This article was written in response to questions about the Anglican view of miracles. The questions came from people who wanted to explore the claims of Christianity and the Anglican church in particular. [Article]
Michael Flynn – May 2021
The key evidence that Anglicans are committed to the miraculous is that we pray. Anglican prayer books and other prayers used in worship, small groups, pastoral care and personal devotions are full of expectations that God will hear these prayers and act on them.( 1) We have many reasons to be confident that God not only hears prayer but acts when his people pray. Below are some of the ways Anglicans, along with other Christians, think about miracles in God’s creation and in the rescue of that creation won through his Son Jesus.
In Melbourne at the moment there is a rising scepticism about scepticism. The modern idea spirituality will be supplanted by naturalism has been proven wrong. One reason for this is the more refined our science becomes, the more consistently it demonstrates how unlikely we are. The more we learn about the complex and nuanced processes which produced and sustained life, the less it seems nature explains itself. So, if we want evidence of the miraculous, the unlikely interrupting the ordinary, then here we are! (2)
Of course, suspecting God is behind the natural order is not the only reason people have for thinking God is real or God will act in the world. (3) Yet if creation does not make, explain, or sustain itself then nature points us towards an important Christian teaching we call grace. The idea of God’s grace, the free and undeserved gift of life and the gift of life himself to us in Jesus is a core part of the Christian understanding of miracles. Miracles, like life, are a gift, they are not the result of mindless mechanisms, incantations, technology, frantic prayer or good deeds we might do to save ourselves. It is a gift of the help we need from outside us.
This understanding of creation and grace is reflected throughout the Bible, here are some examples:
In the poetry of Genesis 1 God exists before creation and chooses to create by his own will and word. This world was set up for humanity to have access to ongoing healing and the possibility of eternal life. (4)
In Psalm 19 the songwriter confesses: “The heavens declare the glory of God” and goes on to praise the second grace-filled speaking of God in his word to human beings. (5)
In Romans 1 the apostle Paul argues humanity has few excuses when it comes to recognising God in his work:
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made…” (6)
Paul again, spoke to the philosophers in Athens about God’s grace in creation:
“ … what you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allowed periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him, we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’’’ (7)
The clearest Biblical statement of God’s gift of creative, sustaining and saving power is found in the early Christian hymn appearing in the letter to the Colossians:
“He, Christ, is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.’(8)
This ultimate healing of creation through the grace of Jesus’ work for us is foreseen in John’s vision in the final chapters of the Bible. These chapters echo the life-giving grace and healing of the first chapters of the Bible:
“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with humanity. He will live with them and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them, he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ …Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life… and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (9)
The Christian and therefore Anglican understanding of miracles is nature itself is a miracle which begins, is sustained and is finally restored and healed by the work of God in Jesus Christ. The question remains, can we expect God to give the gift of miracles (to re-create) in our daily lives now before the final time of healing arrives?
Strict modernist ideology says miracles would violate the laws or principles of science and therefore they cannot occur. But this is closed and circular thinking, assuming the laws of science are like the laws of parliament, decrees we have made up which cannot be broken without penalty. The truth is, good science observes rather than decrees laws. It submits itself to reality and does not invent it. It would be wiser to say the laws of science are deductions from observations of consistent phenomena. These principles, which we have had the grace to uncover, are descriptions of what usually happens and give us predictive power so we may do things like develop vaccines or land a robot rover on Mars. Yet, there is no intrinsic reason why these principles make it impossible for new and exceptional events to occur.
Many able and sane minds have born witness to miracles throughout history, to the point the English rationalist, Edward Gibbon, in his volumes, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire gives miracles as one of five reasons for the rapid rise of Christianity:
‘… the miraculous powers of the primitive church… The Christian church from the time of the apostles has claimed an uninterrupted succession of miraculous powers, the gift of tongues, of visions and of prophecy, the power of expelling demons, of healing the sick and of raising the dead.’(10)
Two people closer to those events could write:
‘For some do certainly drive out devils, so that those who have been cleansed of evil spirits frequently both believe in Christ and join themselves to the church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come; they see visions and utter prophetic expressions, others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them and they are made whole..’ Irenaeus: (130-200 AD Bishop of Lyons) (11)
(After writing pages describing contemporary miracles) ‘…what am I to do? I am so pressed by the promise of finishing this work I cannot record all the miracles, I know even now, many miracles are wrought, the same God, who wrought those we read of (i.e. in the Bible) is still performing them, by whom he will and as he will.’ Augustine (354-430 AD Bishop of Hippo) City of God. (12)
A more contemporary witness to miracles is Bishop Alf Stanway, a Melbourne man, who while Bishop of Tanganika wrote account after account about the rapid growth of the church in central Africa due in part to miracles, many of which were verified by medical authorities. (13)
I should add a personal note here because any practical pastor will have experienced miracles in their ministry since we all need help and grace, and the Bible encourages us to ask for it. For myself I rely on God’s faithfulness in healing, comforting and changing lives daily I have seen before and after MRI scans of people healed of multiple sclerosis, people who walk out of an ICU who were meant to die there, people who saw unstoppable cancers stopped, the childless produce children and perhaps even more difficult; relationships reconciled, broken minds are given rest and lives turned from self-destruction into lives of service. As a former atheist, it is difficult now to convince me miracles are not real. I have simply seen too many.
The greater miracle
The greatest miracle Anglicans, with all Christians, refer to is the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I place the two events together because they are a unity. The atoning sacrifice of Christ enables our resurrection life in the company of God (Romans 3:25-26) and the resurrection of Jesus vindicates the effectiveness of his sacrifice (Romans 5:13-21). If you allow for historical evidence then the evidence for the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus is very strong. (14) The reason all Christians reference this co-joined miracle as the chief miracle above others is not only because of the evidence for its occurrence but because the resurrection life made possible by the cross of Jesus is the foretaste, the promise and down-payment of the healed world to come. It is also the power which is unleashed within the Christian now to be healed of our sinful nature, by the effect of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and grow like the restored future, the character of the resurrected Jesus Christ. In other words, the resurrection of Jesus is not only a promise of the world to come but is the gateway opening to us an experience now of the renewed character we will fully know in the future. (15)
God has already begun his healing of the world, but he has begun with the hardest thing to heal, our sin dealt with on the cross, and our character, being dealt with in the resurrection life which grows in us now through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8; Galatians 5:13-26).
My argument here, simply based on the data, is miracles still occur. They are not ruled out by default through the principles of science. They were not artefacts limited to special periods of God’s revelation in the past such as the Exodus of Israel or the establishment of the church. But if miracles still occur this raises other questions about the misuse of miracles including fake miracles, misdirected miracles and why miracles, especially healing miracles, are not always given to alleviate our suffering.
Though miracles may be necessary before belief so people may believe, one of the themes in the gospels written about Jesus is miracles may not result in us entrusting ourselves to God. Instead, miracles may expose our great hardness of heart. So Jesus warns some of the towns he has visited and worked his signs in:
“Woe to you, Chora’zin! Woe to you, Bethsa’ida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Si’don, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable in the judgement for Tyre and Si’don than for you.”(16)
Miracles do not compel or require trust in God. This is why the New Testament does not use the word ‘miracle’ but refers to signs (which we may or may not follow nor see clearly what they are pointing to) or works of power (which we may ignore or not).
We are told Jesus would work no signs in a particular town due to their lack of faith we know it is not only disbelief which inhibited Jesus’ work, for the gospel writers tell us of occasions when Jesus worked miracles regardless of people’s belief. (17) Instead, we see it is out of mercy fewer miraculous works were done (especially in his home town) for those who would only be condemned by the evidence they were given. (18)
In John’s gospel, it is after Jesus feeds the crowds with an act of creation, he points out to them they are following him not because they have understood what his sign says about him but because they are materialists who want to politically exploit this new resource. (19) It is after Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead the religious authorities (without seeing the irony or the waste) finally determine Jesus must be killed. (20)
Miraculous signs have always been the occasion for exposing hardness of heart and Anglican worship is well aware of this. The most popular worship service in the Anglican Church is Morning Prayer which opens using the words of Psalm 95. The liturgy draws a parallel between Anglicans entering worship today and the ancient Israelites who had known many signs and wonders of God’s provision for them yet they hardened their hearts and refused to love and obey him at decisive points on their journey towards the promised land. The plea of our liturgy is we avoid this hardness against the words and signs of God so we too would not be shut out of the promised land, the healed creation, we are journeying to.
Another way miracles are misused is they get hijacked to serve our purposes rather than God’s. An example of this is when Jesus warns at the end of the sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel:
“On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast our demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’” (21)
Jesus’ accusation is not that these miracles were false trickery (as is implied in the words used about the miracles worked by Pharaoh’s magicians in Exodus or the wonders performed by the false prophet in the book of Revelation) in this case it would seem God wanted to deliver and heal even if the people asking for the miracles were suspect. What Jesus criticises is the miracles were performed to bring glory to the people who asked for them and not to the God who gave them. We see this attitude when they claim the good works of God for themselves as evidence they are worthy of being saved. In other words, they did not know the God of grace. They did not love, trust or obey the God who worked through them. Instead, they obscured the signs of God’s grace and misled people into false works saying the miracles were evidence of their own greatness and inherent worth. They were evildoers indeed!
This is one of the dangers faced by the church in Corinth whose spiritual gifts were producing long episodes of self-glorification rather than acts of service. So Paul writes to them:
“If I speak in the tongues of humanity and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing…” (1 Corinthians 13)
Tellingly, it is not that the spiritual gifts are made void, ineffective or untrue it is that the person using them is nothing (literally empty and pointless) if they are not used in sacrificial (Christ-imitating) love.
As already mentioned, another way the miraculous can be misused is through falsehood. It often surprises sceptical people the church has been critical of false signs done in the name of God throughout its history. (22) We are required by both the Bible and extra-Biblical tradition to ‘discern the spirits’ to ‘test prophecy’ to judge between what is true and false in spiritual experience.
The Bible itself takes no captives when it comes to its criticism of false prophecy, hypocrisy in living out religious convictions and falsehood in signs and wonders. (23) I often think, when I am reading the rants against spirituality which characterise some of the more impolite parts of the internet, the critics are amateurs. If you rant a devastating critique of falsehood in religion then read Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Jesus of Nazareth. Their criticisms are much more effective because they understand what they are critiquing.
The people of God have always known times when there have been exceptional outpourings of the miraculous as well as usual times where signs are occasional or at least less spectacular. But even during exceptional times, miraculous events would co-exist with ongoing needs amongst God’s people. So, the Israelites who left Egypt had known exceptional provision from God yet are also commanded to set up a quarantine system for those with leprosy and other diseases to be kept separate from the main camp. This medical attention was part of God’s wise provision for his people even while they were travelling through the wildness led by the fire of the Lord. (24) Likewise, Jesus taught his followers to expect after he left they would suffer the trials others do along with persecution. Then his disciples would need to fast and mourn as they lifted their struggles to God in prayer. (25)
The only time in the history of the people of God, when there has been an experience of universal healing, is in the ministry of Jesus. His ministry was as if the tree of life had escaped Eden and turned itself loose in first-century Palestine. One of the reasons it was so hard for the enemies of Christianity to deny the miracles of Jesus for centuries is there were just too many of them and too many families who generations down the track knew they owed their existence to him. (26)
After Jesus left and sent his Spirit upon the church the history of the people of God has been marked by many occasions of the miraculous. However, along with seasons of healing went illness, along with remarkable deliverance went persecution, along with the rapid growth of the church, went martyrdom and many hardships. This is because though the Kingdom of God has broken into this world through the work of Jesus, the proclaiming of God’s words and the ongoing work of the Spirit of God, the complete fulfilment of the Kingdom will only occur when he comes again.
Gifts of the Spirit
Miraculous gifts of the Spirit of God are then just a holding pattern, scatterings of light as signs and promises of the brighter future breaking into the darkened present. They are given to help us on the journey towards the fulfilled Kingdom.
In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul explains the gifts of the Spirit vary in kind, intensity and even in duration (verses 4-6). Manifestations of the Spirit are given for the common good (verse 7). Not all gifts have the same value in building up the church (verse 28) and God determines who, what and when these gifts are given (verse 11). What is clear is these gifts are only for a time, when the Kingdom fully comes, when perfection arrives the imperfect (i.e. the spiritual gifts) will disappear (13:8-12).
