Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE CHRISTIAN FAITH IS BUILT UPON MIRACLES” 

As we approach Christmas, our attention ought to be focused upon our annual celebration of an event that, while not itself a miracle, was certainly the result of an astounding miracle of God. I refer, of course, to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.

In case I have confused you, allow me to clarify. Every indication is that the full term delivery of the Christ child carried by the Virgin Mary was in all respects a normal, natural, and complication-free delivery. That event, considered in isolation, was not a miracle though it was the culmination of a miracle that occurred nine months earlier when Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, and the miracle of the Incarnation was worked by the Holy Spirit of God.[1]

The Incarnation, one of the most incomprehensible miracles ever worked by God, was the entrance of the Second Person of the Triune Godhead into the human race, at which time He took upon Himself a fully human nature, grew in Mary’s womb to full term, and was delivered of her the way every other baby had been born. Christmas is a very big deal because it was the occasion when human beings were informed that prophecies had been fulfilled and God had become a man.[2]

Do you have it clear in your mind that the babe was born with no bells, no whistles, no attention paid by anyone, and then afterward the shepherds were informed by an angel, at which time the heavenly choir sang?[3] Thus, a great miracle was worked that culminated in a natural birth nine months later on this day. Then, several hours after the God-Man was born, several other miraculous events trumpeted His arrival.

With Christmas twelve days away, with our Church’s annual cantata four days away, and with Sunday following that, both morning and evening services, being on Christmas Eve, I want to bring a message from God’s Word this evening that serves as a backdrop not only for Christmas, but also for any thoughtful consideration of the Christian faith as a whole.

Have you ever wondered why so many Jewish people celebrate Christmas? Ever wonder why Christmas is celebrated by a significant number of Muslims, and Buddhists, and Hindus, and others, including secular people around the world? It is not only because Christmas is a great time for businesses to make money at the expense of so many materialists, but because Christmas can be celebrated without reference of any kind to the miraculous.

I know you and I obviously associate Christmas with the miracle of the Incarnation and with the appearance of supernatural angels to the shepherds watching over their flocks later that evening, but since the actual birth of Christ was not itself a miracle it can easily be celebrated by everyone, even those who deny the possibility of miracles.

It seems like a good idea at this point to pause for a moment or two to speak to this matter of miracles and what they are. Theologian Rolland McCune describes a miracle as 

“a direct and immediate imposition of God’s power into the time-space-mass continuum.”[4] 

Eighteenth-century skeptic, historian, and philosopher David Hume wrote, 

“A miracle may be accurately defined, a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.”[5] 

More recently, twentieth century English scholar C. S. Lewis defined miracles as follows: 

“I use the word Miracle to mean an interference with Nature by supernatural power. Unless there exists, in addition to Nature, something else which we may call the supernatural, there can be no miracles.”[6] 

A miracle is, therefore, an event that is made to occur by means that are not natural, not originating in the material universe in which we live. Both skeptics and believers can be agreed on this. I would add that miracles may be brought about by God or by a creature who is not natural, such as an angel, a demon, or Satan, though I have no concern in this message for any but miracles worked by God.[7]

With this understanding of what a miracle is if a miracle occurred, what can be said about miracles as they relate to communism, secular humanism, and other forms of atheism? Miracles are denied. Buddhism? Miracles are denied. Hinduism? Miracles are denied. Islam? Miracles are denied. Judaism? Except ultra-orthodox Judaism and some who embrace orthodox Judaism, miracles are denied. And among liberal Christians, who are in many ways like the Sadducees in the Gospel accounts, miracles are denied. Historic and Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, not only embraces the notion of miracles as a possibility but Christians who believe the Bible recognize that Christianity is built upon miracles and that each genuine believer in Christ is the result of the miracle of the new birth.

Five main points of interest to reflect upon to underline not only the truth that Christianity is built upon miracles but also to set Christmas into its proper context and setting so that we might understand that apart from real miracles worked by God any notion of Christmas and celebrating Christmas is vanity: 

First, MIRACLES AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST’S BIRTH 

Though I have pointed out that the birth of Christ was very natural, very normal, and without any indication of supernatural work taking place during Mary’s labor and the delivery of her first child, just about everything else surrounding Christ’s birth did involve the working of miracles:

Is it a miracle that the time and place of Christ’s birth were arranged centuries in advance? We know of the predictions of Daniel 9.24-27, as well as Micah 5.2. But can it be argued that God imparting knowledge of future events to two men, Daniel and Micah, centuries before, was a miraculous intervention? I think so.

How about the appearance of an angel to convey a message to shepherds a few hours after Christ’s birth that the Christ had been born? Was that a miraculous intervention? And the angelic choir singing.3 Was that a miraculous intervention? I would say so.

