The danger of seeking signs and wonders…Part 1

Ok, this may sound controversial to some, but with all my heart I write this as an admonition to those who are consumed with the pursuit of signs and wonders, the kind such as gifts of healing, tongues, miracles, words of knowledge,  prophecy, etc.  Although there may be many well meaning people who truly want to love the Lord and follow Him with all their hearts, I must say that there is a huge danger in chasing after such things.  Now, allow me first to say a few things.  I know about this stuff.  I was part of it for many years when I first started walking with the Lord.  I’ve not only been in many services where the focus was on the “manisfestation” of the gifts of the spirit, but I was often  part of the “ministry team” who was “operating” in such gifts.  So, I’m presenting this as somebody who knows all about it.  I’ve been there.

Now, this is not the time or place to argue whether or not the gifts that the apostles had are still for Christians today.  Although I will say that if we had the right or availability of such gifts as the apostles (healing, raising the dead, etc.) then why wouldn’t we be clearing out hospitals and cancer wards all over the country?  Now, do I believe that God still heals in miraculous ways and we as Christians are free to pray and ask God (not demand or claim) for such healing?  Absolutely.  But, do I believe that we as Christians are to chase after these spiritual gifts so that we too can perform such signs and wonders?  With all my heart, NO.  Allow me to explain…

I have been studying through the Book of Acts for months now and I see so much the place of importance that the spiritual gifts, including signs and wonders, had among the apostles.  They were given by God simply as a witness or a testimony to confirm their message about Christ.  God even set up in His law in the Old testament the system of having two or three witnesses as a means of giving credibility to what a person was saying.  Even Jesus said to the people that if they did not believe that He was the Christ, then they should at least believe in the miracles that they saw because those miracles served as a testimony or a witness that Jesus was indeed the Christ.  So too with the apostles, the signs and wonders that God gave them were simply a testimony or a witness to the people that the words that they were speaking were completely true.  So, understand that the gifts were never ever above the message of God’s Word.  God’s Word was, is, and always will be what He uses to bring about repentance and transformation in a person’s heart, not the appearance of signs and wonders.  As a matter of fact, the instances in the Scriptures where it is said that people saw the signs and wonders and then believed are those who soon after fell away and no longer followed Christ.  Why?  Because their focus was on the wow factor of miraculous signs and wonders yet their heart was still blind to receive the truth of God’s Word.  Whereas those who remained as faithful followers were either those who simply heard the Word of God without any signs or wonders (I mean, isn’t the Word of God the greatest wonder of them all…that Christ died for our sins and rose again to give us the promise of eternal life) or those who, as a result of seeing the signs and wonders of the apostles, saw their message as one that was truly given by God and ended up believing with all their heart.

I’m reading through the Book of Matthew with Isabela every night.  A few nights ago, we were in Chapter 16 where the pharisees were once again asking for a sign to prove that He was the Christ.  What was the response of Jesus?  One – that only a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after signs and wonders. And two – that He would in fact give a sign, the greatest sign that could ever be given, and that was the sign of Jonah.  That just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days, so too the Son of Man would be three days in the heart of the earth.

So, let’s follow this through for a moment as I did with my daughter.  The pharisees demand a sign in order to believe that Jesus is the Christ.  Jesus says that their hearts are wicked for demanding a sign in order to believe, BUT in fact Jesus does comply with their wicked demand by telling them that a sign would in fact be given, and that sign would essentially be his crucifixion…and resurrection.  And what happens when Jesus is crucified and resurrected?  Do the pharisees fall down and worship Him as Christ and Lord?  I mean, after all, they were given the sign that they demanded, right? Shouldn’t the sign that they asked for now be reason enough to believe that Jesus truly was the Christ?   But the truth is that they do not fall down and worship Him.  In fact, they reject Him completely.  In fact, they actually pay the Roman authorities to make up a story that the disciples came and stole His body in the middle of the night.

So, the million dollar question is…Did the sign cause the pharisees to believe?  No.  Should the church today be looking for and focused on signs and wonders?  No.  In the Book of 1st Corinthians 2:22-24, it says this:  “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom.  But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

In my next post, I will take this further by giving examples in Scripture of those who walked a slippery slope by seeking after the gift of being able to perform signs and wonders as well as give many modern day examples of those in a signs and wonders movement who I believe also are walking in great danger.  Stay tuned…

 

 

8 thoughts on “The danger of seeking signs and wonders…Part 1

  1. Yes, I agree with you. Our duty is to pray in faith regarding signs and miracles, but it is still God’s will. As you put it, Christians aren’t supposed to chase after it.

    Thank you! God bless!

  2. Jp. I’m afraid I don’t understand what you are trying to say or defend with this verse 1Cor. 1:22-24. If you are using this to defend the idea that Christians are to seek signs and wonders, then I am afraid you are not looking at this verse in the correct context. For as a matter of fact, this very verse confirms completely the danger of seeking signs and wonders. Paul is giving a warning to the people, reminding them that the jews were always demanding signs. They needed to see the great and miraculous to believe, and when they demanded a sign from Jesus (Mat. 12:39) Jesus told them that only a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but that the only sign given would be the fact that He would be crucified and be raised to life. So, in 1Cor. 1:22-24 Paul is warning the people not to be like the jews, but to focus on the greatest event that ever happened and that was Christ crucified and nothing more. I hope this helps you get a better understanding of the context of this Scripture and the warning from both Jesus and Paul not to be like those who seek after signs and wonders, but to seek wholly after Christ and in Him alone find our all. God bless you.

  3. We have a huge “signs and wonders” movement out here in Northern Ca. My wife and I run a food and clothing ministry here. We preach the Gospel every Saturday to hundreds of people.

    I wanted to ask if you could help me, find in Scripture…your statement of

    “As a matter of fact, the instances in the Scriptures where it is said that people saw the signs and wonders and then believed are those who soon after fell away and no longer followed Christ.”

    It would be a great help

  4. I see this in so many places today. A greater emphasis placed on signs, gifts, when in reality the greatest miracle of all is the gift of salvation. You could experience a thousand miracles and still, without salvation you will spend an eternity apart from God in hell with all hope gone.

    I’ve just begun my own study in Acts. Looking at the times I feel the seeking of miraculous signs will lead people to worship the beast instead of finding true salvation.

  5. John. Thanks for your comment and your service to the Lord. If you read Acts 8:9-24, you will see the example of a man seeking signs and wonders, even was baptized, but whose heart was bent on evil instead of truly worshiping God.

  6. Hi Cody,
    Thanks for the article. I’ve recently been facing the exact same question in my own life as I petition God for signs (actually confirmations) that He is working to fulfill a promise (an answer to prayer I’ve asked for), this particular promise He has given through Scripture. I won’t detail the promise, but I’ve been trying to use scripture to answer the same question – “Is is OK to ask God for signs to confirm a promise or to confirm some wisdom/knowledge He has given us if we do not have enough faith to believe 100% in the promise ?”
    Say we do have a measure of faith but we believe we need more faith to trust that He will fulfill His promise for example. The signs are not necessarily miracles or wonderous, they could instead just apply to the person seeking confirmation and be a timely verse of scripture God gives them, or some ‘God-incidence’ (I use instead of the word co-incidence) in their life.

    So that is the context in which I write what I do below.

    The main passage people give for the ‘NO’ position to my above question, is the one you did in Matthew 16:4
    “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.” (NKJV)

    Now I would like to use the exact same passage to conclude that it does not apply to Christians, instead that it applies to non-Christians.

    The main comment you gave on that passage was “– that only a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after signs and wonders.”
    Now look carefully at what you wrote compared to the passage I copied above. You inserted the word “only” which changes the meaning totally. I would like to re-write the passage by paraphrasing it so you can see how I interpret it.

    “Unbelievers are a wicked and adulterous generation and they seek after a sign, and no sign shall be given to wicked unbelievers seeking one except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

    Believers are not classified as wicked and adulterous, some of us used to be that, but to label a believer as wicked in disposition is uncharacteristic of a Christian. A Christian can stumble and commit a wicked or adulterous act, but they then repent and turn away from that sin and are classified as righteous in Christ. If they kept sinning and didn’t repent then they would not be a believer.

    So, if Matthew 16:4 does not refer to believers, which passages do ? Here are a selection applying to both believers and unbelievers:

    Peter, John and the disciples prayed for signs yet Luke doesn’t portray them as wicked and adulterous.
    [Act 4:29-30 NKJV] 29 “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 “by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
    A great exposition of the legitimacy of this request for signs I have copied below at [1]

    Signs and wonders are not for unbelievers to demand. If they have a hard heart such signs will not convict them.
    [Mat 13:58 NKJV] Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
    [Mat 16:4 NKJV] “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.”

    One reason for Signs and wonders is for both believers and unbelievers to increase their faith
    [Jhn 20:30-31 NKJV] 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

    In John chapter 11, When Jesus raises Lazarus, Jesus tells the disciples (11:15), “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there [before Lazarus died] so that you may believe.” Martha clearly confesses her faith in Christ (11:27): “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” But (in 11:40) Jesus still challenges her to believe.

    Some more references where unbelievers respond to signs and believe: John 2:11, 23; 5:35 ; 7:31; 11:45

    Finally signs follow those who believe:
    [Mar 16:17-18 NKJV] 17 “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 “they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

    Thanks for your consideratio.
    Peter

    [1]
    http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/signs-and-wonders-then-and-now
    by John Piper.
    This raises two questions: 1) Why was the prayer for signs and wonders in Acts 4:29-30 not wicked and adulterous, in view of what Jesus said in Matthew 12:39? and 2) Why did the seeking and occurrence of signs and wonders in the missionary effort of first century Christians not contradict the sufficiency of the gospel as the power of God unto salvation?

    The answer to the first question comes from the context of Jesus’ indictment of sign-seeking. Seeking signs from God is “wicked and adulterous” when the demand for more and more evidence comes from a resistant heart and simply covers up an unwillingness to believe. If we are carrying on a love affair with the world, and our husband, Jesus, after a long separation, comes to us and says, “I love you and I want you back,” one of the best ways to protect our adulterous relationship with the world is to say, “You’re not really my husband; you don’t really love me. Prove it. Give me some sign.” If that’s the way we demand a sign, then we are a wicked and adulterous generation.

    But if we come to God with a heart aching with longing for vindication of his glory and the salvation of sinners, then we are not wicked and adulterous. We are a faithful wife, only wanting to honor our husband……

  7. From my own studies and being led by the Holy Spirit, I agree my brother.
    I feel that these are deceptions in the orthodox church of the enemy
    And that is true, a point to ponder, they asked for a sign and Jesus was resurrected yet they
    were blinded to this because or their hard hearts. Great scripture and insight! b
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Micheletraveler

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