True Power and Wisdom

God’s Power and Wisdom are revealed in the proclamation of a crucified messiah, not in mighty signs and wonders or political powerMany popular preachers claim that a mighty revival is about to unfold, one characterized by tremendous “signs and wonders,” supernatural displays that will awe billions of hearts into accepting the gospel.

Let us hope so! Nevertheless, I wonder if it will take something more than the miraculous to take the good news of God’s kingdom to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”

Cross sunset - Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash
[Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash]

Signs and miracles are a means to an end, but not the end in and of themselves.  God delights to meet real human needs, and “
signs and wonders” often accompany the preaching of the gospel.

Nevertheless, both history and Scripture argue against the assumption that miraculous demonstrations will cause large numbers of men and women to repent. In the life of Jesus himself, “signs and wonders” did NOT cause more than a small number of his contemporaries to respond positively to his message.


In the gospel of Mark, he performed healings and exorcised demons. The crowds were impressed! They had never seen the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, or priests do anything like Jesus did.

Yet, during his ministry, only the very demons that he cast out recognized him as the “Son of God.” Prior to his crucifixion, and despite his many miraculous deeds, even his closest disciples could not see the forest for the messianic trees.

Even after he miraculously calmed a violent storm, the twelve disciples failed to perceive who he was. Instead, dumbstruck, they asked, “Who is this man?

At one point in the gospel account, on the verge of understanding his identity, Peter declares him to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Well, that is until Jesus explains just what it means to be God’s anointed – betrayal, suffering, unjust death – at which point, Peter rebukes him, and with Satan’s own words.

And in Mark, the only human being who recognizes Jesus prior to his resurrection is the very Roman centurion in charge of his execution (Truly, this man was the Son of God!”).

Thus, only in his death is God’s Son revealed and recognized, not in his many acts of healing or nature miracles - (Mark 15:39).


In John, the Son of God declares that when he is “lifted up, then you will know that I am the one.” Not his miracles, but his crucifixion is at the very center of the gospel. “If I am lifted up from the earth, then will I draw all men to me.

It is on Calvary that the “Son of Man” is “glorified,” not when he calms a storm or even raises  Lazarus from the dead.

Despite all the powerful miracles done by him, in the end, Jesus dies alone on the cross, rejected by the Jewish nation, abandoned by his disciples, and crushed by the might of Rome.

As for his followers, Jesus instructs his disciples to take up the cross daily and follow in his footsteps. When Satan offered him political power, he refused it. Hence, his followers are summoned to something far different than the ways of this fallen world:

  • You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their great ones tyrannize them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant, and whosoever would be first among you shall be your slave; even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Yes, Jesus now reigns from God's “right hand.” But that position came at a great cost. As Paul explains:

  • He took on the “form of a slave, and he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him.”

Suffering, humiliation, and death precede exaltation, a paradigm contrary to human wisdom and experience. As carnal men and women, we seek power and prominence apart from the Cross.


The book of Revelation is the most instructive. John describes himself as a “fellow participant” with the “churches of Asia” in the “tribulation and the kingdom and the perseverance of Jesus.” One definite article modifies all three nouns. Each is a part of one single whole. To live in the kingdom is to endure “tribulation” and “persevere” in it.

The “churches of Asia” are summoned to “overcome” by persevering through trials, rejecting deceptions, and even undergoing persecution and martyrdom, and certainly NOT by escaping them. Overcoming believers reign with him, but first, they must overcome in the same manner that he did - (Revelation 3:21).

His disciples conquer by “following the Lamb wherever he goes.” And the saints “overcome” Satan, the Great Red Dragon, “by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they loved not their lives unto death.”

Paul writes that the proclamation of “Christ crucified” is scandalous to Jews and folly to Greeks. The very idea that God achieved victory over sin, death, and Satan by means of the unjust death of a powerless messiah is foolishness to the philosophies and ideologies of the world.

Yet Paul calls the “Cross of ChristGod’s very power and wisdom. Moreover, only the “spiritually minded” can comprehend it.

When he was criticized by certain “super-apostles” who pointed to their apostolic credentials and the signs that accompanied their preaching, Paul gave a long list of the things he suffered for the gospel.

It was Paul’s willingness to endure hardship for the gospel that validated his apostleship. And though he even experienced the “third heaven,” that vision was of far less value than what he learned through an especially severe personal trial:

  • My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” – (2 Corinthians 12:9).

And that is the real problem – Christ crucified is something we do not understand and an example we do not wish to follow. His gospel is found in his teachings and epitomized by his self-denying service for others.

Just as “all men are drawn” when he is “lifted up” on Golgotha, so, I suspect, the world will be won by men and women whose lives are conformed to his Cross. “Signs and wonders” may help along the way, but they are not the key to the gospel’s success.

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