Preface to Q & A
Many believe scripture declares that everything Holy Spirit has for us is received when we are born again. Therefore if this is true, they should also believe they have all the power (dunamis-miracle working power) we see active in the lives of the believers in the book of Acts. They should also be obeying:
And then He told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. (16) Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. (17) These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in My name, and they will speak in new languages. (18) They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” Mar 16:15-18 NLT
We believe scripture shows that the power of God is usually received at a separate event from salvation, when that gift is actively received by the believer. We observe that those who do not hold to this teaching have a relatively low frequency of healings and deliverances in their churches. A study of Acts and a multitude of revivals clearly shows that in addition to salvations, there is almost always the blessings of signs, wonders, gifts and miracles. However these revivals are nearly always led by those who have actively received the power of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s world, though, most have a stronger dependence on the medical and the psychology professions than on the empowering, healing presence of God. So, our stand about restoration/revival is this. We urge all believers to begin to pray for the sick and cast out demons as needed. If they are correct with their scripture-based doctrinal stance, then we all will see a sharp increase in faith-based healings in miraculous deliverances.
Gird up your courage and pray like this: “Dear Jesus, if I’ve been wrong about Baptism in Holy Spirit not being for today, that it really is your way to obtain the power that you want me to have, I am asking you to give me that gift now.” Then open your heart and mind to begin to operate in any and all of the Spirit’s gifts described in 1 Cor 12:8-10. Begin to confidently pray for every sick or otherwise needy person you can. You will see the results that place you on course to do the works Jesus did, bringing others to see His glory.
“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? (12) “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? (13) “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luk 11:11-13 NASB
Q & A
ON THE AUTHENTICITY
OF SIGNS, WONDERS AND MIRACLES TODAY
By Nina Snyder
Copyright © 2015 A. N. Snyder
All rights reserved
Table of Contents
Introduction – Holy Spirit Outpourings Since Pentecost
1. Unbiblical Conclusions about Baptism in the Holy Spirit
for today’s believers
a. Conjectures – The formation or expression of an opinion
or theory without sufficient proof from Biblical evidence
b. Negative experiences at the hands of charismatic “healers” with self-seeking agendas
2. Lack of a close, intimate relationship with God
3. Various Fears…
4. Ignorance of Scripture and History
5. Surrendering Our Lives to God
Holy Spirit Outpourings Since Pentecost
From Pentecost in Acts 2 until the present time, history proves that the Holy Spirit is still actively working through believers with signs and wonders, healings, deliverances, and even people being raised from the dead.
There may have been lulls in Holy Spirit’s level of activity, but He has never ceased doing what He began in the early days of the Church. These lulls were likely due to both the clergy’s and the average believer’s ignorance of God’s will and God’s word.
The Bible as it exists today was not available to believers until translations from the Greek and Hebrew began to be written in the early 16th century and over time became available to the common people in their own languages. Without the Bible, there was a low level of faith because “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
Keep in mind that nowhere does Scripture say that the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit (who Jesus promised to His followers in Acts 1:8 and that they began to experience in Acts 2) would be available for only a limited time “just to get the church started.”
These questions have remained for all believers down through the centuries:
• Do you want a deeper relationship with the Father, with Jesus, AND with the Holy Spirit?
• Do you want to be a Holy Spirit empowered witness as a member of the Body of Christ?
• Do you want to experience the reality of 1 Corinthians 12:1-14?
There is only one appropriate response to the Lord of Glory for any believer:
ABSOLUTE SURRENDER TO HIM
If our answer to these questions is “Yes,” then, He will pour into us more of Himself and we will experience a deeper relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our becoming Holy Spirit-energized members of the Body of Christ will be as unique in each one of us as He has made each person’s fingerprints. Total surrender to God enables us to live as citizens of His kingdom by the empowering, nurturing presence of the Holy Spirit.
a. UNBIBLICAL CONJECTURES
The Formation or Expression of an Opinion or Theory
Without Sufficient Proof from Biblical Evidence
Q. Did God’s signs, wonders and miracles cease when the last of the twelve apostles died at the end of the first century A.D.?
A. First of all, we must establish the original purpose of these manifestations. Did they fulfill the prophetic promise of Jesus in Mark 16:15-18 before He ascended into Heaven?
