What Are Signs and Wonders and Miracles?

What are the Scriptures that reveal them? How are they relevant to my life today? Or have they ceased today?

This post is divided into three parts:

Biblical Data

Practical Theology

Application

Let’s get started.

The Biblical Data: Miracles, Signs, and Wonders

Here are three Greek word, with pronunciation guides for beginners.

1.. Dunamis (pronounced DOO-na-mis, and dynamis is pronounced DY-na-mis, but most teachers prefer the first one): It is often translated as “miracle” or “miraculous power” or “power.” It means power in action, not static, but kinetic. It moves. Yes, we get our word dynamite from it, but God is never out of control, like dynamite is. Its purpose is to usher in the kingdom of God and repair and restore broken humanity, both in body and soul. This is why the power of God in many of the verses below reside and work within humankind.

Scriptures:

Matt. 7:22: False disciples perform miracles and drive out demons in his name, but they do no know him. This no doubt refers to Jewish exorcists who performed some level chased out demons (Mark 9:38; Acts 19:14-15). But it could also refer to redeemed people who have lost their way and distract from the essence of the gospel and grab all the attention with their miracles.

Matt. 11:20, 23: Jesus rebuked the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida, because they did not believe in the Messiah, who had done miracles there, whereas Tyre and Sidon and even Sodom would have repented if miracles were done for them.

Matt. 13:54 and Mark 6:5: His hometown marveled at Jesus’s wisdom and miracles, but he did not do many because of their unbelief.

Matt. 14:2: People falsely believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead, so that’s why Jesus was able to work miracles. Wrong. He worked them because God was with him.

Mark 5:30 and Luke 8:46: Jesus realized power went out of him to heal the woman with the issue of blood who had touched his garment.

Mark 9:39: John, son of Zebedee, stopped an (unnamed) man who had been driving out demons in Jesus’s name and power, but Jesus said to let him continue because no man who does miracles in Jesus’s name will says bad things about the Messiah. He will be rewarded.

Luke 4:14: After Jesus finished overcoming Satan’s temptation, he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit to Nazareth, his hometown, who rejected him. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

Luke 4:36: the people in the synagogue at Capernaum were amazed at Jesus’s authority and power, after he set free a man with an impure spirit.

Luke 5:17: The power of the Lord was present to heal, so people came from far and wide to see him.

Luke 9:1-2: Jesus gave the Twelve together and gave the power and authority to drive out all demons and cure all diseases, to proclaim the good news and heal the sick.

Luke 10:18-19: Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning, and Jesus gave his disciples authority to trample on snakes and scorpions (representing demons) and to overcome the power of the enemy, so even Satan and demons have a certain level of power, but we through Jesus can defeat it.

Luke 19:37: When Jesus, as the servant-king, approached Jerusalem on the donkey, the people cried out because of all the miracles they had seen.

Luke 24:49: Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high.

Acts 1:8: In light of Luke 24:49, Jesus tells them they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them.

Acts 2:22: Jesus was accredited by God through the miracles God did.

Acts 3:12: After Peter and John healed the beggar by the Gate called Beautiful, he leaped and rejoiced and held on to them, but they told him that it was the power of God, not their own power or godliness, that he was healed.

Acts 8:13: Simon the Sorcerer was astonished at the great miracles and great signs Philip the evangelist and one of the seven deacons performed.

Acts 10:38: God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power, and by them he helped and delivered people from Satanic oppression and diseases.

Acts 19:11: God did extraordinary miracles through Paul the apostle and missionary, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were healed and demons driven out.

Rom. 15:19 (power): Paul will speak only about what Christ has accomplished through him in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what Paul had said and done, by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor. 2:4-5: Paul did not use persuasive words alone, but the power of the Spirit, so their faith would not rest on words alone, but on God’s power.

1 Cor. 4:20: The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.

1 Cor. 5:4: Paul is with the Corinthians in spirit, and the power of the Lord is present.

1 Cor. 6:14: God by his power raised Jesus from the dead.

1 Cor. 12:10, 28: Working of miracles was one of the nine gifts of the Spirit. In v. 28, Paul asked if everyone had this gift, and the implied answer is no.

