What does Paul mean when he mentions the gift of working of miracles? Does he mainly speak of miracles? How can we describe this gift more closely?
Concerning this gift we note something in the Greek original text we already saw when dealing with the gifts of healings: Again Paul uses a double plural. He speaks of “operations of powers” (1 Corinthians 12:10, energemata dynameon). This expression does not sound as if this gift could be described accurately since operations and powers can be multifaceted.
Some translations of the bible (BBE, NLT) seem to try to define this gift by speaking of “power of working wonders” or “power to perform miracles”. But Paul does not describe this gift in detail. We can barely grasp it. And I like that. Once more it is avoided to limit this gift to a certain scope of manifestations. The power of the Holy Spirit works in different ways (1 Corinthians 12:6). We cannot reduce it to a fixed catalog of effects.
Even in other verses of scripture the New Testament speaks of mighty deeds, miraculous powers or signs and wonders. And in most instances it is not apparent what is really meant. Here are some examples:
“…Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know…”
“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient – in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God…”
“God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.”
These open expressions invite us, not to develop narrow-mindedness, but to maintain an open heart. Those who have only a narrow understanding of this gift will allow the use of it only in narrow limits.
However, if I was to describe the gift of working of miracles more closely I would do it in this way: It is about operations and effects that go beyond the ordinary. One thing is self-evident: What is wondrous to us is absolutely normal with God. What seem supernatural to us is natural to God. But when, for example, Jesus turns water into wine or heals a paralytic in an instant, who had been sick for decades, it is a creative act that goes beyond the natural. When I pray for a person suffering from cancer and he instantly gets a new and healthy, well working esophagus, I do not consider this a process of healing, but an instantaneous miracle. From my point of view things like this are meant when Paul speaks about the working of miracles.
One day my wife Irene experienced a similar operation of God’s miraculous power. During a women’s conference the speaker said to her: “Be healed of your chronic migraine!” The pain connected to it did not only disappear instantly, but it never came back again. This happened 19 years ago.
Through the gift of working of miracles we become attentive for the effectual power of the Holy Spirit. This is good for us, because we often look only to the feasible. Nevertheless, we should also trust God to do the “undoable”. Of course, I am aware of the fact that for us the things desired and our reality are often very far apart from each other. Therefore I encourage us not to seek the desired reality, but the effectual reality of the Holy Spirit. When I read about the gift of working of miracles I want to trust that God’s word is effective. I do not only want to read the word, but I also want to let it operate in power.