by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
I. Many claim to have miraculous gifts, just like those given in the New Testament
A. It doesn’t matter that you or I can show verses that state such gifts were temporary and were going to end.
B. It doesn’t matter that most of the big time preachers claiming such abilities have been shown to be frauds.
C. People want to believe they have powers.
D. So are these powers like those presented in the New Testament?
II. Characteristics of New Testament miracles
A. They were undeniable
1. The people who witnessed them could not deny the reality of them - John 3:1-2
2. Even those who would rather not admit to their existence could not deny that they happened - John 9:16; 11:46-47
3. And this was not limited to Jesus - Acts 4:14-16
4. Yet modern-day miracles are questionable. They do not stand up to independent examination; in fact, such examination is often denied.
5. A. A. Allen was a faith healer operating in the 1950's and 1960's out of a ranch in Miracle Valley, Arizona. A physician from the nearby town of Sierra Vista, Dr. Kenneth A Dregseth, told an interviewer: "I have seen no miracles. In fact, I've had to run diabetics to the hospital when they've stopped taking their insulin, believing they had been cured in Miracle Valley." (James Randi, The Faith Healers, 1989, p.87)
6. Paul Cain even advised his audience to wait until they get to heaven to examine his exposition of the ‘Manchild Company,’ which would never stand the test of Scripture: "…I know some of you are going to disagree with this. Don’t you even stop to disagree. Revelation 12:5. If you disagree, just file it in ‘miscellaneous’ and check it out. And don’t bother with it; when we get to heaven we’ll check it out and you’ll find out I’m right…" (Paul Cain, Prophetic Power and Passion Conference, Christ Chapel, Florence, Alabama, August, 1995.)
B. They were instantaneous
1. In other words, you did not see a recovery period.
2. Hemorrhaging - Matthew 9:20-22
3. Blindness - Matthew 20:30-34
4. Fever - Luke 4:38-39
5. Leprosy - Luke 5:12-13
6. Paralysis - Luke 5:17-25
7. Deformity - Luke 13:11-13
8. Infirmity - John 5:5-9
9. Even death - Luke 8:49-55
10. The closest to a gradual recovery was blindness that was healed in two stages - Mark 8:22-25
C. They were complete
1. Whatever the malady, the healed person was made whole - Matthew 12:9-13
2. Full capabilities - Acts 3:6-10, 16
3. Those “healed” today, though, only experience some temporary improvements. Often they experience relapses
4. Consider the case of Ernest Angley, a faith healer from Akron, Ohio. Angley, a flamboyant actor with a flair for the dramatic, normally puts on a good show, but even the best performers have off nights. On one occasion, Angley was trying to heal a man who was hard of hearing. He stuck his fingers in the man’s ears, twisted them around a few times, and then prayed that the man’s hearing might be restored. When Ernest was finished, the man’s wife whispered “Honey?” into one of his ears. The man said, “Yes.” Then she whispered in his other ear, “Baby?” Once again, the man replied “Yes.” With a face filled with amazement and bliss, Ernest Angley lifted his eyes toward heaven and cried with a loud voice, “Hallelujah!” The man looked at Ernest with a quizzical expression and replied, “Not bad. How are you?”
5. At the entrance to Miracle Valley (A. A. Allen's 1,280 acre community) was a huge sign that made it plain just what was going on in that neck of the desert. In red and gold, it proclaimed: A.A. Allen Revivals, Inc., Miracle Valley, Arizona. The Blind to See. The Deaf to Hear. The Lame To Walk. Signs. Gifts. Wonders. ... (A.A. Allen's) Miracle Magazine, a monthly publication with a circulation of 350,000 was produced at Miracle Valley. Allen was very careful to publish a disclaimer concerning the wild claims of healing that appeared in that periodical, sent in by enthusiastic "healees". ... "Utmost care has been taken to assure the accuracy of all testimonies before publication and A.A. Allen Revivals, Inc. and "Miracle Magazine" assume no legal responsibility for the veracity of any such report, nor do they accept responsibility as to the degree or permanence of reported healings, deliverances or miracles ..." (James Randi, The Faith Healers, 1989, p.83-85)
D. They were diverse
1. We already read of a wide variety of healings.
2. Jesus demonstrated power over nature
a. Calm a storm
b. Walked on water
c. Fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes
3. Modern-day faith healers tend to limit their practice to internal maladies: headaches, sinus trouble, and psychosomatic illnesses. Several years ago, Lewis Grizzard wrote an article entitled “Miracles are Few, But Laughs are Many” in which he poked fun at today’s faith healers. Mr. Grizzard said, “The first time I became suspicious of faith healers was when Brother Roy Dodd Hembree came to my hometown with his faith healing tent ministry. One year, Miss Inez Pickett, an old maid school-teacher who had been plagued with kidney problems her entire life, decided to see if Brother Roy Dodd could help her.” “Brother Roy Dodd grabbed Miss Inez, proceeded to beseech the Almighty to try and remove her malady. With a great, joyous cry he proclaimed Miss Inez healed, and she commenced to jump around on the platform in her newly found healthy state. She became so excited, however, that she fell off the platform and broke her leg.” “Somebody call an ambulance,” said the first one to reach her. “No need for that,” someone cried, “just get Brother Roy Dodd to heal her.” However, Brother Roy Dodd declined. “I don’t do broken bones,” he said, “just vital organs.” [Lewis Gizzard, The Register and Tribune Syndicate, Inc., Denver, CO. Date Unknown. Republished in The Mirror of Truth, June 1985 by Hayse Reneau]
E. They were unstaged
1. Those healed were well-known to the audience - Acts 3:9-10
2. Their illness was a matter of public knowledge - Mark 5:25-29
3. Not so today. Many of the “sick” show up in town about the same time as the healers. If you pay close attention, you will find that some of those healed ride the bus out of town with the healer. They travel to the next town where the “miracle” is repeated.
