New Testing Phase

Friday, 16 September 2011

A Matter Of Authority–Healing And Miracles Part 1

This is post number two from the requests I got recently, and the topic for this post is healings and miracles. However when I began writing this post, I did not consider the amount of ground I had to cover, so now its part 1 of at least 2 maybe more posts on the subject. It is my contention that authority is the key to understanding miracles. Just to be clear, in this context, healing refers to supernatural healing that happens because God directly heals the wound using no natural means, such as medicine or anything suchlike. Miracles are happening, events or such like that have no natural explanation, they could only come about by a supernatural intervention.
My outline is as follows: It is important to get a clear biblical understanding of what the bible says about this topic so in Part 1 I will be focussing first on biblical miracles to form a theology of miracles. Building on from that I will look at modern views of miracles and how they apply today. I would also like to take an in depth look at miracles as they happen/ are reported to happen today.

A Biblical Theology Of Miracles

First let me say: I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES. If you aren’t convinced yourself, turn with me in your bible to Genesis 1:1. Very first sentence in the bible proves that miracles happen.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

God, using supernatural means created the earth and the universe. According to our definition that would qualify as a miracle. He did in fact create natural means in this verse. Now I would argue that creation is the second greatest miracle in the bible (the first being our salvation through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection). But think through this with me. If God created (spoke into existence to be precise) everything, that is every molecule, put in place every scientific law and made dust into living creatures, then manipulating these things so that a Red Sea parts here or a bush that burns but isn’t consumed there really isn’t that hard for Him. To put it in a punchy way, if Genesis 1 is true, then the rest of the bible is believable. (Which is why creationism is important, but that aside)
It is interesting that up until Jesus began his earthly ministry, miracles were incredibly rare. I’m talking specifically about those miracles we commonly refer to as signs and wonders miracles. These are typically associated with a particular person, a miracle worker of some kind, usually a prophet in the Old Testament and with various apostles in the New Testament.

Other than the events of creation we see almost nothing until Moses. After Moses has turned his staff into a snake, parted the Red Sea and fed the people manna supernaturally for 40 years the tap of miracles slowed and after Joshua has taken Jericho cease altogether with a very few exceptions (I think of Gideon) until Elijah and Elisha come. These men again perform a number of miracles but again they diminished after Elisha had died. Some of the other prophets did perform miracles but on a relatively small scale and not very often. Then Jesus comes on the scene. He blazes away with turning water into wine, clear and obvious healings where limbs grew back, multiplying food such that a fish-paste sandwich fed upwards of twenty thousand people. The purpose of this was to demonstrate His authority to teach what He taught and to show His power as God. After Jesus returned to heaven, He gave His apostles authority to do many signs and wonders, including talking in tongues, healing people, raising people from the dead. However again we see that towards the end of the first century that miracles of this kind (that is signs and wonders from a particular person) seems to die out.

We can get the impression from reading the bible that these kinds of miracles are commonplace, they are not. Over six thousand years of human history, such things are rare, isolated cases of a man, specifically commissioned by God to perform the signs. Let us turn now to the purpose of miracles. In the bible, signs and wonders miracles are always used to authenticate the message preached. Lets go through some examples:

  1. Moses, when first meeting with God at the burning bush is told to request of Pharaoh to let them leave Egypt, now read on: Exodus 3:19-20 19But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

    Do you see that in before before Pharaoh lets the people go, God through Moses was going to show many displays of power, miracles if you will. Now even more to the point, read Exodus 4: 1-5: mosesandtheburningbush

    Then Moses answered, "But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, 'The LORD did not appear to you.'" 2The LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A staff." 3And he said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4But the LORD said to Moses, "Put out your hand and catch it by the tail"--so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand-- 5"that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."

    This says it exactly. Moses wants to know how He can prove that the message he brings is from God, God says throw down your stick and (miracle alert) it turns into a snake. Pick it up and it becomes a staff again. Same happened in the next few verses when Moses put his hand in his cloak and drew it out again, it instantly had leprosy, and again when he put his had back in and out again it was healed.
  2. Elijah was a prophet in Israel during a rather bad time, Ahab and his wife Jezebel. Between 1 Kings 16 and 2 Kings 9 these two made life in Israel rather difficult for those who served the Lord. During this time the prophet Elijah operated. Probably his most famous miracle happened during the duel with the prophets of Baal. In 1 Kings 18 he challenges the prophets, all 450 of them, what follows is a scene where two burnt elijah-kills-prophets-of-baaloffering are set up but only the one for God is consumed by fire, only after a considerable amount of water is poured onto it. The prophets wail and cry and even cut themselves hoping that their god would hear them. But Elijah prays “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back." Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (1 Kings 18 36-38)

    Do you see how Elijah, in asking for this miracle, is asking for God to substantiate Him as a prophet (that I am your servant) as well to demonstrate to the people that there is only one God. He is using the expected miracle as the ratification that He is the prophet of God.

Ok, I have written enough for one post (about 2 pages if you are interested). I have attempted to show how miracles in the Old Testament were used as an authority, something the prophet could point to to say, “I am from God.” I will begin part 2 by developing this point further and showing some New Testament examples.

Until them, Him we proclaim…

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