I’m constantly surprised by the number of miracles crusades, healing services and even (I’m not lying!) raising the dead ceremonies in Cape Town in the name of Jesus. The basic premise underlying the theology of the organisers of these events is that signs, wonders and miracles should be common place in the Christian’s life. In fact, if they are not happening, you should doubt whether you are a real, bona fide Christian.
The Bible however would differ with the theology of the “signs & wonders” (S&W) movement. In the Bible S&W occur only twice: in the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt & in the time surrounding Jesus in the 1st century. God had said to Moses: “I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.” (Ex 3.20) Moses in turn told the Israelites that God would rescue them with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment (Ex 6.6). God’s purpose was to demonstrate his power, so He told Moses: “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you.” (Ex 7.3-4)
When God acts in history to rescue his people it is accompanied by signs and wonders. The same signs are to some (i.e. the Israelites & believing Egyptians) signs of salvation and to others (i.e. Pharaoh) “acts of judgment”. During the centuries after the Exodus there were no S&W! Indeed, one of the job descriptions of the prophets was to remind the Israelites of the how mightily God had acted in the Exodus. The prophets did not perform new S&W, but called God’s people to remember the S&W performed during God’s rescue in history (E.g. Micah 6.4, Jer. 11.1-4, 34.13 etc.) Life in Israel after the Exodus was not miracle crusade after miracle crusade, but rather dogged, relentless trust in the God who rescued them. The Israelites lived by faith, not by sight.
One fine day, after centuries of few miracles, a carpenter from Nazareth turned water into award-winning wine. Then he started healing people, exorcising demons, controlling nature and even raising corpses back to life. The ultimate wonder was Jesus himself dying on a Friday and then rising that Sunday. S&W accompanied those who were delegated by Jesus to carry on his work. God was acting in history to rescue his people again. Not from Pharaoh, but from Sin, Death and Satan. By the later writings in the New Testament we see few S&W. Paul does not heal Timothy, but tells him to take his medicine (1 Timothy 5:23).
Like the believers in the Old Testament, we are to life by faith not by sight. We are to put our faith in God’s recue on the basis of what Jesus has done in history. God may and does perform miracles and wonders today, but our faith should not depend on them, our theology should not demand them, and our gatherings should not insist on them.