DECLINE OF MIRACLES
In Acts 5:16 every one of the sick who were brought from various cities to Jerusalem were healed by the apostles. Twenty-five years later we find the greatest of all the apostles being denied his own earnest prayer for a well body (2 Cor. 12:7-9). And as we near the end, we hear him advising Timothy to take a little wine for his often infirmities (1 Tim. 5:23). Still later we learn that he has left another beloved worker sick at Miletim (2 Tim. 4:20).No witnesses die in early acts. Then Stephen is killed (Acts 7:54-59). A little later James dies by the sword of Herod (Acts 12:1-2).
After Stephen-never again any record of a public miracle in that city called the city of the Great King.
At the beginning and through history of Acts there was special miraculous gifts by which divine revelation was channeled to man; these were named by Paul as knowledge, prophecy, and tongues (1 Cor. 12:8-10); but in the same context he warns that they will cease (1 Cor. 13:8). The permanent things will be faith, hope, and love (1 Cor. 12:13).
There are a few people who argue that such miracles are still present in the life of the Christian community. Some of these are sincere, doubtless, in their determination to see what they wish to see; just as there are other people who are blind to the things they do not wish to see. These are problems for psychological rather than historical investigations.
In the Scriptures great public exhibitions of miraculous divine power are invariably connected with the Mediatorial kingdom of God. They were seen at its establishment at Sinai and did not wholly cease until the departure of the Shekinah glory. Such miracles are also recorded in the Old Testament predictions of the future reestablishment of the kingdom under the reign of the Messiah (Isa. 35:1-7). These were present when the kingdom was announced as imminent during the period of the Gospels. And their continuance in the book of Acts must be explained in the same way. They are the signs of the kingdom; given primarily as a testimony to the nation of Israel, to whom in a peculiar sense that Kingdom belonged by divine covenant, and upon whose repentance depended its imminent establishment upon earth. This was the prophets burden (Isa. 35:1-7); also affirmed by our Lord and his earthly ministry (Matt. 11:1-5), and reaffirmed by the apostles in their testimony to Israel throughout the book of Acts (Acts 2:1-20, 43). See Heb. 2:3-4. These were said to be tasted in Heb. 6:5.
The miracles God uses through his sovereign power are different in character today for they are providentially hidden. In the face of the explainable problems of human life, the mysteries of the divine will, the apparent inequalities of divine justice and the human perplexity under the somber shadows of a silent heaven, the church must walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).
Nothing’s sinful about believing on the sense experience but a special blessing comes for those who have believed without seeing (John 20:29), who against the adverse testimony of human experience, continue to trust and believe without reserve in Him who today is not visible (1 Pet. 1:8). In the church, God is preparing a special people, called out and tested in the crucible of adversity, who are destined to occupy the highest place of responsibility in the future kingdom of Christ (Luke 22:29-30). As the Book of Acts ends, we pass from the time area of signs and wonders into an era characterized chiefly by the demand for unquestioning faith in the presence of a silent heaven as far as great public miracles are concerned.