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1 Corinthians 12:28

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues.

What were workers of miracles? Why was this group listed after teachers by Paul?

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Miracle is mentioned earlier in the same chapter 1 Corinthians 12:

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, a and to still another the interpretation of tongues. b 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Miraculous powers are not the priority. Common good is.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues d? Do all interpret? 31Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

To us, miraculous powers seem rank-1 but not to God or Paul. Jesus mentions in Matthew 16:4

A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away.

John 20:

27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

According to Jesus and Paul, the miracle and the message of the Cross is the priority; other miraculous powers are secondary.

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The book of Acts contains many miracles performed by the apostles during their work of preaching the Gospel. These miracles, sometimes called "signs and wonders" have a special place in the NT doctrine but are always subservient to preaching the Gospel, but confirmed the truth of the message preached.

The frequent Scriptural references to “signs and wonders” naturally fall into two obvious categories of the genuine and false. It is clear from Matt 12:38 & 39, 16:1-4, Luke 11:16, John 4:48, 6:26, 30, that the scribes and Pharisees had trouble distinguishing the two. See also 1 Cor 1:22, 14:22.

Genuine

The genuine signs and wonders attest their divine origin and serve to strengthen faith.

  • John 2:11, 3:2, 4:54, 6:2, 10:41, 20:30 are all references to Jesus’ miracles.
  • Acts 2:22, Mark 16:20 also refer to Jesus’ miracles.
  • Matt 10:8, Mark 16:17, 20, Acts 2:22, 43, 4:30, 5:12, 6:8, 8:6, 13, 14:3, 15:12, 19:11, Rom 15:18, 19, 2 Cor 12:12, Heb 2:4 speak of the signs and wonders accompanying the apostles’ ministry.
  • Ex 7:3, Num 14:11, Deut 6:22, 7:19, 10:21, 26:8, 29:3, 34:11, Neh 9:10, Job 5:8-11, Ps 105:27, 135:9, Isa 8:18, Jer 32:20, 21, Dan 6:27 recall the miracles done for ancient Israel, eg, to free them from Egypt.
  • Dan 4:2, 34 records Nebuchadnezzar’s hymn of praise for God’s signs and wonders.
  • In Luke 7:18-23, Jesus’ only answer to John the Baptist about Jesus’ identity (as Messiah) is to list His miracles: “the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are given the good tidings…”

False or Lying Signs and Wonders

Pseudo (false) signs and wonders are invariably produced in order to deceive the wicked.

  • Matt 24:24, Mark 13:22 predict false signs and wonders performed by false Christs and false prophets
  • 2 Thess 2:9 predicts the rise of the lawless one accompanied by false signs and wonders
  • Rev 16:14 predicts that demons will perform false signs and wonders
  • Rev 13:13, 14 19:20 predict that the great false prophet (third beast of the Beast Trinity) will perform false signs and wonders

It should be remembered that Deut 13:1-5 contains a stern warning about the veracity of signs and wonders to see if they are genuine. Similarly, Matt 24:24 contains Jesus’ warning not to base one’s faith purely on Signs and wonders.

Let us especially notice how the NT treats miracles, or, "signs and wonders":

  • 2 Cor 12:12 - I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.
  • Heb 2:4 - God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Thus, miracles are a means, where appropriate according to the sovereign Will, used to confirm the truth of the Gospel message. However, we must recall that there are also false miracles used by the powers of darkness and so all miracles must be tested.

APPENDIX - Miracles by Apostles (not exhaustive) in the Book of Acts

  • Peter heals a lame man in Jerusalem, 3:1-11
  • Ananias and Sapphira struck dead in Jerusalem, 5:1-10
  • Apostles perform many wonders in Jerusalem, 5:12-16
  • Peter and John communicate the Holy Spirit in Samaria, 8:14-17
  • Peter heals Aeneas of a palsy in Lydda, 9:33, 34
  • Peter raises Tabitha, or Dorcas, to life in Joppa, 9:36-41
  • Peter delivered out of prison by an angel in Jerusalem, 12:7-17
  • Elymas, the sorcerer, smitten with blindness in Paphos, 13:6-11
  • Paul heals a cripple Lystra 14:8-10
  • Paul casts out a spirit of divination in Philippi, 16:16-18
  • Paul heals multitudes in Corinth, 19:11, 12
  • Paul restores Eutychus to life in Troas, 20:9-12
  • Paul shakes off a viper in Malta, 28:3-6
  • Paul heals the father of Publius and others in Malta, 28:7-9
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What were workers of miracles?

Why was this group listed after teachers by Paul?

Answers:

1. The workers of miracles were the apostles, and those on whom they "laid hands" (Acts 6:6, 8:17, 19:6, etc.).
2. Teachers -- preachers or evangelists, are crucial so that people might hear the Word of God.

We might understand that a miracle is an "event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency."[1] Although a secular source, Google Dictionary is as good as any: Miracles occurred as an act of God.

The order of the offices given by Paul is, indeed, interesting. Suppose we break this down to only the first four offices listed:

  1. Apostles. These were direct witnesses of Christ, and had the power to heal, to prophesy, to teach or evangelize (as did Paul), to perform miracles, to heal, etc. The greatest contribution by the apostles was dissemination of God's Word. There is no greater need than this.
  2. Prophets. These people proclaimed prophecy not only to the people, but even to the apostles themselves (cf. Acts 21:10, etc.). Today, as the faithful, we are also prophets as we proclaim the Word of God to those who have not heard. However, again, the most important function by any of God's emissaries was to reveal the Gospel, especially in its infancy.
  3. Teachers. Teaching, evangelizing, or preaching is vital if we are to hear the Word:

Romans 10:17: "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (emphasis added).

This passage indicates that faith in Christ is contingent upon first hearing the Gospel — in the first century, that occurred through the teaching of the apostles (Matthew, John), the and disciples (Mark, Luke, etc.).

  1. Workers of Miracles. This gift bestowed by the apostles upon the "laying of hands." We learn this, as previously suggested, from the Book of Acts:

Acts 6:5b-6: "They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them" (emphasis added).

While we might think that performing miracles would be at the top of this list, what is paramount to recognize is that to receive salvation, we must hear the Word, believe in Christ, repent of sins, and confess the deity of Christ at baptism. What must follow, of course, is a life of godliness.

The steps to redemption in Christ take precedence over all else, including miracles.

[1] Google dictionary, 2021.

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