In the New Testament Jesus directed people to the miracles to validate who He is.
Even in the Old Testament, we see this same principle of authentication in the life of Moses and Elijah. Moses questioned God about his concern that the people wouldn’t believe that he was sent by the Lord. God’s way of certifying the ministry of Moses is found in Exodus chapter 4.
And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. 2 And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. 3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. 4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: 5 That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.
During the ministry of the prophet Elijah, he is sent to Zarephath to be sustained by a widow during a drought. After God miraculously provides food to this widow her son falls ill and dies. Elijah cries out to the Lord and the soul of the child came back to him. Elijah then delivers the child to his mother and proclaims, “thy son liveth!” (1 Kings 17:8-24) In verse 24 of 1 Kings we find the widow’s response:
1 Kings 17:24
And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this, I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.
For both Moses and Elijah the miracle verified the message! Likewise in the New Testament Jesus would often point to His works to confirm His words. In John chapter 10 Jesus told the Jews at the temple that He is the Shepherd and He gives eternal life to His sheep. He promised that His sheep would never perish and no one would be able to pluck His sheep out of His or His Father’s hand. Then Jesus tells the Jews that He and God are one. This statement enraged the Jews so much that they picked up stones to kill Jesus because they believed He has committed blasphemy. Don’t miss what Jesus indicated to authenticate what He just said:
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. 38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
Once again Jesus staked the credibility of the message on the miracles that He performed. This same miraculous power was given to the Apostles as we saw earlier in the book of Mark to confirm the good news of the Gospel! The above mentioned are only a handful of the many examples found in Scripture. The miracles of the Old Testament authenticated Moses and the Prophets and the miracles of the New Testament authenticated Christ and His Apostles.
If the purpose of sign gifts were to verify the message do we still need those gifts to substantiate the message today?
These miraculous gifts were for a specific purpose, given to specific people, for a specific time.
- Purpose – Authenticating the message and ministry of the Apostles.
- People – The Apostles and their close companions.
- Time – As the foundation of the church was being laid and the canon of Scripture was being completed. (1 Corinthians 13)
The New Testament indicates that only the apostles and those who were closely associated with them had the power to do miracles. (2 Corinthians 12:12 “…signs of an apostle…”)
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; (Those that “heard him” refer to the apostles.) 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
God confirmed what was spoken through signs and miracles. These miraculous gifts were a means to an end. Jesus gave these gifts to the apostles and a select few because they had no written Word of God to corroborate what they were saying. Now, we have the written Word of God. Therefore, I don’t have to do a miracle every time I get up to preach because I have a chapter and a verse.
God designed miracles to confirm His revelation. Once that revelation was complete there was no reason for these confirmation gifts to continue. The lesson we learn is this, miracles were always secondary, and the message was primary. The primary purpose was never the miracle but what the miracle authenticated. Jesus never performed miracles for the sake of putting on a show. Jesus multiplied bread and then said, “I AM the bread of life.” (John 6:35) He declared, “I AM the resurrection” and then raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:25) Every miracle pointed to a greater truth even if those who witnessed the miracle often missed the greater truth. (John 6:66)