The closest thing to a miracle I think I have ever witnessed is the birth of my daughter, Lottie. For nine months, my wife and I prayed for her, planned for her, and talked about her. We gathered the necessary baby paraphernalia and filled her nursery with all things frilly and cute. But nothing could have prepared me for that November night when she was born. What an indescribable experience it is to meet your own child face-to-face for the first time!
I say that Lottie’s birth was the closest thing to a miracle I’ve seen. Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter, and I’m still amazed at how the Lord designed my wife to be able to bring her into this world. But the Bible makes it clear that a miracle is a very specific thing, an event that defies the laws of nature and brings glory to God Himself.
What Is a Miracle?
There are a handful of words translated miracles or signs throughout the Bible, both in Hebrew and Greek. While these terms have slightly different meanings, considered together, a miracle, biblically-speaking, is an act of God that operates outside of nature’s laws and demonstrates His power over the created world.
A miracle, biblically-speaking, is an act of God that operates outside of nature’s laws and demonstrates His power over the created world.
Throughout Scripture, God uses miracles or signs to validate the messages He communicates through His messengers.
Miracles in the Bible
Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with miracles.
Some of the most notable miracles in the Old Testament are those relating to the Exodus of the Jewish people out of Egypt. God commissioned Moses to tell Pharaoh to let Israel go from Egyptian bondage.
You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt (Exodus 7:2–3).
He caused Moses’ staff to become a serpent, water to turn to blood, frogs to infest the land, flies to plague the Egyptians and their animals, cattle to die, boils to break out on people’s bodies, hail and fire to pummel man and beast, locusts to destroy crops, darkness to shroud the land, and the firstborn of every house not marked with the lamb’s blood to die (Exodus 7—12).
With Egypt in pursuit, God divided the waters of the Red Sea so that Israel could pass through on dry ground. He then caused the waters to come back together, drowning Pharaoh’s army (Exodus 14).
These miracles, as well as the countless others found in the pages of the Old Testament, demonstrated God’s power and sovereignty over His creation. They also served to validate the messages communicated through Moses and God’s other prophets, showing that they were speaking for God, not for themselves.
In the New Testament, the Messiah Himself performed many miracles. He turned water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana (John 2:1–11); walked on water (Matthew 14:25); fed 5,000+ with a boy’s lunch (John 6:1–14); gave sight to the blind (Luke 18:35–43); caused the deaf to hear (Mark 7:31–37); gave mobility to a paralyzed man (Matthew 9:2–7); cast out demons (Matthew 8, 9, 12); healed lepers (Luke 14:1–4); calmed a storm (Mark 8:37–41); and raised the dead to life (Matthew 9:18–19; Luke 7:11–15; John 11), to name just a few.
Jesus’ miracles brought answers to hopeless human situations.
The miracles of Jesus served three primary purposes.
1.) They ministered to the needs of others. Whether by providing more wine at a wedding, healing physical needs, casting out demons, or raising the dead to life, Jesus’ miracles brought answers to hopeless human situations of varying degrees.
2.) They proved He is Israel’s Messiah. John the Baptist had heralded the King’s coming (John 1). But after being arrested and thrown into prison by Herod, he experienced doubts. Was his cousin Jesus really the promised Messiah of Israel?
John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” (Luke 7:19). Jesus’ response was not a lecture on theology; rather, He pointed to His miracles.
And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22).
Importantly, the miracles Jesus pointed to were not a random sample of the supernatural signs He had done. Rather, they were the exact miracles the prophet Isaiah said would accompany the Messiah’s advent.
Then the eyes of those who are blind will be opened,
And the ears of those who are deaf will be unstopped.
Then those who limp will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of those who cannot speak will shout for joy (Isaiah 35:5–6).
The Spirit of the Lord Gᴏᴅ is upon me,
Because the Lᴏʀᴅ has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted (Isaiah 61:1).
3.) They demonstrated His deity. One of the most memorable miracles of the Gospels is that of Jesus’ healing the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof to be healed by Jesus. Luke records that, upon seeing the faith of the man’s friends, “He said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you’” (5:20).
Sitting with Jesus were scribes and Pharisees. These men heard what Jesus said, and they were incensed. “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies?” they asked. “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” (Luke 5:21).
These religious leaders understood that only God could forgive a person’s sins, and they called out such a statement as blasphemous. Had Jesus been a mere sinful man, His pronouncement would indeed have been blasphemous. But Jesus is no mere man, and He certainly is not sinful. Jesus is God, and to demonstrate this fact, He did a miracle.
But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home” (Luke 5:22–24).
Jesus’ miracles demonstrated to Israel that He is not only the Messiah—He is God.
What was the result of Jesus’ command? The Scripture records that the man picked up the mat he had been carried in on and walked home. And those in attendance “were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, ‘We have seen remarkable things today’” (Luke 5:25–26).
Jesus’ miracles demonstrated to Israel that He is not only the Messiah—He is God.
What about today? Does God perform miracles in our time?
We have no scriptural evidence to support the idea that God is completely done performing miracles. God is sovereign, and He can do anything He pleases to glorify Himself.
I would argue, in fact, that the continued existence of the Jewish people and the re-possession of the land the Lord gave them are miracles. When I consider the number of systematic attempts to destroy God’s Chosen People throughout history and the incredibly unlikely odds that the world powers would choose on their own to vote the State of Israel into existence in 1948, I am convinced that they are both supernatural acts of God (Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 37).
Christians, however, are not to look for miracles as a normative part of the Christian life. Miracles have always been acts of God that validated His messengers.
The Scripture, not experience, is to be our final authority.
Those in the Old Testament and in the early church did not have the entire Word of God. But today, we have it all, everything we need to be “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15).
The Scripture, not experience, is to be our final authority. We can read of the miracles God performed through the prophets, the Messiah, and the early church and marvel at the demonstration of the Lord’s power. But our faith is not to be built on miracles, signs, or wonders; rather, it is to be built squarely “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).