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What Happened To Those People The Apostles Laid Hands On?

It's very important we get to know what the Holy Spirit did in the lives of those the apostles laid their hands on.

We discussed at some length the fact that the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to lay their hands on certain Christians in the first century church and impart to them spiritual, miraculous gifts. Several examples were given such as: Stephen in Acts 7, Philip in Acts 8 and the former disciples of John in Acts 19.

There are many other instances in the New Testament which exemplify this truth, that is, the conveying of miraculous power to some Christians by the laying on of the apostle's hands. It should be emphasized and carefully noted that this communicating, this transmitting of such power is attributed to the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of the apostles. This is the part the Holy Spirit played in the plan of salvation.

As we read the following passage, there are three things noteworthy for your observation: (1) the variety of gifts (2) the purpose they served (3) the fact that the Spirit conveyed them to the Christian.

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant. ... There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:1-8). In introducing the subject of spiritual gifts, Paul tells us two things: (1) The source of them. While it is a single source, they are attributed to God, the Lord and the Spirit. (2) The purpose of them. They are for service, for working, for the common good. This we will see as we further our study of this topic.

Paul lists nine of these gifts. Two of them have to do with the intellect: wisdom and knowledge. Five of them concern faith: faith itself, then deeds of faith; healing and miracles, speech of faith; prophesy and discerning of spirits. Two of the gifts involve the tongue; languages and interpretation of languages.

You will notice that Paul wrote “word of wisdom” and “word of knowledge,” which indicate discourse—and that for the benefit of others. The gospel has to be preached, either orally or written. The line that divides wisdom and knowledge is not always apparent. However, Paul certainly intended to name two gifts, and I believe the scriptures determine a difference. Sophia, the word that is translated wisdom, carries with it the idea of “ability, prudence, enlightenment, skillful, artful, as well as knowledge." Lenski says that “it consists of all the gracious, heavenly, and efficient thoughts of God embodied in Christ Jesus for the enlightenment of our souls." Whereas knowledge, gnosis, "is the personal apprehension of the details of the gospel. Knowledge deals with the explanation, the unfolding, and the correlation of the gospel facts, or we may call them doctrines.”

Both wisdom and knowledge enabled the Christians who were given these special gifts of the Spirit to understand and teach the truth of the gospel to others, and to do so free of error. You can see why this would be necessary, in as much as they did not have the word of the gospel written down. It was still in the process of being revealed. These gifts had to do with the disclosure of the gospel.

To be a little more literal, it meant the uncovering of God's will, taking the wraps off, unveiling, so men could see what God required of them. This had to do with preaching, and, therefore, with the intellect. But that preaching had to be “error free," and that was possible only the miraculous guidance of the Holy Spirit.

There was the gift of faith. This was a faith that enabled those possessed of the gift to remove mountains, to exert power. Faith, which is commonly used in the New Testament, and by which we are saved, comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). It is not a miraculous gift bestowed upon Christians today. Faith is not what God gives us, but what we do with the teaching and evidence that He has given us in His word. Then, however, in special cases the Holy Spirit gave a miraculous faith, permitting the Christians who possessed it to exert supernatural powers to prove the word of God to be true.

This also can be said of gifts of healing and the working of miracles. It was through such gifts as wisdom and knowledge that the word of God was communicated to the world; whereas it was through these gifts of faith, healing, workings of miracles that confirmed that message which was preached. You will remember that Mark said in closing his record of the gospel, “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (Mark 16:20).

There is a discussion of healing in James 5:14-15: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” It has been shown that there were those in the first century church who were given the gift of healing by the Spirit.

From this passage, it is evident that some of those Christians with that special gift were elders in the church. The healing James discusses here was not a “maybe," or "perhaps” or it can occur “if the sick man has enough faith.” It says “the Lord will raise him up,” and you can be sure that was one hundred percent of the time. This was a special gift, a miraculous gift, and it was bestowed on some Christians not only to help the afflicted, but also to advance the cause of truth! To some of those Christians was given the gift of prophecy. This was speaking of the message of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whether with reference to the past, present or future. The purpose of this ministry was to teach, to edify, to comfort, to impart God's will to others and to encourage believers. More than that, it was to convict the sinner and lead the erring back to God (I Corinthians 14:24-25).

