I heard many times that the miracles stopped in the first century. They said the Holy Spirit didn’t give the gifts for two main reasons:
1 – It took the apostles laying on hands to impart the gifts per Acts 19
2 – The miracles were only to confirm the Word/New Testament so once it was written the gifts were no longer needed.
As with many things, this was a conclusion reached before the study was done and then the Bible retrofitted to support the view.
Did it require the apostles to pass on gifts?
No – read Acts 10.
Was the purpose of the gifts to verify the Word? Yes.
Was the purpose of the gifts ONLY to verify the Word? No.
Healing miracles were actually designed, get this, to heal a hurting person. The idea that there was only one reason for the gifts doesn’t hold up.
God can pass on gifts without any human intermediary. This was pointed out but we were taught those were “special” occasions but how do we really know that? That is based on a limited data set (Acts) without us really knowing what else God did at the time…except we do know what else God did from outside the Bible.
The early church fathers recorded miracles and Holy Spirit gifts hundreds of years later. What is more, these weren’t rare instances…over and over they state that these were happening a lot. In fact, Craig Keener (in his book on Miracles, which is invaluable) states that miracles were a primary evidence that let to the majority of conversions based on what the early church fathers said,
“Second and third century Christian apologists depict not only apostolic leaders but also ordinary Christians as miracle workers. Before the 300s exorcisms proved to be a major factor in the spread of Christianity; in the 300s exorcisms and miracles are the most explicit cause of conversions to Christianity mentioned in early Christians sources.”Keener, Miracles
The last thing I want to do is give you the evidence so you can look it up for yourself and know what was said. This isn’t hard to find and it is a shame no one took the time to look this up before teaching the view I outlined above.
First, rabbinic sources note early Christian miracles. Some of these were opponents to Christianity and yet they didn’t deny it happened but openly acknowledged it.
Second, here are the early church fathers,
Augustine of Hippo
He was a skeptic of the miracles in his day – which makes me trust what he said here even more because he wasn’t eager to accept it as true until he saw it himself,
“A miracle that happened at Milan while I was there, when a blind man had his sight restored…I have been concerned that such accounts should be published because I saw that signs of divine power like those of the older days were frequently occurring in modern times too…many miracles have occurred there (at Hippo) and to my certain knowledge many miracles have occurred there which are not recorded in the published documents and nearly 70 of these documents have been produced at the time of writing – City of God, 22.8
Against Celsus 1.46 – “And there are still preserved among Christians traces of that Holy Spirit which appeared in the form of a dove. They expel evil spirits, and perform many cures, and foresee certain events, according to the will of the Logos. And although Celsus, or the Jew whom he has introduced, may treat with mockery what I am going to say, I shall say it nevertheless — that many have been converted to Christianity as if against their will, some sort of spirit having suddenly transformed their minds from a hatred of the doctrine to a readiness to die in its defense, and having appeared to them either in a waking vision or a dream of the night.”
Against Celsus 1.67 – “And the name of Jesus can still remove distractions from the minds of men, and expel demons, and also take away diseases;”
“And this also is done in the present day, in that the devil is scourged, and burned, and tortured by exorcists, by the human voice, and by divine power;” – Epistle 75, 15
“The clerk of one of them who was liable to be thrown upon the ground by an evil spirit, was set free from his affliction; as was also the relative of another, and the little boy of a third. How many men of rank (to say nothing of common people) have been delivered from devils, and healed of diseases!” – Scapulam, 4
Irenaeus in Against Heresies,
“men were saved both from most wicked spirits, and from all kinds of demons, and from every sort of apostate power” – 2.6.2
Talking to those who didn’t believe in the miracles,
“And so far are they from being able to raise the dead, as the Lord raised them, and the apostles did by means of prayer, and as has been frequently done in the brotherhood on account of some necessity—the entire Church in that particular locality entreating [the boon] with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead man has returned, and he has been bestowed in answer to the prayers of the saints.” – 2.31.2
“Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ” – 2.32.4-5
More could be mentioned: Athanasius, Basel, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Athansius, etc.
Were they all making it up? Where is the refutation? They are stating these things were common and were like what happened in the first century.
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