Friday, 26 May 2017

God Wants to Use Christians in Miracle Work Today – Part 3, Testimony

In part 1 of this article we saw that the Bible fits best with the view that God wants to keep using Christians in miracle work until Jesus returns. 

In part 2 I listed some objections that are made by those who say that Christians should not seek to work miracles today.  And I gave what I believe are good answers to those objections.


In this final part we will turn our attention to testimony of miracles.  In what follows, I will do two things.

First, I will say something about claims of miracles.  In recent years many Christians claim to have witnessed miracles.  I have spoken to some who say they have seen miracles.  And I have even witnessed a couple of miracles myself.

Second, I will make some comments on evaluating claims of miracles.

Reports of miracles

To begin with, let’s think about reports of miracles in the church today.  There should be no doubt that in recent years many Christians have claimed that they have witnessed a miracle.

That is not to say that all Christians will be aware of these claims, for at least two reasons.

First, more than a few believers, sadly, live their Christian lives isolated within their own denominational bubble.  And they therefore hear of little that goes on outside that bubble. 

This means that if a Christian is a member of a denomination that denies the place of miracles today, they may well not be aware that there are many claims of miracles in our day.

Second, more than a few Christians, equally sadly, have little interest in countries outside the one in which they live.  The New Testament makes it clear that the early believers took great interest in what was happening with their brothers and sisters around the known world.  And the same should be true today.  But unfortunately this is often not the case.

It is a fact that there are many more claims of miracles in some countries than in others.  So if a Christian lives in a country where these claims are relatively infrequent, and if they have no real interest in the church in foreign countries, they may not know how many believers today claim to have witnessed a miracle. 

A Christian who has contacts and interests within a variety of denominations and countries, will be in no doubt that many believers alive today say they have witnessed miracles.

I don’t intend to make a long list of such claims here.  But I will give one example of the sort of thing I mean:

A few years ago I was speaking to someone who has links with churches in Nepal.  I told him that I had heard that the church was growing rapidly in that country, and I asked him if what I had heard was right.  He replied, ‘It’s like the book of Acts.’

What he meant, as he went on to explain, was that, just as we find in Acts, God is using miracles to cause the rapid growth of His church in Nepal.  He also told me specifically about the case of a child being healed in a village that had led to a number of conversions.

At the present time worldwide there are many similar reports.  It should be regarded as a fact that large numbers of Christians in our day claim they have witnessed a miracle.

I have spoken to people who say they have witnessed miracles

I have also spoken personally to some Christians who say they have witnessed miracles. 

For example, I can think of one conversation I had with a local pastor a year or two ago.  He told me about a young woman who had suffered from severe mental illness.  She had been unable to work and had been on a lot of medication.  He told me that after his church ministered to her, she was able to work and no longer needed medication.

I can think of another conversation I had with another Christian many years ago.  He told me how he had laid hands on a woman who was wearing a neck brace.  He said that she had been healed and was able to immediately remove the brace.

I have had a number of similar conversations with various Christians over the years.

My own experiences of miracles

I would like at this point also to be able to reel off a list of impressive miracles that I have experienced personally.  However, I am not a position to do that.

I have witnessed God acting supernaturally in different ways.  For example, I have seen Him speak powerfully through prophecy and through ‘coincidences’, and I have seen him provide for me in striking ways too.  But in terms of what the Bible would define as a miracle, I have not witnessed all that much.  And what I have witnessed took place many years ago.   

Nevertheless, I will mention two experiences I have had, which I am sure were miracles:

Firstly, I have experienced one healing miracle. 

In 1989 I began to experience a difficult-to-describe abdominal pain.  This increased in intensity for a few weeks.  Then it remained for a further few weeks at a level where it was causing me constant and considerable discomfort.

A Christian brother laid hands on me for healing.  At the time he laid on hands I felt no change.  However, over the course of the next two weeks the pain melted away to nothing and never returned.  I am sure that this was a miraculous healing. 

Secondly, I have also seen one visible physical miracle, a miracle that was unusual in that it involved no human agent. 

When I was in a back-street in Paris in 1992 I saw a road sign with some printed writing on it, as there is on all road signs.  However, I am sure that the writing on this sign was a miraculous manifestation in which God was speaking to me.  

