By Tyson Thorne

June 3, 2014

SignsWonders large

Following the instructive deaths of Ananias and Sapphira the apostles continued to showcase God’s power and authority. In Act’s chapter 5 verses 12 through 16 we’re told that they, especially Peter, performed healings and both the physical and spiritual natures. So great was God’s presence among them that even Peter’s shadow falling upon the sick was sufficient for healing. Never had the Spirit of God worked so dramatically since the time of Jesus (see Luke 8.40).

As then (Acts 8.9-.25) today many covet the power the apostles exhibited. Many faith healers have gone out of the church and into the world only to be proven a fraud. Such men have been tricked, however, as such power has only ever belonged to God and not men. Peter has already testified in Acts 4 that the miraculous healing of the lame man was not the result of any power he and John had, but instead came from God directly. They were merely the agents God used, and the purpose was to assure the people that the message they preached was true and also from God.

Some believe such miracles and powers are normative for practicing believers today. As well intentioned as such teachers may be, the evidence for such a belief is not found either in the Church or in Scripture. Men who call themselves “faith healers” claim to have the power to heal, something even the apostles never claimed. Further, when people were healed by the Holy Spirit in the presence of the apostles, their healing was complete. The lame could not only stand, but he could walk, run and jump. There was no weeks spent in traction, no time teaching him how to crawl and then walk and finally to run. The lameness was removed, the muscles instantly restored, the mind suddenly knowing how to put one foot in front of the other. Such miraculously complete healing is rarely seen today.

Truthfully, it wasn’t even normative for the apostles. As we’ll see later, Paul is also an agent of healing for many during his missionary journeys. Even so, later in life we see such miracles decline and disappear completely. Paul wrote to Timothy that he had to leave Trophimus in the city of Miletus as he was sick 2 Timothy 4.20). Certainly if Paul had the ability to heal Trophimus he would have, and if the Spirit were still acting in the same way as at the start of the Church age he would have worked a healing miracle. For some reason only about 30-40 years after the start of the church the signs and wonders were already diminishing in frequency and importance.

In the midst of this change in the Spirits displayed power, we never hear any of the apostles bemoan its absence. They ministered to others through God’s grace and power whether the signs and wonders were active or not. We’re never told that they missed being a part of these miracles. Indeed, such a decline could only indicate that the Gospel they preached no longer needed such proofs and that the message had been accepted far and wide.

I’ve heard stories from credible missionaries who claim to have experienced the Spirit working in this way among some distant tribes. I am inclined to believe their testimony as it parallels what we observe in Acts, meaning that they knew what had occurred was not of their own doing and was used to prove the message they brought was genuine. So while I disagree with some of my Pentecostal brothers that these sign gifts are normative throughout the church age, I am also in disagreement with my hyper-dispensationalist friends who deny such miracles can happen today. I believe that if there is good purpose for the sign and if the Spirit is willing, such miracles may occur. That said, these signs and wonders are never to be sought after or coveted.

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