Miracles (events which nature, of itself, is incapable of producing) were a frequent occurrence in biblical times.
Through supernatural agency, storms were stilled by a simple rebuke (Mt. 8.23-27), water was walked upon (Jn. 6.16-21), the dead were resurrected (Jn. 11.43-44), and amputated body parts were restored instantly, wholly devoid of natural assistance (Lk. 22.51). The Lord, in ages past, fashioned these phenomena to manifest his sacred presence in this world, thereby confirming, in an unequivocal fashion, the validity of the biblical message (cf. Acts 4.13-18; 1 Cor. 2.1-4; Heb. 2.1-4; Mark 16.20, etc.).
But does God still perform miracles today?
Many believe that he does (see, for instance, Stone, et al.). According to them, since God never changes, and since God employed miracles in the past, God must employ miracles today. To doubt or deny the existence of present-day miracles, in their view, is tantamount to rendering God dead or useless at worst, capricious at best.
Hence, if God does not perform miracles today, then God, as they perceive him, does not exist. How, then, can we suggest that miracles no longer transpire? And, in light of that denial, how can we still believe in the immutability of God, since he obviously performed miracles in the past? Consider:
The Immutability of God
Indeed, God never changes (cf. Malachi 3.6). He is the “same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13.8). He is just as righteous, holy, and merciful today as he was under former dispensations. And any violation of his decrees today shall receive an appropriate reprisal as they did under Moses' law (cf. Heb. 10.28-31).
Yet, it is also evident that God exerts himself in ways differing from past manifestations (cf. Heb. 1.1-2). When was the last time he spoke through an animal (Num. 22.22-40)? Why hasn't God spoken from the clouds to convey his message to the world as he did with the apostolic-three (Jn. 17.1f)?
Do God's changing methods suggest that God, himself, is capricious? And what about his law for mankind? Has that not changed too (cf. Heb. 7.12)?
The Case of Gideon
Gideon was confronted with this very same ostensible predicament.
During his day, God permitted the people of Midian to afflict the children of Israel for seven years (Judges 6.1). And unlike erstwhile times, miraculous deliverances through the "strong hand" of God did not occur (Ex. 13.9). There were no supernatural plagues, sea-partings, manna falling from heaven, or lakes of water stricken from cleft-rocks. Miracles had palpably ceased.
This left Gideon with the impression that God was no longer on their side. He said,
“O my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his miracles which our fathers told us about, saying ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites” (Judges 6.13).
This record is revealing. Much like our time, Gideon's generation had only heard of the Lord's supernatural wonders. They had not witnessed them. And much like proponents of present-day miracles, Gideon believed that the absence of miraculous activity meant that the Lord was no longer involved in the affairs of the human population. This assumption was seriously flawed, to say the least.
In response, the Lord assured Gideon that he had not left them. Despite the fact that he had not manifested his power through miraculous measures, instead revealing himself through more natural or providential means, the Lord still operated in the province of humanity (Jud. 6.1-10).
Hence, though he may make use of miracles at one time, he may not use them at other times, yet still carry out his ultimate purpose either way. He had always been involved with his people — that never changes. But the nature of his involvement has varied from time to time.
One Unchanging Plan — Multiple Stages
As a contractor builds a house, the designs of which are flawless and fixed, while constructing it in various phases with various materials (e.g., foundation, walls, roof, etc.), so God operates in the world with one flawless, unchanging plan, engineered, by divine design, in different stages (cf. Heb. 3.1-6; 1.1-2). His changing means are an integral part of his unchanging plan.
Here are a few other examples of this fact:
(1) From the beginning, the Lord determined that men and women should be brought into existence (cf. Mk. 10.6-7). This singular plan involved two phases:
(a) human beings will be created through miraculous means, via heavenly fiat (cf. Gen. 1.26; 2.21-23; Isa. 7.14; Mt. 1.23); and
(b) human beings will be created through natural conception (Gen. 3.16; 6.1; 9.1).
God forms man through different means today than he has in the past (cf. Num. 27.16; Ecc. 12.7; Zech. 12.1; Heb. 12.9). Men are not fashioned today without an earthly father (in contradistinction to Adam and Jesus). But both methods of conception are part of God's singular, immutable plan of creation.
(2) Throughout history, the Lord provided sustenance at various times through supernatural methods (cf. Ps. 78.23-25; Ex. 17.1-7). Yet, at most other times, including today, the Lord provides sustenance through the seasons, and through man's cultivations of the earth (cf. Gen. 8.22; Heb. 6.7). Though he does not rain manna from heaven today, he nevertheless still gives "to all life, breath, and all things" (Acts 17.25). The means has varied; the plan has not. (3) God destroyed the old world with a flood (Gen. 6.13; 7.10-12). Yet, he determined never again to do so (Gen. 8.20-21). Instead, fire will be employed as the next destructive agent (cf. 2 Pet. 3.1-7; 10-12). The plan of God to destroy the world has not changed — nor will it. Yet, he has determined that the nature of his involvement in its destruction will utilize variable elements.
(4) Animal sacrifices, though required in the past, are no longer necessary or permitted (cf. Num. 7.1f; Heb. 9.11-15; 10.4-10; Rom. 12.1-2).
(5) Circumcision, an ordinance from by-gone days, is likewise no longer to be practiced (cf. Gen. 17.9-14; Gal. 5.2-6).
(6) Food restrictions were enforced by God in the past, but are no longer extant (cf. Lev. 11.1f; Mark 7.18-19; Acts 10.9-15; 1 Tim. 4.3-5).
The same may be said of sacred miracles, which, though performed in the past, are not employed by God today. Since the function of miracles was to bring the Christian faith from infancy to maturity, and since that objective has been accomplished, miracles are no longer required (cf. 1 Cor. 13.8-13; Gal. 1.11; Jude 3).
Instead, miracles have "ceased" (13.8), and, consequently, Christianity has "put away" such "childish things" (13.11).
"And now abide faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity" (13.13).
After Thomas witnessed the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus, the lord said:
"Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (Jn. 20.29).
Seeing such notable miracles are not needed to instill faith (cf. Num. 14.11-12), which comes by "hearing...the word of God" (Rm. 10.17). The word of the Lord alone, having been fully revealed and certified, is all-sufficient today to guide man into higher realms (cf. 2 Tim. 3.16-17). Thus, as faith increased through the written word (Eph. 3.1-7), miraculous gifts decreased (Eph. 4.8-16).
Whereas Gideon once, in faithlessness, asked: "where are all his miracles," John furnishes an answer:
"And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name" (John 20.30-31).
He does not say that we will continue seeing these miracles; rather, they were written to be read about by later generations. The perfect tense of the verb, these are written, indicates an ever-abiding status (i.e., these have been written, and remain thus).
Where are all his miracles? They are forever on display within the pages of Sacred Writ! Any Bible-reader today may bask in faith at the thought of their wonder.
The afore-mentioned examples, which by no means constitute a comprehensive list of things that, by divine design, change, illustrate the ineffable complexity and sagacity of God. The unchanging plan of God contains many dimensions. He has numerous means at his disposal so as to effect that plan.
Miracles were part of that plan in the first-century. Now, however, they are not. The Bible alone is now God's means of communicating that plan to the world. Let us, then, "be swift to hear" what it has to say (Jms. 1.19).
"Many, O Lord my God, are your wonderful works which you have done; and your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to you in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered" (Ps. 40.5).
Stone, Sheri and Therese Marszalek. Miracles Still Happen: Inspiring Real-Life Stories of Supernatural Intervention. Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 2003. Trench, R.C. Synonyms of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000, 357-361.