Category Archives: miracles

John 14: Doing the Works of Jesus

 By Marv

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

This is an astounding statement.   If overfamiliarity with it has dulled its impact, mull it over a while and let it sink in.  Jesus spoke these words as part of the farewell instructions he gave to the eleven (after the departure of Judas) during supper the night before He died.  Prefixing it by “Truly, truly, I say to you…,” He intended this statement to be taken seriously, and we would do well to pay careful attention to it.

We have ways, though, of mitigating its force.  One is by focusing on the second part, the “greater works” Jesus says we will do.  “That just means we will evangelize far more people than Jesus ever did” is the comeback.  The way this works is that “greater works” can be “greater” in some way—without being the same works that Jesus did.  Yet “the works that I do” allow for no dodge from Jesus’ clear intent.

Nor can we take His words as being for the apostles alone.  Apart from the fact that He told them to teach us to do everything He had commanded them (Matt. 28:20), Jesus opens the door wide: “whoever believes in me…”  Where have we seen this phrase before?

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:38-39)

Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25-26)

Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.  And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.  I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. (John 12:44-46)

Now, what are the “works” Jesus is referring to?  He makes this clear in the immediately preceding verses:

The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. (John 14:10-11)

The works were the works of God, which Jesus did under the Father’s authority, and they were such that even if one was not convinced by Jesus’ words, His works were reason enough to believe.  These were acts through which the Father manifested Himself on the earth, glorified Himself.  As the John 12:44-46 citation above shows Jesus’ works led ultimately to belief in the Father by making visible the invisible: “whoever sees me sees him who sent me.”  And Jesus repeats this very point in this chapter: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (v. 9)

Why?  Because, as Jesus said “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (v. 10) With His farewell instructions He is extending the chain:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. (John 13:20)

In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)

The works are those through which God makes visible His character and His nature, to which the world is blind.  If this is not clear enough, Jesus explains:

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (vv. 13-14)

This is all quite astounding, if we will dare to believe it.  It is difficult not to qualify this promise, to discount it somehow, because we’ve tried it and have come to the conclusion that there must be some fine print somewhere.  There is no fine print, but we have to pay attention to His words.  He says it twice; “in my name.”

This is not a tag phrase for our prayers.  It means acting under His authority, as He acted under His Father’s authority.  Recall what He has just said: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (v. 10).  Jesus was sent and acted in the Father’s name (John 5:43).  We are sent and are to act in Jesus’ name, and it is only by virtue of the ongoing dynamic connection with Him that we do His works, that His promise of “anything” has force.  It involves acting under His orders, and if we do not understand that this involves an open channel of communication with Him, through the Spirit, then this promise of prayer, and indeed, any ministry “in His name” ceases to have power. 

And all this, Jesus says, “because I am going to the Father.”  How is that?  His departure brings an end to one phase of His ministry, and His departure begins another, and that will happen at Pentecost: “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” (John 16:7).  “Because I am going to the Father” means then “because the Holy Spirit will come as the Helper.” 

Some of the works that he did, such as prophecy, which we examined in a previous post in this series (John 13: Jesus and Prophecy), are what we would label as “miraculous.”  But there is no dividing line here between these and works of compassion or preaching the word, which Jesus also did.  He did all that He was sent by the Father to do, including living out God’s love and displaying His character, as well as “mighty works.”

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:38)

Since Pentecost, each believer has been anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, and we are sent as well, with specific works to do:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)

And these manifest God’s light to the world to bring Him glory:

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  (Matt. 5:16)

The best of us carries out our assigned works so imperfectly, so fallibly, it truly is a wonder that God has ordained to use believers in this way to bring glory to Himself.  Yet he has.  The power is there, in the indwelling Holy Spirit, but we must grow in our willingness and in our ability to manifest this power, whether it is living a godly life, speaking words of prophecy, or effectively praying healing for the sick. 

So from this passage I conclude:

  • The second phase of Christ’s ministry is for believers to carry on the works that He did.
  • This is true for every believer, not just the apostles.
  • This involves an ongoing vital and dynamic connection and communication with Christ through the Holy Spirit.
  • This is true beginning with the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost and while He remains until Christ’s return.
  • This is Christ’s express will and His Father’s plan.
  • This brings glory to God and is part of God’s means to effect faith in the world.
  • Christ’s Word promises the power, but we still have a learning curve in doing these works.

Four Scriptures From Cessationists

by Scott

When discussing the gifts of the Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, or what some might identify as ‘sign gifts’ (i.e. healings, miracles, prophecy, tongues), the continuationist claims that all of these gifts are to continue through until Christ’s return. Whatever the label for these gifts, Christ meant for them to continue until He returns to make all things new. On the other hand, the cessationist might either say the necessity of these gifts have ceased or that they could still possibly be used, but they are not normative or regular for the church today.

