I was talking with a long-time friend on the phone the other day. He lives in Massachusetts; I am in Virginia. Emails and phone calls are our friendship vehicles. Thank the Lord for technology. It was good to hear his voice, to catch up on news, to reminisce from events from 35+ years ago. In our conversation he mentioned that he is friends with some Oneness Pentecostals. (This is a unitarian cult.) He commented that even though they do not believe in the orthodox faith of the Bible, they still experience many healings and miracles. There is definitely a supernatural element in their churches. This got me to thinking.
This is an interesting phenomenon that needs some attention. In the Bible it is plainly stated that God gave witness to the truth of Apostolic teaching through signs and wonders (see Mark 16:20, Acts 14:3, Hebrews 2:4). If miracles were evidence of the truth of the Apostles’ message, is the presence of the miraculous always an affirmation of the veracity of a belief system? There are many groups which certainly believe this. They are confident that healings and other supernatural manifestations are clear evidence that they possess the true gospel. Oneness Pentecostalism is a case in point. We also see this in the multitude of healing testimonies in Christian Science. The Mormons have long claimed that supernatural phenomena attest to the truth of their message. And followers of the New Age Movement can tell of many wonders, healings and miracles that occur through spirit channeling, herbs, amulets, pyramid power, yoga and the like—which seem to legitimize their beliefs.
It is also not uncommon for many Christians to take this position. They readily accept the legitimacy of a preacher, teacher or group if the miraculous is present. Their reasoning seems to go like this: Surely God would not allow someone to be healed, have a need met, a prayer answered, or experience the supernatural if the vehicle of this miracle were not truly godly. So if a preacher performs a miracle, or a church sees the miraculous occur, then they must be okay. (Actually, it is based on such reasoning that some Christians are led astray into cults and false religious movements.)
The question we must ask is this: Is God the only being who performs miracles and supernatural wonders? This is really the underlying assumption here. But the answer to the question is an emphatic “No!” There are other beings who also operate with supernatural power—i.e., Satan and his demonic hordes. Although the Devil is not omnipotent, with unlimited power, he is very powerful and can perform signs and wonders to suit his own nefarious ends. He can even mimic the actual works of God, including healing the sick.
The Scriptures give abundant evidence of this fact. Consider a few examples:
In the story of Moses confronting the magicians of Egypt we see supernatural workings. The first few miracles that Moses demonstrated were copied by these magicians (see Exodus 7:10-12, 7:22, 8:5-6). But their “wonder-working” power was limited and could only go so far. When they tried to imitate the third plague, they could not.
In Acts 8:9-11 we read about Simon the Magician. He astounded the people of Samaria with his sorceries. In other words, he performed supernatural works that caused the people to be amazed at the power he exhibited.
The Bible is clear that the Antichrist will perform many very convincing miracles. Writing about him in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 Paul says that “the coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders….” It must be noted that the words used here (“power,” “signs” and “wonders”) are the very same terms used elsewhere in the Bible to describe the miracles of God. In Revelation 13:13 we see the second beast, who serves the Antichrist, performing “great signs” to cause people to worship the Great Beast. It further says that he deceives them through the “miracles” he performs (Revelation 13:14).
Also in Revelation we see “spirits of demons” who perform great “signs” to accomplish their diabolical work (Revelation 16:14).
And remember, at the future judgement there will be those who attempt to base their claim to being authentic followers of Christ on the wonders and miracles they performed. But Christ will declare, “Depart from Me. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22-24).
We should not be surprised that false religions and false prophets evidence miracle working powers—and that people are deceived by this. Jesus himself warned us that this would happen! He stated plainly, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand” (Matthew 24:24-25).
Of course, the ability to perform supernatural wonders in each of these cases is demonic, and is derived from Satan and his minions. The Bible is clear that Satan is a powerful being. But his power is limited. And while the purpose of godly miracles is to confirm the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, the purpose of diabolical miracles is to deceive and lead men away from God. This is consistent with the nature of the Enemy. As the Lord Jesus said, he is a “liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He exists to pervert the ways of God and to deceive people into following false religions. To do this, he even can make himself appear “virtuous,” appearing as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
From all the foregoing, it is evident from Scripture that Satan can, and does, perform supernatural works—including healings, miracles, and “wonders” that amaze observers.
So if we are confronted with someone who apparently is working miracles, what do we do? If we hear someone testify to a supernatural healing, how do we respond? The biblical answer is that we must test and prove such workings, to see if they are truly of God (cf. 1 John 4:1). If a miracle is evidence of the true Gospel as presented in the Bible, and it brings glory to God, then we give praise for it. But if a miracle is used as evidence of the veracity of a prophet or teacher or group that denies the true faith, then we know that it is a deceptive work of the Enemy. For even if an angel appears and points someone to another Gospel, other than that revealed in the Scripture, then we know this is a cursed work, and not of God (see Galatians 1:8-9).
The bottom line is this: God uses human experience, including miracles, to attest to his message. But experience is not the final authority for us. The Word of God is our standard and authority. It is the Scriptures which give legitimacy to a miracle, not the other way around.
For more on this topic, see “Is Witchcraft Real?” on this website.
Truth Builders is a ministry initiative of Advancing Native Missions. However, the content of this site is the personal opinion of Victor Morris, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions, views or conclusions of Advancing Native Missions, its leaders or staff