devotional

08SEP
2012

Miracles and Providence

 

     The illustrious power to perform miracles is a legacy that should be protected in the church. It’s no show. Those who truly performed them were from God, John 3:2; 9:32-33. There is a difference between God’s providence in our lives and miracles. I want to make the proper distinction in my own theology.

     The time of creation, the Exodus, the conquest into Canaan, the initiation of the Old Testament prophetic office with Elijah and Elisha, and the time of Christ and His Apostles, unlike all other times in history, saw an overabundant concentration of miracles. The overwhelming majority of redemptive history was devoid of them. Jesus’ ministry by far exceeded all of these other epochs in many ways. Jesus’ miracles weren’t silly little miraclettes. Not even his enemies could deny them. He wielded an awesome power. He told an ocean to stop its violence and it backed down! Mark 4:39. He stuffed full over 10,000 people with one kid’s lunch, Matthew 14:14-21. He fermented water into wine, John 2:1-11. Such is the kind of unmistakable miracle power He yielded daily. These days the term "miracle" is tossed around too haphazardly.

     Here’s an example. I had my third daughter yesterday. What a blessing! I’m writing this to you now from the hospital room. Some say that she’s a miracle. I understand why someone would say it. Life’s amazing to behold, but friends, she is not a miracle. A miracle is a violation of the natural order; a birth like ours is no violation of that order. A miracle is something that can only be possible by supernatural means/ by God’s direct intervention above or outside the created order. That’s perhaps the simplest key to the distinction between God’s providence and God’s miracles. God’s works may make use of secondary means to accomplish His divine ends. He may even use the prayers of an individual to change the whole shebang, but, all things equal, the Biblical definition of a miracle is that which cannot be of natural order. Its accomplishing force cannot possibly be natural. It must be above the natural or supernatural.

     A birth is not a miracle because in the beginning God made it so that a man and a woman, like all of His creation, would bring forth offspring after their kind, cf. Genesis 1:11-12 and Genesis 2:24. My daughters are all the result of this created order. When this happens it is His providentially designed order. It’s interesting that Sarah’s pregnancy with Isaac, though a result of the natural order of intimacy between her and her husband Abraham, was still a miracle. God opened her womb when she was well beyond the age of fertility. She was barren until God miraculously opened her womb, Genesis 11:30; 18:10-14. This is a miracle that then produced God’s natural design. Its accomplishing force, however, was God's miraculous intervention.

     We live under the providence of God. If something can be explained by natural means then it’s not likely miraculous. Every day there are people, even pagans, who survive horrific cars wrecks, have diseases that go into remission or disappear, receive calls from long lost loved ones, have kids, nearly die, find money when they need it most, etc. All things fall under God’s providence, but not everything is a miracle. If the thing you’re talking about could at all be explained by natural means then it’s likely not a miracle in the Biblical sense. If it’s a natural thing that’s origin can only be God then it may qualify. If you know that something is only of God, but it is not a violation of nature, then call it what it is. Let’s call miracles what they are, and thank God for His providential works as what they are as well. In this, miraculous works will stand out as they are intended to, and so will His wonderful providence.

     Salvation in a person’s heart is a miracle work on par with the creation of the cosmos. It is a supernatural violation of the natural order that cannot be attributed to anything in the natural order. It is the only sure miracle I’ve seen in my life. Does God do miracles still? Yes, every single day!

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