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THE MIRACULOUS – ANALYTICAL STUDIES

© Rosemary Bardsley 2007

IN THE REST OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

Note: The term ‘the rest of the New Testament’ in this study, refers to all the New Testament letters [except 1 Corinthians] and Revelation.

 

Miracles [dunamis] in the rest of the New Testament

[1] There is no mention of miracles [dunamis] in the Greek text of Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1,2 & 3 John, Jude and Revelation.

[2] Miracles [dunamis] are included with signs and wonders as the things that were the mark [‘sign’] of an apostle and indicated the Lord’s confirmation of the apostolic message:

‘The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance’ [2 Corinthians 12:12 ] [Greek: ‘the signs of the apostle … signs, wonders and miracles’].

‘This salvation was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.’ [Hebrews 2:3,4]

Both of these references speak of something that happened in the past, not of something that was still currently occurring, nor as something that was expected to continue in the future. The Hebrews reference in particular clearly refers back to the signs and miracles as something that accompanied the preaching of the apostles. If miracles continued as a common thing this original confirmatory significance would be rendered impotent.

[3] Paul refers to God giving his Spirit and working miracles [dunamis] among the Galatians [3:5], drawing their attention to the grace that is behind the miracles. This statement outlaws any suggestion that God’s miracles are given on the basis of human merit or performance.

[4] 2 Thessalonians 2:9 refers to counterfeit miracles [dunamis] done by the ‘lawless one’ and deceiving unbelievers.

 

Signs and wonders in the rest of the New Testament

The only references to signs and wonders in the rest of the New Testament are:

[1] Signs and wonders are referred to as the things that mark an apostle and confirm the apostolic message in Romans 15:17-19, 2 Corinthians 12:12 and Hebrews 2:3,4. See note [2] above re miracles. The Romans passage indicates that this supernatural confirmation contributed to the work that Christ accomplished through Paul.

[2] Counterfeit signs and wonders are performed by the lawless one [2 Thessalonians 2:9], and signs are performed by ‘the beast’ [Revelation 13:13 -15], ‘spirits of demons’ [Revelation 16:14 ], and ‘the false prophet’ [Revelation 19:20 ]. These counterfeit signs and wonders, done by the power of Satan, deceive and delude the people.

 

‘Works’ in the rest of the New Testament

As we have seen, Jesus’ miracles were sometimes referred to as ‘works’ [Greek: ergon]. Paul uses the same word in Romans 15:17-19, but it is not clear in the context whether or not he is using the word to refer to miraculous things he did or not.

 

Spiritual gifts in the rest of the New Testament

[1] There is only one place in the Greek text of the entire New Testament where the word ‘spiritual’ and the word ‘gift’ or ‘gifts’ are put together. This is in Romans 1:11, where Paul says that he longs to see the Roman Christians so that ‘I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong’. He is clearly not talking about ‘spiritual gifts’ in the modern way of understanding the term, but about some spiritual benefit, most likely further instruction in the truth of God. Remember that the word ‘gift’ simply means ‘gift’ – something given to another. It does not refer exclusively to spiritual gifts.

We need also to notice the way Paul speaks here:

[2] The various lists of ‘spiritual gifts’ in the Greek text of the rest of the New Testament simply refer to ‘gifts’. The word ‘spiritual’ does not occur. There are three gift lists in the rest of the New Testament:

Romans 12:6-8 charisma

Ephesians 4:7-11 – dorea & doma; Also charis – grace, free gift

1 Peter 4:8-10 - charisma

Apostles

 

Speaking

Prophesying

Prophets

Evangelists

Encouraging

Pastors

Teaching

Teachers

Serving

Serving

Contributing to needs of others

Hospitality

Leadership

Showing mercy

Love

Date: cAD56-57

Date: cAD60

Date: cAD63-64

About these gift lists the following is evident:

[3] Putting all the gift lists side by side:

1 Corinthians 12:8-12, 27-29

Romans 12:6-8

Ephesians 4:11

1 Peter 4:8-10

Apostles

Apostles

 

