True or False Miracles: 4 Litmus Tests
So you’re having coffee with a seminoid from a different denomination. You are both sharing ways God is moving in your churches and it’s very edifying and God-glorifying. Then, as you sip your mocha, your seminoid buddy regales you with a riveting account of a miracle he witnessed at a healing service: “This lady who had woken up that morning with a wicked crick in her neck she got from her demon-possessed pillow, hobbled up to the stage for prayer. While the pastor was praying for her she suddenly felt relief in her neck and she visibly straightened. Everyone cheered. Has anything like that ever happened in your
dead conservative church?”
This kind of story is a perennial pain in the neck for Cessationsists because it assumes that to question the account is to doubt God’s miraculous healing power.
Cessationists are those who hold the theological position that the apostolic gift of miraculous healing ceased with the Apostles. Their counterparts are called Continuationists (because the hold that all the miraculous sign gifts continued unabated until today). Believe it or not, most Cessationists also believe that it’s God’s prerogative, being God and all, to do any healing He wants to at any time, sometimes using medical means, and yes, sometimes breaking the laws of nature to supernaturally heal people miraculously. (Please excuse the tautology, but I’m emphasizing the exclusivity of this type of intervention).
But they don’t believe that individuals still have the apostolic gift of healing the infirm of any disease or condition at will. That was a gift for apostles to authenticate their ministry; we have the completed NT to help with that today. In other words, if I prayed for someone to be healed and they were, I’d be overjoyed and praise God. I would not, however, put “healer” or “Apostle” on my business card. I would not assume that I could heal anyone from anything at anytime, like Jesus and the Apostles could.
Anyway, just because healing miracles can happen and do happen today, does not mean that every claim of a healing means we need to believe it was a miracle. Christians are not required to believe contemporary reports of the miraculous; they are only required to believe what the Bible says.
So how do we respond to the assertion that a miracle has taken place? The response should be to dip the claim into the biblical standard of a miraculous healing as a litmus test.
Biblical miracles consistently evidenced four characteristics. They were always…
i) Instantaneous. The miracles in the Bible were never so gradual that the effects were not immediately noticeable. For example, the man born blind and healed by Jesus in John 9 was able to see as soon as he washed the mud off his eyes, according to Jesus’ instructions. The opposite of this is when a person with a severe limp is told that they are healed, but they still limp off the stage but they report a full recovery only after weeks of physical therapy.
ii) Complete . When the healing is total there is no residual effect of it at all. I met a man who claimed to have been miraculously healed of being deaf. He wore a hearing aid.
iii) Verifiable. No one could accuse the healer of fakery or the healed of complicit fraud. An example of this is the back pain, tooth ache, and other conditions that don’t exhibit an evidence that the pain was there before, or that it’s gone now.
iv) Independent of the one being healed. The power of the healer is never limited by the faith of the one trying to be healed. The Apostles did not ask the person if they had faith in Jesus or not. They simply healed. There is no case of their healing being thwarted by the patient’s lack of faith. Unfortunately this is the common response of people like Benny Hinn when they are unable to heal people. Somehow it’s always the fault of the patient, not the alleged healer.
If you have any other litmus tests, share them below in the comments section.
If you see this guy on the street, don’t give him any money…
[pic of Benny Hinn]