation as a whole. True, clear prophecy is when a human hears correctly from God and reports a divine revelation, speaking with confidence that the message is truly from God, speaking a genuine prophetic utterance, containing no falsehood (1 Cor. 14:30). Prophesies include edifying, exhorting, and consoling (1 Cor. 14:3), convicting (1 Cor. 14:25), giving direction in ministry (Acts 13:2), warning (Acts 21:11), and identifying spiritual gifts (1 Ti. 4:14).

Healings are subject to the will of God. In addition, the believer or the one in need is known to have great faith (Mat. 9:27-31, 20:29-34, Luke 17:11-19). Faith includes an expectancy that God is about to act through a word or an action relating to a specific situation.

Speaking in tongues, according to Storms, is mainly an intimate way of speaking privately to God in prayer in a different language (1 Cor. 14:2-4). Tongues can include uttering mysteries in the Spirit, giving thanks, praising God, and like all other gifts, edifying self. Foreign tongues function like a foreign human language, perhaps including heavenly angelic languages (1 Cor. 13:1), developing intimacy with God and joy in worship.

 

Church Today

All miraculous gifts are available for church believers today with the purpose of building up the body of Christ for continued growth and maturation. All the gifts will be available until everyone reaches knowledge of the Son of God and attains the full measure of Christ (1 Cor. 1:4-9). Three dangers include creating an emotional environment by those who seek to use miraculous gifts, measuring value inadequately, carrying arrogance, and pursuing the gifts more than the gift Giver.

Chapter Four

A Pentecostal/Charismatic View

Conversion and Spirit Baptism Experiences

Opposing the other three views, Dr. Douglas A. Oss is a member of an Assemblies of God church and a professor at Central Bible College who presented his Spirit-baptism view, opposing Gaffin, Saucy, and Storm. Oss affirms a subsequent post-conversion baptism of the Holy Spirit experience where the work of the Spirit “empowers the believer in charismatic ways for witness and service.”[8] Oss says a believer needs to seek a Spirit-baptism in order to begin the process of being empowered for ministry.

Oss pointed out that the work of the Holy Spirit in the OT clearly shows two different works. One work of the Holy Spirit was for empowerment of prophecy, miracles, or leadership. Another work related to inner transformation for moral instruction and guidance.

Oss appealed to the baptism of Jesus in the book of Luke in order to emphasize even Jesus needed a subsequent filling, an empowerment by the Holy Spirit, when beginning His work of ministry for witness, which is closely linked to prayer (Luke 3:21-22). Oss says the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs in a believer today after conversion in order to empower him to have victory over Satan and proclaim the gospel with authority (Acts 4:15-30, 31-37, 10:38).

What is a pentecostal/charismatic view? It includes receiving the miraculous ability to suddenly speak in another language. Seen as early as 1896 in North Carolina and Kansas, a Pentecostal movement began with an outburst of speaking in tongues (i. e. glossolalia) when it was encouraged by students who began to seek a subsequent baptism after conversion. This “first wave” phenomenon spread from the Azusa Street Meetings in Los Angeles by a preacher named William J. Seymour all the way to Latin America, Scandinavia, and other Third World countries. By 1950, more denominations such as Episcopal, Lutheran, and Catholics began to practice glossolalia, but these charismatic churches followed other structural guidelines. This “second wave” movement did not allow multiple church members to speak in tongues simultaneously and many charismatic churches did not allow glossolalia during church services, restricting glossolalia to special groups or private prayer time. By 1980, a “third wave” movement had began, which eliminated the need for a subsequent baptism after conversion since baptism and conversion happen at the same time.

 

Whether the Gifts Have Ceased

During the last days, the Spirit’s work will involve regeneration, empowerment, and anointing. A continual work of the Holy Spirit is poured out on diverse people groups when God’s evangelistic messenger preaches Jesus Christ, forgiveness, and repentance (Acts 2:38). In the “last days” of messianic blessing, there will be wonders in the heavens above and signs on earth below, and God’s servants will prophesy (Acts 2:19, Joel 2:30) until the Lord returns. Oss determines that the doctrine of cessation only exists because certain individuals have a lack of experience with all the gifts. Standing in contrast to the other views, Oss believes Paul taught that all the gifts would continue until the Parousia (1 Cor. 1:7, 13:8-12).

