1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 81
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|God is the God of purpose. He does not ask our opinion; however, by His grace He allows us to participate in His purposes. Only God’s grace allows us to participate in His purposes. He establishes the rules. The rules are, priority number one, that we surrender to Him. That is the only way we get to participate.|
1 Corinthians 12:9-10
To Each His Own – Part 4
Turn to 1 Corinthians 12:10, and we are not going to leave it. We are going to stay right there. I told you we are going to go very, very slow in this. Hopefully we will have a balance of understanding when we come out of it. We are talking about “To Each His Own,” and this is Part 4.
We cannot leave the context because of what Paul is doing here. God is the God of purpose. He does not ask our opinion; however, by His grace He allows us to participate in His purposes. Only God’s grace allows us to participate in His purposes. He establishes the rules. The rules are, priority number one, that we surrender to Him. That is the only way we get to participate. If we are not willing to surrender to Him as the Corinthians were not willing to surrender, then we don’t get to participate in His life and His character and His power. We don’t get to participate in His eternal purposes that He is working on this earth. Obviously He is always working in our lives, but when we don’t surrender we are not the vessel through which God can continue His works. So surrender, surrender, surrender, surrender. That is the key word to walking with God. By faith we access grace. By faith we appropriate grace, and you cannot separate faith from surrender.
Now, the manifestations that were going on at Corinth, evidently, had captivated these immature, upside down believers. The word “manifestation” appears in verse 7, and I don’t see any reason for it being there unless it is trying to tell us something. Paul could easily have said to each one is given the gift, the ministry and the effect so that all would be benefited from it. But he doesn’t. He says, “For the manifestations of the Spirit.”
That word “manifestation” captures my attention. It should capture yours. It means something that is brought to light, something that is made visible so people can see. Now the Corinthian church had been enamored by these manifestations that were going on. Many of them were speaking in the name of Jesus, in the name of the Holy Spirit, but they were not speaking as God says they must speak. God does choose to manifest Himself through believers, but not in the way it was going on in Corinth. In verse 8, remember, he is not teaching a full teaching here on gifts. I do not believe that. He is trying to set an upside down situation right side up.
In verse 8 Paul approaches the equipping gifts. Basically he is saying, “Yes, God does manifest Himself through believers who speak to the body of Christ, but they will speak the Word. They will have wisdom and it will be the word of knowledge.” Both of these are always interplayed when the person is speaking to the body, but the emphasis will be on one or the other, depending upon the gifted one who is speaking. Wisdom is the ability to take scripture and apply it to everyday life, the ability to take deep, deep complex truths and bring it down to where they could be clarified and understood. And so he says He does manifest Himself this way, but it will always be wrapped around scripture, it will always be very succinct in that purpose.
But then Paul moves into the category we have been camped out in for a while, and that is what I call the extraordinary gifts. They are found in verses 9 and 10. We saw the definition of miracles, what they actually are, and also we began to look at the diversity of miracles. Now remember, “the effecting” and “miracles” is in the plural. We have only looked at the miraculous ordinary. To see the whole picture here and the diversity of them, you have got to step over into the extraordinary. We are just continuing that point. So the diversity of miracles continues.
Verse 10 of chapter 12 reads, “And to another, the effecting of miracles.” Now, when God chooses to step across laws that He Himself has established and do the extraordinary, that is usually in scripture called either signs or wonders or miracles. Sometimes it is called one of the three, or all three, whatever category you put it. These are the times, as I said, God goes beyond any created ability, anything that we would ever have or could understand down here. He steps over the boundary of His own laws. Now, except for Christ Himself, none of the participants of the effects of God’s power in scripture had any power on their own. Except for Christ Himself, who is the Power, none other who had seen these miracles take place had any power whatsoever on their own.
We need to realize that Jesus and the apostles did the miracles for basically two reasons. First of all, to authenticate who they were, to give authenticity to who they were; the Lord Jesus to being the Son of God, the apostles to being His commissioned apostles who were writing to the churches and were sent with His message to the world. That was the first reason they did it, to give credibility to who they were. Miracles never saved anybody, but to give credibility to who they were.
