The Nature of Miracles, Part 2 final

The Question of Providence vs. Miracles:

The question is: Is Providence different from miracles? Yes and no. It is different because in a sense God’s providence deal with more “ordinary manifestation,” like making rain to fall and miracles deal with more “extraordinary manifestations,” like parting the Red Sea. But at the same time providence and miracles are also similar. For instance, In Psalm 136 the miracles and wonders of God in His works of creation, the events of the Exodus are combined with His providential work of giving food to His people (vs. 25). So, general providence works with His miraculous works of creation and redemption.

“There is a sense in which all providence is wonderful or miraculous.”[1] This leads us to the last question of discussion: Have miracles Ceased? Before we answer this question, there is something that we know for sure: “that God’s providence has not ceased.” We read in Romans 8 that all things work together for our good; that is providence. We read in Matthew 6 that God provides for us. But if providence and miracles are used interchangeably or if they are part of one another, then we can say that miracles have not ceased today, because miracles involve God’s providence. So, have miracles ceased today? Of course not, because God’s providence is miraculous and God’s miracle is providential. If we look at it from that perspective then the answer is clear. But when theologians discuss the question: Have miracles ceased? They are assuming a distinction between providence and miracles. In a sense there is a distinction between the two, as I mentioned earlier: Providence deals with “ordinary manifestations” and miracles deal with “extraordinary manifestations.”

I want to argue that miracles have ceased in one sense and that they have not ceased in another sense. Let me make a couple of qualifications so there is no misunderstanding.

The first point is that the canon of Scripture has been closed. So if some archeologist finds a copy of Paul’s writing to a church where He affirms that his writing is inspired, we can be sure that that letter is not inspired, because the canon has been closed. The Bible is complete. The Spirit has sealed the Scriptures through His church.

The second point is that according to the Scriptures the gifts of tongues and prophecy have ceased. These gifts were common in a particular time of church history for a particular purpose and when that purpose was accomplished, God ceased to use them. For instance, we know that the charismatic gifts ceased in the first century because there is no historical evidence of these miracles after the time of the apostles.[2] The gifts were apostolic gifts and once the apostles laid the foundation of the church, these gifts ceased.[3]

However, because these particular gifts have ceased, this does not mean that all miracles have ceased.

Some miracles are still part of our world today. They are very rare, but they do happen. Doctors have reported to have seen large cancerous tumors disappear from in the span of one day; missionaries claim all sorts of miraculous events in the mission field. We have no reason to doubt them. But these miracles are rare. They are rare because God does not have sufficient reason to make them frequent.[4] God has already revealed His son to us and redemption has been accomplished, which is the greatest of all miracles. We should not expect God to turn water into wine or to divide seas normatively, but we should expect for him to operate miracles that would bring about His glory among the nations. You may never see such a miracle, but you cannot deny that they happen. In theology, we define the position that all gifts and miracles have ceased as “cessationism.” The position I argue for is semi-cessationism. I still believe that miracles happen, but in very rare circumstances.

The one lesson this teaches us is that in this day, though miracles happen rarely, we should not make the pursuit of these miracles central in our worship. The church has lost a lot of its authority to speak to the world because they have substituted the ordinary means of grace, preaching, the sacraments, prayer for the spectacular and miraculous. This is absurd and it minimizes the centrality of the Living Word of God. Let us return to the ordinary and let God in His own timing perform the extraordinary.

[1] Frame, pg. 262.

[2] See B.B. Warfield’s Miracles: Yesterday and Today.

[3] Also put the spectacular gifts on this list like “walking on water, etc.

[4] Frame, 264.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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