Signs and Wonders or Golgotha?

The cross of Christ will conquer the world, not super-powers, political might, or “signs and wonders”

Cross - Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash
Since 1989, I have been hearing how God is “about” to pour out an unprecedented “revival,” one characterized by great “signs and wonders,” the likes of which even Jesus and the apostles never witnessed, miraculous displays that will awe billions of men and women into accepting the gospel. Well, one can only hope! - [Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash].

I am for genuine miracles that meet real human needs. Nevertheless, among the leaders of the Charismatic Movement, the promise of “signs and wonders” has become the mantra, the means, the goal, the evidence, and indeed, the raison d'être of the Christian faith. No “signs and wonders,” no “revival,” no genuine faith.

I remain skeptical. After all, Jesus did warn of coming “false prophets who will show great signs and wonders; so that, if possible, they may deceive the elect.” And he concluded his Sermon on the Mount with these sobering words:
  • Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by your name, and by your name cast out demons, and by your name do many mighty works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”
In saying that, he did not deny that the “workers of iniquity” performed supernatural acts. The problem was their failure to obey his words, not their ability to do “signs and wonders.” And if so, then logically, “signs and wonders” do not prove the genuineness of a person’s faith or ministry.

Certainly, “signs and wonders” can stimulate faith; however, Jesus also complained of men who followed him due to his healings and exorcisms, declaring: “Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

Yes, Jesus and his apostles healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. But the miraculous is neither the goal nor the defining characteristic of the biblical faith. Yes, God did resurrect Jesus from the dead, but Calvary preceded Easter, not vice versa.

So, what about “signs and wonders”? Again, God is all-powerful and merciful, and He does do supernatural things to help His people. Nevertheless, He is not the only one who performs “signs and wonders.”

Paul warned about the coming “man of lawlessness” who would cause many to apostatize with his lying powers and signs and wonders.” Likewise, in Revelation, the “false prophet” tricked men and women into “rendering homage to the beast by using great signs, that he should even make fire descend from heaven… And he deceives the inhabitants of the earth by the signs which he did in the sight of the beast.” If the Devil and his agents also produce “signs and wonders,” we better be on our toes!

In Mark, before his death, no man recognized who Jesus was DESPITE his many miracles, though the very demons exorcised by him certainly did recognize him. Only at his death did a human perceive him to be the “Son of God,” and ironically, the very Roman centurion in charge of his execution. He cannot be understood apart from his death, and if this is so, then it is not his miracles that identify him as the “Son of God.”

Paul described “Christ crucified” as the very “power and wisdom” of God, not “signs and wonders,” an understanding that only the truly “spiritual” can grasp. No matter how many miracles you or I perform, if we do not conform our lives to the paradigm of Christ crucified, we are other than “spiritual” - (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5).

In Revelation, Jesus exhorted the “seven churches” to “overcome” even as he did. And how did he “overcome”? Through his self-sacrificial death. Likewise, so must anyone who would “follow him wherever he goes.” Believers overcome Satan, not by “signs and wonders,” but “by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony; even they loved not their lives unto the death” - (Revelation 3:21-22, 12:11).

What the world needs is a church conformed to the Cross of Christ who will proclaim his gospel to “all nations” If “signs and wonders” accompany that effort, fine. But if they do not, are we to cease conforming our lives to his death or preaching the gospel?

Satan is perfectly capable of providing “signs and wonders” through his human vassals, including many so-called “apostles and prophets.” And according to Paul, it is not supernatural “signs” and experiences that prove the genuineness of an apostle, but his willingness to suffer for the gospel – (2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10).

Finally, when before the “judgment seat of Christ,” the last words we will want to hear are - “I never knew you: depart from me, you worker of iniquity.”


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