We have all heard about the incredible claims of great healings and the testimonies of miracles of one sort or another but on the other hand we need to be aware of those who insist that miracles never happen and that there is no scientific evidence for the miracles which they have claimed actually happened.
Many believe we should not teach that the miraculous is part of the Christian life today. Fortunately we have the Bible (Gods Word) to refer to and to know what God has to say about the subject of the miraculous.
The New Testament has a particular perspective on miraculous works that can help us understand the theology of miracles and to be able to discern the difference between scientific materialism on one side and doubt and unbelief on the other side.
Miracles and Healings
From 1 Corinthians 12, verse 8 Paul lists the nine grace gifts and seems to have several of the gifts in pairs. For example, the word of wisdom seems to relate closely to the word of knowledge. We might call these two gifts teaching charismata since in both cases the purpose is to highlight something of Gods plan and Gods way in both broad and specific contexts.
The gifts of prophecy and discerning of spirits seem to go together, with discernment being the means by which true prophecy is distinguished from false prophecy.
Interpretation of tongues and tongues obviously relate to one another, as interpretation being necessary to translate the latter in the context of public worship.
For the remaining of the gifts faith, healing and miraculous works, what is the relationship, if any?
If wisdom and knowledge are gifts of teaching, prophecy and discernment gifts of revelation, and tongues and interpretation gifts of adoration then what are the other three?
The apostle Paul defines the gift of faith as the charisma of the supernatural certainty by the Holy Spirit to some members of the Body of Christ and this certainty is an unshakable confidence that God is about to resolve a seemingly impossible situation for the edification of the church.
The gift of faith is crucial in connection with the exercise of the healing gifts and can be defined in this way:
The healing gifts are best understood as the special, supernatural ability to heal illness in the power of the Holy Spirit, and through faith in Jesus Christ. This ability is given to some in the body of Christ, and they are expected to use this gift faithfully and continuously.
The importance of the charismatic gift of faith in relation to healing lies in that it is
exercised in faith, which so often leads to the exercise of healing.
It can be explained in this way:
As a person receives a special God given confidence, in the healing presence of Jesus, that supernatural cures are effected in and can be in the areas of spiritual, mental, emotional or physical afflictions the gift of faith is therefore intimately connected with healing.
And with miraculous works and healing we can also see how these two gifts are connected and we can again see the close relationship with faith. The phrase ‘miraculous works’ is a translation of the Greek words ‘energemata dunameon’ The word ‘energemata’ literally means “workings” and in 1 Corinthians 12:6 there are different kinds of working (energemata) but the same God works “energon” all of them in all people.
Paul’s strong emphasises of the gift of ‘miraculous works’ by his note of power is given emphasis by virtue of the addition of ‘dumameon’ meaning “mighty acts” or “workings of powers”.
We can say this is the special ability to perform acts of extraordinary supernatural power. These actions are performed through the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ, and they evoke wonder in many in the body of Christ.
What is the difference between healing and miraculous works?
Is not every instance of healing a miracle?
Paul the apostle talks about miraculous works as public demonstrations of extraordinary, charismatic power, and that we see these demonstrations in scripture.
In Jesus ministry we see the written account of resurrection miracles and on three occasions, Jesus raised dead people to life:
- Jarius’s daughter
- The son of the widow of Nain
- And Lazarus.
These were not permanent resurrections from the dead, as each person would one day die again.
These were dramatic, extraordinary resurrection miracles, which encourages us today.
There are also nature miracles where Jesus transformed,
- Water into wine
- He multiplied loaves and fishes, and
- He stilled the storm.
Jesus performed extraordinary acts of supernatural power, which radically transformed some aspect of nature.
There are the healing miracles.
- These were charismatic acts of power in which sick people were immediately healed of serious physical and mental sickness and were also delivered from demonic affliction
These Miracles were in every case of a resurrection, healing, changing nature.
- They were in public
- They were immediate
- They were dramatic
- They evoked wonder and awe
- They involved radical transformation
We can see that healing events can be classified as “MIRACULOUS WORKS.” Most often we are not aware of all the healings that are going on. There is a general healing known as “SALVATION” and this occurs as people give their lives to the Jesus Christ and are born again of the Spirit.
