Are Modern Miracles Scriptural?

By Mark W. Swarbrick

“For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:39)

There is an unfortunate teaching that prevails in some circles. It is this: God doesn’t work miracles anymore. The spectacular and marvelous workings of God we read about in the book of Acts; they are strictly a thing of the past. That was just for them back then. Miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, prophecy, words of knowledge, laying on of hands for healing – that has all passed away and was only meant for the 1st century Church. Those who promote such things today are, at worst, quacks and frauds; at best, they are simpletons who don’t understand how to properly interpret scripture. This is the official position of some.

This doctrinal position is very dangerous. It will limit God’s working in the lives of people. The reason why is because of the principle: According to your faith be it unto you. Here is the passage where Jesus speaks of that:

“And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, ‘Believe ye that I am able to do this?’ They said unto him, ‘Yea, Lord.’ Then touched he their eyes, saying, according to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened…” (Matthew 9:27-30)

Faith is frequently required for God to do wonderful things. In Matthew 13:58 we read:

“And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.”

And in Hebrews 11:6 we see:

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

Those who believe the diabolical doctrine that God cannot, or will not, work miracles anymore, will suffer spiritual harm. Their faith will be damaged. If they don’t believe God will do anything miraculous, then in accordance with their faith, so it will be. They will see no miracles.

There are entire denominations who disbelieve in miracles for the Church today. They assert this as an absolute dogmatic truth and reject even the possibility of genuine supernatural miracles occurring today. They insist that after 100 AD all miracles and signs had ceased forever. They claim that by the time the apostles died, all supernatural signs had died out as well. Because they don’t believe in miracles, they never see any miraculous events in their churches, which of course reinforces their belief. It is a self-fulfilling doctrine.

Certainly, God is sovereign and no one commands the hands of God. We pray with supplication, not command. Those who teach that God always heals in every instance are in error. Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20) and the Lord refused to heal Paul, telling him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Those of the Word of Faith movement who teach that we can name it and claim it and speak things into existence are bordering on cultic belief. Charlatans on television who pretend to work miracles and sell bottles of holy water are snake oil salesmen.

Nevertheless, the existence of the counterfeit does not negate the reality of the genuine. God still works miracles. Those who say he doesn’t, and who castigate those who believe He does, would do well to heed the words of Gamaliel, “If it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:39) May such be reminded of the words of God to Abraham and Sarah, who also doubted His miraculous power: “Is anything to hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14)

Fortunately, there are three testaments that utterly demolish the doctrinal error of “no miracles today.” These are the testimony of current events in the lives of believers, the testimony of Church history, and the testimony of Holy Scripture.

Testimony of Believers

My book Heavenly Miracles is a perfect example. The miracles I describe in that book really happened. I have seen people miraculously healed. I have witnessed prophesies and tongues and beheld demons flee at the name of Jesus. I have prophesied, spoken in tongues and experienced instant healing myself  through the laying on of hands. These things really happened. I made none of it up. I have not exaggerated. To do so would be disingenuous. To embellish and overstate what God has done would be sinful. I know there are some who, in their zeal, may have aggrandized events without careful attention to facts. I decry such a thing. Honesty is always the best policy.

I am not some special exception. I have found that most Christians have experienced events in their life which they attribute to the miraculous intervention of God. Read the accounts of persecuted Christians in underground churches in Communist countries. They are filled with miraculous stories. Missionaries working with remote tribes in the jungles of South America have amazing accounts of the blind receiving their sight, demons being cast out and the sick being instantly healed. These wonders are happening all over the world, right now.

Muslims in Iran and other third-world countries are having visions of Jesus and are turning to him as their Lord and Savior. Persecuted Christians are ministering in the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit as they testify about Jesus under threat of imprisonment and torture. The testimony of believers living today refutes the notion that God doesn’t work miracles.

