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The Power of the Cross: Old Testament Foundations: Signs, Wonders and the People

The Power of the Cross: The Biblical Place of Healing and Gift-Based Ministry in Proclaiming the Gospel


Old Testament Foundations: Signs, Wonders and the People, by Jeffrey J. Niehaus

When the Son of God came to earth he brought what the Bible metaphorically calls the “water” of the Holy Spirit, who had been poured out on him without measure. The Son’s first advent was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, who foresaw the result of Christ’s ministry. He said it would be a time when “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field” (Isa. 32:15). Isaiah was a great poet as well as a prophet, and he spoke powerfully of the Messiah’s life and work. What he said has come to pass, and both he and the other Old Testament prophets have much to teach us, not only about God and his Christ, but also about prophetic ministry—a kingdom ministry of “signs and wonders”—both in the past and today.


Signs and Wonders—Moses and Jesus

We know from the Old Testament that God did signs and wonders to advance his kingdom. The phrase, “signs and wonders,” first occurs in the Bible to describe the plagues which God, through his prophet Moses, brought upon Egypt (Exo. 7:3). But the miracles of God in the Old Testament are not only destructive. God also parted the Red Sea and held up the waters of the Jordan River and brought his people safely across both. Such miracles were part of his plan of salvation for Israel.

Isaiah and the other Old Testament prophets have much to teach us, not only about God and his Christ, but also about prophetic ministry—a kingdom ministry of “signs and wonders”—both in the past and today.

The New Testament declares that Jesus also worked great miracles as part of God’s plan of salvation for his people. Some of Jesus’ “signs and wonders” showed God’s power over nature, just as Moses’ had done. For instance, Jesus turned water to wine (Jn. 2:1ff.), caused a fig tree to shrivel up (Mk. 11:12-14.20-24), and stilled the stormy waters of the Sea of Galilee (Mat. 8:23-27). But most of Jesus’ miracles involved the healing of diseases and bodily infirmities, and deliverance from evil spirits.

The ministries of Jesus and Moses have important things in common. Both were covenant mediators: Moses mediated the old covenant; Jesus mediated the new. Both Moses (Deut. 34:10) and Jesus (Acts 3:22) were prophets. And both did signs and wonders which were part of the advance of God’s kingdom—his program of salvation for his people.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Summer 2006

About the Author: Jeffrey J. Niehaus, A.M., Ph.D. (Harvard University), M.Div. (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), is Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching, Dr. Niehaus ministers and lectures in various churches on such topics as spiritual warfare and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Regularly presenting papers on higher critical issues and Ancient Near Eastern backgrounds, Dr. Niehaus’ scholarly interests include biblical theology and the idea of covenant and covenant schemes in the Bible. Faculty page

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