The miracles of the New Testament were never intended to endure unendingly. Their era is limited, and by the role and purpose of miracles. If God provided early saints with the capacity to perform the supernatural in order to confirm the preaching of the gospel while the epistles and narratives were being composed, then the miracles would have fully served their purpose when the New Testament was completely written. As a parsimonious being, God would not allow the confirming miracles to endure beyond the time when they would be needed. In the first century, they relied upon the miracles to corroborate their message. Now we can use the Bible to substantiate itself. Since the completed New Testament can validate itself as from God, we have no need for miracles, so God has taken them away.
That Which Is Perfect
Of course, Scripture confirms this. The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians is known as the “love chapter.” But it is set in the three-chapter context of the proper use of miracles. Paul’s point is that love is more important than any supernatural capacity. After detailing the high value of love, Paul says three things will disappear: prophecies, tongues, and knowledge (v.8). Since knowledge is joined to prophecies and tongues, it is clearly miraculous knowledge, such as inspiration.
Following this, Paul says, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part” (v.9). The phrase “in part” does not mean partially, as if they know and prophesy the whole gospel message piecemeal. It’s closer to our notion of temporary, or put into the context, we know and prophesy by a temporary means, which is miraculously. It cannot be any clearer that miracles were always designed to be temporary, which means they were intended to cease.
In the next verse, Paul says, “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away” (v.10). The Pentecostalists insist this refers to the Second Coming of Jesus, but note that this says that which, not He who is perfect. This is borne out in the original language where “that which is perfect” is in the neuter gender. Contextually, “that which is perfect” is the completed revelation of the gospel.
Paul ties the subject of the miraculous with the context of love with the last verse in the chapter: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love” (v.13). Even after that which is perfect is taken away, faith, hope, and love will still exist. Love is the greatest because it is the only one of the three which is eternal. After Jesus comes, faith shall become sight and hope will be reality, but love will continue in Heaven. If the miracles are to be removed with the Second Coming, then we have an absurdity within this verse. Faith and hope will not continue after Jesus returns, but they will remain after that which is in part shall be done away. Notice how the miracles cannot be taken away with the end of time and the beginning of eternity, where faith and hope will continue, and at the same time end.
The Unity Of The Faith
Another passage to consider is taken from the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to Ephesus: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (v.11). The apostles and prophets can only exist in the time of the miraculous, so the reference to evangelists, pastors, and teachers should also be assumed to be supernaturally-aided roles. We have evangelists, pastors (elders in the local congregations), and teachers today, but they are aided by God indirectly through the word of God.
The purpose of this arrangement is so that saints can be equipped to perform the work of ministry, and this work is for the intent that the church may be edified (v.12). These apostles and prophets will do their supernatural work “till we all come to the unity of the faith” (v.13). This does not mean we will have miracles until we all believe the same thing, for that already existed within the Ephesian congregation (Ephesians 4:1-3). They are encouraged to keep their unity, which means they already possessed it.
Many times, “the faith” is a phrase Paul uses to describe the New Testament message of the gospel. The unity of the faith is the completely revealed New Testament in a single unified form. This is not a reference to a single printed New Testament, which would come later. The unity of the faith is the New Testament Scriptures when they are completely written.
Time Of Apostles
If there are miracles today, then there are apostles today. If it is impossible for there to be apostles in our time, then it is also impossible for miracles to exist in our time. Apostles were called out particularly by Jesus for the purpose of leading in world evangelism. There were two qualifications for an apostle. These are listed by Peter when a replacement for Judas was being indicated. Those qualifications are the person had to be a disciple of Jesus for the three years He ministered beginning with His baptism and they must be an eyewitness to His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22).
Of all the disciples, only two men were qualified. Matthias was selected and Justus was not. Notice that a man qualified to be an apostle never was appointed by Christ. Paul was also an apostle. He met the qualifications, but in reverse order. He witnessed the raised body of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-5). After this, he was with the Lord for three years in the Arabian wilderness where he was taught all that the other apostles were taught (Galatians 1:12,15-18).
Not only did Paul witness the Resurrection of Jesus, by inspiration he notes that he was the last in human history to see this until He returns (First Corinthians 15:8). He was the last appointed by Jesus and the last possible one who even could be qualified. Of all the disciples of Christ, only fifteen men were ever qualified to be apostles, the original twelve, Matthias, Justus, and Paul. Only fourteen were ever appointed.
Plainly, no one alive now fits the bill. And as there are no apostles today, there are no miracles today. In fact, the only way a non-apostle could perform miracles was if an apostle laid hands on them to confer this ability. Philip the evangelist performs miracles and preaches in Samaria (Acts 8:5-7). But those who believed and were baptized were not given the Spirit until Peter and John came down from Jerusalem (Acts 8:14-17). If Philip could have transmitted this ability, he would have, but it took the apostles to bring this about.
This does not mean that every time hands are laid on someone that it is passing on the miracles. That gesture was a common idiom in the Jewish world. The deacons selected for the Jerusalem church had the apostles’s hands laid on them (Acts 6:6), but they were already filled with the Spirit (Acts 6:5). The laying on of hands had nothing to do with the miraculous, but to grant their deaconship.
Timothy had the gift of prophecy in him by the laying on of Paul’s hands (Second Timothy 1:6). There is a reference to the gift of prophecy and the laying on the hands of the elders in the first letter (First Timothy 4:14). There is a vital difference in the two passages. The first text says his gift was “through” the elders’s hands, and the second say it was “by” Paul’s hands. Timothy received the gift of prophecy by the laying on of Paul’s hands. Before this, the elders laid hands on him and prophesied that he would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was a supernatural ability Paul gave to Timothy in accordance to the Ephesian reference to what was appointed Christ until we come to the unity of the faith.
As you may guess, the Pentecostals insist the unity of the faith has to do with the Second Coming of Jesus, although they strain greatly to even make anything close to a convincing argument. Regardless of what this means, it clearly does not mean that. It’s just the answer they must give to protect their doctrine. But the context of the chapter will not allow this interpretation.
First, Paul says that the church may use this unity of the faith to effectively handle false teachers (v.14). If we will not reach the unity of the faith until Jesus comes, then we will have to deal with false teachers in Heaven. This is absurd, so the unity of the faith must mean something else.
Second, the church may also use this unity of the faith to mutually encourage one another and grow. There will be no need for edification and growth in Heaven. In contrast to the Pentecostal line, the clear truth serves to purposes mentioned in the context. We who live after the times of miracles can use the Bible inspired by God to protect ourselves from false teachers and to mutually edify each other and grow as a spiritual body.
The New Testament teaches plainly that the miracles were limited to the first century. Scripture makes that plain, plus it fits the purpose of miracles. It may help to think of the miracles as scaffolding around a building during its time of construction. The scaffolding is put in place to aid the builders while any structure is being built. But once it is done, the scaffolding is taken away. The miracles were the scaffolding of Scripture – they were removed when they were no longer necessary, but the word of God will last forever.