There were also the gifts of tongues. The Greek text calls them different kinds of tongues. This meant different languages (glosson). Those who possessed this gift could teach people of different nationalities the gospel in their own home language. If it had to be interpreted, it accomplished the same results. Add to that, however, it had the effect of confirming the word. It was just this simple: How could a man speak in foreign languages, which he had never studied and to which he had never been exposed? That is not possible; so, the deduction is that he received that ability from God; and that was a confirmation of this genuineness and of the authenticity of the word he spoke!

Some men in the early church had the gift of interpreting tongues. This was necessary if anyone were going to be taught, instructed and edified by what was said. In fact, Paul forbade them to speak in a foreign language unless there was someone present to interpret it. “... Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church” (I Corinthians 14:26-28). Paul further said, “Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19).

There were those who had the gift of discerning spirits. In a time a when the word of God was not written down, and there was, therefore, no infallible standard by which to measure the truth, this was a necessary gift. God's revelation had not been fully or completely established, and certainly not generally understood.

There were many false teachers and deceivers in the world then. So, it was necessary, in order to have an accurate revelation of truth, that there be some brethren with this gift of discerning spirits so that they could distinguish between the genuine and false preachers. It was about this that John was speaking: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Peter spoke in this same vein: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies ...” (II Peter 2:1).

Paul gave considerable time to the discussion of this problem: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (I Timothy 4:1). In his second letter to Timothy, he charged: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (II Timothy 4:2-4).

In order to keep from wandering away from the truth, there had to be a standard by which to measure it. The word of God is that standard. It was first spoken by inspired men and later written down for accuracy and permanence so that succeeding generation could have access to it. In the first stage, it was spoken, and it was necessary, therefore, that the miraculous spiritual gift of discerning spirits be given to some as a safeguard against false teaching.

Once inspired men wrote the word of God down, the written word became the ultimate standard by which all things are measured. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written” (I Corinthians 4:6).

THE PURPOSE OF MIRACLES

Although passages of scripture have already been read and points made as to the purpose of miracles, I would like to’emphasize and underscore the purpose that is given in the New Testament. If we can learn the design of miracles, that is, why were they used, we will have an understanding of the part they played in the plan of salvation for mankind. Primarily they served these purposes:

1. To reveal the truth: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). Some of the miracles, which were performed, served the specific purpose of inducing men to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This is a truth that must be believed for one to be saved. Men could not learn that of themselves. Peter acknowledged Him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus, in response to that confession, said to him: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

Paul discusses the disclosure of God's will to the Christians in the church at Ephesus. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself” (Ephesians 1:7-9).

He continued that thought in the third chapter, “How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already by which when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:3-5).

Still later in this same letter: “And for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). These passages settle the fact that the Holy Spirit revealed God's will to the apostles and prophets and enabled them to transmit that message to the world exactly and free of error.

In his letter to the Galatians he pursues this topic to ingrain it in the hearts of his hearers: “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came I through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).

In Galatians 3:23, the apostle tell us that faith was revealed. Here he speaks of faith as a synonym of Christianity, or of the gospel. Faith is used in the New Testament as: (1) The personal faith of the believer in christ. “... for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). “When he saw their faith...” (Luke 5:20). (2) Faith is used as the object of what one believes. “And truly Jesus did many other signs ... but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). “For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect” (Romans 4:14). “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:21-22). You see, it is important what one believes. That faith must be in God; it must be in the righteousness of God. It is the gospel which one must believe to be saved. (3) Faith is used many times in the New Testament for the whole scheme of human redemption, for God's plan of salvation, for the Christian religion, for his total arrangement of grace. “... a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). When Paul preached on the island of Cyprus, a magician by the name of Elymas was “seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith” (Acts 13:8). Paul returned to some places where he had previously preached and converted people and was “exhorting them to continue in the faith” (Acts 14:22). He spoke of “obedience to the faith” and had in mind the acceptance of the gospel rather than one's personal faith.

