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Signs & Wonders – Part 2

posted Mar 14, 2017, 10:03 AM by First Baptist

In our study of Acts, we learned that the early church prayed for “signs & wonders” and God provided them. The main questions are: Should we also pray for signs & wonders? And, if so, will God provide them?


As mentioned last week, there are 4 major schools of thought within Christiandom on this matter. But, before we consider each of them, let’s back up a bit.


What is a Miracle?


We tend to use the word “miracle” a lot. Virtually anything that causes us to marvel is called a “miracle.” Even ordinary events, such as the birth of a child, are sometimes described as miraculous.


We should try to be more precise. In Christian theology, a miracle is:


1)      An extraordinary event, inexplicable in terms of ordinary natural forces; and/or

2)      An event that causes observers to propose a direct supernatural cause.


What are Signs & Wonders?


Signs & wonders are miracles through a human agent FOR THE PURPOSE OF authenticating that person as God’s representative or spokesperson and demonstrating to unbelievers God’s omnipotence, especially with regard to either judgment or salvation (or both).


In Acts, the twelve apostles (and a handful of designees) were able to perform signs & wonders. The question is whether this ability extends BEYOND the apostles.


The Cessationist View


The first view (or school of thought) we’ll consider is called cessationism.


Cessationists believe God performs miracles, but the ability of human beings to perform signs & wonders ended with the apostles.


In other words, they believe this was a temporary gift (or ability) within the church during its formative years in order to authenticate the apostles and their message. Once the church was established and the New Testament was compiled, God no longer gave the ability to perform signs & wonders.


Support for the Cessationist Position


1.      In the New Testament, the ability to perform sign & wonders was limited to the apostles and a few of their close associates. One author writes: “The early church was not a miracle-working church. Rather, they were a church with miracle-working apostles.”


2.      The signs & wonders the apostles performed were limited to two types: casting out demons and physical healing. They didn’t perform the full range of miracles that Jesus did, such as walking on water, feeding 5,000 with a few loaves & fish, etc.


3.      In every recorded instance of the gift of healing in Acts, it is unbelievers who are healed. In other words, the gift wasn’t used on behalf of the church (Christians suffering from illness), but rather as a sign to unbelievers and as an aid to evangelism.


4.      The healings performed by the apostles had certain characteristics not found in many so-called faith healers today.

a.       The healing was of a grave, organic condition and could not be regarded as a psychosomatic cure.

b.      The healing took place by a direct word of command in the name of Christ without the use of any medical means.

c.       The healing was instantaneous, not gradual.

d.      The healing was complete and permanent, not partial or temporary.

e.       The healing was publicly acknowledged to be indisputable; there was no doubt or question about it.


5.      The writings of the post-apostolic church fathers don’t mention the performance of signs & wonders. Thus, the gift or ability appears to have ended with the apostles.


Next week: The Charismatic/Pentecostal view



Pastor Dan