4. O. J. Willis of Groveton, Texas, told the story of an old-time faith-healer who came to town, promising to raise the dead. At the front of the big tent, the “deceased” was stretched out in a coffin, pale and gray, looking bereft of life, and asleep in Jesus. Before the services, crowds passed by the coffin, quietly viewing the body, until the unexpected happened. It seems some of the local boys were determined to follow I John 4:1, which says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” As one of these young whippersnappers passed by the casket, he produced a long straight-pin, which he proceeded to poke in the side of the prostrate body. Commotion and bedlam ensued as the lifeless man was prematurely, unexpectedly, and violently raised from the dead! (Another variation of this story says the man who welded the pin was John O’Doud, an old-time gospel preacher.)
5. Peter Popoff, a TV faith healer from Upland, California, was able to fool millions until foiled by debunker James Randi. Popoff was noted for “calling out” members of the audience and then healing them. While on stage, Popoff would call out the names and addresses of individuals to whom he had not spoken, identify their ailments, and then allegedly heal them. How was he able to know such details? Was God telling him? Not hardly. Investigators discovered that Popoff’s staff subtly and shrewdly gathered information on individuals in the audience. Popoff wore a tiny “hearing aid” in his left ear, connected to a receiver tuned to a shortwave band. His wife, Elizabeth, carrying a transmitter in her handbag, broadcast to Peter the needed information and directed him to the right people. Thus he appeared to exercise a “gift of knowledge,” identifying people by name and affliction.
F. They were verifiable
1. The reality of the miracle was confirmed by multiple witnesses.
2. Jesus made the mute to speak, the blind to see, and the lame to walk. All saw the result.
3. Today’s healers will not submit their work to verification or testing. They become indignant when questioned.
4. Contrast their stonewalling with these commands
a. I Thessalonians 5:21
b. I John 4:1
c. Revelation 2:1-3
5. The presence of unbelievers never caused a New Testament miracle to fail. But such is claimed today.
a. Jesus sometimes healed because unbelievers were present - Mark 3:1-5
G. They did not blame the sick person for their failure
1. Modern-day faith healers will typically blame the sick person’s lack of faith as the cause for a failed healing.
2. In the New Testament, it was the faith of the healer, not the healee, that was important - Matthew 17:14-21
3. True, faith was often manifested by those seeking healing. In some cases we are told it provided an important role
a. Matthew 9:20-22
b. Mark 10:51-52
4. But in other cases, faith played no role at all
a. The lame man healed by Peter and John was asking for money, not healing. He did not know who they were - Acts 3:1-6
b. J. W. McGarvey wrote, “He showed not faith either in Jesus, or in the healing power of the apostles, until he found himself able to stand and walk. The faith, then, was that of Peter; and this accords with what we learn in the Gospels, that the working of a miracle by those possessed of spiritual gifts was always dependent on their faith.”
H. They supported truth, not error
1. It was their purpose - Mark 16:17-20; Hebrews 2:1-4
2. In the Old Testament, such was evidence of a prophet - Deuteronomy 13:1-5
3. We are warned of those coming with lying wonders - II Thessalonians 2:7-12
4. II Peter 2:1-2 - False prophets bringing destructive heresies
5. Modern-day fake healers are well-known for their false teachings and immoral lifestyles.
III. The contrast between modern-day healers and the miraculous healings of the New Testament days are severe.
A. The “miracles” of today are dubious and doubtful. Long periods of time are necessary for complete recovery, if it comes at all. The healers only perform a select few types of miracles. The vast majority of their healings cannot be perceived by the senses. Preliminary inquiries weed out the hard cases. Success requires a highly emotional, almost hysterical atmosphere. Services are staged. They avoid investigation and they commonly teach false doctrine.
B. In January 1978, Ernest Angley was holding a “miracle and healing rally” in North Carolina. He announced that he would pray for everyone with heart problems. One woman with chronic heart trouble had come to seek Angley’s blessing. During the services, she slumped to the floor. The ushers, believing she was overcome with spiritual ecstasy, turned away offers to help for about 20 minutes. Afterwards, the victim was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead. How did the great faith healer respond to this tragic news? Said Mr. Angley, “Church is a wonderful place to go to heaven from.”
C. Compare this to the example of Paul - Acts 20:7-12
[Based on a lesson by Mark Mayberry, 3/6/2000]