The arguments from the cessationist side are usually centred around four passages of Scripture, as listed below:

  1. 1 Corinthians 13:8-12
  2. 2 Corinthians 12:12
  3. Hebrews 1:1-2
  4. Hebrews 2:3-4

Though there are definitely other passages of Scripture that might arise in the discussions about such gifts as miracles, healings, prophecy, tongues, etc, we might say these are the focus of much discussion. Again, it doesn’t all boil down to debating four passages from the Biblical text, as it is more about developing a holistic theology on the topic. Still, these four passages are very worth the consideration as one approaches the discussion of the work of the Spirit today.

So, let’s consider carefully what these passages say and, even more, what they are communicating.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

I know Marv recently posted an article looking at this verse as well, but I thought I would share some of my own thoughts on this Corinthian passage.

To be honest, in the present-day, most cessationists will now agree that this passage in Corinthians is found lacking in support of their view.

Still, some cessationists use this passage to claim that the ‘perfect’ in these verses is the New Testament canon that would be completed by the end of the first century. And, since we have this perfect revelation of God as now complete in the entire Bible, we no longer need such gifts of the Spirit, since they were given to confirm the gospel message in the first century. When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. That gospel is now firmly and solidly found in the Bible.

Yet, though I definitely believe that the New Testament canon is God-breathed and from the Spirit, we must realise that the ‘perfect’ of this passage is by no means speaking of the New Testament. We must read the passage carefully, the key being found in vs12:

Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Though vs10 states, ‘but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away,’ again, this is not speaking of the completion of the New Testament canon. Vs12 shows that it is speaking of the final eschaton when Christ comes and completes all, making all things new.

Who will we see face to face? Christ. Paul goes on to say that he would know fully, even as he had been fully known. Known by whom? Christ.

‘When the perfect comes’ is in reference to the final consummation at Christ’s return. Therefore, this passage teaches that we will no longer need such signs and gifts of the Spirit once Christ returns. We still have a lot to accomplish, and all of God’s gifts (healings, miracles, teaching, giving, leading, etc) are needed to advance God’s kingdom.

2 Corinthians 12:12

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.

Some cessationists would claim this verse is proof that signs and wonders were only performed through apostles. Not only that, but because apostles no longer exist, signs and wonders no longer exist. But, what we must first do is distinguish between the two uses of the word ‘signs’ in this passage, for it is used in two different manners. Go back and read the verse and you will see this.

The first time the word signs is used, it does not refer to miraculous signs. Rather, it is in reference to the phrase ‘signs of a true apostle’. What does this phrase mean? What are the signs of a true apostle?

Paul uses this phrase to contrast his work as a true apostle with the selfish ways of the false ‘super-apostles’ (see 2 Corinthians 12:11). Paul had just spent chapters 10-11 defending his apostleship and in doing so he tells of all the things he has been through for the Corinthians, mainly his suffering on their behalf. This is how the word, signs, is first used. Paul had come with the signs of a true apostle – having a servant heart for them, even willing to suffer for them.

He, then, goes on to say that he was also used in signs, wonders and mighty works’. The second use of the word is in reference to miraculous signs.

This verse does not teach that signs, wonders and miraculous works are only limited to apostles. And, thus, we cannot bring forth that argument that says such has ceased because apostles no longer exist. The phrase, ‘signs of a true apostle’, is about having a servant heart for the people with whom an apostle works, willing to lay down their lives for the people. And, as Paul came with those true signs with utmost patience, he was also being utilised in things like miracles, healings, etc. That’s the biblical context of this verse.

Hebrews 1:1-2

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

From this passage, it can sometimes be argued that, in the past, God spoke through prophets. But now, in these last days, He only speaks through His Son. And it is the New Testament canon which faithfully, finally and fully testifies of the Son. Thus, prophecy is no longer needed.

Well, there is no doubt that the ‘last days’ are the entire time between Christ’s first and second advent (I even write about this more here). But, an interesting fact to consider is that, while the writer to the Hebrews was penning these words, prophets and prophecy were alive and well. The last days had come, the Son had spoken, but prophets and prophecy were continuing to function amongst God’s people.

So, why was prophecy still active in people like Agabus, Philip’s four daughters, the Corinthian church, the Thessalonian church, the leaders who prayed for Timothy, etc? Because it was still needed and it was never there to contradict or replace the God-breathed Scripture.

By no means can this verse be used to say that prophecy has ceased because we now have a New Testament canon. I believe that, to claim such, we would have to bring a specific viewpoint and read it back into this passage. That is called eisegesis, which is opposed to the proper study of Scripture through exegesis.

