By Michael Garrison
That miracles were worked in Bible times is undeniable. Our hearts rejoice at the various miracles our Lord Jesus and his apostles did as recorded in the New Testament. Some examples are: Jesus feeding a multitude with a few loaves and fishes (Jn. 6:5-14); Jesus healing an issue of blood (Lk. 8:43-48); Jesus, and briefly Peter, walking on water (Matt. 14:25-32); a lame man was healed by Peter (Acts 3:1-11); etc. The result of Jesus’ miracle working is shown in Matthew 15:31: “. . . the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.” From the written record we have, we can glorify God because of the miracles we have revealed to us. See John 20:26-31.
What Were Miracles?
The word “miracles” means “power, inherent ability,” and “is used of works of a supernatural origin and character, such as could not be produced by natural agents and means” (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary). So, the birth of a baby or the unfolding of a flower, both natural events, are not miracles. The birth of Jesus, on the other hand, was a miracle. It is not natural for a woman who has not known a man (that is, had sexual contact with one) to have a child. That brings us to the
Purpose of Miracles
The purpose of miracles was to instill faith in unbelievers and to confirm the word the apostles taught. In John 20:31, we read, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” The context of the above passage is where Thomas sees the risen Savior and is told, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:27-29). We will not see the miracle of the resurrection of Christ, but we do have it recorded by reliable witnesses and can have faith in it. We will not see other miracles, but John tells us the ones recorded are for our faith.
God intended us today to obtain faith by that which was written in the first century. It was not God’s will to continue miracles or inspired revelation – that is, if we believe the New Testament. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Do you have faith?
Another reason for miracles in the first century was for confirming the words of the apostles. The writer of Hebrews (2:3-4) wrote, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mk. 16:20). The word “confirm” comes from a Greek word which means “to make firm, establish, make secure” (Vine’s). So, the word of God was proclaimed by the apostles, and God allowed miracles, etc. to be performed to confirm or establish the truthfulness of the spoken words. The words ave now been written by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Once something has been confirmed, it is always confirmed. Christians are not to expect miracles today.
What? No Miracles Today?
Yet, many people claim miracles are possible today. The ones claiming this are seemingly sincere, very religious, people. So, how can we account for these so-called “miracles” of today? In an article by Charles Bell, “Psychic healing: Defies logic, but business booms” (Birmingham [Alabama] News, Nov. 25, 1979) I think we have an answer.
The medical profession remains highly skeptical about all healing not done by orthodox doctors, but some physicians and psychiatrists have taken a new, hard look at the ancient powers of faith to cure – and have determined that faith does indeed work, at tirues, for some people.
Later in the article, we are told about “. . . emotional or psychosomatic roots (which doctors say account for as much as 80 percent of all the complaints they hear).” So, if one has an emotional or psychosomatic illness, one’s faith In a “faith healer” could be enough to cause the person to get well.”
In his book, Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle, William A. Nolen, M.D., did a good deal of research on modern day “miracles.” After checking with many “miraculously healed” people, Dr. Nolen writes:
I listened carefully to everything they told me and followed up every lead which might, even remotely, have led to a confirmation of a miracle. When I had done all this I was led to an inescapable conclusion: none of the patients who had returned to Mirmeapolis to reaffirm the cures they had claimed at the miracle service had, in fact, been miraculously cured of anything . . . (p. 81).
. . . When I started my search I hoped to find some evidence that someone, somewhere, had supernatural powers that he or she could employ to cure those patients we doctors, with all our knowledge and training, must still label “incurable.” As I have said before, I have been unable to find any such miracle worker (p. 272)
Such was not the impression of those working miracles in New Testament times. There were many eyewitnesses who saw the miracles and they could not deny miracles were performed. When Jesus did a wonderful miracle in Matthew 12:22-24, the religious authorities did not show a miracle was not done; they attributed it to the power of Beelzebub rather than God – but they acknowledged the miracle! You see, miracles were undeniable! See also Acts 4:16, 21-22.
Duration of Miracles
Since miracles accomplished what God intended in the first century, that is, to confirm his word, we must not expect miracles to continue. Paul informs us, “. . . whether there be prophecies, they shall fail, whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away . . . But when that which is perfect (or complete) is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:8,10).
Let us put our faith and confidence in God’s complete and confirmed word!
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 23, pp. 705, 727
December 6, 1990