Practical Christianity

…training in godliness

The Biblical Purpose Of Miracles, Signs, and Wonders

We know miracles were done by the Apostles who Christ chose and gave a special mission.  Today, we are exploring the reason for miracles.

Biblically, the ability to work miracles is always associated with the need for affirmation or validation of God’s special messengers, like in the case of Moses, the first recorded miracle worker sent by God:

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.'” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”– so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand–“that they may BELIEVE that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.– Exodus 4:1-5 (Emphasis Added)

God gave Moses miraculous signs to authenticate his calling as God’s special messenger to the Hebrews and to Pharaoh. Moses didn’t receive such powers for fun or just for the sake of it. There was a clear purpose and reason for it!

So biblically, authentication/validation/confirmation is the primary purpose of the gift of miracles. The Bible consistently and overwhelmingly shows this everywhere. One more verse about Moses helps underline this again for us:

Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they BELIEVED in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” – Exodus 14:31 (Emphasis Added)

This verse clearly shows that the reason the ancient Israelites eventually came to believe in the Lord and his servant Moses, was because they saw “the great power” with which God dealt with their Egyptian slave masters. This is the very reason for which God empowered Moses to perform miracles.

A good New Testament example of this can be found in Acts 3, when Peter and John healed the beggar who had been lame from birth:

And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”  Acts 3:4-10 (Emphasis Added)

Take notice of Peter’s choice of words “look at us” and “what I do have, I give you.” God had given Jesus’ disciples the ability to perform miracles directly and instantly! This narrative gives us a vivid example as to how they often exercised this gift. And the reason (as well as the result) is the same as it was for Moses – to give credence to them as God’s messengers and their novel message or teaching as true and authoritative. This miracle led to about 5000 men believing in Jesus in Acts 4, in one fell swoop: “But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.” – Acts 4:4

The same idea is repeated over and over. People believe the message of the sent ones, when they see a clear demonstration of divine power. For example, the outcome of Peter raising Dorcas from the dead in Acts 9 was the same: “And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.” – Acts 9:42 (Emphasis Added)

The signs and wonders performed by the LORD Jesus himself served the same purpose – validation and confirmation of who he was (the Messiah & Son of God):

Nicodemus alluded to this in John 3 – when he said no one can do the things you do, if God were not with him: “After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” – John 3:2 (NLT, Emphasis Added)

Jesus himself responded to John the Baptizer in his time of uncertainty, by just reminding him of his signs –

“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” – Matthew 11:2-6 (Emphasis Added)

Believe for the works sake!

“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” – John 14:11 (Emphasis Added)

The miracles of Jesus as recorded in the Bible are not for our entertainment. They are meant to aid us to believe in him and have confidence in him as the special one sent by God: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John 20: 30-31 (Emphasis Added)

Jesus’ list of proofs for his critics were his “works” (miracles): “But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.” – John 5:36 (Emphasis Added)

His disciples believed in him when they saw his first sign in John 2: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” – John 2:11 (Emphasis Added)

Many Jews believed in him for the sheer number of signs he performed in John 7: “Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” – John 7:31

Biblically, miracles served as validation of the divine origin and authority of the messenger, so that the people might believe their message as being from God and obey and follow them.

That is why they are called SIGNS, which was St John’s preferred term for miracles. They were SIGNs as in SIGNboards – they indicated something! They pointed to something or served to draw attention to someone in a way as to make them trusted and credible. They were a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

This is WHY there is a book of the Bible dedicated to the exploits of these men called the Apostles. It is called the ACTS (works or deeds) OF THE APOSTLES – it was written by Luke to showcase their mighty deeds and exploits as God enabled them. The book of Acts is like an expanded form or dramatization of the fulfilment of Mark 16:20 – “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” (Emphasis Added)

Luke obviously thought it was critical to inform Theophilus not only about the life and works of Jesus himself, but also about the life and works of his Apostles, to paint the full picture of how the Faith was birthed and supernaturally confirmed by tokens of Divine power.

The purpose was so that the most excellent Theophilus and whoever reads those two books will BELIEVE the message of the Gospel introduced by Christ and his appointed representatives.

It is the same for you and I – that we may believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and continue in it, completely trusting its divine origin and therefore staking our earthly lives and eternal fate on it.

Peter Uka

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