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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Should Biblical Churches Be Marked by Signs & Wonders?

A good friend and brother in the Lord has recently asked some great questions which I’ve tried to answer in previous posts. Lem has just made the following comments and I’m adding my responses to his in blue…..
You've presented the picture of an ekklesia clear enough for me to understand. As I mentioned, I would love to visit one, not so much to see the people, but to see God's work among the people. There is another consideration I wish to address. Since you refer to the Book of Acts for an example of ekklesia, it would therefore follow that if such a church existed today, we would see the fruits of such a church. I'm specifically referring to the miracles (signs and wonders) that "follow them that believe".
Many have told me not to focus on miracles because even the devil can counterfeit them or miracles don't change a person's heart, or some other excuse like that. However if we are to believe the Word of God, then it specifically says that "these signs will follow them that believe" (casting out demons, healing the sick,...etc), not the counterfeit ones, but the genuine ones.
Lem, do you remember that we observed before that apostolic traditions are not established by practices or events among first century Christians but rather by apostolic teachings – i.e. commands of the Lord Jesus to the apostles which have been passed down to us to be obeyed? It is very true that the Lord Jesus gave the apostles a command and a number of promises in Mark 16:15-18. Let’s take a look at His words.  Verse 15 is his command which establishes the tradition which is passed down to us by the apostles…”And he said unto them,  Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” This was the responsibility of the apostles and is still our responsibility today. Biblical Churches will be actively involved in the proclamation of the Gospel at home and abroad!
Then the next three verses (16-18) are the promises of the Lord Jesus, that is, these are His responsibilities.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.(v.16)  Is the Lord Jesus fulfilling His responsibilities here?  Have  all who have believed to date been saved? Have all those who have not believed been damned?    Yes! This is very clear in John 3:16-18… For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

A number of important questions might well be asked and answered as we consider the Lord Jesus’ promises in verses 17 and 18:
Q. Is He the same faithful God who made the promises in verse 16?  A. Yes! Absolutely!

Q. Did He place any conditions upon these promises?  i.e. Would any unfaithfulness on man’s part nullify or disqualify these promises of His?  A. None whatsoever!         

(Here is the general promise.)And these signs shall follow them that believe;

(Then the following are the five specific signs which He promised would follow them that believe.)  
(1) In my name shall they cast out devils; 
      The Lord kept His promise and on at least 3 occasions evil spirits were cast out by the hands of the apostles who had seen the resurrected Christ and had been personally sent out by Him.  (a) by the hands of the apostles Acts 5:12-16; (b) by the apostle Philip 8:5-8  ; (c) by the hands of the apostle Paul 19:11,12
(2) they shall speak with new tongues; (The Lord kept His promise and there are 4 recorded examples of the genuine article and one example of counterfeit tongues.)
       (a) the 120 disciples gathered on the Day of Pentecost, including the apostles Acts 2:4-11 (these were all believers and followers of the Lord Jesus BEFORE that day.)
       (b) The members of Cornelius’ household (new converts who had just been listening to the apostle Peter preach the Gospel), Acts 10:44-47
       (c) about 12 disciples of John the baptizer spoke in tongues after they had believed on the Lord Jesus, had been baptized and Paul had laid his hands on themActs 19:1-7 
        (d) The apostle Paul spoke in tongues more than all the Corinthian saints, I Cor.14:18
        (e) The Corinthians had been speaking in tongues in ways that were not guided by the Spirit of God and thus were not edifying. Paul reproved and instructed them that if tongues were spoken in the ekklesia it had to be done in an orderly manner: i.e. one speaker at a time so all could hear and be edified, thus no tongues speaking in the ekklesia unless what was spoken was interpreted, and no more than 2 or 3 tongues speakers.  I Cor.14 
(3) They shall take up serpents;  The Lord kept His promise. There is just one recorded instance of this, Paul’s experience on the island of Malta in Acts 28:1-10
(4) if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them;  As far as I know there is no scriptural record of a believer being protected from this sort of harm, but there are many accounts in our own time of believers being persecuted and poisoned by their own families and being miraculously preserved by God. I might add that there are also many accounts of believers who were faithful to God who have been killed by poisoning! This is no reflection on their faith or their obedience to God. Hebrews 11 is clear that through faith many have conquered and been victorious over persecution (11:1-35a) but the same chapter is just as clear that others with the very same faith have been vanquished! (11:35b-40)

(5) they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.  There are two recorded instances in scripture after the promise of Mark 16 in which people were healed through the laying on of someone’s hands. In the first instance, Saul (later called Paul) is the recipient of that healing and in the second instance he is the one through whom healing comes to another.
     (a) Ananias lays hands on Saul and he is healed of blindness (Acts 9:17,18)
     (b) Paul laid hands on the father of Publius and he was healed of a fever and a bloody flux (Acts 28:8)

There are many misconceptions which have been derived from the Lord Jesus’ promises in Mark 16. So I would like to point out a couple of things which He  did NOT say…
The Lord Jesus did NOT say All these signs shall follow them that believe.” 
-There is not one person nor any ekklesia mentioned in the historical accounts of the early church which was marked by  all of these signs! So it is a false assumption to think that the lack of any these signs in any Christian’s life is clear evidence of unbelief or disobedience!  Scripture never teaches that any obedient Christian or any ekklesia, can expect to be marked by all these signs!
-Secondly, the Lord Jesus never promised,  “These signs shall follow ALL them that believe.” Nowhere in scripture do we find any basis for the assumption that every obedient, Spirit-filled believer or ekklesia would be followed by some of these signs and therefore if the signs are lacking the believer or the ekklesia is at fault! But many who have been taught this idea have been brought under false guilt by such erroneous teaching!
What the Lord Jesus did promise, (“These signs shall follow them that believe.”) has been faithfully and entirely fulfilled and nothing is lacking! He has kept His promise for He has been absolutely faithful to His Word!
To judge any believer or any ekklesia who lacks any or all of these signs in their own experience is to make such a judgment entirely apart from any scriptural authority!
The words of the Lord Jesus, Himself, and the writings of the apostles make very clear that such signs were never guaranteed to any or to all believers if they met some standard or requirement of God!
Rather such are given and distributed according to the will of God:
1 Corinthians 12:11)  But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

1 Corinthians 12:18)  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

1 Corinthians 12:27-30)  Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?  (The obvious answer to all the above questions is “No!”  Not all believers are given these gifts. They are given according to the will of God.)

Lem, Thank you so much for sharing your questions and comments. Your sharing has certainly addressed questions that others have considered but have not asked.  I’ve not addressed all of your comments in this post but this is already too long! I’ll stop for now and continue in the next post.
To all: like Lem, you too are encouraged to comment, question or challenge anything I write here. Lets exhort one another and search for answers in the Word of God!


  1. (I feel both unqualified and inadequate to debate the issue of apostolic teachings and the fruit and blessings that come out of it. But here goes…)

    Since you use the absence of the word “ALL” to interpret “them” in the verses of Mark 16:16-18, shall we do the same thing for hundreds of other bible verses that do not contain the word “ALL” in it? If we first just look at the three verses mentioned in Mark.

    Mark 16:15-18.
    15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
    16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
    17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
    18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

    If I were to apply the same method of interpretation to verse 15, I might be tempted to think that not ALL people should go into the world and preach the gospel, for the verse did not say:

    “And he said unto ALL of them” OR
    “And he said unto them ALL” OR
    “Go ye ALL into the world” OR
    “Go ALL of ye into the world”

    If I were to apply it to verses 16 and 17, I would be tempted to interpret that Jesus did not use the word “Whosover” and used the word “He” (in verse 15) instead, AND therefore since “He” is more singular than “them” (plural in verse 17), I would conclude that not ALL that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and not ALL that believeth NOT shall be damned.

    Why should the absence of ALL in verse 17 cause us to reduce the meaning of the word “them” to “not ALL”. If we were to use the same rule of thumb to interpret all the other verses in the bible with the word “them”, I think we’d have some serious troubles.

    But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12)

    Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent (John 6:29)

    While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. (John 12:36)

    Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; (John 17:20)

    Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. (1 (Corinthians 14:22)

    In all the verses above, I have always interpreted (and I’m pretty sure anyone you ask would do so to) the word “them” to mean “all inclusive”.

    When I look at the verse in John 14:12, I’m led to interpret Mark 16:16-18 in the same light.

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (John 14:12)

    To me, greater works means more signs and miracles than what Jesus did. In this verse, it clearly says “He that believeth”. It is no different in meaning when this phrase is used in other verses such as:

    He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)

    He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)

    (The blog software is complaining that the HTML post is more than 4096 characters long, so I’m splitting it here. Please see next comment).


  2. Ok…so you’re probably wondering about what I think about God’s designation of functions and spiritual gifts in the church as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12. Yes, I agree that these verses would put those verses in Mark and John in perspective.

    However, if I was to take each one of these spiritual gifts, I’d have to honestly face the fact that most of what I’ve seen is not from God.

    I know I’m getting off the topic, and it may appear like I’m judging. No, I believe, I’m discerning instead. Judging implies condemnation of others. Discernment implies knowing truth from falsehoods.

    It’s relatively easy for man to imitate the gifts of teaching, helping people, managing and speaking in tongues, and these you see plenty of. In addition, even many of these are not from God (i.e. false teachers).

    But miracles, gifts of healing and prophesying are not easy to imitate. Yes, the devil can do these things. But so can God. What am I saying? I just want to see more of God’s works (the glory of God) and not man’s works. That is all.


  3. Hi again Lem!
    You have asked some great questions again and I want to seek to address them in another post in the very near future.

    Your brother in Christ,