When it comes to controversy in the Church, I’d say that nothing seems more controversial than miracles. It’s a heavy claim that a person like you or me performed some act that is seen as beyond natural, and many people refuse to believe it. In the times of the early church, though, the Bible clearly states that miracles occurred. Today’s lesson in The Ever Loving Truth talked about the role of miracles in the spread of the gospel, and the role of miracles in the spread of God’s message today.
In Acts 3, the apostles Peter and John performed a miracle of healing on a crippled man in the witness of many people, then turned around and began preaching the gospel to these people. Then in chapter 4 they were arrested, taken before the Sanhedrin, and threatened to stop preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus. They said they could not do so, and they went back to their fellow believers and prayed for boldness in speaking the truth. After this, the apostles continued to preach and teach the resurrection of Jesus, and the church was greatly unified. Then, in Acts 5:12-16 it says:
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t see many miracles performed today. Are miracles still a normal part of the acts of the church? Without counting the possibility of miracles completely out, I’d say that miracles are not an important part of God’s message to the world in today’s times. Here’s why I believe this:
- Miracles were performed by the apostles. Baucham points out that an apostle is “one sent with a message.” To be sent with Jesus’ message, one must encounter Jesus personally and first-hand. Only 12 men could claim that (including Paul, after his conversion), so we can confidently say that there are no “apostles” in today’s church. If the miracles performed and recorded in the Bible were all performed by apostles, and apostles are no longer appointed in today’s church, then I would have to say that miracles are not an important part of the acts of the modern church.
- Miracles were purposeful. I can’t think of a single example in the Bible of a miracle taking place for no apparent reason. Even some of the small, seemingly insignificant miracles performed by Jesus (like the cursing of the fig tree), ended up playing a large role in the belief of the disciples. The purpose of the miracles performed by the apostles in Acts 5 were to confirm the message being taught by the apostles. The apostles weren’t attempting to glorify themselves through their own awesome power – they pointed straight to God as the source of the miracle, and people saw God’s glory and power through it. Plus, after having performed a miracle, which was performed by God, the apostles showed themselves to be in line with God and to be doing His work. Therefore, the message they spoke was valid in God’s eyes and everyone knew that it contained God’s truth. This is confirmed in Hebrews 2:1-4:
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (emphasis added)
- Miracles seem to have faded out. There has never been a guarantee that God will perform a miracle in anyone’s life. Baucham points out that “even toward the end of the apostolic age, miracles began to play a smaller role in the spread of the gospel. Although Paul was able to heal (Acts 28), he later left Trophimus sick at Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20), recommended wine for Timothy’s stomach ailment (1 Timothy 5:23), and could not bring healing for his own ailment (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).” Baucham points out that this fading out of the occurrence of miracles only pointed to the fact that God’s purposes could be achieved better by other means. I believe this is still the case today.
Now, to use these arguments to say that miracles never happen today would be limiting God, and Lord forbid I ever do that! I believe that God has plenty of power to perform any miracle He wants. I believe that He still performs them in people’s lives – I’ve heard multiple true stories of miraculous healing occurring for people. My wife and I are praying hard for a George Mueller-type miracle right now! And I don’t write this today to discount what is being done by television evangelists who claim healing powers from God (think Benny Hinn or someone like him). Though I wouldn’t personally align myself with them, it’s not my place to say that they are fake. I think we can always take our needs before our God, and it’s never wrong to ask for Him to work supernaturally in our lives. But we also have to understand that a miracle is never guaranteed – as Baucham said, sometimes God’s purposes are better achieved by not receiving the miracle. And at that point, we have to be willing to say “Your grace is sufficient, and Your power is made perfect in my weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).