It is a true statement that it is the last days, and it has been for almost 2000 years. And God has chosen to speak through His Son. But such continues to be accomplished through the Spirit of Christ acting amongst the body of Christ. Remember, we are called to be Christ in the earth today. No prophecy will contradict the teaching of Scripture and we have such as our helpful measuring standard for what we proclaim and prophesy today. But Hebrews 1:1-2 cannot be utilised to say that prophecy has somehow ceased with the completion of a New Testament canon. The passage never states such.

Hebrews 2:3-4

How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Finally, as with 2 Corinthians 12:12, some cessationists will use this verse to show that the apostles and the apostles alone were the ones who had their message attested to and confirmed by signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit. But, with the completion of the New Testament canon, which recorded the apostolic gospel message, there would no longer be a need for such things to attest to the gospel message. We now have the revelation of God’s finalised canon of Scripture, so what else do we need, right?

But, as we have seen with the other passages above, we need to carefully reflect on the words of Hebrews 2:3-4, for they might not say what we initially thought they said.

To understand the context more clearly, we need to closely consider the details of vs3: ‘How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard.’

The first thing we note is that the ‘it’ of vs3 (referred to twice) is our ‘great salvation’. Therefore, vs3 declares that the Lord Jesus Himself first proclaimed this great salvation message. And, then, those who heard Him, presumably the first apostles, were also able to attest to that salvation message.

Therefore, the ‘attesting’ in vs3 refers back to the actual salvation message first proclaimed by Jesus. This is not speaking about attesting to the message through signs and wonders, etc. Rather, it was about proclaiming (attesting to) the message that they heard from Jesus Himself. It was truly reassuring that those first apostles could affirm and attest to the truth of the salvation message. That was one of their great callings. They had heard it first hand. They were the starting point for this gospel message!

But, on top of that, vs4 tells us that God also bore witness to their message by signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The attesting was to the salvation message. And, with that, God was also bearing witness to that message through signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Spirit.

‘Ah,’ one might say. ‘There you have that these signs and wonders were given to attest to and bear witness to the truth of the message. That is why they were given.’

Well, hold on a minute. Let’s think this through.

Of course, the first apostles were used in signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit in confirming the gospel message. All one has to do is read the book of Acts to see such. Yet, we must be willing to admit that the Holy Spirit also used others in signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Spirit. Here are a few people who were used in such:

We must also remember that tongues and prophecy are gifts of the Spirit, and it does mention ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ in Hebrews 2:3-4. We can see that the Scripture records that many others were used with gifts of the Spirit (including miracles and other similar things) besides the first apostles.

Thus, the wider church has always been used in all gifts of the Spirit. Some are not solely related to apostles or solely to a particular time period pre-canon formation. Such is not supported in Scripture, nor in the subsequent 1900 years of the activity of God’s Spirit amongst His people.

As a side comment, one of the first major cessationist works that looked to build the case that miracles were only performed by Jesus and the first apostles, and would subsequently cease with the completion of canon, was B.B. Warfield’s The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Yet, Max Turner handles such a cessationist argument well in his book, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts: Then and Now (which I also review here). Here we quote a few words:

That miracles were thought to attest God’s messengers need not be doubted; but that that was their prime, if not exclusive, purpose was in no way demonstrated by Warfield (nor by his cessationist successors). As we have seen, within Jesus’ proclamation, healings and exorcisms were regarded as expressions of the salvation announced. Similarly, the prophecy and tongues of the apostolic church were not related to the preparation of Scripture, nor understood as ‘sign gifts’ in an evidentialist sense. They performed a wide range of beneficial functions within the church, and in individual discipleship, and were not in any way rendered significantly less ‘needed’ (nor less desirable) by the completion of the canon (as cessationists claim).

Later on, Turner declares:

As we have seen…, nothing in the New Testament suggests that healings would cease, and Warfield’s attempt to restrict their function to apostolic accreditation is baseless and reductionist. For the New Testament writers, the healings were not [solely] externally attesting signs, but part of the scope of the salvation announced, which reached beyond the merely spiritual to the psychological and physical.

Therefore, we must guard against making a hard-lined connection between apostles and miracles, healings, etc. While many have been used in such, there is no formula here of solely tying the two together.

Therefore, I am fervently convinced that none of these four passages can be quoted in support of a cessationist position. And, even with a passage like 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, the continuationist is convinced that Scripture itself points to the need and utilisation of these gifts until the return of Christ Himself. What a blessing to continue to see these gifts enacted by the Spirit of God. What an opportunity to see the Spirit-empowered saints moved by God’s Spirit, all with a desire to not contradict Scripture, but that we might edify the body and tough lives for Christ.

Comparing the Resurrection and the Miraculous Gifts

by Scott

I was thinking through some things today, as I tend to do that a lot. Well, let me start off my saying that I’ve been writing about and considering the gifts of the Spirit on a more regular basis since we launched our new blog, To Be Continued.

