Sunday, July 06, 2008

Miracles - Preaching the Gospel = ___?

"This revival has all the elements of all the other false revivals combined and is very powerful in its influence. The revival in Florida is powered by supernatural stories and testimonies and experiences. The stories increasingly stretch ones incredulity – incredible healings, with claims of 20 people already being raised from the dead. Reports of people seeing angels, angels filling teeth with gold, sending down feathers into meetings, gold dust, diamonds appearing, etc."
- Mike Oppenheimer, Let Us Reason newsletter, June/July 2008

In Jesus' era people were also seeking miracles, signs and wonders. Mark chapter 1 details how Jesus "healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils" (vs. 34) Shortly thereafter, Simon Peter commented to Jesus that "all men seek for thee" (vs. 37). Our Lord's response was simply, "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore cam I forth" (vs. 38). And Mark records that "He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils" (vs. 39).

In the 1600s, Matthew Poole wrote on this passage, which is just as relevant to today's seeking after miracles. Commenting on Mark 1:30-39, particularly the verses cited above:

"Peter probably pitieth the multitude, because many amongst them needed Christ's presence, for their bodily infirmities. Our Saviour knew their hearts better than Peter; and that which made them so much seek for Him, was either in some a curiosity to see miracles wrought, or at best but a desire of some bodily benefit from Him.

"Whereas His working of miracles was but a secondary work, subservient to His work in preaching, and done to confirm His doctrine, and to advantage them as to their faith in Him as the Messais.

"As therefore He refused to gratify the curiosity of the Pharisees in giving them a sign, so here our Saviour takes no notice of the multitude seeking for Him, but saith to His disciples, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for therefore came I forth. Paul saith that God sent him not to baptize, but to preach, I Cor. 1:17. Our Saviour saith not, Let us go into the next towns, that I may work miracles, but that I may preach there also; He doth not say He came forth to work miracles, but to preach...

"How it comes to pass that some are possessed of so slight an opinion of preaching as to think that it is needless, which our Saviour and St. Paul counted to be their principal work, where, in the meantime they pretend to derive from Christ, I cannot tell. I am sure preaching was the greatest part of Christ's work; comes to be the least part of ministers' work since....

"We do not say that preaching is a greater work than prayer, or that it is not ministers' duty to pray... but this we say, we read of Christ's preaching often in the synagogues, on the mountain, in a ship; of His public praying we read not, though of His private and secret prayer often. We read expressly that He baptized none.

"We must have leave to think that our greatest work which our Lord and His apostles were most employed in, and do think others will be of our minds as soon as they shall understand, that if the end of preaching be not turning men from one opinion to another, but from the love and practice of sin to God, there is as much need of it as ever; and that the turning of men from one opinion to another, without a change of heart, as to the love of sin, is but a turning of men from one quarter of the devil's kingdom to another."

The Truth:

"I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." (I Corinthians 10:20b)

[Matthew Poole, A Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. III: Matthew Revelation (Hendrickson), pp. 150-151. ISBN: 0-917006-28-3. Reformatted for blog. The reader who is lost, confused or floundering in their faith due to the many deceptions and errors of our time may find it profitable to read the very old commentaries by Matthew Poole and Matthew Henry.]