Donald E. Smith
As most probably know, the title of this series of articles comes from Romans 10:2. Here it is being used in reference to those of the denominational world. This particular series covers a lengthy correspondence that occurred when this writer was serving his term of incarceration. Though it does not conclude with the desired outcome, the response was still not expected, as it is generally expected that denominationalists will not respond at all. Let’s get a little bit of the background of what brought this about.
In 2013, after attending a Bible study I was holding on the duration and cessation of miracles, a fellow inmate, Micah, came to me and requested that I write the lesson out so he could send it to his father, Marc, whom was a Pentecostal “pastor.” I agreed, however, I knew the importance of depth and clarity such a paper needed, as this was going into the hands of someone who was already leading people. Therefore, I contacted a faithful brother who had the faculties and wherewithal to proofread, edit, and type this lesson into manuscript form, Dub McClish, and asked if he might do so. He agreed, and I set out handwriting this lesson, which turned out to be 21 pages of typed material in its final form. The manuscript was prefaced with a personal letter from both Micah and myself, along with an article by William Davis (a Christian who had converted after being in the Pentecostal faith over 50 years), an article by Dub McClish, and one by Daniel Denham, as well as a couple of tracts. Marc certainly had enough material to understand his error. However, it was Micah’s mother, Julie, who responded. Therefore, without further delay, let us begin with the manuscript and see where this exchange went.
Have Miracles Ceased?
In the true sense and definition of a miracle, have Biblical miracles ceased? In order to know the answer to this question we will target several points of observation that the Bible reveals to us. These will include:
A brief definition of miracle as used in the Bible
A brief explanation of the chronology of miracles and the way these gifts were given
A description of each of the nine miraculous gifts of the Spirit and the purposes of them
The duration of miracles
So let us begin this search of the Scriptures for the answer to the question, “Have miracles ceased?” Let us be determined to be unbiased as we begin this search, follow it through, and end it, having an “honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15).1
A Brief Definition of Miracle as Used in the Bible
The following things do not constitute miracles, as the Bible records and defines them:
Merely spectacular or extraordinary occurrences (e.g., an “amazing” catch of a football by a receiver or an “incredible” circus act).
Merely events that one cannot explain (e.g., the work of an illusionist or how one house is destroyed after a tornado when those on either side remained intact).
Miracle in the New Testament is translated from two different Greek words:2
The primary word, dunamis (from which we get our English word, dynamite), connotes “power or inherent ability…, works of a supernatural origin and character, such as could not be produced by natural agents and means” (e.g., Acts 2:22; 8:13; 19:11; 1 Cor. 12:10, 28-29; Gal. 3:5).
The other word, semeion, (sometimes translated sign) means “a sign, mark, token” in reference to “miracles and wonders as signs of Divine authority” (e.g., Luke 23:8; Acts 4:16, 22).
From these two words it is apparent that miracles, as defined by the Bible, were events, acts, occurrences that are so far beyond the ability of natural and physical laws as to leave no doubt that they were produced by supernatural power.
A Brief Explanation of the Chronology of
Miracles and the Way These Gifts Were Given
This chronology begins with God,3 Who created all things, wherein He has used His omnipotent nature to perform miracles and signs in executing His will. It is evident that He never used miraculous measures unless it was absolutely necessary, and even then, He always worked through nature when possible to produce the miracles (obviously, He did not do so before He created “nature” in the physical universe). Beginning with God, we will work our way to the Christ, the apostles, and others, showing the fact of the miracles from the beginning and the way the gifts were later given.
God spoke everything into existence (Gen. 1). God miraculously created everything in six literal 24-hour days. God could have created everything—all of it—in one split second, or He could have evolved everything over millions of years, beginning with a “big bang,”4 but that is not the way God chose to do it.