How about the star in the sky following Christ’s birth, the one that guided the wise men from the East, that then appeared over Bethlehem and enabled them to find the Christ child?[8] Was that a miraculous intervention? Yes. And the dream given to the wise men, warning them not to return to Herod.[9] Or the angel of the Lord in a dream warning Joseph to flee to Egypt. Were those dreams miracles?[10] I don’t think dreams qualify as miracles.

Nevertheless, this does not diminish the significance of the miraculous work of God surrounding the birth of Christ, without which we could not correctly understand the significance of Christmas. 

Next, MIRACLES AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY 

Though I will not take the time to recount some thirty-five specific miracles recorded in the four Gospel accounts, as well as the numerous statements about many more unspecified miracles that the Savior worked, it simply cannot be denied that He was a miracle worker and that our conception of His true identity cannot be separated from His working of miracles.[11]

He miraculously showed His power over nature by walking on water, by quieting a storm, and by turning water into wine. He miraculously showed His power over health by the cleansing of leprosy, by giving sight to the blind, and by making the lame to walk again and restoring withered limbs. He showed His power over death by raising some people from the dead, including Jairus’ daughter and his friend Lazarus. Then He showed His power over spiritual adversaries by repeatedly casting out demons and triumphing over Satan’s efforts to tempt Him to sin. 

Third, MIRACLES AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST’S RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD 

Does anyone here not expect me at this point to recite five historical facts, as is my custom whenever I make mention of Christ’s resurrection?[12] 

Fact #1   It is a historical fact that is beyond dispute that a Jewish man named Jesus was crucified by Romans outside the walls of Jerusalem in the fourth decade of the first century. His crucifixion is attested to by the Gospel accounts, by Jewish historians Flavius Josephus, Lucian of Samosta, and Mara Bar-Serapion.

Fact #2   It is a historical fact denied by no credible historian that the early disciples of Jesus Christ believed that they saw Him after His resurrection from the dead. Hundreds of Christians witnessed His resurrection and died for their testimony of that fact. And no one dies for what they know to be a lie.

Fact #3   It is a historical fact that the greatest enemy of Christianity became the greatest Christian, the Apostle Paul. This persecutor of Christians maintained until his martyrdom that he saw the risen Savior, and he forsook all (position, power, and prestige) for his claim.

Fact #4   It is a historical fact that the greatest of all skeptics and doubters became a prominent Christian and the senior pastor of the Church at Jerusalem. His identity? James, the brother of our Lord, who remained an unbeliever until he saw the risen Savior.

Fact #5   Finally, there is the empty tomb. If you are planning a hoax, you do not position the execution of your hoax where it will be scrutinized by the most well-schooled population on earth, the residents of Jerusalem. Admitted to being empty by the authorities of Jerusalem, and being only minutes away from central Jerusalem by foot, this easily verified fact of the empty tomb was not disputed by any contemporary in the city of Jerusalem.[13] Quite the contrary, some who were initially enemies of Christ became Christians themselves following His resurrection.[14] 

Think about this thing called the resurrection. The Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross.[15] He was buried after a spear point was thrust through His heart to make sure He was dead, the congealed blood proving the fact.[16] Then, just as both King David predicted a thousand years earlier in a psalm, and as He repeatedly predicted, He rose from the dead.[17] Is that a miracle, or what?

Can communism claim that? Can Buddhism claim that? Can Hinduism claim that? Can Islam claim that? Can Judaism claim that? Can your neighborhood skeptic claim that? Can your Christ-denying family member claim that? What belief system makes such a claim as the resurrection of its founder? Not only does the Christian faith make the claim, but history also proves it! 

Fourth, MIRACLES AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST’S ASCENSION TO HEAVEN 

There are two miracles of note associated with the risen Savior’s ascension to His Father’s right hand:[18]

First, there was His actual ascension up into heaven witnessed by many people, Acts 1.9-11: 

9  And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

10  And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;

11  Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. 

I am of the opinion that this was the occasion Paul referred to in First Corinthians 15.6 when our Lord was seen by more than 500 brethren.

Then, there was the martyrdom of Stephen, the first Christian to die for the cause of Christ, who saw the Savior in heaven before his life was taken by stoning, Acts 7.55-56: 

55  But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56  And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 

Of course, the ascension of Christ to the Father’s right hand was a miracle. Obviously. But it was obviously a miracle, as well, for Stephen to be able to see the ascended and glorified Lord on high. 

Finally, MIRACLES AND THE SALVATION OF THOSE WHO TURN TO CHRIST 

Consider what is claimed in God’s Word about the sinner who repents of his sin and turns to Jesus Christ in faith believing for forgiveness. There are no less than thirty-two blessings bestowed upon the sinner who comes to Christ.