Then there are relational healings; people with apparently irreconcilable differences coming together in a spirit of mutual forgiveness and reconciliation.
Then there is a low-key physical healing; gradual healing of bodily disease during a period of concentrated prayer ministry.
Then there is psychological healing; healing of low self-worth of past wounds of traumas, abuse and addictions.
Then there is spiritual healing of the Human Spirit from a timid and fearful spirit, an imprisoned spirit, a crushed spirit, a defiled spirit, and a broken spirit.
Then there is emotional healing or soul healing. Every believer has already received some inner healing as every experience with Jesus brings inner healing.
Even recognized leaders may still have great need for inner healing.
Here are a few:
Poor self-identity, self-hatred, feeling God does not love them, hatred of others, unforgiveness of self and others, self-enhancement (exaggeration) boastful, self- centeredness, bad temper, a hypocritical attitude, loneliness.
Embarrassment from a physical, emotional, or mental handicap, rejection, depression, persecution, divorce, false guilt, various sexual problems.
There may yet be unhealed needs from the death of someone close and dear, from being in or causing an accident, from fears or memories of pregnancy and giving birth, from being an unwanted child, from memories of our own prenatal hurts or birth trauma. Soul hurts occur mainly from things others have done to us.
Incest, rape, spouses unfaithfulness, an alcoholic parent or spouse and all types of unkind treatment during life; list too numerous to complete.
Then there is deliverance from demonic spirits.
The Bible says, “He who is in you is greater than who is in the world.” (1John 4:4). The Christian believer, by having the Holy Spirit within him, has power over all demons. When Jesus Christ sent His apostles out on their mission, He said He was giving them authority (exousia) over all the power (dunamis) of the enemy (Luke 10:19).
Then there is communal healing where whole churches experience a fresh outpouring of the love of God so that past obstacles to growth can be laid aside and reconciliation can begin. Then there is social healing when poor are given life-giving resources and the oppressed are given liberty.
As we bear witness and testify to the many ways these miraculous works take place we can rejoice even in the less visible but immediate dramatic way people are being healed today and many more miraculous works are happening in the church today.
While at times healings are often gradual and less visible, miraculous works are always immediate and often far more public. In both cases however the gift of faith is essential. Faith is the substance (realization) of the things hoped for and accompanies and ensues the evidence (confidence) of things not seen (Hebrews11: 1) and the exercise of both the healing and the miraculous gifts. Faith, healings, and miracles are related gifts of power.
There are broadly three views on Miracles for today:
- The liberal view: is that characterized by scepticism concerning the miraculous and many liberals agree with Rudolf Bultmann, the famous twentieth century German bible scholar, that the very idea of miracles in the New Testament are myths not factual narratives. No one in an age of scientific, materialism believes that miracles occur and therefore tales of the miraculous in the New Testament need to be treated as fictional not factual, as symbolic not literal.
- The conservative view: looks at the bible with reverential eyes and believes that the word of God is inerrant. It contains no flaws, it never lies, and the stories of the miracles are to be regarded as historical not as spiritual. However this does not mean such events will not occur today and these events may have occurred in the lives of Jesus and Paul, but they are most unlikely to occur today. Indeed, miracles are understood to have ceased at the end of the first century (this philosophy is know as cessationism).
- The Pentecostal or Charismatic view: that miracles occurred in the bible and they still occur today and this view is known as “continuationism” and is a strong view that stands in contrast to the sceptics of today.
Pentecostals believe that the miracles that occurred in the New Testament can and should be expected today. John 14:12 says, that Jesus promised His disciples that we could do even greater works than He Himself performed.
There is a consensus from the evidence in the New Testament that miraculous works were not only restricted to the apostles but to many members of the body of Christ as well. This gift of miraculous works, like all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, is part of the New Testament church of believers.
In 1 Cor 13:8-9 says “Love never fails but whether there are prophecies they will fail, whether there are tongues they will cease, whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away for we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is part will be done away.”
So therefore Jesus promises a continuation rather than a cessation of miracles. And His promise of even greater works would suggest that there would be a larger number of miracles than Jesus Himself had done.
