Pentecostalism And the Work of The Holy Spirit

MIRACLES

GOD SHOWS HIS PRESENCE AND POWER

The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.

1 KINGS 17:22

Scripture has no single word for miracle. The concept is a blend of the thoughts expressed by three terms: wonder, mighty work, and sign.

Wonder is the primary notion. (Miracle, from the Latin miraculum, means something that evokes wonder.) A miracle is an observed event that triggers awareness of God’s presence and power. Striking providences and coincidences, and awesome events such as childbirth, no less than works of new creative power, are properly called miracles since they communicate this awareness. In this sense, at least, there are miracles today.

Mighty work (work of power) focuses on the impression that miracles make, and points to the presence in Bible history of supernatural acts of God involving the power that created the world from nothing. Thus, the raising of the dead to life, which Jesus did three times, not counting his own resurrection (Luke 7:11–17; 8:49–56; John 11:38–44), and Elijah, Elisha, Peter, and Paul did once each (1 Kings 17:17–24; 2 Kings 4:18–37; Acts 9:36–41; 20:9–12), is a work of this creative power; it cannot be explained in terms of coincidence or of nature taking its course. The same is true of organic healings, of which the Gospels recount many; they too exhibit supernatural re-creating and restoring.

Sign as a label for miracles (the label regularly used in John’s Gospel, where seven key miracles are recorded) means that they signify something; in other words, they carry a message. The miracles in Scripture are nearly all clustered in the time of the Exodus, of Elijah and Elisha, and of Christ and his apostles. First of all, they authenticate the miracle workers themselves as God’s representatives and messengers (cf. Exod. 4:1–9; 1 Kings 17:24; John 10:38; 14:11; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:3–4); and they also show forth something of God’s power in salvation and judgment. Such is their significance.

Belief in the miraculous is integral to Christianity. Theologians who discard all miracles, thus obliging themselves to deny Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection, the two supreme miracles of Scripture, should not claim to be Christians: the claim is not valid. The rejection of miracles by yesterday’s scientists sprang not from science but from the dogma of a universe of absolute uniformity that scientists brought to their scientific work. There is nothing irrational about believing that God who made the world can still intrude creatively into it. Christians should recognize that it is not faith in the biblical miracles, and in God’s ability to work miracles today should he so wish, but doubt about these things, that is unreasonable.

J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 57–58.

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