By Ron Courter (Excerpt from Article Originally Printed July 15, 1982)
When one reflects upon the happenings of life the question of purpose is very natural and important. Actually, our perceptions are largely determined by our understanding of the purpose of any event or behavior. The purpose for miracles is revealed in the scriptures. The scriptural purpose of miracles should be the guideline and norm for our approach to all miracles. Strangely, the Bible purpose for miracles seems to be overlooked. Often unique features of miracles are magnified and the biblical purpose of miracles is distorted.
The Primary Purpose for the Miracles of Jesus
Acts 2:22 reads, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.” The NIV reads, “…a man accredited by God to you…” These great or mighty works were done to show Jesus was approved by heaven. Approved literally means to point out or exhibit. The mighty works were brought forth to show Jesus was the Christ. They demonstrated God’s agreement. The word is translated:
– prove in Acts 25:
– set forth in 1 Corinthians 4:9
– shewing in 2 Thessalonians 2:4
John 6:27 says, “…for him hath God the Father sealed.” The miracles, wonders and signs served as God’s seal or stamp. They indicated Jesus was to be received as Heavens’ son with Heaven’s message. Luke 4:36 records, “And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! For with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.”
The gospels are filled with incidents illustrating the purpose of miracles as taught in Acts 2:22. These verses need to be permitted more time in the study of miracles. John 10:25 declares, “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they BEAR WITNESS OF ME.” The context reveals a discussion about whether or not Jesus was the Christ. Jesus answered their opinions by presenting the miracles or works; “that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.”
It is true the miracles revealed the Lord’s compassion. Mark 1:41 says, “And Jesus moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” But the compassion is secondary and not primary in purpose. This truth is being overlooked today. The ministry of Jesus was a new but anticipated time in God’s stewardship. Therefore, the works were necessary to reveal God’s approval of Jesus. Here is the Messiah!!
The gospels reveal the people’s understanding of miracles and Jesus’ application of his miracles related to the scriptural anticipation that the Messiah would be approved by mighty works. How can these verses help us to understand miracles better today? We stop trying to explain things we are not in a position to explain, when we are convinced of the scriptural purpose of miracles. BE FULLY CONVINCED OF THE SCRIPTURAL PURPOSE OF MIRACLES AND THE REST OF WHAT HAPPENS REALLY MEANS VERY LITTLE!
Observe the relation between miracles and purpose. John 3:2 reads, “…we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” John 2:11 tells, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory…” When Jesus with great boldness rebuked the Jewish practices in the temple at the beginning of his ministry they requested a sign. See John 2:14-16. Verse 18 reads, “… What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” This was indeed a legitimate question. When one comes freshly claiming new authority and revelation from heaven he needs to present his credentials. Jesus refused to do so in his ministry when evidence had already been sufficiently given. Moses and the prophets illustrate the need for credentials when they brought the message of heaven before men on earth. When we overlook this Bible fact, we are going to overlook the important role of miracles as signs.
John 9 records a controversy that arose over Jesus healing a blind man on the Sabbath. The discussion gives insight into the role of miracles in Jesus’ ministry. The Pharisees charged that Jesus was not of God in verse 16. Others replied, “…How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.” The crux of the matter comes after much wrangling. “Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” The words of Acts 2:22 ring clear before us; a man approved of God by mighty works.
Miracles Anticipated By the Scriptures
The greatness, the fervor, and the meaningfulness of Jesus’ miracles was due to previous revelation or scriptures. Oh, that people would remember this fact. The miracles of Jesus were to fulfill the scriptures, and they had anticipated that mighty works would identify the Messiah. Miracles by themselves would never have generated the same atmosphere and questions without the scriptural background the Jewish people shared. The scriptures had prepared the perception of the people for Jesus’ mighty works. The excitement and discussion always came back to the fact that this is the Messiah.
God’s miracles always involve the previous role of scriptural teaching. Miracles divorced from the anticipation of the scriptures are of little consequence. This is true to God’s stewardship. Unfortunately, this truth is being overlooked and distorted by the alleged miracles of today. Where is the scriptural anticipation of the alleged miracles of today as being the miracles of God? The scriptural anticipation of miracles for today relate to false miracles, not true ones. Read what saith the Word of the Lord. The effects of today’s miracles will never match the effects of the miracles of Jesus and the apostles. Why? The scriptural anticipation of the miracles is not found and this is because the scriptural purpose of miracles has been fulfilled. No wonder they don’t fit today as before!!
Let us illustrate this truth regarding scriptural anticipation and miracles. Matthew 11:2-6 will serve to reveal the relationship. Look at the scene. “Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” John was asking Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus blends the appropriate use of miracle and scripture in his answer. What a teacher!! “…Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” Jesus is saying these things were done to point out the Christ and he knew John was aware of this. Why? Because of his knowledge of what the Messiah would do according to the Old Testament scriptures.
Let us briefly show that the scriptures did anticipate the great works. Matthew 8:16,17 reads, “When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare out sicknesses.” Read Luke 4:17-21 to see how the scriptural anticipation fit into God’s plan.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS’ MIRACLES IS THEIR FULFILLMENT OF THE SCRIPTURAL ANTICIPATION OF THEM. The anticipation and frame of reference was there in Jesus’ day. “And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done (John 7:31)?” We shall not consider the claims of today’s miracle-stirrers, until they show the scriptural anticipation of their works and their purpose agreeing with the scriptural purpose of miracles in the past. Will it be done, will the claims be shown? No. Why? The word is complete and it has not left any reason for them.
Let us observe another facet of this exciting application of scripture and miracle before leaving this event. Jesus fully believed that John could be convinced by the testimony of others regarding the miracles done that Jesus was the Christ. Look at Luke’s account. They asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ.” The same hour he performed many miracles. Read Luke 7:22. “Then Jesus answering said unto them, GO you way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard…” John obviously did not have to observe Jesus’ miracles to be convinced by them that he was the Christ. What was essential was that the witnesses were trustworthy. No doubt they were or John would not have sent them.
Our circumstance is parallel to John’s situation. We do not need to observe the miracles of Jesus to be convinced they were done and the Messiah has come. Why? Because we have the testimony of trustworthy witnesses. How do we know they were trustworthy? They would not have died for a lie and the scriptures reveal their characters fully. “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name (Jn. 20:31).
Let us look at Jn. 10:41 in light of the overall lesson. Verse 24 states, “… How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” A long disagreement followed over whether or not Jesus was the Christ. Read it. Later, a number of them cam to Jesus and said, “…John did no miracle; but all things that John spake of this man were true. And many believed on him there.”
They were convinced, because of their reasoning. They had accepted John as a prophet and his baptism as being from heaven. Yet, he never did a miracle. What he said about Jesus was true. Now, if we were able to accept John with no miracle for credentials there is really no way to reject Jesus’ teachings and his Messiahship. Why? Because they are supported by miracles. Yes, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs.