Posted by: rcottrill | July 9, 2014

I Believe in Miracles

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Words: Carlton C. Buck (b. Aug. 31, 1907; d. Feb. 13, 1999)
Music: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Peterson born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Carlton Buck)
Hymnary.org

Note: Carlton Buck was a pastor, author and gospel song writer. Some of his songs are listed in the Cyber Hymnal link.

1) Creation shows the power of God–
There’s glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

I believe in miracles–I’ve seen a soul set free,
Miraculous the change in one redeemed through Calvary;
I’ve seen a lily push its way up through the stubborn sod–
I believe in miracles for I believe in God.

As with a number of Bible words, the term miracle has been greatly overused, abused, and misused. We may hear, “It’s a miracle he remembered my birthday.” Or, “It’s a miracle that our hockey team won.” Well, is it? Or not? The secular dictionaries do not necessarily help us in this case. A miracle may indeed be “a remarkable event,” as one dictionary has it. But that is woefully inadequate as a biblical definition.

In the New Testament, three particular words are used of miracles performed by Christ and the apostles. They are brought together in Acts 2:22, where Peter says to his hearers at Pentecost that Christ was “attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst.”

Yes, miracles are “wonders,” amazing events. But they are more. The word “miracles” translates the Greek word dunamis, meaning powers. Miracles are unique displays of the power of God. “Signs” indicates that they are also signposts, pointing to some larger reality–in the above instance they authenticated the Person and the message of Christ. Later, they would do the same for the apostles and their ministry (cf. II Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:4).

There’s a misconception that miracles contradict the laws of nature, as though the Creator God had to work against Himself and His own laws to perform them. Miracles involve the intersection of the supernatural and the natural through the active intervention of God. However, a miracle does not break the laws of nature, but rather involves the exercise of sovereign and supernatural control over an established pattern to accomplish the unusual.

A miracle involves the occurrence of something in the physical world that would not occur in the natural order and pattern of things, nor could it be produced by human agency. The making of a pathway through the Red Sea for Israelites to cross over on dry ground was a miracle (Exod. 14:21-22), as was the instant turning of water into wine by the Lord Jesus (Jn. 2:6-11), and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11:43-44).

Strictly speaking, conversion and the new birth are not miraculous, because they involve an inner spiritual transformation, rather than an outward physical manifestation. We may see a change in behaviour when a sinner trusts in Christ, but we did not observe the new birth itself (much as we see the effects of the wind but not the wind itself).

We ought to distinguish something simply amazing (e.g. the way plants sprout and grow) from a true miracle of God. But this gospel song, published in 1956, confuses the issue exactly as described. For that reason, I’ve avoided using I Believe in Miracles, though it was popular a generation ago. Yes, the deliverance of a sinner is truly wonderful, and so is the growth of a flower. But to lump them together and label all such things as “miracles” simply muddies the waters!

To say, “I believe in miracles for I believe in God” may not even be logical. It does not necessarily follow that the existence of God guarantees the existence of miracles. Or that He will always prove Himself by miracles. Further, Buck’s claim fails to reckon with the fact that the devil also can work miracles, and will, in the end times, give miraculous powers to the Antichrist (II Thess. 2:9).

I have discussed this same problem in dealing with John Peterson’s song It Took a Miracle. There I seek to provide a workable definition of a biblical miracle. Some of the things Peterson describes, like those of Buck, don’t seem to qualify. The refrain of this latter song says:

It took a miracle to put the stars in place,
It took a miracle to hang the world in space.

But wonderful though the creative work of God certainly was, it lacks several of the key characteristics of a miracle. Without denying the literal fulfilment of Genesis chapters one and two, or the eternal blessing of God’s saving work, we need to give full value to the remarkable nature of true miracles described in the Word of God.

Questions:
1) Do you agree with limiting the word “miracle” as I have done? (If not, how broad would you make it?)

2) Are there hymns you know and use that praise the Lord for true miracles?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Peterson born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Carlton Buck)
Hymnary.org


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