But then, secondly, so that the Jews specifically could believe in Christ. Now, it is going to take me a while to work that one out. But the reason the apostles began with the miracles was so that the Jews could come to know Christ. Jesus began that Himself. That was His end result reason. He wanted to point to who He was so that the Jewish nation, Israel, could see that He was the Christ. But then He passes that right on to the apostles and the same thing is continued. Remember, He said, “To the Jew first and then to the Greek.”
Well, we have to start with the Lord Jesus first, so let’s just go ahead and enter in. His extraordinary healings were most definitely in the class of miracles. But even at that, again, it was always to draw attention for the Jews to who He was. He came to the lost sheep of Israel. He did the miracles so that the Jews would know. Now the illustration of this was when He went to Bethesda. And when He went there, He healed only one person. Why didn’t He heal all of them? Many times in scripture it says He is moved with compassion. Well, if He was moved with compassion, why doesn’t He heal them all? Remember, God is a God of purpose. We don’t always understand that purpose, but we know that when He stepped across the ordinary to do the extraordinary, it wasn’t in the masses. It was usually in this one or that one. He only healed one in Bethesda, and He was very calculating, He did it on the Sabbath. Now who do you think that is going to irritate? The leaders of the Jews, boy, they really got upset.
In John 5:16, right after He had done this, it says, “And for this reason, the Jews were persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.” They completely overlooked what He did. But then the Lord Jesus connects something here. And in answering them, He connects what He just did on the Sabbath, the healing, with the fact that He is the Son of God the Father. He says in John 5:17, “But He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now and I, Myself, am working.’” You see, He identifies Himself through His healing and on the Sabbath with the fact that He is the Son. All of that was done, not just for the physical benefit of that man, but so that Israel could look and say, “Yes, here is our Messiah.” Israel as a nation was rejecting Him daily as being their Messiah, and He was trying to show them that He was the one sent from God, promised to Abraham.
It was His miracles that drew Nicodemus to Him. Nicodemus was a very educated man. As a matter of fact, Jesus said, “If you are so educated, can’t you figure out the fact that you need to be born again?” He says in John 3:2, “No man can do the signs and wonders you do except he be from God.” That is what Nicodemus told Jesus. He came at night. It was the miracles that were the magnet. The miracles drew the people to Christ, so they could hear the message of you must be born again.
Over and over, as we follow Him through the pages of the gospels, we see Him doing the miraculous. You will not see it as consistent with anybody in scripture except for the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, John, when he wrote his gospel, in John 20:31 stated why he put the miracles and the signs and the wonders that were there. He said in verse 31, “But these miracles have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing that you may have life in His name.” The specific purpose of the miracles was not only to give authenticity to who He was, but also so that the Jews would recognize it and come to believe on Him. He came for the lost sheep of Israel.
Now, of course, He went to the cross to bear our sin debt. He paid a debt He didn’t owe; we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. He went back to be with the Father, and today He is with the Father. There is a man in heaven at the right hand of the Father, the God-man. What a precious thought. He is our representative in heaven today. But He sends His Spirit, His life now, comes to live in us, the person of the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. And He chooses, as we walk through scripture, to continue to do His work. But now He has a select group of people, called the apostles, through whom He continued His work after He had gone back to be with the Father.
Nothing has changed, really; the same purpose. Jesus is still here in the person of His Spirit with the apostles continuing to try to reach Israel with the message of the gospel. And so that message of the gospel could be effectively heard, He gave them the signs and the wonders to these apostles. He gave the miracles to them so that they, too, could have that authentic understanding and credential so that when they stood before people, people would listen to what they said. But not one thing had changed.
Now, on earth He continues His work. The first one that we want to look at is the apostle Paul. As a matter of fact, he is the most apparent, the most visible in the New Testament. He wrote about two-thirds of it. Now he was an apostle. In Romans 1:1, in 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1, he is called an apostle. Is that important? Oh, my goodness, yes. If you don’t see this, I have failed in trying to communicate to you what I believe the word of God is teaching. We see the pattern consistent with the Lord Jesus Christ to do the extraordinary works. Why? So that the Jews might believe on Him and be saved. But then we also see another group, where we also see a consistent pattern of effective, extraordinary miracles done through them and that is the group called the apostles. Now, we may have the apostles today in the generic sense, like a missionary, one sent forth with a message. You could use it that way, I guess, but not in the way they were here. They had to be the witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ. They had to be commissioned by the Lord Jesus Himself.
