The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama
City, California, By John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed from the tape,
GC 90-56, titled “Charismatic Chaos” Part 5. A copy of the tape can be
obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.
I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the
original tape was made. Please note that at times sentence structure may
appear to vary from accepted English conventions. This is due primarily to
the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in
placing the correct punctuation in the article.
It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription
of the sermon, “Charismatic Chaos” Part 5, to strengthen and encourage the
true Church of Jesus Christ.
Charismatic Chaos – Part 5
“Does God Do Miracles Today?”
John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
In our ongoing study of the Charismatic movement today, I want to jump right
into a subject that I know I can’t completely cover. But I want you to learn
to think Biblically about this because I am very concerned about it.
Today, we hear an awful lot of talk about miracles. Somebody says, “I had a
financial need and a miracle happened. The mailman came and in the mail was
a check for just the amount of money I needed. It was a miracle!” Or, you
hear someone say, “I went to the Mall and there was a parking place right by
the entrance. It was a miracle!” Or, a mother might sense something wrong
in an adjoining room and investigate just in time to stop her little toddler
from putting a paper clip into an electrical outlet or something, and say,
“It was a miracle!” Or, maybe you were thinking and praying for somebody and
just seemingly at the time you were doing that, the phone rang and it was the
very person that you were thinking about and they were right there to be
encouraged. And you say, “That was a miracle!”
Well, we call those things miracles, but they are not miracles. A miracle is
a supernatural event which has no human explanation. More than that, a
miracle is a supernatural event which suspends natural law. In other words,
natural law stops and is suspended while God acts; moves back out and then
the natural course continues.
When you find a place to park at the Mall, when you catch your little toddler
just at the right moment, or when you get a check for what you needed, or
when a friend calls at precisely the right moment in time, those would be
acts of providence. Those would be acts whereby God is simply orchestrating
natural events; not suspending the natural, but controlling the natural so
that it does what He wants it to do.
A miracle then is an extraordinary event wrought by God that cannot be
explained by any natural means. That would be the technical definition. It
might sound something like this,
A miracle is an event in nature, so extraordinary in itself, and
so coinciding with a prophecy or a 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
Now, that takes us to another dimension, and I wanted to read that. That’s
from Augusta Strong written way back in 1907. And what he is saying there
is, that anytime a miracle occurs, it is associated with the certification of
a teacher or a leader commissioned by God. Theologians prior, of course, to
the Charismatic movement, the Pentecostal movement in this century, were
united in the understanding that miracles did not happen randomly. They did
not happen through history in a “willy-nilly” sort of way. God did not do
them capriciously, or whimsically. There wasn’t a continual flow of miracles
at all times and places through Church history, but rather, miracles, that is
God stepping into the natural world suspending natural law, doing something
that had no natural explanation and pulling back out again and letting
natural law then run it course, did that only in certification of a specially
commissioned teacher. In fact, miracles in Scripture all the way from
Exodus through Deuteronomy, to Nehemiah, through the Psalms, Jeremiah,
Daniel, into the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, John, Acts, Romans,
2Corinthians, Thessalonians, and Hebrews–miracles are called “signs and
They are signs. And what is a sign for? A sign is to point to something.
And what were they signs of? They were signs authenticating a divinely
commissioned teacher. When God, supernaturally, superhumanly, suspended
natural law, and acted in human history. He did so as a sign to point to a
teacher who was speaking for Him.
I’ve collected through the years a very large file of supposed miracles.
