Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 13, 1951

When Miracles Were To Cease

W. Curtis Porter, Monette, Arkansas

There is no question in the minds of Bible believing people relative to the working of miracles in the first century of this age. Miraculously endowed men spoke with tongues, healed the sick, cast out devils, took up serpents and raised the dead. And today there are many religious people who claim to be able to work the same miracles that are recorded in the New Testament. Yet the New Testament definitely states that such miraculous works were to come to an end.

To get the significance of the divine statement it is well to keep in mind that miraculous gifts were given "in part." Oftentimes one man would possess one gift, another some other gift, and still another an entirely different one. Thus there was a distribution of such gifts—they were given in part. This is clearly shown in 1 Cor. 12:8-11: "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." No one man in the church at Corinth possessed all of these gifts, but they were given in part—distributed "to every man severally" as the Spirit willed.

This distribution of such miraculous gifts led Paul in verses 28 and 29 of the same chapter to ask: "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" These questions are rhetorical interrogations. They were not asked for the purpose of obtaining information but for the purpose of emphasizing a truth. In all such questions, an affirmative interrogation demands a negative answer, and a negative interrogation demands an affirmative answer. These questions given by Paul are of an affirmative nature and require a negative answer. The question, "Are all apostles?" simply affirms that all are not apostles, or perhaps, better expressed, it denies that all are apostles. The answer "no" is required for every one of them. All were not apostles; all were not prophets; all were not teachers; all did not work miracles; all did not have the gifts of healing; all did not speak with tongues; and all did not interpret. Some of them had one gift; others had different gifts. Hence it is further evident that miraculous gifts were bestowed "in part."

But in the next chapter, 1 Cor. 13:8-10, Paul said: "Charity never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part. But when Paul said, "prophecies shall fail" he did not mean that any prophecy delivered by a prophet of God would fail to be fulfilled, but that the gift of prophecy would be discontinued. When he said "tongues shall cease" he did not mean to say the time would come when languages would no longer be spoken, but that the gift of tongues would be removed. When he said, "knowledge shall vanish away" he did not mean that the time would come when men would know nothing, but that the gift of knowledge would no longer be bestowed upon men. So he goes on to say that "we know in part, and we prophesy in part." In other words, the gift of knowledge was in part, and the gift of prophecy was in part. Since that was true with these two gifts, it was also true with the remainder of them. Consequently, he says, "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."

In this last statement he tells us just when miracles were to cease among men. Miracles were to be "done away" when? "When that which is perfect is come." If we can find out what this perfect thing is and when it came, if it did, then we will know when miraculous gifts were removed. The word "perfect" often means "complete." Evidently such is the significance of it here. Paul contrasts the "perfect" with that which "is in part." When the "complete" comes the "partial" will be done away. Revelation and knowledge were in part—here a little and there a little—they did not have it all. But when revelation was completed the partial must come to an end. When, therefore, the revelation of truth was completed through the apostles "that which is perfect" came. And at that time "that which is in part" was done away. Thus we learn that miracles among the people of God ceased at the completion of the New Testament record and the closing of the apostolic age.

In my debate with A. G. Canada, of the Pentecostal Faith, at Oakland, California, a short time ago, I presented and emphasized this argument from the statements of Paul. In Mr. Canada's effort to set it aside he said he believed miracles would cease, and he gave his solution of it. He declared that tongues would cease, prophecies would fail and knowledge would vanish away when the church goes into apostasy. As long as the church remains faithful the working of miracles continues to be done, but if the church apostatizes, it will be unable to work miracles; therefore, they will cease. But he was pressed to tell what is meant by the "perfect" thing that Paul said would come. This, he declared, referred to the church in its state of perfection when it reaches heaven. We are not perfect now, he insisted, but will be when the church reaches heaven. So he claimed that Paul referred to the church in the heavenly state.

I therefore showed the consequences of his arguments. Paul said that miracles would cease "when that which is perfect is come." But Mr. Canada says Paul referred to the perfected church in heaven. Therefore, according to Canada, miracles will cease when the church reaches heaven. But he told us that miracles will cease only when the church goes into apostasy. Yet they will cease when the church reaches heaven. Therefore the church will go into apostasy after it reaches heaven. From this predicament he could not extricate himself. Such are the consequences in which men involve themselves when they try to defend false doctrines.