The Study of Spiritual Gifts (Sermon 12 of 14)
January 13, 2002 | Andy Davis
Andy Davis preaches an expositional sermon on Acts 4:29-31 as well as other passages in Acts. The focus of the sermon is the spiritual gifts of miracles, speaking in tongues, and prophecy.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Well, we just began last week as we continue our study of spiritual gifts to look at the topic of the so-called sign gifts, the miracles, signs and wonders, also speaking in tongues and prophecy. And so, I would like to make some headway into consideration of these things tonight. We began looking, talking about the miracles that Jesus did and then at the apostolic ministry. And so, we're going to be moving through the book of Acts tonight and we're going to start with miracles. We're going to talk about miracles and then look at speaking in tongues and prophecy. And we'll just get as far as we can tonight to try to understand these things.
We saw last week, and this is the verse that is on my mind tonight as I begin, our God is a mighty, powerful, wonder-working God. And He hasn't changed at all. He's still the same, absolutely. And the kingdom of God is still the same, isn't it? The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. Amen?
And what it means is I can talk and we can talk, but that doesn't mean anything. What matters is the transforming power of God. He changes things. He comes into a situation and it's different because he was there. Whether it's a dead person, a sick person, or somebody with some infirmity as seen in all these miracles or even more in someone who's dead in their transgressions and sins with absolutely no interest in spiritual things, absolutely no interest whatsoever, and then suddenly they become a Christian. And that is a miracle. It is absolutely a miracle. If you understand conversion properly, it's a miracle. It only happens by the direct action of God through the foolishness of preaching. So the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. When He comes into a situation, it's different. He transforms it. But the study before us tonight is the question, "Does God still do the same kinds of miracles? Does he have the same kinds of gifts active today that Paul listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, gifts of healing, gifts of speaking in tongues, gifts of prophecy?" And that's what we're studying tonight.
"What matters is the transforming power of God. He changes things. He comes into a situation and it's different because he was there. "
Now we began to look at it last week, but I'd like to ask that you turn to Acts 4. We finished last week looking briefly at Acts 3. Now you remember that Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer, and they healed the man who had been crippled and had been there for a long time and everyone knew him, and God did just a mighty miracle there through them. And as usual, we see a regular pattern that in the book of Acts that these miracles immediately led to opportunities to preach the gospel, immediately. Crowds would gather, people were interested, they were stunned and amazed, couldn't believe what they'd seen. And immediately, whatever apostle was there would seize the opportunity and preach the gospel. Whether it's here in Acts 3 or later on in Paul and Barnabas's missionary journeys, they would heal somebody and immediately a crowd would gather and they would preach the gospel, and people would hear and they would believe.
Well, as we go on in Acts 4, if you look at verse 29-31, after Peter and John were released, they went back. They had been threatened, do you remember, that they should not preach the gospel anymore. And that threat is absolutely ineffective to a true servant of God. You can't tell him to stop. He's only going to be emboldened by that. It's the wrong thing to do if you want to shut them up. They get excited. They say, "There's some persecution, some opposition, we must be doing something." And so, off they go. And so what do they do? They go back to their people and they gather them together for prayer. And I tell you what, in our corporate prayer life, I would love to have prayer meetings like they have at the end of chapter four of Acts, incredible. If you look at this, they assemble them together, verse 23, 4:23,
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God, “Sovereign Lord,” and they said, “you made the heaven and the earth, the sea and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nation's rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand. The rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant, Jesus, whom you had anointed. They did what your power and will had determined beforehand should happen. Now, Lord,"
And this is so beautiful; they're threatened with arrests, with imprisonment, with persecution if they continue to preach. Are they going to get quieter? Are they going to get a little more, "We need to back burner this thing for a little while"? Absolutely not. This is exactly the time to move forth with great boldness and that's what they pray for. Look at verse 29. "Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." Isn't that marvelous? "Consider the threats. Consider the fact that we're going to be in prison. We might lose our lives even. And consider our weakness. We're just flesh and blood. We're tempted by these things to shut up so that we don't continue preaching. And so please, in the light of their threats, enable us to speak with great boldness." Isn't that remarkable that they considered their own boldness to be an act of God? And it is. It's an act of the Holy Spirit. You don't have this kind of boldness without God working and moving. "Consider their threats and enable your servants to speak with great boldness." And then they ask this, "Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant, Jesus." Well again, the context of that is the miracle that Peter and John had done, and they saw the outcome of that was a great opportunity to witness. A huge crowd had gathered and they say, "Let's do it some more. Do it again, Lord. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders to glorify your servant, Jesus." And then, verse 31, "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." Now that verse, 4:31, pray that for our church's corporate prayer meetings. We pray on Sunday morning at 9:00, from 9:00-9:30. We pray on Wednesday nights from 6:00-6:30. We've prayed periodically on Friday evenings, and never has anything like this happened in any of the meetings I've been at at this church. We've had some good prayer meetings, but nothing like this. And so, they asked for boldness and power. And the Lord responded in a mighty way, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God boldly. They got the very thing that they'd asked for. You should pray that for yourself. If you want to be a witness, say, "Lord, I'm a wimp. I'm weak. I'm afraid of my reputation, people's opinion of me. I want to be a witness. Send your Spirit. Move in me that I might be bold, that I might speak the truth to people who need to hear it. Give me a chance to lead someone to Christ." So that's not... Well, it is a miracle, as I said earlier, if you could lead somebody to Christ, not that it would be a miracle for you to open your mouth and speak, although you might think that would be a miracle if I'm going to really witness. But I'm saying that we should pray for boldness and we should be about the master's business. "As the Father has sent me, even so I'm sending you." Hasn't he given us a Commission? And if you lack the boldness, ask for it and he'll give it.
But along with it comes this prayer and request for miracles. And so, that prayer was also answered. Look over in chapter 5:12. Now you know what happened in verses 1-11. Chapter 5:1-11 is the story of Ananias and Sapphira, which is miraculous enough, but no one worked that miracle. I guess Peter saw it coming, but it was God who did the church discipline. That's a clear example of church discipline. Don't lie on your tax return. All right? Be faithful with your finances. Ananias and Sapphira dropped down dead at the hand of the Lord. That was church discipline, and God did it in a mighty way. But then it continues in chapter 5:12,
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. And no one else dared to join them even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that it at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns of around Jerusalem bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and [look at this] all of them were healed.
Now, the inquiry before us tonight is, is that kind of thing still happening? Huge quantities of people, demon-possessed, et cetera, and just Peter's shadow falling. Now we don't know if there was any correlation between Peter's shadow and anyone being healed. It doesn't say so, but there was an expectation that it might at least, because of all the miracles that God was doing. But interestingly, look who he's doing them through. Who is he working through at that point? It's the apostles, right? The apostles perform great signs and miracles. And Paul is going to say later on, 2 Corinthians 12:12, don't turn there, it will take too long, but just listen. He says of his own ministry, 2 Corinthians 12:12, "The things that mark an apostle, namely signs, wonders, and miracles, were done among you with great perseverance." You hear that? "The things that mark an apostle," what does that mean? Well, it means that apostles did signs and wonders and miracles. And also, it was a marking on them in that you can't assume that they were done widely by all Christians. Does that make sense? If they were done widely by all Christians, it wouldn't be much of a marking. You'd really say then, "The things that mark a Christian were done among you." Do you see what I'm saying? And so, I think it's pretty clear that this ability to do miraculous signs and wonders and all that was not universally or generally spread among all Christians, but rather, it elevated the apostles in particular at that point, so that Paul says, "The things that mark and apostle, namely signs, wonders, and miracles, were done among you with great perseverance."
You see another example of it, if you can just take a minute and look at Hebrews 2. He talks about it there, the author to Hebrews. We'll go back to Acts in a minute. But what I'm trying to do is lay a foundation that these miracles were at least in part, of course, they were to show the mercy and the grace and the love and compassion of God. That must always be said. When a miracle of healing or something supernatural like this happens, it is demonstrating the character and the nature of God: his love, his mercy, his compassion. But it's more than that, isn't it? Just as they identified Jesus as the Son of God, so that the signs were evidence of the deity of Christ, John 5, so these signs and wonders were evidence that the apostles were carrying on that ministry. You see that? So that there was an elevation of the apostles in particular, so that people would hear and believe their message and understand that they were speaking authoritatively from Jesus Christ.