They range all the way from 1977’s newspaper article about Maria Rubio of
Lake Arthur, New Mexico, who was frying tortillas in her kitchen. She
noticed that one of them seemed to have the likeness of a face etched in the
burn marks. She concluded that it was Jesus, and even built a crude shrine
to the tortilla! Thousands of people visited the Shrine of the Jesus of the
Holy Tortilla, and concluded that it was indeed a miracle. “I do not know
why this has happened to me!” Mrs. Rubio said, “But God has come into my life
through this tortilla!” (from the Chicago tribune)
In 1980, in Deptford, New Jersey, Bud Ward, the town’s fire dept photographer
was driving with his wife when he accidentally took a wrong turn. Noticing
flames in an abandoned chicken coup behind the Naples Pizzeria, he pulled
into the parking lot and began taking pictures. When the slides came back
from K-Mart Ward’s nine year old daughter noticed what seemed to be an image
of Christ in one of the photographs. Word of this discovery spread and soon
people from all over New Jersey were talking about the “Pizza Jesus of
Deptford Township.” Several people knelt and prayed under the image
projected from the slide and others asked that the image be projected onto
their chests. Hundreds believed that it was a true miracle. Again,
according to the Gloucester Country Times.
Such apparitions are often seen as miracles. In August of 1986, in Fostoria,
Ohio, the image of Jesus seemed to appear every night in the shadows and rust
marks on the side of a soybean oil storage tank. Hawkers sold thousands of
“I saw the vision” tee-shirts and coffee mugs to those who came to see the
miracle. Nearly a year later, Arlene Gardner of Estill Springs, Tennessee
noticed that when their neighbors turned on their porch light the image of a
face appeared in the glow reflected off her freezer. She believed it was the
face of Jesus, although several observers said it looked more like Willie
Nelson. Arlene and her husband were so convinced that it was a true miracle,
they quit the church when the pastor expressed skepticism.
Well, eventually, such skepticism is a rare commodity these days. People’s
hunger for the mysterious and the astonishing and phenomena is at a level
unsurpassed in the history of the Church. It’s pretty popular stuff in the
secular world and it has found its way into the Church. Eager to witness
miracles, many people seem willing to believe that almost anything unusual is
a genuine heavenly wonder. The problem with that is, it poses a severe
danger for the Church, because it plays right into the hands of Satan,
doesn’t it? False wonders and false signs, false miracles–extremely
believable ones, the Bible tells us will be the primary tool of Satan in the
end times. Jesus said, “False Christs and false prophets will arise and show
great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”
Then He added, as if knowing that many would ignore the warning, “Behold, I
have told you in advance” (Matt 24:24-25).
Surely in the light of the warning of Jesus and the warnings of the Apostle
Paul in the New Testament, we should have a healthy skepticism on the part of
these supposed miracles. Now, I want you to understand, that I am not by
nature a skeptic. I am not a naturalist and a humanist and an anti-
supernaturalist. I believe in miracles. I believe that every miracle
recorded in the Bible literally happened exactly as the Bible described it.
I believe, for example, that Moses and the Israelites actually walked
through the parted Red Sea and didn’t get their feet wet or muddy. I believe
that Elijah raised a widow’s young son from the dead. And that fire called
down from heaven was actually heavenly fire and consumed water. I believe
with absolute conviction that Elisha made an axe head float, an iron axe
head. I believe that all the healings signs and wonders attributed to Jesus
in the four gospels happened exactly and precisely as they are recorded
there. And I believe the Apostles literally performed all the miracles which
the New Testament describe.
That’s not all. I believe God can still do miracles. I believe all things
are possible with God, as Matthew 19:26 says. His power has not diminished
the least since the days of the Early Church. But even though I believe all
of that and I believe that if God chooses to do something miraculous He can
do it, I am convinced that most of the miracles, signs and wonders, if not
all, being claimed today in the Charismatic movement have nothing in common
with what we know about Biblical miracles. They do not fit the Biblical
criteria. And I am persuaded by both Scripture and history that nothing
like the New Testament gift of miracles, noted in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12,
is operating today. The Holy Spirit has not given any modern day Christians
miraculous gifts comparable to those He gave the Apostles.
Now in spite of that, many Charismatics are making quite remarkable claims.
