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The Purpose of Signs and Wonders in the New Testament: What Terms for Miraculous Power Denote and Their Relationship to the Gospel, Part 1, by Gary S. Greig

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

 

How the New Testament describes the supernatural can tell us a great deal about how we should see the miraculous.

 

The year is 1906. A young sixteen year old girl named Henrietta Mears, living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has just had a painful accident. She somehow “jabbed a hat pin into the pupil of an eye. Her doctors could do nothing for the condition and predicted possible blindness for her.”1 Henrietta’s family, which attends the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis, asks a close friend named Mr. Ingersoll, an elder in a local Presbyterian church, to come pray for Henrietta’s eye in accordance with James 5:14-16. In response to their prayers, God graciously heals Henrietta’s vision:

Henrietta had no doubt that the God who had made her could also heal her eye. Specialists who later examined the eye agreed there was indeed a hole in the pupil and shook their heads in amazement that she could see anything out of it. That she was, in fact, seeing could not be explained except that God had stretched forth His hand and healed her eye—even though the hole remained. Henrietta learned from this experience and from her mother to accept all Scripture at face value. For God to touch her body simply meant taking Him at His word.2

Henrietta Mears went on to be used greatly by God as Director of Christian Education and College Teacher at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, California. She founded Gospel Light Publications and Forest Home Christian Conference Center in the San Bernardino mountains of southern California. She influenced the ministries and lives of such great evangelical leaders as Bill Bright, who founded Campus Crusade for Christ, and Billy Graham, who called her “one of the greatest Christians I have ever known.”3 Towards the end of her life Henrietta sought all the gifts of the Spirit for her life and Christian work: “I have enjoyed spiritual gifts, … I have had the Spirit’s presence. But now I want every thing that He has for me. I want all the gifts.”4

“You teach a little by what you say, you teach most by what you are.” – Henrietta Mears

Can cases of healing through prayer in Christ’s name like that of Henrietta Mears be called a “sign” or a “wonder” in the biblical sense? On many occasions my wife and I (and many in our church, a Presbyterian church) have seen God touch and restore people in similar ways through prayer. My wife and I share the following personal accounts, because we wish to avoid the questions of exaggeration and distortion which third person accounts inevitably pose: we personally witnessed what is recounted in the following paragraphs. We do not wish to suggest that our faith is focused on spiritual gifts and healing. Our focus is on Christ and the work of His Cross. We understand the gifts, as I Peter 4:10-11 suggests, simply as some of His tools available to all believers5 to do His work of evangelism, discipleship, service, and encouragement so that “God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 4:11).

When he was four years old, my own son underwent two painful and traumatic surgeries in the spring of 1991 to correct a congenital defect which he had at birth. That summer the condition had not healed as expected and the specialist who had performed the first two surgeries predicted my son would need a third surgery in the early fall. After persistent prayer by my wife and me and the elders of our church, God touched and healed our son of the condition. The specialist told us that my son’s condition had reversed itself and that this was “highly unusual” in cases like my son’s. My son never had a third surgery and continues to this day without any further need of medical attention for his former condition.

On many occasions my wife and I have also seen God give supernatural insight in prayer to accomplish His purposes. In late February, 1992, my wife was praying with a woman named Carolyn at a monthly church meeting. Carolyn did not know me or my wife well. She knew nothing of our personal lives at the time nor that we had a four year old son and a one and a half year old daughter. Carolyn also did not know that my wife was concerned that she was not spending enough quality time with our son, who at that time had a language-processing deficiency. My wife did not know that Carolyn had been unemployed for six months and had finally gotten a job that very day.

Neither my wife nor Carolyn shared these personal details with each other before they prayed together. As they prayed and asked the Lord to guide their time of prayer, Carolyn saw a picture of a backyard with two children, a boy and a girl, playing on a swing-set and in a wooden-sided sandbox (the only two items which our backyard has). Carolyn sensed God saying that “everything is alright with the children because God is watching over them.” At the same time, my wife saw a picture of the beach and the ocean which she did not understand. It just so happened that Carolyn had had the job interview that day at a Ventura beach. Carolyn shared that God had provided her with a job that day “at the beach.” My wife and Carolyn thanked the Lord for this encouraging witness of His provision and protection in both their lives (Mat. 6:8; Phil. 4:5b-7).

In late September, 1992, I took a cab from the Los Angeles International airport to nearby Santa Monica and was praying for the cab driver, a middle-aged man, and for an opportunity to share Christ with him. Three thoughts flashed through my mind as I prayed: that he was Russian, that he was Jewish, and that he had a daughter whom he dearly loved (I saw a picture in my mind of a young five year old girl with him). The first fact I could have inferred from his name, Boris. The last two facts I could not have known naturally (his last name was not typically Jewish but Russian). I shared these insights with him and found out they were all true—he was Jewish and had only one child, a daughter about five years old whom he loved very much. Then I told him about Jesus, who revealed those insights, who knew every detail of his life, and who, as Israel’s Messiah, loved him enough to die for his sins. Though he did not receive Christ as Savior at that moment, he was grateful for what I said and for my prayer for him and his family. And I was grateful that the Lord demonstrated His presence and His love for this man in a way I could not have done by myself.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Winter 2007

About the Author: Gary S. Greig, Ph.D. (University of Chicago), is Vice President for Content, Bible and Theology for Gospel Light Publications and Regal Books and an adjunct faculty mentor of United Theological Seminary (Dayton, Ohio) and of Dr. Randy Clark’s Global Awakening Ministries. He was an associate professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Regent University, School of Divinity from 1995–1998, and before that an adjunct professor of Hebrew for Fuller Theological Seminary. He was co-editor with Kevin Springer of The Kingdom and the Power of the Cross: Are the Healing and Spiritual Gifts Used by Jesus and the Early Church Meant for the Church Today? A Biblical Look at How to Bring the Gospel to the World with Power (Regal, 1993), a compendium to lay out the biblical foundations of power evangelism and power ministry. LinkedIn

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