On several occasions, Jesus Christ assured His inner circle of 12 disciples that they would be able to do miraculous things, but are these assurances also applicable to His followers (i.e., Christians) who are living today? Before we attempt to answer this question, we want to make it clear that we believe human beings do not have the ability to perform genuine miracles unless God gives them the power to do so. Therefore, we will be trying to determine if God empowers anyone today with the ability to perform miracles.
In attempting to answer the basic question being addressed by this article, we will consider scriptures that may pertain to the ability to perform miracles. An important consideration to keep in mind as we review these scriptures is that in each and every one of them, Jesus Christ is speaking directly to His 12 disciples, and the Bible does not indicate that anyone else was present at those times. Thus, when Jesus uses the pronoun you, what He says is addressed to His disciples only and, therefore, what He states may not be applicable to any of His other followers, either then or now.
Scriptures Regarding the Ability to Move Mountains
With regard to this first category, we will focus on three scriptures that we think are relevant in our attempt to answer two questions: (1) Does the scripture actually pertain to the ability to perform miracles, and (2) If the scripture does pertain to the ability to perform miracles, is this ability applicable to Christians who are living today?
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, except when we are quoting a source that uses a different translation.]
In Matthew 17:20b. Jesus Christ declares to His 12 disciples, “[I]f you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible infers that this scripture pertains to the performing of miracles (“seemingly impossible” things) and that what Jesus Christ said is applicable to only His 12 disciples. According to Gill,
[Saying to the mountain, “Move from here to there,” means,] not that it would be ordinarily or ever done in a literal sense by the apostles, that they should remove mountains; but that they should be able to do things equally difficult, and as seemingly impossible, if they had but faith, when the glory of God, and the good of men, required it. . . . [I]t was meant that they should, and besides, have done, things equally as great as this, and which is the sense of the words.
[The statement that nothing will be impossible for you means that the disciples would] not only be able to perform such a wonderful action as this, were it necessary, but any, and everything else, that will make for the glory of God, the enlargement of [Jesus Christ’s] kingdom and interest, the confirmation of truth, and the good of mankind.
Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible specifically states that Matthew 17:20b relates to the performing of miracles and indicates that this ability is not applicable to anyone other than Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples. Poole asserts, “The promise of working miracles by a Divine power committed to them, was a particular promise made to the disciples. . . .”
Assessment of Matthew 17:20b: Of the Bible commentaries that we consulted, only the two that we have cited make statements about this scripture that are relevant to this article. Although both of these commentaries indicate that this scripture pertains to the performing of miracles and that this ability is not applicable to anyone other than Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples, we are reluctant to draw any definite conclusions with regard to this particular scripture without support from additional sources.
Similarly to what Jesus Christ told His 12 disciples in Matthew 17:20b, He asserts in Matthew 21:21b-22, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will . . . say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible expresses the belief that this scripture relates to the performing of miracles and that Jesus Christ’s promise is not applicable to anyone other than His disciples. According to Barnes,
This promise was evidently a special one, given to [the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ] in regard to working miracles. To them it was true, but it is manifest that we have no right to apply this promise to ourselves. It was desired especially for the apostles; nor have we a right to turn it from its original meaning.
In contrast, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible seems to indicate that Matthew 21:21b-22 infers that Christians today, as well as Jesus Christ’s early followers, have been given the ability to do things that seem impossible (i.e., miracles). Henry says,
The power and prevalence of [wonder-working faith is] expressed figuratively. . . . Whatever was the intent of [the term this mountain], the same must be the expectation of faith, how impossible soever [sic] it might appear to sense. But this is a proverbial expression intimating that we are to believe that nothing is impossible with God, and therefore that what he has promised shall certainly be performed, though to us it seem impossible.
Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible expresses the belief that the same scripture pertains to the performing of miracles and infers that it is applicable to Christians living today, in addition to the early followers of Jesus Christ. According to Pett,
[Jesus Christ] points out that nothing is impossible to faith, even the withering of fig trees and the moving of mountains and casting of them into the sea. However, we must not read into that that faith can produce anything that we wish (it did not produce figs for Jesus to eat), for it would be no more moral for us to use faith for our own selfish purposes as it would have been for Jesus. The point is that we can only use faith in this way if there are grounds for such faith. Jesus is not saying to His disciples that they can do anything ridiculous that they decide that they want to do (like moving a mountain simply in order to avoid having to climb over it). He is saying that this is true for anything that they have good grounds for thinking is in the will of God.