2 Cor. 12:9: God’s power is made sufficient in Paul’s weakness.

2 Cor. 13:13: Jesus was crucified in weakness, but raised in power, and by God’s power we will live with him to serve people.

2 Cor. 12:12: Paul displayed the marks of the apostleship by doing signs, wonders, and miracles.

Gal. 3:5: God gave the Galatians the Spirit and miracles by faith, not the law.

Eph. 1:9: God has given incomparably great power to us who believe.

Eph. 3:9: God’s gift of grace was given to Paul through the working of God’s power.

Eph. 3:16: May God strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

Eph. 3:20: God’s power is at work within us.

Phil. 3:10: Paul wants to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. We should too.

Col. 1:11: the Colossians (and us) may be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might (kratos), to live with endurance and patience.

Col. 1:29: Paul works hard to proclaim the gospel and mature the church with all his energy, which God works so powerfully in him.

1 Thess. 1:5: The gospel did not come to the Thessalonians (and us) with words only, but in power and the Holy Spirit, with full conviction.

2 Thess. 1:11: Paul prays that God will make the Thessalonians (and us) worthy of God’s call and fulfill your every good purpose or resolve and work of faith in power.

2 Thess. 2:9: The lawless man is coming in accordance with how Satan works: He will use all sorts of displays of power (dynamis) through counterfeit or false signs and wonders that will support the lie.

2 Tim: 1:7: God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and self-discipline (or soundness of mind).

2 Tim 1:8: Timothy is asked to join with Paul in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

Heb. 2:4: God testified to and confirmed salvation by signs, wonders and various miracles and gifts the Holy Spirit distributed according to God’s will.

1 Peter 1:5: We are through faith guarded by God’s power for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last days.

2 Peter 1:3: His divine power has given us everything we need for life.

2.. Sēmeion (pronounced say-MAY-on): It is mostly translated as “sign” or “miraculous sign.” A sign points towards the loving God who wants to heal and redeem broken humanity, both in soul and body. Signs are indicators of God breaking into his world, but not to show off per se, but to help people and announce that he is here to save and rescue.

Scriptures:

Matt. 12:38-39 and John 2:18: Pharisees and teachers of the law asked (demanded) a sign, but Jesus rebuked them because miraculous signs are not for a show, but to help people organically, when they mix their need and request for help with faith.

In the Gospel of John Jesus performed these overt signs:

(1) Changing water into wine (2:1-11)

(2) Healing an official’s son (4:43-54)

(3) Healing disabled man at pool of Bethesda (5:1-15)

(4) Feeding 5000 (6:1-14, 26, 30)

(5) Walking on water (6:16-21)

(6) Healing the man born blind (9:1-12)

(7) Raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44)

Epilogue sign: Miraculous catch of fish (21:1-14)

John 2:23: At the feast of Passover, Jesus performed signs, and many people believed in his name.

John 3:2: Nicodemus believes in Jesus because only the Messiah could do the signs he was performing.

John 7:31: Many people believed in him because of the signs he had done.

John 9:16: Some Pharisees said Jesus was a sinner because he does not keep the Sabbath, but others replied that a sinner could not perform such signs.

John 10:41: John never performed a sign, but everything he said about Jesus was true.

John 12:18: Many people looked for Jesus because they heard he had raised Lazarus from the dead—a sign.

John 12:37: Even though Jesus performed so many signs right in front of the people, many would not believe him.

John 20:30: Jesus performed many signs right in front of the disciples, which are not recorded in his Gospel.

Acts 2:19: In the last days God will show wonders in the sky and signs on the earth.

Acts 2:22: Jesus was a man accredited by God through signs, miracles, and wonders, says Peter in his sermon, right after Pentecost.

Acts 2:43: The apostles performed many signs and wonders, so everyone was filled with wonder.

Acts 4:16, 22: Peter and John healed a lame man, and the Sanhedrin called them before the court and admitted the two disciples performed the miraculous sign.

Acts 4:30: The disciples prayed in unison that God would stretch out his hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your servant Jesus.

Acts 5:12: The apostles perform many wonders and signs among the people.

Acts 6:8: Stephen performed many wonders and signs among the people.

Acts 7:36: Moses performed many wonders and signs through the desert.