With regards to the gifts, there are two basic views: 1) Continuationism, which says all gifts of the Spirit have continued post-first century and 2) Cessationism, which more recently prescribes to the view that all gifts of the Spirit are to continue, but some of those gifts (mainly the ‘sign gifts’ such as prophecy, tongues, healings and miracles) are not normative since we now have the faithful testimony of the first apostles recorded in our New Testament Scripture.

No doubt each group has varying beliefs and both groups are continually reforming their views in an attempt to be faithful to Scripture. But that is a decent, general overview. And it should be clear, at least now, that I am a continuationist.

Now the thoughts that I want to share in this article are by no means deep or theological. Rather I have a simple, practical notion that came to me about the gifts. It came about this way:

Easter is approaching. So I’m thinking about the death and resurrection of Jesus, considering some things for our Easter gathering at Cornerstone. I remembered how the Scripture says that Jesus appeared to over 500 people (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-11).

Can you imagine the difficulty in those days of sharing this testimony that Jesus had risen from the grave? For us, it’s second nature, as they say. It’s part and parcel to our faith. Oh, yes, it’s the truth. But you might just find a lot of people saying, ‘Oh yeah, I know that already,’ which could lead to an unhealthy point in our faith. Not always, but it could.

But, for those first Christians, it was still something new. I mean, even those first apostles and close friends of Jesus struggled with Jesus’ resurrection. Some struggled to believe (think Thomas),some were disillusioned (think of the two on the road to Emmaus) and even the others had lost hope for those few days………until they saw the resurrected Christ.

It was absolutely awesome to know that their Lord had risen and had been faithful to His word. He had been hinting at His resurrection, but His death seemed so final. Thus, there was an honest struggle in their soul.

But once they had seen the resurrected Christ, they knew. And Jesus not only appeared to the twelve, but he appeared to over 500 people. That’s a lot!

So, can you imagine these 500+ followers of Jesus telling others:

He’s risen! We’ve seen Him! We even touched Him!

What? No, it can’t be.

Yes, it’s true. We’ve seen Him. We have SEEN Him alive!

I’m sure something like this happened because, again, it also happened to some of Jesus’ closest followers in those days between the crucifixion and resurrection. There was doubt, questioning, soul-searching. But, by the Spirit of Jesus, people’s hearts and eyes were opened to the reality of the resurrection of the Son of God.

So, what’s my point with the resurrection.

Well, with regards to the gifts of the Spirit, mainly those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, I sense the same reaction today. Not only with the world, but even with followers of Jesus.

Please know I am not trying to be derogatory, poke fun, or any other such thing. I’m just saying that this comparison between the reaction to the resurrection and the reaction to the gifts of the Spirit came to me today as I was pondering the resurrection.

This has happened in my own life. People who do not believe the gifts from 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 still exist today, or don’t think they are normative, sometimes ask for proof or real examples. So, I share about examples of prophecy and revelations I have had, or I share about healings that I have seen or that my ministry friends have been used in, but the reaction is quite the same.

Ah, that’s what you say. But I need to see it myself.

They don’t believe they can take my word on it.

Sometimes it makes me wish that these gifts were kind of accessible whenever I wanted them. But it’s not like that. I know it sounds like an excuse, but I really believe He is sovereign over His gifts, not I (i.e. 1 Corinthians 12:11).

So, when they don’t want to believe my own testimonies, I share about a couple of books to check out that record (faithfully) various miracles, healings, etc. They might check out the titles online, but most of the time I hear back that the books don’t look trustworthy or something similar.

I don’t know what to say other than, in the end, if God is as sovereign as I believe He is, then He and He alone can open the hearts of humanity to the work of His Spirit. No, the work of His Spirit is not limited to nine gifts from 1 Corinthians 12. By no means. But it is part of the Spirit’s activity, even today.

And so, I ponder the reactions of those first followers of Jesus to news of His resurrection and to those being reached with the gospel in those early years. I’m sure there was a struggle to really believe that some of these people had actually seen the resurrected Christ. But, they kept on proclaiming the truth.

Today, I look to give what I believe is solid biblical and theological evidence for the Spirit’s continuing work in things like miracles, healings, prophecy and tongues. I also look to share stories of how this has really and truly happened today in my life and the lives of others I know. But, people will still disagree, doubt or even outright deny it.

I’m not here to puff up continuationists as better than cessationists. We are all pursuing God as best we know how. We all love Jesus as best we know how. But I know what I have seen and I am convinced of what I have seen, just as those first disciples were convinced of what they had seen.

I can only ask that the Spirit continue to be active in the fulness of what He desires and wills. And I will leave Jesus to be the head of those whom He gave His life for.