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The Persecuted Church

 

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THE PURPOSE OF SIGNS AND WONDERS     TODAY                     and                     BEFORE

A question often posed is, 'Can others do miracles like the apostles, since Mark 16:17-18 describes "and these signs will follow those who believe in my name they will cast out demons they will speak in other tongues and… will heal the sick." ( Note: these particular verses are not found in the majority of the manuscripts. Lets grant that it probably is.) The answer is found in a careful examination of the text. Where we find in the Mark 16:14 narrative that Jesus is speaking to the 11 and commissions them to preach the Gospel first then baptizing the believers. So we find that the Lord is in fact speaking directly to the apostles just before he is taken up into Heaven (verse 19). Afterward, the apostles went out and preached, and the Lord was working with them confirming His Word through accompanying signs. The "them" is referring to the apostles, therefore, there is no evidence that all believers can do what the apostles did. What did occur is the word was first preached and the signs and wonders followed to validate the new leadership for the Church. In much the same way Jesus’ miracles were to validate his person and message. Signs and wonders were to follow those who believe, not the believer following after the signs. Acts14:3 shows their focus was to build people up in the objective word, not looking for the power to do miracles. Mark 16:20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Signs and wonders, miracles are not for the Christians who already believe, they accompanied the Gospel and were done in the presence of the unbelievers to have them believe in the message.

If we look at the book of Acts who was it that took up a serpent?  (not on purpose) Paul an apostle. Who laid hands on the sick? The apostles. This was never a normal occurrence for everyone who was a Christian. It's not that we can't pray for the sick today, we can.  And the Lord may use whoever he may wish to today. However if these signs and wonders were to follow all who believe how could one tell who the apostles were. There would be no distinction in leadership. The very reason for the signs and miracles were to appoint the apostles as a governing leadership over Gods new entity the Church. It was to show that Israel had a change of leadership. This was not entrusted into everyone's hands that believe but those who were hand picked and spent time with Jesus.

Those who were to dispense the new teaching of Jesus God used and validated by working through them signs and miracles like Jesus. Acts 2:43: "Then fear came upon every soul and many signs and wonders are done through the apostles. Mk.16:17 and these signs will follow those who believe... is clarified by Vs .20 and they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them (the apostles) and confirming the word through the accompanying signs." Acts 5:12 "And through he hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people." It was toward those who believed by hearing the gospel, accompanying the apostles message.

Acts 14:3:" Paul and Barnabas speak boldly in the Lord, who bears witness to His word of grace, granting signs sign and wonders to be done through their hands." The bible is clear this was specifically done through Gods appointed apostles or those who traveled with them. So there is no scriptural validity for what certain famous people are saying today that we all can see this occur by our hands. The same apostles that had these miracles validate their leadership were the ones who wrote down the scripture for us to know the revelation of Jesus. "Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds."( 2 Cor. 12:12)Paul states the miracles proved their apostleship, their appointment to lead the church.

Rom. 15:19: "in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ." The emphasis is not on the signs but on the message they bear witness too, which was the gospel working among pagans.

All these and many more scriptures show that the apostles were special men commissioned for a unique role in a particular time period for the church. The apostles never preached signs and wonders to attract the multitudes who did not believe nor those who already believe. Seeing a sign was never a assurance of belief for the individual.

There were what are called apostolic legates that had been commissioned by the apostles personally such as Stephen in Acts 6:8 who did miracles and became the first martyr. Also Philip in Acts 8:6  they both are recorded but the focus becomes the apostles doing the miraculous.

With all this in mind neither did Paul use the signs and miracles as the final proof of his apostolic position.

1 Cor. 4:9-13: "For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now." Notice he says the were last examples condemned to death, weak, poor, hungry, beaten and homeless. Its obvious we don’t see those who claim these positions today living in such a manner.

2 Cor.1:6: "Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. "Paul did not use the miracles as the final proof test for his apostolic calling even though it was unique among the 12.

Col.1:24: ' I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, Paul’s life of weakness and suffering showed his gifting and position. Speaking of suffering for the sake of righteousness in his course to fulfill his ministry, which was to the Church. "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you" He expressed the same thoughts to the Philippians - 2:17-18. Remember, at the time he wrote both of these epistles he was a prisoner suffering at Rome in service to Christ and to them! He did not use the miracles as a proof test for his apostolic calling at least when it was not necessary.

I hear people say that the Devil can't heal only God. There are also signs and wonders in the cults who deny the essentials of the Bible. If these are from God it would be inconsistent with his character to authorize falsehood. How can he heal an individual who may deny sin the need for salvation ,or distort the Gospel and even deny who Christ is ?

Those who are spiritual will check the teachings out especially when it comes with an accompaniment of miracles. Then it becomes even more crucial.

