Monday, June 27, 2011


I recently delivered a message at the Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond Oklahoma, our home Church, on the water to wine miracle in John 2. In the introduction I gave a brief word about Acts 2:22 and Peters' use of the phrase "miracles, wonders and signs" that God did through Jesus. In that introduction I mentioned that each of those words had a unique meaning in the realm of miracles. Let me explain.

"Miracles" is dunamis [GK] which means 'power' and refers to the actions of God in the natural realm. When God acts it is a miraculous thing and perfectly normal for Him because He is God.

"Wonders" is Teras [GK] which means a marvel or wonder and refers to the awesomeness of God when He acts in the natural realm. When God acts it is a mind-boggling thing and perfectly normal for Him because He is God.

"Signs" is Semeion [GK] which means a token or to make known and refers to the authentication of God in the natural realm. When God acts [miracle] it is mind blowing [wonder] and it is often a making known [sign] of His presence in what is transpiring or being said. [The Gospel of John records seven miracles and calls all of them signs.]

Generally speaking, this just about covers what the scriptures say about God and miracles. [A further word "works" is another study.] He acts, [miracle] it is awesome, and many times it authenticates His presence. 

Miracles are relatively rare and are not for the removal of difficult or discomforting situations. [As the water to wine is said to be for the announcement that He was God present NOT to cover the shame of the lack of wine. John 2:11]  In fact, difficult and discomforting circumstances are not generally removed by God but allowed by God for the purpose of character development, particularly for the development of patience in believers.

All this brings me to some thoughts about the miraculous acts of God. [Miracles] Some of these thoughts are what I call bible driven speculation. By this I mean it isn't made clear in scripture, so one has to be honest about a bit of speculation. But there seems to be plenty of inference in certain passages or events as we will see.

One, is the thought that if we believe Jesus is God, and we do as Christians, we're not surprised by the miracles He did. [God did through Him.] He was fully man and He was also fully God. But living as man He was fully and truly submitted to the Father and miraculous things were bound to happen. That's just the way God acts.

Two,  I don't think we are to view miracles as God suspending or violating natural law at all. He just introduces a new cause and effect. As I would do if I held a book in my right hand, dropped it, and, as it fell, [natural law of gravity] with my left hand catch and raise it up. New cause, [left hand] and new effect. [Raising it.] God simply injects Himself into the natural realm, [From the Supernatural realm remember as He is Spirit after all, and Lord of all.] and causes something to result. [effect]
Peter walking on the water illustrates this. He stepped out of that boat and walked and did not go under water. He did begin sinking momentarily in doubt but was picked up by Jesus and continued walking. But if any other of those guys had stepped out, or if a guy on a boat watching in the distance had assumed he could do the same, he and they would have sunk immediately I would think. This because God, as the new cause for Peter not sinking and the new effect of his walking on water, was not setting aside natural law to do it. It was a new cause and effect for Peter alone. It was a miracle but that's just normal for God.

This shows, to my way of thinking, that there is no lock on a miracle being done for me or anyone else just because God has done it before for someone else. But when He has a specific purpose in mind, He may act in His normal way for anyone He chooses for whatever purpose He might have and we will be caught up in the wonder of it all. If He doesn't act,  [miracle] that's OK too since that's His business. Ours is to trust His person and obey His Word while living in this natural realm.

Besides...He has ALREADY performed the greatest of all miracles for us in the giving of His Son as our Salvation. Then He miraculously regenerated us, [quickened us] miraculously gifted us with faith, and miraculously birthed us into His family. ALL OTHER MIRACLES He might ever do on our behalf pale in comparison. If He NEVER does another it matters not. 

We believe Him, trust Him, love Him, serve Him, and enjoy Him in a supernatural relationship while in this natural world which is also His gift to us. [As Paul said in 1 Corinthians "All things are ours."]

Third, I also see something else that is a bit of speculation on my part, I admit, but I believe it is informed speculation, as I said. That is that it could be that the DIFFERENCE in the natural realm [where we live and breath] and the supernatural realm [where God's throne is] is not one of distance but dimension. 

When God sent Gabriel to Mary I don't think it was past the galaxies, stars, sun and moon to earth. I think God pulled back a veil and Gabriel stepped from the supernatural to the natural in an instant. As when Stephen was stoned he saw Jesus standing at the Throne and that without a telescope. A new realm [Dimension] was revealed to him.

