POWER, POWERFUL WORKS
Power is the ability to perform acts, the capacity to accomplish things, to do work; also, authority or influence as a result of endowments or position. The Hebrew word koʹach is translated “power”; gevu·rahʹ, “mightiness”; and ʽoz, “strength.” The Greek dyʹna·mis is translated both “power” and “powerful works,” as the context makes appropriate.
At the close of the sixth creative “day,” God began “resting from all his work that [he had] created for the purpose of making.” (Ge 2:2, 3) He rested from these creative works, but his power has since not become dormant or remained quiescent. Over 4,000 years after the completion of earthly creation, his Son stated: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” (Joh 5:17) Not only as regards the spirit realm has Jehovah been active; the Bible record pulsates with his expressions of power and his mighty acts toward humankind. Though at times he has “kept quiet . . . exercising self-control,” whenever his due time came to act he has taken vigorous action with “full might.”—Isa 42:13, 14; compare Ps 80:2; Isa 63:15.
“Work” indicates purposeful activity. Jehovah’s acts are not isolated, unrelated, or erratic expressions of energy but are coordinated, purposeful acts with a definite end in view. Although his power sustains the universe and the living creatures in it (Ps 136:25; 148:2-6; Mt 5:45), Jehovah is not like an impersonal power plant; his acts prove he is a personal and purposeful God. He is also a historical God, as he has perceptively intervened in human affairs at definite dates of history, at specified places, and with regard to particular persons or peoples. As the “living and true God” (1Th 1:9; Jos 3:10; Jer 10:10), he has shown himself aware of all that is taking place in the universe, reacting according to what has occurred, as well as taking the initiative in furthering his purpose.
In every case, his varied expressions of power have been in harmony with his righteousness (Ps 98:1, 2; 111:2, 3, 7; Isa 5:16); they all bring enlightenment to his creatures. They show on the one hand that fear of him “is fitting,” for he is a God “exacting exclusive devotion” and “a consuming fire” against those practicing wickedness, making it “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Jer 10:6, 7; Ex 20:5; Heb 10:26-31; 12:28, 29) He is not to be trifled with.—Ex 8:29.
On the other hand, his use of power is even more wonderfully manifest in rewarding righteous-hearted persons sincerely seeking him, strengthening them to do assigned tasks and needful work (Ps 84:5-7; Isa 40:29-31) as well as to endure under stress (Ps 46:1; Isa 25:4), providing for and sustaining them (Ps 145:14-16), protecting, saving, and liberating them in times of danger and aggression. (Ps 20:6, 7) “His eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.” (2Ch 16:9) Those who come to know him find his name to be “a strong tower” to which they can turn. (Pr 18:10; Ps 91:1-8) Knowledge of his mighty acts gives assurance that he hears the prayers of his trusting servants and is able to answer, if necessary, with “fear-inspiring things in righteousness.” (Ps 65:2, 5) In a figurative sense, he is “near” and hence can be swift in responding.—Ps 145:18, 19; Jude 24, 25.
Power Manifest in Creation. Humans see evidence of power in all physical creation, in the immense and countless stellar bodies (compare Job 38:31-33) as well as in all earthly things. The very soil is spoken of as having power (Ge 4:12), producing food that gives strength (1Sa 28:22), and power is seen in all living things—plants, animals, and man. In modern times the tremendous power potential in even the minute atomic elements forming all matter has also become well known. Scientists sometimes call matter organized energy.
Throughout the Scriptures the power and “dynamic energy” of God as the Maker of heaven and earth are repeatedly highlighted. (Isa 40:25, 26; Jer 10:12; 32:17) The very term for “God” in Hebrew (ʼEl) probably has the root meaning of “mighty” or “powerful.” (Compare the use of the term at Ge 31:29 in the expression “the power [ʼel] of my hand.”)
Need for Special Demonstrations of Power. The first man knew Jehovah God as his Creator, his only Parent and Life-Giver. God endowed man with a measure of power, intellectual and physical, and gave him work to perform. (Ge 1:26-28; 2:15) Such exercise of power must harmonize with his Creator’s will and hence be governed by other qualities divinely granted, such as wisdom, justice, and love.
