…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
Once, a Chinese pastor shared with me about an enthusiastic new believer in his church. One day, he came to the pastor and asked, “Pastor, I’ve come to know Jesus about 3 months, … I’ve attended church faithfully, read the Bible and pray regularly. I was wondering, Pastor, …. when will I start doing those things I read about in the Bible?”
The pastor was puzzled … and asked, “What things?”
The man replied, ” You know those things like … heal the sick, … cast out demons?”
What would our answer be?
Is the following passage true today?
Mark 16:15-18 (NIV)
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
At the heart is … does God still do miracles, healings, gifts of the Holy Spirit today, in our day & age?
Jesus said, But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons,
then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Mathew 12:28 NIV)
In the Epistles, the writers wrote:
Hebrews 2:3,4 (NIV) to the Hebrews
3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?
This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.
4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Romans 15:18,19 (NIV) to the Romans
18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient— 19 in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:5 (NASB) to the Thessalonians
for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
Paul asked the believers in Galatia
Galatians 3:2, 5, 6,7, 14 (NIV) to the Galatians
2 I would like to learn just one thing from you:
Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law,
or by believing what you heard?
5 So again I ask,
does God give you his Spirit
and work miracles among you
by the works of the law,
or by your believing what you heard?
(i.e. there were miracles happening among the Galatian Christians)
6 So also Abraham “believed God,
and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.
14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
In Acts, the disciples testified,
“… we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard“
Acts 4:20 (NIV)
In meetings in the Gospels and Acts,
people heard teaching and testimonies,
… & saw people healed, the demonised set free, lives transformed,
an experience, … and encounter with Jesus.
Nicodemus, was drawn to Jesus by what Jesus taught and the signs/miracles that Jesus did.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.
For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
John 3:1,2 (NIV)
(Nicodemus was a devout, learned Pharisee)
Here’s a well-researched comprehensive article presented in a Biblical and balanced way which effectively addresses 10 proposed cessation theories,
( Source: Appendix 1, Doug Bannister, The Word & Power Church, Zondervan, 1999, pg 179-193)
Before Jesus came, before the old covenant & the new covenant,
the Lord asked Abraham,
Genesis 18:13,14 (NIV)
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, …
14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? …”
It is true that medical science has progressed tremendously since the time of the Gospels and Acts. In fact, Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and Acts was a physician. Here’s 2 senior doctors sharing their experience of faith and medical science working together.
In the natural, today,
God’s power is still at work in the universe,
… sustaining life.
Consider, … how much energy does it takes to power the sun today?
Paul’s prayer for himself in the letter to the Philippians,
Philippians 3:10,11 (NIV)
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
And part of Paul’s continual prayer for the believers at Ephesus was:
to know his incomparably great power for us who believe — the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms
Ephesians 1:17-21 (NIV) to the Ephesians
17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
Take a pause here, … let’s pray both of Paul’s prayers.
Faith in the Lord who is able and powerful to answer prayer as revealed in the Bible, gives us confidence and assurance to pray to Him in the situations we face today.
Jesus said, But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Mathew 12:28 NIV)
and to the disciples,
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:6-8 (NIV)
Even today, we are still continuing the work of being His witnesses to the ends of the earth … and we truly need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NIV)
3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,
5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom,
but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (NIV)
If the Lord is not able or not powerful today to answer prayers,
… a believer subtlely slips down a slippery road into prayerlessness … seeking answers/solutions for their needs elsewhere.
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind.
Is anything too hard for me?”
Jeremiah 32:27 (NIV)
If God’s power is explained away,
its just one step closer to explaining God away.
In His own hometown, Jesus was limited by the unbelief of the people.
3 Isn’t this the carpenter? …
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”
5 Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.
6 And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.
Mark 6:3-6 (NKJV)
Jesus gave an example of the impact of unbelief on healings in the Old Testament,
22 … And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
24 Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.
27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
Luke 4:22,24,27 (NKJV)
only Naaman, the Syrian was healed
29 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”
Mar 8:29 (NKJV)
27 Martha said to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ,
the Son of God, who is to come into the world.
John 11:27 (NKJV)
Today, our faith is anchored upon the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection,
and if Christ has not been raised,
your faith is worthless;
you are still in your sins.
1 Corinthains 15:17 (NASB)
(about cessation, consider also the 2 witnesses and their signs in Revelation 11, long after the church in Acts)
… “Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here; he has risen! …
Luke 24:5,6 (NIV)
At the last supper, Jesus elaborated on believing in Him,
and what’s possible when we believe in Him,
11 Believe Me that I am in the Father
and the Father in Me,
for the sake of the works themselves.
12 “Most assuredly, I say to you,
he who believes in Me,
the works that I do
he will do also;
and greater works than these he will do,
because I go to My Father.
In the Old Testament/Covenant, King Darius saw Daniel delivered from the lion’s den,
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
“May you prosper greatly!
26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people
must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
“For he is the living God
and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.
27 He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
Daniel 6:25-27 (NIV)
A living faith in a living God, Jesus Christ,
He is the living God, He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders, in the heavens and on the earth.
