Monday, 31 December 2018

Is It True That Every Genuine Prophecy Has Become Part of the Bible?

It is surely true that a growing number of Christians worldwide are accepting that God continues to give the gift of prophecy, referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:10.

There are still more than a few believers, however, who deny that He does this. They claim that He stopped giving this gift in the first century, and they use a number of arguments to try to make their case.


One of these arguments concerns the supposed scriptural nature of all prophecy, and it goes in this way:

Every genuine prophecy that God has ever given, in both Old Testament and New Testament times, has become part of the Bible, whether explicitly or implicitly. Prophecy is by definition something that was designed to be part of Scripture. However, the Bible is now complete. So there can be no new prophecies today.

I am convinced that this argument is badly mistaken.

It is certainly true that the Bible is now complete and has been for nearly two millennia. There is nothing wrong with that part of the argument.

However, the other key part of the argument is an unwarranted assumption. There is no good reason for thinking that every genuine prophecy was designed to be part of Scripture. And this is what I want to say something about in what follows.


The first point I need to make is both very important and very simple. It is that there is no passage in Scripture which states or even implies that every prophecy was designed to become part of the Bible.

In the absence of any biblical support for this idea, it seems much more natural to think that there have been genuine prophecies that God never intended to be included in Scripture.


Secondly, we need to consider the place of apostolic teaching in the early church.

No one should be in any doubt that only a small part of what the apostles taught has been included in the Bible. Of course, God will have made sure that all the most important apostolic teaching was included. But there was much more, somewhat less valuable, teaching of theirs that the Lord decided not to include.

Why would we imagine that things are any different as regards prophecy? It makes perfect sense to think that out of a great many prophecies in the early church, God chose the most important ones and made them Scripture. It is undeniable that He did this with apostolic teaching, so why would we think that things are any different with regard to prophecy?

1 CORINTHIANS 14:26-31

Thirdly, we need to take account of what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:26-31, where he writes to the church in Corinth: 
26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. . . . 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged . . .” 
(Scripture readings in this article are from the English Standard Version.)

As we will see, this passage quite strongly suggests that there would have been far too many genuine prophecies in the first decades of the church, for them all to have got into the New Testament.

A specific question

In order to focus our discussion of this passage, let’s ask, and then use the passage to try to answer, a very specific question:

Of all the genuine, God-given prophecies in the first 30 years after the day of Pentecost referred to in Acts 2:1-41, what proportion became part of Scripture?

We could have chosen a different time-frame for the question we are asking. If we were to choose a period that was longer or shorter than 30 years, the overall conclusion below would not be any different. But to make the question a very precise and concrete one, let’s stick to thinking about the first 30 years after Pentecost.

The most common scholarly viewpoint on the year of the crucifixion, resurrection and giving of the Spirit at Pentecost is 30 AD, and there is no doubt that these events took place within a few years of 30 AD.

Because precision in timing is not important for our purposes, let’s just assume that the Spirit was given, and Christian prophecy began, in 30 AD.

So, as we consider 1 Cor. 14:26-31, the question we are asking is what proportion of genuine prophecies between 30-60 AD became part of the Bible.

The date this passage was written

Next, I need to say a word about when this passage was written.

The scholarly consensus is that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians within a couple of years of 55 AD. And it was certainly written within our time window of 30-60 AD. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that it was written in 55 AD.

So we will assume that Paul wrote 1 Cor. 14:26-31 in 55 AD.

The frequency of main gatherings of the Corinthian church

Next, we need to note how Paul says in v. 26, “When you come together.” He seems clearly to be referring to the typical main gatherings of the Corinthian church.

Importantly, it is extremely unlikely that this church would have met less than once a week. Nothing in the NT leads us to believe that any Christian church in the first century met less often than this except perhaps in unusual circumstances. And there is no reason to think that the Corinthians would have been any different in this respect.

So it makes sense to think that the sort of situation Paul envisages in 14:26-31 would have occurred at least once a week.

The number of prophecies per main gathering

Next, we must note that in v. 29 Paul seems to envisage two or three prophets prophesying at a typical main gathering.

Or, in view of “you can all prophesy one by one” in v. 31, Paul may mean that two or three prophets should prophesy before the others weigh the prophecies (v. 29), and then another two or three should prophesy, and so on. In this case, there would have been many more than two or three prophecies per typical main gathering.

The number of prophecies among the Corinthians in main gatherings in 55 AD

So, taking into account the above points, how many genuine prophecies do we think there might have been in the main gatherings of the Corinthian church in the year Paul wrote this letter, i.e., 55 AD?