Oral Roberts, for example, speaking at the Charismatic Bible Ministry
Conference, in 1987, said, “I can’t tell you about all the dead people I’ve
raised. I’ve had to stop a sermon, go back and raise a dead person.” No
less an authority then Dr. C. Peter Wagner, Professor of Church Growth at
Fuller Seminary, School of World Mission, believes such things do happen,
I too now believe that dead people are literally being raised
in the world today. As soon as I say that, some ask if I
believe if it is normative? I doubt if it would be normative in
any local situation but it probably is normative in terms of the
universal Body of Christ. Even though it is an extremely
uncommon event I would not be surprised if it were happening
several times a year.
John Wimber of “The Vineyard” lists raising the dead as one the basic
elements of any healing ministry.
Now, with the supposed large number of people being raised from the dead, you
would imagine that somebody could manage to come up with one who could give
testimony to the validity. But not one modern occurrence of raising the dead
can be verified. You say, “What about Oral Roberts’ claim the he has raised
many people?” Well, he was challenged to produce the names and addresses of
the people he raised and he balked. Later he recalled only one incident more
than 20 years before when he had supposedly raised a dead child in front of
10,000 witnesses. “During a healing service,” he recalled, “A mother in the
audience jumped up and shouted, ‘My baby is dead!'” Roberts said he, “prayed
over the child and it jerked, it jerked in my hand.” Roberts conceded that
neither that child nor others he said he had brought to life had been
pronounced clinically dead. “I understand,” he hedged, “there is a
difference in a person dying and not breathing and a person being clinically
Well, what are we suppose to make out of that confusion? It certainly is a
far cry from Jesus raising Lazarus, who had been four days in the grave. And
if, as Dr. Wagner supposes, dead people are literally being raised several
times a year, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that he would bring one
along so that we could meet him or her? The truth is, those who claim
miracles today are not able to substantiate their claims. Unlike the
miracles in the New Testament which were usually done with large crowds of
unbelievers watching who would be skeptical, modern miracles typically
happen either privately or in some religious meeting where there are a lot of
people who are in a wild kind of frenzy expecting a miracle, where it is a
lot easier to fabricate one in the imagination.
And the types of miracles that are being claimed today are absolutely nothing
like New Testament miracles: absolutely nothing like them. In fact, the
types of miracles today could be distinctly seen as different than 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 didn’t challenge the reality of
His miracles and He had the people there to verify them. He raised the dead,
of course, as we well know. They never did a miracle that was slow. They
never did a miracle that took time. They never did a miracle that was less
than permanent. By contrast, most modern miracles are partial, gradual,
temporary, sometimes reversed and almost impossible to verify. And the only
instant miracles today seem to be those that deal with psychosomatic
diseases. People with visible disabilities are rarely, if ever, helped at
all by modern faith healers.
I recently watched a televangalist interview a man he had supposedly healed
of lameness. The man said he was free from his wheelchair for the first time
in several years, however, the man was walking with crutches and had heavy
braces on his legs. That’s not a miracle at all like any in the Scriptures.
No modern miracle worker claims the kind of unequivocal success seen in the
ministry of Christ and His Apostles.