Setting aside the laws of nature, God also spoke directly to various men to relay His will. This communication was miraculous. Let us look at some of the examples and the respective reasons why God used miracles under certain circumstances:
Noah, relaying the specifications of the ark to the saving of his household (Gen. 6:11-22). Reason: To preserve humanity
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prophesying that the Christ should come through their lineage (Gen. 12:1-3; 26:1-4; 28:10-14; Gal. 3:6), among other prophesies that involved promises to them. Reason: To give assurance through adverse circumstances of their lives (since God was using them for a special and extraordinary purpose).
Moses, giving of the Ten Commandments (Exo. 24:12), and the various other parts of His law to the Israelites. Reason: To preserve the nation through whom the Christ would come.
As can be seen, all of these miraculous events were absolutely necessary, and God employed natural resources as much as possible in fulfilling them. He could have just spoken and destroyed all the wicked instantly in Noah’s day, but instead, He used 120 years of Noah’s labor to build an ark and then caused the flood. God could have “snapped His fingers” and instantly ushered Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through their difficulties, but instead, He gave them assurance through prophesy. Further, with just a “blink of the eye,” God could have “thought” the laws of Moses into the people’s hearts instantly, but instead, He used the two tables of stone and other writings to relay His law to the people, and they were required to learn that law. Again, God always coupled natural means as much as possible with His miracles.
God always has a specific purpose for using miraculous means to bring about His will. Consider now some of these purposes and what might have happened if God had not intervened. If He had not sent the flood to cleanse the wicked world (Gen. 6:5-7, 11-13, 17), how wicked would the world be today? If God had not confounded language at the tower of Babel (11:1-9), how far would the wicked schemes and activities of men have gone? If God had not destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-25), how far would their evil deeds have spread on this earth (they have spread alarmingly, even with His judgment upon them)?
Although relief from oppression, infirmities, and other unfavorable circumstances were sometimes a benefit of God’s miracles, these factors were not the ultimate motives behind them. As we move on to consider the miracles of Christ and others in the New Testament, we will find this truth also revealed concerning them.
God the Son (Jesus Christ) was with the Father in the beginning as the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
As a part of the Divine plan, the Word became flesh (i.e., the “incarnation”) and dwelt on the earth as a man among men (1:14; Phi. 2:5-8) for a brief period of time for the purpose of reconciling mankind to God. His plan of reconciliation required Jesus the Christ’s proving that He was Who He claimed to be—the Son of God, Deity Himself.
The importance of Jesus’ proving that He was Deity was of the first magnitude. After all, He claimed to be receiving the will of God for mankind directly from God: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Christ’s disciples needed to believe this, but not blindly without some sort of evidence. The miracles and signs He performed provided the evidence even His enemies could not deny: “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we do? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him…” (John 11:47-48; cf. Luke 7:20-23). Further these signs are recorded in the Bible so that we today can also believe on the basis of evidence and not blindly: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31).
Proof of His Deity was thus the overriding purpose for Christ’s miracles. Although relief from pain (i.e., healing of many) and supplying needs (feeding of thousands) were benefits, these were clearly not the ultimate purpose of His miracles. Please observe:
And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land, But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:23-27; emph. DES).
Christ indicates here that many people could have been relieved of the pain and ailments of this life, but only these two were relieved. Why? Because relief has never been the primary purpose of miracles. Of all the widows, God sent Elijah (Elias) only to one, and of all the lepers, God cleansed only Naaman (a stubborn man who did not really want to obey God). No matter how much modern so called “miracle workers” want to claim and try to persuade people that they really perform miracles and that they are for the purpose of relief, Christ forever settles it—it is just not true.
The apostles were a special group of men Jesus chose to relay His last Will and Testament to the world for all time:
And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor (Luke 6:13-16).
Immediately before His arrest, trials, and crucifixion, Jesus prayed for these men:
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word… Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word (John 17:6, 20; emph. DES).
Christ promised the apostles that they would receive the Holy Ghost (referred to as the “Holy Spirit in most Bible versions) Who would guide them into all of God’s Truth to be revealed to mankind:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you… Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come (John 14:26; 16:13).
At the beginning of the book of Acts, Luke wrote of the occasion on which these promises of the Christ were fulfilled:
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen… And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:1-2, 4, 8; emph. DES).
