Miracles Misunderstood

by Tim Hall
A remarkable story has come out of New York City. On December 7, Alcides Moreno and his brother were washing windows on a Manhattan skyscraper when their scaffolding collapsed. They plunged 47 stories to the ground below, a fall of about 500 feet. The brother was killed, but Alcides survived and was placed on life support. On Christmas Day he spoke for the first time since the accident. Doctors now expect him to walk again.
Dr. Philip Barie, chief of surgery, spoke what many are thinking: “If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one.” Mrs. Moreno certainly believes; “Thank God for the miracle that we had,” she said in the Associated Press story released on January 3.
We do not hesitate to give glory to God for amazing recoveries like Alcides’. James instructed Christians to pray in times of sickness (James 5:13), pointing to help that is greater than any medicine. Man’s best efforts often fall short, but God’s surpassing power and wisdom can do what man’s abilities cannot.
But was the survival and recovery of Alcides Moreno a miracle?
A true miracle occurred on the island of Malta long ago. The apostle Paul had picked up an armload of sticks to place on the fire, and “a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand” (Acts 28:3, NKJV). Bystanders were convinced Paul was receiving divine punishment, knowing he could not survive the bite of such a poisonous creature. After seeing no ill effects develop, however, they changed their minds and decided Paul must be a god!
What was this incident all about? Jesus had foretold such things would happen with those early ambassadors of Christianity: “And these signs will follow those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them …” (Mark 16:17,18). All of those feats mentioned by Jesus are true miracles. They don’t happen unless divine power supersedes natural law.
It’s extremely rare that a person can fall 500 feet and live to tell about it. But Alcides suffered great physical harm in the process. What if he had suffered no ill effects? What if his brother had not been killed? Those would be true miracles of Biblical proportions. Paul, as we saw, spent no time in ICU; the natives saw that “no harm came to him” (Acts 28:6). He was miraculously spared the harm that normally comes from snake venom.
Amazing things sometimes happen in our world. Let’s be careful to realize the difference between “amazing” and “miraculous.” Miracles were a temporary phenomenon for the first years of a new message from God (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, for example). We see nothing today that resembles the miracles of New Testament times.

3 Replies to “Miracles Misunderstood”

  1. A close friend of mine is a medical doctor, in fact a cancer doctor, an oncologist. He has seen literally hundreds of his patients 100% cured of cancer who he has given just a short time to live. Are not these miracles?
    One time in 1978, my daughter of 9 months went into a coma, My wife is a nuclear medicine technologist. She had our daughter admitted to the hospital in which she worked and had a slew of tests done. The doctors could find no reason why she did not wake up for several days. We had a baby sitter for our children who was 15 years old. She came and asked if a prayer group from her church could come and pray over her. We consented. That evening a group of about 7 people came and formed a circle around her and prayed “in tongues”. My daughter, Allyson, was just learning to take her first step by holding onto furniture a taking one small step. She opened her eyes and literally ran around the rome, RAN!!! She was throwing her arms up into the air and running and laughing. That my friends was truly a miracle and was the catayst that led me back to the Lord. Shortly after that I was made a new creature in Christ and my mind was renewed. God’s will became the guiding light in my life!!!

  2. Tim,
    Your articles are relevant and timely. Thanks for keeping one eye on the news and the other on the Word.

  3. Bill, I rejoice at every example of amazing recoveries that I hear about. I, too, have been witness to several occasions where doctors have given up hope, but the patient still recovers and does well. In each of these cases, God’s power has been demonstrated. I still maintain, however, that these are not examples of “miraculous” power.
    Miracles were a prominent feature of early Christianity, but were not designed to continue indefinitely. One reason for saying that is based on Acts 8:18: There the ability to perform miracles was contingent on having an apostle lay hands upon a person. Until that happened, no one could do the miraculous. But what happened when the last apostle died? How could that power then be conveyed? It just shows that 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 is speaking about the end of the age of miracles.
    Again I stress that God’s power is still at work in our world today, and it often amazes us. But there is a clear difference between remarkable recoveries and miraculous healing. Either way, God’s power is at work.

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