Friday, August 5, 2011

Jesus Culture Awakening || Signs and Wonders Discernment, Part 1

(the following is excerpted from John MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos, pp. 106--19)

A miracle is an event in nature, so extraordinary in itself and so coinciding with the prophecy or command of a religious teacher or leader, as fully to warrant the conviction, on the part of those who witness it, that God has wrought it with the design of certifying that this teacher or leader has been commissioned by Him. (Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology, p.,118)

...I believe that all the healings, miracles, signs, an wonders attributed to Jesus in the four gospels happened precisely as the evangelists describe them. I also believe the apostles literally performed all the miracles Scripture indicates.

I also believe that God is always operating on a supernatural level. He intervenes supernaturally in nature and in human affairs even today. I believe all things are possible with God (Matt. 19:26). His power has not diminished in the least since the days of the early church. Certainly salvation is always a supernatural act of God.

...I do not believe, however, that God uses men and women as human agents to work miracles in the same way he used Moses, Elijah or Jesus. I am convinced that the miracles, signs, and wonders being claimed today in the charismatic movement have nothing in common with apostolic miracles. And I am persuaded by both Scripture and history that nothing like the New Testament gift of miracles is operating today.

The truth is, those who claim miracles today are not able to substantiate their claims. Unlike the miracles of the New Testament...the types of miracles claimed, too are nothing like New Testament miracles. Jesus and the apostles instantly and completely healed people born blind, a paralytic, a man with a withered arm—all obvious, indisputable miracles. Even Jesus' enemies did not challenge the reality of His miracles! Moreover, New Testament miracles were immediate, thorough, and permanent. Our Lord and His disciples never did a miracle slowly or incompletely.

When Has God Used Miracles—and Why?

Most biblical miracles happened in three relatively brief periods of Bible history: in the days of Moses and Joshua, during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and in the time of Christ and the apostles. [A fourth period of miracles yet to come is described in the book of Revelation]. None of these periods lasted more than a hundred years. Each of them saw a proliferation of miracles unheard of in other eras. Even during those three time periods, however, miracles were not exactly the order of the day. The miracles that happened involved men who were extraordinary messengers from God—Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and the apostles.

Aside from these three intervals, the only supernatural events recorded in Scripture were isolated incidents. …

The reality is that though there were three eras of miracles, the first two were not like the third. The age of Christ and the apostles was unique. Nothing in all redemptive history even came close to it in the massive volume of miracles that occurred....When the New Covenant truth came and the New Testament Scripture with it all at once in one brief half century, God unleashed authenticating signs as never before. There had never been a time like it and there is no reason to assume there will be again.

All three periods of miracles were times when God gave His written revelation—Scripture--in substantial quantities. Those doing the miracles were essentially the ones heralding an era of revelation.

...Through miracles God repeatedly authenticated the messengers of His new revelation—in the time of Moses and Joshua, in the time of Elijah and Elisha, and in the New Testament times of Jesus and the apostles.

When the Old and New Testaments were complete, God's revelation was finished. (cf. Heb. 1:1-2). Through many signs, wonders, and miracles, God authenticated His Book. Is there an ongoing need for miracles to substantiate God's revelation? Can anyone with faith “claim” a miracle, as some teach? Does God do miracles on demand? And do the phenomena being hailed today as signs, wonders, and healings bear any resemblance to the miracles performed by Christ and the apostles?

The answer to all those questions is no. Nothing in Scripture indicates that the miracles of the apostolic age were meant to be continous in subsequent ages. Nor does the Bible exhort believers to seek any miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In all the New Testament epistles, there are only five commands related to the believer and the Holy Spirit:

“Walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25)
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30)
“Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18)
“Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19)
“[Pray] in the Spirit” (Jude 20)

There is no command in the New Testament to seek miracles.

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