Another quote from the Q&A from the 1996 Desiring God Conference for Pastors, The Pastor and His Study. Iain Murray was the featured speaker, and the biography was of Martin Luther. I highly recommend the audio from the conference.
Q: With regard to signs, things such as falling down and whatnot, being of relatively low importance. I hear people use the text on the counsel of Jerusalem in Acts, where Paul addresses the Jerusalem church and there’s a hush over the crowd as he talks about the signs and miracles that were done among the Gentiles. And I hear people looking to that and saying, “something’s wrong in our time.” Or at least something very, very significant is missing, when we have a situation where we’re proclaiming the gospel and these things are not happening. John or Iain I wonder if you could help me out there.
Piper: I do not accept the cessationist or Warfieldian argument that there are points in history at which time only there is a great flare-up of signs and wonders. However, I do think there are seasons, for reasons, at which time there are great flare-ups. In other words, God is not limited to the apostolic era, or Elijah, or some other time – the crossing of the Red Sea – at which we have a little flare-up of miraculous things.
But I think while there’s nothing I can see in the New Testament that would limit signs and wonders to the apostles, I think there’s good reason to believe that they had something extraordinary going on upon them. The drawing near of the incarnation, and the foundation of the church was unique, and therefore it doesn’t trouble me as much as it does some that the quality and prevalence of miracles in the hands of the apostles should be greater than what we have seen typically throughout church history, I would expect that, frankly, I would expect that from what I see biblically.
However, from the other side, I think, probably, our low expectation of signs and wonders in the evangelistic enterprise is a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s a self-fulfilling low expectation. If you don’t expect God to do a thing, He probably won’t do it. And therefore I would think that we probably could expect more, that we could expect some remarkable turns of events and dreams like we’re hearing about among Muslims. I read about this morning, that “the Lord bore witness with signs and wonders to the word of His grace.” The Lord witnessed to the word. Now you had the word right there being preached by an authoritative eye-witness you don’t need anything else. You don’t need signs and wonders in Acts. That’s the last place in history that you need signs and wonders is when you have eye-witnesses to the resurrection. And yet the Lord gave them.
And we are a generation who don’t have eye-witnesses, and you’d think logically, we need ‘em! Well, God just thinks his own way, and if he wants to win Muslims through dreams, or if he wants to do something here through a healing. So, what I’m saying is, if somebody says to me, “ we should be seeing lots of these things, we should see the book of Acts.” I say, “well, wait, wait, wait, you don’t know that you should see the book of Acts.” The apostolic age was unique and the signs and wonders done through the hands of the apostles may not be what gifts of healings is about in 1 Corinthians 12. Gifts of healings and miracles there in 1 Corinthians 12 may be of a lower order and less powerful, and less frequent. So yes, probably we could see more, but don’t set up an ideal in Acts that you demand has to be, or the church is carnal and unbelieving.