Category Archives: Miracles

Purpose of Miracles

God does nothing without a purpose. He does not unleash His great and powerful hand to entertain man. The miraculous healings of the Bible were not circus acts. J. W. McGarvey once wrote, “A miracle wrought by a man is an exercise of Divine power entrusted to the man for some Divine purpose.”20:354 There was purpose behind the miracles of the Bible. Therefore, when the purpose was fulfilled, the miracles were no longer needed because the Holy Spirit, through the inspiration of the Bible, provided a foundation upon which our faith is built.

  1. Miracles were a stamp of God’s approval. Many of the miracles found in the Old Testament made known that God was the only true and living God and that His messengers were sent from Him, not Satan. Elisha, the successor of Elijah, was proven to be the messenger of God by the miracles he worked (2 Kg 2). Moses had the witness of God with him when he showed God’s power over the tricks of the magicians of Egypt (Ex 7:8-13). When these miracles had fulfilled their purpose, there was no need that they continue. God did not have to prove continually to Pharaoh after the Israelites were released, that He was the only God.
  2. Miracles proved the sonship of Jesus. Miracles authenticated Jesus as the Son of God. John wrote, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn 20:30,31). Jesus’ miracles produced faith in the minds of the beholders. “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him” (Jn 2:11). Nicodemus proclaimed, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (Jn 3:2; see 4:48).

“But I have a greater witness than John’s,” Jesus stated, “for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me” (Jn 5:36; see 6:14; 10:27,37,38; 11:15; 14:11). When John sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him, “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus responded, “Go tell John the things which you hear and see. The blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Mt 11:2-6; see Lk 7:20-22).

The works of Jesus proved that He was the Son of God and that He had the authority to forgive sins (Mt 9:6; see Mk 2:9-12; Lk 5:26). Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and preached, “Men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know” (At 2:22).

If there were to be such a thing as a “Son of God,” it is reasonable to believe that this “Son of God” should have command over the environment that He created. The working of miracles to prove His authenticity would be necessary in order that gullible men not follow after every so-called, self-made “miracle” performer that ventured upon the stage of history. And certainly, history has proven God right in making miracles the proof of His messengers. Has anyone, anywhere in the history of the world, worked such works as God’s messengers in the Bible? Many have claimed to do so in these modern times. But they are found to be frauds in view of the definition of the true confirming miracles that are listed in the Bible.

  1. Miracles proved that the early Christians were from God. Miracles that were worked by the hands of the first century messengers of Christ testified to their commission from God to preach the truth of the gospel. Mark recorded, “And these signs will follow those who believe; In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover … And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. “Amen” (Mk 16:17,18,20).

The Hebrew writer also wrote, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Hb 2:3,4). The witness of miracles was necessary in the first century to authenticate the messengers and the message. Once the testimony of this miraculous witness was recorded, then there needed to be no more confirming miracles. If one would believe the message today, then he or she must search through the recorded testimony of miracles that confirmed the message in the first century.

In our courts today we produce witnesses to verify a fact or evidence. The reliability and character of the witnesses plays a vital role as to the truthfulness of the witnesses’ testimony. Witnesses are questioned extensively and put to the test by the lawyers. After their reliability is substantiated, and their testimony is placed on record, then the witnesses are no longer needed. The jury does not take the witnesses to the jury chambers in order to make their decision. They take the record of the trial which contains the testimony of each witness.

So it is with the word of God. Who can find a flaw in the record of the miracles that the inspired writers have recorded for us today? Are not Paul, Peter and John reliable witnesses? Who can find fault or flaw in the life of Jesus of Nazareth? Miracles proved the trustworthiness of the witnesses. The Word of God has been confirmed by miracles. The facts have been established. The living witnesses are no longer needed. We have the record of their testimony with which to make our decision concerning the claim that Jesus is the Son of God.

Therefore, confirming miracles must be defined in relation to their occurrence in the Bible. Any other source used in their definition would produce both an unjust and false definition. This is especially true in reference to those who profess to perform confirming miracles today. One of the problems that Christians face today is that the unbelieving world scorns the miracle-performing false prophets of today. In fact, these performers do a great disservice to validating the Bible to be the word of God, and thus the foundation of our faith. The unbelievers use the performances of the miracle worker today in order to define the miracles of the Bible. Since the unbeliever concludes that the miracle performances of today are not valid miracles, then he assumes that all the miracles of the Bible are of the same nature. The fake miracle workers today, therefore, take Christianity backwards in reference to convincing unbelievers, and not forward.

Miracles were not happenings of unknown natural laws, nor were they in contradiction to natural laws. They were the manifestations of the working hand of God by the setting aside of natural laws. This manner in which God worked in past times lies outside the scientific method of investigation. Therefore, scientists cannot on a scientific basis deny the past occurrence of miracles.

Miracles of the Bible were facts, but not repeatable facts to be examined today by the scientific method. This does not say that God could not make Himself known today in the same manner as He did at various times in the past. It does say, however, that He has chosen not to do so in order that our faith be based on the recorded fact of what is recorded in the Bible. We have recorded in the pages of the Bible those evidences that are necessary to satisfy to those who are hungering and thirsting after truth. God now wants us to focus on His word, not miracles that He could work today. Because we have the written word, which the early disciples did not have, we must focus on the recorded testimony of those who personally experience the direct work of God in the lives of His people.

If we would seek for more confirming miracles than what is provided in the Bible, then we are asking for more that what God promised. We are minimizing the Bible as the foundation of our faith. We are revealing our lack of faith in the Bible as the foundation upon which we should establish our faith. It is an axiomatic truth that those religionists who know little of the Bible seek to call on God to work a miracle in their lives in order that they might believe. This was the problem of Thomas after the resurrection of Jesus. He said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25). This is the situation with many religionists today. They will not truly believe unless they personally experience some miraculous manifestation for God. Jesus would say to such people the same thing that He said to Thomas after He appeared again to the apostles, “Because you [Thomas] have seen Me, you have believed. ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (Jn 20:29). We do not want Jesus to stand before us miraculously today, because if He did, He would steal away our “blessedness.” We are more blessed than the apostles of Jesus because we have not experienced a confirming miracle, and yet we believe. If a true miracle were worked in our presence, then our blessedness would be stolen away.

It is true that God continues to work today in the lives of His people. But He does not work to produce faith through confirming miracles. We may call His work a “miracle,” but we must understand that there is a difference between a confirming miracle, and the purpose thereof, and God’s ordinary outreach to work all things together for good for those who love Him. In working in this manner in our lives, He confirms the faith that we already have. He does not work in a manner that we have faith. Because we walk by this faith we already have, we believe that He is working in our lives, and thus, we are blessed.