Many are looking for a impartation from an anointed preacher. We all have the same standing before God since we all have the same Holy Spirit and mediator. Anyone can receive from Jesus. He is the one we all should be seeking, no one can do what he can. People directed to go to another through their preaching. God hates the Nicolaity, those who say they have more than others and we need to come to them to receive it are exactly what Jesus addressed. Nicolaity, meaning those put in authority to rule over others. Nicolaitan is composed of  two words Nico means victor or Conqueror  and Laos is the word "Laity" meaning the people. It is a two-class system in which a certain group is given greater prominence over other believers. These are the dominionist rulers of our time. A Nicolaitan is one who rules over the common church member. The Catholics have their priesthood, Charismatic's dot he same with their apostle/ prophets.  

Jesus charged  that some in Pergamos (Rev.2: 15) held to teachings of the Nicolaitans, who are compared to those who "hold the teaching of Balaam," who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication"  certainly this has  to do with spiritual adultery as well. 

Paul who was the apostle in which many of the signs and wonders were done through had a very different view than those today. He warns in the last days that the Church in the last days will be removed from the faith, a departure from the word. Over and over Paul teaches about adhering to doctrine and faith in Christ with no mention of signs and wonders. Even in his epistle to Timothy he tells him to stir up the gift within but he does not say anything about miracles but do the work of an evangelist. Today experience is knowledge or what is falsely called knowledge. This is how one gets their input, by a sign and a miracle they have experienced. Faith is trusting what you cannot see, if you can see it its not faith. You don’t get credited for something you can see but what you cannot.

Experiences that we see today are from the outside, the scripture says he has deposited in us the divine nature, he works in us from the inside. This is a completely different way of operation. The miracles in the bible through the apostles hands almost unanimously were to those who did not believe. If you had a miracle happen in your life praise the Lord, lets just be careful in our confidence to think any or every miracle is from God or genuine.

If you are strong in faith you don't need signs and wonders to know that the Father cares for you. You don’t need to be further convinced of God by the exhibiting of power. We don't need signs and wonders to prove that He exists or that He hears our prayers. Faith comes by hearing the word about Christ (Romans 10:17) we believe what we read. Without seeing any evidence of supernatural manifestations, we can believe because God has granted us grace to believe based upon the testimony of His Word. Faith is to work from his word. The Lord requires faith, however we are more blessed who believe without seeing (John 20:29). Faith is the foundation upon which rests every thing we receive in our spiritual life. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). But its not presumption nor is it imaginative.

If we look at the people who have had supernatural experiences, we'll find that, in many cases, when the signs and wonders cease, their faith ceases. It was not true faith, but rather mere belief in what they could deny seeing. They believed because they saw, but they did not have true faith, it was temporary. The 3 cities Christ did miracles in the people hated him. So he pronounced a judgment on them.

Matt 11:21-24: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  "But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  "But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you."

Scripture and history prove that signs and wonders do not instill faith, just the opposite, lack of faith prompts ones desire to see signs and wonders. John 12:37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him. John 4:48 Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." Jesus was disappointed that it took the miraculous for people to listen to his teachings or follow.

Jesus said in Jn.13:19 I have told you before that when it comes to past that you may believe that I Am." This he was speaking of who would betray him. Jesus used his prophesying to prove his deity. He never pointed to the miracles to prove the end all to who he was. Prophecy proves the bible is true and who Christ is, it is always the word of truth that is pointed to for the test of authenticity.

The Old Testament prophets performed miracles in the sight of kings, priests, enemies and the people of Israel. Yet rather than instilling faith they more often were provoked to put them to death. Signs and wonders were given to Israel’s enemy over and over but it never changed Pharaoh’s mind,  In Deut.11:3-4 Moses recalls that after Pharaoh  released them he went after them and wanting to kill Moses and Israel. There were times when there were numerous signs and wonders and other times when there were not. Israel's wilderness journey was no different . God provided the manna everyday for a nation yet they tired of this miracle of provision. We are to look to Gods daily bread for us, not miracles. Jesus is the word come flesh, the true manna and we have it for us daily today. Certainly we all need the miraculous in our lives at times but to be predisposed of it always occurring puts "God in a box." While we hear from the promoters of the miraculous that we should not limit God and hinder him (put him in a box), neither should we expect him to show his miraculous power every time we are in need. Not only is this presumption but it is like the rich spoiled kid who always looks to his parents to pay for his mistakes. This is not to be interpreted as a lack of faith. The church was never taught to expect a miracle to come to deliver them from whatever was needed. History shows the Church was persecuted and many died for their faith. Certainly this was not a lack of faith on their part for this to happen.