Now there are some in the Charismatic movement who try to defend these
supposed miracles which are not verifiable by saying that Jesus Christ is the
same yesterday, today and forever, so it’s the same Jesus today. The Holy
Spirit is still with us today, and therefore with Him we have the Age of
Miracles. David DuPlasee (sp.) who is sort of the patriarch of the movement,
who has been called “Mr. Pentecost,” believed (he’s dead now) that the Age
of Miracles never ended, and that we are still in the Age of Miracles. And
he said that the miracles and the events described in the Book of Acts should
be normative throughout the Church’s history. And it is that view that most
Pentecostals and Charismatics hold, that whatever the Holy Spirit did in the
past, He is still doing now; that miracles go on and on as long as there is
the Holy Spirit. They say that the Holy Spirit never changed. They say the
Early Church changed; it became doctrinal; it became formal; it became
ritualistic, and so the Holy Spirit pulled back His power, and now after
nearly 2,000 years He’s released it again. And the thing that always amazes
me is, if the Holy Spirit were going to release His power, why would He
release it to authenticate the people who teach bad theology? If He wanted
to authenticate anybody with miracles, you could be sure it would be those
who were the truest and the purest and the most profound and Biblical, and
the most skilled and dedicated teachers of the Word of God who were teaching
Many Pentecostals and Charismatics talk about the restoration of the New
Testament Holy Spirit Power through their movement. They say they are doing
again what the Apostles did in the first century. Is that true? If so, why
do modern revelations, visions, tongues, healings, and miracles differ so
dramatically from those done by the Apostles. And why is it that they’re
associated with people who do not understand properly the truth of God? And
if miracles, and signs and wonders are so vital, then why is it that for
nearly 2,000 years the Holy Spirit didn’t do any? Do you mean that there
weren’t even a few people around who would have been worthy of such? Should
Christians today expect miracles? Is Oral Roberts right when he says,
“Everyone of you out there should expect your miracle today?” Are we
supposed to be able to do miracles? Heal people? Raise the Dead?
Well, in answer to all of this we need to take a look at Scripture, and I
want to give you just a fast look and overview at this matter of miracles,
that I think will set your thinking in the right frame.
Most Biblical miracles happened in one of three relatively brief periods of
Biblical history. You need to note this. Most Biblical miracles happened in
three relatively brief periods of Bible History:
1. The days of Moses and Joshua
2. During the ministries of Elijah and Elisha
3. In the time of Christ and the Apostles
None of those periods lasted much more than a hundred years. Each of them,
each of the three, experienced a proliferation of miracles unheard of at
other times in God’s redemptive history. But even during those three times,
miracles were not just normal everyday occurrences that happened to anybody
and everybody. The miracles that did happen in the time of Moses and
Joshua–involved Moses and Joshua! The miracles that happened in the time of
Elijah and Elisha, happened around the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. And
the miracles that happened to Christ and the Apostles and through them,
happened through their ministries.
There weren’t just miracles happening all over everywhere to all kinds of
people. And aside from those three intervals, the only other miracles
recorded in Scripture are very, very, isolated events. It is true in the
days of Isaiah, the Lord miraculously defeated Sennacherib’s army, then
healed Hezekiah and turned the Sun’s shadow back (2Kings 19-20). It is true,
in the days of Daniel, God miraculously preserved Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego, in the furnace (Daniel 3). But those are very uncommon and very
unusual. It is true that God did miraculously preserved Jonah in the belly
of a great fish. But for the most part, those are very isolated. And
miracles like those didn’t happen to God’s people as a course of life. Now,
God, of course at anytime can inject Himself into the human stream
supernaturally, and do a miracle. But He chose to limit Himself primarily to
three periods of history, and very rarely will you ever find a miracle in the
times in between. The rest of the time God just works through providence.
He doesn’t need a miracle: He can just work through providence. The reason
that He did a miracle is because a miracle can only be attributed to God. It
can only be explained supernaturally, and there were times when that was
Let me give you some points. Three characteristics of the miracles in
Scripture will help you understand this:
1. Miracles Introduced New Eras of Revelation.
All three of those periods of miracles were times when God gave His written
a. Moses and Joshua–the time of the giving of the Law.
b. Elijah and Elisha–introduced the prophetic office, the prophetic
age, and all of the Books of Prophecies (Major Prophets, Minor Prophets).
c. New Testament–obviously. Christ did miracles, the apostles did
miracles. That introduced the era of the New Testament revelation.
So whenever God was going to pour out His word, he wanted to certify certain
prophets and teachers of His word; to authenticate them. Moses was given
the power to do certain miracles that people might know he spoke as God’s
spokesman. There was no other way to explain what God used him to do other
than, “God was doing it,” and therefore this was God’s man; and when he
spoke, he spoke for God. And the same was true in Joshua’s case when he
wrote his book. You come to Elijah and Elisha and the miracles that attended
their ministry as they were the prophets of God, and they were introducing a
very long era of prophetic literature as God revealed Himself through the
prophets, of which, really, they were sort of the introducers. And even
those rare miracles that occurred in other eras, involved people who were
used by God to write Scripture.
