By Ron Courter (Excerpt from Article Originally Printed August 15, 1982)
The last lesson closed by noticing Moses’ need for credentials to serve as God’s ambassador. This served to illustrate the need for confirming the word and messenger in times of new revelation. It is this historical setting that lies behind the apostles’ labor involving the need of miracles.
Briefly, let us remember other Old Testament examples that focus on confirming the message or messenger. 1 Kings 13:1-7 manifests the great strength the confirming sign has in supporting the message. Isaiah 38:4-8 reveals a sign was given to confirm the word spoken to Hezekiah. The word was confirmed by the returning of the sun ten degrees. A more graphic result of a sign will not be found than that of 1 Kings 17:23,24. “And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, ‘See, thy son liveth.’ And the woman said to Elijah, ‘now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.’”
The word, confirm means to make firm, establish or make secure. Today the word of God is confirmed no matter how one may respond to it. The word ‘confirming’ is also translated
– “confirming” in Mark 16:20
– “which stablisheth” in 2 Corinthians 1:21
– “stablished” in Colossians 2:7
– “be established” in Hebrews 13:9.
Jesus was asked to confirm his authority for acting as he did (John 2:18). The request for the confirming of new revelation is not improper. The request is improper when revelation is not new or enough evidence has already been given to confirm the man or message. This is where the Jews failed in facing the ministry of Jesus. They ask for confirming signs, when the evidence to that point was already more than adequate. This manifested that the problem was their attitude and not in Jesus’ credentials.
The biblical setting to understand the miracles of the apostles is found by recognizing the need for heaven’s confirming of their message. The apostles did many signs and wonders (Acts 2:43; 5:12). They were done to support their ministry of preaching the word. This was the primary concern of the apostles’ labor. Acts 6:4 reads, “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” The authority of the apostles given or delegated by heaven was backed by heaven’s signs. “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds (2 Corinthians 12:12).”
The concern of the enemies of the apostles regarding miracles were the effect their teaching would have on the people. Read the events of Acts 4. The spreading of the miracle they could not gainsay would lead to further acceptance of their teaching. Verse 18 says, “And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”
The mighty works of the apostles found their meaning in establishing their testimony as being from heaven. It supported them and made them confident in declaring the word of God. Acts 4:29,30 illustrates this relationship. “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of the holy child Jesus.” The essence of the request seems to make us bold to preach the word by confirming the message as being heavenly in origin. They would not have been able to successfully have proclaimed the will of heaven without the confirming signs. Acts 14:3 reads, “Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
The enemy realized the great effect these mighty works had on establishing the doctrine of Christ. Acts 5:24 reads, “Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.” They desired to stop the teaching, but how could they with such mighty works establishing the origin of the message? “… Did we not straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
The controversy of the universality of the gospel among the brethren brought into evidence the important role of signs and wonders in confirming the word. Acts 15:8 reads, “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us.” Peter would never have been able to have finished the gospel plea without heaven interceding at Cornelius’ house. Again verse 12 says, “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them,” We see the application of the signs to reveal what God had done and to support the apostolic action.
The enemy had tried to bribe away the evidence of the resurrection, and they could not bribe away the Holy Spirit’s proof of the resurrection and exaltation on the day of Pentecost. “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath set forth this, which ye now see and hear.”
It becomes fairly evident as one examines the word of God the whole circumstance surrounding miracles in the New Testament was different from what we hear and see today. The “…primary purpose of the miraculous deeds recorded in the scriptures is to attest the revelation given from God.” The basic plea for miracles today reflects a great void in understanding the historical purpose of miracles in the days of the New Testament formation.
The miracle search of today goes forward on what men think is physically best for self or others. God’s stewardship reveals consistently a purpose behind the miracles that goes far beyond the mere physical good of mankind. “If one thing above all else is evident in Christ’s miracles, it is that he was not motivated only by a desire to meet the physical and material needs of mankind.” How many widows could Elias have gone to and how many lepers could Elisha have healed (Luke 4:25-27)? The plea of miracles today is presented divorced from the biblical emphasis of miracles in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. Their goal was not healing ministries, but preaching the word of God, whereby cometh faith and salvation.
We do not think one can make too much of the fact that the primary focus of the miracles was to confirm God’s revelation in its formative stages. Why? Because men are totally ignoring this basic bible fact. Also, the scriptures have no controversy with the fact the miracles were to confirm the word. Let us hear the scriptures. Mark 16:20, “…confirming the word with signs following.” Acts 5:32, “…And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost…” Acts 14:3, “…and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” Romans 15:18-19, “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonder, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 4:20, “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” 2 Corinthians 12:12, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” Galatians 1:11,12 “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…” Hebrews 2:3,4 “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.”
It is true, these verses are not the full story, but they are not vague nor unclear. These verses are not hidden. Therefore, why does the modern sound of miracles tend to say nothing about the role of miracles in confirming the word in a time of new revelation? Why?
Let us recognize that time does not erode a valid confirmation. Unbelief does not govern the need for more miracles. A true testimony given and confirmed is settled forever. You could only destroy what has been done, by revealing that the original witnesses were not true to the original claims. The passing of time does not make something less likely or truthful. Really this is understood by all, but many have tried to leave a different impression in regards to the confirming of the word of God. This is unwise and unfruitful.
The idea of continual confirming of the testimony of the word of God due to a lack of belief is full of problems. Let us illustrate. Romans 15:8 declares Jesus was a minister of the circumcision to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. Also, that the Gentiles might glorify God. What if today many reject this confirming done by Jesus? Would it mean Jesus again must come as a minister of the circumcision to fulfill God’s obligation of confirming to the unbelieving? Certainly not, but this is the reasoning you are faced with in speaking of the continual confirming due to the present unbelief of any generation of people.
It has been frequently affirmed that 1 Corinthians 1:8 teaches the continual confirming of the word. We disagree, for the Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 1:6 the testimony of Christ had already been confirmed to them. Verse 8 is teaching in regards to another matter. The confirming of those that received the testimony in a day of completed revelation is not a matter of sings and wonders. The encouragement of those who have received the testimony is the fact of the heart being established by or with grace (Hebrews 13:9). The theme of the New Testament is not to ask for the confirming of the word, but for the word that has been confirmed.
Man’s miracles of today have an air about them that make us think of an environment like Luke 23:8. A miracle, as an ethical act must be wed to the true teaching of the word of God. This bond must not be broken, but the miracles of today severely sever that bond.