The Cessation of Healing Miracles in Paul’s Ministry -- By: Gary W. Derickson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 155:619 (Jul 1998)
Article: The Cessation of Healing Miracles in Paul’s Ministry
Author: Gary W. Derickson

The Cessation of Healing Miracles in Paul’s Ministry

Gary W. Derickson

Gary W. Derickson is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Western Baptist College, Salem, Oregon, and Adjunct Teacher of Bible, Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon.

This article addresses the issue of the cessation of the exercise of the gift of healing by the apostle Paul on the basis of the historical-theological evidence of the New Testament record. Three lines of evidence suggest that Paul was unable to perform healing miracles near the end of his ministry. The first line of evidence comes from a study of Pauline literature. The second line of evidence is from an evaluation of the record of the three men Paul failed to heal, their circumstances, and arguments that Paul would have healed them if he could. A third line of evidence stems from Hebrews 2:3–4. These three areas of evidence indicate that miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer being distributed to the body of Christ by the end of the first century, but that the church was being given gifted individuals (Eph. 2:20; 4:11). Nonmiraculous spiritual gifts, of course, continued to be given to believers by the Holy Spirit. Further, even those who had previously had the ability to perform miracles were no longer able to exercise that gift as they had previously done. God’s interventions through individuals gradually ceased in the waning years of the first century.

Miracles and Miracle Workers

The range of opinion on the issue of miracle workers is spread between those who believe God continues to work miracles today in the same manner and number as in the

first century1 and those who see miracle workers as a first-century phenomenon.2

Part of the difficulty in the debate stems from the way a miracle is defined. For example some accuse cessationists of being antisupernatural, of denying all miracles. Yet this is only rarely the case. Almost all evangelicals affirm that God can and does intervene today in miraculous ways. The issue for them, however, is whether He does so through human agents, or whether He sometimes performs miracles in answer to prayer apart from so-called “healers” or miracle workers.

Warfield identified miracles with the apostles and their generation and said their purpose was to authenticate the validity of the apostles and the witnesses of their

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