Now God uses this converted Jew, by the name of Paul, to go to the Gentile world. And He uses him to reach them. And you say, “Well, I thought the miracles then were to reach the Jews. Paul was a missionary to the Gentiles.” Oh listen, don’t you understand? Paul himself explains it. He says in Romans 10:19, “But I say, ‘Surely Israel did not know, did they?’ At the first Moses says I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you.” Do you know what he was saying? He said the Gentiles have always been included in the covenant to Abraham, but the group that was to take the message was the Jews and they rejected Christ. And he says, “Listen, by all these Gentiles coming to know Christ, that is going to cause Israel to be jealous so that maybe they can come to know Christ.” Even when Paul was working with the Gentiles, Israel was still on God’s mind.
Romans 11:11 says, “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be. But by their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” Why? To make them, the Jews, jealous. So even though Paul was still continuing to experience the extraordinary miracles and his mission was mainly to the Gentile world, it still had, and he had on his heart, that the Jews would come to know Christ.
But there is no question, there is no question, the apostle Paul did experience extraordinary miracles of God. You know many of them. But just take for instance when he was on the island of Cyprus. Paul encountered a certain sorcerer, a false prophet by the name of Elymas. Elymas was trying to hinder the gospel getting to the deputy of the country by the name of Sergius Paulus. He didn’t want him to believe, and so he was intervening in this thing.
Acts 13:6 picks up the story. “And when they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus [now that is the main guy], a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for thus his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him.” Mark that verse, I am coming back to it. Verse 10 continues, “And said, ‘You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil,” come on, Paul, tell us what you think, “you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.’” In other words, he is totally blind. “And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.” Boy, a miracle happened at that moment. “The proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.”
You see, it wasn’t the miracle. It was the teaching and the miracle combined, and that is why God did this through the apostles. It was to bring unbelievers to see that Christ was who He said He was. Well, we see Paul supernaturally being overpowered by the Holy Spirit of God. Now does that happen every day in Paul’s life? If you study his life, you know that it did not. As a matter of fact, in Acts 13:9 which we just read, the verse said, “But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him.”
Now, that little term “filled with the Holy Spirit” could throw you if you didn’t understand it. Aorist passive. The term “being filled with the Holy Spirit” was not the previous filling of the Holy Spirit; that is when you get saved. When the Holy Spirit comes into your life, you don’t ever get any more of God, of His presence in your life than you do that day. But what he is talking about here, he doesn’t say you are full of the Holy Spirit, that would have pointed to that experience. The power that came on Paul that day was just an extraordinary dose of the power of God. God just gave him a rationale. He gave him an intelligence to know what to do, told him what to do and Paul, with authority, acted upon it. But it was not something that Paul could hang a shingle up and say, “Hey, come here, buddy. You want some of me, I will do it to you, too. I will strike you blind.” He didn’t have that power. He just happened to be there and the Spirit of God overpowered him to do that. It was an extraordinary thing that a man could speak to another man and cause that man to be blind. But it wasn’t the power of Paul, it was the power of God being effected in and through the apostle Paul. He did that with the apostles and particularly Paul. The extraordinary happened through Paul but not by Paul. You have got to keep that in your mind. This was not Paul, this was God who was in Paul.
In Acts 16:18 we have another situation when the extraordinary happened in the life of Paul with the Gentile world. He was being hounded daily in Philippi by a demon-possessed girl. You know the story. Days went by and Paul did nothing. Why did he do nothing? Because he acted in reflex to what God told him to do. And that is very significant to me. Verse 18 of that same chapter says, “And she continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed.” You know, it is one thing to annoy me but it is another thing to annoy the apostle Paul. And God chose in that moment his being annoyed, to do something. He says, “And turned and said to the demonic spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out at that very moment.”
Now if you will follow the text on down, why did that miracle happen that day of casting a demon out of that woman? Well, they got upset about it. As a matter of fact, they falsely accused him and put him in jail in Philippi. You do remember that in jail is when the doors opened and the earthquake came and Paul and Silas stayed there and as a result of it, the Philippian jailer, seeing all of these things that had happened, heard the teaching and got saved and his whole household. That is what extraordinary miracles are for, to get people’s attention, particularly the Jews so that they can see that Jesus is the Christ. Then they will have an audience so they can hear what the word of God has to say.
