Jun 28, 2013

Are Miracles for Today?

Hebrews 2:1–4

"How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will" (vv. 3–4).

Before we finish our brief look at the person and work of the Holy Spirit, we need to consider one more gift associated with His ministry—miracles. Do miracles still occur in our day, and is it possible for Satan to perform them? Without a doubt, the majority of professing Christians would answer yes to both questions.

According to Scripture, however, we have to disagree with this assessment. We do not mean by this that God does not answer prayers today or that His supernatural work does not continue. We see people healed in response to prayer and converted by His Spirit. Yet we also need to think about the proper distinction between miracles and His ongoing supernatural works. Theologians have a strict definition of miracles, as Dr. R. C. Sproul explains. A miracle, properly speaking, is an "extraordinary work performed by the immediate power of God in the external perceivable world, which is an act against nature that only God can do" (for example, resurrections and floating axe heads). Considered this way, it seems clear that miracles are not occurring in the present.

The first line of evidence for this is the fact that, despite all claims to the contrary, we do not see miracles in the strict sense happening today. Some claim to be resurrecting the dead or causing amputees to grow brand-new limbs, but no person making such claims has been able to provide confirmation. Second and more important, Scripture's presentation of the purpose of miracles indicates that they are not occurring in our day. Hebrews 2:1–4 says that miracles were given to confirm that the message of the gospel was from God. In other words, miracles in the narrow sense are granted by the Lord to demonstrate that a messenger has been sent by Him with His Word. Special revelation has ceased, for the foundation of the Apostles and prophets for the church has been laid, and once laid, the foundation cannot be laid again (Eph. 2:19–22). The Lord said to Moses that He would confirm His Word by miracles (Ex. 4:1–9). If we were to see genuine miracles today, we would have to receive the miracle worker's words as being from the Creator; otherwise, the miracles would not be serving the purpose God has for them.

This point is key in answering the question as to Satan's ability to do miracles. If the devil could perform true miracles, he would be a teacher from the Lord. He can perform lying signs and wonders, but not true miracles, for he is not a teacher from God.

Coram Deo

Dr. Sproul notes that there is no word for "miracle" in the original languages of Scripture. Our English term miracle translates Hebrew and Greek terms that are more literally rendered as "signs" or "wonders." That shows that miracles are not merely to meet the physical needs of people but rather to point beyond themselves to authenticate a word from God. The Lord is not delivering new special revelation, so miracles are not happening. But God still intervenes supernaturally in His creation.

For Further Study