Friday, 8 January 2010


In the classic Christian tale, Charlotte's Web, Mrs Arable is concerned about her daughter, Fern, becoming too attached to a runt pig who is destined to be butchered. This concern culminates in them going to see a doctor after a spider named Charlotte wrote the words "SOME PIG" in a web over the barn door. Mrs Arable protests to the psychologist that people are calling this a "miracle". "You don’t think it is?" the psychologist asks. "The web itself is a miracle, don’t you agree? Can you spin a web?" Mrs Arable replies that she can crochet a doily. The doctor points out that she was taught to and continues, "Nobody teaches a spider how to spin a web. That’s a miracle." Mr Arable agrees with the doctor and says, "A miracle in a time when we don’t see too many miraculous things. Or maybe we do. Maybe they’re all around us and we just don’t know where to look." But there is something rather spectacular, not ordinary, not naturally occuring that the Bible specifically calls a "miracle".

Miracles followed Jesus. Miracles followed the apostles. Miracles accompanied many of the great outpourings in history. Missionaries often bring back reports of extraordinary miracles. Jesus told His followers that miracles would accompany their preaching (Mark 16:17-18) So why aren't we seeing miracles everytime we pray?

I guess there's three responses to this apparent dillemma. Firstly, we could dismiss the possibility of miracles for today. This is called Cessationism. Secondly, we could take a Word-of-Faith position and claim that miracles will always happen if we get the faith-formula right. Thirdly, we could adopt what I'm calling a "Sovereign Grace" position where we regard miracles as still possible and given as acts of God's wisdom and grace.
First Corinthians 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 


The Cessationist view regards miracles as having occured at any extraordinary time for the purpose of establishing the New Covenant. According to this view, miracles ceased the New Testament was completed since the New Testament became the basis of the New Covenant. This idea is based on a reference in First Corinthians 13 which says that when the perfect has come that which is imperfect, such as miracles, will be done away with (1Cor. 13:10). But upon closer examination of that text it seems that it is refering to the Final Resurrection ("that which is perfect") not the formation of the New Testament Canon (the completion and compilation of the 27 books of the New Testament). This is supported by the context of First Corinthians which goes on in chapter 15 to discuss the Final Resurrection. Besides this, a strong case can be made from history for divine miracles continuing to occur long after the New Testament was compiled.
Acts 8:13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.


The New Testament teaches that faith is essential to the outworking of miracles. "All things are possible to those who believe" Jesus taught. "Ask and you shall receive" He also said. Based on these and other references, "Word of Faith" teachers promote the idea that if we have sufficient faith we can always see miracles because we have a legal right to the promises of God for such. When you combine faith with the promises of Scripture you have, one Word of Faith preacher taught, "mandated results". When the promised miracles do not occur there are range of reasons offered by Word-of-Faith teachers which include: "lack of faith" on the part of the prayed for, "sin" in the life of the prayed for, unforgiveness, bitterness, having a grandfather's nextdoor neighbour's best-friend's milkman who was a Free-Mason, or the most often used one~ confess that you have it even though you don't.

The Scriptures do not teach that miracles occur because someone used "the law of faith" or got "the faith formula" right. 
Galatians 3:5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—
Associated with this view is the Pentecostal idea of "Healing in the Atonement" which teaches that Christ died on the Cross for our sins and sicknesses. This is based on Scriptures which refer to Christ's "stripes" bringing healing and how He "bore our sicknesses".
Matthew 8:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” 
But this Matthew reference occurs before the Cross (the Atonement), not because of it. The First Peter reference about Christ's wounds ("stripes") bringing salvation and healing is often used to support the doctrine (teaching) of healing in the Atonement-
1Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
But the context of both the Isaiah prophecy and Peter's citation of it is not physical healing but spiritual healing (salvation). The Atonement brings salvation from sin, not physical healing. Physical healing comes from God as an act of His Sovereign Grace.


The Sovereign Grace view of miracles regards miracles as an act of God's grace which He wisely bestows appropriately ("sovereignly"). In this view, miracles still happen. We can ask God for them - but we don't deserve them - hence they are an act of God's sovereign grace.

And it seems that God is more likely to work miracles when it is appropriate. That is, when there is deep spiritual activity (both good and bad) God seems to work miracles. Dr Hugh Ross, President of Reasons To Believe, points out that where Christianity is in hostile territory God most usually supports the preaching of the Gospel with miracles. Dr Ross asserts that the greater the opposition to Chrisitianity from spiritual opponents the clearer the miraculous from God is. He cites foreign missions' examples where dominant religions of witchcraft and animism have held sway over the population through occult activity such as fortune-telling, healing, para-normal activity, levitation, voices, visions and trances, that Christian missionaries often find their prayers dramatically answered. Dr Ross's theory is interesting and seems to fit what we see in Scripture, history, and the mission field today. He offers the following advice for those Western Christians craving an increase in regular miraculous activity- Be prepared for steep increased spiritual opposition within your church! He offers the opinion that if a church is seeing frequent miracles they need to be very careful about what else is going on in the spiritual realm.

