Purpose of Miracles in the New Testament

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SPIRITUAL GIFTS IN 1 CORINTHIANS 12

Introduction

In reading the Bible, one of the many discoveries made is the presence of miracles. Both Old and New Testament writers record the fact that miracles were part of the biblical record and each miracle was performed for a specific reason. For the purposes of this paper, only New Testament examples of miracles will be considered in the search for the meaning behind miracles and miracles performed by false prophets will not be considered. In the study of New Testament miracles, it can be seen that their ultimate purpose is to give glory to God through Jesus Christ His Son. This paper will attempt to defend that purpose by examining the definition of a miracle and surveying a number of the miracles found in the New Testament that were performed by Christ, His apostles and other Christians.

Definition

Over time, many definitions of a miracle have been proposed and certain key words usually emerge. Supernatural, divine and extraordinary are words that are consistently used in defining a miracle. There are four Greek words (δύναμις, σημεῖον, τέρας, ἔργον) that have been translated as miracle at one time or been translated as sign, wonder, work or power. From these terms, a synthesis can be seen and a definition emerges. A miracle then can be seen as “a unique and extraordinary event awakening wonder (τέρας), wrought by divine power (δύναμις), accomplishing some practical and benevolent work (ἔργον), and authenticating a messenger and his message as from God (σημεῖον).”[1] According to this definition, a divine power (God) interacts in the world so that God’s work is accomplished through God’s agent. This definition begins to delve into the purpose of miracles, which will be discussed next.

Purpose

Trying to pin a specific purpose on the miracles of the New Testament is not easily accomplished. While there are no widely or wildly differentiating purposes, there are enough differences which make identifying only one a bit of a task. According to one source, “the Bible states at least three purposes of a miracle: (1) to glorify the nature of God (John 2:11; 11:40); (2) to accredit certain persons as the spokespeople for God (Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:3–4); and (3) to provide evidence for belief in God (John 6:2, 14; 20:30–31).”[2] Each of these purposes are biblically sound and correct to a degree but underlying each one is God’s glory through Christ.

Miracles Prior to Christ’s Birth

The beginning of the New Testament records miracles that mark the birth of the Messiah. Angels appearing to Zacharias (Lk. 1:11-22), Mary (Lk. 1:26-38), Joseph (Matt. 1:19-25) and the shepherds (Lk. 2:8-20) coupled with an old, barren woman (Lk. 1:7) and virgin (Matt. 1:18) provide examples of how God interacted with humanity to exhibit His glory through signs and fulfillment of prophecy through the coming Savior. The miraculous story of how the magi from the east located the Savior in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1-12) also brings glory to God as they visit and worship the newborn King.

Miracles of Jesus

Throughout the four gospels, the miracles of Jesus stand out from the text at least thirty-five different times. Through these miracles, “it may be asserted that they were intended to sustain His claim to be Jehovah, the theanthropic Messiah of Israel, and to give divine attestation to His teachings.”[3] This claim to be Messiah and thus His teachings is to bring glory to the Father. Other miracles provide reasons for seeing multiple purposes in Christ’s miracles. Passages such as Matt. 12:28, Luke 4:18, Lk. 9:1-2 and Matt. 10:7-8 seem to display a purpose that is to “bear witness to the fact that the kingdom of God has come and has begun to expand its beneficial results into people’s lives, for the results of Jesus’ miracles show the characteristics of God’s kingdom.”[4] While these examples do indeed bear...
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