Many in the denominational world contend that God is still working miracles as He did in the time of the Old and New Testament periods. The “Healing Lines,” and “Healing Campaigns” are not only very popular, they have become a very lucrative enterprise for the modern day “Faith Healer.” Most of the miracles people believe in today do involve healing of physical maladies. In this lesson we will define miracles, notice what the Bible says about them, find out just what purpose they served, and why they are no longer available to Christians today.
A “miracle” is not just an unexplained phenomenon. In the Bible it always involved a specific intervention of divine power into the realm of the natural. Miracles are defined in the Bible in terms that indicate something about the great deeds. Miracles are called, “miracles, wonders, and signs” in passages such as Acts 2:22 and Hebrews 2:4. The term miracle itself comes from a word that means, “power.” It is translated from the Greek term dunamis. It was “used of works of a supernatural origin and character such as could not be produced by natural agents and means.” An Expository Dictionary of the New Testament, W.E. Vine, page 412.
The next term is “sign.” A miracle was a sign to those who observed it in process. A sign indicates something beyond itself and the signs Jesus and the apostles worked were indicators of the divine power behind them. Then there is the word “wonder,” which indicates the effect it had upon those who observed it. Basically, a Bible miracle is something for which God Almighty is ultimately responsible in which human and divine instrumentality combine to set aside known natural laws.
There are a number of groups claiming the power to perform these miracles today. All of them cite God as their source of power, as if God works through them all. Catholicism is known for the miraculous claims at Lourdes in southern France. The Mormons believe that God still works through them miraculously. The Christian Scientists claim God miraculously uses them to cure all sorts of diseases and the various Pentecostal and Charismatic groups all claim the same. If God did work through them to work miracles, doesn’t it seem reasonable that He would overpower them and make them teach and practice the same things? All of them teach and practice differently, yet all claim to follow the Bible, and all claim God works through them. This makes God go against Himself. This is a preposterous claim.
It should be made clear that while denying modern day miracles we do not deny the miracles Jesus and the early disciples worked. Every miracle recorded in the Bible is true. It actually happened just as the Scripture describes it. Nor does a denial of modern day miracles demand that we deny miracles will yet take place. One of the greatest miracles ever will occur when Christ returns and takes His saints home with Him.
Furthermore, it should be understood that healing of sickness, disease, or physical disability is divine — not in the sense of something miraculous, but in the sense that God has the final word in healing. Doctors and medicines may be the natural means of healing, but it is God who is behind every healing act. A denial of the imaginary miracles men propose to do in religion now does not mean one denies God’s power. God has power to do as He wills. The question is, “Does He will to grant men divine powers today as He did in the first century?” This lesson denies it simply because of what God Himself has revealed on the issue.
Bible miracles may be classed as follows:
1. Miracles in the natural world. The disciples were fearful when a storm suddenly threatened their lives. They were at sea and the storm seemed to them imminent danger. Jesus simply said, “Why are you timid, you men of little faith?” Then the Bible says, “He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm” (Matt. 8:26). Jesus demonstrated the power over natural forces.
2. Miracles over physical diseases. Matthew says, “And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” (Matt. 4:23).
3. Miracles over demonic powers. Matthew also says that Jesus cast demons out of people who were unfortunate victims of demon possession. Matthew 8:16 reads, “And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed them all.”
4. Miracles over matter. When crowds who came to hear Jesus grew hungry, Jesus took a few fishes and loaves and miraculously turned them into enough to feed thousands of people (Matt. 14:15-21).
5. Miracles over physical life. Jesus and His disciples demonstrated the power over physical life in bringing certain ones back to life from death (John 11:43-44; Acts 9:38-41; 20:9).
The power invested in the apostles came from Christ who promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were told, “… stay in the city (Jerusalem) until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Just prior to His Ascension He again said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you …” (Acts 1:8). The power was to come with the Spirit; hence the Holy Spirit was the power Jesus gave His disciples by which to perform miracles.
In previous lessons we have noticed that I Corinthians 12 is a chapter in which supernatural gifts from the Spirit were given to some of the early saints. Read the following verses carefully: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit: to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (verses 3-11).
The Holy Spirit worked through the early disciples in each of these nine gifts. The word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, effecting of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, various kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues all came from one spirit, but not every disciple had all the gifts. In fact, not all disciples had any of these kinds of gifts. The distribution was according to the will of the Spirit; not the will of the recipient. Those today who claim to receive one or more of these gifts usually claim it is because they have sought diligently the baptism of the Holy Spirit with some miraculous manifestation to follow it.
Miracles really had only one purpose. That purpose did not include delighting the recipient. Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” and fervently requested that the Lord remove it, but his plea was not granted (2 Cor. 12:7-10). He said he left one of his companion workers, Trophimus, in Miletus ill (2 Tim. 4:20). Wonder why Paul didn’t heal him by miraculous measures? The obvious reason is that miracles were not to satisfy those who may have needed healing or other benefits.
Miracles did not serve as substitutes for natural means. Jesus endorsed the use of doctors, medicines, and therapy. He said, “the sick need a doctor” (Luke 5:31). Paul told Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim. 5:23). It was the wise man of the Old Testament who counseled, “A joyful heart is good medicine…” (Prov. 17:22).
The purpose of miracles was to confirm the word. Jesus said, “But the witness which I have is greater than that of John (the Baptist), for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me” (John 5:36-37). Peter affirmed, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
When the apostles went forth preaching the word, Jesus promised that signs would follow them such as “they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues, they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them, they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18). By the time they had compassed the world with the gospel (Col. 1:23) the Hebrew writer could say, “God also bearing them witness both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Heb. 2:4). The word is confirmed once and for all. Jude 3 declares it. “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). That which is once and for all delivered and confirmed is complete and final. It needs no further confirmation.
Bible miracles were so different than those denominationalists claim to work today. Notice the contrast in the following (comparison) diagram.
Done on various conditions
Not Conditioned on Faith
Modern Day “Miracles”
Sick told they will improve.
Very questionable results
Conditioned on faith
The honest student of the Bible must conclude that there is not one Bible miracle that can be performed today. There is no reason why one should even seek to perform miracles. Their purpose was well served. God once made man miraculously but now has set in motion His natural law of procreation. Once Jesus fed people miraculously with loaves of bread, but now has set a natural law in motion whereby man still eats bread from the hand of the Lord — but not miraculously.