Miracles and Their Purposes

Richard Thetford

There are some today who claim that miracles are still accomplished. But one who studies and understands the scriptures knows that the miracles that existed during the early days of Christianity would not always exist and they would be done away with. Paul says "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away" (1 Cor 13:8). He further states that when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away" (1 Cor 13:9). Miracles do not exist today. We can see from the scriptures that miracles were worked at one time by Jesus (John 2:11; 6:14), the apostles (Acts 4:13,16; 5:12, and the early Christians (Acts 7:8; 8:6). We can read that John the Baptist did not perform miracles because his mission was simply to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. "...While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true" (John 10:41).

So what was the purpose of the miracles performed by Jesus? First of all He performed signs to prove that he was approved of God "this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him" (John 3:2). Also see Acts 2:22; 9:33. He also performed these miracles to prove that He was the Son of God. "Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been 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).

The Gospel of John was written by John so that "all might believe in Jesus". Jesus performed miracles and wondrous signs so that others would believe that He truly was the Son of God. He also performed these miracles to produce faith (John 2:23; 11:47-48). We can see why Jesus worked the miracles that He did, but why did the apostles work miracles?

The apostles performed miracles only to confirm the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. "And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed" (Luke 16:20). We see in Acts 14:3 where the apostles were speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord "who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands". Again, the apostles were using the signs as a means of teaching others about Jesus, to help show others the wonderfulness of the gospel. They did not work miracles to benefit themselves in any way. Paul said "So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe". (1 Cor 14:22). Peter also confirms this when he says "for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Pet 1:21). If the apostles could use miracles to benefit themselves, surely the apostle Paul would have used one to remove the thorn that was in his flesh as we read about in 2 Cor 12:7-10. He did not because he realized that the power he possessed was only meant to confirm the gospel of Jesus. How did they and the early Christians receive the power to work miracles? Christ had it from the beginning, the apostles received it in accordance with Acts 2:1-4, and the others received it only by the direct laying on of hands by the apostles themselves. "Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, ..." (Acts 8:17-18).

We can see that the miracles were given to the apostles directly by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) and they and they alone could pass this gift on to others by laying their hands on someone. Others that received this gift could not pass it on because they were not empowered to do so. Once the apostles and the ones whom they passed on their gift to passed away, miracles ceased. They were used only to confirm the gospel in early New Testament times.