“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” (John 4:48)
Cessationists often use the verse to disparage those who seek miracles and those who have faith in the continuing manifestations of the Holy Spirit. This is a shameless misuse of the verse, and demonstrates their theological prejudice and inaptitude.
Jesus’ statement cannot apply to those who ask for miracles in order to benefit from those miracles. The official’s son was sick and close to death. He asked for a healing miracle not because he demanded proof that Jesus was the Messiah or even that he was a healer. He just did not want his son to die, and he came because he already believed that Jesus could heal.
Likewise, those who petition God for miracles today in order to receive the benefit of these miracles are not looking for proof that God is true and able. They already believe that God is true and able, and they are asking him to help them. And of course they need to seek from God – it is not as if the cessationists will do anything for them besides lecturing them to suffer with a good attitude.
Then, Jesus’ statement cannot apply to those who ask God to perform miracles through them in order to benefit those who need these miracles. They are not demanding proof that God is true and able before they would believe in him. Rather, they expect God to work miracles through them and for them because they already believe in Jesus Christ, and because they already believe that God is true and able. And of course they need to be stubborn about this and persist in their petition – with the effort they put into undermining people’s faith in miracles, it is not as if the cessationists will pray with them to bring miracles to those who need them.
Jesus was referring to the Galileans. Although the text says that the people welcomed him, it seems that they did so only because “they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.” His displeasure was not directed at the official who asked in faith for a miracle, but at those who demanded to see signs and wonders, over and over again, before they would believe.
Therefore, his statement could by extension or analogy apply to the cessationists who demand miracles from the charismatics as proof that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit continue today. Instead of helping them petition God for miracles for the glory of Christ and the good of the people, they are constantly doubting them, interrogating them, and even persecuting them, just like the Pharisees in the Gospels and the Jews in the Acts of the Apostles.
They often subject those who have benefited from the miracles to invasive scrutiny and public embarrassment. And they would twist the Scripture beyond all recognition to accomplish this. The church would be far stronger and the world would be a much better place if they would use such tactics on the non-Christians instead. Why not scrutinize the unbelievers? Why not embarrass their science and religion? It is because Jesus Christ is a much greater threat to their theological agenda and tradition, and the respect and position that they have established for themselves.
As Christians, one of the most urgent tasks before us is to spread suspicion and hostility against those who would hinder us from believing and seeking miracles from Jesus Christ. We believe that God performs signs and wonders because the Bible says so. And we believe that God continues to perform miracles through his people because the Bible says so. We are not those who demand God to prove himself before we believe, but because we believe, God will prove himself through us according to his will.