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5 Types of Miracles

*Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Truth About God: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It? 

Not all miracles are alike.[1] So what are the different types? I think it’s useful to distinguish five types of miracles: (1) creational miracles, (2) sustaining miracles, (3) providential miracles, (4) predictive miracles, and (5) suspension miracles.

#1 – Creational Miracles

The first type, creational miracles, are divine acts that bring things into existence—like God’s creation of the physical universe.[2] God’s creation of matter cannot be construed as suspending, much less violating, laws of nature because there were no laws of nature prior to the existence of the physical universe. Yet in a sense, the very existence of the universe and its natural laws is a miracle. As the psalmist says, “The heavens praise your wonders, Lord” (Psalm 89:5).

#2 – Sustaining Miracles

Second, sustaining miracles point to the ongoing operation of nature that especially allows humans to exist and flourish. God not only brings the universe into existence; he sustains it. Hebrews describes God’s Son as “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3b). And Paul refers to the Son as “the image of the invisible God” in whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15, 17).[3]

The Creator’s sustaining miracles are ultimately responsible for the conditions and provisions that make ongoing life possible. In that sense, the birth of every baby is a “miracle,” but I doubt any atheist would regard this as evidence of God. Even so, as a God-believer, I have a kind of certitude that God miraculously sustains the world around me and, more personally, sustains me (Psalms 3:5; 54:4).

#3 – Providential Miracles

Third, providential miracles do not appear to go against the normal operation of nature, but the timing of related events seems miraculous. Let’s say I fervently pray for a new job, and three minutes after the “amen” I receive an email with an exciting job offer. Is it a “miracle”? It could be, but we should be cautious against claiming too much about coincidences.

Even so, consider an incident with Jesus. Accused of not paying the temple tax, Jesus told Peter to go fishing: “Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin” (Matthew 17:27b). This was certainly a miracle because of the timing between what Jesus said and what then occurred. In a sense, it was coincidence, but it was not just coincidence. God acted.[4]

#4 – Predictive Miracles

Fourth, predictive miracles arise from making accurate predictions that are not adequately explainable by mere luck. Catching the fish with the coin (Matthew 17) was both a providential miracle and a predictive miracle. Jesus foretold what Peter would find in the fish’s mouth.

Predictive miracles were critically important in biblical history. A predictive miracle was a fundamental Old Testament criterion to distinguish between true and false prophets.[5] And the New Testament highlights the fulfillment of predictive miracles.[6] Indeed, the NIV New Testament uses the word “fulfill” fifty-four times, at least thirty-four of which are presented as expressing a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy.[7]

Predictive miracles notably contribute to our knowing truth about God. God’s power, his omniscience, and his faithfulness are manifested in the entire narrative of Scripture. Miracles are not merely extraordinary, isolated events; many are fulfillments of predictive prophecy. This fabric, which is woven throughout biblical history, helps us have certitude about God’s actions.

#5 – Suspension Miracles

Fifth, suspension miracles may appear to be “violations” of some natural law, but it’s better to think of such miracles as “suspending” a natural principle.[8] Biblical examples include Jesus’ healings and his nature miracles.[9] One important point about suspension miracles is that they were astonishing, observable events that offered truth about God and often authenticated a messenger of God.

For instance, when Jesus healed the paralyzed man, he performed an observable physical healing to authenticate his authority to forgive sin—which otherwise would have been an unobservable act. It’s also significant that Jesus wanted the miracle to grant knowledge of his authority. He said, “‘I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home’” (Mark 2:10–11; emphasis added).[10]

The most significant suspension miracle is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. In fact, the truth of Christianity depends on this historical event. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).


[1] Winfried Corduan, “Recognizing a Miracle,” in In Defense of Miracles, ed. R. Douglass Geivett and Gary Habermas (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997), 103-106.

[2] Creational miracles would also include God’s creation of heavenly beings and realities, but here we will consider only creational miracles in the context of physical reality.

[3] The Greek verb synesteken in Colossians 1:17 means “to bring together something in its proper or appropriate place or relationship.” Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 613. This does not mean God holds things together in some physical sense, as though he were the strong nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together. See “Strong Nuclear Force” at https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Strong_nuclear_force.

[4] Ronald Nash refers to these as “coincidence-miracles.” While he characterizes them as “apologetically inconclusive” (246), he says we can still cautiously construe them to support God’s action in the world. See the excellent discussion in Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1988), 244–247.

[5] “‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken” (Deuteronomy 18:21–22a). However, making a true prediction is not sufficient by itself as evidence of a true prophet. God’s law to Moses also says if a prophet accurately foretells some sign or wonder but also attempts to entice others to “follow other gods . . . [and] worship them,” those prophets must be ignored (see Deuteronomy 13:1–3).

[6] The birth of Jesus “took place to fulfill what the Lord has said through the prophet” (Matthew 1:22; cf. Isaiah 7:14). Jesus began his ministry by reading Isaiah 61:1–2 and saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus said to the two confused disciples who were disheartened by Jesus’ crucifixion and who had not yet recognized his resurrected body, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44b).

[7] Peter interpreted what happened to Judas as a predictive miracle: “The Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David” (Acts 1:16a; cf. Acts 1:18–20; Psalm 69:25; 109:8). The miraculous signs on the day of Pentecost fulfilled “what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). And the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus were prominent predictive miracles preached on Pentecost (Acts 2:30–35). Peter later described what happened to Jesus as “how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets” (Acts 3:18; cf. 13:27, 33). Paul, in his defense of his conversion to Christ, explained to King Agrippa he was “saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22b–23).

[8] For example, an airplane’s flight does not violate the law of gravity; it uses principles of aerodynamics to suspend what gravity would otherwise do. Even the case of God raising Jesus from the dead can be construed as God suspending some natural processes through (a) other as yet unknown natural processes; (b) through God’s more direct supernatural action in the physical world; (c) or both. One important point is that miracles, even if they are supernatural actions by God that intervene in natural processes, do not violate the principle of cause and effect. They merely acknowledge that God is a legitimate causal agent within time and space.

[9] Jesus’ healings include cleansing a leper (Matthew 8:2–3), healing a withered hand (Matthew 12:9–13), raising a widow’s son (Luke 7:11–15), healing a blind man (Mark 8:22–25; John 9:1–7), restoring a cut-off ear (Luke 22:49–51), casting out demons (Matthew 8:28–32; 12:22), and many others. His miracles over nature turned water into wine (John 2:1–11), instantly stilled a storm (Matthew 8:23–27), and fed thousands (Matthew 14:15–21).

[10] See Matthew 9:1–7; Mark 2:1–12; and Luke 5:17–26.

Excerpted from Richard A. Knopp, Truth About God: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It? (Renew.org, 2021). 

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