This makes perfect sense when you remember that Jesus ability to perform such works was restricted while he was incarnate as a human being.
The New Testament says once he had ascended to the heavenly realms He would pour His spirit on all those who confessed His name.
They in turn would perform miracle works or mighty works (dunameis) through the power that He gave them.
Therefore miraculous works, as done by Jesus, can be done by Christians, in faith, in the name if Jesus.
The Pentecostal view links to scripture and is true to church history. Many of the history books of the early church show that miraculous gifts of the Spirit occurred beyond the 1st century and have been witnessed consistently up until
today. There are many writings concerning Christian saints that are reliable accounts of the supernatural gift of miraculous works.
We have accounts of Assuza Street that will challenge any sceptic or unbeliever and will help build faith in the believers. The church can look at the past with gratitude for what God has done, and to the future with hope for the great miracles still to be accomplished.
Miraculous works are for today:
We can look at summarising miraculous works into three categories
- Healing miracles
- Miracles in nature
Exercising the Gifts
In the book of Acts, Chapter 9:36, Luke tells the story of a resurrection miracle involving a women by the name of Tabitha (Dorcas). This passage provides constructive insight into the actual practice in the gift of miraculous works.
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which when translated is Dorcas) who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near
Joppa, so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, ‘please come at once’.
Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning towards the dead woman he said, ‘Tabitha, get up’.
She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.
Miracles occur in the context of great need
- It is an amazing truth that there are many more reports of the gifts of miraculous works in the poorer nations than there are in the first world countries.
- One obvious reason for this is the lack of good quality, free health care in those nations.
- There is a greater sense of desperation; in the poorer nations, people tend generally to be much more desperate for God.
- In the richer nations, there is a far greater sense of self-sufficiency, with the relative wealth of people. With the wide access to medical treatment people are far less dependent upon God for their bare necessities of life.
We see from the story above that Dorcas ministered to the poor and that she herself was poor (Luke implies that). Her priority was to make robes and other clothing for the underprivileged in Joppa. When she died of an unspecified illness, many people were consequently deprived not only of a person who ministered in the gift of mercy and helpful deeds but also helped with a source of basic needs.
The context of this miracle is therefore one of great poverty and the tale of Tabitha reveals God’s basis to the poor and his desire to reach out to them with the power of His love.
If we as believers from wealthier nations want to see the gift of miraculous works in greater measure, then we too must be prepared to go to places of great need and to learn to be more desperate for God.
Miracles occur in an atmosphere of Faith
In the story of Dorcas there is evidence of charismatic faith. For example the faith of Dorcas’s friends, they refused to put her body in a tomb, the normal burial custom, and instead having heard that Peter was nearby, they washed the body in accordance with Jewish purification laws and lay the body in an upstairs room.
- They had clear faith that God would use Peter to do a remarkable supernatural miraculous work.
- The disciples in Joppa sent two men off to Lydda a nearby town where Peter was ministering.
- The message was for him to come at once, for they anticipated a great miracle.
- This should remind us that God does great things for those who expect great things.
Miracles occur through true disciples
The word ‘disciple’ means a ‘leaner’ and it refers primarily to one who learns from their Rabbi and Master. Peter was a leaner in this sense and in many ways Peter imitates the actions of Jesus. In Luke 8: 49-56 we read of another resurrection miracle, this time involving the twelve year old daughter of a man called Jairus, who was a ruler of the local synagogue. He falls at Jesus feet and implores Jesus to help his only daughter who is dying.
Jesus goes to his house and takes Peter, James and John into the room where the girl lies dead. Jesus tells all the mourners to leave (with the exception of the girl’s parents). Jesus takes her by the hand and utters the words ‘Talitha coum’ which means ‘Little girl, get up.’ At once she stands up, much to the astonishment of the parents.
Peter obviously learnt from the ministry of Jesus because some of his actions seem to be the same. Like Jesus, Peter dismisses the mourners from the room as Jesus did.
Peter utters a word of command for the person to get up; in Aramaic (the original language of both Jesus and Peter) their ways are remarkably similar.
Jesus: ‘Talitha, coum’ –‘Little girl, get up!’
Peter: “Tabitha,coum’ –‘Tabitha, get up!’