The following comments by Poole with regard to Matthew 21:21b-22 are especially supportive of the belief that not only Jesus Christ’s early followers, but also, “believing souls” (i.e., Christians) living today, have been endowed with the ability to perform miracles:
[T]here is nothing conducive to the glory of God and our own good, but believers may receive at the hand of God, if they can believe without doubting that what they would have shall come to pass. I see no reason to discourse of a faith of miracles as different from other faith; which only thus differed, that the disciples (the apostles I mean) had a power given them, and a promise made to them, that they should be able to work miraculous operations, which is not given to other Christians serving only the particular occasions of that time, to give credit to the gospel. The general proposition is true, and shall be made good to every believer: That whatsoever good is made the matter of a promise, (such are all good things), shall be given to believing souls, praying for them.
Adam Clarke Commentary was the only Bible commentary we consulted that indicates Matthew 21:21b-22 does not pertain to the performing of miracles, so whether or not Clarke believes this scripture is applicable to current followers of Jesus Christ, it is not relevant to this article. Clarke states,
Removing mountains, and rooting up of mountains, are phrases very generally used to signify the removing or conquering great difficulties – getting through perplexities. . . . He that has faith will get through every difficulty and perplexity; mountains shall become molehills or plains before him. The saying is neither to be taken in its literal sense, nor is it hyperbolical: it is a proverbial form of speech, which no Jew could misunderstand, and with which no Christian ought to be puzzled.
Assessment of Matthew 21:21b-22: Most of the Bible commentaries we have cited indicate that this scripture pertains to the performing of miracles. Furthermore, a majority of these commentaries express the belief that this scripture is applicable to Christians living today, as well as to Jesus’ early followers. However, these commentaries do not provide an explanation as to the basis for this latter belief. Therefore, even if this scripture pertains to the performing of miracles, we do not think there is sufficient reason to believe it supports the view that Christians living today have the ability to perform miracles.
Like what Jesus Christ says in the two previously mentioned scriptures, He tells His 12 disciples in Mark 11:23-24, “I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
Henry unambiguously believes that Mark 11:23-24 pertains to miracles, but infers that this scripture is applicable to only Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples and other early preachers of the gospel, not to Christians living today. He states,
Now this is to be applied: To that faith of miracles which the apostles and first preachers of the gospel were endued with, which did wonders in things natural, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils these were, in effect, the removing of mountains.
Pett not only indicates that this scripture is applicable to miracles (i.e., “impossible things”), but also takes the position that this scripture pertains to anyone who has faith in God. According to Pett,
Jesus’ reply to Peter and the others was that, as He Himself had demonstrated, they must have faith in God. He was pointing out the lesson of what faith can accomplish. The one who truly has confidence in God can not only wither fig trees but can even remove mountains. This general idea of moving a mountain was one that Jesus used fairly regularly.
[T]he faith that had enabled the withering of the fig tree was available to all who truly believed God. . . . [His disciples] must demonstrate their faith in God, and it is prayer of this kind that will prevent them from withering. Then impossible things will be possible. For when men trust God fully they will be able to cast a mountain into the sea with a word.
In contrast, the following comments by David Guzik’s Commentary on the Bible suggest that he does not think Mark 11:23-24 pertains to the performing of miracles, so whether or not Guzik believes this scripture is applicable to Christians today it is not relevant to this article. According to Guzik,
Mountain was a popular figure of speech for any insurmountable problem; Jesus is saying, as we believe, God can overcome any obstacle.
1. “The phrase about removing mountains was a quite common Jewish phrase. It was a regular, vivid phrase for removing difficulties.” (Barclay)
2. This promise of God’s answer to the prayer made in faith is made to disciples, not to the multitude. “Nor should we interpret Mark 11:24 to mean, ‘If you pray hard enough and really believe, God is obligate [sic] to answer your prayer no matter what you ask.’ . . . (Wiersbe)
Poole does not provide a clear indication of whether or not Mark 11:23-24 pertains to miracles. Therefore, for purposes of this article, there is no need to consider whether or not he believes this particular scripture is applicable to current followers of Jesus. However, Poole’s preceding comments with regard to Matthew 21:21b-22 indicate that not only Jesus’ early followers, but also Christians living today, have been endowed with the ability to perform miracles. And, because Mark 11:23-24 and Matthew 21:21b-22 are accounts of the same discourse by Jesus, it is reasonable to assume that Poole has the same opinion about both of these scriptures.
Assessment of Mark 11:23-24: There is no clear consensus among the preceding Bible commentaries as to whether or not this scripture is applicable to the ability of current followers of Jesus Christ to perform miracles. Therefore, for purposes of this article, it is irrelevant whether or not this passage is applicable to current followers of Jesus Christ.
Considering all three of the preceding scriptures together, the ability to move mountains may infer the ability to perform miracles. However, even if these scriptures do infer the ability to perform miracles, it is uncertain if what Jesus Christ told His 12 disciples is applicable to anyone other than them and, perhaps, to some of His other early followers. It is also possible that these three scriptures are figurative statements indicating that Jesus was telling His followers that they could accomplish far more than they believed possible, provided that they had sufficient faith.
Scriptures Regarding the Ability to Perform Other Remarkable Feats
With regard to this second category of scriptures, there are only two scriptures that we think are relevant, and we will consider both of them in our attempt to answer the same two questions that we attempted to answer with regard to our previous discussion of the ability to remove mountains: (1) Does the scripture actually pertain to the ability to perform miracles and (2) If the scripture does pertain to the ability to perform miracles, is this ability applicable to Christians who are living today?
In Mark 16:17-18, Jesus tells the remaining 11 disciples in His inner circle, “[T]hese signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
This scripture clearly pertains to several types of remarkable feats that would be regarded as miracles, so we will need to determine only if such abilities are applicable to followers of Jesus Christ who are living today, in addition to His 12 disciples and, perhaps, His other early followers.
Barnes believes that Mark 16:17-18 is applicable to only Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples and His other early followers, not to Christians who are living today. According to Barnes,
[Those who believe refers to] the apostles, and those in the primitive age who were endowed with like power. This promise was fulfilled if it can be shown that these signs followed in the case of any who believed, and it is not necessary to suppose that they would follow in the case of all. The meaning is, that they would be the result of faith, or of the belief of the gospel. It is true that they were. These signs were shown in the case of the apostles and early Christians. . . . [T]he Christian should be satisfied that the promise was fulfilled if these miracles were ever actually wrought, though they do not occur now; and the believer now should not expect a miracle in his case. Miracles were necessary for the establishment of religion in the world; they are not necessary for its continuance now.
John Calvin’s Commentaries on the Bible also expresses the belief that this scripture is not applicable to Christians today, only to Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples and other early followers of Jesus. Calvin states,
As the Lord, while he still lived with men in the world, had ratified the faith of his gospel by miracles, so now he extends the same power to the future, lest the disciples should imagine that it could not be separated from his bodily presence. For it was of very great importance that this divine power of Christ should continue to be exerted amongst believers, that it might be certainly known that he was risen from, the dead, and that thus his doctrine might remain unimpaired, and that his name might be immortal. When he says that believers will receive this gift, we must not understand this as applying to every one of them; for we know that gifts were distributed variously, so that the power of working miracles was possessed by only a few persons. But as that which was bestowed on a few was common to the whole Church, and as the miracles performed by one individual served for the confirmation of all, Christ properly uses the word believers in an indefinite sense. The meaning, therefore, is, that believers will be ministers of the same power which had formerly excited admiration in Christ, that during his absence the sealing of the gospel may be more fully ascertained, as he promises that they will do the same things, and greater.
Though Christ does not expressly state whether he intends this gift to be temporary, or to remain perpetually in his Church, yet it is more probable that miracles were promised only for a time, in order to give luster to the gospel, while it was new and in a state of obscurity. It is possible, no doubt, that the world may have been deprived of this honor through the guilt of its own ingratitude; but I think that the true design for which miracles were appointed was, that nothing which was necessary for proving the doctrine of the gospel should be wanting at its commencement. And certainly we see that the use of them ceased not long afterwards, or, at least, that instances of them were so rare as to entitle us to conclude that they would not be equally common in all ages.
