Miraculous signs and wonders have followed the preaching of the gospel since the beginning of the early church. Jesus promised that believers would do greater works than even He did (John 14:12). As we proclaim the good news of Christ’s salvation, the Holy Spirit empowers us to minister in supernatural ways that demonstrate God’s power and love. In this article, we’ll explore what the Bible teaches about signs and wonders and how we can expect to see them as we faithfully share the word of God.
- Signs and wonders are meant to draw people to Jesus and glorify God, not exalt individuals.
- Miracles can soften hearts to receive the gospel but do not produce saving faith on their own.
- All believers have access to the gifts of the Spirit, which include healings and miracles.
- We must focus on intimacy with Jesus above the pursuit of spiritual gifts.
- Operating in signs and wonders requires faith in God’s willingness and power.
- God is always working—we simply partner with what He is doing when we minister in the supernatural.
Jesus’ Ministry as a Model
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Jesus made it clear that miraculous works would follow in the wake of kingdom ministry. When sending out the twelve disciples, He told them, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8 NIV). Jesus equipped His followers to proclaim the gospel with power and set the example for us by how He combined preaching with supernatural works.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus consistently performed miracles to confirm the message of salvation He preached. After teaching in the Capernaum synagogue, Mark 1:32-34 tells us, “that evening…the whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons.” When John the Baptist doubted Jesus’ identity, Jesus told John’s disciples, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Matthew 11:4-5). The works validated the words.
Jesus did not heal or cast out demons randomly but intentionally chose supernatural acts that demonstrated specific aspects of the kingdom’s arrival and His identity as Messiah. He selected miracles that fulfilled Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah’s ministry (Isaiah 35:5-6, 61:1). Peter emphasizes this in his sermon at Cornelius’ house: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38). Signs and wonders followed Jesus because He was the Christ. As imitators of Christ commissioned to carry on His work, we should expect the miraculous when preaching the gospel.
Purpose of Signs and Wonders
In the Gospels and Acts, Jesus and the apostles use miracles as a means to an end, not an end in themselves—the greater goal always being salvation and glory given to God. Supernatural works consistently accompanied the preaching of the word to draw people to faith or testify to the truth of the gospel message.
When a paralyzed man was lowered through the roof in Capernaum, Jesus combined forgiveness of sins and physical healing, proving He had authority to address both spiritual and physical needs. But notice the order – Jesus forgave the man’s sins first because his eternal state was far more important than physical health (Mark 2:1-12).
Peter emphasizes the purpose of miracles was to point people to faith in Christ when he tells the Jerusalem crowd at Pentecost, “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). The works themselves were not the end goal but served as signposts directing attention to Jesus.
Paul recognizes the evangelistic purpose of the miraculous when he writes, “The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance” (2 Corinthians 12:12). As an apostle called to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, Paul knew supernatural works would open doors for the message.
Even the gift of healing, usually seen as for the individual, has a collective purpose. James ties it to prayer and fellowship within the church community (James 5:14-16). When we minister healing to fellow believers, their restored health allows fuller participation in God’s work.
So signs and wonders serve to strengthen the church and act as a witness drawing unbelievers to salvation. They glorify God by demonstrating His love and power. We must ensure miracle working does not become about promoting gifted individuals or ministries. The true goal is lives transformed by Christ.
Relationship to Faith
An important distinction regarding signs and wonders is that they do not automatically produce faith in those who witness or experience them. Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one turned back to glorify God (Luke 17:11-19). The crowds ate the multiplied loaves and fish, yet most deserted Jesus when He taught the hard truth that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood abide in Him (John 6:1-66).
In John 2, Jesus did not entrust Himself to the crowds that believed in Him because of the miracles He performed: “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person” (John 2:24-25). Jesus recognized that curiosity because of miracles did not necessarily equate to sincere faith.
Miracles can act as a signpost pointing to Jesus, but only the Holy Spirit can produce saving faith in someone. Nicodemus believed Jesus was from God because of the signs He did but needed spiritual rebirth to fully understand the kingdom (John 3:1-2). Faith comes by hearing the word (Romans 10:17). Signs provide a platform for the gospel but belief in Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection is what saves.
Paul writes, “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). As we operate in the gifts of the Spirit, we must ensure the central focus stays on the cross. Signs and wonders confirm the preached word; they do not replace the need for preaching. We celebrate when God uses the miraculous, but remember only His grace can impart life-changing faith.
Gifts Available to All Believers
In the early church, signs and wonders were not limited to the apostles. Stephen “did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). Philip cast out demons and healed paralyzed and lame people in Samaria (Acts 8:6-7). Ananias healed Saul of his blindness (Acts 9:17-18). The Holy Spirit empowered all believers, not just church leaders.
Paul makes clear that the charismatic gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, including healings, miracles, and distinguishing spirits, are available to all by God’s sovereign choice. Every believer can expect the Spirit’s supernatural enabling to build up the church. He emphasizes that we each have a role to play: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul lists the charismatic gifts as part of the fruit that the Spirit produces in every believer’s life: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25). The charisms are not reserved for a select few but meant to bless all.
Peter confirms that good stewards of God’s grace should use whatever gift they have received to serve others (1 Peter 4:10). As we grow in intimacy with Christ and step out in faith, we can trust Him to manifest His power however He chooses, whether through a visible gift like healing or invisible gifts like helps or hospitality. Expect Him to work through you!
Intimacy over Gifts
Despite God’s willingness to use us powerfully, the pursuit of spiritual gifts can become idolatrous if our focus shifts away from Jesus. Experiencing miracles or healing can never replace intimacy as the supreme aim. Jesus sternly warns that on judgment day, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:22-23).
Operating in supernatural gifting without truly knowing and loving Jesus leads to pride and misuse of His power. The Samaritans saw true transformation only after receiving the Holy Spirit when Peter and John came to lay hands on them following Philip’s miracle-filled revival (Acts 8:14-17). Simon the sorcerer witnessed the miracles and tried to pay the apostles for the ability but was rebuked for his impure motives (Acts 8:18-24). Supernatural works can be counterfeited. A genuine walk with God is the only sure foundation for exercising gifts fruitfully and faithfully.
Paul exhorts us to earnestly desire spiritual gifts but place far greater priority on growing in God’s love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). We fulfill our purpose not by flashy displays of power but through humble expressions of Christ’s nature that build others up. As we seek God’s heart, He will direct us to minister however He chooses. But intimacy must remain the chief goal.
Operating in Faith
Walking in signs and wonders requires both boldness and humility—humility to acknowledge that we merely participate in what Christ wants to do through us and boldness to step out in faith, believing God can use us. Jesus models this partnership when He says, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). The miraculous happens when we rely fully on Spirit-empowerment.
In Luke 10, Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples with instructions to heal the sick as they preach the kingdom. When they return rejoicing over the supernatural works they did in Jesus’ name, He cautions, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). He reminds them that power comes from their identity in Him, not themselves.
At the same time, Jesus expects bold faith—telling His followers they can literally command a mountain to throw itself in the sea if they do not doubt (Mark 11:23-24). On one occasion, Jesus could not perform miracles in Nazareth because of the people’s unbelief (Matthew 13:58). Faith is what releases the Spirit’s power through us. As long as we act out of intimacy with Christ and humble reliance on Him, we can be radical in asking for signs and wonders.
Partnership with God
Finally, we must remember our role is to partner with what God is already doing. We join our Unseen Partner in His work (1 Corinthians 3:9). Acts 3 beautifully illustrates this partnership when Peter heals the crippled beggar. Peter declares, “I do not have silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). The power and will for this miracle were God’s alone. Peter merely spoke in faith what he knew God wanted to do, and God brought the healing to pass.
Philip experienced something similar with the Ethiopian eunuch. The Spirit led Philip down the wilderness road and told him to approach the chariot (Acts 8:26-29). Philip didn’t know why, but obeyed. Once the eunuch opened his heart to the gospel, the Spirit caught Philip away (Acts 8:39). Again, God simply invited Philip to join Him in His supernatural work at the right time and place.
We may not see a result every time we pray for the sick, cast out demons, or release a prophetic word. The outcome depends on God’s sovereign wisdom and timing. Our role is simply to listen and obey in faith when the Lord invites us to partner with Him in displays of His power. As we walk in intimacy with Christ and step out boldly when He leads, we can trust signs and wonders will follow the preaching of His word.
From Jesus’ earthly ministry to the early church, the demonstration of God’s power through healings, miracles, signs, and wonders has served to draw people to salvation and bring glory to God. Though the supernatural gifts of the Spirit are available to every believer, these manifestations are meant to testify to the truth of the gospel, not replace the need for preaching Christ crucified. As we prioritize intimacy with God above chasing spiritual gifts, we can boldly yet humbly follow the Spirit’s leading to minister in whatever way He chooses. When abiding in Christ, we can confidently expect signs and wonders to accompany the proclamation of His word as the gospel advances and lives are transformed.