Exegetical Question About Signs and Wonders

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Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
I know that some Reformed people, like John Piper, for example, believe that signs and wonders and all spiritual gifts are still valid today and I'm sure everyone is familiar with the contrasting MacArthur view enunciated in Charismatic Chaos..

Anyhow, throwing aside the question of their validity for today... I'm curious how one reconciles our Lord Jesus Christ's various pronouncements about signs and wonders? Emphasis being reconciling John 4:48 with Matthew 12:40....

Can one itinerate it is immoral or sinful to be a sign-seeker, but God revealed signs and wonders nonetheless. And to those whom the signs were made manifest, hindsight was 20/20 as far as interpretating the signs but they didn't tend to fathom their meaning at first sight. Agree or disagree? Again, those who bore witness to signs and wonders eventually came to discern and fathom the meaning of the signs after the fact. My inference in Matthew 12:39 is that the only sign revealed is death, burial and resurrection. Is this off base?
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John 4:47-49 (King James Version)
King James Version (KJV)

47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.

48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.

49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.

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Matthew 12:38-40 (King James Version)
King James Version (KJV)

38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.

39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Other verses on signs and wonders:
Jer. 16:1; Jer. 32:20-21; Dan. 4:2-3, 6:27, 12:6 ; Heb. 2:3-5
:book2:

[Edited on 3-7-2005 by Puritanhead]
 

Areopagus

Puritan Board Freshman
Puritan,

Would Piper say that God no longer heals? Would God say that God no longer performs miracles in the lives of people? There's a difference between saying that someone believes in divine healers vs. saying that someone believes God still heals today. If you could answer what Piper believes on that I'd appreciate it.

I know that for many it's a non issue at all because many don't believe there are any gifts anymore, but I'm focusing on Piper and the distinction I made.

Thanks,

Dustin...
 

alwaysreforming

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ryan,
One thing that I think is worth noting and keeping in mind when Jesus made these two different pronouncements, is that He was talking to two different audiences.

One would be given "no sign except the sign of Jonah" but obviously many signs were given throughout Jesus' ministry and then in the ministry of the Apostles.

Its one thing to be an "evil generation" that seeks after a sign, and another being "one found who did not seek me."

Also, the motive that causes one to seek for a sign would determine whether or not it would be immoral. It seems as though the evil motives of those given in your example is because of their unbelief and hard-heartedness. Some, however, seek for a sign, not to prove anything, but because they are so desperate, ie. "heal my daughter", "stop my bleeding", "make me see", "make me whole again." This, surely, is not sinful, but in fact, right.

My :2cents:
 

BlackCalvinist

Puritan Board Senior
Originally posted by Puritanhead
Anyhow, throwing aside the question of their validity for today... I'm curious how one reconciles our Lord Jesus Christ's various pronouncements about signs and wonders? Emphasis being reconciling John 4:48 with Matthew 12:40....

I guess we need to go back to the whole purpose of the sign gifts - they were simply for the authentication of the gospel message. Looking at the Matthew passage, you must also remember that the Pharisees were simply asking in sacrasm, not truth. Remember in vv. 22-37, these are the same folks who accused Him of casting out demons by the prince of demons.

That in mind, I don't see any real problem with the sign gifts. Paul tells believers to desire the more excellent gifts of scripture in 1 Cor. 12 and 14 and not spend time being caught up on the 'miraculous'.

[Edited on 3-10-2005 by OS_X]
 

Areopagus

Puritan Board Freshman
OS_X,

Yeah, I tend to agree with you. That's why I ask if there's a distinction?! The Apostles were commissioned for specific signs and wonders as authenticity of their office of Apostle. There was a period of time in the New Covenant where signs and wonders accompanied salvation as authenticity of the fulfillment of Joel from Acts 2.

However, now there are no more Apostles. The old age is passed. So, there are no Apostles who are doig miraculous signs and wonders, but God is still a miracle worker. Do you see the distinction?

Dustin...
 

BlackCalvinist

Puritan Board Senior
I do, Dustin. I do. I do believe that there were certain signs which were specifically 'signs of an apostle' which were meant to cease with the passing of the apostles.
 

Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
Originally posted by alwaysreforming
Ryan,
One thing that I think is worth noting and keeping in mind when Jesus made these two different pronouncements, is that He was talking to two different audiences.

One would be given "no sign except the sign of Jonah" but obviously many signs were given throughout Jesus' ministry and then in the ministry of the Apostles.

Its one thing to be an "evil generation" that seeks after a sign, and another being "one found who did not seek me."

Also, the motive that causes one to seek for a sign would determine whether or not it would be immoral. It seems as though the evil motives of those given in your example is because of their unbelief and hard-heartedness. Some, however, seek for a sign, not to prove anything, but because they are so desperate, ie. "heal my daughter", "stop my bleeding", "make me see", "make me whole again." This, surely, is not sinful, but in fact, right.