Remember Paul told the Corinthians that: “It is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.' But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (I Corinthians 2:9-10). He speaks further of this to the Colossians: “... of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has revealed to His saints” (Colossians 1:24-26).

All of this was done through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit. He inspired and miraculously revealed the truth to divinely inspired men. The purpose of the miracles He performed was to reveal the truth.

2. Miracles served the purpose of confirming the truth. It has been pointed out before in this treatise that the word confirm is from the Greek term Bebaioo, and some form of it is used nineteen times in the New Testament. It means “to confirm establish, render constant and unwavering; to strengthen or establish by arguments or proofs; to verify.”

The preaching of the apostles was confirmed by signs, or miracles which the Holy Spirit enabled them to perform (Mark 16:20). “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in every thing by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift” (1 Corinthians 1:4-7).

He is not speaking here of the testimony that others brought concerning Christ, although they did that, but the testimony which Christ Himself made while He was on the earth. He proved that He was the Son of God. He did it by preaching and establishing the authenticity of His message by miracles, which He performed throughout His ministry, from turning water into wine at the beginning until darkness enveloped the earth at His crucifixion. It was confirmed and then made solid in the hearts of the Corinthians.

In his second letter to these people, he said, “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (II Corinthians 12:12). This, too, proved the genuineness of the message of the Savior.

The writer of Hebrews tells us: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:3-4).

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22). In this way the deity of Jesus was established beyond doubt, and His ability to save. “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:22). These passages plainly assert that God's revelation to man was attested and authenticated by miracles.

In the process of unfolding His will to us, it had to be supported, sustained and documented by this unquestionable divine means. Once it was ratified and undergirded by these works of the Holy Spirit, it became crystallized, formed, settled for all time to come. It does not need bolstering and reinforcing now.

It is true; it will always be true! No man, or group of men, can change that. They may meet in councils, conferences, tribunals and men may discuss God's revelation, debate it, question it, deny it or burn it, but you may be sure they cannot change it, alter or destroy it.

Yes, I understand that they can pervert it and present it to their own people; but the word of God will live on forever. It is called the incorruptible seed“... which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23-25).

3. Miracles helped in the establishment and promulgation of the gospel until the New Testament was written. In discussing the miraculous spiritual gifts, Paul said, “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away” (I Corinthians 13:8-10).

The 12th, 13th and 14th chapters of I Corinthians are given over to a discussion of God's revelation of truth to man. In Paul's discourse he comments on the gifts, their use and misuse in relation to the development of this revelation of God. They were for the purpose of communicating the gospel to people. At times he dealt with prophecy, which was telling what God said. This was for teaching and edification. Then he would touch upon tongues and they were to convince the unbeliever, primarily.

However, Paul forbade them to speak in foreign tongues unless they were interpreted so that people could receive the benefit of the teaching. The whole purpose was “that I may teach others also” (I Corinthians 14:19).

So, these gifts were to last until the perfect came. Perfect what? The context shows that it was the perfect, complete will of God to the world. This is the matter that was under discussion. Paul was discussing the temporary nature of these gifts. God's complete disclosure of His will did not come in a total package at once. The Apostle said it came in fragments, a little bit at a time. He used the analogy of his childhood. When he was a child, he did not have a mature understanding of things in life.

He used another parallel-that of looking into a mirror dimly. The mirrors in that day were made of burnished metal and did not reflect as clearly as they do in our time. So, it was like looking into a mirror darkly; but when the perfect came, that which was in part, such as prophecy, tongues, knowledge was done away. They had served their purpose of revealing and confirming the truth, of fitting into God's arrangement until the full disclosure of His will was written down in the New Testament—until it became the “perfect will of God," "the perfect law of liberty” (Romans 12:1-2; James 1:25; 2:12).

“When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:8-13).

The completeness of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God is that final attainment and realization of God's perfect will. This was achieved when John, the apostle, laid down the pen of inspiration at the termination of the New Testament.

This is how Jude words it: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). One time for all time the faith was delivered.

“His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (II Peter 1:3). You will note that it was through the knowledge of Him that these blessings are granted. And that knowledge is acquired only through His word.

Written by Guy V. Caskey.


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