Christ's Miracles and Two Natures
The question for this issue of the News is, “While on earth did Christ perform miracles by His Deity or because He received the fullness of the Spirit in His human nature or some combination of these two or something else? Could you please explain?”
There can be no doubt that the power to perform miracles is the power of God. As the Son of God, Jesus had that power in Himself and did not need to have that power given Him as others did. Jesus Himself refers to His miracles as proof of His divinity (John 10:37-38) and the fourth gospel concludes with the same testimony: “And 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” (20:30-31) Mere men, like the twelve apostles, had to receive the power to perform miracles from God (cf. Matt. 10:1).
Christ’s divinity and humanity may not be separated, however, in His miracle-working. As the only begotten Son, He was able to perform and did perform many miracles, but He performed them as the Son of man. He shows us this in His healing the paralysed man who was let down by his friends into the presence of Jesus through the roof (9:1-8). Claiming both the power to forgive sins and to heal, He refers to Himself as the Son of man, that is, the one born in our flesh and like us in all things except sin: “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (6). The passage concludes with the thoughts of those who witnessed the miracle (and they were not wrong): “But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (8).
But Matthew 9:8 implies that Christ, as man, had to receive the power to perform miracles. As Matthew 28:18 and John 10:18 suggest, Jesus was truly a man in that He had to receive the power He had to lay down His life and to do miracles. How could He at the same time have that power as the eternal Son and also have to receive it? This is the mystery of the incarnation: God came in the flesh!
The preceding raises this question: What about miracles in our day? That is, does God still give power to men to perform miracles as Jesus Himself, according to His human nature received it and as He gave that power to His disciples?
Scripture’s answer is “No.” Miracles are “the signs of an apostle” (II Cor. 12:12) and, since there no longer are any apostles, any who were eyewitnesses of Christ’s earthly ministry and resurrection, there can be no more miracles performed by men. Nor are they needed, since the Scriptures are completed and the miracles were only ever a witness to God’s Word and extraordinary office-bearers (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:4).
Another issue raised by the question we have answered concerns the relationship between the two natures of Christ, His human and divine natures. The church of God, following the teaching of the Word, has always insisted that Christ’s two natures are united in one Person and must not be separated. After the incarnation, all that He did was done by One who was both God and man. It was God come in the flesh who was born in Bethlehem; God and man in one Person who walked the roads of Galilee and performed many mighty works. It was God incarnate who taught the people, called the disciples together, ate and drank with them, and lived among them. It was God manifest in the flesh who was arrested in Gethsemane, was tried and condemned and crucified, and who died for our sins and rose again on the third day and ascended into heaven, and who continues there for our interest until the end of the world.
That is the great “mystery of godliness” (I Tim. 3:16). God cannot suffer and die, and so we say that Christ suffered according to His human nature, but it was only as the eternal Son of God that Christ was able to bear the wrath of God against sin and deliver us from it, doing what no mere man could do. That mystery is evident in His miracles as well. When He stilled the wind and waves of the Sea of Galilee with a word, He did that as the same Person who moments before had been sleeping, exhausted and unheeding of the storm. The same Person who wept at the tomb of Lazarus was able to call life out of death when He raised His friend. This is indeed a great mystery, a mystery which ought to delight the souls of all who believe in Jesus. The mystery of God manifest in the flesh is proof that He is everything we need as Saviour, man to pay for man’s sins and God to do what man could never do.
The two natures of Christ may not, therefore, be separated, as the Creed of Chalcedon (451) states, “one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” I mention this because I have met people who think that Christ, when He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, left His humanity behind. If that were indeed the case, we would have no part or interest in Him any longer. He is still God manifest in the flesh. As God incarnate, He prays for us in heaven, prepares a place for us, rules over all things on our behalf and readies all things for the day of His return.
Everything He does, therefore, He does as God come in our likeness, and everything He does is miraculous and wonderful. He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. He suffered all His life long but took that suffering upon Himself—it did not just happen to Him. He, God and man in one Person, gave Himself to shame and spitting (Isa. 50:6). He controlled all the events leading up to His death, sending Judas out to do his evil work, surrendering Himself to those who came to arrest Him and testifying to Pilate that he, the representative of mighty Rome, had no power but what had been given him by God. He died, not because His life was taken from Him but, because He laid it down (John 10:18) which, for a mere man, would be suicide. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. One stands amazed at every word He spoke and all He did.
And the greatest wonder of all is in these two words: “for me.” The incarnate Son came for my salvation and did so in the everlasting love of God, but also in His love and pity as One who was touched with the feeling of my infirmity. This He did for me, one who is no better or more worthy than others and who, until He rescued me by a miracle of grace, was lost with no hope of being found. Rev. Ron Hanko