… He has risen …
Matthew 28:19 (NIV)
Consider some accounts in the Gospels and Acts,
Matthew 9:35; Mark 16:20; Acts 4:29,30, 8:4-7 (NKJV)
35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
The disciples continued the work of Jesus, after His resurrection,
Mark 16:20And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
In persecution, the early Christians prayed,
Acts 4:29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
And the gospel spread across the earth,
Acts 8:4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.
(by the way, Philip was not an apostle)
When John the Baptist enquired if Jesus was the Messiah,
Jesus’ answer was:
Matthew 11:2-5 (NIV)
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:
5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
Consider, … Jesus first sign was to turn water into wine at a wedding feast (John 2).
Its not easy to find a reason for this sign/miracle … more so as it has to do with wine :-).
In simplicity, there was a need,
Jesus was present,
Mary asked Jesus to assist,
she informed the servants to follow Jesus’ instructions.
Similarly, when the Lord healed Hezekiah in the Old Testament,
God amazingly moved the sun back 10 steps on the stairway of Ahaz
(Isaiah 38:7,8), because
8 Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the Lord on the third day from now?”
2 Kings 20:8 (NIV)
How great you are, Sovereign Lord!
There is no one like you …
2 Samuel 7:22 (NIV)
From the Old Testament to the New Testament,
miracles and healings have not ceased.
And scripture tells us that God’s eternal power and divine nature is clearly seen and understood by all of creation He has created.
Romans 1:20 (NIV)
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Hence, the same God whose eternal power
that powers the sun and countless stars today,
and gives new life every second,
is the same God whose eternal power and divine nature,
that works miracles, signs and wonders today,
and gives the miracle of new life in the Spirit to many who believe in Jesus name today..
Here’s Pastor Doug Banister’s journey from his Evangelical Bible school training, to believing & seeing God still gives miracles today …
(he’s the author of the cited article above)
… when we began our study of 1 Corinthians the year before. I was prepared to teach what I was taught in seminary: There are no miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit today. Gifts like prophecy, tongues and healing were limitd to the first century and were used primarily by the apostles to authenticate their church-planting ministry in a time when the New Testament was not complete. This is called the doctrine of cessation.
Over lunch in the spring of 1992, a friend gave me a tattered copy of a little paperback called They Speak with Other Tongues. The author, Guideposts editor John Sherrill, set out to write a book refuting the charismatic movement. Sherrill’s skeptism was replaced with spiritual hunger as he pressed further into what God was up to in the charismatic renewal of the sixties. Sherrill ended the book a charismatic!
Sherrill’s story jarred me. It was the first time I had read anything describing the charismatic movement positively. What humbled me even more was a brief section in which Sherrill discussed the primary arguments for the doctrine of cessation and then refutes each one. His arguments made sense!
I decided it was time to use the study skills I had learned in seminary to find out for myself what the biblical text really meant. I wrote down each of the seven major arguments for cessation. Then I began examining each argument by asking one question. Does the Bible really teach this? I’ll never forget sitting at my desk in a mountain cabin, surrounded by commentaries and reference books, watching each argument crumble before my eyes. I was terrified of what lay before me — an interpretation that differed from what I had always been taught.
My seminary professors had taught me the important Bible study method known as the “checking” principle. This principle simply says that when you have done your own study of the text, always check what you have found with what good scholars have said. Panicking, I began to turn to some of my evangelical mentors. Surely, they would show me my errors and return me to the narrow way.
They did not. One trusted scholar after another affirmed what I now feared to be true: the Bible simply does not teach that the charismatic gifts have ceased.
My first surprise came when I read what the great evangelical British preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones had to say on the subject. Lloyd-Jones never preached anything halfway, and this was no exception. He taught that it was foolish to believe that the gifts had ceased. Later, I listened to a tape by John Piper, a respected evangelical leader, pastor and author. He gently went through the arguments and said that as much as he respected those who believed the gifts had ceased, he could not make the argument biblically. J.I. Packer‘s writings on the subject also assumed that these gifts could be available today. The final bow to cessation for me personally came when I read D.A. Carson‘s commentary on 1 Corinthians 12-14. Dr Carson is a leading evangelical New Testament scholar and a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, my denomination’s seminary. He, too, concluded that nowhere does the Bible teach that God cannot give these gifts to the church today.
I was trapped! My evangelical training compelled me to let the test lead me. Yet the test was leading me into beliefs that many evangelicals in those days didn’t agree with. Reluctantly, I took my new-found convictions to the elder board of the church. Together we considered each argument, discussing, and at times arguing over each point late into the night. Those were long and painful meetings. One elder eventually left our church over these issues. He is a dear brother, and his departure left a gaping hole. Yet, when the dust had settled, we had rejected the doctrine of cessation because we didn’t see it taught in scripture.
Not much changed in our church besides our doctrinal statement after I preached through 1 Corinthians 12-14 in the summer of 1992. Suddenly, however, the apostle Paul had another matter he could speak to us about. In a sense, we had a “lost chapter” to re-examine, a chapter we had thought didn’t have anything to say to the church today. This “new” portion of Scripture challenged my Bible deism. Suddenly I was thrust into the presence of a talking God, a healing God, a God of the Now and the Then. …
Nearly every evangelical pastor I know who was taught the doctrine of cessation in seminary has since rejected it.
