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

Don Stewart :: What Are the Tests for Assessing Any Present-Day Claims of Miracles?

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What Are the Tests for Assessing Any Present-Day Claims of Miracles?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part Two) – Question 16

How should miraculous claims be assessed? What is a person supposed to do when faced with the claim that an actual miracle has taken place? Are there still miracles that occur in our day?

The Bible Warns of False Signs at the Time of the End

The fact that miraculous claims will continue until the return of Jesus Christ is made clear by a statement that Paul made to the Thessalonians. In speaking of a future person known as the “man of sin,” or the “lawless one,” Paul said.

The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:9,10 NRSV).

This statement assumes that this person will perform signs that will deceive the people. The three terms Paul uses to describe these signs, “all power, signs, lying wonders” all point to some alleged supernatural power. However Paul makes it clear these signs are nothing but deception.

Are There Genuine Miracles Still Occurring?

The fact that counterfeit miracles will appear until the coming of Jesus Christ seems to imply that there will also be genuine miracles occurring – although some do not think this is necessarily so. If someone does claim to have performed a miracle then certain tests ought to be applied to this claim.

There Are Two Extremes to Avoid: Denial of Miracles and Finding Them When They Are Not There

In assessing any miraculous claim there are two extremes that should be avoided. The first is to deny any possibility that miracles have occurred in the past or that they can occur in the present. No one is in a position to do that. Every claim to the miraculous should be objectively examined and not ruled out beforehand.

There is another extreme to avoid – finding miracles where there are none. There is a tendency among some believers to find miracles everywhere. This is the wrong approach. Miracles, such as spoken of in biblical times, are not happening everywhere. It is just as wrong to assert miracles are constantly occurring as it is to deny them outright.

Furthermore, this approach can lead people away from the Scripture and to look instead for signs and wonders. The sensational and the new become their only interest. Scripture does not encourage this type of behavior.

There Are a Number of Tests That Should Be Applied to So-Called Miracles

There are a number of tests that can and should be applied to any so-called miracle that may occur today. They include the following.

The Miracle Must Be Able to Be Verified by an Independent Source

The most important aspect of any alleged miracle is its verification. Without this verification, then all other questions are irrelevant. There was no question that the miracles recorded in the New Testament could be verified by anyone who looked into the matter.

Jesus Healed Ten Lepers and Told Them to Verify It

For example, after Jesus healed ten men of a skin disease He commanded them to have the priest verify the healing. The Bible says

When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14 NASB).

The fact that Jesus sent them to the priests shows that their healing was something which could have been verified. Indeed, the priests could independently testify that they no longer had the disease.

The Religious Leaders Acknowledge the Miracle of Peter and John

In the Book of Acts, we have the account of Peter and John healing a lame man. The religious authorities made the following comment about their investigation of what occurred.

What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. (Acts 4:16 NKJV).

The religious rulers concluded that they were unable to deny that such a miracle took place. Therefore, we have independent verification of this miracle from an unbelieving source.

If God is doing similar miracles through people today, then why are their powers limited? Why are their results doubtful? Why aren’t their powers evident to all as were the miracles of Jesus and that of His apostles?

The Miracle Must Glorify the God of the Bible

There is something else which is essential. A genuine miracle will glory God and Him alone. Jesus made this clear in a statement which is recorded in the Sermon on the Mount.

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16 NLT)

Miracles are for the purpose of glorying God the Father. Indeed, they do not glorify the miracle-worker. We have the example of a man, Simon Magus, who took the credit himself for his so-called miracles. Scripture speaks of him in this manner.

A man named Simon lived in that city. He amazed the people of Samaria with his practice of magic. He claimed that he was great (Acts 8:9 God’s Word).

Notice that this man claimed that he was somebody who was great. This is in contrast to a genuine miracle would give the credit to God alone.

The Miracle Must Occur through One Who Believes in Jesus

The one who performs the miracle must be a person who believes in Jesus Christ. Indeed, we should not believe the signs of the false prophets. Jesus warned of false miracle workers who would attempt to deceive the people. Matthew records Him saying.

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24 NRSV).

We are not to listen to these false prophets who work these counterfeit signs.

The Miracle Must Further the Gospel of Jesus Christ

There must be a specific purpose for any God-given miracle. Indeed, the miracle to further the message of Jesus Christ.

For example, when Philip performed miracles for the people of Samaria he did this while preaching Jesus Christ to them. The Bible says that the miracles caused them to listen to his message.

Crowds listened intently to what he had to say because of the miracles he did (Acts 8:6 NLT).

This is crucial. Any genuine miracle that would originate from God would call attention to the message of Jesus Christ.

In the Book of Revelation we read how the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The Bible says.

Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10 NRSV)

Therefore, any genuine miracle will point people to Jesus and Him alone. This is absolutely crucial.

The Holy Spirit Must Confirm Its Truthfulness with Believers

Finally, there must be the internal witness of the Holy Spirit with believers in Christ that this was indeed a genuine miracle. After the Apostle Paul listed the gifts of miracles and prophecy, he followed those with the mention of the gift of distinguishing or discerning of the spirits or between the spirits. We read the following.

To another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10 TNIV).

This does not seem to be coincidental. Any genuine miracle or prophetic utterance should have to be confirmed by the witness of the Holy Spirit to believers.

In sum, if someone today claims that a miracle took place it should come under the most intense scrutiny. Like the miracles of Jesus and His apostles were independently verified we should expect no less if God performs some miracle in our day and age.

Summary – Question 16
What Are the Tests for Assessing Any Present-day Claims of Miracles?

The Bible assumes that miraculous reports will continue until the time that Jesus Christ returns. We know that there will be deceptive signs and wonders which take place. Scripture warns us about this. What about genuine miracles? Should we expect to see them also?

We certainly cannot rule out the possibility of a genuine miracle from God. However, then a number of tests should be applied to any account of a so-called miracle.

First, the miracle should be able to be verified by an independent source. We find this to be the case with the miracles of Jesus and His apostles. Independent observers were able to verify that an actual miracle had taken place.

Second, the miracle must glorify the God of Scripture. This is crucial. Any genuine miracle that comes from God will glorify the God of the Bible and nobody else! This includes the person performing the miracle.

Third, a genuine believer in Jesus Christ must perform the miracle. God works miracles through His chosen people; He does not use unbelievers.

Fourth, the miracle must further the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Bible emphasizes that the miracles which did take place in the New Testament era were always for the furtherance of the message of Christ. The same would hold true today.

Fifth, the Holy Spirit needs to confirm the truthfulness of the miracle in the hearts of Bible-believers. God’s people will be able to discern if a genuine miracle actually took place.

For a genuine miracle to be accepted today, each and every one of these tests needs to be met.

What Is the Gift of the Word of Wisdom? ← Prior Section
The Arguments for and against the Cessation of Certain Spiritual Gifts (Introduction) Next Section →
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