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Miracles In The New Testament

Nicodemus recognized Jesus’ miraculous from God (Jn. 2:11, 3:2) as did Peter (Acts 2:22). After Jesus’ departure, the early church, apostles, and others were administers of their share of miracles (Acts 2:43, 3:6-10, 4:30, 8:6-8, 9:40-42, et al.). Paul and his churches in Europe and Asia Minor experienced much the same (1 Cor. 12:4-31, Gal. 3:5).

A hallmark of the church of the New Testament is miracles after the ministry was gotten underway by Jesus (Luke 4:36-37). Jesus gave his authority to his disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons. These were administered not only by the Apostles but also by 70 others (Luke 10:1-19, cp. Matt. 8:10, Luke 9:49-50). This suggests their happening was also connected to the Holy Spirit that came after Pentecost. There is no reason to suspect that we have left the “age of miracles” behind us. They are reported every day.

In the Old Testament, miracles generally occurred in connection with a prominent leader – Moses, Elijah, Elisha as a sign and wonder to get Israels attention. And they succeeded, for a time.

Miracles: Defined, Part 2

Can we consider unusual answers to prayers as miracles? Examples exist to answered prayers in the Old (1 Kings 17:1-21, 18:24-25, cp. James 5:17-18) and New (Luke 4:40, Acts 12:5-17, 28:8-9) Testaments.

Christians report answers to prayers all the time. We shouldn’t water down the meaning of miracles so that every answer to prayer is called a miracle. Nevertheless, when an answer is remarkable in an unusual way, it seems appropriate to call it a miracle. This is consistent with our original definition that started this all and is supported by the stated examples from Scripture – those works of God that surprised “with awe and wonder.”

Even so, all should agree that if God does not work to answer our prayer and we recognize and give thanks to him or ignore the response by assigning “natural causes” for it. Here, balance is called for not to exaggerate in our reporting the details of prayers answered or the opposite of failing to glorify and thank God for what he has done.

Miracles: Defined, Part 1

A miracle is a less common kind of God activity in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself.

One way to look at a miracle is “a direct intervention of God in the world.” This implies that God intervenes only occasionally. But, the Bible states his doings are continuous (cf. Ps. 104:14, Matt. 5:45, Heb. 1:3). Another definition is “a more direct activity in the world.” This implies providence is not direct or ordinary. This leads one to a more deistic view of life and living.

The Bible examples miracles to arouse people’s wonder and amazement. They are called out as a “sign” – as an indication of God’s power and activity. They are also termed “wonder” – something that causes people to be amazed and astonished at a “mighty work” where God’s power is fully displayed (Ex. 7:3, Deut. 6:22, Ps. 135:9, Acts 2:22, 4:30, 5:12, Rom. 15:19, 2 Cor. 12:12, Heb. 2:4, etc.).

Miracles are all directly attributed to God (cf. Ex. 15:11, Ps. 72:18). Moses turned his staff into a snake and then back into a staff (Ex. 4:2-8) as a demonstration to Israel that God had singled him out to lead. Similarly, the plagues against Egypt and Pharaoh (Ex. 7:12, 8:18-19, 9:11) were done as further evidence of Israel’s relationship with the one true God. Later on in the OT, Elijah confronts the priests of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:17-40) with fire from heaven as another demonstration of the LORD as the only one worthy of worship.

A Programming Note – Miracles

Going along with providence, miracles are part of it. Previously, I have, Reformed Theology argued that God exercises complete control, at all times, over his creation and created. This control is at his sovereign pleasure. After reading up on this subject, it seems best to divide and conquer it, Caesar’s ideal not mine, in the following way…

I. Miracles Defined

II. Miracles in the New Terstament

III. The Reasons For Miracles

IV. Are Miracles Restricted?

Briefly, miracles can be defined as A miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to itself. This definition keeps our previous definition regarding providence in God’s governance of it all.

Providence: How We Know God Will Triumph Over Evil? Part 2

Another problem with the assertion that evil is not according to the will of God is how can we be confident that he will triumph over it in the end? Of course, at the end of the Bible in the Book of Revelation, it tells of God winning out over Satan and evil.

If he was unable to keep evil out of the universe in the first place, it came against his will, and if he cannot predict what might happen based on the future events choices by human, both angelic and demonic agents, then how can we be certain of a good outcome? Logically, these are the Arminian positions on our free will and God’s being completely disconnected from evil.

Each of these makes one realize that while there are difficulties with the Reformed beliefs – that there is an unknown association between God and evil, there are more problems with the complete disassociation of God and evil.

To review, the Reformed beliefs on evil and God leaves two questions unanswered…

  1. Exactly how God can allow evil – human, angelic, and demonic and not be blamed for it?
  2. Exactly how God can cause or allow us to do what we willingly choose to do?

On the other hand, Arminians have their two questions…

  1. Why would God allow evil when it is against his will?
  2. What about the future?, can we be certain that God will win out, in the end, over evil?

However these are answered, the Arminian responses tend to diminish the greatness of God – his omniscience, his omnipotence and the reliability of his prophetic promises. Instead the greatness/importance of humankind is brought to the forefront – the freedom to do good or ill and in the power of evil.

Providence: How Can Evil Exist If God Doesn’t Want It? Part 1

Arminians view evil as not being in accord with the will of God? But, how can evil be around if God did not want it around? This is a clear denial of God’s omnipotence. The easy answer is to say God could prevent evil but allowed in in order that angels and humans would have the freedom to make meaningful choices. In other words, God allowed sinful choices in order that entirely free choices could be made.

This implies sinful choices could be made even in/from heaven. If choices are to genuine and real, even in heaven, those can choose evil and so rebel against God, losing salvation and as a result be cast out of heaven (cf. Isa. 14:4-17)?!

Other problems with “real choices” – good or ill, can be inferred…

  1. God’s choices are not real since he cannot choose evil.
  2. God’s choices are real and there is a very real possibility he could choose evil, a little or a lot.

This is a terrifying prospect but it is completely contrary to the testimony of Scripture. The first is clearly false as God is the definition of what is real. The second, how can God the author of what is good, choose evil? And so, we have come full circle back to the original question for which the Arminian reply seems lacking: How can evil exist if God did/does not want it to exist?

Providence: How Can God Know The Future?

According to Arminian beliefs, human choices are unrelated to God. They are totally free. But Scripture gives us many examples of God predicting the future and these prophecies exactly happened. How can God predict the future in if he is not certain of what will happen?

Some say God does not know details of the future, what humans will choose, but knows and predicts based on a complete knowledge of the present. This implies that God presently knows who the next POTUS will be or who will or will not be saved. This is a denial of omniscience and a clear denial of dozens of examples of predicted and fulfilled prophecies in Scripture.

Others say God knows everything that will happen, but this does not mean he planned or caused any of it – “foreknowledge does not imply foreordination.” The problem with this is that even if God didn’t plan/cause, the fact he knew means that it certainly would happen. This makes our choices predetermined, either by fate or by universal cause-and-effects not free in the Arminian sense – undetermined or uncaused.

A third response is somewhere between. These say the future choices of people are not determined by God but God knows what they will be because he knows how his free creatures will respond in any given circumstance. God knows what choices will be made. If that choice is guaranteed, then the outcome could not be otherwise. If both persons and circumstances have been allowed by God then ultimately the outcome has been determined by God. This is pretty close to the Reformed view of prophecy, but it lacks the kind of freedom most Arminians would find acceptable.

Providence: Do We All “Live Like Arminians?”

Both Calvinists and Arminians, all Protestants, believe our actions result in real consequence’s that can be eternally significant. Both agree we are responsible for our voluntary, willing choices. Both agree God answers prayer, that the spread of the Gospel saves people. Obedience to God results in an easer life. Disobedience leads to a more problematic, unblessed, sorrowful existence.

The main differences surrounds the doctrine of Providence. Reformed believers, when they are true to their beliefs, live with a far more comprehensive trust in God, regardless of circumstances, regardless of the setting, regardless of the times, with less concern about the future. They are convinced not just that God will somehow work it all out in the end, but that “all things” are working together for that end (cp. Rom. 8:28). They are thankful to God for the blessings that come as a result, regardless of the means. There was not a chance that it would work out otherwise, regardless of what it seem during the “run-up” – not in the universe or in the “free will” of human beings. God and his goodness will always win out.

They exercise patience in the rough patches, knowing they happen not come because God was unable to prevent or change them, but because the situation(s) are part of his “overall better” planning. Calvin stated:

Gratitude of mind for the favorable outcome of things, patience in adversity and also incredible freedom…Ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it.

Providence: Are Our Choices Really Choices?

Some believe the involvement of God in everything makes us “puppets” or “robots.” But puppets and robots (regardless of the construct of new-found artificial intelligence (AI), it’s simply another machine really!) do not think, do not choose, we do. Arminians wrongly believe from our situation as humans that God has those same limitations. We are limited in our capabilities. God is not limited in the least in what he can accomplish.

For example., suppose the world was nothing but plants, no animals or insects of any kind. Some plants say God could not make anything else because one must be rooted in the ground. Moving from/above the ground is impossible. An “Arminian” plant would observe that roots are necessary for life, that God could not created anything else but that could live. This thinking is a challenge to God’s omnipotence. The problem this plant has is its perspective of life is based solely on itself., being a plant. Thus, it views God’s power as limited with regard to the construct of something capable of living.

A problem we all have is we base our opinions on what God is capable of based on what we, ourselves, are capable of. These opinions are formed from our life and experiences and to some extent those of other humans. This is a similar vein to Arminian theologians that believe God cannot create creatures who make willing, voluntary, meaningful choices and these choices are, nonetheless, ordained and OK’ed by God regardless. Not necessarily “God’s best,” as Scripture advises.

The same can be said for evil. That God can ordain or allow that evil comes to fruition and yet not himself be responsible for it puts limitations on God merely based on the observations of our finite human experiences and observations.

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