 Testimony of Church History

Anyone who has studied the writings of the Ante-Nicene fathers knows that miracles continued after the time of the apostles. Eusebius, Church historian of the 4th century, quotes Irenaeus, who wrote the following words describing miracles in the Church during the latter end of the 2nd century:

Irenaeus – 2nd Century

“In His name…some drive out demons really and truly, so that often those cleansed from evil spirits believe and become members of the Church; some have foreknowledge of the future, visions, and prophetic utterances; others, by the laying-on of hands, heal the sick and restore them to health; and before now, as I said, dead men have actually been raised and have remained with us for many years. In fact, it is impossible to enumerate the gifts which throughout the world the Church has received from God and in the name of Jesus…”

“In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God.” [1]

Justin MartyrAD 165

“For one receives the spirit of understanding, another of counsel, another of strength, another of healing, another of foreknowledge…” [2]

Tertullian – AD 215

“And thus we who both acknowledge and reverence, even as we do the prophecies, modern visions as equally promised to us, and consider the other powers of the Holy Spirit as an agency of the Church…so that no weakness or despondency of faith may suppose that the divine grace abode only among the ancients…” [3]

Novatian – AD 270

“He who places prophets in the Church, instructs teachers, directs tongues, gives powers and healings, does wonderful works, often discrimination of spirits, affords powers of government, suggests counsels, and orders and arranges whatever other gifts there are of charismata…” [4]

Augustine – AD 354-430

There are some who claim that Augustine disbelieved that God worked miracles in his time. Those who say this are either wickedly disingenuous or else woefully ignorant of the facts. Augustine early in his ministry did think that miracles ended with the apostles but then he witnessed a revival in the north of Africa. In his book, The City of God, Augustine testified that he saw miraculous healings, blindness cured, and even people resurrected from the dead. This changed his mind.  Page after page of Augustine’s book recounts healings of breast cancer, gout and other ailments. He tells of paralytics totally healed and demoniacs restored to sanity. He wrote,

“For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ…The miracle which was wrought at Milan when I was there, and by which a blind man was restored to sight, could come to the knowledge of many; for not only is the city a large one, but also the emperor was there at the time, and the occurrence was witnessed by an immense concourse of people.”[1]

“I cannot record all the miracles I know…when I saw, in our own times, frequent signs of the presence of divine powers similar to those which had been given of old, I desired that narratives might be written…”

These witnesses – from Irenaeus in the 2nd Century to Augustine in the 5th century – all give testimony to miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit operative for hundreds of years after the time of the apostles. This is proof positive that miracles did not end in the 1st century as is the dogmatic assertion of some.

Likewise, there are accounts of miracles all the way through Church history up to the present time. Certainly, their abundance has ebbed and flowed based upon the faith of the Church. When scriptural truth was suppressed and people lost faith, miracles would be scarce. When the Word of God was taught accurately and faith grew, so also did the manifestation of God’s miraculous power in the Church. The Pentecostal revival of the 20th century is exemplary of renewed understanding and faith resulting in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit being manifest in countless denominations throughout the world in modern times.

Testimony of Scripture

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 The New Birth

No discussion of miracles would be complete without mentioning the greatest miracle of all – the new birth in Christ. If Christianity was nothing more than learning doctrines, attending services and trying to be good, it would be a terribly dull and dreary affair. How wonderful and thrilling it is that becoming a Christian begins with a miracle; Jesus enters into you and miraculously changes you from the inside out. Your soul is flooded with peace beyond comprehension and you are born again.

If God did not work miracles today the new birth in Christ would not be possible. Denying miracles is tantamount to denying that Christ really does something real and tangible in the heart of the believer. It reduces Christianity to nothing but boring, dead and dry religiosity. If it is as some say, that miracles were only for the 1st century, then who can say whether the miracle of salvation and the new birth are for today? Perhaps that also was something that was only for the time of the apostles. The same arguments used against miracles today would apply equally to being born again. Denying miracles for today calls into question the entire practice of the Christian faith.