Hezekiah’s healing involved Isaiah; the three men in the fiery furnace
involved Daniel. Those two were what we call “Major Prophets,” who spoke and
wrote for God. Moses performed many miracles in an attempt to convince
Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go, to convince Pharaoh that this was
not some normal man. This was not some natural man, but this was God’s man
who spoke for God. Miracles seemed to accompany the Israelites on their
journey out of Egypt, and miracles came in their journey through the
wilderness to remind the people of God that God was their God, and that Moses
was God’s spokesman. How else would they know who to listen to? They
certainly didn’t want to listen to Aaron or anybody else. And even when God
gave His law to Moses on the mount, Moses encounter with God was accompanied
by signs so dramatic–fire, smoke, a trumpet, a thundering voice, that even
Moses himself knew it was the voice of God (and Hebrews 12 says, it was
fearful). And thus began the first period of revelation. And Moses recorded
the truth of the Pentateuch (the five books), and Joshua wrote the book that
bears his name. Other books were added intermittently after the time of
Moses and Joshua, Samuel probably wrote Judges and 1st and 2nd Samuel, David
wrote the Psalms, Solomon penned most of the Wisdom literature. But those
books were not accompanied by the great outpouring of miracles that had
distinguished the days of Moses and Joshua. They were kind of a continuation
in some ways of that revelatory era.
The second major cluster of miraculous events accompanied a new era of
Biblical revelation, “The Age of the Old Testament Prophets.” Following
Solomon’s reign the nation of Israel divided into the northern kingdom,
Israel; the southern kingdom, Judah. The northern Kingdom quickly
deteriorated because of idolatry and hit a low point under King Ahab.
Remember his wife Jezebel? At that time God raised up two spokesmen, Elijah
and Elisha. The prophetic office in their lifetime was marked by dramatic
miracles to certify them as the spokesmen for God and to call back the people
to God. The prophets that followed them were the continuation of that era.
Then when that era closed out and the Old Testament was done, there was a 400
year period of silence in which no prophet spoke for God and no miracle is
recorded to have occurred.
Then came the New Testament, and the first miracle was the Virgin Birth. And
then the miracles began to flow out of the life of Christ, and they began to
flow out of His Apostles. Why? Because it was a new era of writing the
revelation of God–The New Testament. Always the miracles were associated
with the certification of those who were giving us God’s revelation.
2. The second point, and that is the point we just led into, “Miracles
Authenticated the Messengers of Revelation.” They only happened in three
eras and they authenticated the messengers of revelation. Elijah raised the
widow’s dead son. And what was the widow’s reply? Verse 24 of
1 Kings 17, she said, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the
word of Lord in your mouth is truth.” That’s a very important verse. That’s
the whole purpose. So that anybody listening to Elijah would know this man
is a man of God and in his mouth is the word of the Lord and it is true.
You come into the New Testament in John 10, Jesus having a confrontation with
the Jewish religious leaders: they challenged Him, “How long will you keep us
in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus said, “I told
you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in my Father’s name, these
bear witness of me.” He was saying, “The miraculous works that I do
authenticate me and my message as being from God.” In his Pentecost sermon,
Peter told the crowd that Jesus was a man attested to them by God with
miracles, wonders and signs. And the same kind of power belonged to the
Apostles. You’ll remember that on Paul’s first missionary journey, he and
Barnabas were ministering at Iconium, and it says, “They were speaking
boldly, with reliance on the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His
grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.” Beloved,
that is always the intention of the miracle. God does not need to do
miracles for everybody to accomplish His will. He does not need to do
miracles for every Christian everyday to prove His love. He does not need to
do miracles everyday to make people believe He exists. He only authenticates
the Word, and when the authenticated Word is revealed there is no need any
longer to authenticate a preacher. You can find out whether he speaks for
God by comparing Him with this [Bible]. And God can still control everything
without ever doing a miracle through providence.
