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What does the church of Christ believe about miracles?  Were miracles only performed by Jesus and the apostles, are there still miracles today?

In the Bible, a miracle was the working of God in an event that was entirely beyond the ordinary course of Nature.  The purpose of miracles was to demonstrate the power of God (Luke 9:43), and to conclusively validate the authenticity of the prophets and their teachings to witnesses (Mark 16:20). 

The working of miracles is not unique to New Testament times.  God worked miracles through many Old Testament prophets such as Elijah who set up a contest of sorts between Baal and Jehovah.  His goal was to demonstrate that Jehovah was a real God while proving that Baal was a false god.  In the end, God miraculously proved beyond any doubt that He was the one true living God (1 Kings 18:19-39).  Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego miraculously survived being thrown in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace in Daniel 3 with Daniel surviving a night in King Darius' lion pit (Daniel 6).

Jesus and the Apostles, through the power of God, performed many miracles in the first century.  The apostles were able to pass the ability to work miracles on to other people.  In Acts 6:5-8 we see Stephen who was not an apostle being selected to receive the ability to work miracles.  The miracles performed in the first century by the apostles were one of the miraculous spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and could only be passed on by the laying on of hands of an apostle (Acts 8:18).

The working of miracles was only one of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit.  A complete list of them are as follows:

The Word of Wisdom was the power to reveal God's wisdom, the Gospel, such as the apostles and prophets did; for example, Paul, speaking of himself and other such men about the Gospel, wrote, "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.... These things we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual " (1 Corinthians 2:7 & 13).

The Word of Knowledge was the power to correctly understand, exhibit, and instruct others concerning God's will for mankind.  Paul wrote of "The gift" to understand all mysteries and  have all knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:2). 

Faith was what enabled one weak in courage and conviction to perform miracles; for example, when the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast him [that demon] out?" (Matthew 17:19).  Jesus replied to them "Because of your unbelief (lack of faith or little faith)" Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21-22; 1 Corinthians 13:2.

Gifts of Healings were powers to instantaneously cure people suffering from various infirmities as Peter did the lame man (Acts 3:1-8).

Working of Miracles were powers to accomplish miracles as in the cases when Paul struck Elymas blind (Acts 13:6-12), when Peter raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-40), or when Paul expelled a demon (Acts 16:16-18).

Prophecy was the power to speak for God by inspiration; it may have been either instructive or prophetic. (1 Corinthians 14, Acts 21:9-12)

Discerning of Spirits was the power to detect false teachers, liars and people with impure hearts.  Peter knew Ananias and Sapphira were lying (Acts 5:1-10), and he knew Simon the sorcerer had an evil heart, (Acts 8:21), and Paul judged the heart of Elymas (Acts 13:8-10).

Speaking in Tongues was the power to speak in a real language unknown to the speaker (Acts 2:4-11).

Interpretation of Tongues was the ability to translate the message of the one who spoke in another language; Paul said, "Let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret," or, "If there is no interpreter, let him keep silent" (1 Corinthians 14:13 & 28).

The purpose of these gifts was to teach the first century Christians the will of God in the absence of the written record we know as the Bible and to authenticate the words of the teachers with signs and wonders.  Once the inspired writers finished writing the scriptures there was no further need for the miraculous gifts.  Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God, (Romans 10:17).   Once the word of God was fully recorded, there was no longer any need for the spiritual gifts. 

Concerning the miraculous spiritual gifts, Paul wrote, "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).

To "know in part" and to "prophesy in part" refers to two miraculous gifts: inspiration and prophecy. During the first century, God revealed His word to those who had inspiration in small pieces (or in part) as it was needed.  The miraculous gift of knowledge was the mechanism that revealed God's word in parts.  Scripture calls this inspiration, (2 Timothy 3:16).

That which is perfect, or complete, then is the FULL revealed word. Once God had given His entire word to mankind, there was no need for inspiration to reveal it (that which was in part) or the other miraculous gifts to confirm that what was being revealed was in fact from God.

For example:  you have a gallon container you need to fill full of water. You have a cup and a faucet. You fill the cup with *part* of the gallon of water and dump it in the gallon container.  There is no gallon of water while it is being filled.  You then fill the cup again with another *part* of the water.  Eventually the gallon container is full. There is no longer a need to obtain *part* of the water to put in the container because the container is *completely* full of water. Does the water in the gallon container go away because it is full/complete or does the cup used to fill it go away because it is no longer needed?  Think of the cup used to fill the container as the miraculous gifts that would not be necessary once the New Covenant was written and available. 

In addition, as mentioned previously, the ability to pass the spiritual gifts rested solely on the apostles (Acts 8:14-18).  Since no apostles are alive today to bestow these gifts upon anybody, then it is obviously impossible for us to acquire them today.

In conclusion, spiritual gifts were intended for the first century church to reveal and confirm the message of the New Testament.  The scriptures claim internally that we have been given "all things pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3) and that the scriptures thoroughly equip us unto every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).  Since all things have been given and we are completely furnished, then there is no longer any need for the word of God to be revealed or confirmed.

added June 30, 2007


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