First, a few words need to be defined.
Miracle. The Greek word “dunamis” means power, inherent ability, and is used of works of a supernatural origin and character, such as could not be produced by natural agents and means. It is often translated “miracles.” (W.E. Vine, Drs. M. Unger, and W. White Jr., An Expository Dictionary Of Biblical Words, p. 747). “Dunamis” emphasizes the miracle as a spontaneous expression of God’s elemental power (Dr. L. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 445) or Satan’s power.
Sign. The Greek word “semeion” means a sign, mark, indication, or token and is used of miracles, miraculous acts, and wonders as signs of Divine authority and power. It can be translated “miracle” but is usually translated as “sign” (Vine, Unger, and White’s, pp. 747, 1042). It can also be used of miraculous acts by false teachers or prophets as indications of assumed authority, or by Satan through his special agents (e.g., 2 Thes. 2:9; Rev. 13:13-14; 19:20) – Vine, Unger, and White’s, p. 1043.”Semeion” has as its basic meaning that of an authenticating mark or token. When it refers to a miraculous sign, it emphasizes the authenticating aspect of the miracle as an indication that supernatural power is involved (Richard’s, p. 445).
Wonder. The Greek word “teras” means something strange, causing the beholder to marvel (Vine’s, p. 1240). A “wonder” emphasizes the extraordinary character of the miracle (Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. 1, p. 250). It also focuses on the astonishment that it produces in the observer (Dr. M. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 747). So, a miracle can also be a sign and wonder. A sign appeals to the understanding, a wonder appeals to the imagination, and a miracle indicates its source as supernatural (Vine’s, p. 1240).
Work. The Greek word “ergon” meaning “work” can also refer to miracles (e.g., Jn. 7:3; 10:25, 32) – Richard’s, p. 445.
The Primary Purpose Of Miracles Performed Through Men. The primary purpose of a miracle in the first century was to prove that the person performing the miracle spoke or wrote by the power of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, his words were from God, and authenticated by God (Wuest’s, vol. 1, p. 250). In connection with special revelations (messages from God) to which miracles are subservient (serving to promote), miracles aid in attesting (affirming/verifying/authenticating/proving), establishing, and preserving the revelations of God. And these signs attest to the miracle-worker’s authority as being a messenger from God (Unger’s, p. 749). Miracles from God, then, were to show people that the miracles, person performing the miracle, and the message from the one performing the miracle were all from God, so that people would believe. Miracles performed through men, were primarily for the purpose of gaining people’s attention and aiding in the winning of people’s acceptance of God’s new revealed truth (Unger’s, p. 749). So the primary purpose of miracles from God performed through men, whether in the Old or New Testament, was to authenticate that both the messenger and his message were sent by/from God (whether the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit).
Accordingly, miracles are basically confined to three critical periods of history:
Moses/Joshua (1441-1390 B.C.), Elijah/Elisha (870-785 B.C.), and Christ/apostles (A.D. 28-95). These three periods had a lot of new revelation from God introduced: the Mosaic laws, the revival of the prophetic era (turn from idols back to God), and the Messiah with His kingdom announcements and the Church (Unger’s, p. 748). Let’s examine more closely the miracle-workers of these three periods of history and some of their miracles.
Ex. 4:1-9, 12, 15, 30-31; 3:10 God sends Moses with His message, and Moses performs a miracle which was a sign that Moses was from God with God’s message with the result that the Israelites believe.
Ex. 7:15-17 Turning the NileRiver into blood was to convince Pharaoh that Moses and his message was from God.
Ex. 8:16-19 Turning dust into gnats that went on man and beast all over Egypt causes Pharaoh’s magicians to recognize the miracles as from God.
Ex. 6:6-8; 14:31 Delivering the Israelites from Egypt through the Red Sea miracle causes them to believe in both the Lord and Moses as God’s servant.
Josh. 1:1-2, 5; 3:7, 9, 13-17; 4:10, 14, 18 God sends Joshua to lead Israel, and he performs the miracle of drying up the Jordan River. This causes the Israelites to revere Joshua and know that God is with him.