There are admittedly some big uncertainties here. We aren’t sure how often the church gathered together. We don’t know how many prophecies were spoken out at a typical gathering. And we don’t know how many of the prophecies that were spoken out would have been genuine, although Paul certainly seems to imply that many of them would have been.

Fortunately, for our purposes we don’t need to be at all precise. We just need to give a very approximate figure that can allow for a lot of doubt.

If we were to say that there were two genuine prophecies per week, and one main gathering per week, that would work out at about 100 in the year. I suspect that the real number was probably higher than that. But let’s stick with a conservative ballpark figure of 100 genuine prophecies at main gatherings of the Corinthian church in 55 AD.

Other prophecies among the Corinthians in 55 AD

We also need to bear in mind that at Corinth there were probably numerous prophecies that God gave to individuals or smaller groups of Christians, other than at the main gatherings. To suppose that He would have chosen to use this gift only at the main gatherings of the church is completely unwarranted.

As another conservative guess, let’s say there were 50 genuine prophecies in 55 AD in Corinth, outside the main gatherings of the church.

Total prophecies in Corinth in 55 AD

So our guess for the total number of genuine prophecies in the Corinthian church in 55 AD is 150. And I suspect this is on the low side. The impression that Paul gives in this passage is that God was doing a lot of speaking to the Corinthians through the gift of prophecy at this time.

I need to stress that this number of 150 doesn’t need to be at all accurate. The key point I am trying to make is that, from what Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:26-31, it is likely that the number of prophecies in Corinth in 55 AD would have been as high as three figures, and that it is very unlikely that it would have been in the low two figures.

In view of what Paul says in this passage, it would be very strange if there were only, say, 10 or 20 genuine prophecies in the Corinthian church that year. That seems much too low.

The number of prophecies in the whole Christian church in 55 AD

Next, let’s consider how many genuine prophecies there would have been in the whole Christian church in 55 AD.

To do this, we need to estimate what percentage of all Christians that existed at that time were in the church in Corinth.

I admit that there are huge uncertainties here. And I don’t intend to try to research this. But, given all the areas in the Middle East and Europe that we know there were churches at this time, and inferences that we can make about parts of Africa and Asia, I think the Corinthians would probably have comprised less than 1 per cent of the entire church. I will make a very rough guess that 0.5 per cent of all Christians were in the church in Corinth.

Again, I need to stress that my guess doesn’t have to be at all accurate. But let’s say that this was the correct figure.

So, if there were 150 prophecies in Corinth in 55 AD, and if other churches were prophesying at the same rate, that would make a total of 30,000 prophecies this year.

It is true that there may be a suggestion in 1 Corinthians that gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy were unusually common in the church in Corinth. Nevertheless, this is far from sure. And there is no reason to think that things were very different in any other churches at that time. Various passages outside 1 Corinthians make it clear that prophecy was widely practised in the early decades of the church (Acts 2:16-18; 11:27-28; 13:1-2; 15:32; 19:6; 21:9; 21:10-11; Eph. 2:20; 4:11). And Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians itself suggests that the same sort of spiritual gifts were used in churches generally (1 Cor. 12:4-31).

Anyway, let’s be conservative and say that in 55 AD there were 10,000 genuine prophecies in the whole church. Again, I suspect that the real number would have been higher.

The number of prophecies in the whole Christian church between 30-60 AD

Now let’s move on to consider the whole church between 30-60 AD. How many genuine prophecies would there have been during this time?

The first point to make here is that there is no reason for thinking that God was any more willing to give the gift of prophecy in 55 AD than He was in any of the other years between 30-60 AD.

On the other hand, the church was obviously growing in size in this period, so in 55 AD it would have been well above the average size for 30-60 AD. And it seems likely that the more Christians there were overall, the more prophecy there would have been. So we can’t just multiply our 10,000 by 30.

Again, I admit that I am guessing here, but again too we don’t need to be at all accurate. I think a conservative figure for the average yearly number of prophecies in the whole church between 30-60 AD might be 2,500. I have to say that I would be surprised if it was as low as this. But let’s stay conservative and stick with this figure.

This would mean that there were 75,000 genuine, God-given prophecies between 30-60 AD. And personally, I would be surprised if it was as few as this.

Extremely implausible that all prophecies became part of the Bible

Clearly, this conclusion is an enormous problem for those who say that all genuine prophecies have become part of the Bible.

