Updated November 6, 2008 (first published September 19, 2006) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org) -
The Pentecostal-Charismatic movement holds to the premise that signs and wonders produce faith. John Wimber, former leader of the Vineyard churches, taught this. His books Power Evangelism and Power Healing are predicated upon this idea:
“Clearly the early Christians had an openness to the power of the Spirit, which resulted in signs and wonders and church growth. If we want to be like the early church, we too need to open to the Holy Spirit’s power” (Wimber, Power Evangelism, p. 31).
Wimber said, “Once you’ve healed a person, it’s very easy to lead them to Christ.” He promoted this false doctrine in the controversial course taught at Fuller Theological Seminary in the early 1980s, called “MC510, Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth.” Wimber claimed that evangelism, to be most effective, must be accompanied by miracles.
The idea that miracles produce faith is contrary to the teaching of the Bible.
FIRST, THIS FALSE DOCTRINE IGNORES THE EXAMPLE OF SCRIPTURE.
Most of those who saw God’s miracles upon Egypt and during the wilderness wanderings did not believe (Heb. 3:7-12). Most who witnessed Jesus Christ’s incomparable miracles did not believe (John 6:66). By the day of Pentecost, there were only 120 disciples in the upper room. Where were the thousands who had witnessed Christ’s miracles firsthand?
SECOND, THIS FALSE DOCTRINE CONFUSES THE PURPOSE OF THE MIRACLES OF CHRIST AND THE APOSTLES.
Christ’s miracles were not a pattern for believers to follow throughout the church age but were the signs of His Messiahship.
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Heb. 2:3-4).
“If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10:37-38).
Likewise, the miracles performed by the apostles were signs of their apostleship.
“Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Cor. 12:12).
The signs and wonders recorded in the book of Acts were done by the apostles (Acts 2:43; 3:6-8; 4:33; 5:12, 15; 9:40-41; 19:12; 28:3-5, 7-9). If any “ordinary” believer (meaning one who is not an apostle) could perform these miraculous wonders indiscriminately, the sign of an apostle would be rendered ineffective. If you tell me that you are meeting me at the airport and that I will recognize you because you will be wearing a red hat, the sign of the red hat would be destroyed if everyone in the airport wore the same hat.
When Dorcas died in Joppa, the believers there could not raise her from the dead. It was only when Peter the apostle came to Joppa from Lydda that Dorcas was raised up (Acts 9:36-43). It was the sign of an apostle.
THIRD, THIS FALSE DOCTRINE DENIES THE SUPREMACY OF AND PROPER SOURCE OF FAITH.
Faith does not come from miracles but from the Word of God itself.
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Miracles can draw people’s attention, but miracles cannot give people faith. Faith only comes by hearing and believing God’s Word.
FOURTH, THIS FALSE DOCTRINE DENIES THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE BIBLE AND OF THE MIRACLES RECORDED THEREIN:
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But THESE ARE WRITTEN, THAT YE MIGHT BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:29-31).
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Since the Bible is able to make the man of God perfect, it is obvious that it is sufficient for faith and practice and that visions and voices and miracles are unnecessary. “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:10).
FIFTH, THIS FALSE DOCTRINE DENIES THE PLAIN STATEMENTS OF SCRIPTURE ABOUT MIRACLES:
“But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas” (Matt. 12:39).
“And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:30-31).
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. WE HAVE ALSO A MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:16-21).
These Bible passages destroy the doctrine that miracles produce faith and that Christians today must demonstrate apostolic signs and wonders. The apostle Peter experienced miracles far beyond anything imagined by today’s Charismatics, yet he did not exalt miracles; he exalted the Scriptures. He said the Bible is a more sure word than the most amazing religious experience.
The gospel does not have to be perpetually authenticated by signs and wonders. It is solidly established upon the greatest sign ever accomplished, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who do not believe this sign as recorded in the Holy Scriptures will not believe any sign they see with their own eyes. That is what the Bible tells us.
[This article is excerpted from the book THE PENTECOSTAL-CHARISMATIC MOVEMENTS: THE HISTORY AND THE ERROR. I have been examining and re-examining the Pentecostal-Charismatic movements for more than three decades since I was led to Christ by a Pentecostal in 1973 and began to seek God’s will about tongues-speaking and the miraculous gifts of the early churches. I have built a large library of materials on this subject and have interviewed Pentecostals and Charismatics and attended their churches in many parts of the world. I have also attended large Charismatic conferences with press credentials. I have approached these studies with an open mind in the sense of having a commitment only to the truth and not to anyone’s tradition. I am a member of an independent Baptist church but Baptist doctrine and practice is not my authority; the Bible is. Each fresh evaluation of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement has brought an increased conviction that it is unscriptural and dangerous. This book begins with my own experience with the Pentecostal movement. The next section deals with the history of the Pentecostal movement, beginning with a survey of miraculous signs from the second to the 18th centuries. We then examine the movements in the 19th century that led up to the creation of Pentecostalism and the outbreak of “tongues-speaking” at Charles Parham’s Bible school in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901, and at William Seymour’s Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles in 1906. We examine some of the major Pentecostal denominations, the Latter Rain Covenent, the major Pentecostal healing evangelists, the Sharon Schools and the New Order of the Latter Rain, the Manifest Sons of God, the Word-Faith movement and its key leaders, the Charismatic Movement, the Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the Pentecostal Prophets, the Third Wave, and the recent Pentecostal scandals. We conclude the historical section with a look at the Laughing Revival. In the last section of the book we deal with the theological errors of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movements (exalting experience over Scripture, emphasis on the miraculous, Messianic and apostolic miracles can be reproduced, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of fire, exalting the Holy Spirit, tongues speaking is for today, sinless perfectionism, healing is guaranteed in the atonement, spirit slaying, spirit drunkenness, visions of Jesus, trips to heaven, women preachers, and ecumenism). The final section of the book answers the question: “Why are people deluded by Pentecostal-Charismatic error?” David and Tami Lee, former Pentecostals, after reviewing a section of the book said: “Very well done! We pray God will use it to open the eyes of many and to help keep many of His children out of such deception.” And Mary Keating, also a former Charismatic, said, “The book is excellent and I have no doubt whatever that the Lord is going to use it in a mighty way. Amen!!” 317 pages. $9.95. Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061. 866-295-4143]
BEWARE OF THE DOCTRINE THAT MIRACLES PRODUCE FAITH