The rebellion in Eden presented a challenge to God’s sovereignty. Primarily a moral issue, it nevertheless has caused God to exercise his power in special ways. (See JEHOVAH [The supreme issue a moral one].) The rebellion was instigated by a spirit son of God who thereby became God’s opposer or resister (Heb., sa·tanʹ). Jehovah reacted to the situation, judging the rebels. His expulsion of the human pair from Eden and the stationing of his loyal spirit creatures at the garden’s entrance was a demonstration of divine power. (Ge 3:4, 5, 19, 22-24) Jehovah’s word proved to be, not impotent, weak, or wavering, but full of power, irresistible as to fulfillment. (Compare Jer 23:29.) As the Sovereign God, he proved ready and able to back up his word with the full weight of his authority.
Fixing his purpose, Jehovah has consistently worked toward its realization. (Ge 3:15; Eph 1:8-11) In his due time he would end all earthly rebellion, cause the original spirit rebel and those allied with him to be crushed as one crushes the head of a serpent. (Compare Ro 16:20.) While allowing his spirit Adversary to continue for a time and to endeavor to prove successful his challenge, Jehovah would not abdicate his sovereign position. Exercising rightful authority, he would reward or punish when and as he saw fit, judging men according to their deeds. (Ex 34:6, 7; Jer 32:17-19) Additionally, he would use his power to attest the credentials of those whom he designated as his representatives on earth. By revealing his power, he would put the seal of genuineness on messages they delivered.
This has been a divine kindness. Thereby Jehovah has given men proof that he, and no other, is the true God; he has given proof of his worthiness to receive the fear, respect, trust, praise, and love of his intelligent creatures. (Ps 31:24; 86:16, 17; Isa 41:10-13) Over the centuries, Jehovah has repeatedly assured his servants that his power has not waned, his “hand” has not ‘grown short,’ and his “ear” has not become too heavy to hear. (Nu 11:23; Isa 40:28; 50:2; 59:1) More important, these expressions of power have magnified Jehovah’s own name. His use of power exalts him, it does not debase him, does not sully his reputation; rather, by it he makes “a beautiful name” for himself.—Job 36:22, 23; 37:23, 24; Isa 63:12-14.
Prior to and at the Global Flood. In the pre-Flood period, men had ample evidence of God’s power. They knew the way back into Eden was impassable, blocked by powerful spirit creatures. God showed he was alive to what was going on, approving Abel’s sacrifice, expressing judgment upon his murderous brother Cain, yet warning men against executing Cain.—Ge 3:24; 4:2-15.
Some 1,400 years later, the earth became filled with wickedness and violence. (Ge 6:1-5, 11, 12) God expressed displeasure at this situation. After sounding a warning through his servant Noah, he forcefully demonstrated by means of a global Flood that he would not allow wicked men to ruin the earth. He did not use his power to force them to worship him but, through Noah’s work as “a preacher of righteousness,” gave them opportunity to change. At the same time he showed his ability to liberate righteous-hearted persons from evil circumstances. (2Pe 2:4, 5, 9) Even as his judgment came upon the wicked suddenly and his destruction of them did not ‘slumber’ but wiped them out within a 40-day period, so he would act in similar ways in the future.—2Pe 2:3; Ge 7:17-23; Mt 24:37-39.
Challenge of False Gods in Post-Flood Era. Both the Scriptures and ancient secular records reveal men’s deviation from worship of the true God in the post-Flood period. There is strong evidence that Nimrod, who “displayed himself [as] a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah,” played a major role in this; and there is evidence pointing to Babel (Babylon) as the major site where false worship developed. (Ge 10:8-12; 11:1-4, 9; see BABEL; BABYLON No. 1; GODS AND GODDESSES.) The tower project proposed at Babel was a demonstration of human power and ability, independent of God, unauthorized by him. It was to bring reputation and fame to its builders, not to God. And, as God realized, this would be only the beginning. It could lead to a series of ambitious power projects taking men on a course farther and farther away from the true God, in defiance of him and his purpose for the planet and for the human race. Again, God stepped in, throwing the project into confusion by acting upon human powers of speech, causing the peoples to disperse throughout the globe.—Ge 11:5-9.
