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Signs and wonders were "among" the identifying
characteristics that accompanied the ministry of Jesus and His Apostles (2
Cor. 12:12, Acts 2:22), but would not have authenticated their ministry
without the combination of other traits.
The Bible says that signs will inevitably follow
believers (Mark 16:17). But again, without the other evidences of
Christianity, miracles ALONE, cannot confirm the authenticity of believers.
The rest of that passage says that the Lord worked with them, confirming the
Word through the accompanying signs (Mark 16:20). You see, signs, wonders
and miracles are really intended to bring confirmation to "the Word, the
Lord Jesus Christ," not necessarily the believers. Whenever God truly
performs miracles, it is intended to bring credibility to the Gospel and to
glorify Jesus Christ.
Jesus specifically warned that the claim of performing
miraculous or wonderful acts of ministry in the name of the Lord is not
proof of a man's spiritual authenticity. As remarkable as it seems, in the
day of judgment there will be some professed miracle workers that the Lord
will say that He never knew. "Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord,
have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done
many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew
you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matt. 7:22-23). (See
also 2 Cor. 11:13-14)
It is a dangerous thing to assume that a man is of
God, solely on the basis of apparent signs and wonders, for the following
(1) How can you ascertain the genuineness of a
The appearance of miracles can be cleverly fabricated. Not long ago,
Christian leaders were stunned when an investigator publicly exposed a
respected, well-known evangelist for staging phony miracles. The evangelist
had a reputation for calling people out of a congregation by the word of
knowledge and would appear to supernaturally know personal details such as
their disease, their name or even their address.
Shocking evidence was uncovered how the evangelist's
wife would move through the audience and interview persons about personal
details, and then use a miniature electronic transmitter to communicate this
with her husband, who had a tiny receiver in his ear. The investigator had
discovered the radio frequency used, and tape recorded the actual voice of
the evangelist's wife as she described the illnesses and details to her
husband on the stage. They were caught red handed. The pretense was over.
In another incident several years ago, a small-time
preacher was curiously known to always ask people to take off their shoes
before praying for them. It was eventually revealed that he had wired the
outer casing of his microphone with a small electrical voltage and wore
rubber soled shoes. When he would lay hands on people who were standing on a
well grounded concrete floor, they would receive a light electrical jolt to
make them think that it was the power of God. The preacher was protected
from voltage by his insulated shoes.
But even before electronic gadgets, charlatans were
exposed for hiring pretenders to throw down crutches, jump out of wheel
chairs, or give false testimony of some great miracle.
Many sincere Christian people find it difficult to
believe that there could be such deliberate deceptions, especially by those
who use the name of Jesus. But this is exactly why deceivers are able to
fool the believers. They take advantage of the sincerity of naive people who
simply don't know the Biblical way to spot false prophets.
(2) Genuine miracles sometimes occur in spite
of counterfeit preachers. It would seem reasonable to conclude that
all alleged miracles performed by phony preachers must also be fabricated.
But this is not so. One of the biggest unsolved mysteries is why genuine
miracles have occurred in association with alleged preachers who have been
proven to be fakes.
Many people can still remember the ministry of
"Marjo," the famous Pentecostal "boy" preacher of the 1950's. He was just a
child when his parents taught him to memorize and preach eloquent, Biblical
sermons. Because of his youth and the claim of great miracles which followed
his ministry, he was a novelty to the church world and attracted great
crowds to hear him preach the Gospel. During those years, many considered
him to be a rising young prophet and would drive for miles to be prayed for
by the boy evangelist. Numerous people were saved and healed in his
When Marjo came of age, he shocked the world by
revealing that his years as the boy preacher had only been a masquerade, a
scheme invented by his parents to make money. Indeed, the attraction had
raked in big profits. Marjo admitted that his participation had never been
more than a scam forced upon him by his parents. He had never sincerely
believed the things he had been taught to memorize or say. Ironically, Marjo
eventually went to Hollywood where he remains as an actor to this day.
But left behind from this shrewd deception were scores
of people who actually came to Christ through the Gospel which Marjo
preached. Genuine healings were proved and documented which had occurred in
Marjo's crusades. Though his ministry was fraudulent, amazingly, the Gospel
messages which he memorized and preached had an unexpected effect. God
genuinely "confirmed His Word with signs following," even though the
messenger was a fake. The souls who were saved and miracles which occurred
were never an approval of the boy preacher, but were the confirmation of the
power and truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
To us, it might seem better for God to withhold
miracles from being connected with spurious and unholy figures, but to do
this would be an injustice to the integrity and truth of His Word. Besides,
if we had to wait around for preachers to become perfectly Holy, we might
never see miracles. God's Word will bring faith (Rom. 10:17), and wherever
there is faith in God's word, signs will follow. Signs and miraculous
answers to prayer will follow them that believe (Mark 11:24).
This point was made clear in scripture when Peter and
John came across the lame man begging for alms at the beautiful gate. They
had no money to give him, but they offered something else of greater value.
They commanded him to rise and walk through the name of Jesus! Incredibly,
the crippled man stood to his feet and began to leap, praising God for his
healing. Those who witnessed this miracle were astonished, and were
undoubtedly in awe of the Apostles. But Peter immediately shot down any
misdirected impressions of credit. So when Peter saw it, he responded, "Men
of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as
though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?" (Acts
3:12). The Apostles disavowed that this healing had anything to do with
their own power or holiness, but was due to faith in the name of Jesus (Acts
But whose faith? The lame man's or the Apostles? This
is another one of the mysteries. Many people may sometimes assume that the
faith comes from the "anointed" preacher or the person doing the praying.
But in reality, it could be the faith of the sick person, the congregation,
or the combination of them all.
(3) Supernatural gifts are irrevocable.
Many theologians believe that spiritual gifts are initially given only to
Godly, Spirit-filled people. But later, if they become corrupt, or even deny
the faith, God will not withdraw the gift. Support for this idea comes from
scripture which states, "For the gifts and the calling of God are
irrevocable" (Rom. 11:29). If this interpretation is correct, this would be
further explanation why signs and wonders might accompany false prophets,
and further evidence why we should never use miracles, alone, as a way to
identify true men of God.
Others hold the opinion that spiritual gifts are never actually given to individuals as their possession. This view is that the gifts are given only to the "body of Christ." While God uses men to display the "manifestations" of His Spirit, yet they are not the property of the man. In this case, God might use whatever vessel is available, despite its impurity, because of His love and desire to bless the body. It's not to the credit of the man, but to the credit of God who loves His people and would do anything to bless them.