Should Christians Expect Miracles Today? Objections and Answers from the Bible, Part 1, by Wayne A. Grudem
Should we expect the Holy Spirit to work in powerful, miraculous ways in connection with the preaching of the gospel and the life of the Church today? This has been the claim of John Wimber and the Vineyard movement, and of others within what is called the “third wave” of renewal by the Holy Spirit.1 Similar claims have been made for years by Christians within the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. But other evangelicals have differed with this claim, and have raised several objections. In this series, I want to consider some of the most frequent objections and propose some answers from Scripture.
1. Doesn’t Jesus say, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4)?2 Doesn’t this mean we should not seek miracles today—rather, we should look to “the sign of Jonah,” which means the resurrection of Christ, and emphasize that when we talk about miracles?3
The mistake made in this objection is a failure to look at the context and find whom Jesus was talking to. In the context of Matthew 16, it is the Pharisees and Sadducees who came, “and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven” (Matthew 16:1). Similarly, it was the hostile scribes and Pharisees who came in Matthew 12:38-45, the Pharisees who began to argue with him “to test him” in Mark 8:11-12, and skeptics who came “to test him” and seek a sign from heaven in Luke 11:16. (The only passage that doesn’t specify that the comment was directed against hostile unbelievers is Luke 11:29, but the parallel passage in Matthew 12:39-42 does specify that it was specifically the scribes and Pharisees against whom this word was directed.)
So in every instance the rebuke for seeking signs is addressed to hostile unbelievers. Jesus is rebuking Jewish leaders who had hard hearts and were simply seeking a pretext for criticizing Him. In no case are such rebukes addressed to genuine followers of Jesus who sought a miracle for physical healing or deliverance for themselves or others, either out of compassion for others or out of a desire to advance the gospel and see God’s name glorified. These warning verses, taken in the original contexts, apply to unbelievers, and therefore to use them to apply to genuine Christians is an illegitimate application. No New Testament passages warn against the use of miracles by genuine Christians.
It seems to me that the New Testament encourages us to believe God and seek answers to prayer in many ways, including miraculous answers to prayer. (See Acts 4:30; 1 Corinthians 14:1; Galatians 3:5 [implicitly], see also the entire pattern of gospel proclamation plus miraculous demonstration in the evangelism carried on in Acts 3:6, 12ff.; 4:29, 30; 5:12-16, 20, 21, 28, 42; 6:8 10; 8:4-7, 12; 9:17, 18 [cf. 22:13] 34, 35; 14:3, 8-10, 15ff.; 15:12, 36; 18:5, 11 [cf. 2 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5]; 19:8-12; compare Hebrews 2:4; James 5:13-18).