March 13, 2012

God’s Toolbox: Limiting Miracles is not Limiting God, Pt 2

by Clint Archer

In the post, God in a Box, it was established that God can accomplish anything He desires. We also underscored that it was no contradiction to His power if we say that God has published certain limits on what we can expect of Him. E.g. He cannot lie, He will never act outside of His nature or attributes, and if He says tongues will cease and not start again then it’s ok for us to assume He wasn’t kidding around.

Notwithstanding the parameters God sets, and understanding that he is never fickle or capricious, He still reserves the prerogative to, you know, do whatever He wants.

Ps 115:3  Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases. 

He is God, after all, and one of the best job perks of being God is that there are no limits on power. Omnipotence is a handy utensil when you want something done, like wanting a nation to win a battle before sunset (Josh 10:12-13), or new eyes to be plugged into a blind man with ease of arranging a Mr Potato Head (John 9:6-7).

These are tools God stores in the miracle pouch of his toolbelt.

 

But just because God can use miracles, does not mean that is the only implement He has in His toolbox to accomplish His will. Two of God’s favorite tools are called Providence and Concurrence.

Providence is when God invisibly orchestrates events and circumstances that His precise will is accomplished without violating the laws of nature. As in when a coin someone rolled into the water, was swallowed by a fish, and lodged in its mouth until Peter caught it just in time to pay the temple tax for Jesus. It was exact change. Pretty cool. And it’s just as impressive as being able to conjure the coin ex nihilo.

Concurrence is when God uses the “free will” of man to accomplish His own will. Genesis 50:20 set this up for Romans 8:28 to spike it. In Genesis 50 Joseph’s brothers have wickedly exercised their free will to sell him as a slave. Potipher has unjustly decided to imprison him, the Pharaoh has freely chosen to promote him, Jacob has concluded that the boys need to go to Egypt for some grain. And at the climax of it all Joseph tells his brothers, What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” The NT counterpart to this is Romans 8:28 “All things [yes all, even man’s wickedness] work together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose.”

God is ambidextrous. In one hand He wields the laws of nature to accomplish His will, while in the other He simultaneously holds a warrant to break said laws when the moment calls for it.

So, sometimes God brandishes the miraculous, as when he destroyed 185,000 Assyrians by dispatched an angel of death; at other times God employs providence/concurrence just as deftly, like when he deployed the Babylonian arsenal and a well-timed flood against Nineveh to wipe out the Assyrians again (Nahum 2:2-8).

Incidentally, Nineveh hosts another pair of examples: Jonah was plunked into Davey Jones’ Locker because of the providential cast of a lot. But he was regurgitated back in the land of the living by a miraculous submarine adventure. (I hold the view that it is not physically possible for a human to survive in the belly of a fish for 3 days; also Jesus in Luke 11:29 called this a ‘sign’ aka miracle).

Both species of control are God’s handiwork, and both are equally amazing. One type occurs all the time, while the other is exceedingly uncommon. God is able to any miracle He wants, but that does not mean we should expect to see them as a part of the normative Christian walk.

Let’s not forget the real miracles that happen everyday, the impossible transformation of sinners into saints by the power of the Holy Spirit, the blood of the Son, and the almighty power of the Father.

I was recently giving a class interview to 6th graders at a local school when one of the girls asked “Have you had any miracles at your church?” I asked her what she meant by miracle, to which she replied after a moment’s thought, “Like when an unbeliever gets saved.” Bingo. That girl gets it. Salvation is a bona fide miracle, every time it happens. It is as impossible for sinners to desire God as it is for fish to wield a hammer or a nail to pierce the sun.

Let us always be in awe of the Son of God’s nail-pierced hands, and the hammer of His word which shatters the stone of human resistance.

 

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Michael Delahunt

    Wow, fabulous post (as always)! I love the part about the little girl understanding the greatest miracle of all. And concurrence is my new favorite word. I have always tried to verbalize how we are saved. Concurrence is the perfect way to say it! Cheers

    • Glad to be of service Michael. I’m glad my will to write this post concurred with your desire to read it!

      • Larry

        Great post. It expanded the idea of what a “miracle” is.

  • Larry

    It’s been my experience, many that say “Don’t put God in a box,” tend to view God outside of His word, (Not all but many). Arguably they want to expand God beyond his Word and fit Him into their personal constructs. “God can do anything” is not a carte blanche access phrase. For in truth, He does no-thing outside of His Word. However many “Don’t put God in a box” embracer’s may tend to move into areas that are mystical, hyper-emotional, other-wordly and at times downright non-sensical. The goal is to “know Him” not see Him perform tricks. In my opinion, if people need God to perform for them to validate their belief, that is a faith that is dead. Lastly, I believe the more we pursue “Him,” the less we need “signs.”

    • Very well put. Thanks for sharing your insights. I think you’re spot on.

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