At the time of the offering of the [evening] sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and [that] You have turned their heart back again." Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God."
1 Kings 18:36-39 (NASB)
Hymn: "Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee" Bernard of Clairvaux, Edward Caswall, John B. Dykes
I grew up in a church that was officially non-denominational and unofficially Pentecostal. Now, my journey from that to a Baptist understanding of things was complicated and involved a mix of theological examination and personal experience, but if I'm honest it was never the popular Baptist cessationism that appealed to me. I am, to this day, at best something of a 'soft' cessationist; I don't believe certain gifts only existed for the early church or that they have ever stopped*, simply that need for them has decreased and application has followed suit.
Today's reading, which included the story of Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal as well as the first sixteen verses of both Acts 5 and Acts 20 (it's odd how that one worked out, now that I think about it), involved a lot of miraculous activity. But it also pointed out some of the point of that activity. The thing is, we do not tend to see miracles in scripture as normative daily experiences for God's people. There are times of heightened activity, but these are in the midst of long periods with nothing much going on. Generations of corrupt kings sat on the thrones of Israel and Judah with little, if any, recorded intervention from God aside from His previously-given word. King David experienced the presence and guidance of God throughout his life and reign, yet aside from a handful of prophetic statements I can recall no miracles he ever witnessed off the top of my head.
But miracles, overt divine intervention, and great signs always accompany the work of God to call a people to Himself who were previously far from Him. Abraham and Sarah gave birth to a child they should not have been able to produce in order to begin the line of Israel, God judged Egypt with divine plagues to draw His people out of the land and then used incredible actions to show Himself to them and explain the promises they would receive and act on. Noah had his ark when the world turned against God and Elijah had fire from Heaven when Israel did the same. The coming of Jesus involved angels and a virgin birth, and His ministry was marked by miracles and signs which continued into the formation of the church and the spreading of that church to the gentiles.
I submit that, while it is always possible for God to use such signs wherever and whenever He desires, any drive we have for them may be misplaced. It seems far more likely that there will be miracles in the life of a missionary making first contact with a people who have never heard the name of Jesus than in our cushy little Christian-influenced cultures of the west. And woe to us if ever we're in dire need of such signs!
Rather than arguing over whether such gifts can and do still exist, we would be much better learning to see God's hand move whether with or without miracles. Let us learn to rejoice when God acts so openly in our lives, and trust His wisdom when we do not.
*The one objection I hear commonly to this idea is that, by believing in a closed canon, I must believe that the gift involved in writing scripture has ceased, so there must be at least one that was only for the early church. This is not the place to go into depth about it, but I would argue in basic terms that the writing of scripture is not itself a spiritual gift, but rather a function of a number of other gifts that can be and are also used in other ways, and as such ceasing that function does not require ceasing the gifts.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation