By Cecil Willis
In our last editorial, we directed our attention to a study of Christ’s miracles as recorded in the Gospel according to John. We also saw that those who profess to be miracle-workers today cannot perform the kind of miracles that Jesus did. They only attempt to imitate the miracle of healing. Within the next article of so, we shall study the nature of New Testament miracles, and see how they differ from the so-called miracles worked by pseudo-miracle-workers of today. But in this editorial, we want to devote our lesson to a consideration of the purpose of Biblical miracles. This lesson should definitely be an asset to us when we come to study the duration of miracles. Let me encourage you to pay careful attention to the purposes of miracles.
Miracles: Evidence of Divine Power
First, miracles were performed as an evidence of divine power. It would be but natural for us to demand some proof of the divine origin of one’s message. If I confront an individual today who claims that God, directly from heaven, gave him his message, I want him to present some miraculous credential. God never sent His spokesman away empty-handed. He always gave them proof, or evidence of divine power.
When we turn to the Old Testament, we find God’s sending forth Moses to lead the people out of Egyptian bondage. But Moses said, “Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice; for they will say, Jehovah hath not appeared unto thee. And Jehovah said unto him, What is that in thy hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it” (Ex. 4:1-3). God then told Moses to take up the serpent, and it became a rod again. He then told him to put his hand in his bosom and it became leprous. God then told him to put his hand back in his bosom, and it became clean. And if the people refused to hearken to either of these sign, God told Moses to take water of the river, and pour it upon dry land, and it would become blood. So these miracles were Moses’ credentials. They were to be proof that God had sent him.
The signs that Jesus did were unanswerable proofs that God had sent Him. When John the Baptist had been put in prison, he heard of the works of Christ, and sent his disciples to Christ where they asked, “Art thou he that cometh or look we for another?” John wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus answered by telling him of the signs that He did. He said, “Go tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them” (Matt. 11:3-5). So
when John asked if Jesus was the Messiah, Christ replied by telling of the miracles that were worked, and which were His divine credentials.
We also see an instance in which the effect of the miracles of Christ is stated: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came unto him by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him” (Jno. 3:1,2). The signs that Jesus did were overwhelming proof to Nicodemus that God was with Jesus, for no man, unaided by divine power, could work the miracles that Jesus did. Such is the Biblical purpose of miracles. It enables the hearers to determine who was inspired of God, and who was not.
Paul wrought miracles in the presence of the Corinthians, and then stated that the miracles which he did were proof of his apostleship. Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:11, 12, “1 am become foolish: ye compelled me; for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing was I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works.” Paul proved his apostleship by working miracles. So again the miracles performed proved to be indisputable evidence of divine power and authority.
Realizing that when God sends a man forth with a message, He gives him the power to work real miracles to prove that God has sent him, it is but right that we should inquire into the credentials of men today who claim to be speaking by inspiration, and working miracles to prove their inspiration. In the first place, these men show that God did not send them by the very essence of their message. When God sent forth the inspired writers, He told them what to say, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, they recorded it in the Bible. Today various men are claiming divine authority for their message, and yet their preaching is contradictory to the truths taught in the Bible. Certainly God did not send forth the apostles with an inspired message, and now send forth men to deny the previous message.
It is perfectly right for us to demand proof of the divine authority of these men who claim to be working miracles. If one will but think about it, it is nothing uncommon that these fellows claim to work miracles. They realize that God bore witness with His messengers by enabling them to perform the mighty signs which they did. Therefore, since they claim that God has also sent them, they attempt to work miracles. Yet these men act like they are insulted when they are asked for the proof of their divine authority. They feel that one is beyond hope if he questions their authority. But, if they had their divine credientials as they claim to have, it would be a simple matter to produce it. I have been to many of these miracle-working meetings, and have as yet to see anything that is miraculous. The New Testament miracles were not questionable cases, but were undoubtedly performed by supernatural power. Such we do not see today.
Miracles: Persuasions Toward Belief
But let us now notice a second purpose of miracles as stated in the Bible: “Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus in the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name” Ono. 20:30). What was the purpose of the signs? John said that he was recording the account of Jesus’ signs in order that those who read his account may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. It is a well known truth that faith comes by the presentation of testimony, or of evidence. So the Gospel according to John, as well as the other Gospel accounts, are books of testimony or evidence which are calculated to produce implicit faith in the heart of those who read of Jesus’ divine power.
But, again we have the same result. These men come along who claim to be sent directly from God with a God-given message, and they expect us to believe whatever they say is true simpl’ because they say it is the truth. God gave us evidence to prove Christ’s deity. Obviously, they believe that the miracles that Christ performed were inadequate, and that the Bible is not enough to make us believe in the Son of God, so they pretend to work yet other miracles. If the recording of Christ’s miracles can do what John said that it could do, we do not need the so-called miracle-workers of today. Once one is made to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, he will acquiesce to the dictates of Christ. We call upon these people who denounce as an unbeliever everyone who is the least bit skeptical of their authority and power to tell us whether they believe that the Bible can do what it says that it can. It claims to be able to produce faith. If it can do that, then tell us what additional good can come by their claimed power to work miracles?
Miracles: Confirm the Testimony of God’s Speakers
We will have room to discuss but one other reason or purpose for the working of miracles. It was to confirm the testimony of God’s speakers. In a sense, we have already discussed this point, but previously we said it was an evidence of divine power. But now the Bible declares that miracle-working is an infallible proof of the message as well. I want to cite four verses from Hebrews 2: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that we have heard, lest haply we drift away from them. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that hears; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold., powers, and, by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own Will” (vs. 1-4). Notice that this passage declares that God bore witness with “them” by signs, wonders, and manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit. God confirmed the word spoken by miracles. A statement of this truth is also found in Mk. 16:16-20. Later in this series we will devote time to that passage. Note that the Hebrew writer spoke of the great salvation which was first spoken by the Lord, but was confirmed unto us by them that heard. Who are “them that heard”? Remember that it was with “them” that God confirmed their word by the miracles performed.
To be one of these individuals that received the power to work miracles as stated in this passage, one would first have had to hear the Lord proclaim the great salvation. And I just have my doubts as to whether any of these fellows who claim divine power today were present when the Lord first made proclamation of the great salvation. Do you think they were on this earth when Jesus was? Certainly they were not! So they cannot use this passage as proof that God has inspired them and enabled them to work miracles. This passage mentions ways that God bore witness with “them” by enabling “them” to work miracles, but it says nothing about men today as being inspired by the Holy Spirit, and being enabled by God to work miracles.
Miracles were performed: (1) as an evidence of divine power; (2) to produce faith; (3) to confirm the word spoken. None of these reasons for the working of miracles will fit the men who claim to be working miracles today. If you doubt it, study them carefully to see for yourself.
Truth Magazine XXI: 6, pp. 86-87
February 10, 1977