Even if we allow – as we should do – for a lot of repetition in the prophecies God gave, it is extremely implausible that all the prophecies between 30-60 AD are explicitly or implicitly in the NT somewhere. The vast majority of the NT is clearly not prophecy. It includes much teaching about Jesus’ life, the history of the early church, reasoned theological arguments and the apocalyptic book of Revelation. It is true that Revelation is described as a prophecy (Rev. 1:3; 22:7, 10, 18-19), but it is just one prophecy.

I do think that more than a few prophecies given to Christian prophets have strongly influenced the NT, and I think these may well number in the hundreds rather than in the tens. Furthermore, some specific Christian prophecies are explicitly referred to (Acts 11:27-28; 13:1-2; 21:10-11). But surely the vast majority of prophecies between 30-60 AD have not become part of Scripture. And then there are the decades immediately following 60 AD as well, in which all Bible-believing Christians agree that the gift of prophecy continued to be used at least to some extent.

Even if someone were to disagree with my figure of 75,000 and believes that it should be a lot lower, the revised figure, plus prophecies after 60 AD, would still surely be high enough to rule out the idea that all prophecies made it into the NT.

Summing up, then, it is very difficult to take what Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:26-31 seriously and also conclude that every prophecy is by definition something designed to be included in the Bible. To do this, we would have to assume that the situation Paul describes in this passage was very different from the normal state of affairs in the early decades of the church. But nothing in 1 Corinthians, or in any other part of the NT, suggests that this was the case.

ACTS 13:1-2

Finally, let’s consider this issue from another angle.

In Acts 13:1-2 Luke tells us about something that happened in the church in Syrian Antioch: 
1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” 
We are told here how the Holy Spirit gave this church a prophecy, singling out Barnabas and Paul for the mission that is commonly known as Paul’s first missionary journey.

Here is my question to those who say that all prophecies were designed to become part of the NT:

The Bible clearly contains few, if any, other Christian prophecies that are similar to this one. So if every prophecy becomes part of the Bible, this must mean that God gave no, or almost no, other prophecies of this sort in the early decades of the church. But why do you think He would have chosen to not to give prophecies like this?

There seems to be no reason whatsoever why we should think that He didn’t give many prophecies of this sort. In fact, I suspect that in the first few decades after Pentecost, God gave the early church hundreds or thousands of prophecies like this, where He directed specific believers to do certain tasks. We can very easily imagine that He would have wanted to do this. And there is absolutely no good reason for thinking that He wouldn’t have wanted to.

If God did give many prophecies of this sort, as I am sure He did, then clearly it was never His plan for all prophecies to become part of the Bible.


We have seen, then, that the idea that every genuine prophecy was designed to become part of the Bible has no real foundations.

First, no passage in Scripture leads us to think that this was the case.

Second, as regards what is contained in the New Testament, there is no good reason for thinking that prophecy in the early church was any different from apostolic teaching. We know that most apostolic teaching is not recorded in the NT, so it is very natural to think that the same is true of prophecy.

Third, what Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:26-31 strongly suggests that there were far too many prophecies in the early church for them all to have become part of the NT.

Fourth, it seems very reasonable to think that in the early church the Lord gave many prophecies similar to the one recorded in Acts 13:1-2.

The idea that every genuine Christian prophecy was designed to become part of the Bible is therefore one that should be abandoned.
This idea just seems to be an assumption that has come out of nowhere.

The upshot of this conclusion is that it is a big mistake to appeal to the supposed scriptural nature of all prophecy as a reason why God doesn’t give this gift today.

I noted above that it is very reasonable to think that in the early church God gave many prophecies similar to the one recorded in Acts 13:1-2, where He singles out Barnabas and Paul for a task. It is just as reasonable to think that He often wants to do the same today. And I am sure that He often does give prophecies like this, that refer to specific tasks for individual Christians and individual churches. Prophecies of this sort in no way threaten the supremacy of the Bible, and we should all be seeking this gift from the Lord.

See also my longer article on the gift of prophecy:

And see also:

Monday, 24 December 2018

Should Christians Try to Make the World a Better Place?

As every Christian will be very well aware, we live in a world that is full of all sorts of evils, injustices and avoidable human suffering. Sin has messed up our world in a big way, and no genuine believer would want to deny this.

As every Christian will be well aware too, there are a multitude of organisations and movements in the world that are trying to get rid of some evil or other. Wherever you look, there seems to be a governmental or non-governmental organisation that is working in this way.

Of course, some of the things that non-believers call good, God actually calls evil. So some organisations that claim to be making the world better are really making it worse.

