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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part Two)

Don Stewart :: What Is the Gift of Miracles?

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What Is the Gift of Miracles?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part Two) – Question 12

The working of miracles is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians listed the gifts as follows.

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:28 NRSV).

Three times this gift is mentioned in the first letter to the Corinthians chapter twelve (verses 10, 28, 29). It is listed fourth in order after apostle, prophets, and teachers – although the order does not seem to mean its importance in the overall list of spiritual gifts.

There are a number of key observations which we can make about this gift.

This Is a Supernatural Ability to Perform Miraculous Deeds

To begin with, the Greek word dunamis, translated as “miracle,” has the idea of a “mighty deed.” A miracle is when God intervenes in the normal operation of nature. It is a temporary event that goes against the normally running of the universe. Miracles are supernatural, or beyond the natural. In other words, there is no natural explanation for these miraculous events.

The gift of miracles thus is a supernatural, God-given ability to perform special signs that testify to the God of the Bible. It consists of more than the gifts of healing since healing is listed as a separate spiritual gift.

The Gift Is Spoken of in the Plural

Like the gifts of healing, this spiritual gift is spoken of in the plural. The fact that it is plural in form may suggest that each separate miracle is a special gift as the need arises. It may also mean that God gives people various types of miracle-working ability.

Jesus Said His Disciples Would Do Greater Works than Him

Shortly before His death on the cross, Jesus told His disciples that they would do greater works than Him. John records the following.

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12 NRSV).

Those who believed in Him would do greater things than He did. This was the promise which He gave to the Twelve.

The Works Are Greater in Scope Not in Quality

The greater must mean greater in scope. Indeed, it does not mean greater in quality. Indeed, it would not be possible to do miracles of a greater quality than what Jesus Christ did. Therefore, it is important that we understand the sense in which the works will be greater.

Miracles Were Performed by Those in the Early Church

When the early church was persecuted, they asked the Lord to perform miraculous deeds. The Book of Acts records them praying this prayer.

And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus (Acts 4:29, 30 NRSV).

They prayed for the ability to continue to do miracles. Their prayers were answered. Consequently, we find that the miracles continued among the believers after Jesus had left the earth and ascended into heaven.

Paul Exercised Miraculous Gifts

The Apostle Paul exercised the gift of miracles against a sorcerer who was attempting to turn away the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, from the Christian faith. He said to this person.

Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time. And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand (Acts 13:11 NASB).

This is a clear example of the purpose of exercising the gift of miracles. It demonstrated the power of God, through Jesus Christ, over the power of sorcery and was used to convert someone who was seeking the truth.

Another example of the gift of miracles was Peter’s liberation from Herod’s prison (Acts 9:36-42).

The entire escape was miraculous.

Peter seemingly exercised the gift of miracles in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. We read of this in the Book of Acts.

And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of doing a thing like this— conspiring together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Just outside that door are the young men who buried your husband, and they will carry you out, too.” Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened (Acts 5:9-11 NLT).

Peter was able to issue a command which caused their death. This was indeed a miracle.

Unusual Miracles Were Done by Paul

The Bible also records the Apostle Paul performing some unique miracles. We read of this in the Book of Acts.

This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them. (Acts 19:10-12 NRSV).

A miracle of this sort, according to the Bible, was not the norm. The Bible stresses this fact by calling it something unusual or extraordinary.

Miracles Did Not Always Cause Belief

While miracles were signs that pointed to the truth of the gospel message, they did not always cause people to believe in Jesus Christ. Indeed, we find that Jesus illustrated that miracles, in and of themselves, were not enough in His story about the rich man and Lazarus.

Luke records the story Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus. Each of them died. Lazarus went to be with the righteous dead while the rich man was in torment with the unrighteous dead. In other words, he was banished from the presence of God. While in torment, the rich man pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus back and warn his five brothers about escaping the horrible place in which he found himself. The reply was highly instructive.

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets. Your brothers should listen to them!’ The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! If someone comes back to them from the dead, they will turn to God and change the way they think and act.’ “Abraham answered him, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone comes back to life” (Luke 16:29-31 God’s Word).

