The early church received miraculous gifts from God (Acts 2:16-17; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Ephesians 4:8). Miracles were worked through the apostles (Acts 3:1-10; 5:12; 5:15-16; 8:14-17; 9:32-35; 9:36-42; 13:6-12; 14:1-3; 14:8-10; 15:12; 16:16-18; 19:6; 19:11-12; 20:9-12; 28:3-5; 28:8-9). Miracles also were worked through members, other than apostles (Acts 6:8; 8:6-8, 13; 9:17-18; 11:27-28; 19:6-7; 21:8-9; 21:11).
We continue our study of miracles. In this part, we will consider how these gifts were received.
Miraculous gifts were received by two means. First, miraculous gifts were received directly from heaven. This was rare. This, by my count, happened only three times in the New Testament. (1) It happened on that Pentecost which immediately followed Jesus’ ascension (Acts 2:1-4). This happened to the apostles [The antecedent of the pronoun “they” is the apostles (Acts 1:26 cf. 2:1, 4)]. (2) It happened to Cornelius and his house (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15-18). The purpose was to demonstrate that the gentiles were proper candidates for the gospel (Acts 10:44-47; 11:15-18; 15:6-11). (3) It can be inferred that such happened to Saul (Galatians 1:1, 15-24; 2:6-9). He did not receive inspiration from the hands of men (Galatians 1:1; 1:16-17).
Second, miraculous gifts were received through the hands of the apostles. (1) The happened in Samaria (Acts 8:14-17). Philip could work miracles (Acts 8:4-8, 13). However, he did not confer miraculous gifts unto others. The apostles were needed for this (Acts 8:14-17). (2) This happened at Galatia (Galatians 3:2 cf. 3:5). (3) This happened to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:6). (4) This happened at Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:12-13 cf. 1 Corinthians 1:7) The ability to confer miraculous gifts to others was the sign of an apostle. (5) This happened at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). (6) Paul had desire to do this at Rome (Romans 1:11).
Think of the implication. Miraculous gifts only came two ways. There are no apostles today, who can confer miraculous gifts [an apostle had to be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). Paul wrote that he was the last of the witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:8 cf. Acts 9:1-6)]. Moreover, the only non-apostles to directly receive miraculous ability in the New Testament was Cornelius and his house. This, chronologically the last such occurrence in the New Testament, was a special case. Why should one expect to receive such today?
It is objected that the apostles were not the only ones who could confer miraculous gifts. Two passages are usually cited as evidence. (1) It is argued that Timothy received his gift by the hands of the eldership (1 Timothy 4:14). However, this is not what the text says. Timothy received his gift “through” (dia) the hands of Paul (2 Timothy 1:6). It was “with” (meta) the hands of the eldership (1 Timothy 4:14). The laying on of hands was sometimes done to separate one to a work (e.g. Numbers 27:23; Acts 6:5-6; 13:1-3). Paul was the means of Timothy receiving his gift. The eldership also laid their hands on Timothy, at this time, separating him to work with Paul (no doubt during the time of Acts 16:1-3). “A.T. Robertson observes that meta ‘does not express instrument or means but merely accompaniment” (Wayne Jackson, Notes From The Margin of My Bible, Vol. 2, p. 130 – quoting Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 4, p. 581). (2) It is argued that Saul received the Holy Spirit through the hands of Ananias (Acts 9:10-18). However, the text does not necessarily imply such. Consider: (a) The purpose of Ananias’ laying of hands on Saul is stated: “So that he might receive his sight” (Acts 9:12). (b) The purpose of Ananias’ coming is stated as two-fold: “that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). It is possible Ananias’ hands provided Saul with restored sight, and that the Holy Spirit was given directly from heaven in Ananias’ presence. Remember that Peter’s visit had something to do with Cornelius’ receiving the Holy Spirit; however, such did not come through Peter’s hands. Saul’s apostleship did not come “from” (apo) or “through” (dia) man (Galatians 1:1).