The answer is yes, but not completely.
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues (languages); they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’”
Q. Did the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and following and as reported in the New Testament epistles also fulfill Jesus’ prophetic promise?
A. Yes, but not completely. Those who believed went out preaching the gospel and ministering to one another with signs following, but still didn’t go into all the world (Mark 16:15).
Q. Did these miraculous signs and wonders, done in Jesus’ name, draw people into a loving relationship with Him and promote the Kingdom of God?
A. Yes, indeed!
Q. Did these miracles in any way lead people away from God and into Satan’s kingdom of darkness?
A. Absolutely not! They drew people out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.
Q. Where does Scripture state that signs, wonders and miracles were given to validate the original 12 apostles or that they would cease after the last of the original 12 apostles died?
A. Nowhere does Scripture tie either the original 12 apostles’ ministry or their deaths to the beginning or to an end of the miraculous signs and wonders.
Paul does say in 1 Cor. 13:9-10 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. The Greek word “teleios” that is translated “perfect,” means complete and lacking nothing.
Q. Do we have a clear description of when that will be, or what is the “perfect” or complete thing or condition that is to come?
A. No, even though some cessationists take “that which is perfect” out of the context of Paul’s remarks about prophecies and suggest that “perfect” refers instead to the canonization of the Bible. Since the scriptural context doesn’t point to when the Bible was canonized, “that which is perfect” seems to refer to the end of the age when Jesus returns and prophecies and all other sign gifts cease because the need for them will be over, all sickness is gone, and death, the last enemy, is destroyed (l Corinthians 15:26). Then, there will be no more need for prophecy, healings, casting out of demons, etc.
Q. Does Scripture state that when the church became established, God’s miraculous signs and wonders would cease?
A. There are no verses that explicitly state that after the church was established, Christians would no longer be able to avail themselves of God’s miraculous signs and wonders such as healings, casting out demons, praying in supernatural languages, etc. Also, those who teach cessationism, have not noted in their objections any verses that explicitly state this. Jesus made it clear that the miracles that He did would continue through every person who believes in Him.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
Q. When the first 12 apostles were gone and the church was established, were sicknesses or spiritual attacks by the enemy no longer problems to Christians or to anyone else in the world?
A. No, people still do get sick with deadly diseases, and all kinds of evil still exists in the world.
Q. Did the supernatural works of the Holy Spirit cease when the 12 apostles died, or when the church was established, or when the Bible was canonized?
A. Both Scripture and history prove that the Holy Spirit did not cease His supernatural works through Christian believers. As Peter stated on the day of Pentecost to those who witnessed the first outpouring:
“This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear…” (Acts 2:32-33)
“…Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’ “ (Acts 2:38-39).
That sounds like an intentionally on-going promise!
Q. If cessationists are right, and healings and deliverances are no longer available, then we must ask, why doesn’t Jesus love us like He seemed to love the people in the early church and healed and delivered all who came to Him for that relief? After all, doesn’t Jesus declare that God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to sacrifice Himself to save us from all the results of the fall (John 3:16)? After the initial Holy Spirit outpouring included these same miracles among the early church, why would God remove them from future generations?
A. Many cessationists have made an assumption that Jesus healed and delivered and passed that ability on to the 12 apostles not because He loved the people, but because He was trying to attract them out of Judaism into the New Testament religion. So then, after they joined up and the church was established, He withdrew those gifts. (In retail sales, it’s called bait and switch. In the most basic sense, the strategy behind “bait and switch” is simple: throw alluring bait to the public, and when the public is successfully lured in, switch the bait to something more profitable for the producers.)
That’s not at all descriptive of our God. What do you think? Is that how you view your relationship with Jesus or of the Father or of the Holy Spirit?
Besides, it is clear in the account of Acts 1 & 2 that not only the 12 apostles but 120 followers of Jesus, both men and women, received this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the early days of the church, many other believers besides the apostles ministered with these gifts including Stephen, the first martyr, and Phillip’s four daughters who prophesied.
