My wife and I love to read. It’s our favorite activity, even when we’re on vacation. We have enough adventure getting where we’re going, whether it’s by RV, car or motorcycle. Once we’re at our day’s destination, we gravitate to the nearest park, pick a nice shade tree and lie on the lawn with our books; alternatively, we’ll swim a little, climb back on our poolside deck chairs and open the books. Maybe we’ll stop for awhile, talk about what’s going on inside the pages, look around at the scenery, talk about the kids, and share a joke. But we’ll inevitably return our gaze to the printed words.

 

Often the material we read will either be the Bible or some issue or story related to it. The Bible’s not only entertaining and useful to the Christian walk, it’s an essential survival tool in the age we find ourselves in. The issue I’ll address below will confirm just how important a working knowledge of Scripture is to the Christian believer in his ability to ward off deception.

 

One of the books I’ve been reading recently describes the wonderful miracles that have been experienced lately by Christians around the world, particularly those who live in areas of severe persecution.

 

I shared this information with a Christian friend who’s a strict “defender of the faith”. He gave me a “thumbs down” on my enthusiasm about modern miracles. He’s reacted in the past to what he considers to be an abuse of the gifts of the Holy Spirit by categorically denying that such gifts are present today. His reactionary stance against modern gifts is called “cessationism” – the alleged ceasing of the gifts after the completion of the Bible around 100 A.D. made those gifts “unnecessary” to that mindset.

 

My friend recoiled in horror at the thought that modern Christians might actually be experiencing miracles, such as healings and resurrections. He allowed that miracles may indeed have been occurring today, but would almost certainly have been found to have been of demonic source in every such case.

 

I responded with a bit of horror of my own at that comment, referring to Matthew 12:22-32:

 

“Then was brought unto [Jesus] one possessed with a demon, blind, and dumb; and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out demons, but by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.

 

“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom staunto you. nd? And if I, by Beelzebub, cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore, they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is And then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom theagainst me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

 

“Wherefore, I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, neither in the age to come.”

 

It was this last matter, in which Jesus links the unforgivable sin to the Pharisees’ attribution of His miracles as implemented by the Holy Spirit to the work of the devil, that gave me reason to worry that my friend’s comment may have brought him dangerously close to the edge of the abyss.

 

But Scripture itself also verifies that the devil can indeed perform miracles, although such “miracles” always turn out badly in the end. Just one example among many in the Bible that note the ability of Satan to perform miracles is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12:

 

“And then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

 

The argument, supposedly based on Scripture, that my friend and those who share his mindset use to justify their denial of modern gifts of the Spirit, is quite weak and demands an inordinate amount of interpretive license. I have written before on this issue under the heading of “Cessationism”, where I employ what seems to me to be a more logical interpretation of Scripture in rebuttal to the cessationist view. The bottom line is that there seem to be valid modern miracles arising from both the Godly and evil camps.

 

Given the understanding from both Scripture and modern eyewitness accounts that miracles, at least as we perceive them to be such, can be performed both by God and His evil adversary, a question of vital significance arises: how can we tell the difference? In particular, while trying to avoid being suckered in by false miracles, can we avoid the far greater problem of falsely attributing such demonstrations to a source other than the Holy Spirit and thus denying the work of the Holy Spirit to the endangerment of our souls?

 

In this situation where we are confronted with the possibility of good being evil and evil being good, our knowledge of Scripture becomes an issue of essential importance. Referring directly to Scripture, the passage above from 2 Thessalonians 2 hints of a partial answer to this dilemma to the informed Christian: those who are deluded by false signs and miracles, as well as those who actually perform such acts, may be those who have already refused the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This view agrees well with Jesus’ words in Matthew 12 regarding the unforgivable sin.

 

Of equal importance is the ability of the Christian to discern with the aid of the indwelling Holy Spirit the nature of the performer of these acts. The passage in Matthew 12, noted above, where Jesus denounces the Pharisees for falsely attributing His miracles to demonic aid, continues in verse 33 to the effect that the Christian will know the person by his fruits:

 

“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit.”

 

The most basic way to know the nature of the person and of his fruits is through a knowledge of Scripture. In Acts 17:10 and 11, Paul praises the Bereans for their use of Scripture in discerning the truth of what they are being told:

 

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea, who, coming there, went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.”

 

John also tells us to test the spirits. In 1 John 4:1-3, he tells us how:

 

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. By this know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ in come in the flesh is not of God, and this is that spirit of antichrist, of which ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world.”

 

To summarize, first be in possession of the indwelling Holy Spirit through the salvation offered by the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Next, be Scripturally literate. Given those two prerequisites, observe and assess the nature of the act and its performer: Does the act agree with Scripture? Does the performer and the apparent motive behind his act exhibit the qualities of a committed Christian as the Bible describes him or her? (Hint: true miracles don’t require the exchange of money!) Finally, pray for discernment in the matter at hand, and, in fact, in all such matters.

 

The following passages in Scripture provide excellent advice for the Christian who wishes to increase his ability to discern the bad from the good: 1 Kings 3, 2 Kings 4-6, Proverbs, Matthew, John, Acts, 1Timothy 3; 2 Timothy 2, 3 and 4; and Hebrews 4 and 5.

Published by Art Perkins