- He gives one person the power to perform miracles (ἐνεργήματα δυνάμεων, 1 Cor 12:10)
- … then those who do miracles (δύναμις/dynamis, 1 Cor 12:28)
Nature of the Gift
God doesn’t give us people who merit or should covet the title “the Great One—the Power of God.” God does not give the church “miracle workers” but rather “miracles” and “workings of miracles.” The focus falls on the timely occurrence of miracles rather than on the human vehicle through whom God works to provide them. Certainly, God doesn’t give us people who merit or should covet the title “the Great One—the Power of God” (Acts 8:9–10).
This miraculous power at work isn’t human potential realized at its highest level; rather, it’s God’s power at work for his own sovereign purposes and glory. The one working isn’t the human but God. The purposes are not oriented toward merely human aspirations, they serve the eternal cause of the kingdom of heaven.
The scope of this gift is broader than the gifts of healing, although it would include any healing that serves as wonder-provoking pointer to God’s presence. It would also include other miraculous interventions to shape human affairs for God’s glory, whether quieting a sea or removing a mountain, making an ax head float or floating a prophet up on a beach on his way to Nineveh, or raising the dead in Judea—or all around the world on the day of the Lord.
In the Old Testament, we think especially of Moses performing miracles before Pharaoh’s court (Exod 7–10). We also think of the many miracles that Elijah and Elisha performed, for example, Elijah’s power encounter with the Baal prophets on Carmel (1 Kgs 8) or Elisha purifying poisonous stew (2 Kgs 4:38–41), feeding a hundred from a little (4:42–44), healing Naaman (5:1–19), floating an ax head (6:5–7), and striking an Aramean army blind (6:18). Sometimes Elisha’s parallel Elijah’s; for example, both prophets replenished a destitute widow’s food supply (1 Kgs 17:8–16 // 2 Kgs 4:1–79) and both raised a widow’s son (1 Kgs 17:17–24 // 2 Kgs 4:8–37, esp. vv. 32–35).
In the New Testament, we think of Jesus during his incarnation, and of the apostles, who confirmed the apostolic message by miracles (2 Cor 12:12). It might be an occasion where apostles were miraculously delivered from physical danger, such as when they were imprisoned (Acts 5:19–20; 12:6–11) or bitten by a viper (Acts 28:3–6). It might be a powerful work of judgment on the enemies of the gospel or on someone requiring discipline in the church, as with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11; 13:9–12). It might be a powerful triumph over demonic possession (Acts 16:18; Luke 10:17). It might be a healing apostolic shadow (Acts 5:15).
And God still aims to work miracles through his people and on their behalf, even greater than Jesus did during his incarnation (John 14:12)—for the same purposes.
Exercising the Gift
The guidance that applies to the gifts of healing also applies to anyone through whom God acts by other miracles. These should all be done for God’s glory. We should never point to the miracle, but to the Miracle Worker, saying, “This is the finger of God” (Exod 8:19; Luke 11:20). And if God does use us that way, we shouldn’t claim “to be someone great” and should shudder if we hear someone talking about us like we’re “the Great One” (Acts 8:9–10).
So with great power comes the need for divinely sustained humility—perhaps even through means of a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7). Your “thorn” might not be in your flesh but one that pricks you self-image and an ambitions. Maybe you know your “thorn.” If so, let it do its work.