He discovers he is in the eternal plan of God, he is redeemed, he is reconciled, he comes to be related to God, he is forgiven all trespasses, he becomes one with Christ, he becomes a child of God, he is adopted into God’s family, he is made acceptable, he is justified, he is made nigh, he is delivered from the power of darkness, he is translated into Christ’s kingdom, he is on the Rock, he is a gift from God to Christ, his heart is circumcised, he becomes a priest of God, he becomes part of a peculiar people, he becomes a heavenly citizen, he has fellowship with the saints, he is partners with Christ in life, in position, in service, in suffering, in prayer, and in expectation, he has access to God, he is the object of God’s love, grace, power, faithfulness, peace, consolation, and intercession, he is God’s inheritance, partakes of the inheritance of the saints, is united with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is blessed with the first fruits of the Spirit, is complete in Christ, possesses every spiritual blessing, and will someday be glorified.[19]

But for the time I could provide Bible verses for each of those astounding spiritual realities that we take to be true by faith and understand to be the direct consequence of the miracle of the new birth. 

It has come to my attention that many of my pastor friends, associates in other walks of life, and sheep in the flock God has called me to tend to are suffering. You and they are standing in need of prayer, but not for the reason some might think.

You do not need prayer so that you will be rescued by God from destruction because destruction will never be your experience as a Christian. Pain might be your experience. Disappointment might be your experience. Failure in an important endeavor might be your experience. But never destruction. And glory is promised for your future, and for my future.[20] Almost every significant event associated with the Christian’s life of faith, with our relationship to God through our faith in Christ, is the result of some miracle or other. And even those significant events that were not in themselves miracles were surrounded by miracles.

We will soon celebrate our Savior’s birth. It was not miraculous. In a few months, on a Friday, a day that we call Good Friday, we will memorialize to some degree our Savior’s death. Neither was His death miraculous. But before His natural birth, there was His miraculous Incarnation. And after His natural death was His miraculous Resurrection.

Consider yourself if you are connected to the Lord Jesus Christ through faith and the miracle of the new birth. Your birth was natural, but not miraculous. Most of your life has been natural, but not miraculous. But your conversion, of you, are a believer in Jesus Christ, is the result of a miracle, the miracle of the new birth. And each of the truly significant things that will happen for the rest of your existence will be associated with miracles worked by God, or by the Lord Jesus Christ, or by the Holy Spirit.

Thus, if you are discouraged and in need of prayer, it is not because you are in trouble because you are not in trouble. You are in God’s hands, in Christ’s care, and sealed by the Spirit of God.[21] What you need is not to be rescued but to be reminded. You are already in a good place.[22] You are already in a great place, Romans 8.28. And so long as we resist the temptation to distraction because some things are not going our way, or being distracted by a sense of loss or disappointment, we can begin to see our situation from God’s perspective.

God, who works miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle, can work a miracle at any time, to accomplish any thing, whenever He chooses. That is what we have as Christians, to comfort us, to encourage us, and to strengthen us. We are in a good place in Christ, so each of us should encourage each other in our most holy faith.

Do you want a miracle? Ask for one. Miracles are easy for God. But remember, what you are going through may be good for you. If that is the case, God will not provide miraculous relief, but will instead give you the grace to endure so that you will grow and thrive in a spiritual sense. We do not always need a miracle. In Bethlehem, Mary did not need a miracle. Just because God does not give you a miracle does not mean that He cannot, but that it is best for us when He does not work a miracle.

Whatever your situation, my friend, purpose to delight this Christmas season in the celebration of Christ’s birth. And thank God that you are God’s child, bound for heaven.

__________

[1] Luke 1.26-38

[2] Isaiah 9.6

[3] Luke 2.9-14

[4] Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology Of Biblical Christianity, Volume One: Prolegomena and the Doctrines of Scripture, God, and Angels, (Detroit: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010), page 180.

[5] Cited by Gary Robert Habermas, The Resurrection Of Jesus: A Rational Inquiry, A Dissertation Submitted to Michigan State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Interdisciplinary Studies, College of Arts and Letters, 1976, page 27. (italics are Hume’s)

[6] Ibid. (italics are Lewis’)

[7] 2 Thessalonians 2.9

[8] Matthew 2.1-10

[9] Matthew 2.12

[10] Matthew 2.13

[11] A. T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels For Students of the Life Of Christ, (New York: Harper & Row, 1950), page 294.

[12] Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004), pages 48-77.

[13] Matthew 28.11-15

[14] Acts 15.5a

[15] Matthew 27.50

[16] John 19.34

[17] Psalm 110.1; Acts 2.34-35

[18] Mark 16.19

[19] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. III, (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), pages 234-265.

[20] Philippians 1.6

[21] John 10.28; 17.9; Ephesians 1.13

[22] Ephesians 1.3-14

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org