It’s foolish to assume that everybody should be able to do a miracle; that
we can go to a seminar in four days and learn how to do miracles. It’s
equally foolish to assume that God is going to do miracles for you everyday.
People who keep saying they saw this miracle and that miracle have got caught
up in the fact that everything is a miracle, and their definition of miracles
lacks greatly Biblical parameters.
The Apostles performed miracles, signs and wonders, in Acts 5. Why? To call
attention to the fact that they were supernatural servants of the living God,
who spoke the truth. In Acts 15, it says, “The whole assembly became silent
as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and
wonders that God had done among the Gentiles through them.” These things that
mark an Apostle, signs and wonders, and miracles, Paul said to the
Corinthians, “Were done among you.” They mark an Apostle.
Moses, Joshua, introduced an era of revelation. Elijah, Elisha, introduced
an era of revelation. Jesus and the Apostles introduced an era of
revelation. And with all the spokesmen and no written word, with all the
spokesmen, God had to authenticate the right spokesman, and so He gave them
the power to do supernatural things in order that people might know this is
no human mortal teacher, this is a man of God who speaks the truth.
3. Thirdly, and tied right in with the others, miracles are designed to call
attention to the revelation. Miracles are designed to call attention to the
revelation. God did the miracle so that the people would listen to the Word
and see it as His truth. The miracle didn’t stand alone–that’s the point.
God doesn’t do miracles for miracle’s sake. The purpose of the miracle was
the effect of the miracle. For example, the miracles Moses did in Egypt
were meant to enlighten two groups, the Israelites and the Egyptians. In
Exodus 7, we read about Moses’ first miracles and it was then that the
Israelites started to believe in the power of their God. Pharaoh was a “hard
case.” He didn’t believe until the tenth miracle, “the Death Angel,” then he
finally let them go.
But the purpose of the miracle was not just to stand on its own, but the
purpose of the miracle was to get people to understand that God had something
to say! The miracles of Elijah and Elisha were effective in convincing both
believers and unbelievers that what these men spoke was the Word of God. And
a graphic illustration of that can be seen in 1 Kings 18, where Elijah
defeated 400 Prophets of Baal before a large crowd of Israelites, and the
Scripture says, “When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and
they said, ‘The Lord, He is God; The Lord, He is God.'” They believed.
In the New Testament, miracles and signs were again used to confirm
believers and convince unbelievers. John said the miracles of Jesus were
done so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and
believing you might have life in His name; and the same was true with the
Only three eras, always to authenticate those who spoke the revelation of
God, and always with the purpose of pointing to the revelation so that it is
the revelation that is the important thing! And beloved, I submit to you,
that if you have this Book in your hand–you have what is the end product of
God’s miraculous intervention. This is the purpose for which He did the
miracles. You possess this–you don’t need the miracles! You have what God
intended them to produce. And that is why Jesus said it as simply as it
could be said, “If they do not believe Moses and the Prophets (that is
Scripture), they will not believe though someone be raised from the dead.”
You must remember the people of Israel who saw the miracles of Moses, the
whole generation died in the wilderness–in what? Unbelief! You must
remember that the people who heard the prophets speak for God, for the most
part, refused to believe. One whole kingdom apostatized–the northern
kingdom; and in the southern, only a remnant. All those who saw the
miracles of Jesus did not believe: only a small group. And when it came down
to it in the Book of Acts, there were 120 of them dedicated enough to [be]
believing the Lord, that they were waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Miracles have never produced wholesale belief. They can’t. They are
intended to point to the truth, and it is the truth which produces faith, of
course as the Spirit energizes it.