“Nature gods” contrasted with the true God. Ancient documents from Babylon and from points of mankind’s migration show that the worship of “nature gods” (such as the Babylonian sun-god Shamash and the Canaanite fertility god Baal) became very prominent in those early times. The “nature gods” were associated in men’s minds with periodic or cyclic manifestations of power, such as the daily beaming forth of the sun’s rays, the seasonal results of solstices and equinoxes (producing summer and winter, spring and fall), the winds and storms, the falling of rain and its effect on earth’s fertility in seedtime and harvest, and similar evidences of power. These forces are impersonal. So men had to fill in the blank, providing personality for their gods by their own imagination. The personalities they conjured up for their gods were generally capricious; they lacked any definite purpose, were morally debased, and were unworthy of worship and service.
Yet the visible heavens and earth give clear proof of a superior Source of power that produced all these forces in an interrelated, coordinated arrangement, one giving undeniable evidence of intelligent purpose. To that Source the acclamation goes: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” (Re 4:11) Jehovah is not a God governed by or limited to celestial or earthly cycles. Nor are his expressions of power capricious, erratic, or inconsistent. In each case they reveal something about his personality, his standards, his purpose. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by G. Kittel, in treating the view of God contained in the Hebrew Scriptures, thus observes that “the important and predominant feature is not force or power but the will which this power must execute and therefore serve. This is everywhere the decisive feature.”—Translated and edited by G. Bromiley, 1971, Vol. II, p. 291.
The worship of such “nature gods” by the Israelites was apostasy, a suppression of truth in favor of a lie, an unreasoning course of worshiping the creation rather than the One who created it; this is what the apostle states at Romans 1:18-25. Though invisible, Jehovah God had made his qualities manifest among men, for as Paul says, these are “clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”
God’s control of natural forces distinctive. To prove himself the true God, Jehovah might reasonably be expected to demonstrate his control over the created forces, doing so in a way that would be distinctly connected with his name. (Ps 135:5, 6) Since the sun, moon, planets, and stars follow their regular courses, since the earthly atmospheric conditions (producing wind, rain, and other effects) obey the laws governing them, since locusts swarm and birds migrate, then these and many other normal functions would not suffice to sanctify God’s name in the face of opposition and false worship.
Nevertheless, Jehovah God could cause the natural creation and elements to testify to his Godship by using them to fulfill specific purposes beyond their ordinary function, often at a specifically designated time. Even when the events, such as a drought, a rainstorm, or a similar weather condition, were not unique in themselves, their coming in fulfillment of Jehovah’s prophecy made them distinctive. (Compare 1Ki 17:1; 18:1, 2, 41-45.) In most cases, though, the events were extraordinary in themselves, either because of their magnitude or intensity (Ex 9:24) or because they occurred in an unusual, even unheard of, way or at an abnormal time.—Ex 34:10; 1Sa 12:16-18.
Similarly, the birth of a child was ordinary. But the birth of a child to a woman who had been sterile all her life and who had passed the age of childbirth (as in the case of Sarah) was extraordinary. (Ge 18:10, 11; 21:1, 2) It gave evidence of God’s intervention. Death, too, was a common occurrence. But when the death came at a predicted time or in a preannounced way with the causative factor otherwise unknown, this was extraordinary, pointing to divine action. (1Sa 2:34; 2Ki 7:1, 2, 20; Jer 28:16, 17) All these things proved Jehovah to be the true God, and the “nature gods” to be “valueless gods.”—Ps 96:5.
