When we lived in Montreal, I always took visitors on a tour of St. Joseph's oratory (Catholic Shrine). It was a huge Basilica built in honor of a Quebec Saint through whom the Roman Catholics claimed miracles were done. The difference between a church and shrine is that a shrine is where miracles are supposed to have taken place.
Quebec is full of "shrines" where miracles were supposed to have happened — healing, visions of Jesus and especially Mary. So I often was asked by people I studied the Bible with, "Do we have miracles today?" My answer was always the same, never mind what your church or leader says, what does the Bible teach? If it teaches that there are miracles today, let's expect and look for them; if not, then we can confidently reject the claim of modern miracles.
Difference Between Miracle and Magic
Magic: From the word "magi" these were the priests who practiced this art in ancient Persia. The Dictionary defines magic as "…the art which claims to control and manipulate the secret forces of nature by occult/secret and ritualistic methods" - Webster's Two kinds of magic: Personal and Impersonal
Impersonal: This kind of magic assumes that there are secret forces at work in the world and by manipulation through drugs, incantations, rituals, these forces can be made to act in a certain way. (For examples a Lucky medal. By wearing the medal, negative forces will be rejected and positive forces (luck) will be drawn.)
Personal: This magic tries to control living, intelligent, spiritual beings through rituals, incantations, or have an individual become a "medium" through which this power can be used. Like Deviation (fortune telling); Witchcraft (sorcery)
The thing to remember about magic is that it is based on manipulation. It is where man is trying, by some method, to manipulate a higher power (nature, forces, the gods, God) for his own purpose (good or bad). It's not the goal that determines whether it's magic or not, it's the method. Even if a good goal is personal, like healing the sick, this does not mean that a success = miracle. What differentiates magic from miracle is how things are done.
Miracles — (Latin - to wonder/greek — a sign)
Dictionary defines miracle as, "…Supernatural event (regarded) due to Divine action." Webster's Whereas magic tries to manipulate the forces in nature to produce an effect, miracles are produced when higher laws than nature are put into play. For instance in Exodus 14:21-22 where Moses divided the Red Sea. The natural laws of gravity were suspended by a higher law and force.
You could almost say that magic comes from below and tries to affect what is above, and miracles come from above and affect what is below. With miracles, natural forces are not merely manipulated, they are completely set aside.
Miracles in the Bible
There are two types of miracles in the BIble:
- Direct from God (without man as intermediary): Creation of world Resurrection of Jews, etc.
- Indirectly from God (using man as intermediary): Moses and the players Prophesy in Old Testament and New Testament Apostles and the gifts, etc.
We need to recognize that God set natural laws in order so that His creation would function in a precise way, however, this does not mean that He is not active in His creation in a providential way:
- works within His own established system
- sends a farmer water/rain or heals illness
He breaks through the conventional layer of natural laws in order to accomplish somethings according to His divine will. We call this a sign or wonder because it is a sign of His presence/power and is a wonder to behold —> Gives the Israelites water from a rock (water from clouds would be providential). Let's pray for God to work because He does.
Times of Miracles
Although it seems that there are many miracles when we look at the Bible, we see that miracles are clustered (grouped) around certain periods of History.
- Moses and the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and their time in the desert, etc., 15 centuries before Christ.
- During the lifetimes of Elijah and Elisha, two prophets who lived in the 9th century before Christ (raised the dead)
- Hezekiah, a king of Judah in the 7th century before Christ (saved the city)
- Daniel, the prophet in Babylon 6 centuries before Christ (prophesy, dreams)
- Jesus and His Apostles, 1st century
These were miracles before Moses and some on into the second century, but the great majority of miracles are grouped around these five historical periods.
Reasons for Miracles
In all of these time periods we see two reasons:
1. To produce faith
Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, etc., all saw miracles and were agents of miracles so that the people around them would believe in God. A miracle is a visible sign so strong that it creates belief in something we do not see.
32 For ask now concerning the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether any great thing like this has happened, or anything like it has been heard. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and live? 34 Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord Himself is God; there is none other besides Him. 36 Out of heaven He let you hear His voice, that He might instruct you; on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words out of the midst of the fire.
