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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 following passages show that “signs, wonders, and miracles” denote healing, deliverance from demons, and spiritual gifts in the New Testament:

Ia. “Signs”24 and “Signs and Wonders” Denote Healing and Deliverance

Acts 14:3—Paul and Barnabas preach and work “signs and wonders”: “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders (sēmeia kai terata).” This description of ministry in Iconium parallels the description of Paul preaching and healing in Lystra a few verses later, Acts 14:8-10: “In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.”

Acts 8:6-7, 13—Philip preached and worked “signs and miracles” of healing and deliverance from demons: “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs (sēmeia) he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed (therapeuō)… Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles (sēmeia kai dunameis).”

Acts 5:12, 15-16—The apostles work “signs and wonders” of healing and deliverance: “The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders (sēmeia kai terata) among the people… People brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed (therapeuō).”

Acts 4:16, 22—The healing of the crippled beggar by the Beautiful Gate of the Temple (Acts 3:1-8)—“he was healed (sōzō)” (Acts 4:9); “the man who had been healed (therapeuō)” (Acts 4:14)—the healing is called an “obvious sign (gnōston sēmeion)” (Acts 4:16) and “this sign of healing (to sēmeion touto tēs iaseōs)” (Acts 4:22).

John 12:17-18—The raising of Lazarus from the dead is called a “sign (sēmeion)” (Jn. 12:18).

John 9:16—The healing of the blind man (Jn. 9:6-7) is called one of “such miraculous signs (toiauta sēmeia)” (Jn. 9:16).

John 6:2—Speaking of Jesus, this verse mentions “the miraculous signs (ta sēmeia) he had performed on the sick (asthenountōn)” obviously referring to healing of the sick.

John 4:48, 54—“signs and wonders (sēmeia kai terata)” (4:48) and the “sign (sēmeion)” of 4:54 refer to the healing of the royal official’s son who had a fever (4:50-52).

Mark 16:17, 2025—“And these signs (sēmeia) will accompany those who believe…Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs (sēmeiōn) that accompanied it.” The “signs” which the Lord worked to confirm the preaching of his word included the gift of “speaking with new tongues” (16:17), deliverance (“they will drive out demons” 16:17), and healing (“they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” 16:18).

Ib. “Signs” and “Signs and Wonders” Are Related to and Can Denote the Gifts of the Spirit:

Hebrews 2:3-4—“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders (sēmeiois te kai terasin) and various miracles (dunamesin) and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed (pneumatos hagiou merismois) according to his will.” “Signs and wonders” in this passage are explicitly related to “miracles” and “gifts26 (or ‘distributions’) of the Holy Spirit.”

I Corinthians 14:22—“Tongues, then, are a sign (sēmeion), not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.”

Mark 16:17, 2028—“And these signs (sēmeia) will accompany those who believe…Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs (sēmeiōn) that accompanied it.” The “signs” which the Lord worked to confirm the preaching of his word included the gift of “speaking with new tongues” (16:17) and the gift of healing (“they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” 16:18).

Ic. “Miracles” Denote Healing and Deliverance

Acts 19:11-12—“God did extraordinary miracles (dunameis) through Paul. Handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.”

Acts 8:6-7, 13—(quoted above) Philip preached and worked “signs and miracles,” both terms denoting the same phenomena of healing and deliverance from demons: “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs (sēmeia) he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed (therapeuō)…. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles (sēmeia kai dunameis).”

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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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