Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 5: Signs and Wonders

“And now, note, next step, we’re just moving closer and closer in to power evangelism.  Spiritual gifts, healing, miracles, prophecy, tongues, the whole area of signs and wonders, Lloyd-Jones is talking about power evangelism in terms more careful, more clear, more strong than John Wimber ever has, before John Wimber ever thought of it.

He says that spiritual gifts are a part of the authenticating work of revival and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We need the result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is spiritual gifts in their sign form, and it is a “supernatural authentication of the message” (The Sovereign Spirit, 24).

Now, I’m going to back off for a minute, and reflect with you for a minute about what we reformed types have to come to terms with when we love the Word of God and esteem its uniqueness in power.  When we hear Paul say, “Jews desire signs, and Greeks seek wisdom, but  WE PREACH!” I can hear people saying that to Wimber, “WE PREACH! You desire signs, we preach, which is the power of God.” and I can hear them quote Romans 1:16: “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  DON’T DILUTE THE POWER OF GOSPEL BY COMPROMISING IT WITH YOUR SIGNS AND WONDERS AS THOUGH THE GOSPEL WERE TOO WEAK TO SAVE SINNERS!” Do you hear that coming out of Banner of Truth?

Well, it isn’t that simple, is it. And the issue here is not contemporary Vineyard, Third Wave versus Paul; the issue is Paul versus Paul.  Let me try to explain.  Evidently Peter and Paul and Stephen and Philip, who, would you agree with me, were the greatest preachers that the world has ever known.  Evidently they did not think that the attestation of signs and wonders alongside their unparalleled powerful preaching compromised the integrity or the sufficiency or uniqueness of the power of God through the gospel. (Mark 16:20; Acts 14:3; Heb. 2:4). Evidently they didn’t.

Lloyd-Jones is really impressed by this fact.  He says, “If the apostles were incapable of being true witnesses without unusual power, who are we to claim that we can be witnesses without such power?” (SS, 46). And when he said that , he did not mean simply the power of the word. He meant the power of spiritual gifts. And I’ll show you that from a quote:

[Before Pentecost the apostles] were not yet fit to be witnesses … [They] had been with the Lord during the three years of his ministry. They had heard his sermons, they had seen his miracles, they had seen him crucified on the cross, they had seen him dead and buried,  they had seen him after he had risen literally in the body from the grave. These were the men who had been with him in the upper room at Jerusalem after his resurrection to whom he had expounded the Scriptures, and yet it is to these men he says that they must tarry at Jerusalem until they are endued with power from on high. The special purpose, the specific purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is to enable us to witness, to bear testimony, and one of the ways in which that happens is through the giving of spiritual gifts. (SS, 120)

Now here’s my answer, I wish Lloyd-Jones had given his but I couldn’t find it.  here’s my answer to the question that we must come to terms with, it is utterly essential, of how the power of the Word of God relates to the authenticating function of signs and wonders.  First of all notice the Bible teaches that the Gospel preached is the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor. 1:23) the Gospel preached is the power of God (Rom 1:16) but, the Bible also says that Paul and Barnabas “remained a long time in Iconium speaking boldly for the Lord,”  Would you dare to equate anybody’s preaching today with that preaching?  That was powerful preaching! They were preaching in Iconium with power, speaking boldly for the Lord, “Who, bore witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”

Take all the conflicts today, go back to the New Testament and deal with them there. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s today versus the New Testament.  The issue is, how could preaching and signs and wonders not compromise each other then, not now. Forget now! Forget Wimber, forget everything in the 20th Century, explain Acts.  Explain how you could have the best preaching that ever was preached, described as the power of God unto salvation, and have alongside it God bearing witness with signs and wonders attesting to His word of grace, without saying by that, “My word is insufficient by itself.” Why did God compromise His word, by showing off His power physically? That’s the issue, not today.  Who cares about today, it’s the Bible that matters.

Now here is my effort to understand the Bible, which then maybe would help us today. Could we not say, in putting all this together, that signs and wonders – that is, I mean, healings, exorcisms, and so on – signs and wonders function in relation to the word of God, as a striking, wakening channel for the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the gospel? That may be the most important sentence I’ll give you.  Let me say it again: “Could it be, that signs and wonders function as a striking, wakening, channel, along which, through which, the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the Gospel moves, arrives.  I say emphatically, signs and wonders do not save. I say emphatically, signs and wonders do not transform the heart. I say emphatically, the glory of Christ seen in the gospel is the only power that regenerates, converts, transforms the heart, I base that on 2 Cor. 3:18-4:6. But, evidently, God chooses at times to use signs and wonders along side the regenerating word to win a hearing, to shatter the shell of disinterest, to shatter the shell of cynicism, to shatter the shell of false religion, and to help the heart fix its gaze on the glory of Christ in the gospel (see note 42).  Which, as 2 Cor. 4:4 says, is then like God saying “Let there be light” and boom, there is a new creature.

That’s my best effort at how to account, not for what’s happening today, but for what was happening in Paul’s life, and Philip’s life, and Stephen’s life, and Barnabas’s life, and Peter’s life.  The greatest preaching accompanied by signs and wonders.  Not the greatest preaching, so great it doesn’t need signs and wonders.”

~From “A Passion for Christ Exalting Power

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