Grace in Suffering
A significant theme of the Bible, church history and Anglican pastoral offices is even if suffering is not miraculously relieved we are not left alone in it. (27)
Paul illustrates this in 2 Corinthians 11 from his own experience. At one point, after stumbling to admit he’d experienced powerful spiritual events he writes of a thorn in the flesh, an illness, which he calls a messenger from Satan was given to him to keep him from becoming unduly proud because of his spiritual experiences. He tells the Corinthians three times he earnestly prayed – at length for the illness to be healed but the answer God gave him to his prayer was:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul reflected his weakness became strength as he depended on God during his illness. His weakness kept him from pride in his temporary gifts and kept his spiritual focus where it should be.
In Romans 5 Paul writes of the power of a justified existence coming to us as we entrust ourselves to Jesus Christ. First, we have access to God (what Paul calls “peace with God” in verse 1). This access allows us to rejoice not only in the hope (future) of sharing God’s glory but also to rejoice in our sufferings (present). This is because, in the company of God, suffering does not lead us to despair. After all, our lives have been derailed. Instead suffering becomes a means of preparing us for the future in Christ and suffering makes us more useful in the present as our character is grown by it.
“ (suffering)… produces perseverance in us, and perseverance produces character and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit… “
This theme appears in other New Testament authors. I am especially humbled by Hebrews 11 which recounts both those who won miraculous victories in their faith as well as those who suffered well by their faith – both paths, we are taught, succeeded This should be the case for, as Peter notes, those who are suffering, even for doing good, are following the example of God himself in Jesus who endured even unjust suffering for the sake of good. (28) If this was the path of the master it will be seen in the paths of his servants as well.
The author who most boldly brings together the working of miracles with the experience of grace in suffering is Jesus’ half-brother, James. “Count it all joy whenever you face trials of many kinds…” is the opening sentence of his teaching to the universal church. But why joy? Because, by the grace of God our trials will mature us both as human beings and as believers.
Towards the end of James’s letter, he returns to his theme of patience in suffering and it is at this point James instructs the church with words which have been interpreted to mean God will always heal the sick person who is prayed for icorrectly (29) This interpretation is an example of poor use of the Bible to ascribe to God promises he never made.
When we read James again, we notice he has just told us what blessed, happy and approved faith looks like in the examples of the prophets and Job. Blessed, happy, and approved is long-term waiting and persistence in seeking God, especially in the face of ongoing suffering. And as we read Job and the prophets we learn what the content and quality of their faith is like. We find it is full of doubt, pain and questions. It argues, is fiercely angry, it is subject to times of despair. It yells and complains to God but not about God. It weeps and it struggles… but it endures. In other words, it persists in having the conversation, the relationship with God. ‘Even though he (God) slay me, yet shall I love him’ complained Job. (30)
Likewise, as we read verse 15 of James 5 we notice he is writing about final forgiveness and resurrection healing; the end of our waiting, the last Christmas when Jesus the healer comes to restore life to us in his kingdom forever.
TTwo things are goingon here: First, James says a regular duty of the elders of any local church to conduct a ministry of healing. They are to travel to the homes of the ill, anoint them with oil and ask God for healing. It is simply a mark of the history of Christianity this is what the church has always done, it even used to be a requirement before people could be ordained into the eldership of the church to have a track record in effective healing prayer. God allows the starlight of his miracles to break into our present night while we are waiting for his day to dawn in Christ. So we pray for miracles.
Second: James knows healing in this current world is only ever going to be in part or the healing may be forgiveness of our wrongs, reconciliation with those we have hurt or God sustaining and maturing us through our suffering and dying. (31)
The people healed in Jesus’ extraordinary ministry suffered again. Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from death, died again. Apart from the resurrection of Jesus, miracles are signs of what is to come, not the future itself. But James knows at the end of all our prayer and waiting stands the answer to every just prayer for healing – the resurrection, where we are healed for eternity. (32)
Apart from the ongoing company and help of God in our suffering, the Anglican prayer book follows the Bible in expecting there is one other prayer for the miraculous transformation God will always answer; it is for our conversion and sanctification by the power of God’s Spirit at work in us. (33) In other words, for the ability to become people who entrust ourselves to Jesus and the gift of his death and life for us and then to grow in the ability to follow his teaching and example in our own lives.