In Acts 19:11, the first few words says, “And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul.” You can’t find anybody who had any more extraordinary miracles happen through them as you would the apostle Paul. But again, the miracles were assigned to the unbeliever, primarily the Jews. Yes, the unbelievers and certainly even to encourage the believers, but the primary purpose that Jesus did them and then transferred it over to the apostles was so that Israel could wake up and recognize their Messiah had come and that they might come to believe in Him. Outside of Jesus and outside of the apostles, you do not find any consistency of any kind of pattern when it comes to extraordinary miracles in the word of God when it comes to the effecting of miracles.
Now, please understand this because if you don’t understand this, you are going to get imbalanced, always looking for a miracle when you are living in one constantly. This is what happens to people, they get so confused in the whole matter. Look over in Hebrews 2:3-4. The apostle who wrote this, we don’t know who it was, had a lot of Pauline theology if you have ever studied Hebrews. Some of the phrases there are just exactly what Paul has said in other epistles. We don’t know who wrote it. Hebrews 2:3-4 says, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders,” and watch, watch the pronouns here, “it was confirmed to us by those, those, us, those.” And then it says, “God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” Who were the “those” and who were the “them”? That is the apostles.
Do you realize that Jesus didn’t come into mass evangelism? There were crowds that came, but when those crowds came, He was not speaking to them, He was speaking to His disciples. He came and sunk His life into twelve men who became the apostles later on. And it was these men who had heard. Jesus even told them that “the Spirit of God will bring to remembrance the things I have taught you.” And it was these men who were a part of the extraordinary miracles. Why? Because God came to live in them, they penned the New Testament for us. They were the ones who wrote scripture. And to give them the credentials they needed, He gave them the effects of the powers of God so that the miracles would be in them just like they were in Him. The purpose had not changed whatsoever. Those who heard, the “them”, were the apostles.
Now the miracles themselves were never meant to in any way engender faith unto salvation. Miracles cannot cause salvation. This is another thing that you need to think about as you go through this. All they are is an emotional high, and you do get overwhelmed by them. However, once it is gone, now what? Miracles cannot engender faith unto salvation, but they are meant to favorably put the people into such a manner that they are willing to listen to the scriptures from which faith comes. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 says that. This is proven, this whole thing is proven. When the extraordinary miracles took place, it gave audience to a message and when you marry the two together, it was absolutely indestructible because in the message then came the power of salvation.
The people heard the apostles speak on the Day of Pentecost. This is a perfect example of this. Do you think that wasn’t a miracle on that day? It really wasn’t the speaking as much as it was the hearing. There were people there from all different dialects and they began to hear in their own language. Some of them said these men are full of new wine. In other words, what in the world were they doing? Because they knew the languages they spoke and they were hearing them a different way. They said, “Man, these guys are crazy, they are drunk.” But I will tell you what happened. Even though there were skeptics, the crowd began to build and somebody said, “Hey, come over here. You won’t believe what is going on over here.” All of a sudden the crowd began to gather. Why? So that later on, Peter could preach his message and many of them could become saved. The crowd didn’t come to the miracle of the speaking in tongues there that day so that they could get saved, that was just what got their attention.
Acts 2:6 says, “And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together and were bewildered because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language.” That didn’t save them, as I have already shared. Peter goes on to preach his famous sermon and thousands came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the miracle that got their attention. It was the miracle, it was the magnet, just like it was with Jesus. Here are the apostles doing the same things. But it was the teaching of the word of God that led the people to salvation. Now these special manifestations of God’s powers, these extraordinary things that God has chosen to do throughout time, called powers as we see in 1 Corinthians 12:10, were meant again to persuade unbelievers, particularly the Jews. And that authority and credibility was given from Jesus when He went back to be with the Father to the apostles.
