Most of us are fascinated with the miracles of the Bible, and rightly so. Acts is full of miracles that point us to the truthfulness of God’s word and the superiority of His power. Based on Acts 14:3b, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering the signs and wonders we see in the Bible.
“So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” ESV
1) Signs and wonders were not common, even among the apostles.
Because stories about miracles are so popular, we often assume that miracles were a common occurrence. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Miracles were rare in the Bible, and they often centered around particular individuals chosen by God to demonstrate his power in a special way (e.g., Moses and Elijah). Even among the apostles, miracles were not guaranteed, but often occurred in contexts where the truth of the Gospel was being challenged (more on that below).
2) The power to perform miracles was a gift from the Lord and was not intrinsic to the apostles.
This text is very clear that the Lord granted signs and wonders to be done by the apostles. This was not a magical power or a continuous ability that the apostles possessed in and of themselves. It was a gift from the Lord that validated the message of the apostles over and against the opposition they faced.
3) Signs and wonders always point toward Christ and away from men.
Signs and wonders were not given in order to exalt the person performing them. In fact, the word ‘apostle’ refers to an emissary, one sent on behalf of a superior. Later in this chapter, Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes when men sought to worship after they had performed a miracle. They did not seek the glory for themselves.
4) Signs and wonders validated the spoken word: they weren’t the message themselves.
‘Signs’ is a very important biblical word. A sign points to something (or someone) else. Similarly, biblical signs are not meant to be messages themselves, but rather validate the message already delivered. Again, consider Moses and Elijah. God used signs to validate Moses’s message to Pharaoh. Fire from heaven affirmed the words of Elijah. The same thing is true in the book of Acts. Often times it is opposition to the Gospel that moves God to act in a miraculous way. It is a demonstration of His superiority, over and above the claims of other false gods.
5) In this text, signs and wonders highlight the pleasure and power of Christ.
The apostles persisted in sharing the Gospel despite fierce opposition. This pleased the Lord. In response, he allowed miraculous signs and wonders to be performed in order to encourage, validate, and sustain the new church in the midst of a very difficult situation. Christ was clearly pleased with his emissaries, and he showed His pleasure with a display of His power.