Q. What test is there to determine whether or not a person is operating in a supernatural gift from God?
A. One simple test is this: Does the person glorify himself or worse, a spirit of darkness, or does He worship and glorify Jesus by his actions, words and attitude? Paul says clearly: “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Q. What are the benefits of being able to both receive and minister to others with the nine gifts/manifestations of the Holy Spirit?
A. The primary benefit is relational. God is not in some far-away remote realm. Our prayers are not like long-distance calls to a busy 800 number. God is present in each one of us and wants to communicate with us one-on-one and through us to others. By His Spirit, He equips us to be all that He created us to be and to do all that He created us to do as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians.
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (1 Cor. 12:7-12)
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.” (1 Cor. 12:13-14)
Q. Are cessationists correct when they say that when someone claims to prophesy a word from the Lord and their prophecy doesn’t come to pass, then that person is a false prophet?
A. The account of Jonah, an Old Testament prophet, clarifies this concept. After running away from the task God had given him, followed by his sojourn in the belly of the whale, Jonah finally spoke these words to the people of Nineveh, “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed!” (Jonah 3:4 GNB) –– but this did NOT come to pass. Was that proof that Jonah was a false prophet? No. That prophecy was conditional even though God had not communicated the conditions to Jonah. When the citizens of Nineveh repented of their sins, God responded with mercy and didn’t destroy them and their city.
The same could be true of any word from God today that foretells events to come. Many of these prophecies are conditional warnings and many are encouraging words that can also be conditional.
There are two distinctly different types of prophecy gifts: the Ephesians 4:11-12 leadership gifts for teaching and equipping the saints for the work of ministry (and He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…) and the more detailed description as noted above in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 relating how the Holy Spirit manifests Himself through each of us in the Body of Christ.
Negative Experiences at the Hands
of Ungodly Charismatic “Healers” with
Q. Don’t TV evangelists who lay a heavy emphasis on donations to their ministry prove that the Holy Spirit is not engaged in what they do?
A. One of the major reasons many people dismiss the belief of the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit from the days of the first Pentecost to the present time is that an occasional Pentecostal or charismatic leader tries to use the Holy Spirit’s power for personal gain. We saw this first hand at a few charismatic conferences we attended in the 1980’s and ‘90’s where a minister was after financial gain or acclaim for his ministry. Unfortunately, this type of sin has continued to occur with an occasional ministry. By the way, one of those ministers in 1998 who we heard spend a whole hour talking about the collection before getting to the sermon, no longer pressures the people for donations in these TV broadcasts.
Let’s face it – in every denomination, there are ministers who have sinned. We cannot look at any man’s moral failure or doctrinal errors as a reason to say that he, and therefore his denomination, is wrong in all of their theological teachings – as Rev. Arthur Burt used to say concerning doctrinal errors encountered in various ministries: “Eat the meat; spit out the bones!”
Q. In Galatians 1:6-8 was Paul stating the consequences for a particular type of false teaching or for any false teaching that is contrary to what he has taught?
A. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he describes a problem that directly points to the fundamental nature of cessationism, that is, a turning away from a gospel other than what Paul had preached:
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-8)
We cannot isolate their dialogue about law versus faith to claim that this admonition doesn’t apply to any other of Paul’s teachings. How then could we have confidence in the absolute truth of what he taught on other topics? Of course, we must examine Paul’s epistles in the light of context, local culture, etc., but what does Paul teach about the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life? In that same letter to the Galatians, Paul makes it clear that he believes it is by our faith (not a time-table) that the Spirit of God works miracles among us (Galatians 3:5).
Without a clear word in Scripture that declares God’s intention was to end the miracles, healings, prophecies, and tongues that began in Acts 2 when the last of the first 12 apostles died or when the Bible was canonized, we cannot assume otherwise. To do so would be to violate N.T concepts and would come under Paul’s address to those who turned away from his teachings.
2. LACK OF A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Q. How does a person’s relationship with God impact his life?
A. If you have a relationship with God that excludes His fatherhood and therefore rejects His Son and that elimination includes the Holy Spirit as a separate person from the Father (no Trinitarian understanding), you might be a Jewish believer who still awaits Messiah.
Many of us know of Jewish believers who worship and honor God and try to keep all the Old Testament laws, rules and regulations. Generally, they see God as “the Great Flyswatter in the Sky” who stands ready to smack the life out of us for our infractions.