Nevertheless, it should be recognised as a fact that there are many organisations, movements and campaigns in existence around the world that are trying to making the world a genuinely better place.


This raises a question. What attitude to this issue does the Lord want Christians to have? Does He expect us to support those who are trying to improve the world, and to get involved in this activity ourselves? Or is this a red herring? Are we called instead to put all our energy into specifically Christian things like proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ?

I am sure that on this issue, as on so many others, there is a balance to be struck. And I am also sure that many Christians fail to get the balance right. Some put too much emphasis on trying to make the world a better place. And others put too little emphasis on this.

Let’s take each of these mistakes in turn:


Firstly, there are professing Christians who focus too much on trying to improve the world.

Some of these are more in the wrong than others.

Social gospel

The worst offenders are those who support the so-called “social gospel.” According to these people, the heart of the Christian faith is about bringing change to society by helping the poor, downtrodden and abused.

Those who follow this teaching have no time for the idea that people need to be saved from God’s judgment. In their view, although Jesus’ death on the cross served in some way to demonstrate God’s love, it wasn’t a sacrifice for sins. And they don’t believe that people in their natural state are on track for hell after death.

It is quite right for genuine Christians to vigorously oppose this movement. These views are far removed from the Christian faith of the Bible and are thoroughly heretical. In reality, the social gospel is not Christian at all.

Another group

There are many other Christians who would reject the extreme views of the social gospel, yet who still seem to be partly under its spell.

You will often meet professing believers – and I expect that many of them are genuinely born again – who just don’t seem to understand the urgency of proclaiming salvation by faith in Christ. They seem to be more interested in things like combating poverty and tackling climate change than they are in telling people they need to be saved.

I think unbelief is at the root of this problem. Despite what they may say, these Christians don’t properly believe what the Bible teaches about the reality of hell. Nor do they properly believe what it says about the need of people to trust Jesus in order to avoid ending up there.

As it happens, the Bible knows nothing whatsoever of any morally accountable person living in the Christian era, who will avoid going to hell without specifically having faith in Christ. If God does ever save anyone in this category, we can expect it to be at most a tiny proportion of people.

Many Christians just don’t seem to have understood this as they should. It’s as if this information has bounced off their minds and hearts. And the result is that they downplay the importance of evangelism and overplay the importance of making the world a better place.


There are also more than a few Christians who focus too little on trying to improve the world.

To be fair to these believers, they usually understand some major biblical principles very well. They rightly see the huge importance of people being saved from their sins through faith in Jesus. And they rightly understand too that before He returns, there will always be an enormous amount of evil and suffering in our world.

Nevertheless, they go too far by thinking that Christians are wasting their time if they try to make the world a better place.

There are a few points to make here:

Biblical passages that encourage us to try to improve the world

To begin with, although the Bible makes it clear that there will always be great evils in the world before Christ returns, it never says that we shouldn’t try to make any difference at all.

In fact, some passages seem to suggest that there is a place for Christians acting to improve the world.

For example, in Matthew 5:9 Jesus teaches His disciples, and by implication all later Christians too: 
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Jesus doesn’t specify the kind of peacemaking that He has in mind here, but this is no doubt deliberate. He is surely referring to peacemaking in a variety of contexts, whether in personal relationships or in situations that involve large numbers of people. And some of this peacemaking would surely mean making the world a better place.

Another relevant passage is 1 Timothy 2:1-2, where Paul writes: 
1 First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all those in authority, so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Here Paul encourages Timothy to instruct Christians to pray for secular rulers, so that we may be able to live in peace. To some extent, then, Paul clearly wants believers to pray for the world to be a better place than it might otherwise be.

Although Paul is talking about prayer here, it seems unlikely that we should separate what he says about praying for the improvement of the world from acting for its improvement. It would be very surprising if Paul, or God, wanted Christians to pray this for the world but not to act, where appropriate, towards the same goal.

Paul’s words in this passage therefore provide some biblical support for the view that Christians should sometimes try to improve the world.

Summing up, then, we can say that the idea that Christians should completely avoid trying to make the world a better place fits poorly with the Bible.

Biblical instructions to love and do good

Secondly, doing good to people will sometimes mean trying to improve the world.

Christians are, of course, under a huge obligation to love and do good to our fellow human beings, especially believing brothers and sisters, but also non-believers as well.

In Galatians 6:10, for example, Paul tells the churches in Galatia: 
“So then, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those who belong to the family of faith.”