Jesus stated the reason they were to be baptized with/in the Holy Ghost (Spirit)—so that He could guide them into all of God’s Truth and they could relay it to mankind. This promised baptism occurred on the Pentecost day as recorded in Acts 2:1-4:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The baptism in the Holy Ghost (Spirit) was both heard and seen. Observers heard the sound as of a rushing mighty wind, and they saw cloven (i.e., split) tongues like as of fire (Acts 2:3). This was undeniably a miraculous event that even onlookers could not dismiss.
Upon their baptism in the Spirit the apostles began to reveal the will of God to the gathering of people from many different nations in their native tongues (i.e., languages) (vv. 4-11). Truly, the purpose of the Lord’s providing this baptism began to be carried out immediately. The New Testament was being revealed and proclaimed (as the Lord had earlier commanded them to do [Mat. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47]).
Accompanying this baptism in the Holy Ghost, the apostles received miraculous gifts, which included one or more of the nine spiritual gifts Paul listed: 1) The word of wisdom, 2) the word of knowledge, 3) faith, 4) gifts of healing, 5) the working of miracles, 6) prophesy, 7) discerning of Spirits, 8) divers kinds of tongues, 9) the interpretation of tongues (1 Cor. 12:8-10). These will be discussed in more detail later.
Cornelius’ Household (Acts 10-11)
Throughout the New Testament it is clear that the Jews who became Christians (especially for a few years following Pentecost) did not understand that the Gentiles were also to be a part of God’s covenant. They could not understand the Gentiles’ ever being called God’s “chosen people,” although their own sacred Scriptures prophesied that the Gentiles would see that light and be a part of that life (Mat. 4:13-16, citing Isa. 9:1-2; 62:2). Even the apostles did not initially comprehend this, as indicated by Peter’s understanding prior to God directly telling him not to call any man common or unclean: “And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).
Something powerful was going to have to occur as sufficient proof to all the faithful converted Jews that the Gentiles were also to be a part of God’s chosen people. That powerful “something” was the baptism in the Holy Ghost:
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word… And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost (v. 44; 11:15-16).
Peter, in stating that “…the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning,” implies that all present, too, heard the sound as of a rushing mighty wind, and saw the cloven tongues like as of fire—because that is how it happened “at the beginning” (i.e., on Pentecost). An undeniable miraculous event had taken place, proving that the Gentiles were an acceptable people to God (15:7-9)!
Of note here, we should point out, is the fact that in the only two recorded instances of baptism in the Holy Ghost the exact same events occurred. Yet today people who claim they have been baptized in the Holy Ghost base their claims on a “feeling” or an “experience” they had. Others believe they were baptized in the Holy Ghost when they were baptized in water. But no one close to them, present at these supposed occurrences, heard the sound as of a rushing mighty wind, or saw cloven tongues like as of fire falling on them. Why? Because their claims are completely irrational and without Scriptural backing. Some may want to be baptized in the Holy Ghost after hearing false teaching on the subject, but it is just not a part of God’s will for all men, and it does not pertain to our salvation. His will for the baptism in the Holy Ghost served two purposes:
To enable the apostles to receive and declare His complete New Testament without error
To prove that the Gentiles were equal recipients of salvation with the Jews
With these truths in mind, let us now consider others who were also able to perform miracles.
Christ certainly promised that there would be others who would have the ability to perform miracles:
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18).
The inspired prophesy of Joel affirmed this as well (Acts 2:16-18, quoting Joel 2:28-29). The question, however, is, “How did they get these abilities?”
After Pentecost, the first record of any person, other than an apostle, who performed miracles was that of Stephen (Acts 6:8). What was special about Stephen that enabled him to do this? If we back up just a few verses, Luke, the inspired historian, tells us that Stephen was one of the seven “Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them” (v. 6). It is significant to note that the apostles had laid their hands on Stephen, and then he performed miracles (v. 8). Philip, also one of the seven, began performing miracles as well at Samaria (8:5-7, 13). Now let us take a close look at the example in this latter context.
