ARE SIGNS AND WONDERS FOR US TODAY? – 2
In the last blog I talked about signs and wonders and how they were used by God in the past. I also gave Bible proofs that they are not the norm for today. But that’s not the end of the topic, for there are other Bible proofs that indicate signs and wonders are still applicable today. Let’s look at some of these.
God performed miracles to enable Peter to speak (Acts 3:1-4:4). Paul had the same experience in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-20). Are they still applicable for us today, or were they just something for the Apostles to do?
We can find examples in the Bible where signs and wonders were done by those who weren’t Apostles. In Luke 9:2, Jesus sends the Apostles to preach the Kingdom of God and heal. Then, in Luke 10:9, He sends out seventy-two followers (sixty or more of whom are not Apostles) to do the same thing. Moreover, in Matthew 24:14, Jesus states the kingdom will be preached in all the world, and the end will come. If Jesus told His followers to do something and gave no instructions to stop, then it would seem logical to keep doing it as it was originally done. Second, Stephen, Philip, and Barnabas (who were not Apostles) did signs among the people. When Peter and John went there to minister, they built on the work already done (Acts 8:15-17), even though it wasn’t done by Apostles. They did not stop Philip from preaching or doing miracles. Galatians 3:5 states God directly gave the Spirit to the Galatians—it was not given through Paul the Apostle. Even though Paul was not with them, miracles were being done there. Finally, 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 lists several gifts from God, including the gift of healings and miracles. Then, in verses 27–28, Paul includes miracles and healings as roles within the church, separate from the roles of Apostles and prophets. That doesn’t prove they are to continue today, but it does show that signs and wonders were a normal part of church ministry in the early church.
So, which is it? Signs and wonders or not? Since we can’t say for 100% sure there seems to be room for allowable differences in interpretation among believers, as there are for the current use of the gift of tongues or concerning the rapture and Second Coming. The Bible can only say one thing, and it can’t contradict itself, but in those rare instances where there seems to be more than one legitimate interpretation, we can only go by what God leads each of us to individually.
Personally, I have always believed that the sign gifts were not the standard for all believers today. But that doesn’t mean God can’t or won’t use them when the circumstances call for it. The Corinthians were aware of Satan’s manifestations of power, so God showed His power there in a way He didn’t at other churches. It wasn’t because they had more faith than the other churches, but because they had less. Thus, we see the use of these gifts there but not elsewhere. I have seen and been aware of God’s supernatural work (signs and wonders) in India, especially in parts where the name of Jesus isn’t known. Physical healings happen so people can know God also heals spiritually. Dreams and visions communicate truth to those who don’t know and don’t have anyone to tell them. In areas where the gospel is known, like in the USA, that isn’t necessary or effective. In Luke 16:27-31 the rich man wanted Lazarus to send someone from the other side of the grave to talk to his brother so they’d repent. God said, “No.” They had heard the prophets, even Jesus Himself. That was sufficient.
I see our culture like that of Israel back then – the name of Jesus is not unknown and information about God and the Bible were available everywhere. They (we) don’t need something supernatural to show God is greater than Satan. Our culture doesn’t even believe in Satan. But in parts of India, China and even Africa where there is no knowledge of Jesus and Satan rules by power and fear, then signs and wonders are necessary and appropriate. Still, that is the exception and not the norm. That’s how it was with Jesus, too. Although Jesus did sensational things (such as feeding 5,000 people; Matthew 14:13–21), He was not a sensationalist (He went off to pray alone; Luke 5:16).
Signs and wonders also have a place in India, where we go each year to train pastors, because the culture has much in common with the New Testament era. People are very aware of the spirit world. They fear it and do all they can to appease it. In addition, many people suffer from demon possession and physical ailments, and the afflicted do not have medical resources to become well. Understanding the parallels between New Testament and Indian culture is important because it offers the contemporary reader of the Bible unique insight into methods of gospel presentation which could work just as well today. For example, mimicking Luke 10:1–20 has proven to be a successful ministry method in India and throughout South Asia (though following Jesus’ instructions in this chapter would probably not be very effective in most of the United States).
I have no problem with signs and wonders happening where the gospel known, in fact I have seen it happening many times. But in cultures that have been steeped in Christianity for generations but are turning from it, it is a much rarer experience. Like the Jews in Jesus’ day, God has provided all the revelation needed, and much more. The Gospel message is sufficient. Sensationalism will never force anyone to believe whose heart is cold to the gospel (Luke 16:27-31). At the most they will be like the seed that sprouted quickly but soon faded and died (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). Pray for the hearts of those who don’t have Jesus to be softened and opened so they will respond to the truth they already have. (January 15, 2024 Doylestown, PA)
Luke 10:1, 17 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. … The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
Think of some who aren’t believers. Pray God would open their hearts and minds to the truth of the Gospel. Reach out to them by phone, email or letter and share what God has been doing in your life.
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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