Jehovah Proves Himself God to Abraham. Abraham and his favored descendants Isaac and Jacob came to know God as Almighty in power. (Ex 6:3) As their “shield,” he protected them and their families from the mighty ones of earth. (Ge 12:14-20; 14:13-20; 15:1; 20:1-18; 26:26-29; Ps 105:7-15) The birth of Isaac to aged parents demonstrated that nothing is “too extraordinary for Jehovah.” (Ge 18:14; 21:1-3) God prospered his servants; he carried them through times of famine. (Ge 12:10; 13:1, 2; 26:1-6, 12, 16; 31:4-13) As “the Judge of all the earth,” Jehovah executed sentence on the infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, while preserving the life of faithful Lot and his daughters, doing so out of consideration for Abraham, his friend. (Ge 18:25; 19:27-29; Jas 2:23) With good reason these men had strong faith not only that God is alive but also that he is the powerful “rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb 11:6) Abraham, when called upon to sacrifice his beloved son, had sound basis for trusting in God’s ability to raise up Isaac even from the dead.—Heb 11:17-19; Ge 17:7, 8.
Proves to Be God to Israel. To the nation of Israel down in Egypt, Jehovah promised: “I shall indeed prove to be God to you; and you will certainly know that I am Jehovah your God.” (Ex 6:6, 7) Pharaoh trusted in the power of Egypt’s gods and goddesses to counteract the workings of Jehovah. God purposely allowed Pharaoh to continue in his defiant course for a time. This extension of matters was so that Jehovah might ‘show his power and have his name declared in all the earth.’ (Ex 9:13-16; 7:3-5) It permitted the multiplying of God’s “signs” and “miracles” (Ps 105:27), the bringing of ten plagues demonstrating the Creator’s control over water, sunlight, insects, animals, and human bodies.—Ex 7-12.
In this, Jehovah proved distinct from the “nature gods.” These plagues, including darkness, storm, hail, swarms of locusts, and similar events, were predicted and came precisely as indicated. They were not mere coincidences or random occurrences. Advance warnings enabled those who heeded them to escape certain plagues. (Ex 9:18-21; 12:1-13) God could be selective as to the plagues’ effect, causing some to leave a specific area exempt, thereby identifying who were his approved servants. (Ex 8:22, 23; 9:3-7, 26) He could start and stop the plagues at will. (Ex 8:8-11; 9:29) Though Pharaoh’s magic-practicing priests appeared to duplicate the first two plagues (perhaps even trying to credit them to their Egyptian deities), their secret arts soon failed them, and they were obliged to acknowledge “the finger of God” in the execution of the third plague. (Ex 7:22; 8:6, 7, 16-19) They could not reverse the plagues and were themselves affected.—Ex 9:11.
Jehovah ‘proved himself God to Israel’ and ‘near to them’ by reclaiming them with “an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” (Ex 6:6, 7; De 4:7) Following the destruction of Pharaoh’s hosts in the Red Sea, the people of Israel “began to fear Jehovah and to put faith in Jehovah and in Moses his servant.”—Ex 14:31.
Establishing the Law covenant. Before establishing the Law covenant with Israel, Jehovah performed miracles, providing water and food for the millions now in the desert region of Sinai and giving victory over attackers. (Ex 15:22-25; 16:11-15; 17:5-16) At the place previously appointed, Mount Sinai, Jehovah gave an awe-inspiring demonstration of his control over the created earthly forces. (Ex 19:16-19; compare Heb 12:18-21.) The nation had every reason to recognize the divine Source of the covenant and accept its terms with deep respect. (De 4:32-36, 39) Jehovah’s remarkable use of Moses also gave real basis for people to accept with conviction the Pentateuch, the initial part of the Sacred Scriptures written by Moses’ hand, as divinely inspired. (Compare De 34:10-12; Jos 1:7, 8.) When the authority of the Aaronic priesthood was questioned, Jehovah gave further visible confirmation.—Nu chaps 16, 17.