Likewise, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible indicates that Mark 16:17-18 is applicable to only Jesus Christ’s early followers, not to subsequent generations of believers, including Christians living today. Gill declares,
Not all of [the signs], but some; and not always, only for a time; and which were necessary for the confirmation of the Gospel, and the establishment of Christianity in the world; and not only believing hearers, but believing ministers of the word, are chiefly designed; and this is said, for the encouragement both of those that preach the Gospel, and of them that hear, believe and obey.
Although Henry expresses the opinion that the ability to produce the “signs” (i.e., miracles) mentioned in this scripture is applicable to only Christians who are actively involved in spreading the Gospel, he does not make it clear if he believes this includes Christians living today. He says,
Not . . . all who believe shall be able to produce these signs, but some, even as many as were employed in propagating the faith, and bringing others to it for signs are intended for them that believe not (see 1 Corinthians 14:22). It added much to the glory and evidence of the gospel, that the preachers not only wrought miracles themselves, but conferred upon others a power to work miracles, which power followed some of them that believed, wherever they went to preach.
The following comments by The Pulpit Commentaries seem to infer a point of view similar to that of Henry with regard to Mark 16:17-18 and, like Henry’s comments, the comments of The Pulpit Commentaries are somewhat ambiguous as to whether or not Christians living today have the ability to perform miracles:
[With regard to the statement that “these signs will follow those who believe:”] Such evidences were necessary in the first dawn of Christianity, to attract attention to the doctrine; but our Lord’s words do not mean that they were to be in perpetuity, as a continually recurring evidence of the truth of Christianity.
Assessment of Mark 16:17-18: In their comments regarding this scripture, a majority of the preceding Bible commentaries assert that the ability to perform miracles was applicable to early Christians only, albeit not to all early Christians, and none of these commentaries express the opinion that this scripture indicates that any Christians today can perform miracles.
In John 14:12-14, Jesus asserts to His inner circle of 12 disciples, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
This scripture, unlike Mark 16:17-18, does not clearly pertain to miracles. Therefore, we need to determine if most Bible commentaries express the belief that John 14:12-14 does pertain to miracles, and then attempt to ascertain if this scripture is applicable to followers of Jesus Christ who are living today, in addition to His 12 disciples and, perhaps, His other early followers.
In reference to John 14:12-14, Pett expresses the belief that this promise by Jesus Christ includes the ability to perform of miracles. Pett also believes that the gifts of healing were restricted to Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples and a relatively few other men living during the early church and now. Pett states,
[Jesus Christ declares that] “The works that I do, he [anyone who has faith in Him] will do.” We must undoubtedly see this as including His miracles. So the Apostles are empowered to heal all who come to them, and Peter takes advantage of this power (Acts 3:6) as do the others (Acts 5:12). Because Peter and Paul are emphasised [sic] in Acts, it is often overlooked how widespread was the ministry of all the Apostles, but the same book makes clear the wide influence of their ministry, albeit in summarised [sic] form. Manifested healings through the Apostles and their delegates were an essential part of the witness of the early church.
No one who lays claim to healing powers today could make a claim like this. Rather they have to regret how comparatively few are healed (they can never say that all who came to them were healed) although the less spiritual try to blame the failure on other’s lack of faith. But Jesus and the Apostles never had to make this excuse. If men had even a little faith, the faith to come, they were healed. The fact is that apart from the Apostles and a few chosen men, gifts of healing were severely restricted, both in the early church and now.
“And greater works than these shall he do because I go to the Father.” How could the Apostles do greater works than Jesus? Certainly not in the field of the miraculous. Rather it was in the fact that they would reach out to many nations with the Good News, while Jesus had been restricted to Palestine and the surrounding areas. Success would accompany them on every hand.
“And whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” This is not a blanket promise that God will give us anything we ask ‘if we go about it in the right way’. It is not a ‘key’ for obtaining whatever WE want. It was a promise to dedicated, chosen men that, as they carried out their ‘impossible’ task, all the resources of Heaven would be at their disposal. They would come and ‘ask in His name’, and Jesus Himself would do it, because they were doing His work. He would do it because what they were doing they were doing for Him, in fulfilment of His command.
With regard to the same scripture, Barnes believes that the phrase works that I do refers to miracles and that the phrase greater works than these may include miracles. Although Barnes also says this promise by Jesus is not applicable to all of Jesus’ followers, he does not give any indication of whether or not the promise may include any Christians living today. Nevertheless, Barnes believes that all Christians will receive whatever they ask God for, provided that they ask in faith and according to God’s will, and this seems to include miracles. Barnes declares,
This promise had doubtless special reference to the apostles themselves. They were full of grief at his departure, and Jesus, in order to console them, directed them to the great honor which was to be conferred on them, and to the assurance that God would not leave them, but would attend them in their ministry with the demonstrations of his mighty power. It cannot be understood of all his followers, for the circumstances of the promise do not require us to understand it thus, and it has not been a matter of fact that All Christians have possessed power to do greater works than the Lord Jesus. It is a general promise that greater works than he performed should be done by his followers, without specifying that all his followers would be instrumental in doing them.
[The works that I do refers to] the miracles of healing the sick, raising the dead, etc. This was done by the apostles in many instances. (See Acts 5:15; Acts 19:12; Acts 13:11; Acts 5:1-10.)
[With regard to the statement that greater works than these he will do,] interpreters have been at a loss in what way to understand this. The most probable meaning of the passage is the following: The word “greater” cannot refer to the miracles themselves, for the works of the apostles did not exceed those of Jesus in power. No higher exertion of power was put forth, or could be, than raising the dead. But, though not greater in themselves considered, yet they were greater in their effects. They made a deeper impression on mankind. They were attended with more extensive results. They were the means of the conversion of more sinners. The works of Jesus were confined to Judea. They were seen by few. The works of the apostles were witnessed by many nations, and the effect of their miracles and preaching was that thousands from among the Jews and Gentiles were converted to the Christian faith. The word “greater” here is used, therefore, not to denote the absolute exertion of power, but the effect which the miracles would have on mankind. The word “works” here probably denotes not merely miracles, but all things that the apostles did that made an impression on mankind, including their travels, their labors, their doctrine, etc.
[The phrase “whatsoever ye shall ask”] referred particularly to the apostles in their work of spreading the gospel; it is, however, true of all Christians, if what they ask is in faith, and according to the will of God, James 1:6; 1 John 5:14.
Calvin likewise infers that he believes that John 14:12-14 pertains to miracles, but he gives no indication as to whether or not he thinks Jesus Christ’s promise includes Christians living today. Calvin says,
Many are perplexed by the statement of Christ, that the Apostles would do greater works than he had done I pass by the other answers which have been usually given to it, and satisfy myself with this single answer. First, we must understand what Christ means; namely, that the power by which he proves himself to be the Son of God, is so far from being confined to his bodily presence, that it must be clearly demonstrated by many and striking proofs, when he is absent. Now the ascension of Christ was soon afterwards followed by a wonderful conversion of the world, in which the Divinity of Christ was more powerfully displayed than while he dwelt among men. Thus, we see that the proof of his Divinity was not confined to the person of Christ, but was diffused through the whole body of the Church.
Clarke’s explanation of the same scripture is similar to that of Barnes. He believes that Jesus Christ’s promise includes miracles. Furthermore, like both Barnes and Calvin, Clarke does not indicate if this promise is applicable to Christians living today, as well as to Jesus’ apostles. Clarke states,
[Jesus is saying that] the miracles which I have wrought could not have been wrought but by the omnipotence of God; but that omnipotence can work greater. And those who believe on my name shall, through my almighty power, be enabled to work greater miracles than those which l have ordinarily wrought.
Perhaps the greater works refer to the immense multitudes that were brought to God by the ministry of the apostles. By the apostles was the doctrine of Christ spread far and wide; while Christ confined his ministry chiefly to the precincts of Judea. It is certainly the greatest miracle of Divine grace to convert the obstinate, wicked heart of man from sin to holiness. This was done in numberless cases by the disciples, who were endued with power from on high, while proclaiming remission of sins through faith in his blood.
Christ only preached in Judea, and in the language only of that country; but the apostles preached through the most of the then known world, and in all the languages of all countries. But let it be remarked that all this was done by the power of Christ; and I think it still more natural to attribute the greater works to the greater number of conversions made under the apostles’ ministry.
Similarly, Poole expresses the belief that John 14:12-14 pertains to performing miracles and that some of Jesus’ followers, in addition to His apostles, will have this ability. Also, like Barnes, Calvin, and Clarke, Poole does not make it clear if these other followers include Christians living today. According to Poole,
[This scripture is applicable to] not every individual soul that believeth on me; but some of those, particularly you that are my apostles, and shall be filled with the Holy Ghost in the days of Pentecost; you shall preach the gospel, and work miracles for the confirmation of the truth of the doctrine of it.
[You shall do] greater works than I have done: not more or greater miracles: the truth of that may be justly questioned; for what miracle was ever done by the apostles greater than that of raising Lazarus? . . . It is rather to be understood of their success carrying the gospel to the Gentiles, by which the whole world, almost, was brought to the obedience of the faith of Christ.
The whatsoever, in this text, must be limited by what the will of God hath revealed in other texts, as to the matter of our prayers; viz. they must be things that are for our good; such things as we stand in need of, and as God hath given us a liberty to ask. . . .
Gill likewise indicates that the term works includes miracles, but he clearly believes that John 14:12-14 is applicable to only the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. According to Gill,
Having mentioned his miracles as proofs of his deity, he [Jesus Christ] assures his disciples, in order to comfort them under the loss of his bodily presence, that they should do the same, and greater works; for we are not to understand these words of everyone that believes in Christ, of every private believer in him, but only of the apostles, and each of them, that were true believers in him. . . .
[The statement “greater works than these he (anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ) will do” means] not greater in nature and kind, but more in number; for the apostles, in a long series of time, and course of years, went about preaching the Gospel, not in Judea only, but in all the world. . . . though perhaps by these greater works may be meant the many instances of conversion, which the apostles were instrumental in, and which were more in number than those which were under our Lord’s personal ministry: besides, the conversion of a sinner is a greater work than any of the miracles of raising the dead, &c. for this includes in it all miracles: here we may see a sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, quickened; one born blind made to see; one who was deaf to the threatenings of the law, and to the charming voice of the Gospel, made to hear, so as to live; and one that had the spreading leprosy of sin all over him, cleansed from it by the blood of the Lamb yea, though a miracle in nature is an instance and proof of divine power, yet the conversion of a sinner, which is a miracle in grace, is not only an instance of the power of God, and of the greatness of it, but of the exceeding greatness of it. . . .
Assessment of John 14:12-14: All of the foregoing Bible commentaries regarding this scripture passage indicate that the term works includes miracles. However, only one of the commentaries (Pett’s) definitely believes that the ability of Christians to perform miracles still exists in today’s world. In other words, the consensus does not support the belief that the Jesus Christ’s followers today have the ability to perform miracles.
Although all of the Bible commentaries we consulted with regard to both Mark 16:17-18 and John 14:12-14 indicate that these two scriptures pertain to the ability of Christians to perform miracles, only one of these commentaries expresses the belief that either of these scriptures indicate that the ability to perform miracles is still applicable today.
Most miracles during modern times – probably, the vast majority of them – are evidently initiated either by God Himself or by several or more people praying for the same thing. This seems to be particularly true with regard to healings of individuals who have serious medical conditions. As for miracles initiated by individuals, there is not sufficient evidence that such miracles occur more than occasionally.
However, we are aware of no scripture that plainly states that the ability of individual Christians to perform miracles would not continue. Although there is no consensus among the Bible commentaries that we consulted as to whether or not the Bible indicates that this ability would endure, we believe there is adequate evidence that this ability still exists, albeit to a much more limited extent than during the early years of the Christian church.
In any case, it is important to keep in mind that the same God who performed miracles during biblical times still has the ability to perform miracles today.
