|Volume 25 Number 5 May 2023
The Purpose of Miracles
Johnny O. Trail
Over the last few months, a gentleman has been calling the church offices to make comments and ask questions about the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our dialogue has been cordial, and it seems that the gentleman asking the questions is taking my comments on the matter seriously. At the invitation of a coworker some years ago, he attended a denomination that had a healing meeting. To his surprise, he came forward complaining of back pain, and he left the meeting with improved function and less pain in his back.
I have no doubt that his back was better, but I highly doubt that it was done through some miraculous powers held by the one doing the healing meeting. When confronted with this conclusion, some questions arose in our discussions that he could not answer.
If there are people in our age who can perform true biblical miracles, why are they not stationed at the various hospitals and critical care clinics through the world? After all, they could heal a person with no residuals and charge absolutely no money for their efforts.
A follow up question might be, “If we have individuals in our time who can perform true biblical miracles, why are they not frequenting funeral homes and crematoriums to raise people from the dead?”
People are quick to emphasize the positive aspects of the miraculous abilities of the Holy Spirit but not the negative ones. There is an example of Paul employing a miracle upon someone because of his subversion of his efforts to engage in personal evangelism. Acts 13:8-12 records:
But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord. (NKJV)
If one truly possesses the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, he should be able to use a miracle to prevent those who pervert or subvert the teaching of the truth. Theoretically, those who hear sound teaching on this topic would be able to pronounce a miracle upon the one teaching against their doctrine. Never once have I heard of someone pronouncing a miracle against someone because of something that was said or done in opposition to one’s position or teaching.
For various reasons, we no longer live in an age where true, biblical miracles happen. For one thing, only an apostle could impart a miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18).
Moreover, the Bible explains that the miraculous abilities of the Holy Spirt would eventually end. First Corinthians 13:8-10 says, “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” The “perfect” refers to the completed Word of God.
Furthermore, the one who received healing at the hands of one who had the miraculous ability to do so was completely healed unless the nature of the ailment required a two-step approach (John 9:6-7), but after complying with the command of Christ, the one who had an infirmity was completely and totally healed. The man healed by Peter in Acts 3 was lame from birth (Acts 3:2). It is medically certain that the unused muscles in his legs had atrophied to a degree that made the legs useless – even if modern medicines were available. Theoretically, a man healed from a lifetime of lameness would need months of intensive physical therapy to regain enough strength to even walk again. However, the text makes it apparent that his healing was complete and whole in nature. The text says in Acts 3:7-8, “And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them – walking, leaping, and praising God.”
Several years ago, we lived in a preacher’s house next to a family who believed that biblical miracles were still possible. Sadly, his granddaughter had brain tumors and wrestled with debilitating physical issues as a result. He knew he lived next to the “church of Christ preacher,” and many of our discussions revolved around the Bible.
One day, we were in our backyards, and he offered a report on how his granddaughter was doing. He said, “Well, I know you church of Christ people do not believe in the Holy Spirit [his words], but I prayed and laid hands on my granddaughter, and she was healed of her brain tumors. She still has several physical problems but is doing better.” Did you catch that last line? She still had some physical problems. If this were in fact a true biblical miracle, she would have been completely healed of her illness.
Please do not misunderstand me, we were all praying for her recovery and rejoiced that she was better. The doctors were continually monitoring and medicating the problem. The prayers of the saints and the intervention of medical personnel allowed the girl to recover from her infirmity through the providential workings of God.
Some might argue, “You simply cannot see a miracle because you do not believe!” This was never a prerequisite to “seeing” a genuine miracle performed. Notice the wording in John 12:37. “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him.” Having no faith did not prohibit the religious rulers of Jesus’ age from seeing Him perform miracles.
Teaching on the miraculous abilities of the Holy Spirit devoid of biblical underpinnings cannot be trusted. This leads to much subjective speculation about how, when and where the Spirit works. The result is more doubt than faith.
[Editor’s Note: The biblical summary regarding the purpose of miracles appears in Mark 16:17-18, 20, which reads, “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. …20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.” The purpose of miracles wasn’t to heal anyone of anything, to produce bread instantly, to walk on water, to raise the dead, to strike someone dead or to cause blindness. The purpose of miracles was to introduce the Messiah to the world and confirm Him to be just that (John 20:30-31). Furthermore, the purpose of miracles was to receive new revelation from God and to validate it, too (Acts 4:33; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]