Does God Perform Miraculous Healing Today?
A few weeks ago, my daughter had to be hospitalized for a severe case of dehydration after coming down with the common stomach bug. It was a rare case of extreme dehydration that came on fairly quickly. As I stayed home on Saturday evening with the other three children, my wife took our youngest daughter Kalli to the hospital. We expected her to receive fluids and then be released. However, her case of dehydration was so bad, her blood work revealed some problems that had to be addressed quickly – by specialists. What I didn’t know was that she would spend three days in the hospital in recovery.
During this time at home, I had sent texts to my close friends, posted privately to our church family, and finally I posted an update and prayer request on Facebook to a broader audience. Later that evening, I received an e-mail through Facebook. Part of that e-mail reads:
I’m offended with you. Not long ago you publicly blasted a church for having a healing service. But now you are asking for prayer??? What is the prayer for? Obviously not healing because that would mean you do believe in miraculous healings.
To be fair, this person went on to explain that the purpose of the e-mail was not to slam me or ridicule me. The individual simply wanted an explanation. I would say, it’s a fair request since I had openly criticized the healing services in our community over the last year.
To be clear, I believe in miracles. God is big and sovereign and has the power to heal anyone, anytime, as He chooses. I do think it should be stated that the false claims of fake healers from Christian charlatans should be called out for what they are – aberrant and offensive frauds.
God’s Sovereignty in Miraculous Healing
God has consistently provided verifiable evidence that He has power over disease. He has put His power on display in the ministry and work of His Son – Jesus Christ. Not only did God prove to have power over disease, but He likewise demonstrated His power over death by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
As the church is established by Jesus, He made a very specific promise to Peter and the disciples regarding His church. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” As Jesus established the church, the gates of hell would literally come against it. Although Jesus validated His ministry and His claim of deity through miracles, wonders, and signs, they still nailed Him to the cross to get rid of Him. They wouldn’t accept His gospel, but they couldn’t explain His power, so they killed Him.
That clearly didn’t work, because Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the third day. Out of all of Jesus’ miracles and signs, the resurrection on the third day was the authentication of Christianity that could never be explained away. Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to hundreds of people over a 40 day period. As He prepared to ascend to the Father, He prepared His followers to receive the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem.
The skepticism and open rejection of the church by the religious establishment would have been overwhelming for a group of sketchy Jesus followers had it not been for the miracles, wonders, and signs that accompanied their ministry. The early disciples experienced great power from God in order to validate the authenticity of the church. From speaking in tongues (other languages) at Pentecost, to various other signs and wonders, the early church and the message of the gospel was being established by these signs. After the lame man was healed and could walk, the entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. The Sanhedrin held council after arresting Peter and John for the miracle. As they talked to one another privately and they could not escape the power of the miracle.
Acts 4:16 – What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
As the church continued to grow, the mounting pressures continued to push back against the followers of Christ. God performed miracles through them to show the world that His church is genuine and the message of the gospel must be heard. The purpose of the miracles was not to make the disciples into superheroes. It was to validate the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ.
Miraculous Healing or Strange Fire?
Are today’s miracles genuine or counterfeit? Are the tongues in today’s Charismatic movement real or counterfeit? We should test the spirits to see if what is being claimed is of God – or strange fire (1 John 4:1). God does not take lightly false worship, and we recall what happened with Nadab and Abihu as they were consumed for offering up to God strange fire upon the alter before the Tabernacle (see Leviticus 10). They were consumed in a fire of God’s judgment.
Does God still perform miracles today? Yes, without a doubt He does. Does God still give miraculous gifts to His church as a normative manner of validating the truth claims of the gospel and the authenticity of the church? We must consider several important facts as we evaluate this question.
- We know that the apostles were given as gifts to the church in the beginning to establish the early church and organize it for growth. The apostles are now dead and they are in the presence of God rather than the presence of God’s church. Therefore, we can say assuredly that the gift of the apostle was a temporary gift for a season in church history.
- Speaking in tongues was a manifestation of the Holy Spirit and as the early Jesus followers spoke in tongues, the text of Acts 2 reveals that they were other known languages. The gibberish that is often called tongues by the modern Charismatic movement does not align itself with the power of the Holy Spirit and the tongues of Acts 2. Linguistically, the modern tongues movement does not line up with Scripture.
- By the closing of the New Testament, the miraculous gifts are starting to fade away. As the apostles were dying, the miraculous gifts that were given by God to validate His church and His gospel message were likewise fading off of the scene with the apostles. By the time the close of the New Testament is complete, the miraculous gifts are not prevalent among the church throughout church history.
- Consider the need for the gift of prophecy. To have a divine Word from God during the Old Testament was necessary because the full and completed Word of God was not in place. This gift continues into the New Testament age as the church was being validated and established, but once the canon of Scripture was closed by God, there would no longer be any need for a divine Word from God to be given. God’s Word is sufficient. Therefore, modern prophecy ministries deny the validity and sufficiency of God’s Word.
- The modern faith healers that have come to us through a long line of religious charlatans dating back to the magicians who stood before Pharaoh. They are aligned with Balaam and Simon the Sorcerer rather than Peter and the apostles. Benny Hinn and others like him have been proven as false prophets. They do not have the validating power of the Holy Spirit upon them as we see in Acts and the early church.
- Can the modern miraculous gifts be mimicked, mocked, and explained away? That seems to be the case. The false prophets of our age abound through the media of television and the Internet. Many of these false teachers hold miracle crusades where they ask for those people who need to be healed to come up on the platform to be healed. However, at the front there are screeners who separate certain people from the large crowd and only a privileged group of people are granted access to the stage. In the majority of the cases, the crusades are more about money than miracles and when you contrast and compare the miraculous gifts of the early church from those that we see paraded across the television screen today, the differences are more than the similarities.
We must be committed to exposing the fraudulent practices of false faith healers. Their work is not for God. Their message is based on health, wealth, and prosperity rather than the true gospel of Jesus Christ. In Atlanta, where I live and minister, the entire city is swimming with these prosperity preaching false faith healers.
Can miracles be performed today? Is there any evidence that miraculous healing takes place today? I think the answer to both of those questions is in the affirmative. However, I do not believe that God is gifting His church with a normative practice of miraculous gifts. The age of the prophets has passed from us. The age of the apostles has faded off into the sunset. The canon of Scripture is closed. The Word of God is completely sufficient. God is sovereign and He does still perform miracles and that’s why we pray! We trust God to do the extraordinary. The focus of our prayers is upon His power. Rather than focusing on a prayer room, a crusade, or a certain group of gifted people in the local church, the entire church comes together to pray to God who can perform a miracle for His glory.
I’ve actually heard preachers claim that they blow the Holy Spirit upon people in the local mall as they walk around shopping with their family. Those same preachers hold miracle crusades and devote themselves to a ministry of miracles, wonders, and signs. Anyone who claims to have the power to control the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is very confused. Miracles are real because God is real. From creation to the resurrection of Christ, we see God consistently performing miracles. One day, He will bring this present world to a final culmination that aligns with His sovereign purposes. The return of Christ will be a miracle. Until then, we can trust that our sovereign God continues to rule over all things at all times and we can call upon Him and plead for the His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. As we think through these issues, we must not allow hucksters to deemphasize the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and the miracle of the new birth by peddling false miracles in the name of Jesus.
B.B. Warfield has written, “[Miraculous gifts] were not for the possession of the primitive Christian as such; nor for that matter of the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic age for themselves; they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles. They were part of the credentials of the apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confirmed them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed away with it.”1
1. Counterfeit Miracles, Banner of Truth, 1918, p. 6.
2. Charismatic Chaos – John MacArthur
4. Strange Fire Conference – Grace Community Church