- Deuteronomy 4:32-36
No natural explanation — Miracles are divine — Point to God, beyond the natural
2. To confirm truth When Jesus spoke of who He really was
He used miracles to confirm the fact that He was telling the truth.
30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
- John 20:30-31
When the Apostles were sent off to preach the gospel, Jesus promised that they would have the power to do miracles in order to confirm that what they were saying was true.
And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
- Mark 16:20
In all of history, great miracles have been done in order to reveal the presence of God and confirm His authentic prophets. Miracles were not always used to do this. Sometimes at critical moments God worked miracles to save His nation or prophets (Daniel and the Lions, Hezekiah and Jeremiah).
Do We Have Miracles Today?
No. - 3 Major Positions:
- Roman Catholic
- Our brotherhood
Why? - 3 Reasons
- Charismatic — Miracles never cease
- Roman Catholic — Sporadic throughout history
- Our brotherhood — Miracles ceased with Apostolic age
Because God has perfectly revealed Himself to man through Jesus Christ. No miracle today could more perfectly reveal God to us than God made flesh in Jesus. Colossians 2:9-10; Hebrews 1:1-3 If the purpose of miracles is to create faith in the existence of God, then the appearance of God in a miracle-doing person is a superior proof than a single miracle. You have God in person doing the miracle.
Because the Bible contains enough information about Jesus, the Apostles and their miracles in order to confirm their message (John 20:30-31). I don't need a miracle in 2012 to confirm the truth of Jesus' words because they have already been confirmed by miracles in the first century.
The Bible says that the miraculous signs that were done in the early church would end.
8 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. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
- I Corinthians 13:8-10
Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that miracles are going to continue to be a sign, on the contrary. The Bible says that they will end and now the power that God will use to save men will be the gospel, not miracles. (Romans 1:16) The power that God now uses to reveal Himself, confirms the truth, to save His people through the Word.
What about the Miraculous Claims We Hear About?
The Bible records that many people were able to perform signs, wonders, but were not all from God. A sign or supernatural demonstration is no guarantee that God is at work.
- Deuteronomy 7:8-13 — The magician at Pharaoh's court would do some of the things that Moses did.
- Matthew 7:22 — Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' (Did we not perform many miracles?)
Many people are trying to pass off magic for miracles (using prayers, incantations, holy oil, candles to heal the sick is magic not miracles) — just because they use Jesus' name and it sometimes works doesn't mean it's from God!
Miracles always produced faith in the existence of God and confidence in His word. Today the Bible perfectly serves this purpose. Someone who doesn't believe the Bible will not believe in Jesus or God any more even if they witness a miracle. Faith in God and Christ that leads to salvation and eternal life comes from hearing Christ's words, not seeing a miracle (Romans 10:17).
You can usually spot the fakers because their miracles are usually attached to financial gain of some kind (send money so ministry can continue). Jesus said to the Apostles who could do miracles — freely given freely give.
- The Bible records miracles in groups throughout history
- They always were done to create faith in God or confirm the authenticity of His messengers
- There are no more miracles today. Why?
- Jesus Christ reveals God; when we see Jesus we see God. John 14:8-9 (No need for miracles to reveal God. They don't do it as well as Jesus does.)
- The Bible is all we need to bring us to faith in Christ. II Timothy 3:15 (No need for miracles to confirm our faith and miracles cannot bring us to salvation, the word does this.)
- The Bible says the signs from God will end. I Corinthians 13:8-13 (It doesn't say that all signs and wonders will end. There will always be magic and some in the name of Jesus, false prophets and false wonders in the name of Jesus in order to seduce people into believing what is false.) What better way to believe what is false than with a false sign?
A miracle is a sign and all the miracles in the Bible point ultimately to Christ and faith in Him. The Bible does this work now, not miracles.
Let's be mature spiritually and not be swept away by magic posing as miracles, or great signs performed even if they are done in Jesus' name. Let's remember that every such thing is a violation of His word and all things done against His word in this world will be rejected by Him when He returns in the next.There is only one miracle left to do and that is the one that we will all experience when Jesus will resurrect those who have loved Him and been faithful to His word until His coming.
I pray that we will all share in this miracle.