Conquest of Canaan. The conquest of seven nations of Canaan, “more populous and mighty” than Israel (De 7:1, 2), gave added testimony to Jehovah’s Godship. (Jos 23:3, 8-11) His fame paved the way (Ex 9:16; Jer 32:20, 21), and ‘dread and the fear’ of Israel as his people weakened their opposers. (De 11:25; Ex 15:14-17) Those opposing were all the more reprehensible therefore, for they had evidence that these were the people of the true God; to fight them was to fight against God. Some Canaanites wisely recognized Jehovah’s superiority over their idol gods, as had others earlier, and sought his favor.—Jos 2:1, 9-13.
Sun and moon stand still. In acting on behalf of the besieged Gibeonites, Canaanites who put faith in him, Jehovah extended Israel’s onslaught against the besieging forces by causing the sun and moon to hold their positions in relation to the viewpoint of those at the battle scene, postponing sunset for almost a day’s time. (Jos 10:1-14) While this could mean a stopping of earth’s rotation, it could have been accomplished by other means, such as a refraction of solar and lunar light rays to produce the same effect. Whatever the method employed, it demonstrated again that “everything that Jehovah delighted to do he has done in the heavens and in the earth, in the seas and all the watery deeps.” (Ps 135:6) As the apostle Paul later wrote: “Every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.” (Heb 3:4) Jehovah does as he pleases with his own building, utilizing it as it suits him, even as does the man who builds a house.—Compare 2Ki 20:8-11.
During the next four centuries, throughout the period of the Judges, Jehovah continued to support the Israelites when they were loyal to Him and to withdraw his support when they turned to other gods.—Jg 6:11-22, 36-40; 4:14-16; 5:31; 14:3, 4, 6, 19; 15:14; 16:15-21, 23-30.
Under the Israelite monarchy. During the 510 years of the Israelite monarchy, Jehovah’s mighty “arm” and protecting “hand” frequently kept powerful aggressors at bay, confused and disrupted their forces, and sent them fleeing back to their home territories. These nations worshiped not only “nature gods” but gods (and goddesses) of war. In some cases the head of the country was himself viewed as a god. Since they insisted on warring against his people, Jehovah showed himself again as “a manly person of war,” a ‘glorious King, mighty in battle.’ (Ex 15:3; Ps 24:7-10; Isa 59:17-19) In effect, he met them on all types of terrain, employed war strategy that outwitted their boastful generals, and overcame warriors of many nations as well as their special war equipment. (2Sa 5:22-25; 10:18; 1Ki 20:23-30; 2Ch 14:9-12) He could cause their secret battle plans to be known to his people as accurately as if electronic listening devices were planted in their palaces. (2Ki 6:8-12) At times he strengthened his people to do the fighting; at other times he gained victories without their striking a blow. (2Ki 7:6, 7; 2Ch 20:15, 17, 22, 24, 29) In all of this, Jehovah shamed the war gods of the nations, exposed them as failures, frauds.—Isa 41:21-24; Jer 10:10-15; 43:10-13.
In exile and restoration. Though Jehovah allowed the nation to go into exile, the northern kingdom being conquered by Assyria and the kingdom of Judah desolated by Babylon, he kept alive the Davidic line in fulfillment of his covenant with David for an everlasting kingdom. (Ps 89:3, 4, 35-37) During the period of exile, he also kept alive the faith of his people, using Daniel and others in marvelous ways, performing miraculous acts that caused even world rulers humbly to acknowledge his power. (Da 3:19-29; 4:34-37; 6:16-23) By the fall of mighty Babylon, Jehovah again demonstrated his unique Godship, exposed the unreality of the pagan gods, and put them to shame. His people were witnesses of this. (Isa 41:21-29; 43:10-15; 46:1, 2, 5-7) He maneuvered the kings of Persia in behalf of Israel, effecting the release of his people and their return to their homeland, enabling them to rebuild the temple and later the city of Jerusalem. (Ezr 1:1-4; 7:6, 27, 28; Ne 1:11; 2:1-8) Ezra rightly felt ashamed to ask the Persian king for military protection of his company, though they carried cargo with a total value evidently in excess of $43,000,000. Jehovah guarded them during their journey to Jerusalem in answer to their prayer.—Ezr 8:21-27.
