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.
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).” 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.
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).” 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.” 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.” While these examples do indeed bear witness to the fact that the kingdom of God is at hand, the purpose for the kingdom should be to glorify God, whose kingdom it is and Christ was the means by which the kingdom of God was ushered onto the earth (Lk 8:1). Other miracles of Jesus present Him “in a way that highlights his concern for the sinful, the sorrowing, and the suffering.” Five examples in Luke (7:11-17, 13:10-17, 14:1-5, 17:11-19 and 22:50-51) not mentioned in the other gospels shed light on the compassionate nature of the Christ. In each case though, God receives glory through Christ, the underlying purpose of Jesus’ miracles. For Christ, all that He did was for the Father (Jn. 8:28) and for the glory of the Father (Jn. 17:4) therefore His miracles were for the glory of God through the Son.
Miracles Performed by Others
Not only did Jesus perform miracles, His disciples performed many miracles, even greater than those performed by Christ while He was on the earth (Jn. 14:12). “In the early church, the apostles and others who preached the gospel performed miracles that amazed people and gave confirmation of the gospel that was being preached (Acts 2:43; 3:6–10; 4:30; 8:6–8, 13; 9:40–42; et al.).” The attestation that the gospel was being preached gave glory to God, and though it is through the apostles it is still through the power of Christ who is within them. Even those who were not apostles were performing miracles as alluded to by Paul in Gal. 3:5 and 1 Cor. 12:28 through the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:10) for the glory of God. In fact, “the miracles likewise attest to the divine providence behind the entire life and witness of the Christian community in Acts.” This divine providence in the lives of the Christian community in Acts through Christ gave glory to God.
The pages of the New Testament are filled with the accounts of supernatural events that give evidence that God is acting in a divine manner in His creation. The purpose of these miracles is to be glorified through Son, Jesus Christ. All the miracles performed by Christ and others found in the New Testament are powerful messages of God’s great glory made manifest on the earth through His Son. It is a great reminder in the lives of His people today also that God has miraculously provided His special revelation to us all so that His people may glorify Him through the Savior. Even if, as some believe, that there are no more miracles being performed on the earth today, there is a record of how triune God is working to make known His glory to all the nations today. His people today should rise up to give glory to Him who saves through His Son in what could only be called a miracle at 1 with each new chapter. Bibliography
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology. 8 vols. Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947.
Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology. 4 vols. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2002.
Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.
Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary ;, vol. v. 26. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992.
Swindoll, Charles R. and Roy B. Zuck. Understanding Christian Theology, p 347. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003.
Trites, Allison A., William J. Larkin, and Philip Wesley Comfort. The Gospel of Luke. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary ;, vol. v. 12. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.
 Charles R. Swindoll and Roy B. Zuck, Understanding Christian Theology (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), 348.
 Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, 4 vols. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2002), 1:49.
 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 5:172.
 Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 360.
 Allison A. Trites, William J. Larkin, and Philip Wesley Comfort, The Gospel of Luke, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary; v. 12 (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006), 17.
 Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 358.
 John B. Polhill, Acts, New American Commentary; v. 26 (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), 64.