Distinguishing Between Providence and Miracles

Miracles were peculiar to biblical times. These signs, wonders, and miracles were used by God to demonstrate to man that His message was from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As Nicodemus, one of the believing rulers of the Jews, pointed out when he visited Jesus by night, "we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:2). The apostle John, who was one of the "inner four" (Peter, James, and John, along with Jesus), wrote a moving biography (the fourth gospel) of Jesus of Nazareth. In summarizing the miracles Jesus did during His personal ministry stated, "many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:30-31).

 Miracles, signs, and wonders are contrary to the laws of nature. They are obvious works of Deity. The superstitious, are overzealous in seeing signs from God where no signs are given. Before the Gospel was compiled in the New Testament, miracles were vital in confirming the message of the apostles and prophets of the first century. As John Mark pointed out in the closing verse of his gospel (Mark 16:20), the apostles, "went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following." Today, we too often use "miracle" in a non-biblical sense, such as, it was a miracle Brother Brown made it to church on time," or, "it was a miracle I got out of that accident alive." It may have been Providence (God's hand operating within the laws of nature) rather than a sign or wonder beyond the laws of nature.

 Providence is God operating in the affairs of mankind. The pilgrims, when they landed at Plymouth Rock, bowed down and thanked Providence or God for their safe journey to a new land where they could practice Christianity according to the dictates of their conscience. During the Reformation Movement of Luther and Calvin and the later Restoration Movement of Stone and Campbell, preachers and scholars DID NOT call on God for a miracle to confirm their message -- but rather appealed to the Scriptures and a " thus saith the Lord." Most all of those that consider themselves Christians, believe that God provides for His children and cares for their needs and therefore, refer to God by the term Providence.

 Providence is God operating within the laws and biblical miracles are acts beyond the laws of nature. This is illustrated in the miracle in the time of Elijah the prophet (1 Kings 17:8-16). A certain widow, in the days of Elijah, only had a "handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil," and was preparing a last meal for herself and her son. She was then expecting to die. If, in her search for firewood to prepare this meal, she found some meal and oil, she would attribute it to God as Providence. However, when "the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah" (verse 16) we obviously have an incident beyond the laws of nature and rightly classify it as a miracle.

 Dale I. Royal, Elk City OK