The other day I was reading 2 Corinthians 12:12. Paul there has been defending himself against the attack that he is not very impressive as an Apostle. In his response, he states that he demonstrated among them “the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.”
To Paul then, these things were a way that he could demonstrate that he was indeed an Apostle. Jesus did his miracles for the same reason, to show that he was who he said he was, and that he had the authority he claimed to have (Matthew 9:6).
But all this got me thinking, “who actually did miracles in the New Testament?” and should this inform our expectations for the role of miracles in the church today?
Looking through the list of miracles in the New Testament I found that the only New Testament miracle worker who wasn’t an Apostle was Stephen (Acts 6:8).
Sure, the 70 cast out demons when they were sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:17), but even then Jesus tells them not to put to great an emphasis on that. That mission is also a little unusual in that it is before Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, so we should be cautious modelling our expectations for the church today on that activity.
It is also true that Mark 16:17-18 says that those who believe in Jesus will do miracles, but that is in the disputed ending (it is highly likely that Mark didn’t write those verses) so again we should be cautious.
On the other hand, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:9-10 that some will heal and others will do miracles, so we certainly should expect these to occur today.
So, given the lack of emphasis we see in the New Testament, we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on them or expect that many will occur.
In fact, we should be cautious as they are not a certain sign that someone is a true disciple of Jesus. Jesus warns us in Mark 13:22 that false messiahs and prophets will perform signs and wonders with the purpose of leading the elect astray, so we need to be careful not to be gullible and trust everyone that does such things.
After all, Jesus did not ultimately come into the world to perform miracles but to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). We should have the same emphasis.