  1. Richard C. Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1968).
  2. George Park Fisher, Manual of Christian Evidences (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903).
  3. Gus Nichols, “Jesus as a Miracle Worker,” Spiritual Sword (Memphis, TN: Getwell church of Christ, 1970), Vol. 1, No. 3.
  4. Darrel Conley, The Gospel Versus Occultism (Shreveport, LA: Lambert Book House, 1975).
  5. Floyd E. Hamilton, The Basis of Christian Faith (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1964).
  6. Vernon C. Grounds, “Miracles,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, Everett F. Harrison, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1966).
  7. “Miracle,” Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (Cleveland, OH: World Publishing Co., 1971).
  8. Alfred Grant Walton, This I can Believe (New York, NY: Harper S. Brothers, 1935).
  9. Albert N. Wells, The Christian Message in a Scientific Age (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1962).
  10. R. Hooykass, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974).
  11. William M. Taylor, The Gospel Miracles in Their Relationship to Christ and Christianity.
  12. F. Bettex, Science and Christianity (New York, NY: The Abingdon Press, 1901).
  13. James O. Boswell, “Miracles,” Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, Merril C. Tenney, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1968).
  14. Bernard Ramm, Protestant Christian Evidences (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1971).
  15. Peter Eckler, Searching For Truth (New York, NY: Peter Eckler Publisher, 1902).
  16. Manford G. Gutzke, Plain Talk of the Resurrection (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1974).
  17. Stanley Sayers, For This Cause (Austin, TX: R. B. Sweet Co., Inc., 1957).
  18. John G. Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (New York, NY: Macmillian, 1923).
  19. E. V. Zollars, The King of Kings (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing Co., 1911).
  20. John William McGarcey, Short Essays in Biblical Criticism (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Co., 1956).

[End of series]

Historicity of Miracles

To substantiate further the fact of miracles one must also consider how and under what circumstances they occurred.

  1. Miracles occurred before unbelievers. Miracles occurred many times before the eyes of those who did not believe. They were not “done in a corner” and hidden from the unbelievers (At 26:26). God’s power was no obscure or hidden thing when He poured down fire on Mount Carmel in answer to Elijah’s prayer (1 Kg 18:30-40). The raising of Lazarus by Jesus caused many to believe, but there were also many unbelievers who witnessed the event (Jn 11:45,46). The miracles of the apostles were “manifested to all that dwell in Jerusalem” and the unbelievers could not deny them (At 4:16). The validity of no miracle of Jesus depended on its concealment from the unbeliever’s eye.

There are those who would now make the objection that the witness of unbelievers is evidence that the miraculous events were questionable. In other words, if unbelievers actually experienced true miracles, then why did not all who experienced miracles become believers?

We would answer the preceding objection by saying that one must never underestimate the amount of prejudice that was against Jesus and the other disciples. The enemies of Jesus hated Him because He stood against their positions of power among the Jews. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, therefore, devised and carried out a plot to kill Jesus. These were religious leaders who schemed this plot. They schemed murder, and then, had to relinquish to the rule of Roman law. They thus moved the multitudes to cry out for the crucifixion of Jesus.

The extremity of their prejudice against Jesus blinded them to the fact of the miracles that Jesus and the disciples worked. In fact, they confessed that miracles actually occurred, but they just would not accept those who worked the miracles (See At 4:14-16). The power of unbelief that is based on prejudice is stronger than the empirical evidence of a miraculous event.

  1. Miracles were recorded without any denials either by unbelievers or believers. In the gospel records there is not one denial of the miracles worked by Jesus. Many could and would have denied the fact of miracles if they were only performances of magic and fraud. But the absence of denial leads us to believe in their authenticity. Judas Iscariot walked with Jesus for over three years. He could have denied the miracles before the Pharisees, but he did not. The other disciples also experienced the miracles of Jesus. During their ministries they underwent severe persecution. Would it not be reasonable to believe that in the heat of persecution at least one of the apostles would have denied the authenticity of the miraculous works of Jesus? On the contrary, we hear them stating in times of persecution, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (At 4:19,20).

Those who believed in the miracles wrote the inspired records of the gospel event. If the miracles were deceptions, it would be reasonable to believe that these writers would have contradicted themselves when they recorded the facts surrounding the miraculous events? The fact that there is no contradiction in the recorded accounts is evidence that both miracle and inspiration are true.

The very existence of Christianity is based upon miracles. In other words, Christianity would not exist if it had not first been proved by miracles (See Mk 16:17-20; Hb 2:3,4). We would assume, therefore, that there would be countless contemporary records of secular history that would record denials of these miracles by the enemies of Christianity. Those records do not exist. We have contemporary records that misinterpret and misunderstand Christianity. In this confusion there is the denial of the supernatural. However, no unbeliever who was familiar with the facts ever denied the validity of the miraculous.

  1. Miracles had the testimony of reliable witnesses. The apostles had everything in this world to lose because of their testimony that Jesus was the Christ. Why would they give their lives for one who had deceived the world? Could they also have been deceived? They had been with Jesus for over three years. Would they have suffered so great a persecution for One they had known to have performed only tricks and not real miracles?

The point is that the lives of the apostles that were affected by Jesus cannot be answered without the historicity of Jesus’ miracles. There is no logical reason why they would be so transformed and bold if they had not actually experienced the work of God in the life of Jesus and in their own lives. If they did not actually experience the work of God, then the New Testament is a record of lunacy and lies. It is a record of several lunatics who schemed together in order to preach a message that would bring upon them persecution and death. We would of necessity have to affirm, therefore, that their courage stemmed from the “brotherhood pack” to not forsake the message upon which all of them agreed to preach. However, when one reads the New Testament, is this the impression he or she receives when reading passages that exhort honesty and integrity?

In this context, consider the early death of James at the hand of Herod in Acts 12. Why would God allow such to happen to a Christ-sent apostle in the early establishment of the church. The answer lies in the purpose for which the documents of Luke and Acts were written (See Book 4 in the Biblical Research Library). God allowed James to be killed in order to strengthen for us the testimony of the apostles He preserved.

We have no inspired records of the martyrs of any of the other Christ-sent apostles. How would we know that they were willing to go to death for what they believed if we did not have at least a record of one who did? If there was no record of at least one martyred apostle, then we might conclude that they all went off into obscurity. But the fact that James was willing to die for his faith reaffirms the strength of the tesimony of the living apostles. Because they had actually experienced the miraculous work of God in their lives, they were willing to die for their faith. Therefore, we appreciate the Holy Spirit providing for us a testimony through the death of James, that James and the apostles truly believed that God had miraculously revealed that Jesus was the Christ and Son of God (Mt 16:13-19; see Jn 20:30,31).

  1. Miracles have the testimony of those who were healed. In substantiating the fact of miracles we also have the testimony of those who were healed. Jesus brought sight to a man who had been born blind (Jn 9). This man was brought before the Pharisees and questioned concerning his healing. Though he was pressured and threatened by the Pharisees, neither he nor his parents would deny that he had been healed (Jn 9:25). In other words, he could not have denied that which actually happened.

Thousands of people were healed in the first century. Would it not be reasonable to believe that if deceiving performances were used in these “healings” that at least one of those who was healed would confess that he was not really healed? The fact that there are no denials or confessions of fraud is proof that the healings were real.

[Next in series: July 27]

Denial of Miracles

If one admits the existence of God he must admit the reality of miracles. This is only logical. If one admits to the existence of the supernatural, then he has at the same time left room for miracles. After all, what worth is there in God if He cannot work above the natural laws of this world. A denial of the miracles of the Bible, therefore, is a confession that one is an atheist.

The denial of miracles, therefore, is actually a denial of the supernatural. It is a denial of God. If God is a God that cannot reveal Himself to man, then what kind of a supernatural being is He? Does He have any power? Is He a weak and omnipotent being? If we take away the manifestation of His presence, have we not taken Him away? Several years ago Bettex correctly wrote,

He who allows his belief in miracles to be reasoned away, or even shaken, by professedly scientific arguments, is, to say the least of it, sadly lacking in perspicacity, and would do well to test his conception of an Almighty God, and find out what he really does believe. God is miracle, and he who does not believe in miracles does not believe in God, even though he believes that he believes in him; that is to say, he is mentally too weak to grasp both.12:144

Too often there are those who want a Baal god and not an Elijah God. They want a crippled god who is deaf and dumb and has no power to blast forth fire to disprove the vanities of unbelievers. But the Bible knows no such impotent god. If we deny miracles, we might as well deny God. What possible good would there be in a powerless God? What good was Baal to the Baal prophets?

