How does God actually perform a miracle?
There are primarily two ways God performs a miracle and this will become a key point later on. Keep in mind God can perform any miracle He wants by Himself. If He chooses to permit some-one to be involved in the process, it is His sovereign choice.
God May Perform a Miracle Directly
Miracles are often performed directly by individual members of the Godhead, without any human or angelic help. We may be certain that when a Member of the Godhead performs a miracle it will always be in harmony with the other Members of the Godhead, and the plan of God at that moment in time. That is why no member of the Godhead would part of a Sea today or why Jesus did not turn stones into bread for Himself. The Godhead plan does not require it.
Godhead Member #1- A miracle may be performed directly by God the Father (Ex. 3:14-20).
Godhead Member #2 – A miracle may be performed directly by God the Son (John 2:1-11).
Godhead Member #3 – A miracle may be performed directly by God the Spirit (Acts 5:1-11).
God May Perform a Miracle Indirectly by Using Other Persons.
Person #1 – A miracle may be performed by God using a good angel . Acts 5:18-20; 12:7-10
Person #2 – A miracle may be performed by God using an evil angel . Ps. 78:49; Rev. 20:2, 7ff (In all reality, any satanic miracle is permitted by God for His purpose.)
Person #3 – A miracle may be performed by God by using a person . Acts 18:11-12
What are the key biblical words associated with the subject of miracles?
Words are used in a variety of contexts but there are three biblical words, three nouns that are used time and time again in the New Testament in reference to miracles. Although they may be used in other contexts on occasion, for the most part, they are used in the context of miracles.
The three terms are miracles, wonders and signs. In fact, all three are used in one verse at least three times: Acts 2:22; II Corinthians 12:12; II Thessalonians 2:9. Also in the Old Testament there are Hebrew counterparts to these Greek nouns (i.e. Deuteronomy 26:8; 29:3) also in regard to miracles.
The Key Words Used in the New Testament
Word #1—sign—the Greek “semeion” (σημειον).
This word is used 77 times in the New Testament and 48 times in the gospels. This refers to something miraculous that God does that clearly signals His divine authority and power (John 6:2; 9:16). G. Abbott-Smith said this word marks or distinguishes divine authority (Greek Lexicon, p. 405).
C. Trench said this word referred to the fact that a miracle was an indication of the “near presence and working of God” (R. C. Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, pp. 9-14). Miracles are specific signs that God is present and God is at work. This word is critical because a miracle is not some “Ripley’s Believe it Or Not” oddity; it is a divine sign which is designed to reveal truth.
Word #2—wonder—the Greek “teras” (τερας).
This word is used 16 times in the New Testament and is always used in combination with the noun “sign.” This word emphasizes that which leaves people astonished and amazed – John 4:48. Smith said this word refers to that which causes one to marvel at what is seen (Ibid., p. 443). It is interesting that the word “sign” and “miracle” or “powers” occurs alone, but the word “wonder” never occurs alone (Acts 2:19, 22, 43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; 14:3; 15:12).
This is significant because this tells us that miracles were never performed arbitrarily, but with a definite purpose in view. God never performs a miracle to excite a crowd or put it into a frenzy. His miracles have revelational significance and often redemptive significance. The miracle no doubt is amazing; it causes wonder, but one must always look for the meaning of it for it is a purposeful sign.
Word #3—miracle—the Greek “dunamis” (δυναμις). This word refers to the Divine power behind the miracle (Hebrews 2:4; Matthew 13:58). Smith said it refers to the strength, power and ability to perform the miracle (Ibid., p. 123). Dr. Louis Berkhof said the distinctive thing about a miracle is that “it results from the exercise of the supernatural power of God” (Systematic Theology, p. 176).
A Miracle Is a Sign of God’s Power
A miracle is a sign of God’s power, not the measure of God’s power. Ada Habershon said the word “miracle” denotes God’s power in producing and causing the miracle; the word “wonder” refers to the effect it has on the people who see it; and the word “sign” has to do with reason or purpose for which the miracle was performed (The Study of Miracles, p. 108).
Dr. Geisler added that when we combine these three words we get a “complete picture of biblical miracles.” That picture is they are unusual events (wonders) that convey an unusual message (sign) by means of unusual power (miracle, power) (Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 44, 48).
The key words used in the Old Testament are basically the same kinds of words used in the same context.
Word #1— sign—the Hebrew word “oth” is one that refers to something done by God with some specific seen purpose or meaning (Exodus 3:12; 4:1-9; Judges 6:17-21).
Word #2—wonder—the Hebrew “mopheth” is one that refers to that which God does that leaves people in awe of what they have seen or experienced (Exodus 4:21; 11:9-10; Psalm 78:42-43; 105:26-27; Joel 2:30). Often the words “signs” and “wonders” occur in the same verse (Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 4:34; 7:19).
Word #3—power—the Hebrew “koak” is one that refers to a display of God’s sovereign power (Exodus 9:16; 32:11; Deuteronomy 4:37; II Kings 17:36).
Clearly the concept of the miraculous is a supernatural demonstration of God’s power in which He does something specific for a specific purpose that leaves people standing in awe of what they have seen.
Why do some reject the concept of the possibility of a miracle?
In every time period, including when Jesus was on earth, there have been those who deny the miraculous. Jesus taught that some people wouldn’t believe even if they saw someone raised from the dead (Luke 16:31). Even when He performed amazing sign-miracles, to prove He was God’s Son, people would not believe in Him (John 12:37). Disbelieving miracles and trying to discredit God is not new to our day.
Two men who strongly attacked the idea of miracles in history were Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) and David Hume (1711-1776). Spinoza took a dogmatic position that nothing could happen outside of the natural laws of science and that the idea of miracles was “absurd.” Actually by using science as a basis for his conclusions, other scientists ended up proving him wrong. Scientists, for the most part, take the position that natural laws are not closed laws.
This is the very reason they are motivated to keep researching. In acknowledging that natural laws are not closed, they open the door for the possibility of the miraculous, because something way above and beyond the norm may occur in a scientific open door. Ada Habershon said that any scientist who neglects to learn about the God of which science speaks and one who denies miracles is one with a seriously “deformed intellect.” She said they may see themselves as intellectual giants, but they are “abnormal dwarfs” (The Study of Miracles, pp. 8-9).
David Hume argued that miracles were impossible because the uniformed laws of nature, which we have observed, make them impossible. His view was no testimony about a miracle should be accepted if in contradicts the uniform testimony of nature. He reasoned something like this: A good healthy young person may die suddenly and we know this because we have all frequently observed that this does happen. But since none of us have ever seen a dead person come back to life, that kind of miracle is impossible. _________________________________
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.