Why no miracles today? The question is ill-informed. There are miracles happening today. We Western Christians are too narrow in what we classify as "a miracle" and perhaps too star-struck by the spectacular displays of God's grace in foreign fields. Having recently returned from India where we heard amazing testimonies of resurrections, death-bed healings, village-wide visions and the like, it is all too tempting to wonder why we don't experience similar here in the West. But I then am reminded that these Indian Missionaries are beaten, killed, slandered, driven out of villages by militant Hindus, and have to "compete" with the dubious occult activity of certain gurus. Meanwhile in the West, our concept of "persecution" is generally pathetic in comparison. But even still, the miracle working power of God in the midst of rampant materialism is still taking place all around us. People are being miraculously saved and delivered from sin. People are being healed and physically sustained in the midst of life-threatening conditions. People are being blessed with Goshen-like provision. Miracles are happening!

Lord, we pray that You will meet people's needs with miraculous provision. Please heal the sick. Please deliver the oppressed. Please provide for those in need. Help us to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego who knew the secret of trusting the God of Miracles even when He doesn't answer with miracles. 



  1. Great post Andrew, it is interesting that in pentecostal and charismatic circles who boast to having the miraculous corner of the church "covered' lives some of the greatest confusion on this whole issue! As a minister I travelled in the "word of faith" angle on the miraculous for a number of years, it was certainly a frustrating place to live! Some days I was mad at my supposed lack of faith and other times I was mad at Gods seeming reluctance to move on behalf of my faith :). I now minister in a much greater sense of peace and Gods love as I flow having faith in Gods love and sovereign grace!
    Keep up the good work.

    David Balestri (Sydney)

  2. I, in my experience believe that most of what you believe is miracles is wishful thinking, do you honestly believe the media wouldn,t be on the lookout for such amazing events and demand authentification of them, in the last days there will be many false christs who come doing miracles and signs and wonders, you give false hope to the gullible and weak, you know in your own heart that your faith in miracles today is wishful thinking, God is truth and the truth will set you free, you can,t fool God, most pastors and church leaders are making a good wage from there work in the church insisting on tithing etc, show me a leadrer that doesn,t get paid, show me a leader who can proove a miracle show me true christianity that,s what we all want to see, Peter who loves Jesus Christ and who is not easily deceieved

  3. I recognize that in ancient, scientifically unsophisticated times when any number of charlatans, magicians, and even spirits performed miraculous appearing feats, it would be unlikely that even parting the Red Sea would retain its original impact forever on those who witnessed the event. Never mind how remote the story of it would seem to following generations especially in conjunction with the misery and threats of everyday ancient life.

    But I am convinced that a documented miraculous event of unmistakable God proportions would have a much different impact today in Western civilization, which is now pretty universally hostile to Christianity in general and Christians in particular. The first impact would be upon the current crop of loud-mouthed atheists who would be silenced forever and would spawn no other skeptics due to the lasting availability of documented proof of the event. Our ancient documents can too easily be doubted. But our memories are much better today and verified information is more reliable thanks to technology and global communications.

    I don't know if you've kept up with the thinking and speaking of those who despise all religion but none more than Christianity. They are now having more success in the West turning the undecided their way than is the church. Maybe Christians aren't being killed yet. But things can't get much more hostile. The battle for intelligent minds can't get much more difficult either thanks to new theories and apparent evidence of natural universal origins. We're seeing our last remaining rhino leave the living room and be explained away. There is nothing left for a believer to point to as leaving no excuse for not believing that the opposition can not now provide a convincing answer to as a plausible reason to not believe. It doesn't matter how unworthy or implausible believers find the excuse. The appeal is to logic and the minds ability to imagine possibilities. While unbelievers have plausible alternative explanations for arguments and evidence that believers advance, they won't consider themselves intellectually free to dismiss them even if faith would comfort them. The heart can be converted if pressured by pain but not the mind. How can a man know securely in his heart what his mind doubts thanks to the counterweight from atheistic scientists and God's long silence?

    I believe a miracle would awaken many to a reality they never considered possible and many others to repentance after having rejected this reality as laughable. The reason this is so is because today in the West we're aren't inundated with convincing cosmic alternatives. Charletans and magicians aren't taken seriously. Today they're just entertainment. An unmistakable communication from God (and I mean something at a level only He is capable of) would have no persuasive competition today because, in the educated West at least, the only real question is about God's existence at all, not His superiority to other gods. Few in West today could be sidetracked by an argument for competing deities.

    As a civilization we have been trained by centuries of practice with the rules of evidence and logic to accept that either we are alone and the cosmos exists by some natural means OR a single purposeful intelligence intended and at least started it all. A miracle today (and I do mean a world-wide witnessed, documented, Almighty God style miracle) would change the world, silence the intractably hostile, open eyes, and forever leave no excuses.