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Should Christians Expect Miracles Today? Objections and Answers from the Bible, Part 1, by Wayne A. Grudem

But the character traits Paul does mention—self-sacrifice for the churches, endurance of hardship and so on—clearly distinguish him from servants of Satan, false apostles who are not Christians at all: Their lives will not be marked by humility, but pride; not by selflessness, but selfishness; not by generosity, but greed; not by seeking the advantage of others, but by taking advantage of others; not by spiritual power in physical weakness, but by confidence in their natural strength; not by enduring suffering and hardship, but by seeking their own comfort and ease.

When Paul acted in a Christlike manner among them, his actions were “signs” that his claim to be an apostle was a true claim: thus, these things were “signs of a true apostle.”21  In this context, the “signs” that mark a true apostle need not be things that showed an absolute difference between him and other Christians, but rather things that showed his ministry to be genuine, in distinction from false ministries.

Therefore, here Paul is not telling the Corinthians how to distinguish an apostle from other Christians (he did that in 1 Corinthians 9:1-2; 15:7-11; Galatians 1:1, 11-24, mentioning seeing the risen Christ and being commissioned by Him as an apostle), but here he is telling how to recognize what a genuine, Christ-approved ministry is.

Why then does he add that all these signs of a true apostle were done among the Corinthians “with signs and wonders and mighty works”? He is simply adding one additional factor to all the previous marks of his genuine apostleship. Miracles, of course, had a significant function in confirming the truth of Paul’s message, and Paul here makes explicit what the Corinthians may or may not have assumed to be one of the many factors included in the phrase “signs of a true apostle”: in addition to all these other signs of a true apostle, his ministry also showed miraculous demonstrations of God’s power.22

E. Those who use 2 Corinthians 12:12 to argue against miracles today fail to understand the context of this verse. The argument that the “signs of an apostle” are miracles does not fit the purpose of the context. In 2 Corinthians 12:12, Paul is not attempting to prove that he is an apostle distinct from other Christians who are not apostles. Rather, he is attempting to prove that he is a true representative of Christ distinct from others who are “false apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:33). It is clear that these people are not even Christians, for Paul says about them:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). These false apostles are Satan’s “servants” who are disguising themselves as “servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). In short, the contrast is not between apostles who could work miracles and ordinary Christians who could not, but between genuine Christian apostles through whom the Holy Spirit worked and non-Christian pretenders to the apostolic office, through whom the Holy Spirit did not work at all.

Therefore, those who use this passage to distinguish Paul from other Christians and who argue that miracles cannot be done through Christians today are taking the phrase “signs of an apostle” out of its context and using it in a way that Paul never intended. Paul is distinguishing himself from non-Christians, not distinguishing himself from other Christians.

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Wayne Grudem Answers these Objections in the Next Issue: 8. Doesn’t Hebrews 2:3 tell us that miracles were restricted to the apostles, “those who heard him?” 9. When Paul says, “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ and him crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23), doesn’t he warn us against seeking signs and say that we should just preach the gospel of Christ? 10. When Paul talks about “power,” doesn’t he mean the power of the gospel to change lives? In fact, he says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Romans 1:16). Doesn’t this mean it is wrong to use the term “power evangelism” to refer to God’s power to work miracles in connection with evangelism? 11. I have heard stories of people who spoke in tongues and later found out that it was a demonic counterfeit—a demon was speaking through them and uttering blasphemies against Christ in an unknown language. Shouldn’t this danger warn us not to speak in tongues today? 12. In 1 Corinthians 14:22 we read, “Tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.” Doesn’t Paul mean here that tongues are a sign of a covenant curse by God against the unbelieving Jews? And shouldn’t that warn us not to use tongues today? 13. Since Paul says that a person who speaks in tongues “edifies himself” (1 Corinthians 14:4), isn’t it better to avoid tongues and seek other gifts that edify the Church? 14. Doesn’t Jude 9 warn us not to rebuke demons? Then is it that people today think they can speak directly to demons and cast them out?

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Category: Pneuma Review, Spirit, Winter 2000

About the Author: Wayne A. Grudem is Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona. He has authored over twenty books, including Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (1994), Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (2010), The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution (2013), The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, and "Free Grace" Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel (2016). He was also the General Editor for the ESV Study Bible (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Book of the Year, 2009). WayneGrudem.com

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