Miraculous Gifts -- Their Temporary Nature (Part One)
by Tom Edwards
There are many people today who believe that miraculous gifts are still for our time. Tragically, this has led to some serious consequences. Just recently I read of another person who died from the bite of a poisonous snake that he had been holding in a religious service. Apparently, he was trying to show forth his "faith" in God; but, sadly, he simply manifested a lack of Bible knowledge. Where has the Lord ever commanded an individual to pick up a deadly viper in order for that person to prove his trust and loyalty?
A young couple who belong to a denomination that believes "physical disease, like sin, can be healed by spiritual means alone" went on trial April 17, 1990 for manslaughter charges. Rather than seeking the needed medical treatment for their two-and-a-half-year-old son, they were led by their religious convictions to rely on just prayer itself and reject any medical assistance -- consequently, the boy died.
These and other such cases are not uncommon. Many of our contemporaries strongly believe that the age of miracles and miraculous gifts have not ceased. This persuasion is held, however, in contradistinction to what the Bible teaches -- not to mention the fact that God is often made to appear to the world -- by those who believe such -- as a powerless being who cannot do what they have claimed He supposively will. Even the psuedo-miracles have a tendency to raise question and doubt.
The issue is not, "Does God have the power to work miracles?" The Lord never changes; and what He has done before, He still has the power to do again. However, the Bible shows that after God miraculously imparted His complete revelation to man (along with its confirmation by miraculous signs), and after the death of the apostles (who were the only people who had the ability to give the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands), the time of miraculous gifts had soon phased out -- their purpose being accomplished.
During the establishment of the early church, miracles were abundant. Obviously, man then was greatly in need of them. Their primary purpose, however, was not merely for the sake of healing the sick -- for God can even use physical infirmities in order to help man's spiritual well-being -- but rather to reveal God's message to man (1 Cor. 12:8-10) and to confirm that message which was being preached (Mark 16:15-20; Heb. 2:3,4; 2 Cor. 12:12). During this time, man did not have the complete word of God, so the Lord had to impart His word little by little. How, though, could one know for certain that the person claiming to speak God's divine revelation actually was inspired by God? The answer to this: by the miracles performed. These miraculous signs served to bear witness both to the validity of the inspiration of God's word and also to the credibility of the one who was speaking. By these attesting miracles, people could know beyond all doubt that what they were hearing was from God Himself.
This article is the first in a series of lessons that will deal with the subject of Miraculous Gifts and the Holy Spirit in connection with these gifts. I trust they will help you in your understanding of this topic. May we each always strive to base our beliefs on not merely what the majority or others are saying about God or practicing in their religion; but rather on what God is declaring in His word to us, as to what we should believe and what we should do.