My :2cents:

This is a good response--- iron sharpening iron--- very well articulated.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
The two passages in question are the same in essence. Christ is upbraiding the people for not being able to believe unless they see a sign.

So Calvin:
47. When he had heard that Jesus had come. When he applies to Christ for aid, this is some evidence of his faith; but, when he limits Christ's manner of granting assistance, that shows how ignorant he was. For he views the power of Christ as inseparably connected with his bodily presence, from which it is evident, that he had formed no other view concerning Christ than this, -- that he was a Prophet sent by God with such authority and power as to prove, by the performance of miracles, that he was a minister of God. This fault, though it deserved censure, Christ overlooks, but severely upbraids him, and, indeed, all the Jews in general, on another ground, that they were too eager to behold miracles.

But how comes it that Christ is now so harsh, who is wont to receive kindly others who desire miracles? There must have been at that time some particular reason, though unknown to us, why he treated this man with a degree of severity which was not usual with him; and perhaps he looked not so much to the person as to the whole nation. He saw that his doctrine had no great authority, and was not only neglected but altogether despised; and, on the other hand, that all had their eyes fixed on miracles, and that their whole senses were seized with stupidity rather than with admiration. Thus, the wicked contempt of the word of God, which at that time prevailed, constrained him to make this complaint.

True, indeed, some even of the saints sometimes wished to be confirmed by miracles, that they might not entertain any doubt as to the truth of the promises; and we see how God, by kindly granting their requests, showed that he was not offended at them. But Christ describes here far greater wickedness; for the Jews depended so much on miracles, that they left no room for the word. And first, it was exceedingly wicked that they were so stupid and carnal as to have no reverence for doctrine, unless they had been aroused by miracles; for they must have been well acquainted with the word of God, in which they had been educated from their infancy. Secondly, when miracles were performed, they were so far from profiting aright, that they remained in a state of stupidity and amazement. Thus they had no religion, no knowledge of God, no practice of godliness, except what consisted in miracles.

To the same purpose is that reproach which Paul brings against them, the Jews demand signs, (1 Corinthians 1:22.) For he means that they were unreasonably and immoderately attached to signs, and cared little about the grace of Christ, or the promises of eternal life, or the secret power of the Spirit, but, on the contrary, rejected the Gospel with haughty disdain, because they had no relish for any thing but miracles. I wish there were not many persons in the present day affected by the same disease; but nothing is more common than this saying, "Let them first perform miracles, 4 and then we will lend an ear to their doctrine;" as if we ought to despise and disdain the truth of Christ, unless it derive support from some other quarter. But though God were to overwhelm them by a huge mass of miracles, still they speak falsely when they say that they would believe. Some outward astonishment would be produced, but they would not be a whit more attentive to doctrine.

and Matthew Henry:
Jesus said to him, "I see how it is; except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe, as the Samaritans did, though they saw no signs and wonders, and therefore I must work miracles among you." Though he was a nobleman, and now in grief about his son, and had shown great respect to Christ in coming so far to him, yet Christ gives him a reproof. Men's dignity in the world shall not exempt them from the rebukes of the word or providence; for Christ reproves not after the hearing of his ears, but with equity, Isa. xi. 3, 4. Observe, Christ first shows him his sin and weakness, to prepare him for mercy, and then grants his request. Those whom Christ intends to honour with his favours he first humbles with his frowns. The Comforter shall first convince. Herod longed to see some miracle (Luke xxiii. 8), and this courtier was of the same mind, and the generality of the people too. Now that which is blamed is, (1.) That, whereas they had heard by credible and incontestable report of the miracles he had wrought in other places, they would not believe except they saw them with their own eyes, Luke iv. 23. They must be honoured, and they must be humoured, or they will not be convinced. Their country must be graced, and their curiosity gratified, with signs and wonders, or else, though the doctrine of Christ be sufficiently proved by miracles wrought elsewhere, they will not believe. Like Thomas, they will yield to no method of conviction but what they shall prescribe. (2.) That, whereas they had seen divers miracles, the evidence of which they could not gainsay, but which sufficiently proved Christ to be a teacher come from God, and should now have applied themselves to him for instruction in his doctrine, which by its native excellency would have gently led them on, in believing, to a spiritual perfection, instead of this they would go no further in believing than they were driven by signs and wonders. The spiritual power of the word did not affect them, did not attract them, but only the sensible power of miracles, which were for those who believe not, while prophesying was for those that believe, 1 Cor. xiv. 22. Those that admire miracles only, and despise prophesying, rank themselves with unbelievers.
 
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