Before and After the New Testament Scriptures (Part III)
In addition to the apostles, there were others who had miraculous gifts of the Spirit in the early days of the church. There were those in the first century church who were not apostles, but through the laying on of the apostle’s hands were given miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says of Stephen, that he “did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8 NKJV). When Philip went to Samaria, it says: “the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did” (Acts 8:6; see also, verses 7–8). These men were not apostles, but they were given miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit that enabled them to perform miracles. In the same way, there were others, besides the apostles, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit and enabled to teach the very Word of God. The Gospels of Mark and Luke were written by inspired men who were not apostles, so was Acts and the epistles of James and Jude. Only the apostles had the ability, though, to lay their hands on other saints so that they would receive miraculous gifts.
I mentioned Philip going and preaching in the city of Samaria and performing miracles (above). The result was that the people believed and were baptized. Then verses 14–19 continue:
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Why did Peter and John have to go down to Samaria? Why didn’t Philip lay hands on those people so that they received the Holy Spirit? It was because Philip was not an apostle. Philip had the ability to do miracles, but he did not have the ability to pass this on to others. Only apostles could do that. It was through “the laying on of the apostles’ hands,” says verse 18 (see also, 2 Tim 1:6).
What does this mean for us today? It means that once the apostles were gone, no one else was given the Holy Spirit in a way that allowed them to have those miraculous gifts of the Spirit anymore. Once the apostles and those whom the apostles laid their hands on had passed, those miracles ceased. They were no longer necessary by that time, since the New Testament was completed and preserved in the Bible. This remains true today.