Jesus’ close friend, John, wrote to the churches:
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known, But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (34)
This is what the resurrection power of God looks like now as we wait for the return of Jesus. Other miracles may be given for building up and encouraging the people of God but the great and most consistent miracle is we can be moved from death to life, from darkness to light, from being orphans to being children, from sin to rightness with God – all by grace.
In the end, all the prayers we pray will seem too small. They are already being answered in ways far larger than we anticipate. The prayers for health and healing will be overrun by resurrection… imagine the powerful and humble gratitude we will experience as those who suffered too much or died too soon stand again remade and well. The prayers for justice will be overrun by a Kingdom without wrong or even the desire for wrong. The hardest prayers we prayed, for the changing of a soul, for a life to turn to face God rather than self will be overwhelmed by an innumerable people from all nations and languages praising God in a renewed earth.
There will be a final answer to every just prayer for God to act. This is what Anglicans believe.
1 There is no distinctive Anglican view on miracles, there is only the particular way the Anglican Church has applied the teaching of the Christian church in its liturgy and laws. The Anglican Church holds to the doctrines of the Christian Church and the Church this refers to is the undivided Church of the first five centuries AD (S. Spencer, Anglicanism, p199). This is the Church that gave birth to the New Testament, the major creeds and many of the liturgies that are still used in our prayer books today. This is the Church that the painful English reformation in the 16th century sought to restore in doctrinal statements like the 39 articles and worship through the Book of Common Prayer. That Church is committed to the past reality and ongoing experience of the miraculous in God’s world.
2 The evidence is so compelling that even a famous atheist like Anthony Flew in 2004 announced that he had to “follow where the evidence led” and decided to acknowledge the existence of God. (See James A. Beverly, Thinking Straighter: Why the world’s most famous atheist now believes in God (Christianity Today, April 2005) 80-83).
Another famous atheist, Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion (2006), would disagree with Flew’s defection. Dawkins’ main argument against the existence of God is if creation is improbable then a creator God is even more improbable as this God must be more complex even than creation. Dawkins’ argument turns out to be a version of the classic primary school cynic’s question: Who made God? Soon followed by; Who made the one who made God? And so on. The primary school response is that we now know that nothing in our universe goes on forever (the universe, with all its causes, does not explain itself) and we want to know what power started everything and what power keeps it going or even holds it together (after all, we exist between two powerful forces, the fires of sub-atomic forces and the fires that form galaxies). Many thinkers reasoned this power must be ‘something’ outside the universe that is not caused by something else in the universe. Often this ‘something’ they have called ‘God’.
Returning to Dawkins’ adult argument we find several confusions: First, it assumes that God is somehow part of the processes and material of our universe, growing in complexity in the way stars and organisms may. While historically this could describe the mythical creation of some of the lesser gods, most religions and philosophies have looked to a power beyond this universe, revealed in a variety of ways, and concluded this power is in essence different to us. Therefore whatever Dawkins means by material complexity cannot apply here. Aristotle called this the unmoved mover, the Athenians referenced the unknown God, T.S. Elliot the still point of the turning world, Aboriginal Dreamtime refers to the Great Spirit, Moses, the Lord of heaven and earth, John, the Word made flesh. Second, improbability does not imply non-existence, we are improbable but we are here. The issue is not the probability of God but whether he is actual or not. Third, it does not follow that if something is more complex it is therefore more improbable – we are complex and we know we are improbable but it is impossible to finally quantify just how improbable we are. Whether we are more improbable than the existence of mushroom colonies for example. Fourth, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion that religion and philosophy are wrong to look for final explanations we note that in science we look for final explanations all the time. Newton’s physics is one example, another is the current search for a unified field theory that will combine the parts of physics that are currently at odds with each other. In classical thought, the unified movement of creation has pointed to a unified mind, purpose and rationality that we can seek to understand. Arguably progress in science flourished from the early mediaeval Christian world onwards because of the conviction that we could: ”Think God’s thoughts after him” (Einstein).
