Summary: This is an overview of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, examining their origin, purpose and activity in the infant Church.
The New Testament records that Jesus and members of the early Church performed miraculous works. These miraculous deeds produce awe and wonder in us as we read of them. These miracles also produce questions within us, such as: How were they performed? Why were they performed? Did all the believers in the early Church perform miraculous works? Were the miracles to be an on-going phenomena in the Church? Or, rephrased - Should we expect to witness and perform such miraculous works today?
Different religious groups would provide different answers to these questions. However, we want to see what the Scriptures actually teach on this subject. The answers are found in the Word!
I. Miraculous Power Came From Holy Spirit
There is evidence that Jesus’ ability to work miracles was due to the Holy Spirit working through Him (Matthew 12:28). There is no doubt that it was the Holy Spirit of God that empowered early Christians to perform miraculous deeds - 1 Corinthians 12:4, 7-11, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.”
II. Purpose of the Miraculous Gifts
Many of our questions concerning New Testament miracles are answered when we come to understand their purpose. Miracles were not performed because they were entertaining or just spiritually ‘cool’ to perform. The Scriptures make it very clear that miracles or miraculous abilities had specific purposes.
A. Receive the Inspired Message.
First, it was through the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles and Prophets received the teachings of the Christian Faith. Before He ascended, Jesus had foretold that His teachings would be miraculously revealed to the Apostles and Prophets by the Holy Spirit. John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 16:7, 12-14, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you….I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
B. Confirmation of Divine Commission.
The second purpose of miracles was to prove that the person was sent by God to declare His message. The miracles bore witness to the Divine Commission of the messenger and the Divine origin of the message being delivered.
1. The miracles Jesus performed provided Divine proof that He was the long-awaited Messiah and new Lawgiver. Acts 2:22, “‘Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know.’” Jesus, Himself, spoke of His miraculous works as bearing witness to His Messianic claims.
John 5:36, “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish--the very works that I do--testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.” John 10:24-25, 37-38, “The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, ‘How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me…."If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.’"
2. The miracles performed by the Apostles were to prove that they were, indeed, commissioned by the Lord to proclaim God’s message. The miracles confirmed that the message was from God.
Mark 16:14, 17-20, “Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen….‘These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.”