 

Miraculous Gifts of Prophecy, Healings, and Tongues Today

We should not be seeking the gifts more than seeking God even though early believers were seeking the gifts (Rom. 12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:7-11, and Eph. 4:11-13). Our seeking should be first and foremost for God who gives good gifts. All the gifts must operate on the foundation of love or else they are meaningless.

Oss required at least two things for speaking in tongues inside church. 1.) An interpreter and 2.) Operating with love. Prayer for healing and expecting God’s healing power should be accepted. Word utterances of prophetic messages from God must be judged by the believers who hear it and by other prophets (1 Cor. 14:29, 1 Thess. 5:19-22). The voice of the Spirit in church does not undermine the authority of biblical revelation. Miraculous word gifts do not oppose the canon any more than exercising the fruit of the Spirit.

 

Church Today

Miraculous and certain non-miraculous acts are of a divine origin. The Holy Spirit is building God’s household, the holy temple. The foundation is the apostles, prophets, and Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:19-22). The whole structure of all the saints and members is being joined together.

Miraculous acts are not elevated above the canon. They follow preaching today, more commonly in places where revival or first time evangelism has sprung up. Exorcisms are more common in places where biblical faith needs to replace satanic life. Gifts should not be forbidden just because some have been abused. Prayer must be submitted to the authority of God’s word, developed in biblical maturity.

Cessationists will miss a Spirit-filled life here on Earth. The Pentecostal view might cause some to have difficulty in discerning false teachers. Some people might have difficulty being able to discern casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit. Some people might try to use word gifts to coax, manipulate, or misguide other people. Some people might hide behind a “charismatic renewal” in order to carry out ungodly activities.

Chapter Five

Concluding Statements

Analysis of “Post-Conversion” Experiences

All four views in the Gundry/Grudem book agree that the Holy Spirit causes a believer to become born again, which is a one-time supernatural occurrence in the person’s life. Either immediately at conversion or sometime after conversion, the Holy Spirit can empower the believer to be sanctified daily and help with ministry work. A post conversion experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit is found in Scripture (Eph. 5:18), but a filling is described in Scripture as being obedient to God, turning away from sin, and have a commitment to be a tool for God to use. A Spirit “baptism” relates to conversion in Scripture (Romans 6:1-4, 1 Cor. 12:13). A Spirit baptism identifies that a person has received a union with Christ, united with Christ in his death and resurrection, and joined into the body of Christ with other believers.

 

Analysis of Whether the Gifts Have Ceased

I find one big thing lacking in all four views. They don’t talk about whether people are performing the kinds of miracles Jesus performed because the same type of miracles of Christ are not happening among believers. They are not walking on water, instantaneously calming a literal storm, or instantly healing disabled people. Today, these four views center around the miraculous work from the early church apostles when the Holy Spirit was poured out. The third wave view and the Pentecostal/Charismatic view both believe that all the miraculous gifts are available and all the miraculous gifts do function today – but what they mean is that the gifts of prophecy, healings, and tongues exist today. I get the impression that all of these views do not want to limit the work of the Holy Spirit nor be fooled by a non-work of the Holy Spirit nor miss a true work of the Holy Spirit, but they limit the discussion to a certain type of miraculous work.

 

Analysis of Miraculous Gifts of Prophecy, Healings, and Tongues Today

Cessationists and open but cautionists both believe that most of the gifts exist today, but the early church “instantaneous” miraculous healings such as being instantly healed of leprosy or rising from the dead seems to have ceased for the time being. Pentecostal and third wavers both believe that all the miraculous gifts exist today – again, only meaning the gifts of prophecy, healings, and tongues. Dr. Norman Geisler presented three main Christian views on the ministry of the spiritual gifts in the following way: 1.) All the gifts exist today, 2.) Some of the gifts exist today, or 3.) None of the gifts exist today.[9]

Cessationists usually do not see a need for tongues in church. Open but cautious believers are open to tongues being used as a witness to unbelievers. Third wavers prefer tongues to be used mainly for private use. Pentecostal/charismatic believers insist on maintaining a foundation of love if tongues are performed.