If, on the other hand, as a New Testament Christian, you believe Messiah already came and will return again someday, you are less likely to put such a heavy emphasis on the law. At the same time, you may still believe God is distant either by His choosing or by your own choosing. That view of remoteness will negatively impact your life.
Q. How could a perfect God want to be in close relationship with flawed humankind?
A. First of all, God intentionally created us in His image and likeness. In the same manner, when we decide to start a family, the children we produce are made in our image and likeness.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
If we are good parents, we will love each of our children even when they poop in their diapers or when they throw a tantrum. We will draw near to our children and teach them appropriate to their age with consistency, with rewards and with consequences for their behavior, and above all with our love. As they mature over time, our manner of relating to them will evolve from our being a dictating rule-maker, to counselor, to respected friend.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Matthew confirms God’s desire to communicate with His people: “…it is written, ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “ (Matthew 4:4)
This is the bottom line for all of God’s children plus His promise in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice.” This doesn’t necessarily mean His audible voice, but also includes what He drops into our awareness: His insights, revelations, directions and commands – which we might perceive as our own great ideas if we don’t understand the many ways that God speaks to us.
3. VARIOUS FEARS…
Q. Why should I take on the burden of learning another doctrinal perspective on the Holy Spirit when my life is already packed with problems and I’m generally satisfied with my church’s teaching on this subject?
A. When a pastor asks a question like this, he has more to consider than a member of his congregation would. His very livelihood may depend upon his agreement with the policies and doctrines of his denomination. He may be torn between two options: losing his source of income versus turning away from what could be a Biblical truth.
If this is your fear, take heart for Jesus has this wonderful promise of security for you:
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ “
This type of decision is part of our story. When my husband and I were baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1967, we were very active in our church, teaching and serving in many ways. This was before we had heard about any charismatic movements. Our experience brought us into a vibrant relationship with God that included a deep, life-changing hunger for God’s Word. In those days, we believed we were in the one true church. We continued attending our regular Sunday morning service and then, with our four daughters, we would drive to an Assembly of God church where they emphasized teaching from Scripture.
We began sharing our experience with several church friends and showing them truths from God’s word. Our pastor learned of this and told us to leave the church if we wouldn’t stop speaking about these things. He said he had financial problems and an ulcer, and could do without adding this Holy Spirit business. We were sorry to leave our friends and the ministry we had in our church, but were now secure enough in God’s Word, His truth and His love that we chose to leave rather than remain silent about His blessings.
The following year, 1968, we rejoiced to hear about the Holy Spirit outpouring in our previous church plus in other denominations. We began attending these charismatic meetings around town, embracing our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ who we previously had kept at arm’s length. We’ve never regretted our decision.
Q. How do I know if these so-called “Holy Spirit outpourings” that have occurred since the early days of the Church are from God or if they are really demonic lying signs and wonders the apostle Paul warns about in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10?
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2 Thess. 2:9-10)
A. Paul sets the context of this statement a few verses earlier when he describes the man of sin as one who opposes God:
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thess. 2:3-4)
This anti-God, anti-Christ leader and his followers bear no resemblance to those born-again believers who, throughout history, have loved God with all their hearts and have ministered according to all of His empowering promises in Scripture, teaching people to surrender their lives to Jesus and serve Him as their Lord and Savior.
When Jesus Himself was accused of conducting His deliverances by means of Satanic powers, He responded with wisdom and truth that applies to modern-day fears of this sort:
“And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebub,’ and, ‘By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.’
So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.’ “ (Mark 3:23-25)
Jesus addressed the denominational impact of this issue when some of His disciples told Him about the ministries of a man who was not part of their flock of believers. Both Luke and Mark reported Jesus’ response:
“Now John answered and said, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.’ “ (Luke 9:49-50)
“Now John answered Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side.’ “ (Mark 9:38-40)
Q. Wouldn’t our seeking signs and wonders conflict with Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and Sadducees who asked Him to show them a sign from Heaven, when He said: “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4)?