Abraham told the rich man that the Scriptures were sufficient to cause belief in the God of the Bible. When the rich man objected and said they would believe if someone returned from the dead Abraham disagreed. Even someone coming back from the dead would not change the mind of those who rejected God’s Word. This story by Jesus illustrates the fact that miracles, by themselves, are not sufficient to cause someone to believe.

An Illustration of the Insufficiency of Miracles: Paul and the Slave Girl

There were actual events recorded in the Book of Acts that illustrated the insufficiency of miracles. After Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl, the Bible says that the following things happened.

“The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted. “They are teaching the people to do things that are against Roman customs.” A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So he took no chances but put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks (Acts 16:20-24 NLT).

Instead of causing a number of conversions, this miracle caused Paul and Silas to be beaten and thrown into jail! In this particular instance, the miracle did not cause a revival.

Miracles Were Not Recorded Everywhere the Apostles Went

There is something else which we must appreciate. While the Book of Acts records the apostles doing miraculous deeds, these miracles seemingly did not occur everywhere that they went. In fact, there are no recorded miracles in the churches of Antioch of Pisidia, Derbe, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth.

While this does not necessarily mean that no miracles were performed in these places, the absence of their recording may demonstrated that the sign of miracles only found limited use.

Has the Gift of Miracles Ceased?

There are many Christians who believe that the gift of miracles is no longer operating in the church. They argue as follows.

The Miracles Were for Confirmation

The gift of miracles was given to confirm the truth of the gospel before the New Testament was written. Once the Scripture was completed, the gift of miracles was no longer necessary.

In addition, miracles seem to be linked to the gift of apostle. Paul mentioned that the apostles were characterized by certain signs. He said.

Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds (2 Corinthians 12:12 NKJV).

Since there are no more apostles, there are no more miracle workers.

Option 1: Miracles Still Exist but Not Miracle Workers

However, merely because the spiritual gift of miracle worker is no longer given to the church does not mean that God has stopped doing miracles. Indeed, there is a big difference between the miracles that God has performed in history and the gift of miracles. God has worked miracles in the past and continues to do so today when He so desires. Yet, it is argued, that the gift of miracles was only temporary. There is no more need to confirm the Word of God as was necessary in the beginning.

Option 2: The Gift of Miracles Still Exists

There are those who believe the gift of miracles is still meant to exist in the church. For one thing, miracles were not limited to apostles. For example, the New Testament says that the martyr Stephen performed miracles.

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8 ESV).

While Stephen was not an apostle he had the ability to perform miracles.

In addition, it is also contended that the signs of an apostle were not the miracles that he performed. Instead, they consisted of the unique spiritual abilities that God gave them.

Consequently, it is argued that God is still giving the gift of miracles to individuals whom He chooses. While they may not be as frequent as they were in the early years of the church, it is argued that they still can and do occur.

There are Bible-believers on each side of this issue with respect to the continuation of the gift of miracles.

Summary – Question 12
What Is the Gift of Miracles?

The gift of miracles is a genuine spiritual gift that the Lord gave to the church. It is the supernatural ability to perform special signs that testify to the truth of the message of Jesus Christ. There are a number of important observations that need to be made about this spiritual gift.

First, the miracle-worker was able to do things which were plainly supernatural. Indeed, there is no natural explanation for the deeds which they did.

Like the gifts of healing, this spiritual gift is spoken of in the plural. This may refer to various types of miracle working gifts.

The many miracles that Jesus’ disciples performed after His ascension into heaven fulfills a prediction which He made. Indeed, the Lord promised that they would do greater miracles that He did. With a number of disciples performing miracles this came to pass.

While miracles were performed by some believers in the early church this was not true of every believer. Neither do we find miracles recorded in every place in which the disciples ministered.

The Apostle Paul was one who had this gift. Furthermore, there were some unusual miraculous gifts which were attributed to him.

It is debated among Christians as to whether this gift still exists in the church. Some limit the gift of miracles to the apostles. When they died out the ability to perform miracles died with them.

Those who argue against this viewpoint point out that some people who were non-apostles, such as Stephen, also worked miracles. Therefore they were not limited to the apostles.

If someone claims to have the gift of miracles then they should be able to duplicate similar miracles to what we find in the New Testament. Yet, we do certainly not see this happening today on any large scale.

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Why Don't Believers Today Perform the Same Miraculous Works as Early Christians? Next Section →
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