In the interim between the closing of the Hebrew Scripture part of the Bible and the birth of God’s Son on earth, God’s power must have been active in order to guarantee the preservation of the nation of Israel, its capital city Jerusalem, the neighboring town of Bethlehem, the temple with its priesthood, and other features of the Jewish system. For all of these would have to be there for the fulfillment of prophecy in Christ Jesus and his activity. History relates attempts at replacing the Jewish system of things completely by process of Hellenization, that is, by converting it to the Grecian way of worship. But this ultimately failed.—See GREECE, GREEKS (Effect of Hellenization on the Jews).
“Christ the Power of God.” From Jesus’ miraculous birth forward, God’s power was displayed toward and through him as never before. Like the psalmist, he became “just like a miracle to many people.” (Ps 71:7) Jesus and his disciples, like Isaiah and his children, were “as signs and as miracles in Israel from Jehovah of armies,” portending the future and revealing God’s purpose. (Isa 8:18; Heb 2:13; compare Lu 2:10-14.) In Jesus, God’s powerful workings during thousands of years now found fulfillment, came to fruition. Rightly the apostle could speak of Jesus as “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”—1Co 1:24.
Jesus proved to be the long-awaited Messiah, Jehovah’s Anointed One, foretold to manifest the ‘spirit of mightiness.’ (Isa 11:1-5) As such, it could be expected that he would have powerful testimony to support that fact. (Mic 5:2-5; compare Joh 7:31.) Already by means of Jesus’ birth from a virgin Jewess, God had begun testifying on his Son’s behalf. (Lu 1:35-37) This birth was not simply a spectacular display of divine power but served very definite purposes. It provided a perfect human, a ‘second Adam,’ one who could sanctify his Father’s name, erase the reproach the first human son had brought on that name, and thereby give the lie to Satan’s challenge; moreover, the perfect Jesus would provide a legal basis for ransoming obedient mankind from the grip of Kings Sin and Death. (1Co 15:45-47; Heb 2:14, 15; Ro 5:18-21; see RANSOM.) And this perfect descendant of David would be the heir to an everlasting Kingdom.—Lu 1:31-33.
Jesus’ anointing by God’s spirit was accompanied by divine power. (Ac 10:38) Moses was “powerful in his words and deeds.” As ‘the prophet greater than Moses,’ Jesus had credentials that were proportionately greater. (De 34:10-12; Ac 7:22; Lu 24:19; Joh 6:14) Rightly he ‘taught with authority.’ (Mt 7:28, 29) Thus, even as God gave cause for faith in Moses, Joshua, and others, he now gave sound basis for faith in his Son. (Mt 11:2-6; Joh 6:29) Jesus took no credit for himself, constantly acknowledging God as the Source of his powerful works. (Joh 5:19, 26; 7:28, 29; 9:3, 4; 14:10) Honest persons recognized “the majestic power of God” manifested through him.—Lu 9:43; 19:37; Joh 3:2; 9:28-33; compare Lu 1:68; 7:16.
What did the miracles of Jesus portend?
What Jesus did gave proof of God’s interest in mankind, evidence of what God would eventually do for all loving righteousness. Jesus’ powerful works were largely related to mankind’s problems, first and most basic among which is that of sin, with all its damaging effects. Sickness and death are concomitants of sin, and Jesus’ ability to heal sickness of all kinds (Mt 8:14, 15; Lu 6:19; 17:11-14; 8:43-48) and even to resurrect the dead (Mt 9:23-25; Lu 7:14, 15; Joh 11:39-44) gave proof that he was God’s appointed means for freeing mankind from sin and its penalty. (Compare Mr 2:5-12.) Far superior to the manna Israel ate in the wilderness, Jesus was “the true bread from heaven,” “the bread of life.” (Joh 6:31-35, 48-51) He brought, not literal water from a rock, but “living water,” the ‘water of life.’—Joh 7:37, 38; Re 22:17; compare Joh 4:13, 14.
