Today’s Bible reading* warns God’s people to be discerning about those who present themselves with signs and wonders. If they entice God’s people to leave God to follow anyone/anything else, they are to be stoned to death. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5) This sounds pretty radical, doesn’t it? It sounds judgmental, doesn’t it?
Well, the warning isn’t about the signs and wonders themselves. The emphasis is on the act of leading God’s people away from worshiping Him. Jesus gave a similar warning in Matthew 7:21-22.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’”
Matthew 7:21–22 (CSB)
So from both Deuteronomy and Matthew warn us that Believers must be discerning when it comes to signs and wonders. Just because someone can do miraculous things or has prophetic gifts doesn’t mean they are godly people. They may just be wolves in sheep clothes.
The Bible is clear that God has given us all kinds of spiritual gifts to be used until Jesus returns. Each of these gifts are sovereignly given by God for the common good of God’s people to build up each other for His glory. Once Jesus returns, spiritual gifts will no longer be necessary, because we will see Him face-to-face. (1 Corinthians 13:8–12)
But while the signs and wonders spiritual gifts may still be legitimate for today — like Moses warned the Old Testament saints — not everyone who has them uses them with the right motives. And not everyone who can do signs and wonders is doing the work of God and some aren’t even Believers. (Matthew 7:22) Signs and wonders can even be demonically-inspired! (Acts 16:16,19:13–15; 2 Corinthians 11:14)
What troubles me is that to even question some of the modern-day “faith healers” and “miracle workers” is to be branded as “critical” and “divisive”. So what does discernment look like? Well first of all, some Believers have a spiritual gift of discernment of spirits. (1 Corinthians 12:10) But we are called to be “fruit inspectors”. (Matthew 7:15–20) Look at their priorities; do they emphasize gifts over the Giver? (1 John 4:1–3) Do they emphasize “new” revelation over God’s Word? Are they concerned with consistently handling God’s Word properly? (2 Timothy 2:15) Do they emphasize experiences over a daily walk in holiness? I once heard a wise person say, “I don’t care how high you leap and dance in the Spirit, how straight do you walk when you come down?”
We need desperately to be discerning about these things. Our spiritual health and life are at stake.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading: