THREE QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT MIRACLES
The Bible is an extraordinary collection of books, and as one would expect, it records some extraordinary events. Some of these events surpass conventional experience and explanation. We call them miracles.
In deciding whether or not to believe the miracles recorded in the Bible, a thoughtful person should work his way through the answers to these three questions:
- COULD God perform miracles?
- WOULD God perform miracles?
- DID God perform miracles?
The answer to each question is explored below.
QUESTION 1: COULD GOD PERFORM MIRACLES?
For something to start from nothing defies the laws of science and thus is a miracle. If God is powerful enough to create the universe (see Topic 3), he’s powerful enough to perform the smaller miracles recorded in the Bible.
God designed the laws of nature, but he’s not bound by them. He has power greater than the laws he designed. Therefore he can override those laws at any time for any special purpose.
No one can say he’s never seen a miracle. Life itself is a miracle, transcending human comprehension, and most people ascribe life to a supernatural cause.
Logic says that if a large miracle can happen, smaller ones can happen too.
QUESTION 2: WOULD GOD PERFORM MIRACLES?
There are many miracles recorded in the Bible, but they are not commonplace. In fact, they are unusual events clustered mostly around three relatively brief periods of time:
- Moses and Joshua (1490-1440 BC, escape from Egypt and desert experience)
- Elijah and Elisha (910-830 BC, establishing authority of the prophets)
- Jesus Christ and the apostles (30-70 AD, introduction of Jesus to the world)
In each of these periods, God gave a major new revelation of himself and – to enhance believability – he accompanied each new revelation with miraculous visible signs. For example, it was by walking on water, turning water into wine and healing sick people that Jesus received attention and credibility. If he had simply appeared on the scene and said he was God, no one would have believed him. The Bible specifically names 35 miracles which Jesus performed (listed in right margin), all during the last three years of his life. It was his demonstration of power that made believers out of scoffers.
When we understand why he would do these things, we find it easier to believe that he actually did them.
QUESTION 3: DID GOD PERFORM MIRACLES?
If God could perform miracles and if he would have special reason to perform them, the only remaining question is whether or not he actually did perform them.
None of us is a personal observer of everything God has done through the ages. Just because something isn’t occurring in our presence today doesn’t mean that it’s never occurred in the past.
Even though nearly all secular historical documents from antiquity have decayed or been lost (see Topic 20), we still have outside corroborating evidence for the miracles. For example, the most profound and important miracle recorded in the Bible is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Bible says he was crucified on a cross and placed in a sealed tomb guarded by Roman soldiers, but three days later he came back to life and vanished from the tomb. Over the next 40 days, he was seen by over 500 witnesses. During that time, he taught his disciples about the gospel (‘good news’) and told them to tell the whole world. Then he ascended out of sight into the clouds.
Even apart from the Bible record, there’s strong logical and historical evidence supporting this miracle:
- The tomb had to be empty, otherwise the disciples could not have successfully proclaimed the resurrection in the very city where Christ’s dead body was being guarded by soldiers and there would not have been such a great number of believers.
- If the tomb were still occupied when word of the resurrection spread throughout Jerusalem – which caused embarrassment for the authorities and fueled the very kind of belief they were trying to eradicate – they would no doubt have publicly displayed the body to quell this electrifying story if the body were still there.
- Secular history shows clearly that the early church completely disregarded the tomb; illustrating that they worshiped the risen Christ. They changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection. The sacraments of baptism and communion were practiced by the church and would have been meaningless apart from the resurrection.
- Secular history reports how the disciples gave their lives – many were martyred (see Topic 22) – in telling this story and it’s highly unlikely that they would be willing to die for something they knew was a hoax.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE IS BEST PROOF OF A MIRACLE
The miracles recorded in the Bible are extraneous to our personal experience. We know about them only from what we read and they can no longer be corroborated by living testimony.
However, the Bible speaks of another kind of miracle – called the ‘new birth’ (see Topic 62) – which is personally experiential and also verifiable by testimony of others. People who have experienced this personal miracle in their lives, and/or talked to others who have experienced it, have less difficulty believing the historical miracles of the Bible than do people who don’t know anything about the personal miracles.
Anyone who is skeptical of miracles can make a private experiment to prove or disprove personally whether or not a miracle (supernatural happening) is really possible. The result will be his own personal miracle. The Bible provides all the necessary information for this experiment as summarized in Topics 53-62.
MIRACLE: an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
Here’s a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject.
People believed in Jesus because of his miracles
God publicly endorsed Jesus by miracles
Jesus performed more miracles than those specifically named in the Bible
Apostles also had power to perform miracles, drawing crowds and making believers
For help, see Topic 29.
Healed diseased woman Healed paralyzed man Raised girl from dead Healed Peter’s mother-in-law Restored withered hand Freed boy from demon Walked on water
Restored sight to blind man Freed girl from demon Healed deaf/mute man Freed man from demon Gave sight to two blind men Healed mute man
Put coin in fish’s mouth Gave sight to blind man (1) Gave sight to blind man (2) Raised boy from dead
Healed handicapped woman Turned water into wine Raised man from dead
Filled fish nets (1) Filled fish nets (2) Healed a leper Fed 4,000 people
Fed 5,000 people Quieted storm Expelled demons Withered fig tree Healed servant Healed sick man Restored man’s ear Cured ten lepers Cured lame man Healed crazy man Healed boy