Philip, a man who was able to heal many people (Acts 8:7), would have been the most likely source to give this ability to someone, if it were possible for anyone (besides an apostle) to do so. However, as the words of Inspiration imply, this was an impossibility for Philip. We know this because the apostles, Peter and John, had to travel from Jerusalem to Samaria in order to lay hands on the newly baptized Samaritans so that they could receive the miraculous measure of the Holy Ghost (vv. 14-17). If they could have received this miraculous power in any other way, why did the apostles have to travel to Samaria and lay their hands on them? It was impossible to receive the power of the Holy Ghost to perform miracles in any other way. Simon, the former sorcerer, even confirmed this (although unaware he was doing so) when he tried to buy the ability to empower people to work miracles. From whom did he try to buy the gift? Although he had continued with Philip for some significant period of time before the apostles arrived, he certainly did not try to buy the gift from him. The Scriptures state: “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money” (v. 18).
So the Bible provides convincing evidence to prove that the miraculous measure of the Holy Ghost was only given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands. This fact is evidenced by Steven, by Philip, and by the Samaritans. Let us, however, take this a step further and we will see that the Biblical evidence is overwhelming. The twelve Ephesians described in Acts 19 did not receive the Holy Ghost, enabling them to speak in tongues and prophesy, until Paul laid his hands on them: “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (v. 6).
Remember that Paul had this ability because he was an apostle in every sense of the office (2 Cor. 12:11). This fact is relevant to our study as well. Acts 18 tells of Paul’s preaching the Gospel in Corinth and establishing the church there. When we read that those brethren possessed miraculous gifts (1 Cor. 12-14), we can only conclude that they received these gifts at the hands of Paul while he labored among them. Further, Paul stated concerning himself: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Cor. 12:12).
What then is the difference between the Corinthians’ miraculous abilities and those of an apostle? It is certainly the fact that an apostle could impart the gifts to others, whereas no other person could do so. How else could the Ephesian church try “them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev. 2:2)?
Although at this point Truth seekers should need no further evidence to know that only an apostle could give the miraculous measure of the Holy Ghost—through the laying on of his hands—we will add one more instance to the others. In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul reminded Timothy of the way he received his spiritual gift. The account states: “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”
So it is emphatically plain to see that only an apostle could relay the miraculous abilities to others. Let us note also that the office of apostleship was limited to a certain number of disciples (12). Specific qualifications had to be met. One had to have: 1) been Jesus’ disciple from the time John began his work of baptizing, 2) continued with the disciples to the day of Christ’s ascension, and 3) been a witness with the other apostles of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:20-22). Notice also that there were two men who were qualified to take Judas’ place as an apostle, but only one was chosen for the position (vv. 23-26). Why not both? This circumstance demonstrates that the number of apostles was limited until their purpose was complete. The apostle Paul was an exception, as he specifically states that he was an ”apostle born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:8-10). These were the only apostles, as no man living since the first century could/can meet these qualifications. There have been no apostles since the first century, there are no apostles today, and there will be no apostles in the future.
This concludes the first segment of the exchange with the Pentecostal denominationalist. The next segment (which will be in the May issue of TGP) will cover the nine miraculous gifts of the spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, and their purposes, as is written in the original manuscript that was replied to by Mrs. Julie Jackson. It is encouraged to study and briefly review this segment before moving on to the next in order to keep the continuity of thought throughout this exchange. Thank you so much for your interest, and we hope this builds upon your faith through challenge, edification, and learning.
1 All scripture quotations are from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.
2 Vine, W.E. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1996), pp. 412-413.
3 God in the creation account translates the Hebrew word, elohyim (the plural form of el), thus embracing all three persons of the Godhead as active in creating all things. Strong, James, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1979), p. 430 (Hebrew Dictionary section).
4 Evolution is a false theory proposed by the 19th century English naturalist, Charles Darwin. This man and his theory are 1,700 years removed from the completion of the Bible and about perhaps 8,000 years (probably closer to 6,000, DES, 2/2023) removed from the first human being. Would it really have taken that long to figure out where we came from?