Cessationists and open but cautious believers accept medical healings, but some do not believe that instantaneous miraculous healings are occurring today. Third wavers and Pentecostal/charismatics welcome prayer for instant healings and say they witness miraculous healings. All views accept God’s healing power.

Cessationists typically view a new prophetic word as a violation against the closed canon. Open but cautious believers are open to a new prophetic word if it does not go against Scripture. Third wavers identify prophetic words as edifying, exhorting, consoling, directing, or a warning. Pentecostal/charismatics add that prophetic words should be spoken in love.

In church today, all four views agree that the spiritual gifts should be used to edify the body of Christ, and that the gifts (either some or all) are available to all believers, but God chooses which gifts that He will give. All views agree on preaching the gospel message and placing God first. Third wave and Pentecostal/Charismatic views believe all the gifts are available for believers today and will continue until the Lord returns.

Slight differences are found among these four views. The biggest difference perhaps is after conversion when a believer seeks a post-conversion experience from the Holy Spirit where the Holy Spirit fills the believer, empowering him for kingdom work. Speaking in tongues in private is cherished by some as an angelic language while other believers see the foreign language as gibberish or at least useless in church. Miraculous healings can be recognized as natural healings, a supernatural work, or medical healings, but many believers do not consider them to be true instantaneous miracles. Since various definitions on apostles and prophets are given, various conclusions are made as to whether these types of gifts exist today.

Upon further observation, dangers that were mentioned from each of the four views could very well apply to all of the views. In addition, I see many things in common with these four views. They all desire to honor the Gospel message, rebuke the enemy, oppose false teaching, and welcome spiritual gifts that build up the body of Christ. All four views believe the gift of the Holy Spirit is the one who gives at least one spiritual gift to believers who are a new creature in Christ.

Whatever your view might be on whether miraculous things happen instantaneously today, a correct understanding of who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does is important for a believer. The Holy Spirit is fully divine and lives inside a believer. In this sense, the Holy Spirit is the “God with us,” but it does not mean that we are God. We participate in the work of God, but we should not pretend to be doing a work of God when it is not really the work of God. If nothing is the work of God, then we have slipped into deism. If we desire gifts more than the Giver, we have made an idol of gifts. Since we live in a world that has been made in a miraculous way, and since we praise God for miraculously raising Jesus from the dead, let us welcome a miraculous work God if he wants to perform a miracle through us and let us remember the purpose of God’s miraculous work that he performs is for his glory.

Please leave your thoughts in a comment below:

1.) Whether miracles occur today

2.)  The type of miracles that occur today

3.) Would it be helpful to others if I published my article in a book?

4.) Would you like to be a contributor if I publish this article as a book?

Thank you!

 

[1] Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “A Cessationist View,” in Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views, ed. Stanley N. Gundry & Wayne A. Grudem (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 25.

[2] Twenty gifts include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, exhortation, leading, serving, giving, mercy, miracles, healings, helps, administration, tongues, interpretation, faith, knowledge, wisdom, and discernment. Dr. Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology Vol. 4: Church, Last Things (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2005), 190.

[3] Two more gifts are described as speaking and service in 1 Pe. 4:11. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 891.

[4] Gaffin, 37; Isa. 11:2-5, 44:3-5; Ezek. 36:26-28; Joel 2:28-29.

[5] Robert L. Saucy, “An Open But Cautious View,” in Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views, ed. Stanley N. Gundry & Wayne A. Grudem (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 98.

[6] Geisler, 201-202.

[7] C. Samuel Storms, “A Third Wave View,” in Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views, ed. Stanley N. Gundry & Wayne A. Grudem (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 176.

[8] Douglas A. Oss, “A Pentecostal/Charismatic View,” in Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views, ed. Stanley N. Gundry & Wayne A. Grudem (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 242.

[9] Geisler, 189-202.

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