There are a lot of groups and individuals that claim to have the ability to perform miracles. There are a lot of individuals who have claimed to have seen miracles. But how do we determine whether or not we believe them? How do we test a miracle by the word of God?
Words can change in meaning over time and a word like miracle is a perfect example. If you look at the definition in Webster’s dictionary it says a miracle is “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs”. This satisfies explaining the view that most people have of what a miracle is. Most people attribute the word miracle to any “extraordinary event”. The Bible doesn’t make every extraordinary event a miracle. Miracles are specific acts of God.
Miracles of the Bible were not left up to speculation and assertion. They were undeniable to all who witnessed them. It did not matter if the witness was a friend or foe. The enemies of Christ and the apostles did not deny the miracles. They couldn’t deny the miracle (John 11:47). They denied the source (Matt 12:24, Acts 4:14ff).
When Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus had been dead for four days and had started to stink (John 11:39). Jesus said “Lazarus come forth” and Lazarus got up and came out of the tomb (11:44). The hostile witnesses didn’t have a way to deny the miracle so they plotted to kill Jesus (11:45-50).
Miracles were obviously supernatural. True miracles break natural law. When Jesus rebuked the storm and the sea, there was no one who would conclude that it was a coincidence. It was an immediate end to the storm and rough seas.
This is a stark contrast to so-called miracles today. The charlatans today hide their lack of miraculous ability with theater, production, shouting, and time.
The effects of true miracles were immediate. When Jesus healed a leper it was immediate (Matt 8:3). When the Centurion begged for help for his sick servant, the servant became well the moment Jesus said (Matt 8:13). When Jesus healed a man with a withered hand it was restored at that moment (Matt 12:13).
If someone slowly recovers from an illness, or a premature baby survives, or a problem is sorted out over time, this does not meet the Bibles definition of a miracle. This come from confusing and not understanding the difference between providence and miracles.
God acts on behalf of His will in two ways. He can operate in a supernatural way in which He breaks a law of nature in an obvious way (miracle), and He can operate through the natural world by His providence.
Joseph and Esther are two stories that illustrate the providence of God. Through a natural course of life, God was able to turn the evil that Joseph’s brothers meant for him into good (Gen 50:20). By his providential care, God was able to use a woman named Esther to bring about salvation for the people of God (Esther 4:14).
Providence is the means by which God answers the prayers of his saints. The prayers of the Jewish people facing the wrath of Haman were answered providentially by God through Esther and Mordecai.
When someone is healed from an illness today, there are all sorts of things that can be taking place behind the scenes. We should always give God credit for the good and wonderful blessings of life (James 1:17). But we can not call these things that happen miracles because they don’t meet the biblical definition of the word.
Miracles served a specific purpose. They were used in a time period when the word of God was being revealed (1 Cor 13:8-9, Eph 4:11-14). They were designed to confirm the word that was being spoken was truly from God (Mark 16:20). When the New Testament was coming to completion, so did the age of miracles.
We don’t need miracles to confirm the word of God today, because we have a completed revelation and it confirms itself. There is no greater proof that the Bible is from God than an honest study of it (Acts 17:11).
It is not a matter of whether God has the power to do miracles today, it is a matter of God doing things according to his will. He has stated in His will to us that we shouldn’t expect miracles. We should however, expect his providence if we have obeyed the gospel.
God’s children are given the ear to the Almighty Father and He works all things toward the good for His children (Rom 8:28). This doesn’t mean that He will miraculously protect us from bad stuff. It means He will providentially work through our lives and providentially provide what we ask if it is according to His will (James 4:13-15).
When we use the word miracle to describe something unexpected, a coincidence, or even something we can’t explain, we are diminishing from the testimony of scripture toward what a true miracle should look like. We lessen the biblical displays of God’s power and then place expectations on Him that He never said we should have.
Miracles do not happen today. We shouldn’t look for them and we shouldn’t expect them. And if someone claims to have that ability, we should turn from them.