His powerful works were also portents of other blessings due to come by his kingly rule. Whereas Elisha had fed 100 men with only 20 loaves and some grain, Jesus fed thousands with far less. (2Ki 4:42-44; Mt 14:19-21; 15:32-38) Moses and Elisha had made bitter or poisoned water sweet. Jesus converted ordinary water into fine wine to contribute to the relaxing enjoyment of a marriage feast. (Ex 15:22-25; 2Ki 2:21, 22; Joh 2:1-11) His rule therefore would certainly bring freedom from hunger to all of his subjects, bring a pleasant ‘banquet for all peoples.’ (Isa 25:6) His ability to make men’s work abundantly productive, as with regard to his disciples’ fishing efforts, assured that, under his Kingdom’s blessing, men would not be reduced to barely eking out a living at a mere subsistence level.—Lu 5:4-9; compare Joh 21:3-7.
More important, these things were all related to spiritual matters. As Jesus brought spiritual sight, speech, and health to the spiritually blind, dumb, and ailing, he also brought and assured the enjoyment of spiritual food and drink in abundance and guaranteed the productiveness of his disciples’ ministry. (Compare Lu 5:10, 11; Joh 6:35, 36.) His miraculously satisfying people’s physical needs on certain occasions was primarily to strengthen faith. Such things were never the end in themselves. (Compare Joh 6:25-27.) The Kingdom and God’s righteousness, not food and drink, were to be sought first. (Mt 6:31-33) Jesus set the example in this by his refusal to change stones into bread for himself.—Mt 4:1-3.
Spiritual liberation. The nation of Israel had known mighty warriors, but God’s power through his Son was aimed at greater enemies than mere human militarists. Jesus was the Liberator (Lu 1:69-74) providing the way to freedom from the chief source of oppression, Satan and his demons. (Heb 2:14, 15) Not only did Jesus personally free many from demonic obsession (Lu 4:33-36) but by his powerful words of truth he opened wide the gates to freedom for those wishing to cast off the oppressive burdens and slavery that false religion had imposed on them. (Mt 23:4; Lu 4:18; Joh 8:31, 32) By his own faithful, integrity-keeping course he conquered, not just a city or an empire, but “the world.”—Joh 14:30; 16:33.
Relative importance of miraculous acts. Although Jesus laid principal stress on the truths he proclaimed, he nevertheless showed the relative importance of his powerful works, regularly calling attention to them as authenticating his commission and message. Their importance lay particularly in their fulfillment of prophecy. (Joh 5:36-39, 46, 47; 10:24-27, 31-38; 14:11; 20:27-29) Those seeing such works came under special responsibility. (Mt 11:20-24; Joh 15:24) As Peter later told the crowds at Pentecost, Jesus was “a man publicly shown by God to you through powerful works and portents and signs that God did through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know.” (Ac 2:22) These evidences of divine power showed that God’s Kingdom had “overtaken” them.—Mt 12:28, 31, 32.
By God’s significant use of his Son, the ‘reasonings of many hearts were uncovered.’ (Lu 2:34, 35) They were seeing ‘the arm of Jehovah’ manifested, but many, the majority, preferred to read some other meaning into the events beheld or to allow selfish interests to keep them from acting in harmony with the ‘sign’ seen. (Joh 12:37-43; 11:45-48) Many wanted personal benefits from God’s power but were not sincerely hungering for truth and righteousness. Their hearts were not moved by the compassion and kindness that motivated so many of Jesus’ powerful works (compare Lu 1:78; Mt 9:35, 36; 15:32-37; 20:34; Mr 1:40, 41; Lu 7:11-15 with Lu 14:1-6; Mr 3:1-6), which compassion reflected that of his Father.—Mr 5:18, 19.
