Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Signs and Wonders and Heretics, Oh My!

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." - I John 4:1

The Apostle John here is applying a warning from the Law of Moses. In Deuteronomy 13:1-3, God through Moses gives a stern warning: "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." So, our God will sometimes allow a false teacher to prophesy or perform miracles, not as an endorsement, but rather as a test of the obedience of His people.

The same apostle himself prophesies of a marvelous wonder performed by the sea beast of the Revelation. In Rev. 13:1, he tells us, "One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast." And again in 17:8, "The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come." John obviously doesn't believe that miracle-working is proof of divine sanction!

Yet, the astonishing thing is that, in spite of these warnings, every crackpot tent evangelist who can stage a few healings soon has crowds eating out of his (or often her) hands and sending their life savings by return mail. This though they are often Pelagians, Arians, or simply charlatans! Everyone knows that Jim Bakker went to prison for his activities, but others, notably Benny Hinn, are still on the road. Surely thousands are failing the test of faith spoken of in Deuteronomy.

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