Look at chapter 2 of Hebrews, verse 1. It says, "We must pay more careful attention therefore to what we have heard so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" So he is saying that we've got to pay attention to the gospel. We must pay actually more careful attention to the gospel. And that is true today, isn't it? We need to think again and pay more careful attention to the message that we've believed. That's why we're going through Romans the way we are, and we could go a lot more slowly, so those of you that are wondering. Really, there's always more careful attention we could pay to the gospel message and with good effect. We could spend that time profitably. So we must pay more careful attention to this gospel message so that we don't just drift away. But then he goes on and he says, "This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord was confirmed to us by those who heard him." Now who is that referring to? A message first preached by the Lord, confirmed to us by those who heard him. Who would that be? That's got to be the apostles, the ones that Christ had gathered around him to be eyewitnesses of the things that He'd done. They were like little camcorders, all right? Observing, not understanding, but they were just taking it in. They were seeing and hearing but not getting it. And then later, the Spirit would bring it back to their memory with explanation, with understanding so that they could write the gospels and preach, you see? But they just were there. In effect, Jesus is saying, "You don't understand now. You'll get it later. Just take it in now." Like the foot washing, remember? "You don't understand now what I'm doing. Later on, you'll understand." So they were taking it in. They were eyewitnesses. They were preaching what they had seen and heard and handled with their hands. The apostles, I think, it's a good way to understand that. And then, he goes on from there, verse 4, "God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." So we're talking about these spiritual gifts and we're talking also about signs, wonders, and various miracles. So God is just sprinkling in these miracles along with the preaching of the gospel by the apostles. And so, there's just a whole atmosphere or climate during that first apostolic era of miracles done by the apostles.
But they weren't just done by the apostles. Now you look at Acts 6, going back in Acts now, in chapter 6 we are going to meet this man named Stephen. "Stephen was a man full of God's grace and power," it says, Acts 6. He was one of the original seven. It doesn't say that he was a deacon. I know we traditionally called them deacons, and that's all right because the verb there, to serve, is there. But they were the seven. They were the ones that were set apart to minister to the Greek-speaking widows who are being overlooked in the daily distribution of food, right? And so, Stephen was one of them, and a great one he was, just a tremendous example of a servant of God. And it says in 6:8, if you're all there, you look, it says, "Now, Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people." Do you see that? So Stephen is also a miracle worker and he is not in any way an apostle. As a matter of fact, his ministry is to free the apostles up so that they could preach the Word and pray. But yet, he could preach, too. He did some amazing preaching in Acts 7; maybe one of the greatest sermons in the whole Bible is Stephen's sermon in Acts 7. So he was a great man of God, understood the Word, understood what God was doing, a fierce debater. You'd never want to take him on, you'd lose. Incredible man, and God anointed him to do these miracles.
But it wasn't just him, it was also Philip, if you look at Acts 8:5-6, Acts 8:5-6, it says, "Philip went down to a city in Samaria." I'll start at verse 4. Let me start at verse 4. "Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went." They were scattered by the persecution and connection with Saul, of course. Saul began to destroy the church after Stephen was killed. And so, they got scattered, and it says, "Those..." Let me go back. Yeah. I'm sorry, going back one more, it says, "On that day, a great persecution broke out against the church of Jerusalem. And all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria." It's very important, the apostles stay there, but everybody else is scattered to the four winds. Providence of God, he's the one who decides who stays where and who gets scattered. You'd think it would be the apostles especially who would be scattered, but they stayed there and the others were scattered. And then, in verse 4, "Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went. Philip," who was clearly not an apostle, "went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there." Verse 6, "When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many and many paralytics and cripples were healed, so there was great joy in that city." So it's a tremendous ministry that Philip's doing down there, and again, the theme of the combination of the doing of miracles and the clear proclamation of the gospel. The Samaritans are just taken in by this and they're amazed at the power that Philip had, and they listened to the gospel, they listened to what he said. And of course, you know the next story about Simon the Sorcerer who was so interested in Philip's power, he wanted some of that power to do those miracles. And eventually, it's Peter that rebukes him over that very issue.
