Are miracles for today? Did the gifts of the Holy Spirit cease with the death of the apostles? Did God use miracles only to help validate the authors of the New Testament?
Cessationism has been debated in Christian theology for centuries. It’s the view that the practice of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, prophetic utterances, and faith healing, ceased early in Christian history. And no longer do believers have access to all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible, just as they were practiced in the early church.
6 Different Schools of Thoughts Regarding Miracles/Healing for Today:
- Anti-Supernaturalists: They don’t believe that miracles stopped with the death of apostles; they simply believe that miracles never occurred in the first place.
- Hardcore Cessationists: They reject any supernatural manifestations, don’t embrace miracles, or believe in demonic possession today. Their view is that God can perform miracles but they are very rare; all the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased being available since the 1st century AD.
- Softcore Cessationists: They don’t completely reject the supernatural. They believe that God allows miracles where the Gospel is breaking new ground, but miracles shouldn’t be a norm or expected.
- Believing Continuationists: They believe that gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today and that miracles are real today. There is just one issue: they actually don’t practice them or expect them.
- Practicing Continuationists: They welcome all the gifts and practice them in their life.
- Abusing Continuationists: They abuse the gifts of the Holy Spirit and glamorize them. They elevate the spiritual experience above the written Word of God.
The doctrine of cessationism is firmly entrenched in Reformed Christianity. This is the belief that the apostolic and charismatic gifts ceased after the era of the original 12 apostles. However, several notable early church fathers—such as Justin Martyr (100-165), Irenaeus (115-202), Tertullian (160-220), and Origen (185-254)—recorded that the spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues, were still active in the church in their days, long after John had passed away around 96 AD.
“When The Perfect Comes“
“Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.”1 Corinthians 13:8-10
Yes, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are partial but love is complete. Gifts are temporary but love is eternal. The gifts communicate imperfect knowledge, but love is greater than knowledge. What we need now is to practice faith, hope, and love. One day faith will give way to sight, and hope will turn into an experience but love will remain for all eternity because “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16).
Cessationists believe that the miraculous gifts ceased at the end of the apostolic age with the completion of the written New Testament revelation. They base their argument on the verse that says:
“But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.”1 Corinthians 13:10
Cessationists use this statement to refer to the completion of the New Testament canon (which was in 397 AD), but that is not what the apostle Paul said to the Corinthian church. Paul was referring to the Second Coming of Christ. When Christ returns, we will not need to speak in tongues to communicate with God because He will be with us.
The early church continued in the apostle’s doctrine from the beginning (Acts 2:42), before those teachings became the official written canon. The early church did not have a completed Bible, but they did have the same doctrinal content transmitted verbally. It was considered just as valid, and not at all incomplete.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.Acts 2:42
“All Gifts Have Ceased!”
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.1 Corinthians 12:4-5
It seems that there are three categories of gifts: gifts of the Father, gifts of the Son, and gifts of the Spirit. Gifts granted by the Father are operational gifts that are given to all members of Christ’s Body. These gifts are focused on life, purpose, and motivation.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.Romans 12:6-8
The gifts granted by Jesus are ministry gifts given for the benefit of the Church.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,Ephesians 4:11
These gifts define responsibilities in the ministry which equip Believers to serve in the body. And the gifts granted by the Holy Spirit are gifts of revelation, power, and inspiration.
For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.1 Corinthians 12:8-10
They are given to Christians as the Spirit wants to distribute them for the benefit of all. It’s interesting how some contemporary teachers believe in the gifts of the Father, partially in the gifts of Jesus (minus the gifts of “apostle” and “prophet”), but not in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Did the Holy Spirit run out of these gifts? Is there no longer a need for them? Did God ever suggest that they will cease when the apostles die and the New Testament would be written?
“Miracles Are For Validation!”
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know.”Acts 2:22
Cessationists believe that miracles were primarily given by God, not to meet people’s needs, but to authenticate His messengers, so people would know that He sent them. It’s true that one of the purposes of miracles was to be a sign to validate God’s servants (see 2 Cor. 12:12, Heb. 2:4). Miracles are called signs – they point to a greater reality. But this is not the whole picture.
And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sickMatthew 14:14
Jesus healed out of love and compassion. This manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one of us for the profit of all (1 Corinthians 12:7). Miracles are meant mainly to help people; confirming the message is the secondary reason for them. Healing is an expression of God’s mercy to humanity.
To believe that God performs miracles only to validate the message of the original apostles goes contrary to His heart and nature. It would be like saying that a pianist plays the piano just to prove that he has fingers. Well, no! The pianist plays the piano because he loves music, not because he wants to confirm that he has fingers. Music is in him and miracles are in us.To believe that God performs miracles only to validate the message of the original apostles goes contrary to His heart and nature. It would be like saying that a pianist plays the piano just to prove that he has fingers. Click To Tweet
Miracles are first and foremost for the benefit of people in need. Jesus is still moved with compassion today. He hasn’t changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He still wants to heal the sick, the ailing, and the frail today.