1 Kings 17:8-9, 17, 21-24 Sent by God, Elijah performs a miracle that convinces the widow that Elijah is a man of God and the word of the Lord is in his mouth.
1 Kings 18:21-24, 36-40 The miracle of calling fire down from heaven causes the Israelites to believe in the Lord as God and to obey Elijah’s words.
Matt. 11:3-5 Jesus says that His healing of the blind, lame, deaf, leper, and dead was to show that He was the Coming One/Messiah.
Mk. 2:7-11 Healing the paralytic was to show the Jews that Jesus could forgive sins because He was God.
Jn. 5:8-9, 36-38; 10:24-25, 37-38; 11:42-45 The miraculous works Jesus did bore witness of His Messiahship and that God sent Him, so that people would believe Him.
Jn. 7:16, 21, 23; 8:26, 28, 40; 12:49; 20:30-31; Matt. 4:23 The miraculous signs that Jesus performed were for causing people to believe that His message/words about His being the Christ, the Son of God, as well as other truths, were the words that God gave Him.
Acts 2:22, 36 Jesus was proven to be Messiah (authenticated as true) by God with the miracles, wonders, and signs that God performed through Him.
Jesus’ Apostles and others commissioned by God (Jesus or the Holy Spirit)
Matt. 10:1-8 Jesus sends His apostles with His message and authority to heal.
2 Cor. 12:12; 1:1 Paul performed the signs/indicator of a true apostle among the Corinthians by signs, wonders, and miracles.
Acts 26:15-17; Gal. 1:11-12; Rom. 15:18-19 Jesus sent Paul with His message, and because of Paul’s performing signs and wonders, Gentiles had converted (believed/obeyed the gospel message).
Acts 13:2, 4; 14:3 God the Holy Spirit sent Paul/Saul and Barnabas to do God’s work, and God was bearing witness to the word of His grace by granting Paul and Barnabas the ability to do signs and wonders.
Heb. 2:2-4 God bore witness, with those who heard Jesus preach salvation and who were now likewise preaching (probably the apostles, Matt. 10:5, 7-8; 28:19; Acts 1:8), by signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 5:12-16 Jesus’ apostles performed miracles so that a multitude became believers in the message God gave them.
Acts 6:5-6; 8:5-7, 12, 26, 29 Sent by God with God’s message, Philip performs signs/attesting miracles so that the multitudes gave attention to and believed what he said.
Acts 6:5-10; 22:20 Stephen, God’s witness, was performing great wonders and signs among the people as he spread the Word of God.
So, we see how miracles authenticated both the miracle-worker and his message as being of God.
Healing people is a miracle (Acts 19:11-12; 4:14, 16, 22), a sign (Jn. 4:47-48, 50, 54; 11:45-47), and a wonder (Mk. 2:9-12; 5:35, 41-42; Lk. 5:24-26; Acts 3:6-10). And as stated before, miracles, signs, and wonders were used to prove to people that the one doing them was a messenger from God whose message was from God (Acts 2:22; Jn. 20:30-31; 2 Cor. 12:11-12; Heb. 2:2-4). So, if God has stopped giving direct revelations to people, then miracle-working healers are no longer necessary to authenticate either the messenger or his messages as being of God. And in fact, this is the case. With the completion of the Bible, God stopped giving any direct revelations (e.g., prophecy, knowledge, etc. – 1 Cor. 13:9-10, the “perfect” is the completion of the Bible – Dr. Sellers, Biblical Conclusions Concerning Tongues, p. 16; V. Budgen, The Charismatics and the Word of God, pp. 74, 75; Unger’s Bible Handbook, p. 640). Also, God’s primary spokesmen, the apostles, came to an end by A.D. 100. The qualification to be an apostle of Jesus was to be personally chosen and sent out by Jesus (Lk. 6:13-16; Jn. 15:16; Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8) and to have seen Jesus after His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). Paul was given a special resurrection appearance and commission from Jesus (Acts 26:16-18; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8). So, no apostles would have been possible after A.D. 100. Another passage that confirms this is Eph. 2:20 where the Church is compared to a building which has a foundation and a superstructure. The foundation represents the apostles and prophets of the first century, while the superstructure represents the succeeding centuries since the first. We are now in the period of the superstructure and not of the foundation. Once the foundation is laid down, you don’t keep relaying it, but work on the superstructure. So the gifts of apostle and prophecy passed during the foundational period of the church (first century) – Joseph Dillow, Speaking in Tongues, p. 115.