A. What the Pharisees and Sadducees asked for amounted to a request that Jesus perform a magic trick. But that is vastly different from desiring the signs and wonders from God that fulfill His kingdom promises and that demonstrate His powerful loving kindness:
“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues (languages); they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
Note that these promises were not limited to a particular time or era. They were established to continue in the lives of those who believe until the return of Christ at the end of the age when prophecies and all other sign gifts cease because the need for them will be over, all sickness is gone, and death, the last enemy, is destroyed (l Corinthians 15:26).
4. IGNORANCE OF SCRIPTURE AND OF HISTORY
Q. Isn’t it true that today’s supposed “miracle workers” lack the consistent ability to heal, unlike those disciples who healed and cast out demons in the New Testament accounts?
A. Scripture reports that the disciples and even Jesus had incidents when healing prayers were not immediately successful or were limited. When a man asked Jesus’ disciples to heal his epileptic son, the disciples accurately discerned that the source of the boy’s problem was a demon. They tried to cast it out, but failed. The boy’s father then approached Jesus who cast out the demon and healed the boy.
“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’ “ (Matthew 17:19-21)
Jesus’ disciples were still in the process of learning how to attend to various needs. That is true of modern day disciples. We may understand how to pray successfully for some problems, but we need to continue learning because one method does not fit all situations.
On the receiving end, there may actually be a lack of desire to be healed because a person in today’s society may find it convenient to remain incapacitated: such as, he won’t have to give up his insurance settlement or government-issued disability checks, or he won’t have to mow the lawn anymore, etc.
In Mark’s narrative, Jesus, himself, was unable to perform great miracles in His home town like He had in other places because of their unbelief and dishonor of Him.
“They scorned him saying, ‘Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.’ Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.” (Mark 6:3-5)
On another occasion when Jesus prayed for a blind man, the man’s healing came in stages. At first, he began to see upside down, and then when Jesus prayed for him a second time, he received full healing of his sight.
“So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, ‘I see men like trees, walking.’ Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.” (Mark 8:23-25)
There are other examples of limitations with a believer’s healing knowledge or ability, such as when Paul had to leave Trophimus in Miletus because he was sick (2 Timothy 4:20) and in 1 Timothy 5:23 rather than just relying upon prayer, Paul told Timothy to take wine for for his stomach’s sake and for his frequent infirmities. Also, Philippians 2:26-30 mentions Epaphroditus who became sick for some time and almost died. It would appear from these accounts that believers in the early church had the same struggles with faith for healing that believers do today.
Q. Why did the 11 remaining apostles feel it was necessary to replace Judas Iscariot and bring the number of their team back to 12 apostles?
A. Peter explains their reason was to fulfill an Old Testament prophetic directive:
“For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it’; and, ‘let another take his office.’ Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, ‘You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.’
And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:20-26)
Here Peter clearly states that they needed 12 men who had close relationship with Jesus, had ministered with Him, and could unmistakably identify Him as Jesus after his resurrection.
Q. Some assume this Scripture teaches that only the twelve original apostles had the authority to impart the spiritual gifts to others. If this assumption is true, then how can any modern ministers claim to be apostles or to operate in true spiritual gifts?
A. This limitation of apostolic authority to only the 12 original apostles is not explicitly stated in Scripture. It is true that due to their close relationship with Jesus there was a special calling and training upon these men plus Matthias, Judas’ replacement, but they were not the only ones the New Testament writers recognized as apostles.
The word apostle in Greek is apostolos, literally meaning “one sent forth.” It is used to describe Jesus Himself as being sent by the Father (Hebrews 3:1), and Paul who was chosen by Jesus after His ascension to be sent to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15).
Besides those individuals, the word apostolos is also used of Barnabas in Acts 14:14, of Andronicus and Junias in Romans 16:7, and two unnamed apostles in 2 Corinthians 8:23. In Philippians 2:25, Epaphroditus is referred to as ‘your apostle,’ and in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 apostle is used of Paul, Silas and Timothy, to describe their commissioning. These may go unnoticed in some English translations where apostolos is sometimes translated as “messenger” instead of apostle.
Q. Isn’t it true that since the Bible was written and the church got started, there has been no need for supernatural manifestations to continue and, therefore, that Holy Spirit activity has faded away?
A. Many believers in the first four centuries A.D. were empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring miraculous healing and deliverance to others. Their ministry has been accepted as true workings of the Holy Spirit by mainstream Christianity.