[In addition to the scriptures that we discussed previously in this article, there are other scriptures that some people may regard as pertaining to the ability of Jesus Christ’s followers to perform miracles. Two of them are discussed in the Appendix that follows.]
Scriptures that Do Not Necessarily Pertain to the Ability to Perform Miracles
At least two scriptures indicate that Christian believers will receive what they pray for, but they do not seem to indicate that this includes the ability to perform miracles.
In John 15:7, Jesus asserts: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
The following comments by Calvin give no indication that he believes this verse of scripture is applicable to miracles:
Believers often feel that they are starved, and are very far from that rich fatness which is necessary for yielding abundant fruit. For this reason it is expressly added, whatever those who are in Christ may need, there is a remedy provided for their poverty, as soon as they ask it from God. This is a very useful admonition; for the Lord often suffers us to hunger, in order to train us to earnestness in prayer. But if we fly to him, we shall never want what we ask, but, out of his inexhaustible abundance, he will supply us with every thing that we need (1 Corinthians 1:5).
When [Christ Christ] promises that he will grant whatever we wish, he does not give us leave to form wishes according to our own fancy. God would do what was ill fitted to promote our welfare, if he were so indulgent and so ready to yield to us; for we know well that men often indulge in foolish and extravagant desires. But here he limits the wishes of his people to the rule of praying in a right manner, and that rule subjects, to the good pleasure of God, all our affections. This is confirmed by the connection in which the words stand; for he means that his people will or desire not riches, or honors, or any thing of that nature, which the flesh foolishly desires, but the vital sap of the Holy Spirit. . . .
Henry also does not indicate whether or not he believes John 15:7 pertains to miracles. He asserts, “Those that abide in Christ as their heart’s delight shall have, through Christ, their heart’s desire. If we have Christ, we shall want nothing that is good for us.”
Likewise, it is not clear if Pett believes this scripture is applicable to miracles. He says, “[T]his promise that they can ask what they will is said to men whose only aim is to further the work of Christ and to fulfil His words. Here it is strictly limited to them.”
Similarly, it is uncertain if Guzik believes John 15:7 pertains to miracles. According to Guzik,
The promise “you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” . . . must be understood not of temporal things, as riches, honours, profits, pleasures, or whatever even the carnal mind of a believer himself may sometimes desire; but of things spiritual, and with such limitations and restrictions as these; whatever is according to the will of God, for the Spirit of God himself asks for no other for the saints; whatever is for the glory of God, and for their own spiritual profit and edification; and whatever is agreeably to the words and doctrines of Christ, which abide in them. Every thing of this kind they ask in faith, and with a submission to the divine will, they may expect to receive.
Assessment of John 15:7: Although it can be argued that this verse of scripture does not necessarily exclude the ability of Christians today to perform miracles, none of the Bible commentaries we have cited seem to even infer that this scripture is applicable to miracles.
John 16:23b is the other verse of scripture that we want to briefly consider. In this verse, Jesus Christ declares: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.”
As with the prior scripture, Calvin gives no indication that he believes this scripture is applicable to miracles. He says,
[[The apostles will] have it in their power to draw freely from God, the fountain of wisdom, as much as they need; as if he had said, “You must not fear that you will be deprived of the gift of understanding; for my Father will be ready, with all the abundance of blessings, to enrich you bountifully.” . . . [Christ] declares that he will at that time discharge the office of Mediator, so that whatever they shall ask he will obtain for them from the Father abundantly, and beyond their prayers.
Similarly, with regard to John 15:7, it is not clear if Pett believes that this scripture pertains to miracles. Pett states,
This is no blanket promise that any Christian can have whatever he wants. It is the promise that as they seek to fulfil their service to Him [i.e., Jesus Christ] and in His name, they can receive from Him and in His name all that is needed.
[The disciples] were dedicated men who thought only of fulfilling the Master’s will and the promise is given in that light. When we take these words and apply them to our own selfish needs we make light of them.
Assessment of John 16:23b: Our assessment of this verse of scripture is essentially the same as for John 15:7; i.e., although it may be argued that this scripture does not necessarily exclude the ability of believers to perform miracles, the Bible commentaries we have cited do not seem to even infer that this scripture is applicable to miracles.