The gift of healings was not intended to be used by the person who possessed the gift to heal either himself or his friends (e.g., Paul is sick in Gal. 4:13-15 in A.D. 46; Epaphroditus is sick in Phil. 2:25-27 in A.D. 60; Timothy is sick in 1 Tim. 5:23 in A.D. 63; Trophimus is sick in 2 Tim. 4:20 in A.D. 67), but rather to authenticate his message as being from God when God gave him some revelation.
Do all or did all Christians have the gift of healings?
No! In 1 Cor. 12:30 Paul asks the rhetorical question, “All do not have gifts of healings, do they?” This question is introduced by the particle in Greek “me”, indicating a “no” answer (Dr. L. Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 179). Paul is stressing the diversity of the Christian body/church and that there is no one spiritual gift that all Christians have (Morris, p. 180).
To try and use Mk. 16:18 to show that all believers have the ability to heal is weak. First, God can’t contradict Himself, and He already stated in 1 Cor. 12:30 that all Christians don’t have the gift of healings. Secondly, Mark 16:18 is seriously in question as to whether it is even in the original gospel of Mark. Textual evidence fails to support that verses 9-20 are part of Mark’s original gospel as they are not included in the two earliest/ancient manuscripts (the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus), nor in the codex K (the best exemplar of the earliest African Old Latin text), nor in the Sinaitic Syriac, nor in other early manuscripts. Also, early church fathers/leaders, such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen seem not to have known these verses, nor does Eusebius and Jerome after them. Likewise, internal evidence fails to support Mark 16:9-20. Arguments based on diction (choice of words), style, and content indicate the position that Mark did not write these verses, but that they were added by someone else later (Dr. W. Hendriksen, The New Testament Commentary – The Gospel of Mark, pp. 682-687). By the recognized standards of textual evaluation this section of Mark (16:9-20) must be rejected, and this is the judgment of almost all textual scholars (Drs. F. Pfeiffer and E. Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1025).
Another misunderstood issue is whether Christians can pick which spiritual gift they’d like.
The answer is “no”. God gives the spiritual gifts as “He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11; Heb. 2:4). Nowhere in the Bible does it say that an individual Christian can pick or choose which gift he wants for himself. And 1 Cor 12:31 and 1 Cor. 14:1 do not teach it either! These 2 passages are simply saying that the Corinthian church (as a whole, the understood “you” is in the plural) should desire apostles, prophets, and teachers (those with instructional spiritual gifts) above speaking in tongues (which existed at this point in history, A.D. 55) because the Corinthian church especially needed instruction (1 Cor. 14:31-32), since it was in a moral mess (1 Cor. 1:11; 3:1-3; 5:1-2; 6:4-8; 8:7-12; 11:27-31; 14:40) and needed educating from God’s Word.
Is it God’s will that godly people or Christians ever be sick? Or, has God ever caused them to be sick?
Yes! In Job 2:6-7, God gives Satan permission to give sickness to the most righteous man on earth in his day (Job 1:8). In 1 Cor. 11:29-32, God causes some sinning Christians to be sick and to even die. And in 2 Cor. 12:7-10 God gives the great apostle Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble because he had seen some special revelations from God. This thorn could well be Paul’s bodily affliction mentioned in Gal. 4:13-15 (as Greek scholar Henry Alford believes, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, p. 1253; and New Testament scholars John Howson and William Conybeare believe this bodily illness is a weakness in Paul’s eyes, p. 1271, Gal. 4:15; 6:11). As already mentioned, God permitted many godly people to be or stay sick: Epaphroditus, Timothy, Trophimus, etc.
