As I said in my last post, many people today are buying into questionable teaching because the preachers/teachers are powerfully anointed in the power gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, and supernatural signs. They are often dynamic speakers with large followings, who say many, many inspiring things, which naturally seems to add to their credibility in our over-trusting minds.
Is it bad to have a ministry of miracles? Of course not! The key is in where the emphasis lies. In 1 Corinthians 2:2, the apostle Paul said, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” This is the place where things often veer off-course — when we get focused on some good thing to the point of Jesus no longer being central. Kingdom building which does not keep the King Himself foremost breeds aberrant teaching.
Paul was an educated man who could have gotten off on all sorts of theological tangents, had he chosen to. He did not necessarily “keep it simple”; he taught the deep things of God. But Jesus was primary in all that he said and did. And what he preached, God backed up with plenty of miracles. Paul went on to say in verses 4 and 5, “My speech and preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
We need the demonstration of God’s power in our generation to win our world — a world that is desperately hungry to see the supernatural of God. For way too long, the Church has been a toothless lion, spouting much doctrine but not producing the goods to back it up. Paul wasn’t impressed with that sort of Christianity, and I don’t think we should be either. The nonbelievers around us certainly aren’t. Paul put it this way: “But when I come to you shortly … I will know, not the speech of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:19, 20).
But, we must be careful not to equate demonstrations of power with God’s complete approval of what is being taught. Most of the time when something is off, what is going on is partly false teaching mixed with genuine miracles flowing from God. God is merciful, both to the sincere Christian teacher who is flawed on some points, and to the hungry people being ministered to, who sincerely desire the Lord’s help. But if what is being preached is downright heresy (which means core doctrines of the Christian faith are being attacked or set aside), we can end up having “miracles” from sources other than the Lord.
To be on the safe side, we must continually filter teaching or preaching with the questions, “Is Jesus the ultimate focus?” and “Does it line up with Scripture?” Although no teacher is going to have every jot and tittle of what he or she believes completely right (we are all growing in our understanding of the depths of God’s truth, as revealed in His Word), if the teachers we listen to frequently go off in weird places or say things which cannot be supported with Scripture, it’s time to put some distance between them and ourselves. If we stay in the Word and keep asking the Spirit of Truth to keep us straight, we will be able to detect erroneous teaching, and we will be all right.
Next time, we will talk in more detail about how to keep ourselves safe from wrong teaching.