So we see that it was not simply the apostles, but also Stephen and Philip who were set apart to do these miracles. But again, realize they could not have been universally being done by everybody or else they wouldn't be noteworthy. Do you understand that? If it was just a river of miracles done by all Christians all the time, then these would not have been noteworthy. But they were noteworthy. They were set apart for mention, specifically in the book of Acts.
And then, you get the apostle Paul. In Acts 9:17-18, we have the story of Ananias going to the house of Judas on Straight Street and he is there to minister to Saul. Now Saul has been three days fasting and praying and seeking the Lord after his Damascus road vision. So in Acts 9:17-18, Ananias goes and he places hands on Saul and he says, "Brother Saul, the Lord, Jesus who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." So he was blind. Remember how he was blinded by the vision and couldn't see all that time? And so, Ananias is sent to perform a miracle on him. And placing his hands on Saul, he says this. And in verse 18, "Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes and he could see again. He got up and was baptized." So that's a miraculous conversion story, isn't it? It's a miraculous vision of the resurrected Christ. And then, it's three days of blindness and then Ananias miraculously heals his eyesight as these scales fall from him.
Well, that's just the beginning. Paul then starts an incredible apostolic ministry of miracles, one miracle after another. Like Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:12, "The things that mark an apostle, signs, wonders and miracles," listen, "were done among you with great perseverance." What do you think that means? "I did lots of miracles, lots and lots, and for a long time." He was in Corinth a long time. And so, over a long period of time they saw Paul doing one miracle after another. In Galatians, he speaks, in Galatians 3:5, "Does God give you his spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law or because you believe what you heard?" Well, obviously, it's because they believe what they heard. But the point I'm making here is God did miracles among them. That was in Galatia now. And then, he says also in Romans 15:17-19, "Therefore, I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done, by the power of signs and miracles through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ." So he basically did miracles everywhere he went. And by the power of God and the power of signs and wonders, he carries on his ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. So he's got all of these miracles going on.
Now look at Acts 14:1-4. This is a prime example of one of those miracles. "At Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went as usual in into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there speaking boldly for the Lord who confirmed the message of his grace." That's a key phrase, isn't it? "Confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. The people of the city were divided. Some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles." So there is an example of this kind of apostolic miracle-working ministry. He's there to preach. That's their reason for being there. But God was doing more than that, wasn't he there? He was doing also these signs and wonders. And Luke, through Acts, and inspired by the Holy Spirit says that, "it was God who did it in order to confirm the message of his grace." And so, people today who would say, "We don't need miracles anymore because we have such great preaching and we've got the word of God and all that," listen. You don't do any better preaching than Paul and Barnabas did there. They spoke so effectively, it says, that a great number believed. You're not going to get any better preaching. And yet, it was augmented by these miracles. And so, it's not in any way a lack of the preaching. We know what Romans 10 says, that faith comes by hearing the message. And they knew it, too. Paul knew it, sure he did. Of course, he knew that faith comes from hearing the message. But God was doing more than that at that point. And so, he was confirming the message. But again, the key is to understand just the relationship, the priority of the preaching over this. And also it's interesting, it says, "He enabled them to do miraculous signs and wonders." And so, that's Barnabas included in that. It wasn't just Paul. And Barnabas is not an apostle.
And then, you get the same thing in Acts 14. You remember the man crippled in his feet in Lystra. He was lame from birth and had never walked. And it says in verse 9, 14:9, "He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him," and very interestingly, "saw he had faith to be healed, and called out to him, 'Stand up on your feet.'" So I don't know how he knew that. It couldn't just be a facial expression. I think it really would have to have been a testimony by the Spirit to Paul. "This man has faith to be healed, move." And so, he healed him. Now you remember what happened as a result. They wanted to worship them. Remember, they called Paul, Hermes and Barnabas was Zeus. And it's kind of interesting because Hermes is the messenger and all that and maybe a physically smaller god. And so, I think Paul was short of stature and maybe Barnabas a little bit bigger and looked like Zeus, I guess, carried himself like Zeus. Who can say. But they believed that they were the incarnation of some Greek gods. So miracles do not always have the intended effect. It's not that everybody believes because they see this miracle. But they did them.