There is much recorded history to substantiate that the supernatural gifts were never absent from the church. Statements to this effect were recorded by church leaders such as Irenaeus, who wrote around A.D. 150 “…we hear many of the brethren in the church who have prophetic gifts, and who speak in tongues through the Spirit, and who also bring to light the secret things of men for their benefit (words of knowledge)…” Elsewhere he said, “When God saw it necessary, and the church prayed and fasted much, they did miraculous things, even of bringing back the spirit to a dead man.”
Near the close of the second century, Tertullian cited similar incidents, describing the operation of prophecies, healings and tongues, and in 210, Origen reported many healings and other Charismatic gifts, as did later writers such as Eusebius, Firmilian, and Chrysostom.
In Augustine’s City of God, written in 426 A.D., he notes over 70 healings in his own bishopric such as the miraculous healing of a blind man. He initially doubted the validity of these miracles, but after investigation, he later acknowledged that they were of the Holy Spirit.
Healings, prophecies and other gifts of the Holy Spirit continued, but by the 10th century, church leadership and flawed doctrines had taken an unscriptural downturn into an imbalance of power and expression between the clergy and the laity to the point that the people, sometimes under the threat of death, could only sit passively under the authority of the clergy. This stifled the operation of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ.
Although there were a number of movements over the next several centuries such as the Great Awakening led by Jonathan Edwards in 1735, and the Baptist Shantung Revival in China in the 1930’s, led by those who believed that God was still in the healing business, the clergy often opposed them.
The Encyclopedia Britannica says that Charismatic gifts such as glossolalia (speaking in tongues) have occurred in Christian revivals of every age. In the same vein, a German work, Souer’s History of the Christian Church, refers to the leader of the 16th century Protestant reformation, stating, “Dr. Martin Luther was a prophet, evangelist, speaker in tongues, and interpreter, in one person, endowed with all the gifts of the Spirit.” This same reference is published in several other works, including a book entitled, Gifts of the Spirit (Vol. 4, page 137), by Gordon Lindsay, from Christ for the Nations (reprint, 1983).
In the original 1933 publication of Mary Crawford’s book, The Shantung Revival, often called the greatest revival in Baptist Church history, she described the manifestations and works of the Holy Spirit, but almost all the reports of miracles were eliminated when her book was reprinted in the 1970s. The deletions contained references to manifestations like laughing, falling under the power of the Holy Spirit, healings and trembling such as what also was experienced in the Azusa Street Revival in 1906, the Latter Rain Revival of the 1940s and the Toronto Airport Church revival in the 1990s as well as many other outpourings of the Holy Spirit.
Those who reject the Holy Spirit as the source of these manifestations and label them as mere emotionalism should see the point of the apostle Peter’s words to the crowds of observers who witnessed the first Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:15: “For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day…”
In spite of all the historical evidence to the contrary, some Christians still hold to a cessationist doctrine and insist that miracles ceased when the last of the original twelve apostles died or when the canon of the Bible was established.
Are they ignorant of history? Or have they decided that rather than admit they are wrong, they must hold to their doctrine and that all evidence to the contrary must be of the devil? Consider this: if that is their position, they may be not only quenching the Holy Spirit’s activity in their own walk, but also grieving Him by choosing to ignore the millions of salvations, healings and deliverances that have happened as a result of Holy Spirit outpourings.
These have been well documented, especially in the more recent movements of the last three centuries, beginning with Dwight L. Moody’s leadership in the 3rd Great Awakening in the 1850s–1900s and today’s current world-wide Holy Spirit outpourings through the ministries of many Pentecostal and Charismatic men and women both on the mission field and in their home churches.
Q. If my denomination says that the manifestations or gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for today, why should I even bother investigating any other belief?
A. We have a personal, not a group, responsibility before God to think for ourselves, seek the truth and embrace it. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). Jesus so identifies with truth that He says of Himself, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).
5. SURRENDERING OUR LIVES TO GOD
Q. If we do believe that we can legitimately heal the sick and operate in other manifestations of the Holy Spirit, must we do so or can we just leave this kind of supernatural ministry up to our pastor or other ministers?