The consequences of denying miracles are great and many. If we deny miracles, we must deny the authenticity of the Bible. “The New Testament without the miracles,” wrote John Machen, “would be far easier to believe. But the trouble is, would it be worth believing?”18:103 If we deny the miracles of the Bible, we deny the sudden growth of the early church. Such a phenomenal growth would not have been possible without the intervening work of God. If we deny miracles, we deny the phenomenal change in the lives of the apostles and the sudden reality of Christianity. E. V. Zollers said that “it is useless to talk of throwing miracles overboard and still holding on to Christianity. As a system it is founded on miracles. If its miracles are genuine, its claim is fully substantiated; if false, its claim is utterly discredited and its foundations are swept away.”19:1-5

[Next in series: July 25]

Science and Miracles

It would go without question to state that most scientists deny miracles. This is not the result of scientific proof against miracles. On the contrary, it is the result of assumptions on the part of scientists who work in the present and in the realm of natural law. It is not within the scientific method of research to verify through empirical investigation that which occurred in the past, or outside the realm of the scientific method of study.

It is not within the definition of the scientific method to investigate that which is outside the realm of natural law. Ramm listed two grounds on which many scientists deny miracles. First, they often deny miracles “on the basis that the supernatural is contradictory to natural law,” and second, on the basis that “miracles do not fit into the universe the scientist works in.”14:47 We would consider these the two principal areas of opposition against miracles by the scientific world. Nevertheless, we would add one more reason by scientists deny the miraculous. Most scientists are atheists. And being an atheist means that one cannot phantom any confirming miracles in the past, or any providential working of God in the present. However, consider the following objections we would present against scientists who rule out the supernatural, and thus deny the past and present work of God in the lives of His people.

  1. Miracles do not conflict with the uniformity of nature. Miracles are rejected because it is believed that they are contrary to the uniformity of nature. But is this a valid objection? Can scientists reject miracles because they claim that the supernatural is contradictory to the uniformity of the function of natural laws? This objection deals principally with the uniformity of nature. But consider first of all that we must determine what is meant by the uniformity of nature. Peter Eckler once defined the uniformity of nature, and in doing so, preserved the thinking of many scientists. “The universe continues in unbroken uniformity regardless of man’s puny pretensions …. No natural law ever deviated an iota from its original path, no grain of matter has yet changed its form without obeying forces that governed it at its birth.”15:136 Obviously, there is no room for miracles in such an understanding of nature. However, upon close examination there seems to be a great assumption here that scientists must recognize.

If some scientists reject miracles on the basis of the uniformity of nature, then they have produced a rejection that is based on a metaphysical assumption. The assumption that all things in the past and future have and will continue as they are in the present is an unprovable philosophy. It is a philosophy simply because we live in the present, not in the past or future. Our past is limited to our lifetime. Our future is limited by our present existence. Whatever is outside this window of existence must be placed in the realm of religion or philosophy.

Philosophy has a great habit of not taking into consideration all the facts. It sometimes constructs its metaphysics before the investigation and verification of the evidence. When new facts are discovered, philosophies must be changed. This seems to be the situation concerning the objection of some scientists toward miracles. But an unprovable objection used against that which is believed improbable is a gross error of logic. It is an objection often stimulated by prejudice and not factual evidence. No scientist can prove that nature has always been uniform. Therefore, it follows that logically no scientist can use the uniformity of nature in the present as an argument against miracles in the past.

  1. Miracles are not a part of the scientific method. Miracles are rejected because they do not fit into the scientist’s world of study. Some scientists oppose miracles on the basis that miracles do not fit into their world of the scientific method. The scientist works in the present. He is engulfed in present natural laws. Anything contrary to this environment is hard for him to accept. Manford G. Gutzke, who was once an unbelieving scientist, but later turned to belief, admitted that when he was an atheist, “My mind had been so conditioned to believe in natural law I found it difficult to believe in miracles.”16:48 Such is the problem with the scientist who cannot take his thinking off natural law for a moment in order to consider the possibility that there is a Being who is above natural law.

The above is a fairly accurate picture of most scientists. Their world is a world of natural laws. Those laws are orderly because God made them that way. Any hint of deviation from this order is rejected by the scientist. He can see the order of nature. The scientific method is built on this premise. However, the scientist often cannot see the One who established the order. If the scientist would stop for a moment and consider the fact that the order of natural law was so established in order that when God broke through natural laws, His presence would be abundantly discerned. This point is at least understood by what Paul wrote in Romans 1:20: “For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.”

Can one deny miracles on the grounds that they are not customary to our present experiences? This objection raises begs the question, Does one have to experience something before he can believe in it? Certainly not! One does not have to experience an earthquake in order to realize that they occur. One does not have to experience the power of an atomic bomb in order to understand that atomic power exists. We have not had the privilege of seeing an angel as did Mary, the mother of Jesus (Mk 1:26-28). But this does not give us the right to deny that an angel appeared to her. Our lack of experience does not justify denying the experience of others. “To know” does not necessarily mean “to experience.” We must remember that knowledge comes both by experience and by testimony, or logic that is based on that testimony. Ramm correctly stated,

“Now, if a man asserts that he will believe nothing that is not customary, he has put out the eyes of science. Certainly no valid objection can be made against miracles on the ground that miracles are so different from what we usually experience, and, at the same time, not urge the same objection against the novelties of science.”14:161

We might assume that miracles were more readily accepted during the days of Jesus and the apostles. The scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you” (Mt 12:38). “And others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven” (Lk 11:16). The signs would have been readily accepted, but they could just as well be rejected (See At 4:14-16). Nicodemus was one who readily accepted the miraculous signs that Jesus worked among the people (Jn 3:2).

“Granted that miracles were easier to believe then than now, still nobody went around ancient Palestine every day restoring sight, cleansing lepers, raising the dead, as Jesus Christ did. Even though those people more readily believed miracles, the miracles of Christ could not but have had a remarkable effect upon their mentality.”14:145

During one’s inquiry into miracles there is one thing he must keep in mind. We live within our own time. We cannot live in the past or in the future. Happenings that were experienced by people two thousand years ago cannot be personally experienced today. Upon this basis of non-experience many scientists try to reject miracles.

“God on the contrary looks at nature from its start to its finish and charts its events to suit Himself. In one portion of Nature’s allotted time He produces events which man in his little allotted time cannot believe because he can neither see before him nor after him. He believes only what he in his time sees and experiences and only what will occur in accordance with what he in his day knows to be natural law.”17:116

We must keep in mind, therefore, that one cannot object to miracles because the occurrence of miracles does not lie within the realm of the scientific method. Sears correctly concluded,

“… science does not deal with the unique. Miracles are unique. Science has not disproved miracles, because they are outside the sphere of science. Many scientists have denied miracles and have completely repudiated the Bible because of the miracles recorded in it, but science has not and cannot disprove the possibility of miracles any more than science can disprove the existence of any supernatural phenomenon. Science is limited to the material world, to observable fact.”14:93

Any time a scientist makes an attack against miracles he has stepped outside the field of science and into the field of philosophy. In other words, when a scientist rejects the historicity of miracles he is simply stating his philosophical beliefs. He has a right to such beliefs. But we must remember that the Christian has not personally experienced the confirming miracles that are recorded and defined in the Bible. However, the Christian’s faith is in the testimony of those who actually experienced the miracles. Because of the testimony of those who gave their lives for what they witnessed and believed, the Christian affirms that what those in the past personally experienced was true. This is the foundation upon which our faith is built, and the reason behind that statement that Paul wrote in Romans 10:17: “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.”

