Question:

Recently, in a discussion, someone said that miracles happen every day; and that if you anoint someone and pray over them, then they can be healed. Also they say that proof of miracles today is the fruits of the Spirit. They "defy the nature of man," so they are miracles. Even when we are baptized it is a miracle. How would you answer someone like this? Thank you for your time, effort, and faithfulness to God's word.

Answer:

The Bible categorizes the miraculous into three categories: "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know" (Acts 2:22).

When we read about signs in the Bible, the word is a translation of the Greek word semeion, which means "a sign from God or an omen." Unfortunately, the translation is not always consistent. The Greek word semeion is mostly translated as "signs," but it also is sometimes translated as "miracles" or "wonders." When God speaks of signs in the Bible, they are not random, arbitrary, or common events, but events that are done for a purpose. "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31). We can see this purpose well when Jesus healed the paralytic man. Jesus didn't just heal him. Instead, he first told the man that his sins were forgiven. This caused an uproar in the crowd because the people understood that only God can forgive sins. Notice what Jesus states just before he healed the man. ""But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" --He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things today!"" (Luke 5:24-26). The miraculous healing proved that Jesus' claim to be able to forgive men of their sins was true. It was a sign from God, the Father, that He supported Jesus' statement.

The word "wonders" translates the Greek word "teras," which refers to a display of power or a portent. These are things that ordinary man cannot do and thus demonstrate that God is active in the event. Jesus' calming of the sea is a classic example of a wonder. "Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!"" (Mark 4:39-41). We have trouble predicting the weather, but Jesus with a simple statement instantly changed the weather.

Finally, the word "miracles" translates the Greek word "dunamis." Where teras is a display of power, dunamis is the power. It is translated as "mighty work," "power," "strength," or "miracle." Miracles are alterations of natural events. The birth of a baby is a wondrous event, but it is not a miracle because its birth follows the course God set for the world. Jesus healed people, but the reason we call his work miracles is because they happened instantaneously. There was no reversal of the course of a disease; the disease ceased to exist. There was no recovery time as the body restored itself after a battle with disease, the people displayed full use of their bodies. Take the example of the lame man: "Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked" (John 5:8-9). Read through the miracles of the Bible and notice how often it is emphasized that the change was immediate and complete.

If miracles happened every day, then how could they make people sit up and take notice? How could it inspire awe in the observers? How could you say it was extraordinary in power?

Is baptism a miracle? It does produce a change in a person (Romans 6:3-7), but each time it operates in the fashion that God set out for it from the time of the first century. It doesn't suspend natural events, the nature of baptism is to produce a change.

The fruit of the Spirit (singular by the way in Galatians 5:22-23) is the natural effect that the words of the Spirit has on a man who listens. The reason the Holy Spirit brought us the words of God is to teach us how to become godly. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12). This is no more of a miracle than a school boy learning his ABC's. The Bible came by miraculous power. It demonstrates wisdom beyond man's comprehension. But it functions as God designed it to function -- producing a change in the hearts of those who hear it. To do righteousness does not defy the nature of man because we are told "Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes" (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Thus, God made men righteous. If anything is our "natural" state it is righteousness. It is man who has chosen to stray from God's plan, going against our nature.

By calling typical event "miracles" we are actually diminishing the true miracles recorded in the Bible. Were the works of prophets, Jesus, and the apostles everyday events or simply the change in attitude of people? Were they not something so notable, so extraordinary, that even reading about them 2,000 years after the fact we still sit in awe at what happened?