A. In John 20:22, the risen Jesus appeared to His disciples. He breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Soon afterward, just before Jesus ascended, He told them to stay in Jerusalem until they would receive a second and different impartation of the Holy Spirit and He gave them an overview of what ministry gifts the Holy Spirit would have available to them:
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ “ (Mark 16:15-18)
Following Jesus’ ascension, 120 believers met together in an upper room in Jerusalem to observe the day of Pentecost:
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:1-6)
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’ “ (Acts 2:38-39)
Those of us who believe that not only did we receive the Holy Spirit as an indwelling presence when we were born again, but we also believe that we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to do works of supernatural ministry, we can and should seek His direction for any ministry He has for us as we encounter needs in our daily lives.
Q. How does someone get specific anointing from the Holy Spirit in ministering to others?
A. That would require us to become sensitive to the proceeding word of the Holy Spirit. As a born again believer who has the Holy Spirit indwelling you, step one would be to seek baptism (immersion) in the Holy Spirit. Following that, step two would be to learn how to “hear” the Lord’s voice as he leads and guides you day by day. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). Here, Jesus chooses “rhema” a proceeding word, rather than using “logos” which would signify a written word, such as a scripture or a previously spoken word.
When we read the Bible to learn about God and his principles and values, we are reading the logos word of God. Rhema, a proceeding word from God, can come to you as a revelation or a directive word while driving the car, walking in the garden, or even while sleeping and dreaming. This is God talking to you directly. When we have difficult decisions to make, God will often guide us in this way.
Also, a person may have prayed about a particular issue, and then while reading his Bible (as a written word, logos), a particular verse seems to jump out at him and grabs his attention. When that happens, the logos of the written word of God becomes rhema to the reader, as God speaks to him personally through that verse at that time.
By means of a rhema word, God may direct a believer to minister or to do something. Pentecostals and Charismatics, for example, believe in the gifts of healing and other gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as a word of knowledge or word of wisdom. While ministering to others, a person might receive a rhema word from God directing them to pray for someone’s healing. The rhema word may impart knowledge to the person, so that they know specific details about the illness they are to pray about.
Both rhema and logos are vital to spiritual health and actions. As well as opening up our hearts to hear the proceeding word of God, I strongly urge all believers to have a daily Bible reading plan, one that would take them through the whole Bible over a year’s time. Becoming familiar with the whole scope of Scripture will greatly help to clarify what you think you may have heard from God in your quiet times of prayer and journaling and listening for His input to you.
Q. What about those of us whose lives are crammed with responsibilities? – there just isn’t enough time to read extensively from the Bible!
A. We all have our battles with receiving truth. One of my former truth struggles concerned finding time to read the Bible. Before I began my once a year read-through (once a year for about the last 20-25 years), when people would ask me if I did much Bible reading, I would tell them about my busy schedule and how I just didn’t have time to read or study scripture.
Then, one day I was talking with a friend about keeping up with current events. She asked me if I read the daily newspaper.
I answered, “Oh, yes, I read it every day religiously.” The moment I spoke the word “religiously,” I felt the Lord convicting me that I valued reading the daily newspaper more than Scripture. I repented and decided from that point on I would not read the newspaper until I first read from His Word.
My current Bible reading program, based on a 1973 paperback book entitled, Through the Bible Day by Day by Ward Bjerke, has a simple monthly reading schedule that takes me through 3-4 chapters each day. I like it better than any other Bible reading plan I’ve seen because it doesn’t break up the books except for Psalms. That way I don’t lose the context of the stories and the teachings. It is out of print, but still available occasionally on amazon.com.
Q. I can see how familiarity with Scripture is important to faith and intimacy with God, but what is the point of manifestations of the Holy Spirit like speaking in tongues? Why doesn’t someone just prophesy instead of speaking in tongues then followed by an interpretation?
A. The use of tongues you described are spoken in a congregational setting where a person senses that God has a message for the people, but he (or she) doesn’t know what it is. So, he speaks briefly in tongues and usually another person in the meeting will receive and give the interpretation, a prophetic message from God (1 Cor. 12:10). In this letter to the Corinthian church, Paul admonishes them to “…desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39)
The use of tongues in private prayer, however, is different in that the words are spoken in worship or are intercessory prayers and as 1 Corinthians 14:2 explains, “…for he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.” This is particularly helpful when you don’t know how to pray for a difficult situation and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words.
