...”But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.... when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away...” (1 Corinthians 13:8, 10)
I have heard some of the most absurd teachings against the miraculous by Christian theologians. Let me run a few by you, which I’m sure you might have heard of already. Some say: Miracles were really nothing but fanciful myths, Miracles are not for today… Miracles were only to be performed by the apostles and early preachers of the Gospel… Miracles were only for the Church to get started… Miracles ceased when the last apostle died… God replaced the need for miracles with medical science… Since the canon of the Bible was completed, miracles ceased…
We should always build our belief on the Word of God—not on man’s musings. There is no Scriptural affirmation to these arguments. I’m sure there are other similar arguments and it would take a whole book and more to try to address them all. I would rather contend for the miraculous than trying to refute every argument against it. However, I will touch on a few things here.
The miracles of the Bible are not myths. A myth is a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, esp. one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite or phenomenon of nature. It is also defined as an invented story, idea or concept. These definitions are a far cry from the real miracles that happened in Bible times. I think it will help us if we stay true to the literal interpretation of the Bible. All scripture should be interpreted literally, unless in its context it is obvious that God was using figurative language.
Every miracle in the Bible really and literally happened.
To say that miracles are not for today is to deny the sovereignty our Lord Jesus.
Who are we to suggest that the Almighty God may no longer do the miraculous? In God’s sovereignty, He can do anything at any time and does not need the theologian’s endorsement to do so.
Also, to say that miracles are not for today may be contrary to the eternal truth that God never changes. Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Scriptures teach that apart from His recorded miracles, Jesus performed so many miracles that if we were to record them all, not even all the books in the world could have contained them (John 21:25.)
If Jesus is indeed alive today, as Christians know and believe, He has not changed. If He has not changed, He is still actively working His works in and through His Body—the Church. The Miracles are not for today argument is not valid.
Again, the notions that “Miracles were only to be performed by the apostles and early preachers of the Gospel.” “Miracles were only for the Church to get started.” and “Miracles ceased to happen when the last apostle died in 100 A.D.” have no Scriptural support whatsoever. Not even once does the Bible imply that miracles were only for the apostles and early preachers of the Gospel.
And, of course, God used miracles as the medium to induce the incredible growth of the early Church, and it worked. Within a short time, the whole known world was evangelized by the preaching of the Word—with signs following. A certain religion experienced tremendous growth, but it was done so by the sword and by forceful conversions. Even today its growth is maintained by the same methods, and her preachers try to advance their religion by trying to negate Christ and His real death and resurrection.
It does not seem to have an inherent power that compels the hearer to conversion such as the message of the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ does. The message of Jesus Christ had an inherent power within itself that compelled those who heard it to receive it or violently reject it. And accompanied by the miracle ministry of signs and wonders it spread like wild fire. Yes indeed, miracles served to induce the growth of the early church.
If miracle signs and wonders were then necessary for the birth and growth of the early church doesn’t it make sense that it is still needed today? Is it not especially necessary in these challenging times to both maintain and promote the Gospel? Shouldn’t miracles, signs and wonders still continue to confirm our message in this generation that the Jesus we preach is still alive, and that He is the Son of God?
And if it was true that the medical field has taken the place of the miraculous, why then are there still so many sick people in this world? Shouldn’t we continue to take His healing power to them?
I would like to especially address a view that is very popular in the anti-miracle camp—that miracles ceased when the Canon of the Bible was completed. The scripture used very widely to try to substantiate this theory is:
“... But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.... when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away...” (1 Corinthians 13:8, 10)
Many of those who hold this belief have been some of the Christianity’s greatest thinkers, and I cannot help but admire their knowledge. Yet I think that even some of the greatest, brightest and most talented theologians of our day and of times past, may have violated their own rules of Biblical hermeneutics (the methodology of interpreting the Scriptures.)
And while I disagree with them, I do so humbly and reverently, knowing they are my brothers and that they are often exemplary servants of God and students of Scripture.
Could it be that we have built on a faulty foundational thesis when it comes to this teaching?
This teaching holds that tongues, prophecy, and all the miraculous gifts were done away with when the final book of the Bible was written. The argument is that these supernatural elements of Christianity would cease when the Bible, which they say is “that which is perfect,” is come. So, since the Bible was completed, we no longer need the miraculous.
But there is no hint whatsoever that the Bible is “that which is perfect.” Everything else about God is perfect—such as the Old Testament law (Psalm19:7,) His love, His Son, His death and resurrection, etc. However, let’s suppose for a moment that “that which is perfect” is in fact the finalized Bible. Then may I ask a simple question: Are we then not to believe and actively live what’s in it? Like the parts about the supernatural? What’s the use of having a finalized Bible, but shying away from its contents?
But it is not the finalized Bible that is “that which is perfect” in this context. What is it then? The answer is obvious—not just a matter of interpretation. A simple rule of hermeneutics is that we should always read the Bible in context. The Bible is not hard to understand. God gave us the Word so that the common person could understand it. God, who is so eager for all to be saved, would not have given us a Book of Instructions so hard to understand that the common man cannot understand it. (The Bible should always be taken literally, except the portions that are obviously figurative.)
When we read the Bible in context, we can plainly see what the writer meant. Looking at this Scripture in context, what then is “that which is perfect?” One need only to read the next two verses: “That which is perfect” is when we see Jesus face to face (verse 12.) That’s why we won’t need miracles or the like—because in heaven there is no need for them in our glorified, resurrected bodies! A little later the apostle Paul writes about how perfect it will be in the end, about the resurrection from the dead, about death being swallowed up in victory and about mortality putting on immortality.
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed, in a moment, In the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15: 51-55.)
“When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” No more need for prophecy, for we will see the Lord face to face. No more need for tongues, or for miraculous words of knowledge, for there is no need for it then. No more need for the gifts of healings, or faith or miracles—for there shall be none sick there, and all will be perfect and complete.
If the miraculous really was to end after we received the Bible, the apostle Paul would have been more clear about it. Not once does 1 Corinthians 13 hint that the miraculous would end when the canon would be finalized.
“Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29.)
When there is a deficiency in either of these two elements—knowing the Scriptures and the power of God, error is prone to enter.
The Greek word for perfect as in “when that which is perfect is come” (1 Corinthians 13:10) is teleion (from the root word telos.) The HELPS Word-studies says that it means “consummated goal.”
This is why the NIV translates it as, “…when completeness comes”, and the GWT translates it as “…when what is complete comes, then what is incomplete will no longer be used…” and the WNT translates it as “…when the perfect state of things come, all that is imperfect will be brought to an end”.
What is that “consummated goal?” The Bible itself uses the same word in chapter 15:24, where it refers to “…the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24.)
The end, or the consummated goal is not the finalization of the Bible, the Canon. It is the penultimate moment, when the Son hands over the Kingdom to God. What this ultimate moment actually means is another message for another day, but for our study today we see that the perfect of 1 Corinthians 13:10 is this moment, this ultimate moment, or the consummated goal of 1 Corinthians 15:24: It is when we see Jesus face to face, it is when death will be swallowed up in victory, and it is when the Son hands over the Kingdom to the Father.
This article was taken from Joel Hitchcock's book, "Miracles for the Multitudes." It will be available soon at https://joelhitchcock.blogspot.com/p/products.html , where you can browse other products by Joel Hitchcock.