The newspapers recently carried the story of a so-called “faith healer,” who has been holding forth at Vandalia, Illinois and attracting large throngs of people, all seeking to avail themselves of his supposed miraculous healing powers. The following is part of a United Press dispatch:
“This usually quiet southern Illinois town of 5800 persons was bursting at the seams today with 4000 ailing persons. They came here hoping to be cured by a former game warden who turned `faith healer’ eleven months ago.
“The sermons and prayers of the Rev. Henry Branham, 38, nattily dressed Free Baptist minister, attracted the lame, halt and blind from every section of the country—and even southern Canada.
“The town was jammed with invalids on crutches, in wheel chairs and on stretchers. A score of ambulances that had been driven across the country were parked at downtown curbs. A constant stream of people limped or were carried to a tent on the edge of town, in which the Rev. Mr. Branham preached, prayed and attempted cures for two six-hour sessions daily.
“The Rev. Mr. Branham, formerly a game warden of Jeffersonville, Indiana, came here a week ago under the auspices of the local Pentecostal church. He said he had `cured hundreds of persons suffering from nearly every known disease.’
“`I was 11 when I was first called,’ he said, `I was carrying water, and a tree talked to me. When I was 14, I tried to smoke a cigarette. A man with a long white beard and flowing robe visited me. He told me not to smoke. Then 11 months ago I got a call so insistent that I went out and started healing people.’
“The Rev. Mr. Branham said he effected his cures by touching the patient’s left hand. `I receive vibrations caused by the germs in the person,’ he said. `I can usually tell what the disease is and when the devil leaves the person the vibrations stop.'”
After having read the above account, may we remind you that this happened, not in Africa, but in America. We sometimes ridicule the beliefs of the poor souls in heathen lands, but surely none of their superstitious ideas can exceed such nonsense as this. One wonders how long it will be before these other lands start sending missionaries to convert the heathen in the USA. Think of these thousands of poor deluded people, travelling great distances to witness some supposed miracle or hoping to be the beneficiary of some miraculous healing. Man will seemingly go to any lengths to get a little healing for the body, and the devil was not altogether wrong when he said, “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.” All one need do is come along with some kind of a healing scheme and he will soon have a following.
This incident at Vandalia is but a sample of that which is happening in many other places, though perhaps on a somewhat smaller scale. Many, including some really born-again Christians, are endeavoring to perpetuate the miracles and signs of Jesus of Nazareth. They are, of course, ignorant of the Word. Today, God speaks to us only through the Scriptures, not through a tree. If we would know His will for us, we learn it from the pages of His Book and not from some long-whiskered gentleman. Of course, in the Bible we do have the record of many healings, miracles, wonders and signs. However, if these sign-seeking folks would really study the Word, and rightly divide it, they would discover that with the setting aside of Israel, God turned from His “sign” program, and brought in the present dispensation of grace, which is a “signless” dispensation.
As long as the message was being proclaimed to Israel as a nation, signs were in evidence, “For the Jews require a sign” (I Cor. 1:22). They required a sign because their Old Testament Scriptures had foretold the fact that when Messiah came and the kingdom was established, signs, visions, etc. would be the order of the day. See Isaiah 35:5-6 and Joel 2:28-31. The miracles of Christ were thus His credentials to Israel, as stated by Peter on the day of Pentecost: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22).
During the Book of Acts the Jew is being given another opportunity to repent and receive the blessing of God. It is true that there is a gradual turning away from Israel, the apostle of the circumcision giving place to the apostle of the Gentiles, yet during all this period, and in every place, the Jew is still accorded a priority in the offer of blessing. Paul said, “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you” (Acts 13:46), and it is not until, in every place from Jerusalem to Rome, that the blessing had been despised and rejected by the Jew, that solemn words of Acts 28:28 are spoken to that once highly favored nation: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
During the time that Israel was first, miracles, signs, healings and visions were the common order of things. The writer to the Hebrews says, “Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us (Jews) by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles” (Heb. 2:3-4). However, after the setting aside of Israel, and the solemn pronouncement of Acts 28:28, the Scriptures will be searched in vain to find the record of even one such miracle.
The following, which is so clearly stated, is from the pen of Sir Robert Anderson: “The purpose of the miracles was to accredit the Messiah to Israel, and not, as generally supposed, to accredit Christianity to the heathen, and therefore, as Scripture plainly indicates, they continued so long as the testimony was addressed to the Jew, but ceased when, the Jew being set aside, the Gospel went out to the Gentile world.” Mr. Anderson also wrote: “We shall be prepared to find that so long as the kingdom was being preached to the Jews, miracles abounded, but that when the gospel appealed to the heathen world, miracles lost their prominence, and soon entirely ceased.”
There were three periods in Israel’s history which were characterized by miracles; the days of Moses and Joshua, the days of Elijah and Elisha, and the days of Christ and the apostles. Each one of these periods was also characterized by great apostasy on the part of God’s people. The next time that miracles are in evidence will be during the most apostate days of all, when the man of sin shall be revealed, “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (II Thes. 2:9).
The desire of many today for the sensational and spectacular is not indicative of a healthy spiritual condition. Truly the words spoken by the Saviour are applicable today: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Matt. 12:39). During this present age “the just shall live by faith” (Gal. 3:11). “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7). We are not to look for signs, but to walk by faith alone in the written Word of God. The Lord rebuked those of His day, and said, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (John 4:48). Later on He said, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).