Beyond a simple definition of miracles we can look into the scriptures to find a broader meaning or various descriptions of miracles. The Bible gives us these five terms to describe miracles:
Power and powers. In many places in the Bible miracles are described in terms of power, or having behind them power from God. Here are just four examples:
In Exodus 15:6 “power” is the word used to describe how God miraculously wiped out the whole Egyptian army by parting the Red Sea, casting them into it, and drowning them in it.
In Matthew 14:2 King Herod used the word “powers” to describe the miracles of Jesus. He mistakenly thought that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead. He said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.”
In 1 Corinthians 6:14 Paul described the raising of Jesus from the dead by the “power of God.”
In Revelation 11:6 we read that “power” was given by God to the two witnesses to shut up the sky so it would not rain and to turn water into blood.
Therefore, I think we can see from these examples that miracles must be accompanied with great power, and that it must be divine power.
Signs. “Signs” is a term for miracles to tell us of the deep nature of miracles. By this word we should realize that God’s miracles are not just powerful and wonderful acts but that they have a deeper meaning—that God is trying to teach us something through them. Signs also, according to Unger, indicate in the miracle the near presence and power of God.
Deuteronomy 11:3 refers to God’s “signs and His acts.” The context here is in reference to God’s miracles that He did against the army of Egypt when He destroyed them by the waters of the Red Sea and also to all the miracles He did for Israel in the wilderness. Note that the miracles here were referred to as not only acts but also signs. Therefore, they weren’t just displays of power but had a meaning for Israel, mainly I suppose that they would realize how much God loves them and cares for them. Likewise they were meant to help them believe in Him and trust in Him.
Just after Jesus did His first miracle—changing the water to wine—John writes in John 2:11, “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” Hence, we see that Jesus miracles were purposeful. In this case, this miracle of changing water to wine had the purposes of manifesting His glory and to persuade His disciples to believe in Him.
I think that all the miracles of the Bible (whether they indicate it or not) were sign miracles, that is, they had a meaning and a purpose behind them. Accordingly, we can test a miracle to see if it is true by checking it to see if it has a good and holy purpose, and also to see whether God’s awesome and glorious presence was experienced.
Wonders. Miracles in the Bible are most often referred to as “wonders.” Therefore, I think that most miracles (if not all miracles) will be seen as wonderful events, or events that will astonish us and will impress us with God’s power and grace.
This term “wonders,” however, is not always in reference to miracles, but sometimes to natural things. For all of God’s creation is wonderful and there are many impressive and breathtaking things in nature.
Furthermore, when the term “wonders” in the Bible is in reference to miracles it is most often referred to (especially in the New Testament) in connection with another term such as “signs.” This I think is because miracles should never be thought of as just wondrous or wonderful. They are more then wonderful; they should do more than just impress us. Hence, miracles should always be thought of as signs and wonders, or wonders that are given to us from God with a special and glorious purpose (Deut 7:19, Jer. 32:20, Dan. 6:27, Jn. 4:48).
Therefore, if you believe something is a miracle and it does not impress you or if you don’t think it is so wonderful, chances are it is not a miracle at all.
Mighty works, and works. “Mighty works” in the Bible refers to the many miracles Christ did in different places. As a result some did not repent and believe (Matt. 11:20), but others did, as they rejoiced and praised Him (Lu. 11:13).
The term “works” used in the Bible most often does not refer to miracles; however, when it is used as the “works of Christ” it almost always speaks of miracles. For He Himself was miraculous (Matt. 11:2, Jn. 5:36, 10:25).
This term indicates to us that the miracles of Christ and God are purposeful and planned out. They do them not for recreation or for fun, but as Their occupation or as something that They have set out to do in order to help us and to bring us into conformity with His purposes (Read Eph. 2:10, Rom. 8:28-30). Hence, the work of miracles is a serious and holy business.
New thing. This term was used to describe a miracle of judgment on a few wicked men who rebelled against God and against Moses authority. In Numbers 16:28-30 it says,
Then Moses said: “By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD.”
Hence, a miracle is not something natural like natural death; it is different, out of the ordinary. It is a special act of power brought directly from God for a special purpose. (Read in Numbers 16:31-35 how God brought judgment on these wicked men—how He caused the earth to open up and swallow them.)