Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Perfect

Today we return to our study of miracles, this time in Paul's letter to the church at Corinth. I will jump right into the Scripture after offering a clarification: when I discuss miracles, I do not mean God working. I mean human beings doing something which then results in a God powered result, such as Aaron's rod parting the Red Sea or Peter and John ordering a lame man to walk. God answering prayers and healing in a way contrary to the natural laws is not at issue here - the popular belief that a healing service, modern day prophecy and speaking in tongues are all valid is.
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

(1Co 13:8-13)
There have been many interpretations of this, most of them very forced in nature. Those who would like to hold on to miracles say that miracles will be done away with when Christ returns, calling Him the perfect. Aside from the fact that there is perhaps nothing in the passage to indicate this (perfect means 'complete' in this sense, indicating that whatever 'the perfect' is should be the culmination of the parts - prophecy and knowledge), it results in some utter nonsense. If, when Jesus returns, miracles will pass away and faith, hope and love will remain, what will we have faith in? The Bible says the reason we have faith is because we are away from God. When Jesus returns, we will have sight, not faith:
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-- for we walk by faith, not by sight-- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

(2Co 5:6-8)
Our hope will also logically be fulfilled when the One we hope for is here among us. Alone "Love never fails" or ends. Prophecy, speaking in tongues (that is, the miraculous ability to speak in languages you do not know) and supernatural knowledge all continue until the perfect, while faith and hope continue until their fulfillment. Only love lives through it all - love is eternal for God is love (1 John 4:8).

Then what is the perfect?

What is the complete combination of prophecy and supernatural knowledge? We assume those people would be marked by miracles to show they were of God and to verify the truth of their message. We would also assume it should line up roughly with the timeline that claims of spiritual gifts dropped off sharply about 150 AD.

The answer is very clear. The Bible contains prophecy and was written with supernatural knowledge. The canonized books were agreed to be Scriptural because witnesses at the time saw them verified with miracles and the claims of such miracles dropped off within a generation of the Bible's completion around 100 AD. It is all clear now.

Jacob performed a miracle because God intended to make those who would become His chosen people prosper. Moses and Aaron performed miracles to free God's people from bondage. The prophets performed miracles so God's truth might stand out in an idolatrous land. The ministry of Jesus was marked with miracles so God's ultimate truth could be verified. Each time there were miracles, it was at a general spiritual low, not a spiritual high.

Contrast this with the charismatics of today. They came out at a spiritual high, against every Biblical example of miracles. If they come bearing fresh teaching, as all of the old miracle workers did, they bear a sharp condemnation from the Bible.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

(Gal 1:8-9)
Then why would miracles return? Come back tomorrow for a blog post inspired by a favorite saying of mine: "Not all powers are sovereign." After that, we will examine the future miracles, those of the Two Witnesses in Revelation, and then we will conclude our study of miracles by looking into "A More Excellent Way."

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