The Bible is our foundation for faith, not our personal experiences in reference to God working in our lives. Those who are ignorant of the Bible, therefore, have a faith that is built only on their own personal experiences. These are the experiences that the scientists of today reject. The faith that is pleasing to God is based on the miraculous work of God that the Holy Spirit recorded for our learning (See Hb 11:6).

[Next in series: July 21]

Confirming Miracles

In defining the miracles of the Bible one must determine the characteristics that were manifested in their occurrence. Many times the term miracle is used today to apply to any unexplainable event. When a car rolls over ten times, is crushed into a small pile of rubble, and all passengers escape without a scratch, we are guilty of crying out that a miracle has occurred. The occupants of this car would certainly have been very lucky in escaping with their lives, but it would be an injustice to categorize this and similar events with the miracles of the Bible. This is especially true because all the occupants of the vehicle may have been atheists. Phenomenal events do not establish a basis upon which we would define the confirming miracles of the Bible.

We are also guilty of labeling every unexplainable natural phenomenon a miracle. Hamilton rightly stated,

“… many of the things which men are in the habit of calling miracles are not properly so called. Some people call a miracle any marvelous event which ordinary men cannot explain by the laws of nature to them, but which could be explained in accordance with those laws if they knew more about them…. A true miracle cannot be explained by natural laws, known or unknown.”5:102,103

A confirming miracle has basic characteristics that must be understood. There are three areas of definition in the Bible that help us in understanding the true nature of miracles. These areas of definition rule out the possibility of miracles today because such occurrences are not happening today after the manner by which they are defined in the Bible.

  1. A miracle is a sensed happening. A miracle is a happening that is recognized as such through one or all of the five senses. Those who experienced miracles in the Bible recognized the alteration of the ordinary occurrences of natural law. In Acts 3 Peter healed a lame beggar on the porch of the temple. Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin to answer for what they had done. When the Sanhedrin saw “the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it” (At 4:14). They said, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it” (At 4:16). Unless this can be said by unbelievers in reference to a confirming miracle, then it is not a confirming miracle.

The miracle of Acts 3 was not performed in secret, but before all, even unbelievers. In Paul’s defense before Agrippa concerning the works of Jesus, he said, “For the king … knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner” (At 26:26). True miracles were never the result of the trickery of men. Many of those who rejected Jesus had seen and believed His works, though the hardness of hearts kept them from belief in the message of Jesus.

George Fisher correctly stated, “It should be added, to complete the idea of a miracle, that it is something manifest—something that can be known and apprehended by men.”2:9,10 With this understanding, it would be a mistake to link the definition of providence with the definition of the miracles found in the Bible. It must be affirmed that God works behind the scenes today to accomplish His purpose and to answer the prayers of the saints. This indeed is supernatural, as such, but not in the definition of those confirming miracles worked by Jesus, His apostles and the early Christians in the first century.

Miracles were empirically sensed by men. Providence is “sensed” by faith. Both are the supernatural work of Deity. But in the eyes of the beholders, there is a difference. We perceive miracles through sight. We perceive providence through faith. Both are interventions by God into our world, but only confirming intervention was used to confirm the word and messengers of God.

Providence is God working behind the curtain of natural law, whereas, a miracle is the direct manifestation of God’s working power visible to man. We may have faith that God works all things together for good (Rm 8:28), but we cannot affirm this on the basis of empirical experience. Providence is God working in a manner known through faith, whereas, a miracle is God working in a manner known through the senses. In a miracle God suspends natural laws; in providence He works through or uses natural laws. Thus, “we may define a miracle biblically as an observable phenomenon affected by the direct operation of God’s power, and arresting deviation from the ordinary sequences of nature, a deviation calculated to elicit faith-begetting awe, a Divine inbreaking which authenticates a revelational agent.”6:356

  1. A miracle is a supernatural manifestation of Deity. The presence of the supernatural must be clearly evident in a miracle. In accordance with the preceding point, it must also be stated that the happening of a miracle leaves no doubt in the minds of the beholders concerning who or what is working. Elijah prayed for a manifestation of God on Mount Carmel. God answered that prayer with a miracle which firmly evidenced His presence (1 Kg 18:17-46). When Lazarus came forth from the tomb at the command of Jesus, the people knew the presence of the supernatural (Jn 11:43-45). There was no question in the mind of Nicodemus as to whose power was manifested in the miracles of Jesus (Jn 3:2). These confirming miracles strongly evidenced the presence of the supernatural.
  2. A miracle is an unordinary occurrence. A miracle is an event that is different from the ordinary occurrence of natural law. In determining the actual meaning of a miracle, one must fully understand its relation to natural law. One common misunderstanding is that a miracle is a “contradiction” of natural law. David Hume, in his Essay on Miracles, contended, as others, that a miracle was a contradiction of natural law. This is not a correct understanding of miracles. A miracle is not a contradiction of natural law, but a laying aside of natural law in order to reveal the higher laws of the supernatural.

Law refers to the ordinary occurrence of things. Natural law is the ordinary occurrence of the principles that govern the material universe. It would not be logical to affirm that natural law existed before nature. God created all things. Natural laws were created in order to govern that which was created. God did not leave His creation to operate on its own as the deist contends. He transcends His natural laws by upholding all things by the word of His power. He makes known His presence by manifesting His “higher laws.” The Hebrew writer affirmed that He holds together “all things by the word of His power” (Hb 1:3). Jesus said, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (Jn 5:17). Natural laws were created, and are thus sustained by God in order to control the creation.

Would it not be reasonable to believe that one reason why God instituted natural laws in the first place was for the purpose of revealing Himself to man by the use of higher laws, commonly referred to as miracles? If the higher laws of God were commonly in force in the history of the world, then there could be no way for God to reveal Himself through miracles, for the higher laws are the miracles. Therefore, there would be no such thing as miracle in a world that was openly controlled by the supernatural.

It was necessary for God to create the lower natural laws in order that He might be able to reveal Himself through miracles. It was necessary for the creation of a world of natural laws in order that we have an environment in which we could exercise free-moral agency. For any individual to be a true free-moral person, we must live in an environment that would produce true moral characters. Such an environment could not exist without the second laws. It will only be when we put on the immortal, the incorruptible, that we will live in an environment of the first laws. In fact, we will be immortal and incorruptible because we will dwell in an evironment that will not allow death and decay.