Acts 8:6, 13: the crowds in Samaria marveled at the signs Philip the evangelist and one of the seven deacons, performed, and Simon the Sorcerer believed and was baptized and was astonished at the great signs and miracles.

Acts 14:3: In Iconium, Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of grace be enabling them to perform signs and wonders.

Acts 15:12: At the Council in Jerusalem, the whole assembly listened to Paul and Barnabas telling them about the signs and wonders God had performed to the Gentiles through them.

Rom. 15:19: Paul will speak only about what Christ has accomplished through him in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what Paul had said and done, by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor. 1:22: Jews demand sign, and the Greeks look for wisdom, but Paul and his team preach Christ crucified. Demand for signs for national deliverance goes in the wrong direction, because God works signs to help people organically with their need for salvation and bodily repair—healing.

1 Cor. 14:22: the gift of Spirit-inspired languages, archaically called “tongues,” is a sign to the unbelievers; that is, it is miraculous because the speaker does not know the language with his mind, but speaks by the Spirit.

2 Cor. 12:12: Paul displayed the marks of the apostleship by doing signs, wonders, and miracles.

2 Thess. 2:9: The lawless man is coming in accordance with how Satan works: He will use all sorts of displays of power (dynamis) through counterfeit or false signs and wonders that will support the lie.

Heb. 2:4: God testified to and confirmed salvation by signs, wonders and various miracles and gifts the Holy Spirit distributed according to God’s will.

Rev. 13:13: A second beast performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven.

Rev. 16:14: Demonic spirits, like frogs coming out of coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the false prophet, performed signs.

Rev. 19:20: The beast and false prophet, who had performed signs, were captured the rider on his horse and his army,

3.. Teras (pronounced Teh-rahss): It is often translated as “wonders” and always in the plural. Only once does it appear without “signs,” where wonders will appear in the sky (Acts 2:19). Otherwise, “wonders and signs” appear together. Wonders inspire awe and worship of God through Christ who performs the wonders. The purpose is to patch up and restore broken humanity. They testify that God in his kingdom power is here to save and rescue people.

Scriptures (some of which repeat the ones above):

Matt. 24:24 and Mark 13:22: false messiahs and false prophets will appear in the last days and perform all sorts of wonders and signs, to deceive people.

John 4:48: With exasperation, Jesus told the people that unless they see wonders and signs, they will not believe.

Acts 2:19: In the last days God will show wonders in the sky and signs on the earth.

Acts 2:22: Jesus was a man accredited by God through signs, miracles, and wonders, says Peter in his sermon, right after Pentecost.

Acts 2:43: The apostles performed many signs and wonders, so everyone was filled with wonder.

Acts 4:30: The disciples prayed in unison that God would stretch out his hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your servant Jesus.

Acts 5:12: The apostles perform many wonders and signs among the people.

Acts 6:8: Stephen performed many wonders and signs among the people.

Acts 7:36: Moses performed many wonders and signs through the desert.

Acts 14:3: In Iconium, Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of grace be enabling them to perform signs and wonders.

Acts 15:12: At the Council in Jerusalem, the whole assembly listened to Paul and Barnabas telling them about the signs and wonders God had performed to the Gentiles through them.

Rom. 15:19: Paul will speak only about what Christ has accomplished through him in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what Paul had said and done, by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

2 Cor. 12:12: Paul displayed the marks of the apostleship by doing signs, wonders, and miracles.

2 Thess. 2:9: The lawless man is coming in accordance with how Satan works: He will use all sorts of displays of power (dynamis) through counterfeit or false signs and wonders that will support the lie.

Heb. 2:4: God testified to and confirmed salvation by signs, wonders and various miracles and gifts the Holy Spirit distributed according to God’s will.

Practical Theology

From the above data, we can draw some conclusions.

An Illustration

In working miracles, God walks into his world much like a homeowner walks into his house, but who had rented it to people: us. He sometimes has to take action without our permission, though Moses had to hold his staff up at the parting of the Red Sea, when the criminals (Egyptians) were going to destroy his chosen renters (Israelites), or when Jesus came to usher in the kingdom during his ministry.

In other cases, the renters (broken humans) are involved in receiving miracles and signs and wonders and have to ask and seek and knock and have faith to receive miracles. He gives them jurisdiction and authority over his creation, so they must invite the landlord into his own house to work the miracle! In Acts 2:1-3, the 120 gathered in the house were praying and seeking and were in total unity. He was glad to break in with power and wonders and signs.

