The Bible and Miracles: Then and Now
Doug Focht, Jr.
The miracles of the Bible are one of the great stumbling-blocks to the acceptance of its truths. The argument is simple: Since the Bible is full of fanciful miracles and since those miracles do not occur today, the biblical stories themselves are gross exaggerations at best. On this basis alone, when considering its historical accuracy, liberal scholars summarily dismiss the Bible as the stuff of myths, hardly a credible witness. The real irony, though, is that rather than disprove the Scriptures, the miracles are actually strong evidence for its Divine origin.
Some people insist that miracles are still being performed today in the same way they were during the days of the apostles. Before we consider the positive evidence that the miracles present, it is first necessary to understand the way in which they are presented in Scripture, specifically in the New Testament. The evidence itself, then, will presented in our next article.
Miracles of Jesus
The miracles that Jesus performed, if they actually did happen, unequivocally prove Him to be the promised Messiah of God, God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). He healed the sick of incurable diseases, the most dreaded of the day being leprosy. He healed those with withered limbs (Matthew 12:914) and those who were paralyzed (Mark 2:112)). He raised the dead (Matthew 9:1826; Luke 7:1117; John 11:145), fed thousands of people from just a few morsels of food (Matthew 14:1321; 15:2938). He calmed a storm (Mark 4:3541), walked on water (Matthew 14:2233) and caused the blind to see, even those who were born blind (John 9:17). And in spite of the awesome magnitude of these miracles, He told His disciples that they would perform greater works than these (John 14:12).
The miracles of the disciples
The apostles of Jesus were given the authority to act as Jesus' agents on earth. When one considers the scope of the miracles they performed, it is easy to see through the so-called faith-healers of today. Those who claim to work miracles do not work the same miracles that are recorded in the New Testament. Today, healing services are held in large auditoriums and believers from all over come to be healed. Emotions flow during these meetings. People clap and jump around. They faint, they sometimes writhe in ecstasy on the floor. In the New Testament, however, the disciples did not heal those who already believed. They went into cities of unbelievers and healed them first. Then they preached to them. There are many examples from the book of Acts that can be considered, but we will look at two.
Peter and John in the Temple
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a certain man who had been lame from his mother's womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, `Look at us!' And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, `I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarenewalk!' And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. (Acts 3:18, NASB)
Notice that the man was lame from birth. Not only had he never walked, but when he was healed, he apparently didn't even have to learn to walk! Yet there was no hype. There was joy, but no rally was held. Peter did not go into some kind of wild trance and jump around on a stage. And did you notice that the man was not even expecting to be healed? He was expecting to receive alms! Did Peter asked him for a statement of belief?
Philip in Samaria
Philip was not an apostle, but he did have the ability to preach and to perform miracles. In the eighth chapter of Acts, the story of his preaching in Samaria is recorded. This is the first time since Jesus' earthly ministry that the gospel was preached in Samaria. The text says,
And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was much rejoicing in that city. (Acts 8:58).
The word sign is often used for a miracle which attests to the truth of something said or promised. In both of these cases, if you follow the result of the miracles, you will see that preaching was involved, and conversions resulted. The miracles came first, then the conversions! This is a plain indication of what miracles were for: To establish the credibility of the one preaching and verify the word spoken by him. This is precisely what the Scriptures teach regarding the purpose of miracles:
And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. (Mark 16:20)
How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:34)
In our next article, we will consider why miracles have ceased and how that the inclusion of them in Scripture makes it highly improbable that the stories were fabricated. But for now, this much is certain: Those who claim to carry on the work of the apostles in the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit are simply not up to the task! If they were, they would go into the hospitals and preach to all there as they healed them. They would go into the cities and ghettos and perform their mighty works there. Instead, they ask people to come to them often with a statement of belief. Which give pause for reflection: If one already believes, what was it that produced the belief in the first place? According to Scripture faith comes not by miracles but by the word (Romans 10:17).
From Growing in Grace, Vol. 1 #10, July 28, 1996
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