These pastors and I have traveled a path similar to one Dr John Piper described to his congregation in a series of sermons he was preaching on the miraculous gifts. Dr Piper is the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and a seminary professor at Bethel Seminary. On February 25 1990, Dr Piper preached a sermon titled “Are Signs and Wonders for Today?” He began by holding up two stacks of books. One stack represented the cessation tradition, the other stack the view that God still gives the miraculous gifts today. After reviewing the arguments from both points of view, he concluded by holding up the cessationist books.
I find in this tradition virtually every teacher that I’ve loved and benefited from … I love these men. They are my kind of people. But I don’t find their arguments compelling … Even when I was a 15-year-old boy lying in bed in Greenville, South Carolina, listening to M.R. Dehaan preach [on cessation] from 1 Corinthians 13, I thought to myself, “That won’t work.” It never has worked for me.
Most Biblical scholars have come to the the same conclusion. Gordon Fee, professor of New Testament at Regent Seminary in Vancouver, told me, “This is a dead issue in the academy. Hardly anyone is defending [cessation] anymore.” A leader from a strong, conservative evangelical denomination recently told me that only one of its top twenty national leaders still held to the doctrine of cessation. The Eternity editorial cited earlier is worth remembering, “More and more evangelical scholars today,” wrote the editors of this evangelical publication in 1972, “feel that the traditional supposed biblical arguments for the cession of the gifts after completion of the New Testament cannot be sustained by the Holy Scriptures.”
Source: Doug Bannister, The Word & Power Church, Zondervan, 1999,
pg 16-18, 180
Asian people need to be presented with a God who can and does do the impossible. Their gods do. Asian people have lived in the world of the supernatural all their lives. They know the awesome power of evil spirits.
We serve a God that can heal the sick and even raise the dead. This must not only be said, it must be demonstrated … Remember what was said of the early Church, “and they went out and preached (communicated) everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs 1“
Source: Paul Kauffman, Fire on the Rim, Sovereign World, 1990, pg 218.
1 Mark 16:20 NKJV
When African Christians are asked why they find Christ as conqueror or victor so attractive, their answer is that African Christians are very conscious of the many powers at work in their lives and the world: spirits, witchcraft, magic, religious pressure, fear, anxiety, sin, diseases, the forces of evil and the greatest of all — death.
East African theologian says, “Africans see that invisible universe
when they look at, hear or feel the visible and tangible world.”
To Africans the power of Jesus encounters the hollow power of demons, spirits, witches or sorcerers, and the powers of sickness, poverty and death — the powers of evil in all its individual and structured manifestations. The words to a popular Christian song from the Transvaal area in Southern Africa loudly echo this perspectives on Jesus:
Jesus Christ is conqueror
by His resurrection He overcame death itself,
by His resurrection He overcame all things,
He overcame magic,
He overcame amulets and charms,
He overcame the darkness of demon-possession,
He overcame dread.
When we are with Him,
We also conquer.
… a popular Nigerian chorus goes
“Jesus’ power — super power. Satan’s power — powerless power”.
Source: Paul-Gordon Chandler, God’s Global Mosaic, IVP Books, 2000, pg 102, 103.
At a gathering of believers in one Majority World country (the name is concealed for security purposes), returning missionaries shared stories of how God worked and did miracles and came to people in dreams. Many of the miracles included stories of signs and wonders, healings and visions and enc0unters with … spiritual forces. One team celebrated the fact that church planting had gone forward after “four different people were raised from the dead and two warring villages were reconciled.”
In much of the global church, we find no debate about whether Mark 16:9-20 appeared in the earliest manuscripts or if the miracles of the first century were “for today”. These people live in hardship and environments of blatant spiritual warfare. They don’t have our luxury of relegating biblical miracles to Bible times. If the Bible records stories about miracles happening then, they believe miracles can happen now. I consistently find my own lack of expectation rebuked.”
… When Christians from the Majority world go out as missionaries or into the ministry, they go expecting hardship and the need to create sources of income for themselves. Many of these testimonies include stories of God’s last-minute deliverances with miracles of food or finance or healings or medicine being delivered.
… As I’ve listened to testimonies from crosscultural workers from places like Indonesia or China or Columbia and heard they pray. I’ve sensed that I was living in a chapter of the book of Acts from the first century.”
Source Paul Borthwick, Western Christians in Global Missions, InterVarsity Press, 2012, pg 93, 94
Acts 4:29,30 (NKJV)
29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
1 Corinthians 12:1; 14:39,40; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NKJV)
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:
39 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
Back to the story at the beginning of this post,
the Holy Spirit led the Chinese pastor as he yielded to Him
… and soon healings, gifts of the Spirit started happening in his church.
Their mid-week prayer meeting grew by leaps and bounds, as the Lord answered prayers, healings, and worked wonders,
Even, … believers from other churches joined their prayer meeting,
… hungry for a move of God’s Spirit.
Genesis 18:13,14 (NIV)
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, …
14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? …”
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
April 12, 2015
Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
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