Now we could go on and just show one after the other, Acts 19, "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick." Let me tell you something. I know that this kind of thing goes on these days. All you have to do is send a contribution to a ministry and they will send a handkerchief or something that's been prayed over and it will have healing power. But at the same time, this is what the word of God says. These handkerchiefs and aprons had touched Paul and they were taken and God did these amazing miracles. And all the way to the end of Acts 28, when he is waiting for his trial after the shipwreck, they landed on an island. Do you remember that? And in Acts 28:8-9, speaking of the lead official on the island, it says, "His father was sick in bed suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him, and after prayer placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured." So there's just again, one of these sweeping statements made in the gospels and then in Acts of huge numbers of people that are healed, but just one sentence is given to it in the Scripture.
So a flowing or a river of miracles happening, but yet not everyone was healed. It's important to know that. The best glimpse we have about that is in 2 Timothy 4. And you don't have to turn there, but at the end in verse 20, Paul is just finishing his business. This is the end of his life, and he's talking about bringing scrolls that he left with Carpus at Troas, and other things are going on. It's just one of those closing things, really give full attention to those closing chapters in Paul's letters, there's always little details in there that are worth studying. And he says this, "Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus." What does that tell you? Well, he didn't heal him. Do you think he prayed for him to be healed? Well, certainly he did. And understand God's intention here. It was never God's intention to banish illness and death from this present age. We talked about that this morning. The essence of the present age we're in is that the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life or alive because of righteousness. And he's not going to take that sentence off from us. That got put on way back at the garden, remember? "The day you eat of that tree, you will surely die. The wages of sin is death." And so, even Lazarus died again, didn't he? After dying once and raised again, he died again. And so we're still under that. It is not the purpose of God to banish illness, sickness, and death from this present world order. In 1 Corinthians 15, it says, "The final enemy to be defeated is [what?] death.” Not the middle enemy, the final enemy. And so, we are going to be struggling with death to the end. Do you understand that? To the very end, we're going to be struggling with death.
Now by the way, people say, "I wish we would be that final generation." Really? Have you read what that's going to be like in the book of Revelation? Wouldn't it be easier just to die? You look at it, and think, "I wish... I want to be the..." I'm telling you, you're going to have to earn it, to go through all of the things. Now people say, "Well, the Lord's going to rapture us out." We won't even get into that tonight. We've got enough controversial stuff to go over tonight. But the thing is, we have to deal with sickness and death right to the end. And the Lord is not going to remove that any more than he removed the serpents in Numbers, but instead erected a bronze serpent that they should look at, that the illness should be dealt with that way.
And so, we have all these miracles. And then finally, look at James 5, and this is a lasting, I think, ordinance for the church dealing with sickness and healing. And it says, "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other." I'm in James 5:14-18, verse 16, "Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed, and the heavens gave rain and the earth produced its crops." So this is a tremendous encouragement to us to pray with faith for sick people. And I think many Christians can testify to the effectiveness of this kind of prayer. And I think we must pray believing, not doubting like it says in James 1, "lest we be like the man who's tossed back and forth." We are praying to a God who's fully capable of doing the thing we're going to ask, fully capable of it. And so, we should pray and ask for what we want.
And so, this kind of healing goes on and continues. And we should, as a church, pray faithfully for sick people, but realize that sickness and death are not going to be banished in this present era. I do not believe that "by his stripes we are healed" means that we should be disease and death-free if we are truly believing people. I think that is wrong. I think it's a false teaching. But rather, we should pray and commit the matter to God. If you look in the Book of Acts, the miracles always came at God's initiative anyway, didn't they? They were done by the power of the Holy Spirit, at his initiative, as he moved out.