On the sign was written my name ‘Max’ and also the words ‘Giselle – Freund’.  I can’t remember if there were any other words on the sign too.  I didn’t have a camera with me, so I wasn’t able to take a photo.  Anyway, the main words were ‘Max’ and ‘Giselle – Freund’.

Immediately before going to Paris, which is of course in France, I had been in Germany visiting someone called Gisela, the French equivalent of which is Giselle.  She was my friend, the German for which is Freund. 

I believe that on this miraculous road sign God was telling me that He was with me, and that I was then, and had recently been, in the right place at the right time.  He did this, rather mysteriously, by putting my name, along with the combination of a French and a German word, on this road sign.  The fruit of this incident was that I had a better sense of God being with me.

I am rather hesitant to mention this event, because my experience is that more than a few Christians have no awareness of God confirming things in their lives in any way.  I suspect that what I have testified to here will look like nonsense to many.  I am also wary that I might be accused of fabrication. 

Nevertheless, I believe that God has called me to be a witness of what I have seen Him do (Acts 26:16), so I choose to obey.  He knows I am telling the truth.  And it is inconceivable that a workman in Paris ever put up a road sign with those words on it, at least while being aware of what he was doing. 

I should also point out that in the Bible many of the miracles we find God performing have a mysterious or even bizarre element to them.  So if God works miracles today, as I am sure He does, we would most naturally expect some of them to have a certain mysteriousness or strangeness about them.  Mysterious words on a road sign are therefore in no way incompatible with the biblical portrait of miracles. 

My main aim in this article is, of course, to encourage Christians to seek to be used by God as instruments in miracle work.  I am aware that the example I have just given is not in this category of miracles, since there was no human agent.  Nevertheless, I have given it in the hope that it will help persuade Christians that God really is working miracles today.

Evaluating claims of miracles

There should be no doubt that many Christians in our day claim to have witnessed miracles.  So what are we to make of these claims?  How should we evaluate them?

I am sure that Christians often go wrong at this point in one of two ways.

Firstly, there are those who start from the position that a reported miracle cannot be from God.  Perhaps this is because the existence of miracles today doesn’t fit their theology.  Or maybe they feel threatened in some way by miracles.  Whatever the reason, they immediately conclude that the report is false before even taking the matter to God in prayer. 

Some of those who take this attitude to miracles have been misled by unbiblical teaching.  Some are guilty of the sin of unbelief, one of the key sins in the Bible.  And some are just stubbornly believing what they want to believe.  Whatever the reason or reasons, this attitude to miracles is seriously wrong in God’s sight.

Secondly, there are those who go to the other extreme and immediately accept that a reported miracle is genuine.  I have seen this often.  Many Christians love the idea that God works miracles, and they therefore choose to believe every report they hear.

However, we should compare this attitude with that of Paul.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 he tells the church in Thessalonica: 
20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything . . .’ 
It is true that the testing here refers first and foremost to testing the genuineness of prophecies.  But Paul would surely have wanted Christians to do their best to test the genuineness of miracles too.

We find a similar situation in 1 Corinthians 14:29.  Here Paul instructs the Corinthians: 
‘Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.’ 
Again, although Paul is speaking about prophecy in this verse, he would surely also have wanted Christians to carefully weigh reports of miracles.

What we should do when we hear a report of a miracle is to start from a neutral position.  Instead of being biased for or against its genuineness, we need to humbly take the matter to God, asking for insight.

My experience of listening to Christians talking about the miracles they claim to have witnessed leads me to believe that testimony about miracles is mixed.  I am sure some of it is the figment of people’s imaginations.  On the other hand, I am sure that much of it is real.  Many specific accounts just sound right.  The testimony is not forced or exaggerated, and the fruit in terms of God building His church in one way or another is evident. 

In John 10:1-6, 16, 27 Jesus says that His sheep – Christians – hear His voice.  I think that if we listen carefully, those of us who are born again should be able to hear that God is working miracles today.  This is what Jesus is saying.


That concludes our discussion of miracles.  So let me sum up what we have found.