But in this whole scope of the extraordinary, there is one other thing that we have got to look at. I am telling you, this is where people make their mistake. Do you realize that when we study Revelation, we bring in history, we bring in culture? Do you realize when we studied Daniel 11, we bring in history and we bring in culture? Any other book we study we bring in and consider that as a fact that must be factored in. But isn’t it interesting when you come to something like 1 Corinthians 12, you throw all that way? Do you know why I think that is? I think we have read too many books, folks, said too many things, written too many things, and now we are ashamed to have to go back and say, “You know what, I think I might be wrong.” And as the reason for it, we shut out anything that might come against what we have heard and therefore, what we have accepted for years about these kinds of gifts.
I tell you what, I am in the same category. I have taught on gifts many times in my life, but God has so overwhelmed me as I have come to 1 Corinthians 12. Do you know why? Because never in my life have I ever taught on 1 Corinthians 1-11. No wonder my doctrine was so upside down. No wonder I took one and another and another and lopped them all together and made it a big list. Listen, you can’t do that with 1 Corinthians. He has got a distorted group of people and he is trying to put them back on their feet. The one thing they don’t understand are the manifestations of this happening in their church that people are saying are caused by the Holy Spirit of God. He is trying to put sense back into the church.
I want you to see Ephesians 4:11, which was written by the same man who wrote 1 Corinthians 12. This is very, very important. He is going to talk about gifts, but he has shifted his gears by chapter 4 of Ephesians. There he only mentions the apostles and the prophets and he mentions the evangelists and the pastors and the teachers. Look in Ephesians 4:11. I just want you to see what I am talking about. He leaves out five of the six extraordinary gifts, completely leaves them out. They only show up in 1 Corinthians 12. You will not find them anywhere else. He does lend tendency to prophecy, or he mentions the prophet. You could tie them together. I have no fault with that. But look at Ephesians 4:11. “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”
Look over in Romans 12:3-8 where Paul is once again silent about five of the extraordinary gifts. He does mention prophecy, as we will talk about later on because it is in this list of extraordinary gifts of 1 Corinthians 12. Now let me ask you a question now, and I don’t want you to answer it. This is one of those rhetorical questions you go home and think about. Why does he leave out these five or six extraordinary gifts that only happen as a pattern with Jesus and the apostles? The same apostle wrote all three epistles. If it is that important to Corinth, it ought to be that important to Ephesus. And if it is that important to Ephesus, it ought to be that important to Rome.
To give us a clue, we must look at the dates when these epistles were written. Here is where history steps in because we do know almost the exact dates of some of these. We know the ball park of them in the years that they were written. First Corinthians is the oldest of those three books that were written. It was written somewhere around AD 58. It was written from Ephesus. You find that in Acts 20:31. You find that in 1 Corinthians 16:5-8. So it was written in Ephesus. And the historical evidence shows that it was written around AD 59. Now the next book that is written that we quoted was Romans. Romans was written from Corinth in AD 60, a year later during Paul’s third visit to that city. That is 2 Corinthians 13:1. The last one to be written is Ephesians, written from prison in Rome, Acts 20 through 27, all those chapters cover that, in AD 64.
Now think about that: 59—1 Corinthians; 60—Romans; and then 64—Ephesians. That is so we can see that all these gifts are mentioned in AD 59 to the Corinthians church, but not later to the Romans in AD 60. Why? What is the significance here? And in Ephesians in AD 64? The question comes to your mind, were they not needed anymore? Did they cease to have any effect as far as God’s purpose in doing them? Now listen, before we go any further —and I can’t really answer that question fully—but before we go any further, does God ever do something and then break the pattern and not do it anymore? Is there anything in scripture that would show us that God just does what He does, when He chooses to do it and if He decides to put a halt on it, He puts a halt on it? I hope you are nodding your head yes, because if you have ever studied the Old Testament, all the miraculous things that God did were done with no real pattern but only to accomplish His purpose.
You think of Moses. He called Moses to liberate the Israelites from their bondage to Egypt. Moses hesitated. He said, “Lord, I can’t do it. I cannot speak with authority. How can I be an ambassador for you and I can’t even speak, I stutter.” And God, “Okay, that’s all right. I will give you Aaron.” However, in his weakness, He also gave him something else. What was that? He said I want you to go out there and get you a rod. You know, that is a simple stick. Do you think there was any power in that rod? No. Termites, maybe; but not any power in it. But He said, “You go get that rod.” And God stepped in with the extraordinary things that He would do to give Moses who had no authority of speech, who could not speak as an ambassador for God, He gave him that which put him as the authority figure in front of not only Pharaoh but in front of all of Israel.