There are also, however, false miracles, weren't there? And there's a whole history of false miracles in the Bible. In Deuteronomy 13, it says, "If a prophet or one who foretells by dreams appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder which he has spoken does take place, and he says, 'Let us follow other gods,' gods you have not known, 'and let us worship them,' you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and all your soul." Isn't that remarkable? Even if somebody comes and works miracles among you, even if he comes and works miracles, if he tells you to follow another God, then don't listen to him. I think that Deuteronomy is an incredibly, especially Deuteronomy 13 and then 18, talking about the prophet, made it really, really a challenge for the Jews to accept Jesus. You see? Because he did these miracles and he seemed to be preaching a triune God, one that it seemed they were not prepared to accept. And yet, God judged them for their unbelief. Remarkable. But it says here, "If anybody comes, even if they do miracles, if they announce a god you do not know, then do not follow him." And then, Jesus himself said in Matthew 7:22-23, "Men will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name, drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers.'" Now it doesn't say they really did the miracles, but they're going to make the claim, and so it's possible that they did. It's possible that they did. And yet, he's going to say to them, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers."
And then, all the more speaking about the anti-Christ and the end of the world, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, take a look at that if you would. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12. It says, "The coming of the lawless one," that's the anti-Christ, "will be in accordance with the work of Satan, displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason, God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth, but have delighted in wickedness." Wow, is there a lot of truth in that passage. Even about the sovereignty of God and what he's doing by sending these false miracles as a test to confirm their unbelief, really. But the point is that the anti-Christ, the man of sin in this passage, we link it together with the other passages that speak of a future anti-Christ to come. And so, I think that's valid to do, and also the beast in Revelation 13. He's going to do miracles. He's going to do extraordinary things. And so, the Deuteronomy 13 test is going to be in effect. If he comes and does miracles and yet preaches a false god, don't believe him. Don't follow. And so, Revelation 13:13-14, it says of the beast, "He performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs, he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast; he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lives." So this is speaking of a future time, the end of the world, when the anti-Christ will do false miracles, miracles not coming from the Holy Spirit.
All right. That's the biblical data on miracles. What shall we make of it? Well, first of all, we have to see that the miracles were given to exalt Jesus Christ. The biblical miracles, the Godly miracles, the gift of the Holy Spirit miracles were given for the purpose of exalting Christ, not for the purpose of exalting the miracle doer. And that should be true of all spiritual gifts, as you can well understand. Your gift is not to elevate yourself, but rather to exalt Christ who gave the gift. So the miracles were done to exalt Christ. But there was also, as we've seen, a tremendously close relationship between the miracles and the preaching of the gospel. And the best connection you can ever find is that the miracles provide a great platform for the preaching of the gospel. Is it possible for the gospel to succeed, to advance, to be powerful, to be dramatic, to run and do well without miracles? Is that possible? Yes, it is. And it actually seems to be the normal course of events. It's the normal way that things work. For the most part, God uses these normal means to do his supernatural work of spiritual regeneration.
"Your gift is not to elevate yourself, but rather to exalt Christ who gave the gift. "
Have you ever wondered after Jesus walked on water, why he got in the boat? Think about it. Why did Jesus get in the boat? He didn't need the boat. No, but we do, and we usually will. Even if we're Peter walking on water, we need to get back in the boat, right? The boat is God's normal way of getting a human being across water. And for the most part, the God who made the physical world we live in is going to be working through these natural means. And he can do His work, the advance of the gospel, without the miracles.
But my question to you today, is there any word in scripture that you can point to that definitively ends these kinds of miracles, signs, and wonders? Can you prove and say, "This verse confirms, once and for all, that these kinds of things cannot happen today"? I don't think so. But I would hesitate on this one issue. And that is there seems to also have been a strong connection between the miracles and the apostolic ministry. And so what's the answer? I don't know. I do know this, James 5 remains, doesn't it? And James 5 enables us to pray for anything we want, believing, because God has promised, according to James 5, "Is anyone sick," it doesn't even say what the sickness is, "let him call the elders of the church," elders plural, that's another study for another day. But anyway, "let him call the elders of the church to anoint him with oil and pray over him. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well." Next verse, "The Lord will raise them up." Not your prayer. It's not you, it's the Lord raising them up. So you can pray for anything you want and see what the Lord does.
And so, are these gifts of miracles and healing still operative today? I see no verse directly that says that they are not. I'm cautioned by the fact that they seem to be so intimately connected to the apostles, but we've seen with Philip and Stephen that they were not only connected to the apostles. And so therefore, I don't know. But go and pray for sick people and continue to preach the gospel. Obviously, we're out of time, and so God willing, we'll have to look at tongues and prophecy next time.