Miracles (Part III)

The Duration of Miracles

By Wayne Wells

In 1 Corinthians 12 - 14, Paul teaches the Corinthians about the spiritual gifts. In chapter 12 he lists the gifts and shows that they all work together as one body. After writing of the different gifts, in 12:31 he writes, “And I show you a still more excellent way.”  The more excellent way is love - 1 Corinthians 13.

We must remember the context of chapter 13. It is in the middle of a discussion of the spiritual gifts to a church that is having problems with them.

1 Corinthians 13:8
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

 The question is WHEN will prophecy, tongues and knowledge be done away?

The answer is given in 1 Corinthians 13:9-10.

"For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away."

When Paul wrote this letter, knowledge and prophecy were in part, but the time was coming when the perfect would come and then the gifts will cease.

What isthat which is perfect”? Notice it does not say he who is perfect”.

A comparison is being made between what is in part to that which is perfect. What is in part at this time? Knowledge. What were the things in part for? They were to bring about knowledge. The time was coming when they will have full knowledge and therefore no need of miracles. This was to happen during the Apostles lifetime -John 14:26, 16:12-13, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3-4.

  1. The miracles confirmed the word of the Apostles -Hebrews 2:3-4.

  2. Now, when we read the words which were confirmed by miracles, we too can believe -John 20:30-31.

  3. Those who reject the written word today are the same as the ones who rejected the miracles in the first century - Luke 16:19-31.

  4. If miracles are for today, why does not anyone perform some visible, indisputable miracle to confirm the words of the ones speaking?

The Corinthians had partial knowledge at the time of writing and were compared to a child, but they needed to grow up.

1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

The amazing miracles of the first century were the childish things used to help the church mature into what God desires - following the way of love.
 

1 Corinthians 13:12 - “Face to Face”

Many claim this must be a reference to the second coming of Christ. It is actually a common Old Testament phrase that means, "to speak openly", or "to speak plainly". This is telling us that when the full revelation of God is complete, then the miracles that were given to confirm the Word would cease.

The following verses give the Old Testament use of the phrase, "face to face":

Numbers 12:1-8
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
2 So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. 3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) 4 Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out. 5 Then the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. 6 Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. 7 Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. 8 I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?”

Numbers 14:13-14
And Moses said to the Lord: “Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them, 14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people; that You, Lord, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.

Deuteronomy 5:1-5
And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. 4 The Lord talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. 5 I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain.

Deuteronomy 34:10-11
But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land.

We know the phrase "face to face" was not literal because of the teaching in Exodus 33:11-23. God did not literally speak face to face, but spoke plainly and openly to Moses. Christians in the first century had the promise that God would complete His revelation to them. This revelation is now complete in both the Old and New Testaments, so there is no longer any need for the miracles that were given to confirm the Word as it was being revealed.

Exodus 33:11-23
So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. 12 Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” 17 So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” 18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” 19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” 
We can see God face to face today through His Word

All that we need has been revealed.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Peter 1:2-3
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.

 

Jude wrote that the faith has been “once” delivered (KJV). “Once” is translated from “hapax”, which means “once for all.” This is why many newer translations use the full phrase "once for all" to translate the one Greek word hapax. 

Jude 3 (NKJV)
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Notice the use of hapax (once) in Hebrews 9:26-28 and 1 Peter 3:18. In these texts it is obvious the word means "once for all".

Hebrews 9:24-28
For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

1 Peter 3:18
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

The full revelation has been revealed. It was delivered to the apostles by inspiration, confirmed by miracles and is now written so that we too can understand.

Ephesians 3:3-6
By revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.

James tells us we now have the perfect law of liberty. The word "perfect" is from teleios, the same word translated "perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:10, and means "complete, mature, finished."

James 1:25
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

Zechariah 13:1-2 prophecies of a time when prophecy will cease. When will this happen?
It is when God opens a fountain in Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness. This is a reference to the forgiveness offered through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Zechariah 13:1-2
In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. 2 “It shall be in that day,” says the Lord of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land.”

 

 A Comparison of 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4

1 Corinthians 13

Ephesians 4

Gifts - 13:8

Gifts given - 4:7-8, 11

To pass away - 13:8

To be done away - 4:13

Cease when perfect comes - 13:10

End when we come to the unity of the faith - 4:13

A child before fulfillment - 13:11

A child before fulfillment -4:14

Church a mature man when the gifts cease - 13:11

Church a mature man when gifts cease - 4:13

The more excellent way - Love -12:31-13:8

Do all in love - 4:2, 15, 16

   

Some object to this use of Ephesians 4 by claiming it is referring to the Second Coming because we are not all united. They claim that all denominations must become one church before Christ returns.

In Ephesians 4:1-3,the Ephesians were commanded to keep “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. How could they keep it if they didn't already have it?  We have the ability to be united now; by following God’s complete and perfect Word. Obviously, not all do this. Some refuse to follow the Scriptures and instead, follow their own will. This is not God's fault or some defect in the Scriptures. The problem is man's pride and sin.

Today, through study of God’s revealed word, we can grow to maturity, be united in the faith and know the doctrine of Christ. In Hebrews 5:12-14 some were rebuked who did not develop themselves by neglecting to study the word of righteousness as they should. The Word is complete. Now we must study it and obey it.

Remember the Purpose of Miracles:

  1. Reveal the Word

  2. Confirm the Word.

To say that miracles still occur, to be consistent, there must be apostles, prophets, and the other gifts and miracles found in the New Testament. It all goes together.

Too many are missing the purpose of the church.

  1. The purpose is not to heal the sick, not all were healed.

  2. The purpose is not to feed the poor, if so, we could feed as Jesus did, and could get money as Jesus did.

  3. The purpose is not to cure all social and political problems.

Instead, the N.T. teaches masters to be better masters, slaves to be better slaves, etc.

The purpose of the church is to prepare people for eternity by transforming us into the image of Christ.

It is done through the Word, the Sword of the Spirit that makes us complete.

The proof of being a Christian is not in miracles, but in the life lived.
Romans 8:9-14
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Galatians 5:22-25
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.


(Wayne Wells preaches in Texarkana, TX. He is the webmaster for http://godofmercy.com and can be contacted at wayne@godofmercy.com.)

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