Is physical healing to be found in Jesus’ atonement (death on the cross)?
No! Not in this life anyway. And to try and use Matt. 8:17 with Isaiah 53:4-5 to prove that Jesus bore our sicknesses on the cross is taking these passages out of their context and misinterpreting them.
First, in Matt. 8:16-17, it says that Jesus healed all who were ill in order to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy, “He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases.” This fulfillment took place during Jesus’ earthly ministry before He died on the cross. The passage states that it was fulfilled then, at that point, before Jesus’ death took place.
Second, the Greek word “ebastasen” meaning “bore” or “carried away” is never used of Christ bearing our sins, but is used instead of His removing people’s illnesses which He had healed during His earthly ministry as in Matt. 8:16-17. Isaiah 53:4-5 is a prophecy of what Jesus would do both during His life (Isa. 53:4a) as well as upon His death (Isa. 53:4b-5). The turning point between the two is found in the middle of Isa. 53:4, marked by the word “yet”. The first part of verse four describes what Jesus would do during His life, and that He fulfilled in Matt. 8:16-17. The second part of Isa. 53:4-5 shows what Jesus would accomplish by His death. [Another example of this type of later fulfillment of events talked about right next to each other is found in Isa. 61:1-3, where Isa. 61:1-2a refers to Jesus’ first coming, fulfilled in Luke 4:17-21; whereas Isa. 61:2b-3 is to be fulfilled in Jesus’ second coming, as seen in 2 Thes. 1:6-8; Rev. 19:11-21; 21:2-6, 10, 23-27; 22:1-5. Or, another example of later fulfillment of events talked about in the same passage is in Acts 2:16-21, where Acts 2:16-18 refers to the time right after Jesus’ first coming – Acts 2:33, while Acts 2:19-21 refers to the time right before Jesus’ second coming – Rev. 6:12; Matt. 24:29-31. This passage in Acts (Acts 2:17-21) is taken from Joel 2:28-32, where Joel 2:28-29 refers to the time right after Jesus’ first coming and Joel 2:30-32 refers to the time right before His Second Coming.]
Another passage often misused to try and prove that God wants all Christians to not be sick because Jesus supposedly took our sicknesses away at the time of His crucifixion is 1 Pet. 2:24. But does 1st Peter really teach this? No! 1 Pet. 2:24 states that Jesus bore (Gk. word “anenegken”) our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds (death) we were healed. The context is obviously talking about spiritual healing (i.e., free from the penalty and power of sin). Nothing in the text even hints about physical healing. Also, the verb “were healed” or “have been healed” is in the past tense indicating completed action. The healing is an accomplished fact and therefore cannot refer to physical healing but to salvation, as sickness is still occurring in this life (Drs. J. Walvoord and R. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT, p. 849). A similar verse is found in Isa. 53:5, where the context again clearly refers to sins being forgiven rather than physical healing being gained. The Greek word for “heal” used in 1 Pet. 2:24 is “iaomai” and is used figuratively of spiritual healing as it does in Matt. 13:15; Jn 12:40; Acts 28:27; and Heb. 12:13 (W. Vine, Dr. M. Unger, and Dr. White Jr., p. 533). Greek scholar Dr. Kenneth Wuest in Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. 2, page 70, states that 1 Pet. 2:24 cannot teach the erroneous doctrine that physical healing is to be found in the atonement, rather it teaches salvation of the soul. So we see that it’s not God’s will to be free from sickness always.
Lack of faith is not the reason those who don’t believe that the gift of healing still exists for today. Rather it’s because God’s Word, the Bible indicates that the gift has passed away.
