By Bishop Joseph Mattera www.josephmattera.org
There is a huge emphasis nowadays in the Evangelical church related to evangelism, church planting and the like. This is a good since the church should never be separated from its mission of proclaiming Jesus to this lost world. In light of this, I believe the church will fall far short of our goals unless we incorporate the power of signs, wonders and miracles into our methodological norm for evangelism. The scriptures are replete with passages equating the knowledge of God with His display of the supernatural. Whether it be Abraham and Sarah having a child past the normal biological age, Moses doing signs and wonders in Egypt so that His power may be demonstrated to the world (Romans 9:17), or Elijah calling down fire from heaven to demonstrate that the Lord is the true God (1 Kings 18). These and many more scriptures in the First Testament are replete with examples like these.
What about the New Testament? First of all, Jesus told His disciples that they would receive power to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8); this power was primarily centered on the ability to be a witness of the resurrection of Christ. The biblical narratives after Acts 1:8 show that the primary reason for this power was so the apostles would demonstrate the Word by healing the sick and performing miracles. Acts 5:12-16 connected extraordinary signs and wonders with God adding multitudes of believers to the Lord. In Acts chapter 8, we see how Philip was able to turn the whole city of Samaria to the Lord by moving in the power of signs, wonders and miracles. Paul the apostle also utilized this method of evangelism. Acts 14:3 says that the Lord bore witness to the word of His grace by granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands (Paul and Barnabus) and in Acts 19:11,12 it says that God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul while he was ministering in the city of Ephesus. Later on, as recorded in Acts 28:1-10 Paul was able to bring the gospel to the whole island of Malta after he healed the chief man of the island whose name was Publius. This happened after God supernaturally spared his life after a poisonous snake, which was supposed to kill him, bit him! In 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, Paul said that when he preached the word there was always a demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power so that their faith would not rest on the wisdom (or rhetoric) of men but on the power of God. The supernatural move of the Holy Spirit likely was a normal occurrence in the life of all the early churches as we read in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (in chapter 3:5) when Paul said that God supplied their church with the Spirit and miracles through the hearing of faith.
Furthermore, in Hebrews chapter 6:5 it says that believers during those days experienced the powers of the age to come. If we take the context of this book and the whole New Testament, this passage seems to be referring to the power of the invisible, supernatural God, intervening in the lives of men through miraculous healings, supernatural signs and wonders.
Hebrews 2:4 also said that the Lord bore witness to the word from the Lord Jesus and His apostles by granting them signs, wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit. If the apostles of the first century church needed to depend upon the power of signs and wonders to preach the word of God, how much more should we depend upon this to convince this present generation of the reality of Jesus.
Furthermore, all through the four gospels we see how Jesus moved in the word of knowledge, word of wisdom, the gifts of healing and the working of miracles to demonstrate that the Father sent Him into the world (Read John 5:36,37) In John 9:1-4, Jesus even said that a man was born blind just so that He can demonstrate the works of God through his healing. In John 11:42 we also read that Jesus prayed and thanked the Father in public, for what He was about to do when He raised Lazarus from the dead to demonstrate that the Father sent Him. In John 4, we also read how Jesus operated in the prophetic gifts of the word of knowledge to convince the woman at the well that He was indeed the messiah. If Jesus, the perfect God/Man, needed the miraculous (even though He was the greatest preacher the world ever heard) how much more does the present day church need to depend upon the power of God to spread the Gospel of Christ.
In summary, scripture overwhelmingly illustrates that one of the primary vehicles to demonstrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead is to allow God to use His church as His witnesses through the use of signs, wonders and healings.
For those who teach that this was only for the first century church I ask them, don’t you think that now more then ever before we need to move in the power of God to demonstrate His reality? Aside from the fact that church history is replete with stories of believers continuing to operate in signs, wonders and healings to demonstrate the truth of the gospel. This present secular humanistic society we live in will not be convinced merely by good rhetoric and visceral worship experiences during a Sunday morning service; they need to experience the glory, presence and power of God almighty!
One reason I write this article is because I am concerned that even amongst so called Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, there seems to be a dearth in the land regarding the power gifts. When Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:4-8 that God gave manifestations of the Spirit to the church as He wills-who are we to say that only good sermons, strategic planning and the use of props is enough to transform the world! God knows best and God loves to show off His stuff in front of the world.
I believe God is going to visit the earth again –even North America- with a demonstration of His glory. Through the years our local church (Resurrection church of NY) has seen amazing miracles and thousands of lives transformed by the power of the gospel. I am trusting that, the best is yet to come for the body of Christ!
In closing, my prayer is especially that young leaders would taste the power and presence of God and that they would employ this as their primary means of reaching the world; after all, if it was good enough for Jesus and His apostles, it should be good enough for us!