To be inclined to productions of power in "faith meetings" is to be like Israel in the wilderness. Remember all died in the wilderness in unbelief, except two. The degree of unbelief that the children of Israel exhibited was in spite of the persuasive signs and wonders done before their eyes. Their miraculous deliverance from Egypt and Gods guidance and provision for them through the wilderness was quickly forgotten. Have we learned from there mistakes?

The fact is miracles in the Bible were not as common  place as we are being told today. Throughout history miracles would increase or decrease. Miracles were a rarity at times and those that actually worked miracles are no more than 20 or so different people. Out of approximately 340 or more miracles recorded in the scriptures the reaction of the people was not positive . They hated the prophets and God for the majority of them of them.

Jesus, after performing miracles of a quality and quantity not seen prior to His visitation on earth by any prophet was crucified by the very people he made miraculously well. When the belief system the people held was challenged by the evidence of His divine nature they reacted violently. John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. The masses followed Him for the temporary benefits they received through his miracles, but when push came to shove, everyone including His closest disciples abandoned Him. Jesus never allowed signs and wonders to be amplified above his message, when he healed people he said, sshhh don’t tell anyone, he never once announced a healing crusade. He met their spiritual needs as first priority before he would meet their physical needs.

No prophet was able to duplicate the miracles Jesus did. When Elijah resurrected the child he asked three times for the Spirit to come back (1 Kings 17:21-23). Even the miracles performed by the apostles did not initiate faith. They merely attested to the validity of the apostle's office and affirmed the truth of their message about Christ. the preaching of the Gospel was commanded not miracles or healings, if we put  them first were are practicing the opposite. We’ve missed the message and we certainly will miss the power because it followed, not preceded.

In John 14:12 Jesus said," you will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father." We can do greater works, as in more abundance, because the ministry of the Spirit is not limited to one only, but now has many. Greater is in reference to number not in quality. The apostles nor we can ever do a greater work (miracle) than the resurrection or make the blind see. Notice he does not say greater miracles, but works. What is greater is the ability to bring someone in a direct contact with Christ and have the Holy Spirit live in them, something that was not offered at the time he said this.

Miracles were not common place among the Christians. Entire Church groups throughout history were not known for their signs and wonders. Very few record miracles, they were not common place.

The "miracles" we can expect to see in greater numbers today are found as a warning in: 2 Thess. 2:9-10 "Even him who is coming after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not a love of the truth that they might be saved."

Every believer needs to exercise Biblical Discernment when they go to any meeting advertising miracles and manifestations of the Spirit. Many are led by being deceived by men and women who back their teaching up with some form of supernatural manifestation. We are warned of false apostles those who claim authority that is not from God and can do miracles. In much the same way as the false prophets God told Jeremiah I have not sent them or spoken to them. There are numerous warnings in scripture, in Mt.7:21 there is number of people who claim before the Lord have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name and done many wonders. Then I will declare to them I never knew you, depart from me you who practice lawlessness." They tried to be accepted by what they did , by the power they supposedly had but they did not do the will of the Lord which is to preach the Gospel in truthfulness. Yet the lord said he never had a relationship with them. So his name is not a stamp of authenticity for anyone (obviously it was a different Jesus who was their source of power.) They were lawless they were not under his leadership, or guidance they did not practice the law of Christ. They tried to approach God on their own merit by their good deeds saying look at what we did, we had power. It wasn't about power but about knowing him in a relationship.” I never knew you “he gave them what they already possessed, since they were departed from him to begin with.

Then there is the example of  Judas, who cast out the demons and healed along with the other 11 disciples. Yet Jesus knew who he was from the beginning. This can be one explanation for Mt.7:21 where people used the power of his name and got the same results. But it was a matter of authority, who was in charge. Jesus said they practiced lawlessness. In other words he was not Lord over their lives but they used his name for power exhibitions and anything their untrained hearts desired.

Can anyone say the true God healed someone in the Mormon church or in some other cult? What about the gurus who boast of healings and great miracles?  Certainly to hold the position that “God only” heals is disastrous. For there are counterfeits, and if they can take place outside the Church, they can also take place inside as well. As Paul states in 2 Cor.11:14: “their are false apostles”, they look like ministers of righteousness, they can have holiness, they have power, but their doctrine and focus is off.

Lets not forget the sobering message for the end of time Matt 24:24: “For false Christ's and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. The purpose is to deceive the elect, not done by the elect! It's not the elect that do the signs and wonders but are being tested by them as stated in Deut. 13:1: “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, “and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'-- which you have not known--' and let us serve them,'“you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.

To go after the power of God instead of the person of God certainly falls in this category. Many who show these wonders have false teachings about Christ and mans relationship to God. We are to fear God and obey his voice by keeping his word, holding to him only.

So how can you know? TEST THEM, your spiritual welfare may be at stake!

 

 

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