We must not identify a miracle to be a contradiction of natural law. It is a setting aside of the second laws in order to allow the higher first laws to appear. Trench was right when he stated,

“An extraordinary Divine causality, and not that ordinary which we acknowledge everywhere and in everything, belongs then, to the essence of the miracle. The unresting activity of God, which at other times hides and conceals itself behind the veil of what we term natural laws, does in the miracle unveil itself; it steps out from its concealment, and the hand which works is laid bare.”1:10,11

A miracle is the temporary suspension of the natural to reveal the supernatural. Several authors on the subject agree with this statement: “A miracle, where there is an interposition of the Divine will, is not anti-natural, but supernatural.”2:13 “But while the miracle is not thus nature, so neither is it against nature. Beyond nature, beyond and above the nature which we know, they are, but not contrary to it. The miracle is not unnatural”2:12 It must be understood that “miracles exceed the laws of our nature, but it does not here follow that they exceed the laws of all nature.”2:13 It is as Hamilton said, “A miracle, as we will use the term, is a departure from the ordinary method of God’s activity.”5:102

The higher laws are miracles to man. These are the laws of the heavenly environment of Deity. This present world is inflicted with pain and sickness. When Jesus unveiled the powers above natural law, He was giving man a small taste of heaven. We must look forward to the day when the second laws are cleared away with the destruction of this material world. It will be then that God will allow us to live in an environment that is controlled by the first laws. That environment will be a new heavens and new earth (2 Pt 3:13).

We must always be careful about allowing deceived individuals with their experiences to define the miracles of the Bible. Misguided individuals make definitions according to their own experiences. This is behind the definition that is given in Webster’s Dictionary. A miracle is subsequently defined as “an event or effect that apparently contradicts known scientific laws and is hence thought to be due to supernatural causes, especially to an act of God.”7:1147 This definition was illustrated by what Alfred Walton who attempted several years ago in his book, This I Can Believe, to define miracles. Walton, who would represent many today, claimed that the miracles of the Bible “have reasonably clear explanations” according to the laws which we know today, but were unknown during the periods in which the miracles were performed.8:151-154 Albert Wells also attempted to explain miracles by what we might call the “unknown-natural-law” theory. He wrote, “Study of the healing miracles of Jesus will disclose that his works of healing were wrought through the application of as-yet-unknown laws and methods of healing, laws and methods which have been in part independently discovered by modern science.”9:80

Walton and Wells represent those who contend that the supernatural events of the Bible were called miracles by those who experienced them because they did not know the natural laws that were used to work such wonders. They say that we know these laws today and can thus explain the miracles. They try to give a naturalistic explanation of the Bible miracles in their books. Such naturalistic theology has invaded the religious world with amazing speed. Concerning this naturalism, R. Hooykass stated,

“Deification of nature is still alive, and the fact that this deity has no special cult does not prove anything to the contrary. There was no special cult of Nature in Antiquity, and no temples were erected to it, yet it was adored under the names of other gods.”10:19

Such “deification” of nature is witnessed today in the fanaticism of some environmentalists. Environmentalism has become a religion to many who profess no allegiance to the supernatural of the Bible. It is this religion that prevails in the West because the West is predominately atheistic. The only answer for that which exists is the ordinary occurrence of natural laws over a period of billions of years. In the absence of a true miracle-based belief, the religiosity of those who have lost contact with God is fulfilled in the atheists allegiance to nature.

We must be environmentally sensitive and protective. However, the environment in the eyes of the religious atheist is often more important than the moral decay of humanity. To the religious atheist, his or her reverence for the environment is the new religion that appeals to the natural senses. The minds of too many people have condescended to the natural things of the world to the exclusion of the Creator of all things. When people give up God in their thinking, they start worshiping the creation instead of the Creator (See Rm 1:18-28)

The problem with the reasoning of the atheistic naturalist is that we have the recorded facts about miracles, and yet, miracles still cannot be explained by any natural laws that are known today. The healing of a blind man by placing spittle and clay on his eyes cannot be explained by natural laws (Jn 9:6,7). “A miracle is a work out of the usual sequence of secondary causes and effects, which cannot be accounted for by ordinary action of these causes.”11:123

The confirming miracles of the Bible cannot be explained by the ordinary causes and effects of known natural laws that we experience today. Fisher correctly wrote, “In the case of a miracle, the effect is different because the causes are not the same. The variation in the effect is what must take place, supporting such an alteration of the antecedents. If a new cause comes in, it is irrational to look for the same effect as before.”2:11

Any effort to explain the confirming miracles of the Bible by occurrences of unknown natural laws is an attack against the supernatural character of the Bible. It is a direct denial of the Son of God, and thus, the gospel. Many years before modern religious atheists showed up for this discussion, F. Bettex answered those today who would deny the confirming miracles of the Bible.

“The very essence of a miracle is its intangibility by proofs and reasoning, its incomprehensibility and its incapability of being proved. He who tries to understand and to explain a miracle, to comprehend or to fix such a flash of illimitable, Divine power, shows that he does not know what a miracle is, and in his attempt to explain it only succeeds in making a fool of himself, both from the scientific and the Christian point of view. A miracle scientifically proved and explained would be a logical contradiction.”12:143

A scientifically defined miracle would be no miracle at all. Science deals with an investigation of the physical world. Therefore, if there is a scientifically defined reason for the occurrence of any miracle, then the “miracle” was only the occurrence of some natural law. There was thus no supernatural at work. This is the attack of the naturalist who affirms that all Bible events that were affirmed to be miracles in Bible times were only the happening of undefined natural laws of the time.

Our definition of a confirming miracle does not infer that God cannot use natural laws to bring about His purpose. Some of the plagues of Egypt were not unknown occurrences in the land of Egypt. Their intensity and their happening at the voice of Moses, however, was a miracle (See Ex 7-11). The dividing of the Red Sea by a strong east wind to free Israel from the Egyptians was an example of God using the natural law of strong winds (Ex 14). It was a miracle and manifested the presence of the supernatural in that the strong wind happened at the precise time commanded by Moses and with the force necessary to do the job. Of course, the water turning to blood and darkness were not known in Egypt. Evidently, God used no natural laws in these miracles. However, the point is that God has used natural laws to manifest Himself. The natural laws, however, were used in an unusual and unnatural way in order to manifest the presence of the One who has control over natural law.

A confirming miracle, therefore, is not a contradiction of natural laws. It is a setting aside of those laws in order to allow the eternal power of God to be released in this world. The situation may also have been that God used a natural law in an intense or unnatural way in order to bring about a marvelous wonder. The miracles in the Bible cannot be explained by the ordinary occurrence of natural laws known or unknown to us today. James Boswell concluded that “a miracle is (1) an extraordinary event, inexplicable in terms of ordinary natural forces; (2) an event which causes the observers to postulate a super-human personal cause; (3) an event which constitutes evidence (a “sign”) of implications much wider than the event itself.”13:544

[Next in series: July 21]

Miracles in the Bible

In any discussion of the subject of confirming miracles one must bring into the discussion Satan and his works. We must remember that Satan, through men, could deceive with lying wonders and signs. Jesus said, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mt 24:24). In 2 Thessalonians, as previously stated, Paul described the man of sin as one whose coming was according to the “working of Satan, with all deceiving power, signs, and wonders” (2 Th 2:9).

We must keep in mind that the elect would not be deceived if the signs and wonders that the preceding deceivers worked were actually miraculous. We would not be deceived if we believed that which was real. Therefore, the fact that the Bible warns against those who would work wonders that they would claim to be miracles, is evidence that their works are only deceptions. They are deceptions by which Satan seeks to lead people away from God.

Satan could “perform” deceiving wonders. However, he could never work real miracles. Miracles are not performed. They are the response of God to the will of those in whom He invested authority to call upon the supernatural. If Satan could work true miracles through the hands of those he has deceived, then the miracles of Jesus and the apostles would be nullified.

