Witch doctors and miracles

The International Missions Board has an amazing story today out of North Africa. Here’s an excerpt.

Hospital doctors discovered that Ali had a perforated colon — an extremely rare condition in younger men without trauma or previous infection, and Ali had neither. Castle couldn’t explain how it happened, but Ali had a theory: He believed his illness was the product of a curse placed on him by an Islamic witch doctor. Things got worse after the surgery…

You can read the exciting conclusion of this story here.

I am not a charismatic. I believe the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit (i.e. tongues, prophecy, miracles, healing) ceased by the end of the first century AD for several reasons: (1) the purpose of these gifts was revelatory and to authenticate the apostle’s ministry (2 Cor. 12:12). (2) Paul said these gifts would go away (1 Cor. 13:10). (3) the later years of the New Testament already seem to indicate the sign gifts were fading out (e.g. Phil. 2:27; 1 Tim. 5:23).

But that does not mean cessationists like myself deny the reality of miracles. I have never heard a cessationist say miracles do not happen. Our Almighty God can and does still perform miracles according to His Sovereign will and even sometimes in direct answer to our prayers. But note, the story above and other joyous incidents around the world are something quite different from the apostolic gift of healing, where for example Paul was performing extraordinary miracles in Acts 19:11-12.

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2 thoughts on “Witch doctors and miracles”

  1. If I may. . . there seems to be a difference in a person who has a “gift” for miracles and simply believing God can do miracles.

    When a person claims a gift for miracles, they draw attention to themselves. But God only moves when he will get the glory.

    am I correct?

    Cool story.

  2. I think your statement sums it up pretty well. Certainly there is a big difference between someone who heals for the right motive vs. the wrong motive. But even more than that, it's important to note the main purpose of miracles in the Bible was to authenticate (put God's personal stamp of approval) on the claims of Jesus and the message of the apostles.

    Robert Thomas explains it this way:

    “Too often people have misunderstood the purpose of the gift of healing. They have erroneously assumed that the gift was primarily to give people good health. If this had been the gift's purpose, it was surely a failure, b/c it was used on only a small fraction of the people who were sick and even those who were healed eventually died. Good health was only an incidental benefit from the gift. its principal purpose was that of authentication.

    “Such authenticating gifts were necessary b/c of the drastic changes involved in the conveyance of NT revelation. Some means was necessary to identify the true message from God in the midst of many counterfeit messages. W/o such dramatic means, no radical departure fom rhte past would have been possible. God chose to use that kind of means at other critical periods of biblical history, such as in the time of Moses and Aaron and in that of Elijah and Elisha. Such a special concentration of miraculous activity had biblical precedent…

    “…Whatever is represented in this day and time as the gift of healing has several possible explanations: psychosomatic cures, hoaxes, Satanic deceptions, or healings in answer to prayer. None of those qualifies as the gift of healing as exercised during the days of the infant church” (Understanding Spiritual Gifts, 184-85).

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