They Have a Zeal of God But Not According to Knowledge, No. 3 – Donald L. Smith

Donald L. Smith


In this portion of this series, what the Bible teaches regarding the duration of miracles will be covered. This will also include the conclusion of the manuscript, “Have Miracles Ceased?”, as well as an addendum of answered questions relating to the cessation of miracles. The entirety of the manuscript was basically building up to this point. As stated in the previous article in this series, let us put ourselves in the shoes of the recipient of this manuscript. Is it reasonable for this person to change their entire life based on the direction the teaching points them?

The Duration of Miracles

In light of the foregoing material, we now consider two pertinent questions: How long were the miracles to continue, and how much of God’s Word was to be revealed? Let us answer the latter question first, and this answer will set the stage to answer the former.

Jesus Christ Himself tells us exactly how much of God’s Word (i.e., “the truth,” John 17:17) was to be revealed to mankind through the apostles: “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” (John 16:13, emph. DES).

Again, He states to the apostles: “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 16:13, emph. DES).

The context of these verses begins with chapter 13, in which Christ and the apostles partake of the Passover, and the Lord institutes His memorial supper (Mat. 26:26-29). While still in that upper room, Christ began answering questions and requests from various apostles, including Peter, Thomas, Philip, and Judas (not Iscariot), as well as the rest (John 13:36-37; 14:5, 8, 22; 16:17-18). Only the 12 were with Him (Luke 22:14) until Judas Iscariot left (13:26-31). Therefore, when Jesus spoke the words quoted above, He was speaking only to the 11 remaining apostles. Jesus told them that the Holy Ghost would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all things He had spoken to them. He also promised that the Holy Ghost would guide them into all Truth, referring to the Word of God (John 17:17). So, the very Word of God tells us here that the apostles would be given all of God’s revelation to mankind, which came to pass. Since the question, “How much of God’s Word was to be revealed?” has been answered by these promises, and since the miraculous gifts were confirming this spoken Word, just how long did that Word need to be confirmed by these suspensions of the laws of nature (i.e., miracles)? How long were miracles to continue?

To begin answering this question, consider Ephesians 4:8, 11-14:

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men… And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.

Let us now review this passage and closely analyze a section of it. Verse 8 tells us that when Christ ascended to Heaven, He gave gifts (i.e., miraculous abilities) to men. In verse 11, in speaking of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, Paul is relating these offices/functions to the miraculous gifts mentioned in verse 8. Paul tells us in verse 12 that Christ gave these gifts “for the perfecting of the saints…” The Greek word translated “perfect” means “complete,” “mature,” “full-grown.” So, these extra helps (gifts) were gradually making the saints complete as God was gradually revealing and declaring His Word to them. This miraculous revelation and confirmation of the Word helped with “the work of the ministry” and “the edifying of the body” (which is the church [Eph. 1:22-23]).

How long were these gifts to continue? Verse 13 says “Till…,” but till when? “Till we all come in the unity of the faith…” Note that Paul is not here speaking of the unity of brethren with one another, but of “the unity of the faith,” referring to the fullness of the Gospel, which is God’s “system of faith” (Acts 6:7; Rom. 1:5; 1 Tim. 4:1; Jude 3; et al.). And why had Paul and his contemporaries not yet come into the unity of the system of “the faith”? It had not yet been fully delivered to them, hence the need for the miraculous gifts and functions. However, by the time Jude wrote his short epistle, “the faith” had been once for all “delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Did miraculous gifts and offices cease at this point? According to the Holy Spirit’s words through Paul in Ephesians 4:13, they did. In the same verse, Paul also wrote that these miraculous manifestations would continue “till we all come in the unity… of the knowledge of the Son of God…” Were Paul and his contemporaries ever equipped with that full knowledge at some point? Peter said they were: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3, emph. DES). Apart from the miracles, how could they have the unified and perfected system of “the faith”? Without the miracles, how could they have the fullness of the knowledge of Him? How could they become “a perfect (i.e., complete, mature, full-grown) man” (Eph. 4:13)?

In Paul’s final epistle, just before he was executed, he declared: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God… That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).1 Now consider: The man of God is “perfect” (complete) by means of the Scriptures, as just noted, and miracles were only to continue till the man of God was “perfect” (complete) (Eph. 4:13). Thus, the completion of the Scriptures rendered the miraculous gifts unnecessary. Further, with the completed Scriptures, the church possessed a standard—the standard—of the faith, by use of which they would “henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (Eph. 4:14). The church in its infant years, referred to here as “children,” needed the miracles and direct guidance of the Holy Ghost, just as children in their early years need direct guidance from their parents. However, equipped with all of God’s revelation in written form, the church had the means of maturing, no longer needing that direct guidance and confirmation.