“If the devil also possesses supernatural power and is able to perform miracles, then we would have no way of confirming God’s Word. We would not know whether God was doing it or the devil. … this is a real problem to those who believe in the reality of supernatural demonic power. God confirmed His Word by doing things that no one else could do.”4:19

Miracles validated the messengers of God. They were evidences that the messenger was of God (See Dt 13:1-4; Ex 7:10-17; 8:7; Mt 12:24-27; Jn 3:2; Rv 13:15; 16:14; 19:20). The miracles of God were not lying wonders. They were not wonders that were meant to deceive men. With the miracles, God sent also the message. The confirming miracles were true, therefore, because the message was true. The truth of the message was evidence that the bearer of the message was from God.

The message was true only if it harmonized with previously revealed truth. Paul gave us an adequate test by which we could test the message of any messenger. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gl 1:8). In other words, if someone comes with a different gospel, then certainly his works are not from God. Since Satan has manifested deceiving wonders, each Christian must also put to test with God’s Word all teachings of men (Jr 23:25-32; Mt 7:21-23; 2 Co 11:13-15; 2 Th 2:7-11). We must never suppose that God would allow Satan to do anything that would confuse the purpose for which He allowed miracles to be worked by His messengers. Therefore, before one debates whether a certain person work a miracle, it is necessary to determine if that person is preaching the truth of the gospel. If he or she is not preaching the truth of the gospel, then certainly no real miracle was worked.

The great wonders wrought by the prophets, Jesus and the apostles were far superior to any deceiving works of Satan. Jesus said, “Believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (Jn 10:38). Because no one could do miraculous works as He did, Jesus said that these works were substantial proof of His sonship. If they were not, or if Satan could also work equal and valid miracles, then why did God use miracles as a proof of His messengers before men? The fact that Jesus did do something that was beyond the ability of His contemporaries is evidence that there was something unique about Him. Not one at the time of His coming into the world could supernaturally work through miracles as He did.

Nicodemus rightly concluded that Jesus was from God because of the signs that He did (Jn 3:2). However, if God allowed others to do the same signs, then the audience would have been confused. Jesus was proved to be the Messenger from God with a new message (At 2:22). He was proved to be such by His miraculous works. However, if God had allowed Satan to do the same during the ministry of Jesus, then who are we to believe? The fact is that God has not and never will allow Satan to confuse the purpose for which confirming miracles were allowed to be worked in the first century. It is for this reason that He will not allow false prophets today to work miracles in order to confuse people in reference to the truth of the gospel.

In review of what has previously been stated, consider the concept of confirmation. Jesus said that the disciples would go forth and preach. Their message of the gospel they preached would be confirmed by the signs that followed them (Mk 16:20). God would confirm His presence with the disciples by miraculous signs (Hb 2:3,4). The fact of confirmation negates equal miraculous manifestations on the part of Satan through his messengers. In other words, if Satan was allowed to work miracles through men as Simon the sorcerer (At 8) and Bar-Jesus (At 13), then there would be no confirmation power in the miracles of Philip, Paul or any other New Testament messenger of the gospel.

We have discovered that advocates who propose that Satan worked or works miracles have no answer to this argument. At least, they back away from the miracles of God’s messengers by affirming that Satan’s miracles were less “powerful” or minor in comparison to the miracles of God’s messengers in the first century. However, this dodges the issue. A miracle is a miracle. There may be special miracles as Paul worked in Ephesus (At 19:11), but the supernatural power that is manifested by a confirming miracle cannot be said to be in degrees. There is no such teaching in the entire Bible. Satan did not work “lesser degrees” of miracles than the messengers of God.

In the context of this discussion we must also remind ourselves that the doctrine of miracles of satanic forces is a subpoint of theological dualism. Dualism is the belief that two equal supernatural forces have existed throughout eternity. God and Satan are believed to both have indigenous supernatural power. They are equal in power, and thus manifest themselves in the world in a confrontation between good and evil. The dualist affirms that Satan can function independent of the power of God, and thus can at will force his will upon man. Therefore, Satan is assumed to have the power to exercise his miraculous power as he so chooses in a world wherein he functions outside God’s control.

The doctrine of dualism denies the indigenous eternality of God. However, only God can be eternal. Only God possesses control of all that is supernatural. In other words, there is nothing eternal apart from God. There is no supernatural apart from that which originates from God.

In Colossians 1:16 Paul wrote of the creative work of the Son of God. “For by Him [Christ] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” Paul affirmed that all that is seen and unseen has been brought into existence by the creative work of the Son of God (Jn 1:1-3). Therefore, nothing existed contemporary with God until God brought into existence out of nothing all things that now exist (Hb 11:3). Satan falls into the category of that which was created. He was not created evil, but as other disobedient angels, free-morally gave up his proper habitation, and thus was cast down (2 Pt 2:4).

Since Satan was created, then he would have no control over the supernatural except through consignment by God. In other words, he can do nothing supernaturally in the world of the natural unless God allows him. This was his situation in his temptation and trials of Job, and we would conclude that nothing has changed since. We would have to affirm, therefore, that Satan has no supernatural power that is eternally indigenous of himself. He did not originate his own supernatural power because he was created. He is only the result of the supernatural power of God. He thus has no authority to originate supernatural power of himself.

If God only is eternally indigenous, then all that Satan is or can do must originate from God. God allows him to carry on with his deceptions only insofar as such is in harmony with God’s eternal plan to provide an environment for the molding of free-moral characters on this earth. We must never forget that God has a leash on Satan. Therefore, it can never be that the devil subjectively made one to commit sin against his own will. Each person will be held accountable for his own sin because God will not allow Satan to subdue free-moral individuals at will.

[Next in series: July 19]

Definition of Miracles

In order to define the confirming miracles of the Bible, our definition must agree with the recorded presentation of miracles that is listed in the Bible. To define miracles by sources outside the limits of the written word of God would result in the confusion that we witness today in the religious world, that knows little about the miracles of the Bible. The Bible must be our first and only source for defining confirming miracles simply because it claims to be an inspired record of miracles.

We must use the Bible as our only dictionary in our efforts to define miracles simply because men are so easily deceived. They are easily deceived into labelling every unexplainable phenomenon that they experience to be a miracle. We must never underestimate the willingness of emotionally hysterical religionists to conjure up supposedly miraculous events. When one is driven by the excitement of a certain ecstatic moment, we would question whether one’s objectivity will allow him or her to discern between reality and emotion. We must not forget that the Holy Spirit used the word “delusion” when referring to those phenomena that evil workers seek to identify as supernatural.

When discussing the subject of confirming miracles, therefore, it is imperative to first go to the Bible in order to formulate a true definition of what a confirming miracle. From this definition, we can then examine our own experiences. This approach to the study of miracles keeps us from straying from the direction of the word of God to the direction of our own feelings and emotions. In this way, therefore, we can prove all things and hold fast to that which is true (See 2 Co 13:5).

