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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 2, by Gary S. Greig

IIIb. Faith in the God Who Acts

Many times those who were healed by Jesus or who witnessed His healing works expressed their faith in Him in terms of not only what they were taught or told but also in terms of what they saw God do for them: seeing and hearing the gospel.

Mat. 11:5 (cf. Lk. 7:22)—John the Baptist and his disciples were to put their faith in Jesus because of what they saw and heard: “‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.’”

Lk. 7:16—When Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead, the people said, “God has come to help his people!”

Lk. 8:39 (cf. Mk. 5:19)—Jesus said to the Gadarene who was delivered from the demons, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”

Acts 4:20—Peter and John say to the Council, “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Acts 22:15—Under the Spirit’s guidance, Ananias commissions Paul, “You will be his [Christ’s] witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.”

Acts 26:16—Jesus appearing on the road to Damascus says to Paul, “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.” These people saw the power of the proclaimed gospel and saw God’s love in Christ manifested by what God did.

Karl Barth speaks of the way in the Gospels which leads “vom Wunder zum Glauben” (from miracle to faith) and “vom Glauben zum Wunder” (from faith to miracle).58

In the final analysis, faith in signs and wonders worked by God cannot be confused with faith in Christ and the gospel, as some critics contend. Faith in Christ’s power must necessarily be faith in Christ Himself. Jesus Himself says to the Jewish leaders that to “believe the miraculous works” He does inevitably leads to believing in who He is:

Jn. 10:37-38—“Do not believe me unless I do the miraculous works [ta erga] of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the miraculous works [tois ergois], that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”

The centurion, who is praised for his “great faith” by Jesus, believed in Jesus’ power because he believed in Jesus’ divine identity and authority (Mat. 8:5-13). The two cannot be separated as scholars like van der Loos and Hendrickx have pointed out:

Faith in miracles is in the last resort not faith in this or that particular miracle, but in the Lord who reveals himself in and through all these particular events.59

The faith that Jesus asks is not only belief in His power—though He does ask that—but above all faith in who He is, in His coming and actions as the God-given Redeemer and Bringer of salvation.60

 

IV. Signs, Wonders, and Miracles Illustrate God’s Grace in the Gospel

Certain evangelicals claim that miraculous healing done in Christ’s name somehow detracts from focusing on Christ and His work on the Cross. Boice, for example, seems to make such an assumption:

Christ is everything… Therefore, anything that detracts from Him or His work, even so-called miracles done in His name, is misleading and potentially harmful. [italics his]61

The working of miracles detracts from faith because it focuses attention, not on Christ, but on the miracle worker…62

Such statements seem completely unable to explain all the biblical evidence related to the issue. Scripture nowhere shows that the working of miracles in Christ’s name detracts from focusing on Christ. Scripture shows quite the opposite. Romans 15:17-20 shows that both preaching and working signs and wonders were to “glory in Christ” (Rom. 15:17) for Paul. Both word and miraculous deed were to “fully proclaim [plēroō] the gospel of Christ” and to “preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Rom. 15:20):

Rom. 15:17-20—“Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed [peplērōkenai] the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.”

Wasn’t Christ everything for Peter when he said to Aeneas, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat” (Acts 9:34) and then won the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon to the Lord? Wasn’t Christ everything for Philip when he “proclaimed the Christ” in Samaria (Acts 8:5) by healing the lame and demonized along with his preaching (Acts 8:6-7)? Wasn’t Christ everything for Paul when he preached the gospel at Lystra (Acts 14:7, 9) and said to the man who had been lame from birth, “Stand up on your feet!” (Acts 14:10)? Or wasn’t Christ everything for him when in Corinth he did “the signs of an apostle”63 with great perseverance along “with signs, wonders and miracles” (II Cor. 12:12) as part of his ministry there of preaching “nothing … except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2, 4)?

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Category: Biblical Studies, Spring 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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