"We Would See a Sign"

Larry Ray Hafley
Plano, Illinois

Divers denominations and sundry sects claim the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. When challenged to demonstrate and authenticate their wondrous wares, they often refuse, and with a rebuke retort, "You are just like the Pharisees. The Lord Himself refused to demonstrate His power before them, so we will not give you a sign. Jesus said, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign' (Mt. 12:38, 39). You must be evil or you would not ask us to put our powers on parade."

This appears to be an embarrassing, stifling rebuke, but the key to the Lord's reproof in Mt. 12:38,39 and other facts show that it in no way denies us the right to see a sign" from modern day claimants.

First, the context centers on the hypocrisy and iniquity of those who requested and required a sign. They were interrogating the Lord "that they might accuse him" (Mt. 12: 10). Their motives and deeds toward the Lord were guided by the decrees and decisions of a council they had held "against him, how they might destroy him." (Mt. 12:14). They were stubborn and would not ascribe to God what was obviously of Him (Mt. 12:24; Cf. Jno. 12:37). Mark's account shows this judgment to be true of them in the present consideration. Their desire for a sign was insincere; they were "tempting him" (Mk. 8: 11). Thus, the reason for the Lord's rebuke and refusal.

Secondly, it is not a sign of evil to seek a sign. Credentials, if you will, were presented by Paul. He preached "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (I Cor. 2:4). The word "demonstration" is pregnant with the idea of "proof," or "a making manifest, showing forth" (Thayer, p. 60). Paul made known his badge of apostleship. "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders and mighty deeds" (2 Cor. 12:12). Did Paul do wrong in demonstrating? In Acts 14:3, the Lord "gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands." Did the Lord do wrong by giving such "testimony" before unbelievers? God forbid!

Thirdly, Christians are commanded to try or test the spirits (I Jno. 4: 1). Though this would emphasize teaching and the testing thereof, it would not deny the responsibility to investigate miracle claims. Besides, it is teaching that says, "We are of God because we perform miracles by His Spirit." We are to try that teaching, hence, the practice. Paul said, "Prove all things" (I Thess. 5:21). His immediate reference to "prophesying" would not negate the duty to put miracle workers to the test (note "all things"). The Lord commended the Ephesian church for trying those who claimed to be apostles but were not (Rev. 2:2).

Conclusion: Seeking a sign from one who believes himself endowed with Holy Spirit baptism or miraculous gifts is not out of order. Indeed, it is commanded that we seek such a sign. They who make the claim have the burden of making believers "by word and deed (demonstration), through mighty signs and wonders" (Rom. 15:18, 19). Their word alone is not enough. Let them make believers by their deeds as Paul did.

April 13, 1972