Now, the question comes, “Are miracles necessary today?” When the Old and
New Testaments were completed God’s revelation was finished. Through many
signs and wonders He has authenticated the veracity of this Book. Anybody
who reads it can see that it’s true. Does God have to keep doing miracles?
Is there a need for ongoing miracles to substantiate the Bible? Should
everybody with faith claim a miracle? Does God do miracles on demand? Are
the phenomena that are occurring today, hailed as “signs and wonders and
healings,” really necessary and authentic? The answers to all those
questions is no. Nothing in Scripture indicates that the miracles of the
Apostle’s Age were meant to be continuous. [If] you keep reading in the Book
of Acts and you will get to the part in the Book of Acts where you finally
say to yourself, “I haven’t read a miracle in a long time,” and you’ll finish
the whole book and never see another one! They had begun to cease even in
the Book of Acts.
Charismatics today believe that the spectacular and miraculous gifts were
given for the edification of believers. Does God’s Word support that? No!
They were not given for the edification of believers; they were not given to
edify Christians; they are a sign for those who do not believe: for those
who need to see that this is God’s Word. Whether you are talking about
tongues or healings or miracles, they served as signs to authenticate an era
in which God was giving new revelation and people needed to listen. B. B.
Warfield, that great Presbyterian professor of the past generation, writing
in 1918, said,
Miracles do not appear on the pages of Scripture vagrantly,
here, there, and elsewhere indifferently, without assignable
reason. They belong to “revelation periods” and appear only
when God is speaking to His people through accredited messengers
declaring His gracious purpose. Their abundant display, in the
Apostolic Church, is the mark of the richness of the Apostolic
Age in revelation.
You realize, don’t you, that between about 36 A.D. and 95 A.D., all 27 books
of the New Testament were written. And so there was a proliferation of
authentication because of the vast volume of literature being revealed in a
brief period of time. Warfield goes on,
When this revelation period closed the period of “Miracle
Working” had passed by also as a mere matter of course. God the
Holy Spirit has made it His subsequent work, not to introduce
new and unneeded revelations into the world, but to diffuse this
one complete revelation through the world and to bring mankind
into the saving knowledge of it.
Abraham Kiper (sp.) the Dutch theologian writes this in 1898,
It has not been God’s way to communicate to each and every man a
separate store of divine knowledge of his own, to meet his
separate needs. But He rather has spread a common board for
all, and invites all to come and partake of the richness of the
I want to stop in that quote to say, that is such a very important rebuke to
the contemporary Charismatic movement which assumes that God talks to
everybody individually, has special revelation for everybody, separate
information for everybody to meet everybody’s individual needs. That is not
the case. Abraham Kiper is right when he says,
He [God] has spread a common board for all, and invites all to
come and partake of the richness of the great feast. He has
given to the world one organically complete revelation, adapted
to all, sufficient for all, provided for all, and from this one
completed revelation he requires each to draw his whole
spiritual sustenance. Therefore, it is that the miraculous
working which is but the sign of God’s revealing power cannot
be expected to continue, and in point of fact, does not continue
after the revelation of which it is the accompaniment has been
Great statement. In Acts, chapter 7, as Stephen preached his famous sermon,
he talked about Moses who performed wondrous signs in the land of Egypt, and
in the Red Sea, and in the Wilderness, “And received living oracles to pass
on to you,” Stephen said. Note how God’s Word draws the parallel between
Moses’signs and the living oracles–the direct revelation from God which he
was to pass on. Hebrews 2:3-4 confirms that the validation of the New
Testament writers was purposed to cause folks to see them as the agents of
God’s revelation, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by
those who heard, God bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and
by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit.” He was authenticating
the Apostles–the writers of Scripture.
Does God promise miracles for everybody? No! He never has: it’s not their
purpose. You hear Charismatics say, “God has a special miracle for you
today!” No, He doesn’t! “You better be seeking your private miracle. If
you’re not getting it, it’s because you don’t believe strongly enough.” Not
true! By the way, Jesus didn’t do any private miracles, they were all
public. And they were, as I said, to authenticate the one who spoke for God.