You say, “Wow, that is good.” How long did he keep it? Well, I’ll tell you this, he didn’t make it into the Promised Land. Isn’t it interesting? Well, I thought if you had this gift, it built your ego and built your ministry and called attention to you. Are you kidding me? Moses was a bigger louse after he got it than before he had it. It was by the grace of God that He even gave it to him. And then one day in his anger, he struck the rock three times. You know the story. And God just said, “You can’t go into the Promised Land.” And He kept him from going into the Promised Land. Wow. I bet that was real impressive to all of his family. Oh, we are so proud of you because you are the one that stood up there and said, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord,” and the whole Red Sea parted. Now look at you. You see, it wasn’t to build the ego of man, it was the purpose of God. And when God was through with it, He stopped it. Do you see anybody else picking up a rod and taking it on through scripture if that is supposed to be a consistent pattern? No!
Joseph, who preceded Moses, was given an extraordinary ability, as He did Daniel, to interpret dreams, not his own. He probably didn’t know he had them. God gave him that ability. When God chose to do it, He chose to do it for the period of time that He chose to do it. It wasn’t something He did every day. How many years did he spend in prison? He had a great family life. Talk about a dysfunctional family, his brothers sold him into slavery. They threw him into a pit. Man, what a life. But one day, God said, “It is time. My purpose has come around. I am very calculated and now since it is time, come here, come here, Joseph.” Now, He gave him that power. He did the same thing with Daniel.
But do you see others doing it all the way through scripture? No. We have people even today trying to get into interpretation of dreams. But they had it at a certain time for a specific purpose and then it stopped. Elijah was the mighty prophet of God who fought against the prophets of Baal. I have been on Mt. Carmel and you just have to put yourself into that situation. When he was up there, and he was just making fun of those gods. He even told them, “What is the matter with your gods? Are they taking a nap? What is going on here?” I mean he would just banter them back and forth. Then he just called down fire from heaven and it destroyed everything that was there. Everything he told them was going to happen, after he put water all over it, happened. And then what did he do? He heard that Jezebel was coming. And so what did this great man of God do? He ran like a scalded dog! Of course, I don’t really blame him. There are some mean women out there. But he ran away from her. He just took off running. And God finally took him over to the Brook of Sharon at one point in his life and said, “Okay, I am going to feed you supernaturally by the ravens.” And one day God said, “That is enough,” so He let that stop and the brook dried up. Then he went over to Zerapath, a pagan city, and had a heathen woman to feed him for a while, just to keep him balanced. But God did extraordinary things through Elijah. You don’t see that anywhere else in scripture.
You come on into the New Testament and the only exception you can find to the whole rule is the Lord Jesus Himself. I want to tell you something. Jesus not only was a miracle worker, Jesus was a miracle. He is the supernatural God-man. And whatever He did, He did and don’t ever question it. It was consistent, and He continues to do through His people even today. You find Him to be the exception. Others, it started, it stopped, it would start, it would stop. It was when God wanted it to happen, He let it happen. But then the consistency and the pattern would drop off.
Now when you take that right into the lives of the apostles, absolutely you have to see the very same thing because the apostles were used for a specific purpose at a specific time and there was a pattern of extraordinary miracles that God did through them. But, did it come to a point that it ceased?
Now that is the question we have got to answer before we get out of here. Did it come to a point that it ceased? Now go back to those dates that I gave you. In AD 59 he wrote 1 Corinthians, AD 60 he wrote Romans, AD 64 he wrote Ephesians. Now in AD 62, Paul arrives in Rome in chains. Acts 28:17 picks up the story. Paul is in chains in Rome. And the first thing he does, he calls all the chief Jews together. He has a message for Israel and he wants them to hear it, that Christ is who He said He was. He is the Messiah, Yeshua. He is the one they have been looking forward to coming. He has come. He has died. He has gone back to be with the Father. Salvation is open to the Jewish people if they will just understand that Jesus is their Messiah.
