(I want to acknowledge that Part 2 of Are Signs and Wonder for today is taken directly from John Piper’s blog on Signs and wonders from the early 90’s. It’s hard to improve on great teaching!
N.B. It would appear from the reading of his later blogs that John is less certain of the role of Signs and wonders today. I whole-heartedly agree with what he said in this teaching.)
Signs and wonders are not the saving word of grace; they are God’s secondary testimony to the word of his grace. Signs and wonders do not save. They are not the power of God unto salvation.
They do not transform the heart–as we know 10 lepers were healed by Jesus but only one came back to worship and follow.
What transforms the heart and saves the soul is the self-authenticating glory of Christ seen in the message of the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:18-4:6)
But even if signs and wonders can’t save the soul, they can, if God pleases, shatter the shell of unbelief; they can shatter the shell of cynicism; they can shatter the shell of false religion.
Like every other good witness to the word of grace, they can help the fallen heart to fix its gaze on the gospel where the soul-saving, self-authenticating glory of the Lord shines. Therefore the early church longed for God to stretch forth his hand to heal, and that signs and wonders be done in the name of Jesus.
The fact that the early Christians prayed so earnestly for signs and wonders (Acts 4:29-30) is all the more striking when you realize that they, of all generations were in least need of supernatural authentication.
This was the generation whose preaching (of Peter and Stephen and Philip and Paul) was more anointed than the preaching of any generation following. If any preaching was the power of God unto salvation and did not need accompanying signs and wonders, it was this preaching.
Moreover this was the generation that had more immediate and more compelling evidence of the truth of the resurrection than any generation since. Hundreds of eyewitnesses to the risen Lord were alive in Jerusalem. If any generation in the history of the church knew the power of preaching and the authentication of the gospel from first-hand evidence of the resurrection, it was this one. Yet it was they who prayed passionately for God to stretch forth his hand in signs and wonders.
Therefore I conclude that in our zeal for the centrality of the word we should not go beyond the word by making signs and wonders enemies of the word of the cross. Nobody was more jealous for the power of the word than Paul. Yet he described his mission as Christ working through him “in the power of signs and wonders” (Romans 15:19).
Were these the unique “sign of an apostle” and thus not valid for us? I don’t think so.
That will be the question answered in the next section.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.
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