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Should Christians Expect Miracles Today? Objections and Answers from the Bible, Part 4, by Wayne A. Grudem

Miracles will always engender faith in some and hostile opposition in others—especially religious leaders who are jealous because of their loss of power and influence when genuine miracles are occurring and people are coming to faith outside of their influence.

In the Church, and in the lives of individual believers, the Holy Spirit does not entirely conceal His work, but makes Himself known in various ways. In Acts 13:1-2, it is the Holy Spirit who gives direction in response to fasting and worship. Acts 15:28 suggests that the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem church sought the Spirit in their decisions to find out what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit also bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16), and cries, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6). He provides a guarantee or a down payment of our future fellowship with Him in heaven (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5), and reveals His desires to us so that we can be led by those desires and follow them (Romans 8:4-16; Galatians 5:16-25). He gives gifts that manifest His presence (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). And from time to time He works miraculous signs and wonders and miracles that strongly attest to the presence of God in preaching the gospel (Hebrews 2:4; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:4; Romans 15:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).

It seems more accurate, therefore, to say that although the Holy Spirit does glorify Jesus, He also frequently calls attention to His work and gives recognizable evidences that make His presence known. Indeed, it seems that one of His primary purposes in the New Covenant Age is to manifest the presence of God, to give indication that make the presence of God known. And when the Holy Spirit works in various ways that can be perceived by believers and unbelievers, this encourages people’s faith that God is near and that He is working to fulfill His purposes in the Church and to bring blessing to His people.

23. How do we know that spiritual gifts today aren’t just demonic counterfeits designed to lead people astray?

Certainly false miracles are mentioned in the Bible—but when we examine them we find they are never worked by genuine believers. Pharaoh’s magicians were able to work some false miracles (Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:7), even though they soon had to admit that God’s power was greater (Exodus 8:19). Simon the sorcerer in the city of Samaria amazed people with his magic (Acts 8:9-11), even though the miracles done through Philip were much greater (Acts 8:13). In Philippi, Paul encountered a slave girl “who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying” (Acts 16:16), but Paul rebuked the spirit and it came out of her (Acts 16:18).

We find further evidence in the Epistles. Paul says that when the man of sin comes it “will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10), but those who follow them and are deceived do so “because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). This indicates that those who work false miracles in the end times by the power of Satan will not speak the truth but will preach a false gospel.

Finally, Revelation 13 indicates that a second beast will rise “out of the earth,” one that has “all the authority of the first beast” and “works great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men; and by the signs which it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast, it deceives those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 13:11-14). But once again a false gospel accompanies these miracles. This power is exercised in connection with the first beast who utters “haughty and blasphemous words, …it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling” (Revelation 13:5-6).

Two conclusions become clear from this brief survey of false miracles in Scripture. (1) The power of God is greater than the power of Satan to work miraculous signs, and God’s people triumph in confrontations of power with those who work evil. In connection with this, John assures believers that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).53 (2) The identity of these workers of false miracles is always known through their denial of the gospel.

There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that genuine Christians with the Holy Spirit in them will work false miracles. In fact, in Corinth, a city filled with idolatry and demon worship (see 1 Corinthians 10:30), Paul could say to the Corinthian believers, many of whom had come out of that kind of pagan background, “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Here he gives them reassurance that those who make a genuine profession of faith in Jesus as Lord do in fact have the Holy Spirit in them. It is significant that he immediately proceeds to a discussion of spiritual gifts possessed by “each” true believer (1 Corinthian 12:7). And he could do this in a culture where the danger of demonic counterfeit was just as real as it is for us today.54

This should reassure us that if we see miracles being worked by those who make a genuine profession of faith (1 Corinthian 12:3), who believe in the incarnation and deity of Christ (1 John 4:2), and who show the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives and bear fruit in their ministry (Matthew 7:20; cf. John 15:5; Galatians 5:22-23), we should not be suspicious that they are false miracles only through those who were perfect in both doctrine and conduct of life, certainly no miracles would be worked until Christ’s return.

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Category: Fall 2000, Pneuma Review, Spirit

About the Author: Wayne A. Grudem is Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona. He has authored over twenty books, including Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (1994), Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (2010), The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution (2013), The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, and "Free Grace" Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel (2016). He was also the General Editor for the ESV Study Bible (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Book of the Year, 2009). WayneGrudem.com

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