It is not uncommon to hear today people say, “Well if I could just see a miracle, I’d believe.” Others in the religious world argue adamantly that miracles still take place today, and if you cannot perform them, you are not a true believer. At the same time, others say that they have ceased altogether. However, as always, we are not entirely concerned with what man says but with what does the Word of God says. So, this morning we want to address three questions about miracles; What are they? What are their purpose? And do they happen today?
What Are Miracles?
The first thing we need to address is the question, what are miracles? C.S. Lewis offered this definition that I believe is particularly good. He said, “I use the word Miracle to mean an interference with Nature by supernatural power. Unless there exists, in addition to Nature, something else which we may call the supernatural, there can be no miracles” (Lewis, Miracles. Pg.5).
Biblical signs/miracles/wonders were visible acts of power from a supernatural source. We can see this in the Scriptures by simply looking at the seven signs Jesus performed in the Gospel of John.
- Turning Water into Wine (John 2:1–11)
- Signs at the Temple (John 2:23)
- Healing the Nobleman’s Son (John 4:46–54)
- Healing the Lame Man (John 5:1–15)
- Feeding the Multitude (John 6:1–15)
- Healing the Blind Man (John 9)
- Raising Lazarus (John 11)
As we have seen in the above Biblical signs were visible demonstrations of supernatural power. This leads us to our second question.
What Is the Purpose of Miracles?
What was the purpose of miracles or signs? Biblical miracles were performed to testify that the person who had performed the sign was sent from and approved by God. This can be seen back in Exodus with Moses. Consider Exodus 4:1-9, specifically v.5. The purpose behind Moses working these two signs was so “That they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”
We see also in the New Testament that miracles had the same purpose. In Mark 16:20, after the great commission had been given, the text reads, “and they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.”
Make special note of the last part of this verse. “Confirmed the word by the signs that followed.” That tells us that Biblical miracles were secondary to the message preached. Biblical signs were performed to give further evidence of the validity of the word. Take, for example, the Apostle Paul. He preaches at several locations (Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth) without working a single miracle. When we get to Acts 19, where Paul is at Ephesus, he preached to them first (Acts 19:1-5) and later worked miracles (Acts 19:11).
Again, this is because the message preached was the primary focus (and still is). The works were secondary only to add validity to what was preached.
Do Miracles Still Happen Today?
Now we come to the final question, do miracles happen today? The short answer is no. Here is the longer answer. We understand that the purpose of miracles was to confirm the word that was preached (Mark 16:20). Once God’s revelation was completed, there would be no more purpose for miracles. This is indeed what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13:
8 Love never fails, but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Let’s note a few things about what Paul is saying here:
|Things in Existence During the “in part” time||Quality of Each Item||Things Which Will Be In Existence When the “Perfect” Comes|
3. Word of Knowledge
|Shall Fail |
Shall Vanish Away
|1-3 Not in Existence During This Period.|
“that which is perfect.” “Perfect – Describes something that is complete, whole, or without blemish.” (LBD). The perfect stands in contrast to that which was in part. Now, what did Paul say was “in part”? Knowledge. So, Paul says that when completed knowledge comes, the partial (gifts) will be done away with. God is not revealing additional revelation today, so the purpose of miracles is gone.
Secondly, the means of receiving the ability to work miracles is gone. In the New Testament, we only find Christians working miracles whom the Apostles laid hands on (cf. Acts 8:14-25; Rom. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:6). This means once the last Apostle died, the means for obtaining the ability to work miracles was gone. By the beginning of the second century, we cease to see miracles (in the true Biblical sense) being worked. But even in the Bible within the book of Acts, we see the working of miracles drop off by the end of the book.
Written So That We May Believe:
The miracles were worked to confirm the word of life, the Gospel. Once it has been confirmed, it does not need to be confirmed again. We have a record of the miracles so that, while we have not seen them in person, we too may believe in the validity and the power of the Gospel.
John 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believe you may have life in His name.” The greatest of those signs recorded is His resurrection. By which He showed us that His Lord overall and there is salvation in no one else.