by Pastor Don Strand
There are some people today who claim to be able to heal the sick and do other sorts of things that appear to be miracles. Miracle working is popular with the “name it and claim it” crowd who say that every Christian should be able to do these things if they have enough faith. Being sick, being poor or driving an old broken down car are simply evidence that people don’t have “enough faith”. If a someone is skeptical about these things, they are told “God is the same yesterday, today and forever and the miracles described in the Old and New Testament should be the norm today. But is this true? Did God’s Holy Spirit work one way in the past and another way today?
The answer is yes and no. Yes, the Spirit is still at work today as He has always been and, no, the miracles of healing, raising from the dead and abundant provision are not occurring regularly in our day. But that doesn’t mean that The Holy Spirit has stopped using His power. He is always active in creation at all times and in all places. The Spirit was present at the creation (Genesis 1:2), and He continues to sustain the creation just as He has from the beginning. As He has done in the past, He continues to do today. He causes the blessing of God’s common grace of rain and sunshine to fall on both the righteous and the wicked thereby sustaining creation. And He continues to do the Father’s will by bringing the dead hearts of sinners alive to God and convicting them of sin and causing them to repent and be saved (John 3:5-6; Romans 8:11; Titus 3:5).
These may not be flashy miracles, but the Spirit continues His work in each believer today by giving them the desire to obey God and to believe and trust in Jesus (Galatians 5:22, 25; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 1:8; 1 Peter 1:2). These activities of redeeming and giving the desire to be obedient (sanctifying), and to trust in God for delivering on His promises (perseverance) are powerful workings and have not stopped.
Some think that unless the many miracles recorded in the New Testament by the Apostles continue today is evidence that the Spirit is not working, but that’s not the case. A careful study on the miracles in the early church shows that the Spirit always works in miraculous ways but that His work always points to Jesus.
As Jesus was about to ascend into heaven and return to the Father, He promised His disciples that the Spirit would come upon so that they would be powerful witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:8). Through the Spirit, the early believers were able to speak in foreign languages that they had not previously known (Acts 1:4-11). The Apostles were able to heal the lame (3:6), heal all kinds of sickness and diseases, and many other miraculous signs (5:12-16), but in each case, the purpose of these miracles were to proclaim and teach that Jesus is the Christ (5:42).
Through those miracles, the church grew quickly even in the face of persecution of the early church by the civil and religious authorities. But with the death of the original apostles, those miracles subsided, but as I said earlier, the Spirit continues the miraculous work of saving and sanctifying. But why don’t we see the type and frequency of miracles that are recorded throughout the Old and New Testament today?
The main reason is that physical miracles will not convince people to believe in God and trust in Jesus. Jesus made this clear in His parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). In that parable, the rich man, who was in torment, asked father Abraham to go to the land of the living and warn his brothers about the agony that awaits those who will not repent. Jesus said in ending the story; “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:31, ESV).
And we know this is true. After the resurrection, while many did put their faith in Jesus, many more people did not, even though Jesus was seen alive after His burial by hundreds of people before He went to be at the Father’s right hand (1 Corinthians 15:6). The point that Jesus makes in the parable, and what history shows is that it’s not seeing a miracle that enables people to believe. Instead, it is the work of the Spirit that enables them to do so (John 3:5-8; Romans 8:2, 14, 1 Corinthians 2:12; Ephesians 2:8-9).
The work of the Spirit to bring the dead to life, to give sight to the blind and mobility to the sick and lame continues today. But now it is by His giving the faith to believe, the eyes to see the truth of Christ and the ability to ‘walk’ in righteousness to people who were formerly dead in sin, blind to the truth of Christ and unable to walk in obedience. That miracle happens countless times each day. God is the same yesterday, today and forever and the Spirit continues to do the Father’s work of giving faith, inspiring trust and enabling obedience to the commands of Jesus. All of these things are the true miracles that God continues to do, even today.