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Why don’t we see miracles like the Apostles did?


In our journey through Acts, we will witness many miracles performed by the apostles in the early church. This may lead us to feel disconnected from the vibrant, Spirit-filled ministries of the prophets and apostles described in the Bible.

We might find ourselves asking, “Why don’t we experience today the miracles we read about in the New Testament?”


To answer that question, we need to understand not only how God works through providence and common grace, but also the purpose of miracles in the Bible.

Purpose of miracles in Scripture


1. Miracles authenticate God’s message and his messengers.

This is one of the primary functions of miracles in the scriptural narratives: “When miracles occur, they give evidence that God is truly at work and so serve to advance the gospel.” [1]


In the Old Testament, Moses performed miracles to demonstrate his authority as God’s spokesman (Exodus 4:1–9). Similarly, the prophets were given words to speak from God, and in order to verify their authority, God granted them the ability to perform miracles (1 Kings 17:17–24, 18:36–39, 2 Kings 1:10).


While “the miracles of the Old Testament age authenticated Moses and the prophets as men of God,” Robert Reymond notes, “the miracles of the New Testament age authenticated in turn Christ and his apostles.”[2]


2. Miracles point to the restoration of God’s kingdom.

Miracles also point to God’s kingdom and the restoration of creation. John calls the miracles of Jesus “signs” (John 4:54, 6:15), and Jesus suggests that his miraculous works verify that the kingdom of God has come (Luke 11:14-23).

Similarly, Jesus says in Matthew 12:28: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Because of Jesus’ miraculous works, those who saw him knew that the God of Israel was once again acting in their midst.


3. Miracles reveal the divinity of Jesus.

Jesus’ miracles reveal his divine identity. This is the response of the disciples after Jesus walks on the water: “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33). In the gospel of Luke, when asked whether he was the “one who is to come” (Luke 7:19), Jesus, instead of answering with a word testifying that he is the Messiah, points to his miracles instead. Jesus’ miracles are evidence that he is who he says he is – the Son of God.

4. The miracles of the early church signalled a new eschatological period in salvation.

Wayne Grudem’s description of miracles in the Old and New Testaments is worth quoting at length:


It seems to be a characteristic of the New Testament church that miracles occur. In the Old Testament, miracles seemed to occur primarily in connection with one prominent leader at a time, such as Moses or Elijah or Elisha. In the New Testament, there is a sudden and unprecedented increase in the miracles when Jesus begins his ministry (Luke 4:36–37, 40–41). However, contrary to the pattern of the Old Testament, the authority to work miracles and to cast out demons was not confined to Jesus himself, nor did miracles die out when Jesus returned to heaven. Even during his ministry, Jesus gave authority to heal the sick and to cast out demons not only to the Twelve, but also to seventy of his disciples (Luke 10:1, 9, 17–19; cf. Matt. 10:8; Luke 9:49–50).[3]


The miracles of the early church, then, served an immediately relevant purpose in redemptive history: verifying the authenticity of God’s revelation and signalling the coming of a new eschatological age among God’s people.


Miracles today


So, how should Christians think about miracles today?


1. We must realise that the sheer volume and close proximity of the miracles in the Bible served significant purposes in God’s redemptive plan at the time. However, this point doesn’t mean that miracles have ceased today. Indeed, each time we pray for the salvation of a non-believer, we are praying for a miracle – repentance cannot be produced by the resources of nature itself. But we must be mindful of the biblical purposes for which they are given by God.

Miracles still happen, and Christians should avoid the two extremes of seeing everything as a miracle and seeing nothing as a miracle.

2. Christians need to expand their understanding of God’s actions to include both his providence in daily affairs and his miraculous works of redemption in the church.


Even if we don’t frequently see extraordinary miraculous events, God is active. He is active in the regular (natural) processes we see every day. He is providentially sustaining the world by his power, and he is miraculously calling people to himself as his church grows and expands.


Whether or not we’re privileged to witness obviously miraculous, supernatural events, Christians can be confident that God is actively at work in the world, bringing people to himself, bringing glory to Jesus and building his church (Matthew 16:18).


 

[1] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 360.

[2] Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 412.

[3] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 371.



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