So Acts 28:17 says, “And it happened that after three days he called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they had come together, he began saying to them, ‘Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people, or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.” He wants to make sure he did no crime. All he did was preach the message he was about to restate to them. You drop down to verse 25 and he quotes out of Isaiah at the unbelief and the hard heartedness of Israel and it all comes into play now. He is giving a final message to them. It says in verse 25, “And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word.” Here is what he said and it caused many of them to walk away, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say, you will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I should healt them.”
Then he closes in verse 28 and here is the clincher right here. It is like a parting word. And he says it is over, it is over. You are in God’s hands. His ministry now is completely focused on the Gentiles. It says in verse 28, “Let it be known to you therefore, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.”
I want to show you in scripture, from AD 62 when he made that final plea to Israel and they rejected it, it was as if that pattern of extraordinary miracles began to cease and you do not see it as a pattern from that point on. You don’t see that, the extraordinary miracles, as a pattern as a consistent thing. Can God do extraordinary things? Absolutely, whenever He chooses to do it because He is an extraordinary God. But for us as believers in the 20th century to say that we can somehow tap into that and call it a gift that God has given to us is to make the same error that the church of Corinth was making in their day.
Whereas the six supernatural gifts were mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 in AD 59, as I said earlier, they are not mentioned in AD 64. Two years after the final Jewish rejection, you do not see them mentioned by Paul. You don’t see them mentioned at all. As a matter of fact, two years before then, coming up to that point, you start seeing them cease. They are not even mentioned in the letter to Rome. Paul was in Ephesus in AD 56. Now change your dates here. In 64 you don’t see it. But back in AD 56, he was in Ephesus and that is when God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul. Remember that? They took his handkerchief and they passed it around and anybody that touched it got healed. I mean, supernatural miracles. That’s in Acts 19:11-12. Yet ten years later, just ten years later in AD 66, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:20, listen carefully, “Trophimus I left at Miletus, sick,” the same man whose very touch on a piece of cloth caused people to be healed ten years before did not have any power whatsoever to heal Trophimus right there.
Epaphroditis in Philippians is another illustration of this. Paul wrote Philippians in AD 64, during the same imprisonment that he wrote Ephesians. He wrote about Epaphroditis who was serving Paul in prison. He told them how close he came to death, but God had mercy on him. As a matter of fact it also appears that Paul himself was sick and couldn’t even heal himself. And it becomes very apparent by that time in history that men, yes, they were healed, but they were healed as you and I are healed today, by the prayers of those who are praying for them, in the miraculous quietness of the ordinary. But you take that out of that miraculous ordinary and put it into the extraordinary and, to me, as I understand scripture, you have violated a cardinal rule of looking hermeneutically at when this was a pattern and when it ceased to be.
So folks, let’s get our feet on the ground. Let’s don’t lose sight of the fact that God is a miracle-working God. And I’ll tell you what, the miraculous ordinary, to some of us if we would wake up, would be the extraordinary because we haven’t seen it in so long. Just living in the presence of a miracle working God, God does this. He works this way in our life every day that we live, but we must understand this category that he is talking about. Gifts, plural, of healings, plural, effecting, plural, of miracles, plural. Don’t hang a shingle on it, but make sure you understand that you are looking for a pattern that is not in the 20th century. It is with Jesus and with the apostles.
I tell you what, I just love people who live in the presence of the Lord. I just love people who do that. I love people who are just full of life. You talk to them and say, “How are you doing?” Oh, man, isn’t it overwhelming when they begin to talk to you about God. Do you know anybody like that? Some of us get bored with them, don’t we? Simplistic people! Oh, there was a man in the paper who said, “All Christians are dummies.” Isn’t it interesting, this man is a wealthy man and has gained the whole world, but that man lost the most important thing he could ever have and that was his soul. I tell you what, call me a dummy, help yourself. Help yourself because this dummy is trying to learn to live in the miraculous ordinary of every day life, practicing the presence of Christ. And I’ll tell you, if your focus shifts to these gifts and you start dividing the body, all it is telling you is, you are living like a Corinthian. You are not focused any more on Jesus. You are focused on something He does or doesn’t do and that is where the division comes in the body of Christ. Put your eyes back on Him, keep your feet on the ground and keep your mind renewed and live in the reality of the miraculous ordinary. You will be overwhelmed and when the extraordinary comes, you won’t be surprised. You will say, “That is my God.”