We are to preach the Gospel not just with words, but also with power. Paul wrote: “our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.” (1 Th 1:5). God’s message is not dependent on the rhetoric skills of men, He empowers it with His Spirit.
And what does that power mean? It means signs and wonders:
“I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So fromJerusalemall the way around toIllyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (Rom 15:18-19)
The evangelistic strategy of Paul thus is to lead people to Christ through 1) what he says; 2) what he does; 3) the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit.
All three aspects of evangelism are needed. We need to preach the Gospel clearly with our tongues, we need to express the love of God in good deeds, and we need to let God confirm His Word through signs and wonders.
In this blog post, I will express the Biblical foundation of the third aspect. It is inspired by John Wimber’s teaching on “Power Evangelism” (see video below), but includes my own Bible study as well.
To make sure that people understand that the Gospel is not like any other message but a message from Heaven, God confirms it through miracles. Hebrews 2:3-4 says: “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
God thus use miracles to testify about salvation. Besides having an intrinsic value, for example abolishing pain when it comes to healing or offering guidance when it come to prophecy, miracles are tools for evangelism.
The same can be seen in the last chapter of Mark. After Jesus has declared that miraculous signs like healing and tongues will follow those who believe Him, “the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (16:20). Thus, the Lord confirms His Word with these signs, signs that are meant to accompany the Word.
I know that the end of Mark is a disputed text though, but the same line of thought occurs in Acts 14:3: “Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” Again, signs and wonders confirm God’s message.
Jesus performed so many miracles that John complains about not managing to write about them all, but he states that the signs he has reported “are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Thus, the purpose of writing down Jesus’ miracles was to lead people to faith in Him.
In fact, miracles are so important for evangelism that when the apostles needed boldness for evangelism, they prayed: “Enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:28-29)
The Lord immediately answered their prayer and filled them with the Spirit so violently that the building shook (!), and then they preached the Word of God boldly (vv. 30-31). After all, Jesus had said to them that they would receive power when the Spirit comes upon them so that they will be His witnesses (Acts 1:8).
To sum up: my point is that signs and wonders do not belong to the margins, and they are not opposed to evangelism; on the contrary Christians actively need to pray for them – like in Acts 4:28-29 – if they want to lead more people to Christ.
Finally, a beautiful example of power evangelism can be found in the fantastic film Father of Lights. Ravi is an Indian Christian with an amazing prophetic gift. Every morning, he says, he hears the audible voice of God that gives him direction for the day. One day his mission is to find “a man with white beard, orange roab and a turban” at a specific temple. He does find a maharishi – a guru of gurus – that perfectly fits that description.
Amazingly, the maharishi says that he has seen a god he didn’t recognize in a dream that told him to go to this temple at this day to find Ravi! Ravi then easily leads this guru of gurus to the Lord, and he becomes a passionate Christian.
I’m not saying that all people who see signs and wonders become Christians, just as not all people who hear the Gospel become Christians. I’m not saying that signs and wonders save. And I’m not saying that signs and wonders are more important than salvation. I’m only saying what the Bible says: the Gospel should be confirmed by signs and wonders. Now let’s pray “Come Holy Spirit!” and get going.