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Should Christians Expect Miracles Today? Objections and Answers from the Bible, Part 4, by Wayne A. Grudem

Any other conclusion than this not only is contrary to the words in the verse itself, but also to the larger context of the lives of the apostles in the Early Church. If those who saw Jesus with their own eyes had inferior faith, then the apostles and all other eyewitnesses of the Resurrection would have inferior faith! Surely this is incorrect. Moreover, it would mean all those who believed as a result of the signs and wonders done frequently by the apostles, and especially by Paul throughout his ministry, would have inferior faith—almost the entire first-century Church would have inferior faith! That is hardly the point of any passage in Acts, nor is there any hint of that kind of reasoning in either the Gospels or Acts.

When Carson speaks of “the same relatively negative evaluation”66  given to the role of miracles in encouraging faith, his conclusion is inconsistent with the fact that it is God Himself who does these miracles. “While God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will” (Hebrews 2:4). Should it not give us pause to place a “negative evaluation” on what God Himself does to bear witness to the truth of His Word?

F. Important verses in John not mentioned by Carson. Finally, several more positive verses about miracles in John are not mentioned by Carson. At the bottom of page 100 (Power Religion) Carson has one brief sentence indicating that “Jesus’ signs display His glory, at least to His disciples (John 2:11)”; and in the middle of page 101 he has a concessive sentence in which he admits that “some do believe because they see Jesus’ works (e.g. 11:45)”67  But these two sentences are tossed off in passing, while his overall picture is that John views signs in a negative way.

Why does Carson entirely omit consideration of many other passages that view signs very positively in John’s Gospel? This theme runs through the whole Gospel, beginning at John 2:11 when Jesus has changed the water to wine. “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” This theme continues to the end of the Gospel where John says, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples” (John 20:30), which he did not record, but he did record these in order that people might believe. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). From beginning to end, this Gospel shows people coming to faith because of the signs they see Jesus do.

Carson fails to mention the verses in which John shows time and again how the miraculous signs Jesus did brought about faith in those who saw these signs. For example, “When he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did” (John 2:23, a verse Carson surprisingly uses to speak of spurious faith. In the next chapter, Nicodemus comes and says, “We know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him” (John 3:2). The reader could hardly miss the point John is trying to make: John wants his readers to draw the same conclusions from these signs that Nicodemus has drawn.

When Jesus healed the official’s son, “He himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did” (John 4:53-54).

Later, John says, “a multitude followed him, because they say the signs which he did on those who were diseased” (John 6:2). John’s point is certainly that he wants his readers likewise to follow Jesus. Similarly, “When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!'” (John 6:14). John wants his readers to draw the same conclusion.

Similarly, at the feast of Tabernacles, “Many of the people believed in him; they said, ‘When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man had done?'” (John 7:31). John even reports a division among the Pharisees, when some of them begin to say, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” (John 9:16).

The Pharisees are troubled, because they are forced to admit, “This man performs many signs” (John 11:47), and they realize that if He continues to do miracles in this way, soon everyone will follow Jesus. “If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him” (John 11:48). Once again, John is showing the extremely positive role that Jesus’ miracles (or signs) had in engendering faith in those who saw Him.

When Jesus raised Lazarus, many came to faith. “On account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus,” (John 12:11). At the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign” (John 12:18, but the Pharisees were dismayed, saying to one another, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him” (John 12:19).

It would be hard for John to be any more explicit in showing that the amazing signs Jesus did brought great multitudes of people to follow Him and believe in Him. Nonetheless, John continues to remind us that the Pharisees remain hostile in their unbelief, and are all the more culpable for that unbelief because they had seen these very miracles. “Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him” (John 12:37).

Finally, after the entire Gospel has shown how Jesus’ miracles brought about faith in Him, John tells us that he recorded these “signs” for a specific purpose. “That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The overwhelming evaluation of the role of signs regarding faith in John’s Gospel is a positive one, not a negative one, and I am surprised that Carson’s evaluation does not represent it that way, but ignores so much of the data that is there.

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Category: Fall 2000, Pneuma Review, Spirit

About the Author: Wayne A. Grudem is Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona. He has authored over twenty books, including Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (1994), Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (2010), The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution (2013), The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, and "Free Grace" Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel (2016). He was also the General Editor for the ESV Study Bible (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Book of the Year, 2009).

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