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

In Acts Chapter 2 the Holy Spirit came upon a gathering of believers (approximately 120 people) and they spoke in tongues. A crowed gathered and heard the tongues and wondered what this was all about. When Peter preached to the crowd that gathered, he told them:

“This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions…I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy….and it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts 2:16,17,21)

Note that the Old Testament prophesy did not say God’s Spirit would be poured out in only the 1st century, but in the last days, and it would be poured out on “all flesh.” If the 1st century was the last days, then certainly today, two thousand years later, we are still in the last days and therefore God would still be pouring out his Spirit on all flesh.

After Peter’s sermon the people asked what they should do. Peter answered:

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

So, this same gift of the Holy Spirit, this gift that resulted in the miraculous manifestation they had witnessed, was promised also to the crowd, and to their children and “all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” So, this miraculous experience was promised to everyone who accepts Christ. The words of Jesus reinforce this:

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

This is clear evidence that the miracle of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with its accompanying miracles of tongues and prophesy is for believers today as much as in the 1st century.

 The Teaching of Jesus

Jesus clearly taught that God would perform miracles in response to the prayers of his followers. There is no indication that this was a temporary promise that was to be limited to the 1st century. Jesus plainly said, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” This is irrefutable. “Whoever believes” includes all Christians of all time.  

Denying miracles today is tantamount to denying the veracity of the words of our Lord. Consider Jesus’ words:

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:20-24)

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14)

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues…” (Mark 16:17)

Are Jesus’ words still true today? Who would dare call our Lord a liar? To deny the possibility of miracles today is to stand in direct opposition to the very words of our Lord and Savior.

 The Prescription for the Church

The New Testament contains some specific instructions for the Church in regard to miracles. These passages are rendered impotent and pointless if miracles are not for today, and if that be the case, then there are whole sections of scripture that we may as well hack out the Bible. The prescription for healing is one example:

“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up…”  (James 5:14-15)

Has God’s word been rendered null and void? Those who deny God’s miraculous power must declare this scripture devoid of truth and power. Why then even keep it in the Bible? It is either God’s truth or it is not. One must decide. I thank God that I attend a church that still believes in this scripture and regularly prays for the healing of the sick. I can testify to God’s instantaneous healing power, for I have experienced it personally and dramatically. I have been healed and I have prayed for others and seen them healed.

The prescription for prophecy in the Church is another example. The Apostle Paul said:

“But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” (1 Corinthians 14:24)

I have seen this very thing happen more than once. It is powerful and effectual for bringing sinners to repentance and comforting Christians. When God reveals something to a person, and they prophesy to another something that they could not possibly have known other than through God’s revelation, the effect is nothing short of amazing. I have seen it help to bring sinners to Jesus. I have seen Christians cry tears of joy as the love of God is ministered with supernatural power.  How sad that people want to take this away from the Church. The denial of moves of the Holy Spirit like this are in direct violation of the command of Holy Scripture:

“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good…”  (1 (Thessalonians 5:19-21)

“So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:29)

 Will Tongues Cease?

The proof text that is most often used to justify forbidding people from speaking in tongues and which is used to justify despising prophetic utterances is 1 Corinthians 13:8-11:

“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”

Typically, only the four words “tongues they will cease” is quoted and the context is ignored. This passage is about love. It is not about the gifts of the Spirit passing away in the 1st century. Verse 1 of this chapter introduces the subject with:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…”

The whole point of the passage is that love is eternal and that exercising gifts for any reason other than love is utterly pointless. Verse 11 gives us the time frame for when prophecy and tongues are going to be no more. It is when “the perfect comes.” When the perfect Son of God sets up his perfect Millennial Kingdom upon earth, then these gifts of the Holy Spirit will no longer be needed.

 Do Tongues Cause Division?

