“An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign…”
– Matt 12.39, 16.4
“For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
– 1 Cor 1.22-24
We are very familiar with Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings warning people of the danger of miracles. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for asking for signs, calling them evil and adulterous. We tell ourselves not to test God (Deut 6.16), and we make excuses for God when we ask Him for something and He does not come through. Have you ever noticed, however, that the apostles and followers of Jesus asked God to preform miracles shortly after Pentecost?
“And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”
– Acts 4.29-30
The disciples and followers of Jesus received the Spirit in the miraculous day of Pentecost: the whole building shook, there were as flames of fire, tongues on each person, they were empowered to speak foreign languages, and the result was that three thousand people came to faith. Peter and John then healed a man who had never walked in his life, and five thousand more people believed. Because of this miracle, they were arrested and after they were released the disciples all gathered and prayed for boldness and more miracles. How can it be that the disciples prayed for miracles, but Jesus said that those who demand miracles are evil and adulterous?
When Paul and Barnabas went into Iconium, one of their stops on their missionary journey, they spent a long time there preaching and preforming signs:
“Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.”
– Acts 14.3
God Himself was preforming signs and wonders that were testifying to the Word. They were not a distraction, they were not in place of, they were merely a support to affirm the Gospel. Paul was preaching that Jesus had the power to heal physically and eternally, and Jesus was proving Himself by healing physically. But why then is that not adulterous? Let’s consider who exactly it was the Jesus called evil.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
– Matt 12.38
Jesus had just healed a mute man, giving him the ability to speak and casting a demon out of him. The Pharisees had seen it, and heard Jesus’ preaching in the aftermath. The people were asking and discussing amongst themselves if Jesus was the Messiah and some of the Pharisees and religious leaders did not believe. They accused Jesus of casting demons out by the power of Satan himself (Matt 12.24). It was based on this hardness of heart and disbelief that they confronted Jesus and said, “prove yourself with a sign”. They did not believe, and no sign would cause them to believe. Jesus knew their hearts and responded by calling them evil and adulterous. Adultery is when a spouse has an intimate relationship with another. The Pharisees were essentially acting like a hardened mate who has already decided not to love his spouse, and saying “If you love me, prove it!” This is the adultery.
But Peter and John were loving and serving Jesus, believing the Gospel and preaching it boldly. They knew that Jesus has the power to heal, and they were asking Him to confirm their testimony about Himself. They were asking him, through love and devotion to validate their preaching. This honors God! It is the faithful and loving spouse pointing out the glory and magnitude of the groom.
Scripture never says that God will no longer preform signs and wonders. There is one benchmark verse for people who believe that God no longer preforms signs and wonders:
“Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”
– 1 Cor 13.8-10
Paul was speaking of the new age: when we will live on the New Earth with Jesus. That is the perfect. It has been misunderstood that the completion of the Bible is the coming of the “perfect”, but in context we understand that “then”, when the perfect comes, we will no longer see dimly but clearly (v 12). When all things are made perfect, when sin exists no more, there will be no more need for God to affirm the Gospel through signs because everything will be complete. Love, however, will continue forever!
Scripture also teaches us that as we near the end, there will be many false prophets who work miracles (Matt 24.24). The supernatural is not limited by our culture’s disposition or the completion of the Scripture.
So what is the conclusion? Do we believe that God can and does preform miracles? What in your life has put God out there, with an opportunity to validate your claim to His power? Or are you skeptical of God, and test Him to prove Himself with little sign-games? “God, if you are real, then do this…”
Signs and wonders accompanied every church plant in the New Testament, and Paul and others often refer back to that fact when validating people’s faith. Signs and wonders, however, are not given to convince the doubtful. If you approach God without faith, loving another, then it is an adulterous request for Him to prove Himself. But let us pray like the disciples, that God would move through our nation, that He would give us boldness to preach and that He would validate His Gospel with the miraculous!