There is so much more that can be said about this, and there will be much
more in the book. But I just want to wrap this up in the last five minutes
If you are going to say that God is doing miracles today, and be Biblically
consistent, you are going to have to say that, “God is also. . . ” What?
Giving what? Revelation. And if God is giving revelation, it will be coming
through the people who are what? Doing the miracles. And I will say this
for the Charismatics, they are at least logically consistent in that sense.
They have got the whole package–God is giving revelation. He is still
giving it. The people who are getting it have miracle power in their view.
And what is the next logical step? To call them . . . what? Apostles. And
that is what they are doing.
We are now having a pretty common movement in the Charismatic scene, labeling
people as Apostles. Earl Palk (sp.), quite a prominent Charismatic, teaches
that certain anointed individuals have been called to be Apostles. Jack
Deere (sp.), former professor at Dallas Seminary, the chief theologian of
John Wimber’s movement, isn’t certain that Apostolic ministry is functioning
today, but he told a workshop in Sidney, he, “Is convinced that Apostolic
power is coming,” listen to this, “and the new Apostolic age will be greater
than the first!” We are going to get the whole package back. New Apostles
doing new signs and wonders, receiving new revelation to produce a “New
You want to look at this very carefully, beloved. This almost looks like a
plot to deceive the whole Church. Doesn’t it? The Apostolic office isn’t
for today. The Church was founded upon the Apostles, Ephesians 2:20, they
were the foundation. You don’t put the foundation on the 20th story. The
Apostles were all eyewitnesses to the resurrection. Eyewitnesses to the
risen Christ! They were chosen personally by Jesus Christ. They were
authenticated by miraculous signs. They had absolute authority, and they
were given an eternal, unique place of honor, Revelation 21:14 says that
Heaven, the city of the New Jerusalem, has a wall with twelve foundation
stones, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
There are only twelve! You can argue who the twelfth was, some say Matthias,
some say Paul, Judas being excluded. You might want to say Matthias, and
Paul was an apostle in due time, kind of an addendum.
But the point is, there are only twelve of those honored places. Each of
them will rule over one of the twelve tribes of Israel in the Kingdom. There
is not room for more than twelve folks. They are a special breed. They had
no successors. The age of the apostles is over because the age of
authentication is over, because the age of revelation is over. You say, “Oh,
MacArthur, you have a weak view of God.” No I don’t! I have a strong view
of God. I think that He is consistent with Himself. And I think He is true
to His revelation. Jerry Horner, Associate Professor of Biblical Literature
at Oral Roberts, said, “Who in the world wants a God who has lost all of His
zip?” Well, has God lost His zip? Has He done nothing significant in 2,000
years? That’s hardly the case. He has got plenty of zip, in fact, he is
able to do exceedingly, abundantly, beyond all you can ask or think,
according to the power that works in us.
He had a special purpose for the eras of revelation. He has a different
purpose now, just as powerful, just as wonderful. Don’t buy into the
deception that there is something beyond the Scripture, because that’s what
this deception is saying; that there is somebody getting a revelation;
that there is somebody with apostolic authority; that miracles are supposed
to be happening all over the place. It’s not true. It’s not consistent with
Father, we thank You, that we can look at Your Word tonight, and in just this
brief time discern its truth again. Help us to have that discernment. And
Lord help us to believe that You don’t have to do a miracle to show Yourself.
Providence, in many ways, is a greater miracle than a miracle. It would be
easier to do something supernatural than it is to orchestrate all of the
infinite contingencies of life and make them work Your purpose, but You do it
every moment of every day. Thank You for Your Word which needs no update,
for the authenticated messengers gave us the once for all, delivered to the
Saints, faith on which we rest. We ask Lord that You will keep us true to
Your truth. Don’t let us get led astray, for Jesus sake. Amen.
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