The Witness of God

…God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:4)

- Hebrews 2:3b–4

Having warned his audience that neglecting the Gospel message will bring great punishment, the author of Hebrews gives more evidence of the Gospel’s greatness. Again, he writes that Christ Himself is one reason for the message’s preeminence. The Gospel of salvation was first declared by the Lord (v. 2:3b). Here the author makes a subtle contrast with the law. The lesser law was mediated by angels; the greater Gospel was mediated by God Himself.

The apostolic witness is a second evidence for the Gospel’s greatness. The Gospel is not a message invented by those who had no contact with Christ. “Those who heard [Christ]” (v. 3b) are the ones who preached the Gospel to the author and to the audience of Hebrews. Both the author and his audience depend on the apostolic witness for their salvation. They were not first-hand disciples of Christ when He was ministering on earth. The apostolic witness is trustworthy because it is a first-hand witness from those who had heard Christ. The Gospel message is powerful precisely because it is credible. Like the Hebrews, we also must depend on the apostolic witness for our faith, and we find this witness in Holy Scripture.

Finally, God bore witness to the Gospel message with signs, wonders, miracles, and a sovereign disposal of spiritual gifts (v. 4). John Owen tells us that signs are “miraculous deeds, performed to signify God’s presence in the powerful actions.” Similarly, wonders are “deeds beyond the power of nature … performed to fill people with wonder and awe, … ” and miracles are “‘mighty works,’ where God’s mighty power is clearly discernible.” Most commentators agree that the author of Hebrews is not making a sharp distinction between different manifestations of God’s power. Rather, he is using these three different terms to emphasize the nature and design of supernatural events. Scripture shows us that whether the term “sign,” “wonder,” or “miracle” is used, the event described usually produces all of the effects that Owen describes (Mark 2:1–12; Luke 7:11–17).

In any case, verse 4 gives us the purpose for both miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are not granted as ends in themselves. Rather they are given by God so that He might bear witness to the great message of salvation.

Coram Deo

In today’s church, there is often a preoccupation with the supernatural as an end in and of itself. Many forget that miracles were designed primarily to verify the credibility of the apostolic witness. Ask yourself if you are in danger of seeking the supernatural in a way that is not concerned with the trustworthiness of Scripture.

Passages for Further Study

Ex. 4:1–9
1 Kings 18:20–40
Mark 4:35-41
John 20:30–31

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