3 Other reasons include spiritual experiences including miracles, the experience of beauty, the compulsion and logic of morality, public and private revelations of God throughout history and more. Another well know atheist and friend of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, explained his personal experience this way:
“I’m a materialist… yet there is something beyond the material, or not entirely consistent with it, what you call the Numinous, the Transcendent, at its best the Ecstatic. I wouldn’t trust anyone in this hall who did know what I was talking about. We know what we mean by it when we think about certain kinds of music, perhaps certainly the relationship – the coincidence sometimes – that is very powerful between music and love. Landscape, certain kinds of artistic and creative work that appears not to have been done entirely by hand. Without this sense of Numinous, Transcendent we really would merely be primates.” (From a public lecture – source, Richard Tognetti, ACO)
4 See Genesis 1 & 2 5 From Psalm 19
6 From Romans 1
7 From Acts 17
8 From Colossians 1
9 See Revelation 21 & 22
10 Edward Gibbon The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Online archived version: http://hdl.handle.net/ 10427/000122) p169
11 See Edward Gibbon (above). The Apostolic Fathers, vol 1, Irenaeus, Against Heresies. (Book 2, chapter 32 section 4. Cosimo Classics) p. 847
12 Augustine, City of God, (book 22:8-10 On miracles)
13 For example Alfred Stanway, Prayer – a personal testimony (Acorn Press, Canberra, 1991) 63.
14 Some popular books on the resurrection include: Frank Morris, Who Moved the Stone? Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ and The Case for Easter. Josh McDowell Evidence that demands a verdict. A lengthy treatment can be found in: N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God
15 Romans 12 is one example of the transformations in our lives enabled by the grace of God in Christ. Other examples are: Ephesians 2:1-10; James 2:14-26; 1 John 3:7-10
16 Matthew 13:1
17 See, for example, John 5 & 9
18 For example, Matthew 13:58, which parallels Mark 6:5,6 – It is worth noting that this is Jesus’ home town where he said: ‘A prophet has no honour in their home’
19 from John 6
20 from John 11
21 Matthew 7:21-23
22 For example, Martin Luther recounted stories of fraudulent signs and wonders in his day as part of his argument against the Sainthood system of Roman Catholicism.
23 Some examples: Numbers 22-24, the story of Balaam, the pagan prophet, does not deny the truth of Balaam’s gift but ends with the man himself condemned for misusing the gift of God by deception and for gain. Deuteronomy 17 and the tests of false prophecy. Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:18-19 the words used to describe Pharaoh’s magicians imply trickery and deception. Isaiah 1; 58 etc. false religion a cause of judgement. Matthew 23 – Jesus’ outspoken critique of hypocrisy in religion.
24 For example Leviticus 13
25 for example: Mark 2:18-22 & Mark 13. Or Paul writing about the general suffering of this life: ’I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us … For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed … the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.’ Romans 8:18-21. Or from the Revelation given to John: a great multitude … wearing white robes … they cried with a loud voice “Salvation belongs to our God … and to the Lamb” …These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.’ Revelation 7:9,10, 14.’Look! God’s dwelling place is now amongst the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ Revelation 21:3,4; ‘He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.’ Revelation 22:20.
26 For example, Matthew 4:23-25
27 For example: ‘Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?’ Job 2:10; ‘You intended to harm me, but God turned it for good.’ Genesis 50:20; ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him.’ Romans 8:28; ‘Not my will but yours be done.’ Matthew 26:39.
28 ‘God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.’ Hebrews 12:10 ‘For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering … if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.’ 1 Peter 2:19,20; ‘Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed … For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.’ 1 Peter 3:13,14,17.
29 James 5:13-16
30 Job 13:15. The Old Testament assumes the people of God will pray for healing. For example, Leviticus requires quarantine of those with skin diseases but allows for the time when the Lord will have healed those people and they can be returned to the covenant community (Leviticus 14:1-32). Model prayers for healing were also provided which we can still use today – for example Psalm 30.2,11-12.
31 ‘Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance … that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ James 1:2,3.
32 When Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20-21 ‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.’ He is picking up a theme of the Old Testament that the answers to prayer and worship will, in the end, be larger than we anticipate. For example, in Daniel 9 Daniel asks for the Lord to return his people from exile the response he receives is that the return of Israel will be a foretaste of the greater return from exile, when the Lord will return all of humanity from its first exile from him (Genesis 3).
33 Luke 11:9-13 34, 1 John 3:1,2