That is the reason typically given when our church leaders/pastors are asked about the miracles of healing and demons cast out as recorded in the gospels and in Acts. Today such miracles no longer take place “as they did back then”.
Such reasoning is based primarily on the teaching of cessationism which declares that such miracles have “ceased”.
1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
According to this verse, cessationism concludes that the manifestations of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit like prophecies and tongues have already “ceased”. Since the complete Word of God is now available to all, gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer needed to build up the Church.
Although that interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8 is quite debatable, there is another cogent argument which can be raised with regard to the teaching of cessationism.
When Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons in the gospels, a close study of these miracles shows that He performed them through the use of supernatural authority and power. Then according to Luke 9:1-2 He gave this same supernatural authority and power to the Twelve disciples. He then commanded them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick using this authority and power. Subsequently in Luke 10:1 He calls Seventy(-two) more disciples and in v. 9 commands them to “heal the sick and tell them, the kingdom of God has come near to you.” Note that the Lord did not command the Seventy to “pray to God for the sick”, but rather to “heal the sick” exactly as He commanded the Twelve in Luke 9:2.
We may therefore reasonably conclude that the Lord also gave to the Seventy a measure of the very same authority and power He had already given to the Twelve for them to “heal the sick” as they proclaimed the kingdom of God to the lost.
It is essential to keep in mind that this authority and power was given to the disciples well before Pentecost which took place only later in Acts. It was at Pentecost that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, making available to them the accompanying supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the authority and power Jesus gave to His disciples in the gospels are clearly separate and distinct from the gifts of the Spirit which were available only after Pentecost.
Now it is claimed by cessationists—based on 1 Corinthians 13:8 above—that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit for building up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 14:12) have now ceased. But what about the supernatural authority and power which Jesus gave to His disciples? Is there any hint in the New Testament that authority and power to be used in proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost have also ceased?
If we continue on to Acts to examine how the early disciples healed the sick and cast out demons as they went forth preaching the gospel to those who never heard, we discover an interesting fact. Even though after Pentecost when the gifts of the Spirit were available to them, we discover that in Acts they continued to use the supernatural authority and power Jesus had given them in the gospels before Pentecost. The supernatural healings recorded in Acts were most often the result of the disciples exercising the authority and power Jesus had given them in the gospels. As a result of such miracles providing irrefutable evidence for the truth of the gospel, Acts records that very many unbelievers turned to Jesus Christ.
Does cessationism also teach that this authority and power at work in Acts for healing the sick and cast out demons in order to bring precious souls to Jesus has also ceased?
Missiologists inform us that approximately 29% of the world’s population—well over two billion souls—have never heard the gospel.
Can we reasonably say that the authority and power given by our Lord Jesus is no longer available—that is, has “ceased”—for us to preach the gospel effectively and fruitfully to these two billion precious souls who now follow Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, animism, idol-worship, ancestor-worship, and witchcraft? Such people groups are typically hardened and resistant to the gospel when the gospel is preached to them in our traditional way which typically involves humanitarian good works. But we are now seeing multiplied instances of entire families turning to Jesus after they witness incomparable and unprecedented miraculous works done in the name of Jesus for them and their loved ones.
Such unprecedented fruit for the gospel is now being witnessed in the ministry of local workers in Third World missions who have been taught how to heal the sick and cast out demons using the authority and power which Jesus gave to His disciples in the gospels.
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