Speaking

Teachers

Teaching

Teachers

Prophets, wisdom, knowledge

Prophesying

Prophets

Evangelists

Encouraging

Pastors

Faith

Gifts of healings

Workings of miracles

Distinguishing between spirits

Diversity of languages

Interpretation of languages

Administration

Leadership

Those able to help others

Showing mercy

Love

Serving

Serving

Giving

Hospitality

Date: cAD55

Date: cAD56-57

Date: cAD60

Date: cAD63-64

Do these lists demonstrate anything conclusive about whether the ‘sign gifts’ were never meant to continue beyond the confirmation of the apostles and their message? We can say without fear of contradiction:

Beyond this any conclusion based on these lists can only be an inferred conclusion.

[4] There are two other references to a spiritual ‘gift’ in the rest of the New Testament. Both are in Paul’s letters to Timothy, and in both Paul encourages Timothy to be sure to use his gift, which from the context would appear to be the gift of teaching [1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6]. From these verses we understand:

These references highlight the human responsibility associated with spiritual gifts.

[5] Commission as ‘gift’

As an appendix to the above, and particularly to the last dot point, note the following references made by Paul to his commission to preach the Gospel. He sees this commission, this responsibility, as ‘grace’ – charis = a benefit, a free favour, a free gift, a generous gift.

Paul also uses the word ‘grace’ in reference to:

[6] Statistics [all New Testament letters]

Thus we find four different words used to refer to what are commonly spiritual gifts today: charisma [in the lists in 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4, and the references to Timothy’s gift]; dorea, doma (and charis) [in the Ephesians 4 passage]; and charis [used at least eight times by Paul to refer to his own teaching/preaching commission, and also to the gift of giving exercised by the Macedonians].

Statistically, in the New Testament letters, what we commonly call ‘spiritual gifts’ today are referred to by:

Leaving aside the additional possible references, the breakdown of this usage is:

Reference to:

charisma

dorea

doma

charis

Gifts in general

4

1

1

1

Healing

3

0

0

0

Giving

0

0

0

2

Teaching

2

0

0

8

The single most common use of any of these words to refer to spiritual gifts in general, or to a specific gift in particular, is Paul’s use of charis to refer to his preaching/teaching commission as a ‘grace’ or ‘gift’, and in that reference to include the sheer and awesome responsibility involved in having been given that gift .

 

‘Speaking in tongues’ in the rest of the New Testament

There is no reference to ‘speaking in tongues’ or ‘interpretation of tongues’ in the rest of the New Testament.

From this absence we can come to one of two conclusions:

[1] That speaking in tongues was so common that it was not even worthy of a mention. Against this conclusion is the gross misuse of this gift in the church in Corinth – a clear evidence of what sinful, ego-centric human beings do with this gift. To assume that the use of this gift was common in the New Testament churches, means that we have to also assume that everywhere except Corinth the gift was used so decently and so in order that none of the New Testament writers had any reason to correct its abuse. Such an assumption would be extremely optimistic.

[2] That speaking in tongues was actually as minimal as the New Testament references to it indicate.

 

Healing in the rest of the New Testament

There is no reference to the gift of healing or miracles of healing in the rest of the New Testament.

The only other references to ‘healing’ are found in:

Looking at the question of healing from the viewpoint of its absence, we also find the following:

These obvious absences of miraculous healing expose the fallacy of several contemporary teachings. We can conclude from them that the following teachings are not biblical:

These absences of miraculous healing also expose the fallacy of the perception that miraculous healing was part of normal Christian life in the New Testament era. In none of the above cases of sickness is there any evidence of surprise or dismay at the absence of miraculous healing, as if there were something wrong or unusual in these strong and committed Christians being sick. There is simply no record of anyone trying to heal them or expecting them to be healed miraculously.

 

Being filled with the Spirit in the rest of the New Testament

The only reference to being filled with or full of the Holy Spirit in the rest of the New Testament is Ephesians 5:18:

‘… be filled with the Spirit’

The verb used in pleroo – the verb used in Acts to refer to a condition of life that is dominated by the Spirit. Here in Ephesians it is present tense and passive voice: it is thus commanding us to continually keep on being filled by the Holy Spirit. It is very definitely neither a momentary, nor an inceptive/initiatory, nor a one-off occurrence. It is a constant condition of life. It is evident, not in the presence of spiritual gifts, but in a life in which we speak to each other about spiritual truths, in which our hearts are full of joy, in which we give thanks to God through Jesus Christ, and in which we consider the others needs before even thinking of fulfilling our own [Ephesians 5:19-21].

