13. The Miracles Of The Bible

Introduction

The Bible is an extraordinary book, not only because of its moral teachings, but also because of the extraordinary miracles which it records. Since the word miracle has been much misused, a correct definition must be given.

MIRACLES DEFINED

Two New Testament Greek words are translated “miracle” in the King James Version of the Bible. One signifies “an act of power” while the other properly means “a sign”. A miracle, then, is an act of unusual power designed as a sign of divine authority.

The word is often erroneously applied to anything unusual or difficult to explain. Correctly, a miracle occurs when the natural laws of the universe are restrained by the hand of God so that an otherwise unexplainable phenomenon results.

For example, if a football released from a skyscraper rose in the air instead of falling to the ground, that would be a miracle because the law of gravity requires that it descend.

On the other hand, if a sick person who is given only six months to live would gradually recover, that would not be a miracle since the recovery would have been affected through the natural laws instead of in opposition to them.

While we might be unable to explain the recuperation, this is not a miracle because the natural laws have not been restrained.

DID MIRACLES OCCUR IN BIBLE TIMES?

The sceptics have long attacked the Bible on the ground that miracles were figments of the imagination. This lesson is too brief for a detailed defence of miracles, but it may be suggested that if we grant the existence of God then a miracle is no more difficult to accept than the ordinary laws of nature.

To a God who is all-powerful, it is no harder to raise the dead than to put into operation the natural process of birth. Both are demonstrations of divine power.

The reason that some accept the one and reject the other is that they have seen the one demonstrated and the other they have not. Actually, to prove the existence of God is to prove the possibility of miracles.

We should beware of those who would try to explain away every miracle in the Bible as a natural phenomenon. True, God has used the natural laws to accomplish his ends. Some of the ten plagues of Egypt were simply natural manifestations, timed by divine providence to make Pharaoh agree to let Israel leave Egypt.

We are assured, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28. This statement of Paul refers to nothing miraculous. Yet, it is infidelity to explain away Biblical miracles on the ground that they were simply natural occurrences.

No fair-minded person can read the account of Jesus feeding 5000 people with a few loaves and fishes and deny that the scriptures claim a miraculous multiplication of food.

One might reject the accounts as untrustworthy if he does not believe the Bible, but he can hardly deny that the scriptures claim a miracle.

OLD TESTAMENT MIRACLES

The Old Testament describes a number of miracles, beginning with creation itself. By a miracle, the first man was formed by God from the dust of the earth, Genesis 2.

A few of the miracles performed before Christ include the passing of Israel through the Red Sea, Exodus 14, the giving of manna and quail to Israel, Exodus 16, the fall of the walls of Jericho, Joshua 6, and the raising of two children from the dead. 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 4.

THE NEW TESTAMENT MIRACLES

A majority of Biblical miracles are recorded in the New Testament. The largest portion was performed by Jesus, although miracles were also performed by the apostles and other Christians.

Some were over the forces of nature as when Jesus turned water into wine, John 2, or walked upon the water, Matthew 14. A greater number were miracles of healing. Because of present day claims of miracle workers, an examination of the methods of Jesus is in order.

Notice the following:

1. Jesus never healed to secure notoriety.

In fact, he sometimes told those he healed, “See that you don’t tell anyone.” Matthew 8:4, or “See that no one knows about this.” Matthew 9:30.

In contrast, modern-day healers seem intent on securing as much publicity for themselves as possible.

2. Jesus and his disciples healed all sorts of afflictions.

When he sent out the twelve, “He gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” Matthew 10:1.

Of the healing of the apostles it is said, “Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” Acts 5:16.

Compare these examples with twentieth century healers who screen their candidates to remove the genuinely organically sick.

3. Again, Jesus never made faith on the part of the ones being healed a universal condition of healing.

There are about 31 recorded healings performed by Jesus. Of these, one required faith, and one was commended and healing attributed to it. But in 15 cases no faith was required, in nine nothing is said of its presence, in one case the patient had it but it was not required, and in four cases faith was impossible.

In other words, the requirement of faith was the exception, not the rule. Lazarus, for example, had no faith when he was raised from the dead. In contrast, modern healers invariably explain their failures by saying that their patients lacked faith.

4. Jesus never healed partially.

The blind, the lame, and the deaf recovered completely. They did not just improve or say they felt better. They had no relapses a few weeks later.

Today, however, those who claim to have been miraculously healed will often admit that they are not completely cured. Moreover, they are often back in the same condition a few weeks later.

5. Jesus healed instantly.

He would touch a person or speak a word and immediately the sick would recover. There was nothing gradual about it. If healing is gradual, it is not a miracle since a miracle necessitates restraining the laws of nature, which does not happen in a gradual recovery.

True, a gradual recovery may be in answer to prayer. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16. Christians should pray for the sick in accordance with God’s will. But if the recovery is gradual, it is not a miracle although it may result from prayer.

THE PURPOSE OF MIRACLES

Biblical miracles were not performed for the sake of the miracles themselves. In other words, Jesus healed the lame, not just to make them walk, but to prove that he was from God that he might establish faith on the part of the healed and the witnesses.

One writer declares, “The miracles are to be credentials for the bearer of that good work.” (Trench, Notes on Miracles.)

After recording many of the miracles of Jesus, John states, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe3  that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31.

The Jews understood miracles to be a sign of divine authority when they asked Jesus as he drove the money-changers out of the temple, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” John 2:18.

They desired a miracle to prove that he had the authority to do as he did. When Moses was instructed by God to lead his people out of Egypt, he complained that they would not listen to him. Therefore, the Lord gave him the ability to perform three miracles designed to show that he was from God, Exodus 4.

FALSE MIRACLE WORKERS

When Moses returned to Egypt and demonstrated his miraculous powers, the sorcerers of Pharaoh were apparently able to duplicate some of his powers, although not all. It is evident that their power, if real, did not come from God.

Jesus warns us of false miracle workers, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:24.

Again, he says, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:22-23.

We must put these charlatans to the test “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1.

Under the Law of Moses, a simple test was applied to workers of signs. They were tested by their doctrine. If their teaching was wrong, they were to be put to death, Deuteronomy 13:1-5. We must also reject those whose teaching does not agree with the New Testament.

DO WE HAVE MIRACLES TODAY?

God can do anything. If he desires, he can perform any miracle that he did in the Bible times. But does he? Jesus gave the apostles ability to bestow miraculous power on other Christians. For example, the apostles Peter and John gave miraculous spiritual gifts to the Samaritan converts of Philip.

We read, “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands.” Acts 8:18. As far as we are told, only the apostles could transmit these miraculous gifts.

It follows, then, that with the death of the last ones upon whom the apostles had bestowed these powers, miracles would end. This agrees with Paul. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul describes nine spiritual gifts. Then he says, “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.” 1 Corinthians 12:31.

A discussion of love and its superiority to miracles follows. Paul then declares, “Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away … but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.” 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 A.S.V.

In selecting three of the nine spiritual gifts as typical of all, he shows that when that which was perfect had come, miracles would cease. And what is “the perfect”? Some say it refers to the person of Christ. This cannot be for “that which is perfect” is neuter gender, not masculine as would be necessary if this meant Christ.

The root word from which perfect is translated means “brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; perfect.” (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 618).

It seems clear that Paul had in mind the completion of God’s revelation which at that time was in the process of being placed in written form in the New Testament scriptures.

In fact, James speaks of this revelation as “the perfect law of liberty.” James 1:25. Since this divine revelation has been “brought to its end, finished,” the need for spiritual gifts as a witness of authority is no longer required. They have served their purpose and have ceased.


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