In the Bible, confirming miracles are usually referred to as “wonders,” “signs” or “powers” (At 2:22; 2 Th 2:9; Hb 2:4). We also find the word “works” used in reference to confirming miracles (Jn 5:20; 6:28,29; 7:3,4; 10:37,38). Each of these terms defines a unique area of what a true miracle is. At times, the Greek terms are simply translated “miracle” in some English translations. When the the word “miracle” is used, it would be wise to consult a Greek text in order to determine the original Greek word from which the translation is made. The following points are a brief survey of the Greek words that are used in the New Testament to indicate the supernatural presence of God:

  1. Wonder (Greek, “teras”): The term “wonder” emphasizes the reaction of the people to the miracle. The reaction of people to the miracles of Jesus is also manifested in passages where teras is not used. Examples of these uses would be: “Her parents were astonished” (Lk 8:56), “they were all astonished beyond measure” (Mk 7:37), “they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure” (Mk 6:51; see 2:12; 4:41; Mt 9:26; Lk 13:17). None of these passages use the word teras. But what is emphasized is the fact that people manifested great wonder at the miracles of Jesus. If a miracle did not cause immediate wonder in the minds of the beholders, then the very purpose for which miracles were allowed to occur is invalid. Since the miracles were given for the purpose of confirming the messengers and message of God, then they had to be so obvious that they would cause the beholders to be immediately amazed at the occurrence of the supernatural presence of God.

The Greek term teras is never used by itself in reference to miracles. It is always used with the terms “signs,” “powers,” or “mighty works.” Some examples of its use would be, “signs and wonders” (At 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 2 Co 12:12; 2 Th 2:9; Hb 2:4), “miracles and wonders” (At 2:22; 6:8; 15:12), “wonders and mighty deeds” or “works” (2 Co 12:12).

It must be remembered that Jesus never worked a miracle for the specific purpose of striking wonder and amazement in the minds of the beholders. Miracles were not worked for the mere purpose of satisfying idle curiosity. The work of God through confirming miracles was not a circus (See Mt 12:39).

It must also be noted that the word teras does not reflect the definition of a miracle. This word simply conveys the amazement of the people, not what produced the amazement. Therefore, this word is used in the Bible to explain the reaction of the people, not the occurrence of the event. A miracle as a teras moves us to examine the purpose of the miracles, which purpose helps us to define what a real confirming miracle is. In other words, if a miracle did not cause teras in the minds of the audience, then the very purpose for miracle was denied because the happening was questionable. However, the occurrence of the miracles that are defined in the Bible were not questionable occurrences.

  1. Sign (Greek, “semeion”): Richard C. Trench said that a sign is a “token and indication of the near presence and working of God.”1:4 Signs are “tokens of God’s presence and of the sanction thus afforded to the teacher or to what is taught.”2:10 “As a sign a miracle is an astonishing wonder which points as a sign of something else—as to the trustworthiness of the performer and speaker of Divine truth.”3:15

A sign points more to the teleology of the phenomenon. It is a manifestation of proof verifying the one who worked the miracle. Paul worked the “signs of an apostle” (2 Co 12:12). This meant that he manifested the proof of his apostleship. He could work certain miracles that would prove that he was a Christ-sent apostle. The Jews asked Jesus, “What sign do You show us, since You do these things?” (Jn 2:18). They desired proof of His messiahship (See Jn 3:2). They wanted some signal of the supernatural that verified Him to be a prophet. We would assume, therefore, that anyone who claimed to be sent from God with a special message would be proved to be from God by the miraculous work of God.

A confirming miracle as a sign signified something more than the outward manifestation of the miracle itself. The healing of the man born blind had more significance than a mere act of compassion. We must wonder why Jesus healed a crippled man beside the pool of Bethesda (Jn 5:1ff), and yet, did not heal the crippled man at the gate of the temple (At 3:1ff). Surely, Jesus knew of the crippled man at the temple, for the man laid there daily for many years. It was Peter who healed the crippled man after the ascension of Jesus. The fact is that Jesus did not heal everyone. Our question is, “Why?” The answer must lie in the fact that miracles had a greater purpose than simply compassion on humanity. (More on this later.)

The teleological significance of confirming miracles was to prove that Jesus was the Son of God. From the miracles of Jesus, Nicodemus concluded, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (Jn 3:2; see 9:16). Nicodemus’ conclusion was correct. And thus, the definition of miracles as signs revealed that God was behind the person who worked the miracles. The gospel message of the apostles was confirmed by signs (Mk 16:20; At 14:3; Hb 2:4). However, that which was confirmed was and is more important than that which confirmed it.

The gospel of salvation is more important than miracles. Miracles were a secondary factor that proved the authenticity of the ones who preached the gospel. Therefore, any religion that is based on the sensationalism of so-called miracles has simply missed the point of why there are miracles in the New Testament. Men and women must come together to hear the gospel that has already been confirmed by miracles. If people come together to be healed by miracles, then they have come together for the wrong purpose. They are self-centered, not gospel centered.

  1. Powers (Greek, “dunamis”): The Greek word dunamis is generally translated “powers,” “mighty works” or “mighty deeds” in our English Bibles. When these words are used in reference to a confirming miracle, reference is to the quality or authority of the messenger. The miracles of Jesus that are recorded in the book of John revealed His power over the quality of substances (2:1-11), distance (4:46-54), time (5:1-9), quantity (6:1-14), nature (6:16-21), misfortune (9:1-12), and death (11:1-46). Jesus was “a Man attested by God to you by miracles [dunamis], wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst …” (At 2:22). “Now God worked unusual miracles [dunamis] by the hands of Paul” (At 19:11). The term “powers” is definitive of the Divine power manifested in that which was wrought, as well as, the Divine nature in the one who worked the deed. The miracle was the manifestation of the Divine power that was exercised through the messenger. It was a proof that he was from God.
  2. Works (Greek, “ergon”): The Greek word ergon is used many times in the book of John. It is used to signify the work natural work of Jesus as the Creator (Jn 5:36; 7:21; 10:24,32,38; 14:11,12; 15:24). This term seems to convey the thought that confirming miracles, as wonderful acts to man, were manifestations of the natural environment in which Jesus lived before His incarnation.

The work of Jesus on earth was to convince everyone that He was the Son of God. The miraculous works He did bore witness to His sonship. Jesus said, “For the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me” (Jn 5:36). In other words, if Jesus were from the realm of the supernatural, then we would expect Him to command that realm. It would only be natural for Him to command supernatural from which He came. Therefore, we believe that Jesus came from the Father because He worked the works of the realm of the Father. This was John’s conclusion in John 20:30,31: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

[Next in series: July 17]

Introduction to Miracles

One of the most controversial areas of belief in the religious world today is the subject of miracles. This proof, or evidence of Christianity, is usually denied by most scientists; it is even denied by many religious people. It is quite interesting that many who profess faith in Jesus, and base their faith upon the existence of God, actually deny the historical fact of miracles.

Since the scientist studies in the field of natural law, he presupposes that the ordinary occurrence of natural laws rules out the historical fact of miracles. He says that miracles could not have happened in a world that is governed by natural laws. However, much of this objection is only metaphysical wanderings that are based on theory and not facts. Technically speaking, anything as miracles that happened in the past is outside the scientific method of study. Since the scientist can work only in the present, he cannot deny that which is outside the present occurrence of natural laws.

On the other hand, if there are those who claim that miracles occur today as they did in the first century, then the scientist can step in and deny such in reference to the scientific method of study. And this we would challenge the scientist to do in reference to the so-called miracle workers of the man-made religions that prevail today.

Much of the controversy over miracles is the result of a misunderstanding of what a confirming miracle. Many have gone to the extreme today by labeling every unexplainable phenomenon a miracle. On the other hand, many have called valid miracles that are recorded in the Bible only natural happenings. What are miracles as defined by their occurrence in God’s Word? Did miracles actually occur? Do we have miracles today? These are questions that must be answered.

