The Christian life is a chain of miracles. The fact God draws us to Himself in spite of our sinfulness and rebellion against Him is the biggest miracle of all. When we come to trust Christ as Savior and Lord, He regenerates us by His Holy Spirit. Jesus also invites us to be filled with the Holy Spirit through yielding and surrendering. He also may engage us in many subsequent supernatural experiences. Jesus gives us spiritual gifts that enable us to minister and help others. It is normal for us to pray for the sick and to see people healed by Jesus. In our gatherings, it is common for members to speak insightful and encouraging prophetic words. The point of all of this is to have Jesus present in power and wisdom within our fellowship. If He were not present and manifest, there would be no point to gather at all.
Throughout biblical history God has demonstrated His character and power to, and through, his people in ways that are clearly supernatural. Every great covenantal event witnessed God reveal Himself through the miraculous. Church history is punctuated by God performing the supernatural. Although the scriptures, Godʼs Word, is the measuring rod and primary source of the revelation of His will and character, He still chooses to manifest His nature through signs and wonders. Godʼs heart of compassion reaches into a space/time world and heals broken lives and bodies. His voice still proclaims His purposes.
Still For Today
Two general approaches toward the gifts of the Holy Spirit are popular today. The minority view is that all the gifts ceased when the last of the twelve apostles, plus Paul the apostle, died. This view is called cessationism. It teaches that supernatural attestations were first century proof of the truthfulness of the Gospel and the claims about Jesus Christ. When the scripture was finalized there was no more need for prophecy or the revelatory function of the Holy Spirit. This view denies most claims that God speaks in any fashion except through inspiration from the Bible. This view grew in some circles after the reformation of the sixteenth century and became influential among some evangelicals who embraced the Dispensationalism of Darby and Schoefield that became popular in the late 1800s and reached its apex in the 1960s.
Continuationism has been the dominant view held by the Church, even when there were few contemporary examples of the miraculous. Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Holiness and many evangelical denominations acknowledge the validity of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit today. While their experience sometimes is limited, they hold the scriptural and historical validity of the ongoing manifestation of Godʼs supernatural.
Is there a practical difference between a cessationist and a continuationist who does not pursue the Gifts of the Holy Spirit besides the obvious theological disagreement? Is something truly believed if not practiced?
Take Billy Graham for instance. In his book “The Holy Spirit,” in the chapter titled “The Sign Gifts,” he says some wonderful things regarding speaking in tongues. He says on page 226 “I personally cannot find any biblical justification for saying the gift of tongues was meant exclusively for New Testament times.” On page 228 he says, “The filling of the Spirit may result in many different experiences in our lives, of which tongues on occasion may be only one evidence.” On page 231 Billy Graham says, “A number of friends have told me that after they had prayed for a long period of time, they suddenly found themselves speaking in an unknown language.” He adds “The private use of tongues is implied by Paul when he remarks that ‘I speak in tongues more than you all’.” On page 233 Brother Graham expresses the need for believers to be filled with the Spirit and says, “on the occasion of a particular in-filling, tongues may be a sign God gives some.” He says also on page 233 “to summarize, First, there is a real gift of tongues. Many of those who have been given this gift have been transformed spiritually. Second, God uses tongues at certain times, in certain places, especially on the frontiers of the Christian mission, to further the kingdom of God and to edify believers.”
The Rev. John Wesley, M.A., preacher, author, teacher and reformer, whose name is treasured in the hearts of believers ever since the Great Revival, would be a competent judge as to whether the miraculous gifts should be in the Church today. This is what he says:
It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian, and from a vain imagination of promoting the Christian cause, thereby heaped riches and power and honour upon the Christians in general, but in particular upon Christian clergy. From this time, they almost totally ceased; very few instances of the kind being found. The cause of this was not, as has been vulgarly supposed, because there is no more occasion for them because all the world were become Christian. This is a miserable mistake, not a twentieth part of it was then nominally Christian. The real cause was: the love of many, almost all Christians, socalled, was waxed cold. The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathen; the Son of Man when He came to examine His Church could hardly find faith. This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned heathen again, and had only a dead form left … The grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so soon withdrawn was not that faith and holiness were well-nigh lost, but that dry, formal, orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or impostures.