When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8:39-40)
God would perform a miracle not only when there is a desperate need, and he often does it not only to prove himself. It is foolish to always try to come up with a reason behind a miracle or to state one reason to cover all of them, such as to say that he does it to authenticate new revelation. If the Bible tells us the reason, then accept it. If the Bible does not tell us and it is impossible to infer one, then accept that. And he may often have more than one reason for performing a miracle.
God could perform a miracle because he wishes to authenticate a new revelation or to keep his word concerning an old revelation. Or, he could have compassion and decides to provide practical help to someone. Nobody can fault him when he does it in style. Perhaps he would do one, not directly but by a gift of the Spirit, and not by an apostle or church leader but by the lowest and least trained believer, just to rub it in the face of the theologians who tell people that he would not. If God wishes to do something, he will do it, and you cannot stop him, even when he does something or through someone that your religious bias disapproves. Let your bias burn in hell, so that you will not have to.
This miracle seems unusual, but it is not unheard of. Enoch walked with God, and he did not experience death, because God took him away (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5). Elijah probably experienced this miracle so many times that he was known for it, so that people assumed that it would happen to him. When he said that he would wait for the king, Obadiah was worried and answered, "I don't know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you" (1 Kings 18:12). Then, like Enoch, Elijah was carried up to heaven and did not experience death (2 Kings 2:11-12). The company of the prophets did not realize that he had been taken up to heaven, and so they said, "Perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley" (v. 16).
It is possible that John 6:21 describes one such miracle associated with Jesus: "Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading." This could mean that the boat arrived without further incident, but if this refers to a miracle, then it means that when Jesus stepped in, the boat and all its passengers were miraculously transported to the shore. This would be consistent with the fact that some of the people regarded Jesus as the return of Elijah, although there were a number of other things regarding Jesus that could have reminded them of that prophet.
Some of the greatest or most significant feats were not performed through the apostles or even in association with the apostles. One of the most glorious and pivotal chapters of the early church focused on Stephen as he confronted the non-Christians with a brilliant account of God's dealing with his people, and as heaven opened up to him and he saw Jesus Christ at the right hand of God. Here Philip was transported by the Spirit of God. He disappeared before witnesses and appeared in another place.
Although Philip is always portrayed in a positive light, some theologians attempt to undermine his ministry in Samaria. This is not because the Bible says that there was anything defective in Philip's work, but because Luke, as he does in other places, represents the conversion to Christ and the reception of the Spirit as distinct blessings. "When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:14-17). This is a tremendous threat to the theologians of unbelief, and they refuse to allow this. No matter what the Bible says, they are determined to have it their way.
So they claim that Philip's ministry was so deficient that the Samaritans were not in fact converted until the apostles arrived. What? Did the apostles convert the people by laying their hands on them? But Luke insists that the people "had accepted the word of God" and had "been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." This satisfied Peter's demand in Acts 2: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." And after this, Peter added, "You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (v. 38). The Samaritans were undergoing the same process that Peter described. It is nothing less than a demonic prejudice to suppose that they were not converted under Philip's preaching.
But theologians still refuse to accept the word of God, and they insist that being converted to Christ and being filled with the Spirit should be identical and simultaneous. Holding this assumption constant against all contradictory evidence, the two-stage experience of the Samaritans must have occurred because God wanted to show them that they were formally accepted into the church by sending the apostles and by delaying the filling of the Spirit. They are blinded to another possibility. Perhaps God sent the apostles and delayed the Spirit to make a point of showing future generations and these theologians that these are indeed two distinct blessings.
The text itself suggests that it is a separate ability or ministry to lay hands on people for the reception of the Holy Spirit, so that Simon tried to purchase it (Acts 8:19). "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (1 Corinthians 12:17-18). So Philip preached to the people, and then Peter and John laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit.
The theologians insist that this was a privilege of the apostles, and that the reception of the Spirit was separated from conversion to Christ only as exceptions. That is, all the biblical passages that disprove their theory are exceptions. Perhaps the non-Christians can learn something from these scholars, because by this method they might be able to prove atheism from the Bible. In any case, the very next chapter says that Ananias, an ordinary believer, laid his hands on Paul so that he could be filled with the Holy Spirit three days after his conversion. Just as Peter and John laid hands on the Samaritans to impart the Holy Spirit and to initiate their Christian lives, Ananias laid hands on Paul to impart the Holy Spirit and to initiate his astounding ministry as an apostle.
God leaves testimonies for himself throughout Scripture as obscene gestures against the scholarship of the theologians. He says, "Take that!" over and over again to their unbelief, prejudice, and personal agenda. We ought to remember that God can transport people straight to hell just as easily as he can transport them to heaven. And indeed hell would be one big middle finger against unbelief. As for us, we do not regard God as obscene, for all his blessings are gestures of wisdom, power, and love. Those who are perishing consider the aroma of Christ "the smell of death" (2 Corinthians 2:16), but to us his wrath to destroy them are instructive and glorious (Romans 9:22-24).
Your preachers and theologians boldly proclaim the priesthood of all believers. But they are liars – they do not believe it. They will assert the doctrine against those they consider too restrictive or authoritarian, but then they will turn around and undermine your liberty in Jesus Christ. They will limit the application of the doctrine to press you down and fence you in, not according to biblical principles, but according to their own traditions, codified as orthodoxy in their creeds.
But the Bible teaches the priesthood of all believers, so that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you are a priest under him. You have direct and complete access to God, and you possess the authority and the ability to dispense the grace of God to any person and in any place. More than this, Luke teaches the prophethood of all believers. Moses had said, "I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" (Numbers 11:29). His dream was at last realized on Pentecost when Jesus Christ received the promise from his Father and poured out the Spirit upon all his people.
To think that the Spirit's miraculous power only belonged to or was only associated with the apostles, and that it passed away with them, represents a fundamental estrangement from God's heart and a thoroughgoing defective understanding of Scripture from Numbers to the Gospels and the Acts. Yet this is the position of multitudes of preachers and theologians who purport to be reliable guides in the way of Christ. They are frauds. Do not believe them. They have rejected the privilege and they wish that you would reject it too. But the Bible teaches that all of God's people can be prophets. They can be channels not only of his saving grace, but also of his mighty power.
The Spirit of God can do great things through you regardless of your title and regardless of which century you live in. The issue has never been whether the apostles are dead, but whether God is dead. If God lives, then all things are possible to him who believes. We can advance in Jesus Christ, even as far as our faith takes us, and the doctrines and institutions of men cannot hold us back. Of course, we ought to have realistic aspirations, but we ought to be realistic not according to a doctrine of unbelief, but according to our measure of faith.