Again, Paul makes this very clear in one other passage we will analyze:

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (1 Cor. 13:8-12).

In showing that love (i.e., “charity”) would outlast all miracles, in verse 8 Paul declared that prophecies would fail, tongues would cease, and miraculous knowledge would vanish away. These three gifts are intended to represent all nine miraculous gifts Paul had earlier listed (1 Cor. 12:8-10). He named some of them, meaning all of them—since they were all interrelated as to purpose. Stating a part for the whole is a recognized figure of speech called a synecdoche.

In verse 9, Paul employs the synecdoche again by referring only to two miraculous gifts—knowledge and prophesy. By referring to these gifts in this way, he means again to include all the miraculous gifts. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part shows us that God’s Word was being revealed part-by-part over a period of time while the gifts were still available.

In verse 10 Paul wrote, “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (remember, perfect means “complete”). That which is perfect describes the completed revelation promised to the apostles (John 16:13). Once the Word was completed (i.e., all the “parts” had been revealed and recorded), the miraculous revelation and confirmation of the Word part-by-part would cease. As noted earlier, Paul tells us that the man of God equipped with the Scriptures is perfect/complete (2 Tim. 3:16-17). James called the Gospel “the perfect (complete) law of liberty” (1:25). Thus, Paul’s expression, that which is perfect, can only refer to the completed revelation of God to mankind, which we now have in the Bible.

Paul goes on to explain that the miracles were only meant for the infant church. He does so by likening this to a child’s growing into manhood: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11). This comparison lines up perfectly with what he wrote in Ephesians 4:8, 11-14, and with the rest of the Bible.

Paul then states in verse 12:

For now we see through a glass (mirror), darkly… (at that point in history they were only receiving the Word of God part-by-part, and therefore they could only see part of the picture of God’s revelation); but then face to face (the time was coming when they would be able to see God’s Will clearly, upon the completion of the New Testament): now I know in part (What did they know in part?—again, the Will of God); but then shall I know even as also I am known (the time would come when Paul would know the fullness of God’s Will in his lifetime, just as surely as God already knew him fully) (emph. DES).


So, our question is, “Have miracles ceased?” Would/did there come a time when men would/did grow to a spiritually mature state wherein God would entrust them, yea, even require them, to have faith—based on evidentiary proof recorded in a Book (i.e., the Scriptures)—that what is spoken is truly the Word of God? If not, why would any of the Word be written? We could simply base our faith on the “miracles” men yet claim to perform, and trust that they were speaking the Word directly from God—in which case we do not, and never did, need the written Word. To take this approach, though, will certainly be the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death.

To say that men are still performing miracles implies that more Truth has been coming forth and will continue to do so. Continued revelation of Truth after the time of the apostles would falsify what God said in John 16:13, wherein He promised the apostles the Holy Spirit would guide them into all Truth. It also leaves the man of God incomplete when equipped with the Scriptures alone, which means that Paul would have written an inaccuracy (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Further, if miracles are still truly being performed today, what is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (wherein Paul clearly tied the cessation of the miracles to the completion of the Word, as he did in Eph. 4:8, 11-14)? Moreover, the “perfect” (complete) law of liberty” would not be complete (Jam. 1:25).

To hold that God is still giving miraculous gifts to men would mean that the church is still like a child (1 Cor. 13:11; Eph. 4:14). It would mean that we are not equipped with “all things that pertain to life and godliness” through the knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 1:3), and that the faith was not “once for all delivered” (Jude 3), causing Peter and Jude to contradict Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4. However, were not they guided by the Holy Ghost to write what they wrote? So, how could they be incorrect and contradict other inspired writers? They were not, and they did not. Interpretations based on unfounded assumptions, plus unlearned and unstable handling of the Scriptures, render said interpretations incorrect and contradictory of the inspired men. Wanting so badly for the miraculous gifts to continue, men twist the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16). However, the ”honest and good heart” will humbly come out of this error and handle the Word of God rightly (2 Tim. 2:15).

We have observed the following facts in this study:

  1. Jesus promised the apostles (and only the apostles) that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to them, and that the Spirit would “guide them into all truth” (John 16:13). (Thus, if further revelation occurred after the death of the last apostle [John, c. A.D. 100], the Lord did not fulfill His promise.)

  2. The Holy Spirit provided miraculous gifts to the early saints, a major purpose of which was to confirm the truth being spoken as it was being revealed (John 20:30-31; Heb. 2:3-4; et al.).

  3. The apostles alone possessed the power to transmit miraculous gifts of the Spirit to other disciples (Acts 6:5-8; 8:14-19; 19:6; 2 Tim. 1:6). Therefore, when the last apostle died, the means of empowering others died with him.

  4. When the revelation was complete, the need for the miraculous gifts of confirmation would no longer exist and they would cease (1 Cor. 13:8-12; Eph. 4:11-14).

Revelation and confirmation ran on parallel tracks with the same point of termination. Before the last surviving apostle (John) died, the revelation of God to men had been fully, completely, perfectly given and committed to writing. Not only were the miraculous gifts no longer needed, but by Divine “coincidence,” with the death of John the means of transmitting these gifts no longer existed. Thus, when the last brother or sister died, upon whom an apostle had laid hands so as to impart spiritual gifts, miraculous powers themselves were no more.

Miraculous gifts, like the scaffolding of a building, were necessary for the process of construction. However, as the scaffolds are temporary and are rendered superfluous and unnecessary with the building’s completion, so it is with the Spiritual gifts. They were necessary, but temporary measures the Lord used to complete the “construction” of His New Testament—the Gospel, the faith. Once completed (“delivered,” Jude 3), He removed the “scaffolds.”

To claim that God has provided men with miraculous abilities since the first century and the complete revelation of “all truth,” disrupts the order God has set out and causes the Bible to contradict itself multiple times. God will never do such even once (1 Cor. 14:33; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Have miracles ceased? The Word of God emphatically answers, “Yes they Have!”


1 Granted, Scripture in the immediate context likely refers to the Old Testament, which Timothy had been taught from his childhood (2 Tim. 3:15). However, by the time of Paul’s writing those words (c. A.D. 68), he had written all of his other epistles, and other New Testament books had been written as well (e.g., Matthew, Luke, Acts, et al.). We know that at least some of these were in circulation (e.g., Col. 4:15-16) and were accepted as inspired writings at the time Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy. Moreover, Peter referred to Paul’s writings as “Scripture” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Thus, when Paul referred to “all Scripture,” the term includes, in principle, all inspired Scripture that had been or would be revealed—including the New Testament Scriptures.

Addendum—Related Questions

What about Ananias’ “laying his hands” on Paul (Acts 9:17)?

Notice that Jesus spoke directly to Ananias. This shows that this occasion was completely out of the ordinary. Saul (Paul) the man, his conversion, and his apostleship were all extraordinary—he was an apostle “born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:8). But even considering all of this, the context of Acts 9:17 does not suggest that Saul received his miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of Ananias’s hands. We dare not add something that is not there (Rev. 22:18-19) or reach a conclusion that causes a contradiction between passages of Holy Writ. Luke tells us that Ananias’s purposes for meeting Saul were (1) so that he might receive his sight (Acts 9:12), (2) to tell him what he must do to be saved (9:6, 17-18; 22:16), and (3) that Saul might “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (9:17). Ananias obviously possessed the miraculous gift of healing, otherwise he could not have healed Saul’s blindness (Saul’s healing was “immediate” and “at once” when Ananias laid his hands on him). Since, as previously proved, only apostles could empower others with miraculous gifts of the Spirit (Acts 6:5-6; 8:12-17; 19:6), we must conclude that at some point (likely before coming to Damascus Ananias had been in Jerusalem) the apostles had transmitted this power to him, as they had done in the case of the seven disciples and the Samaritan saints (6:5-6, 8; 8:6-7, 13).

Note that, while Ananias healed Saul’s blindness by laying his hands on him, Luke does not state that this would be the means of Saul’s being “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Ananias said the Lord sent him so that Saul’s sight might be restored and that he might be filled with the Holy Spirit (9:17). However, note also that the stated result of Ananias’ laying his hands on Saul was not that “he received his sight, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit,” but that “he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized” (v. 18; cf. 22:16). Filled with the Holy Spirit does not necessarily refer to miracle-working power; its meaning must be determined by the context.

The case of the seven disciples in Jerusalem is instructive in this regard. Significantly, Luke stated that they were “full of the Holy Spirit” before the apostles laid hands on them, thereby empowering them to work signs and wonders (Acts 6:3-6). Thus, full of the Holy Spirit in that context apparently referred to the “ordinary” non-miraculous “gift of the Holy Spirit” promised every person following his confessed faith in the Christ, repentance of sins, and baptism in water unto the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:37-38; cf. 5:32). One must have this “filling” (i.e., “indwelling”) of the Spirit (which implies no miraculous abilities), or he does not belong to God (Rom. 8:9-11).

He arose and was baptized tells the means by—and the point at—which Saul was “filled with the Holy Spirit” as a result of Ananias’s visit, that is, when he was baptized in water, not when Ananias laid his hands upon him. There is no record of Saul’s miraculous powers until sometime later as he and Barnabas are named among the “prophets” at Antioch (13:1; cf. Gal. 1:11-21). Paul’s first miracle is not recorded until after he and Barnabas entered upon their first preaching trip (Acts 13:9-12). Of course, there is no denying that Paul, being an apostle, was at some point baptized with the Holy Ghost, generally believed to have occurred while he was in Arabia (Gal. 1:17).