 

Dealing with demons in the rest of the New Testament

The only references to ‘demons’ or ‘spirits’ in the rest of the New Testament are:

Some see 1 John 4:1-3 as a reference to dealing with demon possession and use these verses as a mandate for a certain line of approach in ‘deliverance ministry’, which addresses the spirits believed to be possessing the individual, and challenges them to acknowledge Jesus Christ.

It is far more likely that the reference to ‘spirits’ in these verses is to the spirit(s) behind false teaching and false belief rather than to spirits demonizing humans. From the context we learn:

John’s first letter is an exposure of false teaching. Right through this letter he contrasts true believers and the truth with false believers and error. He does this in terms of how people live and what people believe. He repeatedly points to the origin of our actions and our statements of belief. They are either from God or not from God. Here in 4:1-6 he points out the origin of defective belief regarding the real incarnation of Christ, and affirms that such a denial originates with the antichrist, not with God [indeed in 2:18-10 he identifies those with fake faith as ‘antichrists’.] Thus the basis for determining the rightness of a person’s faith or teaching is: what do they say about the incarnation? Was Jesus Christ both real God and real man?

There are, then, apart from the Revelation verses which have no relevance to the question, only these two references in Timothy and 1 John. Neither of them gives instructions about how to deal with demons; neither of them speaks of demon possession; neither speaks of exorcism or deliverance. Both, on the other hand, warn us to be alert. They point out the inroads false teaching makes in the church and the impact that false teaching has in causing people to defect from the church and from the true Gospel.

 

Romans

A study of Romans reveals very limited reference to the miraculous:

 

Romans 1:11

‘I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong’. It is not clear exactly what he means by ‘some spiritual gift’, but in verse 12 he explains ‘that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.’ Given that charisma simply means ‘free gift’ there need not be anything miraculous or spectacular meant here. It is used in the ‘gift of God is eternal life’ [Rom 6:23 ] – so can refer to salvation or any benefit given by God. It does not automatically mean ‘spiritual gift’ in the modern sense of some God-given supernatural spiritual ability. Paul simply wants to give them some spiritual benefit or encouragement.

Romans 8:26

‘The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express’

Gk text: ‘… with groans unexpressed/inexpressible’

[The word is alaletois – ‘a’ indicating a negation, ‘laletois’ – derived from laleo – I speak.]

[The context of this verse is that of suffering [ 8:17 -39]. Sometimes the suffering becomes so intense that we don’t even know what to say or how to pray. It is good to know that in these times the holy Spirit is groaning on our behalf.]

Some people understand this to refer to the ‘prayer language’ – a supposed variety of speaking in tongues. There is nothing in the context to validate this view. Indeed, the text itself indicates that this intercession is [1] done by the Holy Spirit, not by us, and [2] unexpressed or inexpressible or unutterable. Both of these descriptions rule out the interpretation that this refers to the believer speaking [that is, expressing, uttering] in tongues.

Romans 11:29

charisma

‘for God’s gifts and his calling are irrevocable’

The reference in context is to God’s election of the descendants of the patriarchs.

Romans 12:6-8

charisma

Paul refers to the different ‘gifts’ that members of the body of Christ have: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to needs of others, leadership, showing mercy. If we understand ‘prophesying’ to mean proclaiming the word of God, and not specifically foretelling the future, then all of the gifts mentioned in this list are not miraculous, spectacular gifts. They are not exclusively apostolic gifts, but the abilities that God gives to different individuals within the church. They are not in this passage called spiritual gifts. Nor do they function automatically – Paul commands the Romans to get on with the business of doing whatever it is that this gracious gift of God has equipped each of them to do, and to do it to their utmost.