Like Jesus, Peter takes hold of the girl’s hand and having learnt how to operate the way Jesus did, (having been in the room when Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter), he learnt from Jesus ministry.
Those desiring to operate in the gift of miraculous works should remember that this gift is given only to those who are willing to learn from Jesus.
Luke 7:22-23 says, “Then Jesus answered and said to them. ‘Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard; that the blind see, the lame walk. The lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them, and blessed is he who is not offended because of Me’”.
Miracles occur when compassion prevails:
The emphasis throughout Jesus ministry is on the importance of compassion in the context of miraculous works. We need to minister with a genuine love and compassion for people. These hurting people are hungry for anything from Jesus they can receive. Jesus wants to send His church (us) to the needy, hurting world to touch them, to pray for them, to feed them, to heal them.
Often the church is hiding as if in a cave, turning its face from the poor and the needy, hardening its heart against the nations.
If miracles are to happen, then compassion must prevail. There must be no prejudice towards brothers or sisters only compassion. In the case of Peter he had to overcome his prejudice from a Jewish perspective as the mourners called for him.
This required great love on his part.
Even though Dorcus’s body had been carefully washed, it would still be true to say that Peter had to overcome certain religious prejudices before he could minister in the gift of miraculous works. For a Jewish person, it was not an easy thing to enter the room where a corpse lay, yet love prevailed in this instance.
The compassion of God welled up inside Peter’s heart to such a degree that Peter forgot the prejudices of his religious up bringing. Peter allowed the “agapao” which means, “Love, love that is self-denying and compassionately devoted to its object; love in its fullest conceivable form towards God, the brethren and all” (Bullinger’s).
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who is begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1-5).
At the end of this chapter we see the even clearer sign of how Peter dealt with his prejudices. He stayed in the house of a tanner, called Simon. Tanners traded in the skin of dead animals and dead animals were regarding by the Jews as impure – like dead humans. Peter however was learning the valuable lesson of love; that the love of God must prevail over human prejudices. As Peter grew in his ministry it was in preparation for what God had in the future for him. In Acts 10 Peter had to overcome further prejudices concerning the gentile household of Cornelius (after a vision of forbidden meat). So miracles occur when we allow compassion to prevail.
The power of God is to be found in the love of God.
Miracles occur when we look up to God
There is a very important detail in verse 40 where Luke says that once Peter had entered the room where Tabitha lay, he got down on his knees to pray. What Luke says in the next point is very revealing. Turning towards the dead woman he says “Tabitha get up.” She opened her eyes and seeing Peter she sat up.
Acts 9 verse 40 says, “Peter put them all out, knelt down, and prayed and turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha arise,’ and she opened her eyes. And when she saw Peter she sat up”.
- He got down on his knees and looked up to heaven. That was his first priority. He spent time reminding himself of the greatness of God.
- The key words are “turning towards the dead body”. These words signify and reveal that Peter, when he went alone into the room, did not look first at the corpse but to God.
- He then turned to the dead woman and addressed her with a simple direct command.
- The importance of beholding the glory of the Lord before tackling deadly situations, which surround us so much of the time.
- Only those, who recognise that we have a great God, that we have a big Jesus and that nothing can stop the Holy Spirit, are men and women of uncluttered faith and can operate in the gifts of miraculous works.
Miracles and the future
C. S. Lewis once said that miracles are for beginners. If that is really true then I want to be a beginner for the rest of my life. The truth is that the gift of miraculous works is available to the Church of Jesus Christ for today.
The question is, are we going to have the faith to use it or are we going to ignore it out of intellectual pride?
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians in chapter 3 verse 5 it says, “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”– Ask the question, “Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the Law or because you believe what you heard?”
Paul demonstrates by this scripture that the early Christians experienced miracles on a regular basis. When they believed the message of the Gospel they received the Holy Spirit and God worked miracles among them.
The words translated “God works miracles among you” are in the present continuous tense in the Greek, (God continually works miracles among you).
What further evidence could we have for the great gap between the contemporary church and the churches of the New Testament?
The early Church in the 1st century experienced a constant supply of the Holy Spirit and frequent manifestations of God miraculous power.
The question is, is this simply because they believed what they heard?