In part 1 of this article we saw that the Bible fits best with the view that God wants to keep using Christians in miracle work until Jesus returns.  And I noted too that in the absence of a compelling case for not obeying biblical instructions to seek miracles, we should certainly obey them.

In part 2 we found that objections to the existence of miracles today fail to convince. 

And in part 3 we saw that many Christians today claim to have witnessed miracles, and it makes most sense to think that some of the claims are based on genuine works of God. 

Let me end with a Bible text that I quoted earlier.  In 1 Corinthians 14:1, as we have seen, Paul writes: 
‘Pursue love, and eagerly desire spiritual gifts . . .’ 
As I noted, the gifts Paul refers to here include miracle work.

Paul’s command in this verse is for every Christian alive today as much as it was for those in Corinth in the mid first century.

Let all of us, then, who are following Jesus as Lord, be faithful in heeding what the Spirit says in this verse of Scripture.  We dare not disobey it.

So how exactly should we seek the ability to work miracles? 

Well, most importantly we can pray that God would direct and enable us.  And for some of us, it may be good to seek out people who are experienced in gifts of the Spirit, those we feel we can trust, to ask for their help and guidance.  The more of us who can use spiritual gifts, including the working of miracles, the stronger God’s church is bound to become.

See also:

Is It Always God’s Will to Heal Christians?

God Wants to Use Christians in Miracle Work Today – Part 2, Objections Answered

In part 1 of this article we saw that the Bible fits best with the view that God wants to keep using Christians in miracle work until Jesus returns. 

In this second part I will move on to look at objections made by those Christians who deny that we should seek to work miracles today.  I am confident that each objection can be adequately answered.


The usefulness of miracles

There some Christians who say that it is not God’s will to work miracles today because they are unnecessary.  They agree that God used miracles in the first century to help the church get up and running.  But they claim that once the church was well established, miracles had outlived their usefulness, so God stopped performing them.

This argument is completely misguided:

First, the argument seems to start from the assumption that God wants to do the minimum amount of miracle work possible.  But why would we assume this?  There is no good reason.

Second, the book of Acts makes it clear that in the first century, miracles were used massively by God to build His church.  He used them to make evangelism more successful and to build up those who were already saved.  See, e.g., Acts 2:1-13, 41; 3:1-4:4; 4:31; 5:1-11; 8:5-8; 9:1-22, 32-35, 36-42.

There is absolutely no reason for thinking that miracles should have a different result today.  As far as their effectiveness is concerned, the fact that the church is now well established is beside the point.

Third, the New Testament strongly suggests that most miracles in the early church were healing miracles.  And a large part of God’s motivation for performing these was certainly because He loved people and wanted to free them from various afflictions.  But God obviously has the same love for people who are afflicted today.

To sum up this section, then, there are very good reasons for thinking that miracles today would, at least in many circumstances, be extremely useful.

Church history and miracles

Some Christians argue against the existence of miracles in our day by appealing to church history.  The argument goes in this way:

If God continued working miracles throughout the church age, we would expect Him to have done this as often as He did in the first century.  However, it cannot be denied that there have been relatively few claims of miracles in the following centuries as compared to the first century.  Therefore, this suggests that the claims there have been were all fakes or wishful thinking. 

It is surely true that for at least most of the church age there have been relatively few reports of miracles as compared to the first century.  However, there are two important points to make here.

First, the Bible often makes receiving things from God conditional upon believing.  The believing is very important.  So when a Christian doesn’t believe that God wants to give a gift of some sort, it seems that God would very probably not give that gift, even if He wanted to.  I would suggest that part of the reason why there has been a lack of miracles throughout church history is because most Christians wrongly believed that God had no desire to give them the ability to work miracles.   

Second, we need to recognise that the Holy Spirit is thoroughly mysterious.  And it is a mistake to claim that He must have chosen to do things in more or less the same amounts in each century of the church.

In 1 Samuel 3:1 we are told that when Samuel was a boy, ‘the word of the LORD was rare in those days’.  Similarly, I think that even under post-Pentecost, New Covenant conditions, it is not all that surprising if there is considerable variation in how much the Spirit operates supernaturally from time to time.

