It’s our turn to do the miracles. We are not helpless- all things are possible to him who believes! So how is it then, that the church seems to be struggling? Why do we read of great exploits in the book of Acts, and then fail to see the same in our modern surroundings? Jesus said,
He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12).
Some will say that “greater works” means that we are getting the gospel out to more people through the media, or it refers to the revivals and awakenings that have taken place throughout history. The church in general can claim this to a degree, but this is not what Jesus was talking about. Jesus spoke of what individuals would do. Not the church generally, but “He (or she) who believes in Me.”
That means every believer should be experiencing blessings and miracles. It is a cop out to believe that only certain “super saints” can do them. It is also wrong to say that miracles were just for a special time. Jesus is not limited by dispensations. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)!
A History of Miracles
Miracles and healings were very normal throughout the first three or four centuries of the church.There is more than enough testimony of this through the writings of early church fathers like Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Clement, and Origen, to name a few.
By the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, however, such signs and wonders began to fade from general view. They never completely disappeared from the ongoing story of God’s people, and there has been quite a resurgence in recent times, but they failed to be evident as the norm. What happened?
The early church predominantly looked to the return of Christ and the setting up of His kingdom as their primary hope.
When Constantine came to power in the fifth century, he had a remarkable conversion experience and changed the whole Roman Empire. But it was not a good change. The church became institutionalized. It was good that Christians were no longer persecuted, but as a result they stopped focusing as much on the hope of a better kingdom. It seemed that the kingdom had already arrived. But while the masses were enjoined to accept the church, it was mostly because of governmental policy and not because of faith.
Idols were not forsaken, but adapted under “Christian” uses. Many pagan elements were assimilated into the Christian religion- which was never really a “religion” before that time! Jesus came to seek and save the lost, proclaim God’s kingdom, and change the lives of His followers. He did not come to establish something called “Christianity.”
Please don’t get me wrong! The term “Christianity” has come to describe what we believe, and it is not entirely out of place. My point is that it was never intended to become a religious system.
In fact, many early Christians were accused of being atheists and were put to death for refusing to worship the gods of the Greeks and Romans. They weren’t persecuted for advocating a new or superior religious system. They were persecuted because they would not worship the gods, and were thus called ‘atheists.’
Christianity developed more as a system as the masses came in and as leaders needed a way to control them. Doctrines were hammered out and creeds were developed. Faith became more and more measured by one’s theological agreement or allegiance to the church, as opposed to the manifestation of the life of Christ.
Politics and philosophy entered in. And in this strange transformation, apostolic-like faith nearly disappeared. The great hope of Christ’s return gave way to the hope of leaving this world and going to be with the Lord. Demonstrations of the Lord’s kingdom and power seemed to give way to demonstrations of the mastery of Scripture.
As the centuries went on, unbelief replaced the working of signs and wonders. That does not mean that powerless Christians were not saved, it just means that a particular element of the faith was no longer in action. Happily, this element showed up again and again through resurgences of apostolic-like faith in reformers and revivalists scattered throughout the scope of Christian history. But these people and their works have been considered special, and not the norm.
The only thing special about them is that they shut out unbelief and they stood on God’s word. And that is something that every Christian can do. Signs and wonders were never meant to end with the apostles. They were meant to confirm the word and accompany them that believe (Mark 16:17). It is one thing to believe and say that God could do such things if He wanted, but it is quite another to believe saying, “God has said it, therefore He will do it!”
You don’t need to be a super-saint to do a greater work, you just need a super God!
Faith that Acts
Regardless of one’s theological position on this, the truth is that Christians should be exhibiting Christ in their lives. But here let’s not be confused: the exhibiting of Christ in our life does not mean simply believing all the right things. It means the actual playing out of the things believed. It is one thing to believe, “God loves me” in concept and theological agreement. It is quite another thing to believe “God loves me” and to act like it!
How does one greatly loved act? Does he keep a sour expression and mistreat other people? Does he spend his time arguing with other Christians about trivial matters? Is he depressed? There are many Christians like this who would quickly agree that God loves them, but they fail to prove it in their actions and thus reveal a practical unbelief.
The church must rise up and go from denominationalism, creeds, and orthodoxy to “greater works than these.” It is time to realize that nothing is impossible because the very life of Christ dwells within us.
“Well brother, that sounds like a tall order.” It is! But I believe God is able to meet it. I haven’t fully attained it, but I’m on my way. If we happen to come short of this, we will at least get farther than we would settling into the same old system of “business as usual.”