Last week we delivered a foundational message on which we plan to build a series concerning the 'Modern-day Charismatic' movement. The term comes from the use of the Greek word 'Charis' which means 'gift', with the usual emphasis on the gift of tongues and healings.
Remember, we said that there were two basic approaches to Christianity.
1. One emphasizes God's actions toward man as recorded in the Scriptures.
2. One emphasizes man's experience of God, regardless of the Scripture.
It is my position, and the position of this church, that we use the Word of God to evaluate all experience, teachings, or writings. It is not my desire to be unkind toward anyone, but we need to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11. We should commit ourselves to searching the Scriptures and feeding upon God's Word.
What about judgment? Jesus commanded, "Judge righteous judgment." (Jn. 7:24). He told a man, "Thou hast rightly judged." (Lk. 7:43). To others the Lord asked, "Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?" (Lk. 12:57). Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, "Judge ye what I say." 1 Co. 10:15). "He that is spiritual judgeth all things." (1 Co. 2:15). It is our positive duty to judge. Jesus warned us to "Beware of false prophets!" (Mt. 7:15). The only way we can know the false prophets is to judge them by the only standard that we have; the Word of God. Note: Isaiah 8:20, "To the Law and to the Testimony: if they speak not according to THIS WORD, it is because there is NO LIGHT in them." Jesus said, "Ye shall know them by their fruits." (Mt. 7:16).
Let me give you a brief history of the movement. Charles F. Parham is known as the 'father of pentecostal movements'. He founded the Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas in 1900. He gave the student body an assignment to research the topic, "The evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit." They all set about to discover what it was, if it was for today, and how to get it. Their conclusions are as follows:
1. Yes, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is valid for today.
2. The accrediting of the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues.
3. The problem was that no one at that time was speaking in tongues, there- fore, no one had the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
4. After much effort and pressure, Agnes Ozman broke through on January 1, 1901 and began babbling incoherently. She is the first person that we know of who had such an experience after seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
5. W. J. Seymour, another student of Charles Parham, began speaking in tongues while a student at Bible College in 1905.
6. He later started the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles where they held meetings night and day for three years.
7. From this place the movement grew as people desiring a pentecostal experience came to observe and then returned to their own churches taking with them this new and exciting doctrine.
8. Until 1960, this movement remained, for the most part, within the pentecostal churches.
9. In 1960, Dennis Bennett, rector at St. Marks Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California, had a charismatic experience.
10. Since that time, the experience has crossed all denominational lines, and has had a great effect on all groups.
11. The charismatic movement we have today is based on experience, emotion, phenomena, and feelings.
The question we want to address this evening is this: "Are miracles the norm for today?" Is God doing things today the way He did during the apostolic period? Should all Christians be receiving revelation, visions, voices, tongues, the power to heal, and the ability to perform miracles? Definition of a miracle: A suprnatural intrusion into the natural law that can have no other explanation other than that God is acting.
I. WHY AND WHEN HAS GOD USED MIRACLES?
A. Miracles introduced a new era of revelation.
1. The time of Moses and Joshua.
a. The miracles that surrounded the life of Moses confirmed that God was speaking.
b. It was during that time that God introduced the Law (Ten Commandments), the new nation of Israel, the tabernacle, the sacrifices, and the priesthood.
2. The prophetic age of Elijah and Elisha.
a. Following Solomon's reign, the nation of Israel divided.
b. The northern kingdom quickly deteriorated because of idolatry.
c. During the time of Elijah and Elisha there was a revival of the prophetic office and many miracles confirming that these prophets spoke for God.
3. The New Testament apostolic era.
a. This period lasted about 63 years, from A.D. 33 to A.D. 96.
b. Many wonders and miracles were performed by Christ and His apostles.
c. It was during this time that God gave the entire New Test- ament.
B. Miracles authenticated the messengers of revelation.
1. Exodus 3-13 records how Moses was given power to bring the ten plagues upon Egypt and force the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.
2. In 1 Kings 17 Elijah had just re- vived the widow's dead son.
a. v23 "...See, thy son liveth."
b. v24 "Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth."
3. In John 10:24-25, Jesus explained that His miracles authenticated Him and His message. cf. Ac. 2:22 4. The apostles had the same kind of power to validate their ministries. cf. Acts 14:1-3
C. Miracles called the attention of those listening to hear the new revelation.
1. God used the miracles to get the attention of the people to whom the message was directed, then He was able to tell them what He wanted them to do.
2. The miracles in Egypt instructed two groups of people.
a. The Israelites, Moses was God's man; follow him.
b. The Egyptians, God is in control; obey Him.
3. The miracles of Elijah and Elisha were also effective in convincing believers and unbelievers that they spoke the Word of God. cf. 1 Ki. 18:21 & 39
4. The same is true of the New Test- ament miracles.
a. The signs & wonders of Christ cf. Jn. 20:30-31
b. The apostolic miracles. cf. Ac. 5:12-14
5. Miracles and signs were used to confirm believers and to make believers out of unbelievers.
II. What about today?
1. We have seen that, at least three times in history, miracles have been common during eras of extens- ive revelation.
2. When the Law and the Prophets and the New Testament were complete, God's revelation was finished!
3. We answered the question of con- tinuing revelation last week, God hath spoken, through His written Word.
a. Lest there be any confusion as to what I mean, I will spell it out clearly.
b. If God would speak audibly to- night, He would say nothing that He has not already spoken in His written Word.
c. It is also my conviction, as well as the position of this church, that He has preserved His Word throughout the ages, and we have God's Word in the English language in the A.V. 1611.
d. It (KJV 1611) is the final authority in matters of faith and practice.
4. Since we have God's completed revelation to man, we need not seek any signs, wonders, or miracles to confirm God's will.
B. What about the work of the Spirit today?
1. Certainly God is at work in the lives and hearts of believers today, through the Holy Spirit.
2. However, nothing in Scripture indicates that the things which occurred during the apostolic age are to occur today!
3. Nowhere in the Bible are believers commanded to seek any miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit!
4. As a matter of fact, there are only five commands related to the believer and the Holy Spirit.
a. "Quench not the Spirit" (1 Th. 5:19)
b. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God" (Ep. 4:30)
c. "Walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25)
d. "Praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 20)
e. "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18)
C. Note: Hebrews 2:3-4
1. God confirmed the message of Christ and His followers ("them that heard Him").
2. This was accomplished through signs, wonders, miracles, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
3. The words "was confirmed" tell us that this is a past event, intended for confirmation that the apostles were messengers of new revelation.
Conclusion: The question we addressed this evening is this: Are miracles the norm for today? The answer is NO! Now please do not misunderstand me. God is still God. All around us we evidence of His marvelous work: in the salvation of souls here and around the world, in the healing of illness in answer to prayers, in providential circumstances which brings glory to Himself. What God does in us and through us today is not the same thing that He did in the apostolic age because He had a special purpose for the apostles, and that purpose was served. He also has a special purpose for us, and what He does in us, for us, and through us will be marvelous because He is a marvelous God! Our promise for today is not found in Mark 16:17-18, but is in Ephesians 3:20.