Along the same lines, James writes in James 1:27: 
“Pure and undefiled religious worship in the sight of our God and Father is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” 

Note in this verse how no less a thing than “religious worship” is summed up as the performance of just two kinds of act, one of which is to help people in need. Of course, this shouldn’t be taken to mean that helping people and keeping morally pure is all that is involved in the Christian faith. There is clearly hyperbole in James’s statement. Nevertheless, this verse strongly underlines the importance of giving help to those who need it.

A multitude of other Bible passages also teach us to love and do good to people.

Importantly, there are many ways in which people are treated badly that result from customs and habits of different cultures and societies around the world. So if we are to do good to people, this will inevitably at times involve trying to change these customs and habits. And this will mean trying to make the world a better place.

In a nutshell, it is not possible for Christians to love people wholeheartedly, without in some respects aiming to make the world a better place.

An aid to evangelism

Thirdly, in some ways trying to improve the world actually helps spread the good news of Christ.

Ironically, those Christians who downplay making the world a better place because they think we should be focusing exclusively on things like evangelism, are actually hindering evangelistic efforts.

As far as is possible without compromising on our values, Christians should aim to foster a good reputation among non-believers (e.g., 1 Corinthians 10:32-33; 2 Corinthians 6:3). Even Jesus can be found acting in this way at times (e.g., Matthew 17:27).

When we don’t do this, it often puts non-Christians off the gospel. And that is exactly what we would expect.

For example, if a non-Christian is distressed about the problem of human trafficking, and then they see Christians who seem not to be interested in doing anything about it, they will probably be put off the Christian faith. Or if someone is enthusiastic about tackling climate change, and then they see Christians brushing aside the scientific consensus on this issue, it will probably push them further away from the salvation that is in Jesus.

We need not only to proclaim the good news to people but also to try, where reasonably possible, to attract them to the Christian faith.

Of course, we must never compromise on our values, and standing firm on these will inevitably mean that many non-Christians are offended by what we believe. However, in areas where no compromise is involved, we should go out of our way to make the Christian faith seem like something people want to be part of. And siding with those who are aiming to make the world better is an important aspect of this.


There is, then, a balance to be struck on how much emphasis Christians should put on trying to make the world a better place.

Too much of this, and the importance of salvation by faith in Christ can be eclipsed. Too little of it, and love and the effectiveness of evangelism are reduced.

We should all therefore do our best to get the balance right on this issue.


Up to this point, I have been concentrating on the general attitude of Christians towards making the world a better place. Ideally, our attitudes on this topic should be in agreement.

When it comes to how we act, however, there will be great variety in what God wants individual Christians do.

Some will be called to spend a lot of time and effort trying to improve the world. For example, some Christians are led to get jobs with charities that aim to make a difference in one way or another.

Most of us, however, are not called to channel nearly so much time and effort into this. For the majority, it will be a case of doing our best to listen to the Lord’s voice, and then acting as and when we think it is appropriate.

See also:

Getting the Balance between Expecting Too Little and Too Much from Prayer

Monday, 17 December 2018

Why Do We Not See More Miracles Today?

It is surely true that a growing number of Christians worldwide are accepting that God works miracles today. In fact, I think it would probably be right to say that a large majority of genuine, born-of-the-Spirit believers now agree on this point.

And so they should. Firstly, the idea that miracles ceased with the apostles in the first century fits very poorly with biblical teaching. And secondly, there is abundant testimony of miracles in our day from many parts of the world.

For a defence of the position that God works miracles today, see my article: God Wants to Use Christians in Miracle Work Today.

More miracles in some places than others

Although God is performing miracles, it is surely true that He is doing so in some parts of the world much more frequently than in others. And it is also true that in any given part of the world, miracles occur much more commonly in some Christian circles than in others.

So why is this? Why is there such variation in the amount of miracle work?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to this question. Miracles are almost by definition mysterious and beyond full human comprehension. I certainly don’t want to give an overconfident and simplistic formula that will supposedly lead to an automatic increase in the number of miracles.

Nevertheless, I am sure that there are some mistakes that Christians often make, which reduce the number of miracles that are performed. And I want to say something about these.


First of all, unbelief is deadly in stifling the miracle-working power of God.

We read about an example of this in Matthew 13:53-58, where we are told what happened one time the Lord Jesus went to His home village. Verse 58 says:
“And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.”
Matthew is explicit that unbelief was the reason for the lack of miracle work.

