What about the miracles done by charismatic ministers?

The miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were restricted to the era of the apostles. These gifts were given specifically for the confirmation of the the apostles as God’s messengers of His gospel. The miracles recorded in the New Testament were the Divine certification that Jesus is the promised Savior. Since that purpose has been accomplished the miraculous gifts are no longer in operation. Certain preachers claim to be able to perform miracles. Some evangelists and televangelists have ministries of healing. Others claim to be able to a variety of miracles. If there are no miraculous gifts today how do these individuals perform such feats?

The miraculous gifts were those spiritual gifts given to men enabling them to perform miracles as a regular and frequent part of their ministry. Mmiraculous gifting by its very nature requires the regular performance of miracles. If a miracle happened through the prayers of a person that does not mean the person has the gift of miracles. “Miraculous gifts” is not a reference to God’s healing of the sick, sunsets, the birth of babies or answered prayer. God still miraculously intervenes in the affairs of the world but He no longer gifts men to perform miracles.

Many of the healings performed by faith healers are of an entirely different quality than the healings of the Bible. The miraculous healings in the Bible included restoring the paralyzed to full strength and mobility, giving the blind normal vision, and healing completely those with gruesome or painful diseases like leprosy and epilepsy. Many modern day examples of healings claim to heal from pain, general ailments (as in, “I feel like I’m dying”), cancer and other vague or internal sicknesses. The claims of these kind of healings have been investigated and found to be temporary, untestable or just plain frauds.

A minority of those who claim to have the gift of healings have made Biblical-level claims to have the ability to raise the dead and heal the lame. Investigations into the claims of these ministries have authenticated none of the miracles and proven many to be be untrue. The reality of modern day miracle workers is no sound evidence has ever been given that proves their claims. The Biblical accounts of healing are of ailments with profound, visible physical effects which provide cases of clear, unmistakable and undisputable healings of people. Even the fiercest opponents of Jesus and the apostles could not deny the miracles they performed.

Possibly the most despicable teaching of many so-called miracle workers is any failures to heal is blamed on the sick person. If a person is not healed, then he did not have enough faith. Jesus and the apostles never blamed a misfired miracle on the one in need. The Bible does not teach that healing is dependent on the faith of the one being healed. The closest hint to this is found in Mark 9 where Jesus tells the father of a demon possessed child, “If thou believest, all things are possible.” The father responds, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” The father knew his faith was mixed with doubt. His faith was not full and complete, yet Jesus healed fully and completely. The same story recounts an earlier failure to heal the afflicted child. Jesus gives a rebuke for lack of faith, but the rebuke is not directed to the father or the child. The rebuke is directed to His disciples. The disciples were responsible for the failure to heal, not the ones seeking healing. Faith healers have no business blaming their failures upon their victims.

Like prophecies, tongues and Divine revelation the other miraculous gifts faded out with the apostles. The claims of modern day miracle workers are a poor imitation of the glorious power of God displayed through His apostles and prophets. Their healings are often nothing more than the effects of emotional manipulation that causes a person to briefly feel better without accomplishing any actual healing. At times they are willful frauds preying upon the desperation of hurting people.

Are the miraculous gifts for the church today?

The spiritual gifts are a matter of significant debate and division in the church today. Millions of Christians around the world attend churches which believe the miraculous gifts are a normal part of the Christian life today. The most familiar religious television channels feature a large portion of preachers and ministries who teach the miraculous gifts are still accessible to modern Christians.

The belief in the continued use of miraculous spiritual gifts is the hallmark of the charismatic movement. Charismatics can be found in every major Christian denomination, including Catholicism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism and Baptist. Several major denominations were formed around the belief in the miraculous gifts, including, Pentecostals, Church of God, Assembly of God and Four Square Gospel Churches.

All Christian denominations believe that spiritual gifts continue to this day and that the Holy Spirit is actively at work in the life of Christians. The disagreement centers around the relation of miraculous gifts- tongues, interpretation, prophecy and healing- to modern day Christianity. The argument about the charismatic gifts is not based the interpretation of a single Biblical text. The discussion ranges around the purpose of the miraculous gifts in the early church and the sufficiency of the Word for today.