Finally, remember the servant of the Old Testament prophet who was fearful of the enemy surrounding them and the prophet asked God to show him something. The veil was drawn and angels in the supernatural realm were stationed all around in the natural realm.

If departed believers are truly aware and in God's presence after death, their natural body awaiting the resurrection but their spirit with Him, they may not be way up there... but right here... though in a totally different dimension. I'm thinking the reason we can't see or communicate with them is we just don't have the equipment. [Natural people as we are.] Nor do they have the equipment  [supernatural/spirit people as they are]  to communicate or interact with us, unless God acts miraculously in an unveiling moment as the Mount of Transfiguration. And don't be fooled by any deceiving spirit of our enemy.

But one day when Jesus returns to this natural realm [earth] in full Glory, [manifested presence] from the supernatural realm [heaven] where He is now, this natural realm will pass away and a new heaven and new earth will appear and we will, with resurrected bodies made of heavenly material, in other words new equipment, live in the presence of God in a miraculous fashion that has become the norm.  

Man...that will be the final miracle, wonder and sign. From then on that kind of thing will be the norm for all believers. What a day that will be.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


You say,"Some of these thoughts are what I call bible driven speculation. By this I mean it isn't made clear in scripture, so one has to be honest about a bit of speculation".

That is as far as we can go! That is the honesty I wish I could see from any one who speaks on this subject, instead of the dogmatic stuff commonly heard, either negative or positive.

I have seen and experienced that which could only be understood as a miracle. At times a miracle would have been the greatest desire of my heart, as when the sister in Christ I wrote of a few weeks ago died.

No matter what the claims of quite a few, as you say, "...there is no lock on a miracle being done for me or anyone else just because God has done it before for someone else".

Thanks for some wise words!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

You are more than welcome.

Chuck Andrews said...

"If He doesn't act, [miracle] that's OK too since that's His business. Ours is to trust His person and obey His Word while living in this natural realm."

Now, that's a mouth full, right there.

So many people believe that just because He is able to act, He ought to act. And if He doesn't there are hurt feelings and reduced faith. Reminds me of a quetion I thought about a while back:

Do we trust God for life or just what we want out of life?

Great point Paul.


Paul Burleson said...


Your concluding thought is as insightful as anything that might be found in the post. Thanks friend.

Christiane said...

"a new heaven and new earth will appear and we will, with resurrected bodies made of heavenly material, in other words new equipment, live in the presence of God "


I think of the 'miracle' that Job's great hope and trust in God remained intact, in spite of all of his suffering;
expressed in these triumphant words in the Book of Job, chapter 19:

For I know that my Redeemer liveth,

and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

and though after my skin worms destroy this body,

yet in my flesh shall I see God:
27 whom I shall see for myself,

and mine eyes shall behold,
and not another . . . "

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks, I love that Job passage.

Aussie John said...

Paul & Christiane,

That passage was very important to me when facing false accusations from some very religious people.

Austin Al said...

Hello Paul,
I have just discovered your blog thru Wayne's and I am always happy to find reading material from christian elders who seem to have a gift of clear thinking. In this post, you seem to place regeneration previous to faith, was/is that your intention?

Paul Burleson said...

Austin Al,

I appreciate you stopping by. I'm not sure who the Wayne is to whom you're referring but, nonetheless, am glad you've chosen to read.

I believe any person who is ever saved must repent and have faith for salvation to be effectual in their life. But I do see that it is God's grace that not only provides salvation, but His power which also gives us the ability to both desire and receive it.

So He is at work in us both to will and to do His good pleasure before we are capable of doing His good pleasure.

That work He does in us is the quickening, [new birth] and, I believe, is the work of regeneration and is totally the work of the Holy Spirit.

Please note a few texts of Scripture that indicate to me the things that a lost person cannot do until he /she has been quickened or made alive:

Cannot see - until first born again. John 3:3.

Cannot understand - until first given a new nature. I Cor. 2:14.

Cannot come - until first effectually called by the Holy Spirit. John 6:44,45.

So you can see that I believe regeneration is the cause of repentance and faith and not the effect.

I realize many good people who are true believers disagree with me on this and I understand that. Our fellowship is around the person and work of Christ, however, and not an understanding of a set of doctrines or even a sequence of the workings of God.

