Friday, June 27, 2008

The Word Confirmed with Accompanying Signs

And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. (Mark 16:20)
The current revival in Lakeland, FL, has met with resistance in some Christian quarters, though there have been many people saved, healed and delivered of demonic oppression, all in the name of Jesus. When this is pointed out, however, critics often respond, as they have done to many past revivals, with these other words of Jesus: “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!’” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Both Scriptures are true, but there are some important distinctions to note. First, notice that Jesus did not say that “All who say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord …’”He did not even say most. He only said many.

“In that day,” that is, the day of His kingdom, there will be many who will say that they have prophesied, cast out demons and done many wonders in the name of Jesus, though Jesus does not know them or claim them as His own. How they are able to perform such miracles is unclear, and beside the point. The point is about knowing Jesus, or more importantly, being known by Him.

Does this mean that all signs and wonders done in the name of Jesus should be rejected? No. Does it mean that healing miracles and exorcisms have no value for confirming a message or ministry? Again, no.

George O. Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, in a recent statement on revival (not specifically addressing the current “Lakeland Outpouring,” but certainly with it in mind) said, “Miraculous manifestations are never the test of a true revival – fidelity to God's Word is the test.” The article, for the most part, is nicely balanced, with appropriate words of caution. But I would like to take issue a bit with the above quote. The bone I pick is a little one, the difference between the and a, but I think it is an important distinction.

Miraculous manifestations are not the test of true revival, but if I am to believe Jesus and the Gospel of Mark, they are certainly a test. For in giving His disciples the Great Commission (“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”), He said:
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 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. (Mark 16:17-18)
Notice that Jesus calls these “signs.” Healing the sick, casting out demons, and other miraculous manifestations have sign value. Signs are indicative, that is, they point to something. Now read again the words that close the Gospel of Mark:
And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. (Mark 16:20)
The Lord used these signs to confirm the word preached by the apostles. It helped to establish the message that was brought. Now, miraculous manifestations are not to be divorced from the message of the Bible, or else they have would have no determinative value for us. After all, signs are indicative and as such must have something to which they point us. Signs that are from God point us to the Word of God and the message of the gospel. True signs confirm the Word. Any sign that is contrary to the Word is to be dismissed. Any sign that accompanies a false gospel is likewise to be rejected.

So while it is true that signs by themselves are not the test of revival, not able to authenticate a message or ministry, they do have an important role to play in confirming the word of the gospel. Alone they give us no help at all, but as accompaniment to the Word and the gospel they have great value.

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