Responsible use of power. Jesus’ use of power was always responsible, never done for mere display. The cursing of the barren fig tree evidently had symbolic meaning. (Mr 11:12-14; compare Mt 7:19, 20; 21:42, 43; Lu 13:6-9.) Jesus refused to engage in purposeless theatrics as suggested by Satan. When he walked over water, it was because he was going somewhere with no transportation at hand at that late hour, something quite different from jumping off a temple battlement like a potential suicide. (Mt 4:5-7; Mr 6:45-50) The wrongly motivated curiosity of Herod was left unsatisfied when Jesus refused to put on any performance for him. (Lu 23:8) Jesus earlier refused to cause “a sign from heaven” at the request of Pharisees and Sadducees, evidently because they sought such, not to strengthen their faith in the fulfillment of God’s Word, but to obviate the need of such faith. Their motive was bad.—Mt 16:1-4; compare 15:1-6; 22:23, 29.
Similarly, the lack of faith in Nazareth kept him from performing many powerful works there, certainly not because his source of power was insufficient but because the circumstances did not warrant it, did not allow for it. Divine power was not to be wasted on unreceptive skeptics. (Mr 6:1-6; compare Mt 10:14; Lu 16:29-31.) That the faith of others was not an absolute essential for Jesus to perform miraculous acts can be seen in his healing the severed ear of the high priest’s slave, part of the crowd that came to arrest Jesus.—Lu 22:50, 51.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to spirit life was the greatest demonstration ever of God’s power. Without it, Christian faith would be “in vain,” his followers would be “of all men most to be pitied.” (1Co 15:12-19) It was the act most consistently recounted by Jesus’ disciples and the greatest single factor in strengthening faith. Distance had not hindered Jesus’ exercise of power when on earth (Mt 8:5-13; Joh 4:46-53), and now, from his heavenly position, Jesus anointed his followers with God’s spirit on Pentecost, enabling them to do powerful works in his absence. He thereby authenticated their testimony concerning his resurrection (Ac 4:33; Heb 2:3, 4) and also gave proof that these were God’s approved people, his congregation.—Ac 2:1-4, 14-36, 43; 3:11-18.
The death of his Son as a human had not shortened Jehovah’s hand, as the many miracles, signs, and portents performed by the apostles and others testified. (Ac 4:29, 30; 6:8; 14:3; 19:11, 12) The powerful works they performed were like those of their Master, healing the lame (Ac 3:1-9; 14:8-10) and ill (Ac 5:12-16; 28:7-9), raising the dead (Ac 9:36-41; 20:9-11), casting out demons (Ac 8:6, 7; 16:16-18), doing so without seeking personal benefit or honor for themselves. (Ac 3:12; 8:9-24; 13:15-17) Through them God expressed judgments against wrongdoers, even as he had done through the earlier prophets, fostering due respect toward himself and his representatives. (Ac 5:1-11; 13:8-12) New abilities were granted them, such as the ability to speak in foreign languages and interpret them. This, too, was for “a beneficial purpose,” for they were soon to extend the preaching work beyond Israel, telling Jehovah’s wonderful works among the nations.—1Co 12:4-11; Ps 96:3, 7.
Jehovah God did other powerful things as well, opening up ‘doors’ of opportunity for them to preach in certain territories, protecting them against those who would shut down their ministerial work, directing their activity, doing so in ways generally unobserved by the public.—Ac 5:17-20; 8:26-29, 39, 40; 9:1-8; 10:19-22, 44-48; 12:6-11; 13:2; 16:6-10, 25-33; 18:9, 10; 1Co 16:8, 9.
It was foretold that miraculous abilities granted by the spirit to the apostles, and passed on by them to others, would last only during the ‘infancy’ of the Christian congregation, thereafter ending. (1Co 13:8-11; see GIFTS FROM GOD [Gifts of the Spirit].) M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia (Vol. VI, p. 320) says that it is “an uncontested statement that during the first hundred years after the death of the apostles we hear little or nothing of the working of miracles by the early Christians.” Nevertheless, Jesus and his apostles warned of future deceptive powerful works that would be done by apostates and also by a symbolic wild beast, enemies of God.—Mt 7:21-23; 24:23-25; 2Th 2:9, 10; Re 13:11-13; see BEASTS, SYMBOLIC.
The expressions of God’s power reach a high point in the establishment of his Kingdom by Christ Jesus and the judgment acts that result from that event.
See FILL HAND WITH POWER.