Q. I heard some people speaking in tongues, but it just sounded like jibber-jabber nonsense to me and not like any language I’ve ever heard. Aren’t they just self-deluded?
A. The Linguistic Society of America says that there are about 6800 spoken languages in the world today, so it’s entirely possible that the tongues you heard were perhaps a tribal language you never heard before. Not only are there thousands of human languages, but Paul mentions that we could actually pray in an angelic tongue: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1). The key here is worship. If I love and worship God with my whole heart, if I love others as myself, and if I pray to God in an unknown tongue, what it sounds like is of no concern to me.
Q. How can a pastor keep his congregation under control if they become charismatic? Wouldn’t it be chaotic if they bring in concepts and doctrines that are contrary to his teachings?
A. The guidelines for your church would have to include such matters. Every person would have a right to his own Biblical understanding and perceived leadings from God, but how and when they exercised them in the services would have to be done “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
For more detailed answers to these questions, a few of the many informational resources are listed below. May God bless you richly as you seek His presence and His insights.
Witnessing the Body of Christ in Action
Rolland and Heidi Baker – After coming to Africa and starting with street beggar children in 1995, we have seen a people movement spread across the ten provinces of Mozambique. Massive desperation for God rising out of a long history of repression, poverty and natural disasters has fueled revival, one that is sparking more fire in nations around the world. And signs and wonders are following all the way.
What began as a ragged band of young beggars, thieves and delinquents has developed by the power of the Holy Spirit into a closely-knit national family of thousands of churches and a broad ministry encompassing Bible schools, children’s centers, church-based orphan care, primary education, medical clinics, constant evangelistic and healing outreaches, farming, well drilling and much else. But most of all we proclaim Jesus. He is our salvation, our prize, our reward, our inheritance, our destination, our motivation, our joy, wisdom and sanctification — and absolutely everything else we need, now and forever.
There’s Always Enough: The Miraculous Move of God in Mozambique, by Rolland & Heidi Baker. Sovereign Publishing (April 2003) ISBN-13: 978-1852402877
Expecting Miracles: True Stories of God’s Supernatural Power and How You Can Experience It, with Rolland Baker. Chosen Books (2007) ISBN 978-0-8007-9434-7
Baptism in the Holy Spirit – Third Edition, by Randy Clark. Apostolic Network of Global Awakening (2009)
The Essential Guide to the Power of the Holy Spirit, by Randy Clark. Destiny Image Publishers (2015) ISBN 13 TP: 978-0-7684-0605-4
There is More by Randy Clark. Chosen Books (2013) ISBN 978-0-8007-9550-4
Randy Clark explains that more is not only biblical but essential for greater fruitfulness in ministry and service. And he shares how you can access the more that God wants to give to you.
3.) http://www.ibethel.org and http://www.bethel.tv/free/2015 (free to non-members)
Hosting the Presence, by Bill Johnson. Destiny Image Publishers, Inc. (2012)
Spreading His Glory – Bill Johnson, Bethel Church
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1ibQZwMgEY (3 minute introductory video)
(Plus his many books listed on Amazon.com)
4.) The Invitation by John & Carol Arnott. Catch The Fire Books (2013)
(available on Amazon.com)
John and Carol Arnott share both biblical and personal revelation of the importance of investing in intimacy with God in preparation for the return of Jesus. As the Bride of Christ, the church is responsible for getting itself ready for the wedding of the Bridegroom. Revival is continually being poured out all around the earth and it is time for us as believers to invest in the intimacy which transforms our lives today and prepares our hearts for eternity.
Whether you are a leader, a church member or a new believer, The Invitation will inspire you to take practical steps today which are fundamental in preparing your heart for the Lord’s return. Building a life of intimacy with God will bring transformation into every area of your life. There is no time left to be lukewarm.
5.) Hearing God by Peter Lord. Baker Books (1988)
Does the Bible teach that we can and should hear God speak to us today? How can we hear God’s voice? This handbook is an easy-to-follow guide to two-way communication with God. Peter Lord is the retired pastor at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville, FL and is also a conference speaker and prayer seminar leader.