Much of the confusion over miracles has been caused by religionists today who are claiming to work miracles as those miracles that we read about in the word of God. Psychosomatic “healings” in the religious world are used to define the miracles of the Bible. As a result, the miracles of the Bible have been relegated to a process of mind over matter. The scientist can explain the psychosomatic occurrence today of what the religionist claims to be a “miracle.” He sees the power of mind over matter, and thus, defines the miracles of the Bible to be no more than what fake miracle workers are doing today. He, as well as the supposedly miracle-working religionist, views the miracles of the Bible through the own psychosomatic experiences that are common in the religious world today. As a result, instead of the modern-day miracle worker upholding the Bible as the word of God, he is actually aiding the world of unbelief concerning the very source from which he receives his faith. Instead of upholding the Bible as a valid record of miracles that occurred centuries ago by the power of God, he is causing those who are directed by the scientific method of investigation to question the very foundation upon which we stand. Therefore, amidst this confusion, it is necessary that we examine again this controversial subject in view of the verifying fact that miracles as recorded in the Bible actually occurred.

Unfortunately, we must make distinction between the common use of the word “miracle” as it is misused today, and the miracles that are recorded in the Bible to validate God’s messengers and their word. The word “miracle” is so misused today that it has lost its biblical meaning in the religious world. People are supposedly raised from the dead today.

In the Bible, broken bones were healed, and sight was restored to the blind. These were confirming miracles that are recorded in the Bible. But such does not occur today, which truth will be substantiated in the following discussions. It would be good, therefore, to remind ourselves of a very important statement by the Holy Spirit. There were among those of the first century who “did not receive the love of the truth so that they might be saved” (2 Th 2:10). The same people exist today in the religious world. We must not be fooled by thinking that this is not true. These are those who make themselves known in the religious world “according to the working of Satan with all deceiving power and signs and wonders” (2 Th 2:9). And because they do not love the truth of the gospel, God sends “them strong delusion so that they should believe a lie” (2 Th 2:11). As we study through this subject, we must never forget this. There are those today who are working “strong delusions” in order to convince people that they are working true miracles. We must, therefore, test these self-proclaimed miracle workers with the definition of true confirming miracles that we discover in the Bible.

One of the glaring revelations that the miracle workers today are false is in reference to the Covid-19 pandemic. Where are all the self-proclaimed miracle workers in our time of need? Why are they not down at the local hospitals, healing those who are stricken with Covid-19? Why are they all wearing masks and socially distancing themselves from those who are inflicted with Covid-19? The fact that the modern-day miracle workers are not at the hospitals, but locked down in their own houses, is evidence that every one of these self-proclaimed miracle workers is a fraud.

[Next in series: July 15]

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D. Work:

The Greek word egron is translated “works” or “deeds” throughout the New Testament (See Jn 5:36; 6:28,29; 7:21; 10:25,32, 37,38; 14:11,12; 15:24). In reference to miraculous activity, a miracle as a work signified the natural activity of the environment of God that is manifested to men.

As a work, a miracle indicated the natural environment in which God dwells. If Jesus is the Son of God, as He so claimed, then we would expect Him to work as God. We would expect Him to reveal the supernatural world that is beyond this world. We would expect Him to manifest the environment of God that is beyond the perception of our senses. And this He did.

The very nature of the miraculous to manifest the environment of God defines a miracle to be something that is not of this world. If the event can be explained by the occurrence of any natural law or the psychological activity of any person, then the work is not a miracle. If one can explain the psychological power of the mind to block out bodily pain, then it is not a direct work of God. If one can explain the hypnotic ability of one who has hypnotized another, then it is not a miraculous work. A confirming miracle as a work of God cannot be explained by any scientist or psychologist. Confirming miracles are unexplainable by our knowledge of the physical world in which we live. A miracle as a work of God must be witnessed to be the activity of the Supernatural as opposed to the work of man.

From the Holy Spirit’s use of the words teras (wonder), semeion (sign), dunamis (power) and ergon (work) in reference to the activity of God among men, He wanted to convey the meaning that action or reaction must take place on the part of man. These Greek words in reference to confirming miracles, therefore, are defined by the response of those who witnessed the occurrence of the miraculous event. In the case of miraculous work that is recorded in the Bible, it would be the work of God before either those who did not believe, in order to bring them to belief.

It was not the purpose of the miraculous to convince the true believers. They did not need convincing. God worked to generate wonder on the part of unbelievers in order to convince them that He was present with His message and messenger. He worked to signal to beholders that the message of the gospel must be heard and obeyed. He worked powerfully in order to dispel any question as to who was at work. And thus, His intervention in the affairs of man was defined as the work of the Lord. He worked through the miraculous in order to accomplish the purpose of convincing unbelievers that His messengers were sent from Him with the message of the gospel. Jesus said, “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me” (Jn 5:36).

Our definition of the words that are used to refer to the miraculous work of God still leaves us wondering what actually took place when a miracle occurred. Our words, whether Greek or English, do not adequately define the work of God in His intervention into our natural world. It will be easier to understand the work of a confirming miracle by understan­ding the realm of the Supernatural, though it is difficult to understand the environment of God by use of earthly words.

The preceding Greek and English words are words that express the experiences of man with man. It is difficult for us to use our dictionary to explain that which is above our experiences. For example, Paul said that he was caught up to Paradise and “heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Co 12:4). In other words, he saw things that could be expressed only by using “God’s heavenly dictionary” which has no earthly definitions. If he did utter such words, then we could not understand them because they would have heavenly definitions. Such illustrates the difficulty we have in using earthly-defined words to explain heavenly activities among men in the form of miracle. So in reference to Paul trying to explain the Paradise unto which he was taken, the Spirit simply said that it was not lawful for him to try to explain.

[End of series]

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Confirming Miracles (4)

C. Power:

The Greek word dunamis is usually translated in the English Bible with the words “powers,” “mighty deeds,” or “mighty works” (See At 2:22; 19:11). Emphasis on a miraculous event as a “power” is placed on the supernatural power that is revealed through the occurrence of the event.

A confirming miracle as a power is meant to manifest the tremendous energy of the realm of God in relation to the physical environment of man (See Gn 18:14; Is 40:12-17; At 15:12; Mt 10:1; 12:28). As a power, a miracle manifests the nature of the environment in which Deity dwells. A miraculous power is a manifestation of the real environment of the supernatural that has existed from eternity and will exist, from our viewpoint, into eternity without end when this world ceases to exist.

As with the words “wonder” and “sign,” a miraculous work as a power must be defined as such by those who behold the event. If the event does not manifest power that is beyond the natural world in which we live, then it is not a “power.” It is only something that has happened according to the ordinary occurrence of the natural laws of this world. Therefore, in order for a miraculous event to be defined as a power, it must be witnessed by those who confirm its occurrence as greater than the ordinary occurrence of natural laws.

In the biblical context of definition, miracles were defined as powers by the unbelieving beholders of the miraculous events. Pharaoh did not at first know the God of Israel (Ex 5:2). However, after the power of God was unleashed through the ten plagues, he realized that a Supernatural power was working (Ex 12:31). The same was true of many unbelievers throughout the Bible’s record of God manifesting power through miraculous works (See Dn 3). Therefore, any event that is proclaimed to be miraculous, and yet, does not convince the unbeliever that it is the Supernatural at work, cannot be defined as a confirming miracle. If the power that is unleashed through the event of a miracle convinces the unbeliever, then it is the power of God at work, and thus is defined as a confirming miracle.

[Next in series: May 28]