Wouldn’t we naturally expect to find some challenge to look for or expect to see a miracle in some passages? There must be a dispensational reason for this. The truth is, many are looking for some miracle and they look right past the miraculous that God is actually doing in this Age of Grace.
Most look for the miraculous in this dispensation in all the wrong places. For example, most gloss over an incredible statement like Romans 8:28. When one actually considers the logistics of what is said here, every believer’s life is a supernaturally directed miracle. Ignorance of this subject has caused people to look in the wrong places and at the wrong things when it comes to the miraculous.
This study is needed, especially because Satan is able to deceive in the realm of the miraculous (Matthew 24:24). I believe and will prove that the “signs” and “wonders” miracles have ceased at the present time, in the present dispensation. This cessation was not due to a lack of faith or faithfulness in God’s people, it was due to something critical concerning the Grace Age program of God.
The miraculous is still here, but the dimensions of the miraculous have changed in this present time and Satan is well aware of this. As Dr. Chafer observed, “The cessation of signs and wonders after the first generation of the church has given occasion to satanic counterfeit manifestations” (Systematic Theology, Vol. 5, p. 170).
There is no doubt that Satan is right now deceptively leading thousands of people away from a dynamic relationship with God by doing the pseudo-miraculous (II Corinthians 11:13-15; II Thessalonians 2:9). Many well meaning people, who are being satanically duped by the miraculous, are doctrinally ungrounded and unstable. It is no coincidence that many, if not all, who are caught up with the miraculous, do not even have knowledge of the eternal security they have in Jesus Christ.
Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer observed that all people who claimed the miraculous were “people who received not enough of the truth respecting saving grace to believe that one once saved is always saved, and such limitation of doctrine so devitalizes the gospel that it becomes another gospel” (Vol. 5, p. 170). Satan gets people so doctrinally off track that they actually are overlooking the true miraculous things God is really doing in this Age. Therefore, careful analysis of this subject is critical to having victory over the evil one. Victory comes by resisting the devil and we need to know God’s truth to resist his “devilish doctrines.”
Let me illustrate the point. In John 3, Nicodemus was really focused on the miraculous that Jesus was doing (John 3:2). But Jesus immediately pulled him right away from the miraculous to his personal need of salvation and specifically his need to believe on Him (John 3:15-16). Satan would have kept Nicodemus impressed by the miraculous, but Jesus took him to something far more important than that. Satan is still deceiving people by a focus on the miraculous, and we need to understand truth so we ourselves are stable and can lead others to become stable.
What is the biblical definition of a miracle?
The noun “miracle” is often used quite lightly in our world. For example, I’ve heard parents say, “it was a miracle he graduated.” As we already said, the hockey victory of the U.S. over Russia has been called “A miracle on ice.” Are these really miracles? When someone says, “It was a miracle he wasn’t killed in the accident” was it really a miracle? Do these things measure up to the biblical definition of a miracle?
What is a miracle anyway? The English word “miracle” actually comes from the Latin word “miraculum” which means a marvelous event that causes wonder or amazement (J. Oliver Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, p. 176). There is an ordinary Divine Providence that operates every day that we should never take for granted because it is truly miraculous. Every human, every animal, every sunrise, every bird, tree or flower is a miracle, which are all part of God’s Divine Providential Program.
When we study biblical miracles, however, we need to distinguish this level of providence because a Divine miracle takes us to the extraordinary Divine Providence region. There have been many good definitions given of a miracle. For example: Mr. Noah Webster, of the 1800s, and his subsequent editors define a miracle as “a supernatural event regarded as due to divine action” (The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, p. 637).
Dr. Chafer defines it as an act of God which surpasses all known human or moral power which acts “outside the range of natural causes and effects” (Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 256). In fact, he said, “…a miracle, in the strict use of the word, is some special achievement which is outside the known laws of either human experience or nature” (Vol. 5, p. 170).
Dr. Herbert Lockyer defines it as “a work wrought by a divine power for a divine purpose by means beyond the reach of man” (All the Miracles of the Bible, p. 13). Dr. Buswell defined it as an extraordinary, inexplicable event which cannot be explained by ordinary natural forces, which leaves observers postulating a super-human cause, which has implications of meaning and purpose far beyond just the event itself (A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, p. 176).
Before I attempt to give my definition, it would be helpful to consider what is needed to actually have a miracle. This will become a critical factor in helping us determine what a miracle actually is. There are at least five necessary ingredients in order to have a legitimate miracle: 1) A being with enough power to perform the miracle. 2) An object on which the miracle may be performed. 3) Normal, natural, ordinary laws of the way the object of the miracle typically works. 4) Reliable eye witnesses to verify and validate something miraculous did in fact occur. 5) Specific purpose or reason for performing the miracle.
A miracle is a supernatural, extraordinary and special act authorized by God in which He chooses to permit a deviation from the continuous and normal and natural laws of something and chooses to do something that people witness which is far above and beyond human power, experience and explanation in order to make a statement for Himself, His Word, His will and His program. With these things in mind, we define a miracle this way: There are normal, natural laws of things that typically operate in a usual, orderly, general, systematic way.
For example, there are normal laws of gravity, light, sound, heat, water, fire, etc. A miracle is something that God does which disrupts the ordinary and natural laws of the way things work. If one were in a desert and wanted to find water to drink, natural, normal, ordinary laws would dictate that you look for a spring of water or green vegetation or for damp ground. If fresh drinking water were to start flowing from a dry rock in a desert, that would be a miracle of God because it goes against normal laws of nature (Exodus 17:6).
(To be continued in my next article, “Why Does God at Times Do the Miraculous?”)
Pastor David E. Thompson is pastor/teacher at Texas Corners Bible Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan with a nationally syndicated radio show reaching all across the United States. Pastor Thompson may be classified as a true systematic Bible expositor and communicator of God’s Word. He carefully expounds books of the Bible in a way that is contextually, exegetically, grammatically, historically, and theologically accurate to the text and relevant to the time. He is also an very skilled in New Testament Greek.