Today so much of the church is characterized by scepticism rather than faith and as a result there is far too little evidence of the miraculous.
We do realize that miracles do not always happen when we pray for them. But I would rather be a member of a church where people dare to ask God for a miracle than one who never asks at all.
I would rather be a member of a church characterized by simple faith than a church characterized by sophisticated scepticism.
John Wimber has often pointed out that no one in the New Testament ever got healed in response to the words “your scepticism has made you well”.
The Kingdom of God
If we over look it, it will bring a passivity that limits the ministry of God’s Kingdom to extending the terms, of truth and love –that is, teaching or educating and engaging in acts of kindness.
- An impassioned pursuit of prayer.
- Confrontation with the demonic.
- Expectation of the miraculous.
- A burning heart for evangelism, otherwise the Kingdom of God makes little penetration in the world.
“PRESSING IN” is accomplished first in prayer warfare, coupled with a will to
surrender one life and self-interests in order to gain God’s kingdom goals.
Jesus refers to the kingdom as seeds, light, salt, deliverance from demons, healing of the sick, helping the poor and loving our neighbours.
These examples are life on earth not in heaven:
Jesus brought the kingdom with him wherever He went.
Our part is to pray that God’s Kingdom would come and His will be done on earth as it done is in heaven. Luke 11: 2- 4 (Lord’s Prayer)
We know God’s will is done in heaven as God desires prayer for the same thing to happen on earth.
NB – That God’s will, will be enforced on earth,
Mark 16:15-18 says we should expect to see miracles as Jesus did.
In John 14:12-14 we see answered prayer, “Most assuredly, I say to you he who believes in Me; the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My farther. v13, and whatever you ask in MY name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the SON. v14, if you ask any thing in my name I will do it.”
Paul says his assignment from the Lord, is to open the eyes of sinners so that they will turn from darkness to light. We are to wrestle control from Satan in order to set captives free, so that the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We are to transform the world in which individuals live and our environment in which we live. We have been deceived to believe the Kingdom is something of the past or the future put not the present.
Satan has deceived us in our belief of the Kingdom of God and the nature of the church’s role in the market place.
The kingdom of God is something that will manifest itself exclusively in the future.
The church is supposed to be confined to a building.
The Marketplace is the territory of the devil and has to be avoided.
There are too many Christians hiding under the pews. This is not the church that Jesus preached about.
He presented the church and the market place as thoroughly integrated and active.
The Kingdom is a here and now for today!
The Kingdom of God was inaugurated at Jesus first coming. Miracles are a sign of the Kingdom of God; they are an outward sign of the invisible dynamic rule of God in our lives. Scripture promises that when Christ returns on the last day, God will create new heavens and a new earth out of the fabric of the existing heavens and earth. He will perform the ultimate miracle of recreation of the world.
In the meantime every person and disciple is called to be a witness, in the name of Jesus, to the miraculous works that reveal the Kingdom of God on earth.
Every time a person is raised to life we catch a glimpse of the unimaginable miracle of the final resurrection of the dead.
Every time a person is miraculously healed we are given a foretaste of the wholeness, which will be ours as we feed from the leaves of the tree of life in heaven.
Every time God intervenes in nature to multiply loaves or to calm storms we are given a hint a paradise regained and nature once again under the sovereignty of God.
The great beauty of the gift of miraculous works is that it affords us momentary
“apocalypse” or “unveiling” of tomorrow’s world.
The closer we get to God and the more we press in to the heart of God we can expect the miraculous to occur.
So Lord let the miraculous happen in our midst, let Your Kingdom come, let there be signs and wonders throughout the earth that your name may be glorified.
Lord Jesus Christ, in Your earthly ministry You healed the sick, You raised the dead and You calmed the storms. We believe You are the same yesterday today and forever. What You did yesterday, we ask that You would do through us today. What You do in us today, we pray would you give us a glimpse of what You intend to do tomorrow. Give us more faith, Oh Lord; grant us more of Your compassion. Let the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead be raised, the demonized set free, and the poor given dignity and love. Raise Your Church to life in the miracle working power of Your Spirit, that it may in turn bring life to a dying planet. These things we ask in Your holy and majestic name. Amen.