How we can be at differing positions on some things doctrinally and still fellowship around the Son as a family of God is part of the mystery of it all I would think. I'm just glad we can.

Austin Al said...

"Wayne" was the result of a senior moment. I meant Wade, of course.

Thanks for your irenic reply.

So, at the churches you pastored, you clearly and openly taught regeneration before faith from the pulpit on Sunday and your people understood the import of your views and accepted them with very little or no hesitancy? Were they aware that not even one in one hundred SBC congregations believe this particular concept?

The reason I ask is that I believe that it is often the case that pastors hold convictions that their people not only do not understand but would be not a little distressed if they DID understand. Were you, as a teenager, taught this concept at your home church or did you come to this understanding at college or the seminary?

I honestly never met another (Southern) Baptist with that understanding before a very few years ago. However, I will also have to say that I had no idea the DTS was started by Presbyterians until lately, either.

I really fail to see how those who hold to this order can reconcile Jesus condemning the Pharisees for not "coming to Him" (presumably, in faith) to receive the new life in John 5:40.

In my experience, the more highly developed and detailed a person's systematic theology becomes, he/she also, proportionally, finds more and more scriptures that require significant explanation to explain that they do NOT mean exactly what they so plainly say. Perhaps the finest example of this is Sproul's rendering of John 3:16.

Wouldn't you agree that it would be unfair of Jesus to speak thusly to the Pharisees if they were "unable to come to Jesus for the new birth" because Jesus had not granted them the new birth? Do you interpret John 3:16 as dealing with "classes of men?"


Paul Burleson said...

Austin Al,

I completely understand your thoughts and have a real appreciation for the logical pattern they follow. But I will have to say that I did not teach the people I pastored systematic theology but the text of the scripture as we came to it.

In doing so we were left with some issues that couldn't be settled when trying to make it all fit together. So we decided to let the scriptures speak as they spoke and our issues be settled as they could be with further study and insights. Not everyone came to the same conclusions as you can well imagine.

But since each person had a responsibility to come to their own conclusions we determined that any one of us could be misunderstanding something or not seeing something and we would all find out how it fit together one day.

This is the way we faced many lesser issues of theology and why we had the freedom to disagree on several issues without it BECOMING an issue. This is a wonderful way for a church to relate and a family too for that matter.

I have my answer for the question you have about the fairness idea but I don't always have a need of speaking it. Sometimes it's better for people to work through to their own conclusions.

I will say this, when I taught the passage about Jesus holding people responsible for not repenting and believing I believe He believed they were responsible. So do I.

That doesn't negate what other passages have to say about things however. So I just keep wrestling with both sides and teach as I see it when I come to it.

My goal is never to sell anyone on seeing it my way. Just to lead them to trust the scriptures to mean what they mean and the Spirit to lead where He will lead on things. I can and did live with that.

Austin Al said...

OK, thanks. I really agree with "letting the scriptures mean what they mean." This is what helped me see the reasonableness of conditional security. Al

Paul Burleson said...

Austin Al,

I guess we would disagree with the "reasonableness" of conditional security as well. I'm reminded what Spurgeon said to reflect the reasonableness of such thinking. He said....

"And now shall I tell you why it is certain a believer cannot perish? In the first place, how can a believer perish if that Scripture be true, which saith, that every believer is a member of Christ’s body! If you will only grant me my head afloat above the water I will give you leave to drown my fin­gers. Try it: you cannot do it. As long as a man’s head is above the flood you cannot drown him—it is clean impossible—nor yet drown any part of his body."

"Now, a Christian is a part of Christ the Head. Christ, the head of the body, is in heaven, and until you can drown the head of the body, you cannot drown the body, and if the head be in heaven, beyond the reach of harm, then every member of the body is alive and secure, and shall at last be in heaven too."

I know that Truth doesn't stand on the reasonableness foundation alone as much of scripture sounds unreasonable to the natural mind, but it is a telling word picture Spurgeon painted.

Austin Al said...

Hi Paul,
I'm pretty sure you already know what they say about making illustrations walk on all fours. Bro. Spurgeon sure had a powerful command of language and persuasion; speaking of which, I guess another thing dead men can't do is be moved by persuasion, notwithstanding Paul's determination to do so.