What Is It: Signs and Wonders
In this What Is It series, we are exploring dozens of different topics within the Christian faith that are common, and commonly misunderstood. This series post is an objective overview of the Signs and Wonders of the Christian Bible.
As with every series post, we are asking for you, the community to play an active role in commenting and providing your understanding as well.
What are Signs and Wonders?
In the Old and the New Testaments, signs and wonders were miraculous and supernatural events that interrupted the normal physical world. These events included angelic visitations. The plagues of Egypt. The falling of the walls of Jericho. Various healings and resurrections. Prophesying. Casting out of demonic possession, and speaking in tongues.
These miraculous events were quite rare. Furthermore, as we review these events it becomes clear that they were rare and limited for a reason.
Secondarily, very few human vessels were used to perform signs and wonders in the Bible. In each case, as we’ll see, God gave these individuals the authority to perform signs and wonders. For the sake of this article, we will refer to this as delegated authority.
In modern times, Signs and Wonders are most commonly associated with the Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations. These signs or gifts are centered around three primary events: Speaking in Tongues, Divine Healings, and Prophecy. These are considered Gifts of the Spirit and members are encouraged to actively seek/practice them.
Who Performed These Miracles?
It is important to distinguish miraculous events from signs and wonders. God performs many miraculous events, from the forming of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1) to the rebirth of a new heaven and earth. (Revelation 21)
For instance, one of the greatest miraculous events God performs is the resurrection of a dead heart and making it new again in Christ. Salvation is the greatest miracle of all. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
However, the signs and wonders gifts were performed through a human vessel via delegated authority. In Exodus chapter 4 we watch the calling of Moses to perform signs and wonders before Pharoah for the purpose of leading the Hebrew people out of Egyptian bondage.
By 1 Kings chapter 17, we are introduced to Elijah and see many miracles performed, including the raising of the widow’s dead son. Then, in 1 Kings 19, we are introduced to Elijah’s successor, Elisha. When Elijah placed his cloak on Elisha, he was delegating his authority to him. This gave Elisha the power to perform signs and wonders, or miracles.
Of the miraculous, we find but 3 men in the Old Testament who were granted this delegated authority. Moses, Elijah, and Elisha. As you explore the New Testament you’ll find this delegated authority being given to the disciples of Christ, or his Apostles.
In Matthew 10:1 Jesus calls the twelve to them and grants them this delegated authority.
In Acts 2:43 the Apostles are putting this authority to good use. “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” And later, in Acts 6, Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit was doing many signs and wonders along with Phillip.
What was the purpose of these miraculous events?
In both the Old and New Testaments, the purpose of the miraculous was to prove the authority of the one doing the miracle. For Moses, it was to convince Pharoah to release the Hebrew people. In addition, with Jesus, it was to attest to his authority as one being sent by God.
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst,Acts 2:22, ESV
This same purpose stood true with the Apostles – to set them apart as having authority to lay the foundation of the church. Through them, God did many signs and wonders.
In 2 Corinthians 12, which is the only book in the New Testament to truly deal with this topic, Paul addresses how a true apostle would be identified.
Therefore, again we see that the purpose of the miraculous was to be evidence to authority. In addition, these miracles were immediate, complete, permanent, and visible. When someone was healed, it was not temporary. If a demon was cast out, it was permanent. Biblical miracles were obvious and public. Finally, they did not take time to come about.
Modern-Day Use and Deceit
We can use the aforementioned metrics to compare modern-day miracles to Biblical examples. Christ wanted us in Matthew 24:24 that false teachers and prophets would deceive us. How? By signs and wonders.
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.Matthew 24:24, ESV
For example, many faith healers today claim to be growing limbs through their ministry. Raising the dead. Bringing about prosperity. Even changing weather. Whether or not we believe these claims, the real question is whether or not they align with Scripture.
In conclusion, we can ask was the miracle immediate? Was it complete? Is it permanent? And was it visible? This is how we can attest to the truly miraculous.
Make sure to leave your feedback in the comments below and add your experiences and understandings to expand on this article.