The Purpose of Miracles

The Apostle Paul taught that signs and wonders were for the unbelievers that they might believe. While believers certain reap benefits of miracles such as healing, the manifestation of miraculous signs were not intended to be a sign to the unbeliever of God’s existence as an omnipotent deity unlike other false gods of his day. Since believers already understand this, the working of miracles certainly benefits them, but the performance of miracles as a sign was for the unbeliever.  What exactly is this supposed to mean…that God runs a dog-and-pony show? Of course not!

Suppose a person from the future appeared on Earth today. Since we can only theorize that time travel might or could be possible, it is presently impossible for us. If a person claimed to be from the future, we would be incredulous and that person would need to demonstrate that s/he has the ability to travel in time. Mr. Future could offer evidence (not necessary proof) of his claims, and the easiest way would be to disclose very specific information about events that have not yet occurred. But even this is not necessarily conclusive because one might contend that Mr. Future was involved in the very events he predicts and therefore not really proving anything. But Mr. Future could offer technological designs or scientific discoveries not yet known, but again, one could claim that all such things are unknown until they are known so it is in essence just another discovery.

In Christ’s day, there was no one who could raise the dead, no one who could depart after another person and arrive ahead of that person, and no one who could spontaneously restore anatomical dysfunction, But that is not so in the twenty-first century. Medical practitioners can quite literally revive corpses in many instances. airplanes enable a person to travel between two points with great speed, and surgery can correct many physical impairments (not to mention stem cells will soon be able to regrow anatomy). Yet Christ also declared that those who come after him will perform the same works that he performed as well as greater works than he performed. So what does that mean exactly?

The technology of the twenty-first century makes the miraculous /signs of of Christ’s day almost unimpressive. We might not “walk” on water, but we can water ski. We might not be able to instantaneously cure sickness, but a bed-ridden adolescent can be well enough to walk around in less than a day with intravenous antibiotics. Functionally blind people can see again with surgery and functionally deaf people can hear again with implants. Humans don’t ascend into the sky, yet men have walked on the moon! To serve as a sign, miracles have to be bigger than anything that is culturally possible. To serve as a sign to an unbeliever (in other words, a skeptic), twenty-first century miracles have to be extraordinary and unimaginable along the lines of “catching” a crashing airplane and gently bringing it to rest on land or arresting fire bullets in mid air and causing them to fall to the ground. Miracle-working is intended to prove to this world the existence of a power not of this world. Unfortunately, since we live in this world, we cannot imagine what such a sign would look like until it occurs. Nevertheless, I think that twenty-first century culture would be most receptive to miracles that abate the workings of evil and destruction—miracles that stop mass-shooters at the moment of attack or miracles that levitate vehicles before they can run down innocent pedestrians. Christians must be ready to step out of the boat in a leap of faith to speak into existence those things which do not exist and to bind on earth those things which cannot be earthly bound. Instead of praying through a crisis, Christians must boldly oppose the crisis. Instead of praying for divine intervention, Christians must manifest the intervention.

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