It is alleged that speaking in tongues causes division. This is an oft repeated accusation. It is true that some churches have split over the question of gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, this only happens in a denomination that dogmatically refuses to accept the gifts of the Spirit as outlined in the Bible. Speaking in tongues is one of the most controversial of the gifts. Paul recognized this and was prompted to instruct the church with the admonition: “Do not forbid speaking in tongues.”

Tongues, for the most part, is a private prayer language. Paul made it clear that tongues was mainly for private devotions, rather than public worship:

If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? (1 Corinthians 14:23)

“For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 14:2)

“I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)

It is not speaking in tongues that causes the contention and division. It is the violation of the scriptural ordinance to not forbid speaking in tongues; that is what causes division. How people pray in private is between them and God. They should not be dictated to in such matters by an overreaching ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Why did Paul find it necessary to write the instruction that tongues not be forbidden? Because he knew, that both then and now, there would be people that would try to forbid it. Why? Because the world doesn’t understand tongues. It is strange to them. Speaking in tongues doesn’t fit in with the world. Not at all. They think it is foolishness. We must remember that it is a temptation to want to fit in with the world. Paul knew there would be unspiritual people that didn’t want the world to think them strange. We must recall the wisdom of 1 Corinthians 1:27:

“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…”

 Do Pentecostals Say Tongues are Paramount?

Those who believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit (listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10) are for today are often so thoroughly harassed and harangued over tongues that much time is spent refuting those who contradict the plain text of Holy Scripture. Consequently, it is often assumed that Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues is the most important issue of Christendom, and they are often accused of the same.

As a Pentecostal minister I can tell you unequivocally that knowing Jesus as your personal Savior, loving God from a pure heart and our neighbor as ourselves is of uttermost importance. All else is secondary to that. If any do not wish to pursue the gifts of the Spirit, so be it. They are still brothers or sisters in Christ.

 Tongues – Why Does it Matter?

Jesus told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8)

This baptism, or immersion, in the Holy Spirit would endow them with gifts of the Spirit to empower them for ministry. We have already seen that this promise was not just for the apostles, for Peter declared in his sermon on Pentecost that it was for all those who accepted Christ.

When a person accepts Christ, they are then and there indwelt by the Holy Spirit, resulting in the new birth. However, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a different operation of the Holy Spirit that happens at some point after being born again. It may be immediate, or it may be some time later. When the Apostle Paul came to Ephesus, he found some Christians and he asked them:

Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? (Acts 19:2)

From this we see that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an event that happens subsequent to salvation.

How does one know if they have received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? In Acts chapters 2, 8, 10, and 19 we have accounts of people receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. In each case they spoke in tongues. In Chapter 8 tongues is not specifically mentioned, but the fact that Simon saw something so spectacular that he offered money to be able to impart the gift, indicates that it was most likely tongues that he witnessed.

This brings us to the significance of tongues. It is the evidence of having received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and it is this event that endues the believer with power to prophesy, to be used in healing, miracles and all the other supernatural empowerments from God. The Holy Spirit Baptism is not required for salvation but it certainly empowers believers to mightily and effectually bring the gospel to those who need salvation.

Summary

God’s word predicted that times would come when people would lay claim to godliness, but deny that God still moves in power:

 “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:1,5)

So it is. Whole churches deny that there is miraculous power in the name of Jesus. It is a fulfillment of prophecy. The testimony of countless Christians alive today stands against this. So also, the historical record of Christianity down through the ages declares that God has indeed moved in power in response to faith and prayer. Last but not lease, indeed it is foremost, the testimony of Holy Scripture declares unambiguously that God’s miraculous power is available today.

Satan still prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The minions of deception and darkness still exert their demonic influence upon the world. We need God’s miraculous help now as much as ever. How wonderful it is that that 1 John 4:4 and Hebrews 13:8 are still true today:

“Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

 

[1] (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:6:1)

[2] Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho

[3] The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume 3

[4] The Ante-Nicene Fathers: p. 641

[5] The City of God, P. 433

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