Not apostolic or miraculous gifts

There is nothing in the text to indicate that these ‘gifts’ have to be classed as ‘spiritual gifts’. They could well be simply God-given natural talents, temperaments and abilities, or even learned abilities developed by God’s provision of environment, education and training, and refined for use in the church by the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing about seeking for these gifts, or preconditions that have to be met to get these gifts; rather we are commanded to use what we are and have by God’s grace. The context is offering our bodies as living sacrifices because of God’s mercy.

Romans 15:17-19

semeion

[ergon - ?]

teras

Paul refers to what Christ has accomplished through him in leading Gentiles to faith – ‘by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit’

[Greek text reads ‘by word and deed, in power of signs and wonders’; ‘ergon’ may or may not be a reference to miraculous works; Paul does not use it in that sense anywhere else.]

Paul’s ‘signs and wonders’ accompanied his messages; together with the message they were used by the Holy Spirit to bring people to faith.

Paul does not say anything to indicate every believer should do the same as he did.

2 Corinthians

  • Significant references to the indwelling Holy Spirit
  • References to poverty, suffering and weakness, with no expectation of health and wealth.
  • The only mention of miracles is a significant statement about signs, miracles and wonders as ‘the things that mark an apostle’.
  • No mention of speaking in languages
  • No mention of spiritual gifts

 

2 Cor 1:22

Indwelling Holy Spirit is God’s ‘seal of ownership’ and ‘a deposit guaranteeing what is to come’

True of every believer.

2 Cor 3:18

Transforming work of indwelling Spirit

2 Cor 4:7 – 5:4

Continuing presence of physical suffering and weakness in this life

Obvious that Paul does not expect physical perfection in this life

2 Cor 5:5

Indwelling Holy Spirit a deposit and guarantee of what is yet to come

True of every believer

2 Cor 6:6,10

Reference to hunger and poverty

No expectation of prosperity as the Christian’s right

2 Cor 8:1

‘the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches’ [grace = charis]

Reference to the ‘grace’ of generous, sacrificial giving

2 Cor 12:1-7

Paul refers to the visions and revelations he received directly from Christ.

This put him on a par with the apostles who were taught by Christ in person. This is a reference to his vision of Christ on the Damascus Road , and also to Christ personally revealing the truth to him. See Galatians 1:12. Paul never teaches that others should expect similar visions and revelations.

2 Cor 12:7-10

Paul refers to his physical ‘thorn in the flesh’ as a ‘messenger of Satan’; he also refers to his physical ‘weakness’.

Obvious that he does not expect physical perfection in this life. Nor does he expect to gain healing from someone with the gift of healing. He prayed for healing; when it was not granted he accepted it.

2 Cor 12:12

dunamis

semeion x 2

teras

The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance’ [by Paul in Corinth ].

Greek: ‘the signs of the apostle … signs, wonders and miracles’

Significant statement!

Miracles, signs and wonders were put forth by Paul to confirm his apostleship. If they were done by everyone they would not have this significance!

Part of Paul’s defence of his apostleship which was necessary because of the presence of false apostles [a large section of this letter – 10:1 – 12:13]

Galatians

 

Galatians 1:8

Rejection of messages of angels if they contain teaching different from the already revealed truth.

Galatians 1:11-12

‘I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ’

Paul was taught the truth directly by Jesus Christ. See 2 Cor. 12:1-7. Paul never indicates that others should seek such revelation. It is part of Christ’s commissioning him as an apostle.

Galatians 3:5

‘Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, …’

Greek: ‘the one who gives to you the Spirit and who works miracles among you, out of works of law or out of the hearing of faith’

Paul’s purpose in this reference is to indicate that not only salvation, but all of God’s gifts, including the gift of his Spirit and the presence of miracles among the Galatians, are on the basis of grace, not works.

From the context Paul appears to be referring to what happened when the Galatians first believed – they received the Spirit [verse 2], they began with the Spirit [verse 3]. That giving of the Spirit [verse 5] was on the basis of faith, not law.

Galatians 4:6

Indwelling Spirit

Galatians 4:13-14

Reference to Paul’s illness.

No expectation of miraculous healing. Sickness not inconsistent with faith.

Galatians 5:22-25

‘Fruit of the Spirit’, ‘we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit’

Impact and evidence of indwelling Spirit in the Christian life

Ephesians

 

Ephes 1;13,14

Holy Spirit given to all who believe as a seal, guarantee, deposit – part of the gift of salvation in Christ.

Ephesians 4:7-16

charis

dorea

doma

God placed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in the church to prepare the church for works of service etc, so that the church will be mature and able to stand fast in the presence of false doctrines.

Emphasis on teaching God’s truth.

Three different words for ‘gift’ are used here: ’charis’,dorea’ and ‘doma’ not ‘charisma’. Note that they are not spoken of as miraculous or spiritual gifts, but as given for the edification of the church.

Ephes 5:18

‘be filled with the Spirit’

Same verb [pleroo] as used in Acts to refer to a continuing condition of life lived under the control and direction of the Spirit. Passive. Present continuous. Here in Ephesians it is a command. In Acts it was a description.

Letters to Thessalonians and Timothy

 

2 Thess 2:9

semeion

teras

dunamis

‘The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders ….’

Miracles done by power of evil

1 Timothy 4:14

charisma

Timothy urged not to neglect his gift which he received when the elders laid hands on him. The context is speaking about teaching [verses 11-16] and the broader context of the chapter is the presence of false teaching.

Most likely the ‘gift’ of teaching or pasturing, as both of these responsibilities were faced by Timothy and encouraged by Paul.

These are the only references in the NT to a ‘gift’ being received by the laying on of hands. In this context this could be a reference to Timothy’s commission or appointment, rather than to a ‘spiritual gift’. As we have seen in previous studies, Paul referred to his own commission as a ‘gift’ and as a ‘grace’. If they are speaking of Timothy’s calling, then they are similar to Ananias’ laying hands on Saul (Paul) in Acts 9:17, at which time not only was his sight restored, but he also was given Christ’s commission [Acts 22:14-15], and to the Antioch elders laying hands on Paul and Barnabas to commission them for the work [Acts 13:3].

2 Tim 1:6 charisma

A further reference to Timothy’s ‘gift’ – this time received when Paul laid hands on him. The context is that of knowledge of the scripture [verse 3-5] and teaching the truth boldly even in the context of persecution [8-13], and false teaching [rest of the letter.]

Hebrews to Revelation

  • No reference to speaking in languages
  • No reference to sign gifts
  • Reference to teaching and service gifts
  • One significant reference to miracles, signs and wonders as God’s confirmation of the apostolic message
  • All other references to miracles [‘signs’] are to those done by Satan and his servants.

 

Hebrews 2:3-4

semeion

teras

dunamis

merismos

‘This salvation was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.’

‘gifts’ = merismos , which means a dividing, hence ‘distribution’ [in NT only here & Heb 4:12 ]

Signs, wonders, miracles and ‘distributions’ of the Holy Spirit given to confirm the apostles’ message of salvation in Christ.

1 Peter 4:10

charisma

Everyone should use whatever charisma he has to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace – charis – in its various forms.

[Context refers to love, hospitality, serving, speaking; also in context is clear-mindedness and self-control.]

Context indicates commands to be obeyed, not ecstatic, spontaneous expressions.

Rev 11:3-6

Two faithful witnesses have miraculous power. [No use of the word ‘miraculous’].

Interpretation of this depends on one’s eschatological viewpoint.

Rev 12:1,3

Semeion x 2

‘A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven … then another sign appeared in heaven’

Symbolic passage. Not a reference to miracles.

Rev 13:13-15

semeion x 2

Beast performed great and miraculous signs …deceived the inhabitants of the earth

Miracles done by power of evil

[‘miraculous’ not in Greek text]

Rev 15:1

semeion

‘I saw in heaven another great and marvellous sign …’

Symbolic passage. Not a reference to miracles.

Rev 16:14

semeion

Spirits of the demons performing miraculous signs

[The word ‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text.]

Miracles done by power of evil

Rev 19:20

semeion

Miraculous signs wrought by the false prophet – deluded people. [‘miraculous’ not in Greek text]

Miracles done by power of evil