We are looking at John 14:12.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
When Jesus said those who believe will do the works he is doing, I understand him to mean that they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform miraculous signs and wonders.
When I look at the history of the church in Acts, I find a history filled with accounts of believers performing miraculous signs and wonders. The first believers did indeed do the works that Jesus did.
So here’s the question for us – what about today? Should we expect to see sign and wonders in our time? If so, what should we do?
There are four basic interpretations to the question of signs and wonders.
- Signs and wonders were for the authentication of the apostles
- Signs and wonders were for the establishment of the Scriptures
- Signs and wonders are for the introduction of the gospel into new areas
- Signs and wonders are for the edification of the church and evangelization of unbelievers as long as the church is on earth.
I find the first interpretation untenable for three reasons – two scriptural and one historical.
First, the apostles were not the only ones who performed signs and wonders. We saw last week that deacons, evangelists and regular people and churches experienced signs and wonders.
Second, the Scriptures never state that signs and wonders were a purely apostolic function.
Third, church history clearly demonstrates that signs and wonders continued beyond the lives of the apostles. The miraculous can be found throughout the writings of the church fathers. Here are a few examples:
Justin Martyr (c110-165):
“For one receives the spirit of understanding, another a counsel, another of healing, another of strength, another of foreknowledge, another of teaching and another of the fear of God. The prophetic gifts remain with us to the present time. For some [believers] do certainly cast out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits do frequently both believe and join the church. Others have knowledge of things to come; they see visions and utter prophetic expressions.”
Quadratus (d 129 AD):
“But the works of our Saviour were always present, for they were genuine:-those that were healed, and those that were raised from the dead, who were seen not only when they were healed and when they were raised, but were also always present; and not merely while the Saviour was on earth, but also after his death, they were alive for quite a while, so that some of them lived even to our day.”
Tertullian 155-220 AD:
Tertullian wrote about the function of prophecy in his church – there was a prophetess who ‘after the people are dismissed at the conclusion of the sacred services, reports whatever she has seen in visions’. He wrote that ‘all her communications are examined with scrupulous care, in order that their truth may be probed’
In a summary statement of the experience of the church, Tertullian wrote that “God everywhere manifests signs of his own power – to his own people for their comfort, to strangers for a testimony unto them.”
The second interpretation of signs and wonders – that functioned to substantiate the church until the Scriptures were written is also impossible to maintain in light of these last two reasons – it’s not Scriptural, nor is it historical.
The third interpretation makes good sense. After all, don’t we still hear reports of signs and wonders coming in from the pioneers on the mission field? Isn’t Acts the story of the gospel coming to new places for the first time?
Once again, I cannot find this perspective taught anywhere in the Scriptures.
I also struggle with it when I read 1 Corinthians 12-14. Paul describes signs and wonders as gifts given to the church for the edification of the church.
If we want the most Scriptural answer and the one that best suits the history of the church, we are left with option 4.
Signs and wonders are for the edification of the church and evangelization of unbelievers as long as the church is on earth.
I am certainly not alone in this conclusion. As I study Scripture, there are two men who I continually go to as sources of careful study and exegesis. They are the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Piper.
Here’s what they have to say:
“It is perfectly clear that in New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated in this way by signs, wonders and miracles of various characters and descriptions. . . . Was it only meant to be true of the early church? . . . The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary – never! There is no such statement anywhere.”
“I am one of those Baptist General Conference people who believes that “signs and wonders” and all the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 are valid for today and should be “earnestly desired” (1 Corinthians 14:1) for the edification of the church and the spread of the gospel.”
If my interpretation of John 14:12 is correct, what does that mean for us?
It means that we serve a God who can change everything in a moment.
It means we live in a world that is not bound by human limitations.
It means that God can use anyone to change the world for someone else.
I see four steps given to us in the Scriptures.
1. Yield to the Spirit.
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
2. Pray for miracles.
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
3. Pray for spiritual gifts.
“Earnestly pursue love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.”
1 Corinthians 14:1
4. Test everything, but don’t quench the Spirit.
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all; hold on to what is good”
1 Thessalonians 5:19
What’s your miracle?
As we close this series I want to invite you to bring a miracle to God.
What is one thing you would like to bring before the power of the Holy Spirit?
It may be your marriage. It may be your struggle with addiction. It may be the spiritual condition of a friend or family member. It might be a problem with your physical or emotional health. Or the health of someone you love.
Join me an pray this prayer: God would you work a miracle in my _____________.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown