How do we discern which miraculous signs are of God?


Return to “The Anointing”: Studies from Scripture


From at least two Scriptures in the gospel of John some have concluded that it is safe to perform miraculous signs which Jesus did not do as recorded in Scripture. In this article we want to examine this conclusion.

John 14:12  Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

John 20:30  Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

Therefore the “greater works” mentioned in John 14:12 and the unrecorded “other signs” mentioned in John 20:30 can include all the various supernatural manifestations now witnessed in certain circles of the Church. These may include laughing, roaring, barking, slithering, vigorous jerking and shaking, falling (presumably under the Spirit’s power), gold dust, gemstones, and other newer manifestations of which I am not yet aware.


How do we discern?

The question we would like to pose is: how can we tell which manifestations are really from God? If a certain manifestation is not from God yet we accept it as so, then we have been deceived. And there will be consequences of allowing ourselves to be deceived. What these consequences will be is not clear, but clearly believers will want to avoid being deceived.

Simply because a manifestation takes place in a church setting or in the ministry of a well-known minister does not guarantee that it is of the Lord.

Matthew 7:15  Watch out for false prophets. …22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’


The “anointed” ones

Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them: “Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (KJV)

Here Jesus commands us to watch out so that we are not deceived by the many who will come in his name and claim to be the Christ. This verse as it stands makes little sense. This is because any servant of God who comes to us in the name of Jesus claiming to be the Christ will be promptly rejected by the Church. He will in fact deceive no one. In line with this, there is no one in the Church today who actually claims to be the Christ. But Jesus warns us that there will be many. How can we understand his warning? It is vital that we understand it properly in order that we will not be among the many who will be deceived in the last days. The answer is that we may have misunderstood what Jesus actually meant.

In Greek the word Christ means “anointed” or “anointed one.” In the original Greek text all the characters were capitalized with of course no differentiation between upper and lower case. (Capitalization was not added until the Ninth Century.) Therefore capitals are not called for in absolutely every instance of the word, especially when the Messiah Jesus is not being referred to as in “false christs” (LITV) in Matthew 24:24.

If we make the substitution of “anointed” for “christ” in Matthew 24:5, we will have “for many shall come in my name, saying, I am anointed; and shall deceive many.”

Today there are in fact many who come in the name of Jesus Christ who claim to be “anointed.” They claim to have the anointing or to be anointed to prophesy, to cast out demons, heal the sick, and perform miracles. The practices and the supernatural manifestations which appear in their meetings are usually attributed to the anointing upon them or their ministries. Unfortunately the use of such terms to refer to such people is not consistent with the New Testament. For clarification on this, please click on The “anointing” Revisited.

 

MANY OF US WILL BE DECEIVED

Matthew 24:11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

…23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ [or anointed one]!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs [or false “anointed ones”] and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.

Scripture teaches us clearly that false prophets are also capable of performing miraculous signs. Jesus warns us to watch out for them and to take heed that we are not deceived. If we fail to heed his warning, the consequences will be on our own heads.

How can we discern between what miraculous sign is of the Lord and what is not? For example, are walking on hot coals without pain or injury, lying on a bed of sharp nails unharmed, or levitating in the air to be considered from God—even if performed in an evangelistic setting? Most believers would say such miracles are not of God. So where do we draw the line?

In the author’s opinion, in this potentially risky arena—as we know from Jesus’ various warnings—it is best to be conservative by following Scripture closely. If it is not performed in Scripture by Jesus or his disciples and not strongly supported—and I repeat strongly supported—in Scripture, then we do not practice it or teach it.

Many miraculous healings are already being reported by disciples around the world as they apply what they are taught in The Elijah Challenge. We are quite content with what the Lord has given us, and are not jealously looking over the fence into someone’s else backyard to see and learn what they are doing—especially if it is not Scriptural.


Mohammed and Julius Caesar also experienced “shaking”

Interestingly, some believe that the epileptic-like seizures reportedly suffered by the prophet Mohammed and before him the Roman Julius Caesar were evidence that “God” was with them and manifesting himself through them. There is no reason to believe that our Father in heaven manifests Himself in the same way through His servants, especially when it is not recorded in Scripture.


The personal life of the minister

There is yet another way to discern what is of God and what might not be. We ought to look at the personal lives of the ministers who perform the miraculous signs.

2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you… 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up…

1 Timothy 6:5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

More often than not, ministers whose hallmark are miraculous signs unsupported by Scripture will adhere to “extreme prosperity teaching.” They are very skilled in taking large offerings from God’s people. They of course claim that their teaching is biblical, but the teaching is taken mostly from Old Testament figures like Abraham, Solomon, and David. The Old Testament has been fulfilled in the New Testament, and there we find no such emphasis on material prosperity. In the New Testament the overwhelming focus is on spiritual and heavenly riches.

I am convinced that many of these ministers are greedy and focus on financial gain.


The motivation behind the miraculous sign

The purpose behind the miraculous sign should be to bring God’s people to repentance—to make ready a holy people prepared for the great and terrible Day of the Lord at His Second Coming. But too often the miracles can be little more than a prelude to receiving “seed offerings”—hopefully very generous—from the people to “bless the ministry” and line the pockets of the anointed servant of God.


Holiness

There may be areas of the lives of ministers which we ought to examine in order to discern the origin of the miraculous signs seen in their ministries. As an example, have they been divorced, or accused of sexual impropriety? If they have been divorced, is there evidence of repentance if the divorce was a result of sin?

Is there evidence of pride or hypocrisy in their actions?

I was once a speaker at a conference where the keynote speaker was a very well-known minister. We and the pastor who hosted the conference were sorely disappointed by his personal behavior. Before going out to minister on the very first evening after arriving late at the church from the airport, he first met with the host pastor in his office and demanded that he first be reimbursed for his first class airfare before going out to speak in the auditorium. There were other incidents which also shocked us.

I believe there are other similar horror stories as well from people who have worked under some well-known ministers, especially charismatic ones.


The importance of the fruit of the Holy Spirit

Therefore, in addition to the earlier criteria for discerning that which is of God and that which is not, there is one more we would bring to your attention.

Galatians 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23  gentleness and self-control.

Does the minister walk in the fruit of the Spirit? Has he cultivated the character and holiness of Jesus Christ in his personal life?

 

 

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