Should We Expect Miracles Today?
I only know of two miracles in the past 70 years since I was born:
The "Miracle" New York Mets beat the mighty Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series.
The "Miracle on Ice" when the United States Hockey Team defeated the four-time defending Gold Medalist, and heavily favored, Soviet Union Hockey Team in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
These big wins did not come easy. It took lots of hard work and team discipline for both underdogs to win a championship. They are miracles in the sense that no one expected these teams to win!
If you are on Facebook, I'm sure you have encountered posts that say, "God will send you a miracle today if you type Amen." The post is followed by hundreds of "Amen" comments. I often wonder how many of these poor souls felt let down when the miracle they expected didn't happen. I also fell for something similar to this, but this time it came from the pastor of a Nazarene church in Mississippi in 1979. I'm not going to share the details. The highly anticipated miracle never happened. I was extremely disappointed and angry with God. But God did raise up a highly skilled surgeon who rebuilt my former wife's heart in 1995. She lived for another 19 years.
Should Christians expect God to perform miracles today? It depends on how you define "miracle." Here is what Christians can expect:
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).
Miracles do not produce endurance, nor do they make you perfect and complete. This only comes through various trials and some of these trials could last a very long time. And when you think you are done with trials, the next one is right around the corner! I speak from many years of experience.
What Is a Miracle?
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for "miracle" is peleʾ - a mighty act of God that is inexplicable and indescribable according to human standards. Here are a few examples of where this word is used in the Old Testament.
“So, I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go" (Exodus 3:20).
“When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Work a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent’" (Exodus 7:9).
"Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian” (Judges 6:13).
These miracles had a very specific purpose - to convince Pharoah to free the Israelites, God's chosen people, from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Judges 6:13 indicates that God did not perform miracles during the time of Gideon.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for "miracle" is dynamis - the ability to perform an activity; by extension, it refers to someone in a position of power or the force of a person’s action. Besides miracles, dynamis has several other uses in the New Testament. For example, "His face was like the sun shining in its strength" (Revelation 1:16); “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability" (Matthew 25:15); far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come" (Ephesians 1:21).
The "New Dictionary of Theology" defines a miracle as a "supernatural interference with nature or the course of events, extraordinary expressions of God's grace; a divine attestation of the person of the teaching of the one who performs the miracle." Supernatural means something that cannot be explained by science, transcends the laws of nature and defies the common expectations of behaviors. A perfect example of this is the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 14:13-31. The Israelites crossed safely between the parted sea on "dry land" (v 21). Pharoah's entire army was destroyed in the "midst of the sea" (vs 26-28). The result of this supernatural event: "When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses" (v 31). Another great example is found in Matthew 8:24-28. Jesus and his disciples were on a boat when a "great storm on the sea" occurred. The boat was "being covered with the waves, but Jesus Himself was asleep" (v 24). His disciples woke Him saying "Save us, Lord, we are perishing!" (v 25). Jesus "rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm" (v 26).
Purpose of Miracles Performed by Jesus
The four New Testament gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) document the many miracles performed by Jesus. The questions that must be answered: what was the purpose of these miracles, and are these miracles replicated today?
In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus began teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth. He opened the book of the prophet Isaiah then read Isaiah 61:1-2 then closed the book.
“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”
Then Jesus said in Luke 4:21 "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
In Matthew 11:2-5, John the Baptist, who was in prison, sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was "the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?"
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM."
In performing miracles, such as giving sight to the blind, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies that were written about Him. The miracles Jesus performed authenticated who He is and the gospel that He preached.
In Matthew 9:1-8 we read the account of Jesus healing a paralytic. He made an amazing statement, a blasphemous proclamation according to the scribes that witnessed this event: "Take courage, son, your sins are forgiven."
And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”
Not only did the miracles performed by Jesus authenticate who He is and His gospel, they also showed that He has the authority to forgive sins. None of these miracles are replicated today because Jesus completed His work of redemption (John 19:30). He now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Ephesians 1:20).
During his sermon during Pentecost, the apostle Peter declared:
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power" (Acts 2:22-24).
Effect of These Miracles
What effect did these miracles have on the populace? After being the beneficiaries of miracle after miracle performed by God, the Israelites "spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food” (Numbers 21:5).
Many people followed Jesus as long as He was performing signs, wonders, and miracles. In John 4:46-54 Jesus healed the son of a royal official at Capernaum. In John 5:1-17 He healed a man who was lame for thirty-eight years at the sheep gate pool called Bethesda in Jerusalem. In John 6:1-14 Jesus fed five thousand people from five barley loafs and two fish. There were twelve baskets filled of left-over fragments when the crowd was filled. Jesus literally walked on the water as recorded in John 6:15-21. His popularity ended after He taught at the synagogue in Capernaum (John 6:59) that He is "the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh" (John 6:51).
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So, Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God" (John 6:66-69).
When Jesus cast out a demon, the Pharisees attributed this to the work of Beelzebul (Luke 11:14-26). A woman in the crowd said to Jesus "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which You nursed" (Luke 11:27). Jesus responded with the following:
“On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28).
Then here is what Jesus said as the crowds were increasing:
“This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. “For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation" (Luke 11:29).
“An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:39-40).
Thus, the only sign that was given to them was the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus on the third day!
"But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him" (John 12:37).
Purpose of Miracles Performed by the Apostles
Signs, wonders, and miracles authenticated that the apostles were specifically chosen by Jesus and sent by Him to preach the new gospel of Christ. The word "apostle" in the Greek is apostolos - it literally means "one sent out, especially those sent out by Jesus to preach the gospel." Some passages to consider include:
"At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico" (Acts 5:12).
"The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing" (Acts 8:6).
"All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles" (Acts 15:12).
"For I (Paul) will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ" (Romans 15:18-19).
"The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles" (2nd Corinthians 12:12).
Are There Apostles Today?
Note 2nd Corinthians 12:12 - the "signs of a true apostle." Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 "I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." The church is referred to as "God's household" (Ephesians 2:19).
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).
The foundation for God's household was laid in the first century church beginning with Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47). Apostles and prophets are the foundation that Jesus built His church upon over the past 2000 years! The wall of the future New Jerusalem will have "twelve foundation stones" with "the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Revelation 21:14). These are the "true apostles" that Paul referred to.
As in the first century church, there are those today who claim to be apostles, but they are false.
"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds" (2nd Corinthians 11:13-15).
The coming of the lawless one (the antichrist) will be "in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness" (2nd Thessalonians 2:9-12).
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves... Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS’" (Matthew 7:15,22-23).
Jesus praised the church at Ephesus for testing "those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false" (Revelation 2:2).
Just because some self-proclaimed apostle or prophet performed some impressive miracle in the name of the Lord doesn't mean this miracle came from God. Beware of such deceit!
We Must Pay Attention to the Prophetic Word
In Matthew 17:1-8, Jesus led Peter, James, and John to this high mountain. They witnessed something utterly spectacular - Jesus transfigured - how He will appear when "they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom" (Matthew 16:28).
"And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him... While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified" (Matthew 17:2-3, 5-6).
Peter writes about what he witnessed with James and John in 2nd Peter 1:16-18 - they were "eyewitnesses of His Majesty." Peter could have stopped at the end of verse 18 and no one would have blamed him. This was incredible. I cannot even dare to imagine what they saw! However, Peter continued:
So, we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2nd Peter 2:19-21).
We have "the prophetic word made more sure" than any spectacular sign, wonder, and miracle! It is God's written word contained in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament that we "do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." Faith does not come from miracles. "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
God can and does perform miracles today, but often they go unnoticed or are denied. Jesus performed countless miracles, yet the vast majority of people did not believe in Him. If Jesus performed these same miracles on earth today, the result would be the same - people would be amazed and will follow Him for a short time, then abandon Him when it becomes too difficult to be one of His disciples. People today do not need miracles. Any faith based on miracles is, at best, an immature faith. They need to believe in the One who came to this earth to die for their sins. They need to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ by studying His word and having fellowship with like-minded believers. The greatest miracle that we all desire is for God to turn an unrepentant, rebellious sinner into a worshipper of Christ. This only comes through sharing the gospel of Christ and prayer. "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:16).
Brothers and sisters in Christ, beware of those that claim to be prophets or apostles today, and warn others to stay clear of them. Their agenda is to lead you away from the God of the Bible to a false god that they created. Their gospel is not the gospel of Christ.
"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!" (Galatians 1:6-9).
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth"
2nd Timothy 2:15
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture cited in this post is taken from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.