If miracles done by the apostles were meant only to authenticate the apostles’ authority, then why didn’t all the apostles write in the New Testament? Why is it that 41 percent of the New Testament was written by men who were not of the original 12 apostles? Stephen and Philip were not apostles but did “great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8; 8:6,7).
But, let’s say that miracles were indeed only for confirming the message of the Gospel, then why wouldn’t we need to validate the message with miracles for our generation today? Each generation has its own apologists who refute atheism by writing books and holding conferences, even though we have the Bible available to us. God uses these men to combat lies in their own generation. So why should we not expect miracles to confirm and validate God’s saving message for our generation?
“Miracles Waned After The Apostles Died!”
Cessationists claim that even in the early church, healings and miracles began to wane toward the end of the apostles’ era. The fact that the epistles written later don’t mention spiritual gifts seems to imply that the gifts had already ceased by then.
Even if the gifts decreased in intensity after the 1st century, this again does not prove or mean that they ceased to exist. Even the doctrine of grace became dormant during the Dark Ages. That certainly does not mean grace passed away.
“Apostles And Prophets Are Gone Because…”
…Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.Ephesians 2:20
One of the arguments presented by those who believe that miracles are not for today is that the apostles and prophets served only to establish the foundation of the church. Since the foundation is laid now, we don’t need them.
It’s important to notice that apostles and prophets are not the foundation of the church, Jesus Christ is. Paul laid the foundational truths for the believers in Corinth but Paul wasn’t the foundation.Apostles and prophets are not the foundation of the Church, Jesus Christ is. Click To Tweet
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.1 Corinthians 3:10
The apostles and prophets laid the foundation for the churches 2,000 years ago, each in different areas. Laying a foundation was simply bringing to a new area the message of salvation through faith in Jesus. Paul wanted to preach in new territories so that he wouldn’t build on someone else’s foundation.
And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation.Romans 15:20
Not all prophets and apostles were foundational to the creation of the Biblical canon. For example, there were many prophets whose words and prophecies are not recorded in the New Testament. If the ministry of prophets and apostles was for establishing the biblical canon, then why don’t we have a recording of every prophecy? And why didn’t the other 9 disciples of Jesus write any books for the New Testament?
I don’t believe that today’s apostles have the same function as the apostles of Jesus, who directly carried on the ministry of Jesus after His ascension into Heaven. This included establishing, for succeeding generations, the doctrine of faith in Jesus Christ and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. In contemporary times, an apostle is someone who has had a visible or personal encounter with the Lord, plants churches, and his ministry is marked with signs and wonders.
“God Stopped Speaking After The New Testament Was Written!”
This is the idea that prophecy and other revelatory gifts of the Spirit are not needed today because God said all He wanted to say and it’s recorded in the New Testament. The fear cessationists have is that if we believe that God speaks today that means we will add that to the complete, inerrant revelation of the New Testament or somehow belittle the sufficiency of the Bible.
However, the prophecy practiced today doesn’t result in canon-type revelatory words. Probably thousands of prophetic words were circulated in the first century, none of which are part of canonical Scripture. The church in Corinth permitted people to prophesy, and we assume that they did prophesy, but Paul didn’t tell them to record all prophecies in order for them to be included in the canon.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the only way that God speaks to His people. On the contrary, the Bible tells us of other means God can also use to speak to us. The Scriptures were never meant to be the sum total of God’s communications. Its function is a canon, a measuring stick by which we can evaluate or judge all other prophetic words. If God doesn’t speak anymore through words of prophecy, how different is He from Baal who was silent when the prophets of Baal cried out and no one answered (1 Kings 18)? When Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice, did He forget to mention that some think that the Shepherd doesn’t speak in the present day?Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the only way that God speaks to His people. Click To Tweet
If God doesn’t speak to His children anymore, then our prayers are a one-way street. If we can’t have a relationship with God, He’s not a person but an impersonal force. Imagine having a parent who left for a faraway country; they leave you a note on a napkin telling you where you can reach them and then they throw away their phone so you can’t reach them and stay in touch!
It’s not like that with God. He gave us His Spirit to lead us, fill us, convict us, speak to us through dreams, and visions, use other people to teach us, and make His Word come alive. The Holy Spirit speaks into our hearts for our benefit, direction, and encouragement.
As someone once said, “the world doesn’t need a new explanation of Christianity, it needs a demonstration of Christianity.”
It’s easier to believe that miracles are not for today and to bury ourselves in books and libraries instead of being hungry and humbling ourselves enough to seek Gods’ face. We owe our generation an encounter with God. God can be experienced! He invites us to taste Him and see that He is good.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!Psalm 34:8
Miracles, healing, and tongues are not for a show but to express His love for the dying world and to invite people into a deep relationship with Him.
As believers let’s expect God to move powerfully in and through us. Make room for miracles by praying for them with expectation. Feed yourself with stories about God’s powerful interventions through dedicated, devoted servants. Cry out in private for public manifestations and take risks in public for what you pray for privately.
I pray this was a blessing. Please share this blog and let me know what you think!