We should also take account of what Jesus teaches in Mark 11:24:
“Therefore I tell you, whatever things you pray and ask for, believe that you have received them, and they will be yours.”
Again, we see how important believing is. And Jesus implies that without the believing we should not expect to receive the things we ask for.

That’s not to say that there can be no exceptions to this. The Lord doesn’t say that prayers will never, ever be answered without faith. But He certainly implies that no faith will usually mean no positive answer.

Today, similarly, if the Christians in a place have been deceived into believing that God doesn’t want to do miracles there, it is very unlikely that they will occur. Unbelief is a terrible, highly contagious thing that acts like a fire extinguisher on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Not asking

Second, if Christians are not asking God to perform miracles, it is unlikely that He will work much in this way.

We do well to remember what Jesus says in Matthew 7:7:
“Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you.”
This is a general principle of the Christian life that applies to praying for various things. And these things certainly sometimes include miracles.

James also teaches along the same lines in James 4:2, where he tells his readers:
“You do not have because you do not ask.”
Again, this is a general principle that applies to failing to pray for a variety of things, and these things surely at times include miracles.

A little later in his letter, in James 5:16-17, James says more about prayer:
16 So confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of an upright person is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a person with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.”   
Firstly, note how in v. 16 James instructs his readers, and by implication later Christians, to pray for healing miracles.

Note too how in v. 17 James says approvingly that Elijah prayed “earnestly.” When we pray, we should do likewise. We should look God right in the centre of His eye and commit fully to everything we ask.

I am sure that in many parts of the world, and in many churches, miracles are not happening much because the Christians are either not asking God for miracles at all, or they are not asking Him earnestly enough. Usually things don’t just fall into our laps, but we have to fervently seek them from the Lord.

Not seeking to be used in miracle work

Third, if Christians are not seeking to be used by God as agents of miracle work, it is unlikely that many will occur.

Some Christians seem to have the idea that if God wants to work miracles, then He will do them on His own without using a human agent.

It is true that the Lord does sometimes perform miracles without a human agent, and the Bible has examples of this. However, Scripture strongly implies that, at least after the day of Pentecost referred to in Acts 2, His usual method has been to use a human agent (e.g., Acts 3:1-8; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6; 9:17-18; 9:32-34, 39-41; 19:11-12; 20:9-10; 28:8-9; 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, 28-29; 2 Corinthians 12:12).

There is no good reason for thinking that God’s way of doing things is any different today. His standard procedure is still to use human agents in miracle work. So not only should we pray that He would perform miracles, but we should also seek to be used personally in miracle work, just as Paul instructs us to do in 1 Corinthians 14:1.

Tolerating sin

Fourth, if sin is tolerated in a church, it is likely that the amount of miracle work will decrease. Or, if that church is not currently performing any miracles, tolerating sin will make it more unlikely that miracle work will begin.

Sin and the Holy Spirit don’t mix, so the more sin is allowed to exist unchallenged, the more the Spirit is likely to back off from performing miracles in and through that Christian community.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the Christians in a church need to be anything like morally perfect before God will use them. It does mean, however, that if a blind eye is being turned to sin, if there is no discipline of those who fall into sin, etc., miracles will be less likely.

Wrong ideas about qualifications for miracle work

Fifth, Christians often go wrong by thinking that God wouldn’t call them personally to work miracles, because they are not outstanding in any way. They suppose that they are too weak and ordinary.

This attitude is badly mistaken, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29:
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put the wise to shame; God has chosen the weak things of the world to put the things that are strong to shame; 28 God has chosen the insignificant things of the world and the despised things, the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before God.”
It is true that Christians might sometimes need to get things sorted out in their lives or reach a certain level of spiritual maturity before being granted big gifts. But nevertheless, being weak and being ordinary are themselves excellent qualifications for ministry.

When a Christian wrongly thinks that they are too weak or ordinary to work miracles, this naturally leads to unbelief and to a lack of seeking to be used as an agent in miracle work, which in turn prevent miracles, as I outlined above.

Seeking miracles from God

These, then, seem to be some major reasons why we don’t see more miracles today.

Those of us who have never been used by God in miracle work should pray that He would lead us into this area of ministry if He desires. For some, it may be appropriate to seek out Christians who are experienced in such matters, those we feel we can trust, to ask for their help and guidance.

Regardless of whether we are ever used in this way ourselves, however, we should all be looking to the Lord to perform miracles in the places where we live. In some places, getting the breakthrough might not be easy, but then perseverance is called for. In other places, miracles might be just around the corner if the Christians there will only ask.

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