In summary then, the spiritual gift of healing, which performs miracle healings on sick people, was primarily for the purpose of authenticating the healer and his message as being from God. It was a sign to that fact so that people would listen and believe the message of God’s Word. But now that God’s Word has been completed/perfected/finalized with the completion of the Bible in A.D. 96, there is no longer a need for miraculous gifts like healings, prophecy, and knowledge (Dr. Sellers, p. 16; V. Budgen, The Charismatics and the Word of God, pp. 74, 75; Unger’s Bible Handbook, p. 640). As already stated, this took place by A.D. 96 when the “perfect” came (1 Cor. 13:9-10). The Greek word “to teleion” means complete/perfect. So completed/perfect prophecy and knowledge replaced/ended partial prophecy and knowledge. God’s direct revelations to mankind ended with the Bible’s completion. Therefore, authenticating sign miracles like healings ended as well at that time.
A final comment. Miracles from God as opposed to counterfeit miracles from demonic powers are to be recognized/tested by two means: the character of the agent performing the miracles (Matt. 7:15-21; 1 Jn. 3:7-10) and the end/purpose for which the miracle is performed (e.g., the teaching they seek to establish – Deut. 13:1-4; Matt. 24:24; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Thes. 2:1-2, 9 – is it false, contrary to God’s already written Word, the Bible?). On this basis, Divine miracles can be distinguished from demonic miracles or trickery.
Some passages showing that miracles or healing miracles were for a sign:
John 2:23 … many believed in His name (Jesus as Messiah), beholding His signs He was doing.
John 3:2 … Nicodemus, the Pharisee, knew that Jesus came from God as a teacher because no one could do the signs He was doing unless God was with Him.
John 4:47-48, 50, 54 … Jesus says that unless these Jews saw signs and wonders, they simply would not believe. Healing the official’s son is Jesus’ second sign He performed.
John 6:2 … A great multitude followed Jesus because they were seeing the signs which He performed on those who were sick.
John 6:14 … When people saw the sign which Jesus performed, they said, “This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world” (Deut. 18:15-18).
John 7:3, 31 … many of the multitude believed in Jesus, and were saying, “When the Christ shall come, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?”
John 9:30, 33 … “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (couldn’t heal the blind).
John 11:41-47 … Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead so that people would believe that God sent Him. And many did believe. They said, “this man is performing many signs.”
Acts 4:14, 16, 22 … Peter’s healing of a lame man is considered a miracle, a miracle of healing.
Acts 5:12-16 … multitudes of believers were constantly added to the church because of the signs and wonders (healings) at the hands of the apostles.
Acts 9:37, 41-42 … many believed in the Lord as a result of Peter’s raising Dorcus from the dead.
Acts 19:11-12 … God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul … healings.
Acts 14:3 … God was bearing witness to His Word being spoken by Paul and Barnabas with signs and wonders being done by their hand.
2 Cor. 12:11-12 … the signs of a true apostle were performed among them by signs, wonders, and miracles.
Heb. 2:2-4 … God testified to the validity of these first century eyewitnesses’ testimony of the Lord’s salvation offer to people (confirming it to these Hebrew believers) by enabling them to perform miracles and giving them certain sign gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Greek verb in verse three “was confirmed” is the Greek aorist “ebebaiothe”. The aorist tense in this context implies a completed, once and for all event in past time. It is emphasizing the unrepeatedness of the event in question. Thus, the confirmation was given and then not repeated. Not only is the confirmation a past-tense event but so is the corroborative witness which God provided in the form of miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is evident because the Greek present tense participle “testified” (“synepimartyrountos”) describes action contemporaneous with that of the main verb “was confirmed”. Thus, when the author of Hebrews wrote in about A.D. 68, both the eyewitness testimony and the miraculous corroboration were past events. The verb tense does not indicate that these things were still in the process of occurring. It appears that this apostle writing here was not aware of the continued presence of these unusual sign-gifts in A.D. 68. – J. Dillow, p. 145.
God can and does heal and do miracles today, but not through people whom God used to give this spiritual gift or ability/authority to before the end of the 1st century AD.