Friday, October 8, 2010

Why So Few Miracles In Today's Churches?

A Lutheran missionary to Cambodia visited me in Phnom Penh to ask for some advice about casting out demons. He did not know what to do with a demon-possessed person in his congregation at Siem Reap. He said that in his denomination and Bible College, he was never taught how to cast out demons. After showing him how to use his God-given authority to cast out evil spirits, he was able to return later to tell me that he had successfully cast out the evil spirits from the afflicted person.

For many Evangelical denominations, miracles do not exist at all because according to their leaders, the Bible teaches that all miracles have ceased. They based upon the assumption that God did miracles in the past only for the reason of confirming God's word. To them, not only miracles have ceased but the spiritual gifts particularly tongues and prophecy have also ceased.

Taking 1 Corinthians 13:10, they interpret the Greek word, 'tevleio' which means 'completion' to mean the 'completion' in writing the Bible rather than the completion of the Age. The context of this verse has no indication that Paul even had this in mind when he wrote to the Corinthian Christians.

The basic rule of interpretation is always the Bible never says what it never did say. However, this traditional argument depicts the 'completion of the Bible' has been accepted by most Evangelical mainline churches to such an extent that it has become almost synonymous to biblical truth.

What Does "Perfection" Of 1 Corinthians 13 Mean?
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10 - NKJV)
Paul was referring to the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge as 'that which is in part'. Unlike love, these sign gifts will cease when the 'perfect has come'. Paul had in mind something better would come to replace the temporal gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge.

The interpretive difficulty is around the word, 'tevleio' in 13:10.

One interpretation leans heavily on the following verse 11 which was Paul encouraging the Corinthian Christians to mature by using the imagery of a child and an adult. Such interpretation claims that 'tevleio' is used to indicate the distinction between immaturity and maturity.

This interpretation cannot stand because firstly, the distinction made by Paul was that the gifts were partial and not the people. Therefore when the 'perfection' comes, the temporal gifts will be done away with and not the people.

Secondly, the Bible is clear that spiritual maturity will never be able to achieve what Paul had said in verse 12, "Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." To attain the kind of knowing and being fully known, it has to be something more than just spiritual maturity.

What would allow the Corinthian Christians to see "face to face" and to have perfect knowledge? The common cessationist interpretation states that this will happen when the Bible is completed and canonized. However, the Bible does not allow us to see "face to face" or to acquire perfect knowledge.

Another evidence that this interpretation is flawed is that Paul and his audience had no idea about the canonization of the Scripture. Moreover, the Bible mentions that knowledge and prophecy continue to be in operation beyond the present modern age.
And it shall come to pass afterwardThat I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)
In the Acts of the Apostles, the prophecy was claimed to be fulfilled. Literally, people of very low status in society were being filled with the Holy Spirit. Unlike in the Old Testament, where only the leaders and prophets were sporadically filled with the Holy Spirit, God now gives His Holy Spirit to the whole Church.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams. (Acts 2:17)
To deny that the power and gifts of God continue to this day, is to allow our prejudices to limit not only our ministry but the working of the Lord in our churches. That is the reason why today, Western churches are on the decline because they do not encounter the reality of the power and presence of God. The Western churches have taught that God's miracles and spiritual gifts are no longer in operation and thus cause their church members to be deprived of very authentic spiritual experience endorsed by the Bible.

The only way to rectify this is for the church leadership to sincerely read the bible again without the artificial restrictive categories developed by man. Let the bible speak and do not keep saying, this miracle or that sign will never happen today. Try to heal someone in the name of Jesus and once there is good result, you will stop justifying or explaining why miracles cannot happen today.


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