Everyone is agreed the miraculous gifts were not commonly in evidence during most of church history. A few scattered, small Christian groups may have believed in the continuation of miraculous gifts but the vast majority of Christian churches from the late first century to the early twentieth century believed the miraculous gifts to have ceased after the apostolic era.

This changed in the early 1900’s with the birth of Pentecostalism. Growing out of the Holiness Methodist movement Pentecostalism’s earliest proponents were searching for evidence of the baptism of the Holy SPirit. In Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon the first Christians they began to speak in tongues. Thus, the earliest charismatics experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit by speaking in tongues. This early Pentecostalism soon spread across the world as a result of a three year revival in Los Angeles. Pentecostals poured out from Azusa Street to spread charismatic theology across the globe.

The charismatic movement springs out of a fundamental disagreement regarding the purpose of miracles during the New Testament era. The miraculous gifts were given as signs for the Jews. The miracles of Jesus and the apostles were the Divine stamp of authenticity verifying the validity of the claims of Jesus and His apostles. “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs.” (Acts 2:22) “God also bearing (the apostles) witness both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles.” (Hebrews 2:4) (also consider Matthew 11:4-6; Mark 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:22) The miracles done in the earliest days of the church were God’s testimony that Jesus was truly God’s Son and the apostles were preaching God’s truth. The ministry of the apostles has been completed. The gospel has been authenticated. The miraculous gifts are no longer necessary or normal for the church today.

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Spiritual gifts seem to be a bit of an enigma and are a significant matter of debate. Every major Christian group believes in the spiritual gifts, but most differ from each other on the particulars. The charismatic churches are probably most well known for their beliefs about the spiritual gifts. A few years ago a well known ministry in California hosted a conference focused on their disagreements with Charismatic theology. Why is the topic of spiritual gifts so difficult and contentious?

The Bible is not at all silent about spiritual gifts. The promise of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gave the disciples before His death includes the reception of spiritual gifts. Peter says in Acts 2 that the miraculous things done by the apostles on the day of Pentecost were the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts are abilities given to Christians by the Holy Spirit to enable them to do the work of the ministry. The spiritual gifts are supernatural gifts of God not skills developed by the person, but the Christian should exercise and improve his spiritual gift.

The spiritual gifts are given for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. The largest section of teaching on the spiritual gifts in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 12-14. In that passage Paul teaches the Corinthian believers about the gifts because they were desiring the most impressive gifts and were using the gifts for self-promotion. The spiritual gifts are given by God for the promotion of Christlikeness in the church.

1 Corinthians 12 teaches that all spiritual gifts come from God. God gives gifts to Christians for the benefit of the entire church. No one gift provides everything a church needs and every gift God gives is important to the church. Like the human body, each member of the church body exercises a specific and essential function for the good of all. If everyone had the same spiritual gift the church would be as deformed as a person comprised entirely of ears.

1 Corinthians 14 shows the church the orderly use of the gifts within the church. Gifts are not to be used against one another. Each Christian must show preference to other believers in the application of gifts. Those who have speaking gifts must not insist on their right to be heard but must speak in an orderly fashion, each in turn and only when it is proper to do so.

The Bible contains several other key passages about the spiritual gifts. 1 Peter 4:10-11 puts the spiritual gifts into two broad categories, the speaking gifts and the serving gifts. Ephesians 4 mentions four specific leadership gifts given to the local church for the equipping of the saints to do the work of the ministry. Romans 12:3-8 describes various kinds of gifts. In Romans 12 Christians are instructed to use the gifts humbly for the benefit of the entire church. Each person is to use his gift in the fullest possible way to the best of the ability given him by God. The gifts mentioned in these New Testament passage are: teaching, administration, mercy showing, giving, ruling, prophecy, ministry, exhortation, governments, helps, tongues, interpretation, healing, miracles, prophecy, apostle, evangelist and pastor.

The absence of a particular spiritual gift does not exclude the Christian from engaging in that kind of ministry. All Christians should be merciful, though only some have the gift of mercy-showing. Some Christians are given the gift of evangelism, but all are commanded by Jesus tell others the gospel. The spiritual gifts are given to aid the growth of the entire church not exclude Christians from areas of ministry. Every believer is given at least one spiritual gift. Some may be given more than one, but all believers are gifted by God for the edification of the church. The responsibility of the Christian is to use his gift for the glory of God and the growth of His church.