That is not to say that over the centuries God has been inconsistent in His requirements or promises.  In all centuries of the church He has wanted Christians to seek the ability to work miracles.  And in all centuries His biblical promises of healing in response to faith have stood, as, for example, in James 5:14-16.  But even so, I think this still allows room for considerable variety in how many miracles the Spirit performs at different times.

The Reformation and miracles

Another argument that is sometimes made by those who say that miracles are not for today appeals to the Reformation.   

The principle Reformers in the 16th century, most notably Martin Luther, John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli, believed that God stopped working miracles in the first century.  Because these men were giants of the faith, it is argued, it makes sense to think that their views on miracle work were correct. 

It is true that the Reformation was extremely helpful in some respects.  But to assume that the Reformers were correct on everything of importance cannot be right for the simple reason that they differed among themselves on a number of key issues. 

There are unfortunately many evangelicals today who follow certain people in church history without questioning their beliefs nearly enough.  This is really a form of idolatry and it should be avoided.  What matters is what the Bible teaches, not what certain Christians leaders have believed in the past.

Abuses do not mean that miracles are wrong in themselves

Sometimes those who deny the place of miracles today refer to abuses in the church to try to make their case.  They point to examples of where claims of miracles were surely wrong.  And they also point to false teaching, such as the so-called prosperity gospel, that is often held by Christians who say that the church should be working miracles today.

It is doubtless true that there are many false claims of miracles in the church in our day.  And it is true too that churches that are interested in miracles often have some seriously wrong ideas about things.  I am also sure that sometimes devout Christians who are trying to submit to God’s will in miracle work make mistakes in how they go about things.

But to say that abuses and mistakes show that all miracle work is invalid today makes no sense.  By the same logic, we should avoid anything that is abused or about which mistakes are sometimes made.

For example, teaching from the Bible is something that is massively abused in our day.  Every Sunday there are thousands of so-called Christian pastors worldwide who say they are teaching from the Bible, but who are actually promoting heresy in one way or another.   

But this doesn’t mean that all teaching from the Bible is false!  It doesn’t mean that pastors on a Sunday should abandon giving biblical instruction to their flocks!  And the same applies to miracles.  To say that abuses and mistakes mean that there is no place for miracles today is illogical.

Wherever there is something that is from God, Satan will almost always try to counterfeit it.  He will also tempt Christians into using gifts, including the ability to work miracles, in ways that are less than edifying.  And part of what it means to be a fallen human being is to make mistakes.  So even Christians with good intentions and motivations can get things wrong at times.   

Therefore, bad reports surrounding miracle work in no way mean that God doesn’t want Christians to work miracles today.   

This is not a matter of variation between churches

Sometimes Christians who accept that God works miracles today seem to have an attitude something like this:

Some churches work miracles and others don’t.  It’s just a different way of living out the Christian life.  We shouldn’t expect a great God to be uniform in His dealings with His children.  Therefore Christians and churches are under no obligation to seek the ability to work miracles.

There is a huge mistake here:

First, as we saw in part 1 of this article, the Bible actually commands all Christians to desire spiritual gifts, including the ability to work miracles.

Second, there is wrong thinking here about variation in the church.  Certainly, we can expect variety in how God deals with His children.  But not in terms of whether we should seek the ability to work miracles.  Miracles, and the other gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, are not just a minor issue, a kind of decoration that a church might or might not have.  Miracles are spiritual high explosive against the powers of darkness.  If you are in any doubt about this, just have a read through the book of Acts.  The power for building the early church that came through miracles was enormous.  And there is no reason whatsoever for believing that it should be any less today. 

Those who see miracles, and other gifts of the Spirit, as one way, among others, of living out the Christian faith have not begun to grasp what these things are all about.  Not using the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 is a bit like an army in a fierce fight to the death leaving some of its heavy weaponry in storage.  It makes no sense at all.

Summing up

There are other arguments that are sometimes used to support the view that God doesn’t want to use Christians to work miracles today.  But I have listed the most important of them.  In short, none of the objections convinces.   

In part 3 I will move on to speak about testimony of miracles.

See also:

Is It Always God’s Will to Heal Christians?