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What is the definition of a miracle?

definition of a miracle

The biblical definition of a miracle would be something like this: “an event that involves the direct and powerful action of God, transcending the ordinary laws of nature and defying common expectations of behavior.” Miracles are extraordinary occurrences that can only be attributed to the supernatural work of God and demonstrate His involvement in human history. God employs miracles in the Bible to reveal Himself, His character, and His purposes to humans through phenomena that are not otherwise explainable (Exodus 3:1–6).

Miracles provide evidence of God’s presence and power in the world and demonstrate His authority on behalf of His servants. A miracle may be performed directly by God or through a human agent. Other words used to describe miracles in the Bible are signs and wonders (typically used together), powers, and mighty works.

One of the greatest miracles is God’s creation of the world and everything in it (Genesis 1:1—3:24). Equally astounding is the miracle of the Incarnation—that the eternal Son of God took on human flesh (John 1:14; Philippians 2:7) and then, through the stunning miracle of the resurrection, overcame death and the powers of hell so that believers in Him might gain eternal life (Romans 4:24–25; 10:9; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 1:18).

The Bible reveals several different forms of miracles. The Old Testament records unusual celestial events, as in the time the Lord caused the sun and moon to stand still to aid Joshua’s army at Gibeon in their victory over the Amorite kings (Joshua 10:9–15). Several instances of God’s divine control over nature—as in the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21–22) and the crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 3:14–17)—are displayed in the Old Testament. God can miraculously cause animals and inanimate objects to act in astonishing ways (Numbers 22:22–35; 2 Kings 6:5–7). Miracles of instantaneous healing, such as when Naaman is cured of leprosy (2 Kings 5:14) or when Jesus heals two blind men (Matthew 9:27–31), appear in both the Old and New Testament.

Miracles in the New Testament are performed through human intermediaries such as the apostles, but most significantly through Jesus Christ. In all four Gospels, miracles play a critical role in Jesus’ ministry (Mark 1:32–34; 3:7–10). Jesus performs miracles of healing (John 4:46–53), provision of food (Mark 6:30–44), and control over nature (Matthew 14:32–33). New Testament miracles consistently display God’s power and either confirm or demonstrate the message of salvation in Jesus Christ (John 11:38–46). The Gospels record about 37 miracles of Jesus, although the apostle John stresses that these only scratch the surface of all that our Savior did (John 21:25).

The miracles recorded in the Bible served several functions. Some miracles validated God’s superiority over false gods (1 Kings 18:20–40), while others validated God’s message (Isaiah 38:7–8); others brought punishment, in addition to fulfilling some of the other functions, as in the wonders performed before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1—11:10). God’s miracles of provision met human needs, supplying manna to eat in the wilderness (Exodus 16:11–21) and feeding the hungry crowds (Matthew 15:32–39). Miracles of communication conveyed important messages from God (Daniel 5:1–12). Miracles of judgment brought punishment and correction (Exodus 32:35; 1 Samuel 5:6–12). Miracles of exorcism set people free from demonic control and spread the good news of Jesus (Luke 4:31–37). Miracles of resurrection demonstrated God’s sovereignty and almighty power (1 Kings 17:17–24; Luke 7:11–17).

In summary, a miracle is a divine work of God that transcends human understanding and inspires wonder, displays the greatness of God, and causes people to recognize that God is active in the world.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022