But in one instance, he did not do—could not do—mighty works among his own hometown people because of their unbelief (Matt. 13:57-58; Mark 6:5-6). In another passage, the people of Gerasene asked Jesus to leave after he liberated a demonically oppressed man (or two men) (Matt. 8:34; Mark. 5:17).

Have miracles ceased?

In all the above Scriptures under dunamis, sēmeion, and teras, none of them say they have died out or ceased for today. The trend line is to continue in them, just as the first-century church launched them. Why? How? It’s in the simple (but not simplistic) formula:

Need → Want→ Demand → Supply

Need drives want and want drives demand for the supply of miracles. People have to need and then truly want the miracle with a free heart, full of faith and trust. Once the demand—or request—is made, the supply from God comes. Wherever people have needs, the age of miracles will never cease, and neither will the gift of Spirit-inspired languages. God really, really wants to patch people up in body and soul, and if he has to work signs and wonders and miracles to accomplish his mission, he will. However, in the western world, we (believe that we) don’t need God to perform a miracle of healing, for example, because we have doctors and pills. In the developing world, in contrast, their access to medicine is limited, so their need for healing is strong, which drives the want—demand—supply. Do God work miracles in the western world? Absolutely! But only when the formula is set in motion. It seems an individual here and there catch the vision to see God work a miracle.

We should not draw the false conclusion that because we in the West are spiritually self-satisfied and can get our needs met without God, miracles have ceased. People in the developing world will laugh at that over-reaching conclusion.

The trend line that flows out of the heart to God is that God continues with his miraculous power.

Divine source

What was the source of Jesus’s mighty deeds and wonders and signs? He was fully God and fully man. He never laid aside his divine attributes, for if he did, then he would not be fully God while living on the earth (Phil. 2:5-8 talks about his laying aside the glories and privileges and environment of heaven, but nothing about attributes). But his divine attributes were hidden under his humanity and surrendered to his Father. And God alone decided when the mighty deeds and signs and wonders would be displayed. So Peter said in the first sermon of the Christian church, “which God did through him [Jesus]” (Acts 2:22).

The reason the Father hid Jesus’s divine attributes behind his humanity is that the Father wanted Jesus to fully experience what it was like to be human, so he could fully relate to us. He was tempted in his humanity in every way that we were, but without sin (Heb. 2:14-18).

The Messiah, the Anointed One, had to be anointed

In addition to his divine attributes, Jesus was anointed for service at his baptism (Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:31-34). The Spirit came on him, and he was empowered. In Luke 4:14-21, in the synagogue at Nazareth, his hometown, he read from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Then Acts 10:38 says that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power (dynamis), and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power [katadunasteuō] of the devil, because God was with him.” The devil has dynastic power over people, but Jesus fights that power with the power of Almighty God.

The divine attributes were surrendered to God, and he required Jesus to be anointed and appointed and full of the Spirit, so he could show us how to minister as he did, in his name and by God doing the miracles. The Trinity is in view here: the Father anointed Jesus through the Spirit, and Jesus as the God-man worked out our redemption and healing and deliverance from disease and evil spirits.

In this post, how can I draw closer to Jesus?

2 Thess. 2:9 says: “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie” (NIV).

However, let’s not be so scared that we ignore that Satan is just copying God, so that the untrained in Scripture can be deceived. The antidote is to know Scripture.

A great truth that can change your life: God today can work the same mighty deeds and signs and wonders—through you, based on Acts 1:8 and 2:1-4 and John 14:12. We must receive his Spirit-immersion and Spirit-empowerment. This is not to say that we have his fully divine attributes (not even close!), but he does give us the Holy Spirit in fire (purification) and power, so he through us can do those things. We share in his anointing and Spirit-empowerment, because he is the Spirit-baptizer-immerser (John 1:33; Acts 2:33). Jesus in his humanity and his anointing can now relate to his followers, who also need to receive the anointing and fullness of the Spirit’s power, so they can minster effectively and carry on those wonderful works spelled out in Luke 4:14:21 (Acts 1:8 and 2:1-4). It’s a joint effort and cooperation—God and human.

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