Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Superpowers or Calvary?

The preaching of the Crucified Messiah will win the nations for the Gospel, not political might or stupendous signs and wonders

Since 1989, I have heard claims that God is “about” to pour out an unprecedented “revival” characterized by great “signs and wonders,” one the likes of which even Jesus and the apostles never saw. Supposedly,  the whole world will be awed by these miraculous displays and billions of hearts will accept the Gospel.

I hope this proves true! I am for genuine miracles that meet real human needs, and I certainly long to see millions of men and women enter the kingdom of God.

Cross at Night - Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
[Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash]

Nevertheless, among the leaders of today’s Charismatic Movement, the promise of “signs and wonders” is the mantra, means, goal, evidence, and indeed, the
raison d'ĂȘtre of their faith and religion.

For them, no “signs and wonders” means no “revival” and the world will remain under the sovereignty of the Devil. I remain skeptical. Is the manifestation of tremendous miracles the key to winning the world for Jesus?

In the first place, Jesus warned of coming “false prophets who will show great signs and wonders; so that, if possible, they may deceive the elect.” Displays of the miraculous, it seems, are not limited to genuine and committed disciples of Jesus.

Moreover, he concluded his Sermon on the Mount with some of the most sobering words in the Bible:

  • 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 this, he did not deny that these “workers of iniquity” did perform supernatural acts. The problem was their failure to obey his words, not their ability to produce “signs and wonders.” If this is so, then logically, “signs and wonders” do not prove the genuineness of a person’s faith or ministry.

Paul likewise warned of the future “man of lawlessness” who would employ “signs and lying wonders” to deceive and cause many to apostatize. And in Revelation, the “False Prophet” performs “great signs” to trick men into giving their allegiance to the “Beast from the Sea.”


In the second place, though “signs and wonders” can stimulate faith, in the gospels, Jesus complained about the men who followed him due to his healings and exorcisms, declaring: “Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

In other words, faith based on the miraculous alone or even primarily is not built on a solid foundation, and very likely, it will not endure when the miracles cease, and times of tribulation arrive. Moreover, despite his many miracles, in the end, Jesus died on Calvary alone, deserted even by his closest followers.

Yes, he and his apostles did heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead. But the miraculous is neither the goal nor the defining characteristic of the biblical faith, nor did it constitute the contents of their preaching.

Yes, God did resurrect Jesus from the dead, but Calvary preceded Easter, not vice versa. Despite his many “signs and wonders,” before his death, no man recognized who Jesus was, though the very demons exorcised by him certainly did.

Only at his death on Calvary did a human being perceive and acknowledge him as the “Son of God,” and ironically, it was the Roman centurion in charge of his execution. This occurred as Jesus breathed his last.

Thus, he can not be understood apart from his self-sacrificial death, and if this is so, then it is not his miracles that identify him as the “Son of God,” or believers as his disciples.

Paul describes the proclamation of “Christ crucified” as the very “power and wisdom” of God, not “signs and wonders,” an understanding that only the truly “spiritually minded” man 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 not “spiritual - (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5).

In Revelation, Jesus, the one who was “dead but lives forevermore,” exhorts the churches to “overcome” in the same manner that he did, namely, his self-sacrificial death.

Likewise, so must anyone who chooses to “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 that 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 stop preaching the Gospel?

Satan is perfectly capable of providing “signs and wonders” through his human agents, including many so-called “apostles and prophets.” According to Paul, it is not supernatural “signs” that prove the genuineness of an apostle, but the man’s willingness to suffer for the Gospel and Jesus

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