The Importance of Discernment
There are four key principles that help us discern if a miracle really happens and if that miracle was done by God. They can be deduced from the story of Jesus changing water into wine (Jn 2:1-11).
Just as in any aspect of life, such as economics, politics, or religion, there are individuals who prey on the vulnerable and gullible. People are scammed out of their money, they are duped by political promises that were never intended to be fulfilled, and in the religious aspect of life, there remain influencers without scruples who are primarily concerned with their own success. We need to be wise discerning followers of Christ to avoid being taken advantage of by faithless individuals. Here are four important principles to guide us in the event a miracle occurs.
1) No one tells God when and where a miracle will happen.
There are three common ways people attempt to manipulate God into doing a miracle. They are …
- Staging an event thinking God is required to respond to a predictable pattern
- Being highly emotionally affected thinking that will coax God into action
- Attempting to engage the supernatural but in reality being dishonest and driven by unholy motives.
An example of staging an event would be turning a divinely inspired revival into a reproducible procedure induced by human effort. God causes revivals. Revivalism, however, is a human distortion of a miracle. Revivalism is the repetition of trusting in a particular meeting format believing that if certain criteria are met that God must then show up and miracles will happen. Human willed and planned events don’t create a revival. Miraculous movements of God where people’s hearts are turned toward him are orchestrated by his Spirit. We can’t cause a revival through our actions any more than we can tell God when and where miracles should occur. At the wedding, Mary learned quickly not to try to control God. She humbled herself before Jesus and followed his instruction.
Emotionally pleading with God will not manipulate God into causing a miracle to happen either. God doesn’t require his children to beg, plead, and wail in order to get his attention. In the New Testament, God’s eagerness to answer our prayers is contrasted with an unjust judge who is eventually persuaded to help a widow because of her persistence (Lk 18:1-8). The Lord needs no persuasion to come to our aid. We are the apple of his eye (Ps 17:8). God hears our cries because we belong to him in Christ. He promises a speedy and timely response to our needs.
Unfortunately, there are shysters disguised as ministers who attempt to use the supernatural and people’s superstitions about spiritual matters to gain attention. They’re not miracle workers from God. God’s servants are never out for self-gain, whether it be fame, money, or glory. And, God doesn’t share his glory with anyone (Isa 42:8) except his followers who are permitted to share in his glory as they share in his suffering (Rom 8:17, 2 Thess 2:14).
2) Don’t put God to a test by asking him for a sign.
Gideon made this mistake, revealing his initial lack of faith in God’s Word (Jud 6:36-40). After God instructed him in what to do in battle, his faith waned. Before he would obey the Lord, he asked him for two signs. He wanted God to soak a fleece while the ground around it remained dry and then to soak the ground all around the fleece while keeping the fleece dry. God responded to Gideon’s requests for miracles. But those requests weren’t based on either faith in God’s Word or God’s power and made no impact on the outcome of the battle. Gideon’s story is really God’s miraculous story of how he saved a nation even when their leader had a laps of faith.
Signs in the Bible are miracles with a message. The message is always the same. The messianic age is here, Jesus is currently reigning in heaven, the Kingdom of God is present on the earth, and God saves his people.
Don’t follow people who claim to be “miracle workers” or claim to have the gift of miracles. There is no such gift from God. Three times Paul provides his readers with partial lists of spiritual gifts. Only once does he mention a gift of working miracles (1 Cor 12:29). This unusual and limited gift ended when the gifts of apostleship and being a prophet ended.
Today we have individuals who plant churches and ministers who proclaim and explain God’s Word (Apostolic and Prophetic type activities). There are even individuals who have faith to believe God for great things. But none of these individuals are in the same class as an Old Testament Prophet, a New Testament Apostle, or equal in stature with Jesus as a miracle worker. That era of Church history has been fulfilled.
The description of a person who works miracles is only mentioned once in the whole New Testament. It appears to be a limited transitional gift, like apostle and prophet. With the coming of the Holy Spirit to establish the Church and the completion of the canon of the Bible, those ministries became unnecessary. Jesus did countless miracles during his ministry. Many of the Apostles experienced several miracles during their ministry. And a few members of the Corinthian Church were identified as miracle workers. But toward the end of the Apostolic Age, there is no more mention of individuals with those gifts. This may explain why Paul didn’t mention them in Romans or Ephesians. It was a temporary gift superseded by the Holy Spirit’s ministry within all believers.
3) Miracles testify to the powerful saving ability of Jesus.
Notice John’s postscript to this story. He wrote that this was Jesus’ first miracle. Its purpose was to reveal to his disciples Jesus’ glory. The glory of the Lord is his power to save the underserved. The result of this miracle was that his new young disciples, including Mary, placed their faith in his authority as their Messiah.
The significance of this first miracle comes to light in the context of a wedding celebration. A man and women were making a new covenant to love and serve each other till death parts them. Jesus used this moment to initiate a spiritual new covenant. His covenant was just as intimate, just as lasting, requiring just as great a commitment, and was to be even longer (as long as eternal life).
Note that water was used to create wine. It was the ceremonial purification water Jews used to wash their hands before and after a meal. Wine is a Jewish symbol of abundance associated with the coming of the Messiah. Marriage is a symbol of what it will look like when the messianic age comes. Jesus combined these elements to illuminate at the outset of his ministry who he was, what he came to do, and that the Kingdom of God had arrived. Being united with Christ means our purification from sin is limitless (like the wine) and we are united with Christ as intimately as if it were a marriage.
4) Miracles are a sign the promised Messiah has come.
As impressive as water constantly turning into wine until everyone was satisfied was, the disciples were even more amazed that the sign confirmed they were standing in the presence of the promised Messiah. They didn’t hunger for more miracles, but their hunger grew in wanting to faithfully follow Jesus.
One of the most secure indications that a person is saved comes from them wanting Jesus and his will more than their own will or anything else. Conversion is from a self-orientation to a Christ-orientation. The greatest miracle and one each of us should experience is the change that takes place when we accept the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ and God’s Spirit takes control of our lives.
Miracles are signs designed to awaken us to the glory of Jesus’ saving power. The same power that transformed water into wine is used by God’s Spirit to make us like Jesus. If you do encounter a miracle, it’s a sign God that is your Savior doing what he does best—he saves.