What about the gift that was given to Timothy “with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery” (1 Tim. 4:14)?

While “laying hands on” someone in the New Testament sometimes indicates the impartation of miraculous gifts (e.g., Acts 6:3-6, 8; 8:17-18; et al.), it does not in every case, as indicated above (Acts 9:17-18). The presbytery refers to the particular congregational eldership under which Timothy served, likely at the time that he joined Paul’s efforts, thus the elders of the church at Lystra (Acts 16:1-3). It was customary in that day for brethren to “lay hands on” men chosen for given responsibilities, thus indicating their approval of them (cf. Acts 13:1-3). Notice in 1 Timothy 4:14 that Timothy did not receive the gift by, but “with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” They were thereby demonstrating their approval of and confidence in Timothy as fully capable of the work upon which he was about to enter. That the gift Timothy received was given “by prophecy” likely means that Paul knew by inspiration that Timothy was a suitable young man for Paul’s endeavors. Whatever “gift of God” (i.e., spiritual gift) Timothy was given came through the hands of Paul (2 Tim. 1:6), not through the hands of the elders.

Since Philip could not give miraculous abilities to others (Acts 8:12-19), how did his daughters receive the gift of prophecy (Acts 21:9)?

Philip received miraculous gifts when the apostles laid their hands on him and the six other brethren in Jerusalem (Acts 6:5-6, 8; 8:5-7). After departing from the apostles, he went to Samaria (Acts 8:5), thereafter taking up residence in Caesarea (v. 40) in perhaps A.D. 38. His name disappears from the inspired record until Paul visited him in Caesarea in about A.D. 58. (21:9). Since we do not know the age of either Philip or his daughters, it is possible that the daughters were old enough for the apostles to impart the gift of prophecy to them either while they lived in Jerusalem or when Peter and John visited them in Samaria. Further, as close as Philip was with the apostles, being a member of the Jerusalem congregation with them, it is certainly possible, even probable, that he met up with one or more of them occasionally over that span of 20 years. We know his daughters had met them at least once. Thus, there were ample opportunities for these ladies to receive the gift of prophecy through the laying on of the hands of one or more apostles.

Are not all who become Christians baptized by/in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13)?

Paul wrote: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).

As we have learned in the foregoing material, Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 16:13) (thus all of God’s Word [17:17]). This guidance was accomplished by the miraculous powers provided by the Holy Ghost. This Word that was revealed to them was for the purpose of saving mankind. Christ stated that men must believe that revealed message—the Gospel—and be baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:15-16). Baptism is for—in order to receive—the remission (pardon) of one’s sins (Acts 2:38), and the element of this baptism is water (Acts 8:36; 10:47-48; Eph. 5:26-27; et al.). Our sins are washed away by Jesus’ blood in the act of baptism (Rev. 1:5; Acts 22:16). Baptism saves us (i.e., in the sense that baptism in water is the point at which we are saved) (1 Pet. 3:21; cf. Mark 16:16a; et al.). It is the only way we can get “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27), being baptized into His one body, His church (Eph. 1:22-23), where all spiritual blessings are, including forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:3, 7; 2 Tim. 2:10). Furthermore, Christ commanded men to administer this baptism (Mat. 28:19).

We therefore know that 1 Corinthians 12:13 does not refer to baptism in the Holy Ghost, for only God could perform that. How do we know all of this? Only by the guidance of the Holy Ghost—as written in His Holy Scriptures. He guided the apostles to write what they wrote, and we have that Word preserved for our guidance. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body… (1 Cor. 12:13) simply means that by the agency of this one Spirit—by His direction through His Word (Eph. 6:17)—we learn that we must be baptized (in water) into that one body, the church of Christ. This understanding of 1 Corinthians 12:13 is fully demonstrated in the events of Pentecost. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter commanded believers to repent and be baptized in order to receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), whereupon about 3,000 who received (obeyed) the Holy Spirit’s Word (as preached by Peter) were baptized and “added unto them” (v. 41). That to which the Lord added them was His church (v. 47; cf. Mat. 16:18). Verse 47 also states that He has continued to add souls to His church every day as they are baptized in water unto remission of sins.

This concludes the portion of this series of the manuscript “Have Miracles Ceased?” In the next part of this series, the response of Mrs. Julie Jackson will be covered and analyzed. Her response is telling, and in typical fashion of denominationalists swamped in Pentecostalism. It cannot, however, be missed that she responded with a letter of significant length. Perhaps that is an indication that the manuscript unsettled her in the error she was (is?) steeped in.

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