Some people say they don’t believe Christians should expect God to do the kind of miracles that are recorded in the book of Acts. Other people are continually talking about experiencing miracles of healing. The literature of faith healers abounds with amazing claims. Interestingly, Eve Simson, a university professor of sociology, made the following statement:
Over the years, while conducting my investigation of deliverance evangelism, I met many individuals who testified that they had received a miraculous cure, and I witnessed many claims to instantaneous cures at the revival meetings. But I was not able to obtain enough proof for any of them to convince me that they were true miracles of healing. At no time did I encounter anyone who even testified to something like the regrowth of a severed arm or leg (The Faith Healer, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 1977, p.197.)
Let’s take a look at the miracles in Acts, considering their frequency and their purpose.
The Frequency Of Miracles. The book of Acts records at least 20 specific miracles and tells of 9 times when clusters of them occurred.
- SPECIFIC MIRACLES
- Sound of rushing wind (2:2).
- Tongues of fire (2:3).
- Miraculous speech (2:4).
- Lame man healed (3:1-10).
- Building shaken (4:31).
- Sudden death of Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11).
- Imprisoned apostles freed by angel (5:17-21).
- Philip transported from desert to Azotus (8:40).
- Light and voice at Saul’s conversion (9:1-9).
- Saul blinded and healed (9:8-19).
- Aeneas healed of paralysis (9:32-35).
- Dorcas restored to life (9:36-41).
- Herod’s violent death (12:20-23).
- Elymas the sorcerer blinded (13:6-11).
- Cripple at Lystra healed (14:8-10).
- Demons cast out of a slave girl (16:16-18).
- Paul freed from prison by earthquake (16:25-27).
- Eutychus raised from death (20:7-12).
- Paul unaffected by viper’s bite (28:3-5).
- Father of Publius healed (28:8).
- CLUSTERS OF MIRACLES
- “Many wonders and signs” (2:43).
- “Many signs and wonders” (5:12).
- “The shadow of Peter” apparently healed some, and “a multitude gathered… and they were all healed” (5:15-16).
- “Stephen… did great wonders and signs” (6:8).
- “The multitudes… heeded…, hearing and seeing the miracles which [Philip] did” (8:6).
- “The Lord… [granted] signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (14:3).
- “Barnabas and Paul [declared] how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them” (15:12).
- “God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul… even handkerchiefs or aprons” (19:11-12).
- “The rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed” (28:9).
A Wrong Assumption About Miracles. The fact that many miracles occurred does not mean that every believer should always expect one whenever he faces a problem. God didn’t always bring miraculous deliverance from danger and suffering to His children.
- Peter and John arrested, imprisoned, and scourged (4:1-8; 5:22-41).
- Stephen stoned to death (6:8–7:60).
- Christians scattered through persecution (8:1-3).
- James executed (12:1-2).
- Paul stoned (14:19-20).
- Paul and Silas arrested, scourged, placed in stocks (16:22-28).
- Paul arrested and tried (chs.21–28).
- Paul (during the Acts period) was whipped with 39 lashes 5 times, beaten with rods 3 times, shipwrecked 3 times, adrift on the sea for 24 hours, often sleepless, hungry, thirsty, and cold (2 Cor. 11:22-27).
- Paul (during the Acts period) was afflicted with a “thorn in the flesh” from which he was not delivered (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
It is obvious that God did not perform miracles just to make life easy and pleasant for His children.
The Purpose Of Miracles In Acts. God’s primary purpose in performing miracles was to authenticate the ministry of the apostles, just as Jesus’ miracles verified His claim to be the Son of God.
This authenticating purpose of miracles is further indicated in the fact that they tended to occur in clusters. The Old Testament records three occasions when a number of miracles occurred:
- At the beginning of Israel’s history from the Exodus through the rule of Judges.
- At the beginning of the prophetic era with Elijah and Elisha.
- At the beginning of Israel’s exile.
As noted earlier, the gospels and the book of Acts record many miracles. But by AD 64-68 they were no longer prevalent. The writer of Hebrews acknowledged this when he wrote:
How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (Heb. 2:3-4).
These verses tell us a great deal about the nature of first-century miracles and their purpose. They were not quiet miracles, they were spectacular. Using the past tense, the writer of Hebrews described them by the use of three significant terms:
- He called them “signs” (semeion)—visible pointers to God’s supernatural activity.
- He called them “wonders” (teras)—works intended to create a sense of awe and
- He called them “miracles” (dunamis)—mighty acts that reveal God’s power.
Do miracles occur today? Yes. God answers prayer, but these answers are not so open, obvious, and spectacular that unbelievers admit their occurrence. We see very few “signs” and “wonders” today. When God answers our petitions for healing or deliverance, He usually works in such a way that the skeptic can easily deny that a miracle happened.