Intro: Let me ask you a question that is often posed to me: Do you believe in miracles? If you are a Christian, you must believe in miracles.
I. “Power from on High” – Luke 24:46-49 – 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
A. These verses describe the fulfillment of O.T. prophecy that was spoken 700 years before it happened. Repentance and remission of sins was preached in the name of Jesus throughout the whole world. The apostles were sent forth to preach that message, but God did not leave them without credentials. Jesus told them that they would be “endured with power from on high.” How was this promise fulfilled in the N.T.?
1. We noticed earlier Jesus promises to these same men (apostles) in John 16 that the Holy Spirit would supernaturally reveal all the truth to them. He (the Holy Spirit) would bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had taught them, and give them the ability to testify of Jesus.
2. In addition to the message, Jesus also promised that the Holy Spirit would provide the “power” to confirm the message. I believe that Jesus’ reference to “receiving power” was a promise of the miraculous ability – Acts 1:8 – 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The miracles of the apostles helped confirm the “apostle’s doctrine” that the early church faithfully followed. (Acts 2:42)
B. The N.T uses 3terms to describe the supernatural events that the Holy Spirit provided as a confirmation of the message. Jesus’ promise in Acts 1 uses the word:
1. Power(s) (mighty works) (Dunamis) – Power, strength, ability. appeals to the source of the miracle – the authority by which one acts. Mark 6:13-14“And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them. Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.”
2. signs (semeion)- this views a miracle as supernatural evidence of a divine commission and in support of God’s revelation. ISBE says a miracle is an act of God “transcending the ordinary powers of Nature, wrought in connection with the ends of revelation,” (ISBE)
3. wonders (teras) – this word points to the affect of the act on the spectator. It creates awe or amazement, and as such is a visible event.
Each of these terms indicate the special purpose of miracles and their connection to the revelation of God before its completion: Heb. 2:3-4 – 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will
C. Paul called the display of the Holy Spirit’s miraculous power “the signs of an apostle” 2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
II. “Accompanying Signs”: The apostles worked miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. But the apostles were not the only ones to do so. Mark 16:15-20 – 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
A. In Mark’s account of the great commission he says that ‘signs will follow those that believe”. The ability to work miracles was also to be given to those who believed the message that the apostles preached. They did not receive this ability because they believed, and not every believer was given the power.
B. Later, in the writings of the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth he gives them direction on the use of what he calls “spiritual gifts”. Read 1 Cor. 12:1-11. Notice that not everyone received a gift, and there was a diversity of gifts.
1. The Holy Spirit provided these “gifts” to the early church because the apostles could not be everywhere at once. God’s people needed to know how to please God and live righteously.
2. Notice the gifts of the Spirit included “the message of wisdom,” “the message of knowledge,” “prophecy,” “distinguishing between spirits,” (true or false teachings) “speaking in different languages,” and “interpretation of languages.” These gifts center on the revelation of God’s will which had not yet been completed. The writings of the apostles had not yet been completed. Paul told the Ephesians church in Eph. 3 that they could come to his knowledge of the gospel when they read what he wrote. (Eph. 3:5)
C. How were these miraculous gifts given? The answer comes to us by reviewing an event recorded in Acts 8.The Samaritans listened to the preaching of Philip about the kingdom of God and many were converted. Consider what is recorded in Acts 8:14-17 14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
1. Even though these believers had been baptized, the Holy Spirit “had not yet come upon them”. This cannot be referring to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as all those who become Christians receive the indwelling of the Spirit. What had they not received?
2. When Peter and John laid their hands on the Samaritans they “received the Spirit”.
3. Simon, a converted sorcerer, was astonished at Philip’s ability to perform miracles, and when he saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Spirit was given he offered Peter money for the same power.
4. What Simon saw that he wanted was the ability to perform miracles himself and give that ability to others. So the Samaritans received the Spirit when they were given the ability to work miracles.
5. But consider an important point here, that addresses our question: Remember that the apostles had previously laid their hands upon Philip (Acts 6:5-6) and Philip was performing miracles (Acts 8:6-7). However, Philip could not bestow miraculous spiritual gifts on the Samaritans.
6. Peter and John (who were apostles) had to come from Jerusalem to lay their hands on the Samaritans in order for them to be able to work miracles.
a. This point is explicitly stated in the next verse: “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 8:18-19; ESV).
b. Since only the apostles could transfer miraculous spiritual gifts to others through the laying on of hands, then we can see how miraculous gifts stopped. When the apostles died, the gifts could no longer be transferred. When those who had received the miraculous spiritual gifts through the laying on of hands died, miracles would stop. Anyone who claims to be able to perform miracles speaks against the scriptures since only the apostles could give such abilities to a Christian.
7. In Acts 19 Paul found a group of disciples who had only been baptized in John’s baptism. He baptized them in water in the name of Christ, and then he laid his hands on them and they began to speak in tongues and prophesy. (Acts 19:4-6)
8. Paul told the Christians in Rome that he wanted to see them personally so he could impart to them some spiritual gift (Rom. 1:6) and he told Timothy to stir up the spiritual gift he had received through the laying on of his hands.
III. “When that which is Perfect is come”. We have indicated that these miraculous gifts were given because the revelation was not yet complete. It is logical that once the revelation was complete the miracles would cease. That is what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, “Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end.”
A. The key to understanding this passage is to identify what the “perfect” is. Some suggest it is Jesus at His coming, or heaven.
1. But the word “perfect” (teleios) means to become complete or finished. The context points to its contrast with that which is “in part” or incomplete – to ek merous)
2. Each of the things that are said to be given in part point to the revelation of God’s word. The word of God was revealed by the Holy Spirit “part by part” over a period of time through various inspired teachers (apostles) and the accompanying miraculous gifts.
3. But Paul says in vs. 10 that what was in part became perfect or complete.
4. So the revelation of the word became complete, what was perfect came and that which was in part ceased. The “part by part” revelation through spiritual gifts ceased.
5. Gromacki commentary makes the point this way: “Logically, to teleion must refer to completeness or perfection in the samerealm as that referred to by to ek merous. Since to ek merous refers to the transmission of divine truth by revelation, the other term to teleion must refer to God’s complete revelation of truth, the entire New Testament (taken of course with its foundational book, the Old Testament)” – (Weaver, quoted in Gromacki, p. 126).
6. When the “in part” revelation became a “perfect” (completed) revelation, spiritual gifts ceased. They were no longer needed to confirm the word.
a. When the building was completed the scaffolding was taken down. We now have the word confirmed and able to make a person “perfect, thoroughly equipped to do every good work.” (3 Tim 3:17)
Conclusion: Do you believe in miracles? You cannot believe the gospel without believing in miracles, because the miracles of the 1st Century confirm the message. Do not reject the message.