By Hoyt Houchen
Question: Is it true that when Jesus first began to perform miracles it was for the purpose of getting the crowds to follow Him? Did He do this to get their attention and thereby teach some spiritual truth? If so, would this be justification for us today to entice outsiders with “free suppers” to get their attention and teach some spiritual truth?
Reply: There is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that Jesus performed miracles to get the attention of the people so that He could teach them. The Scriptures clearly teach that the purpose of His miracles was to prove that He was the Son of God. Notice John 20:30, 31: “Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’; and that believing ye may have life in his name.” The purpose of miracles in the Bible was to produce faith. The miracles performed by Moses and Aaron in Egypt were to produce faith, to confirm the testimony that they had been sent from God to deliver the Israelites from bondage (Ex. 4:5). The message of the apostles in the New Testament was confirmed by miracles. “God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his will” (Heb. 2:4). It is evident why miracles in the Old Testaments were performed. They were to confirm God’s word and thereby produce faith. The miracles of Jesus were no exceptions. Jesus came from God to this earth to save men (Matt. 1:21; Lk. 19:10 etc.). This He did by teaching. His miracles proved Him to be all that He claimed to be, the Son of God. His triumphant resurrection from the tomb was the crowning evidence that He was divine. Paul wrote in Rom. 1:3, 4, “concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord.” From these and other Scriptures it should be clear that the purpose of miracles was not to attract attention for the purpose of teaching spiritual truths. Rather, they were to confirm the spiritual truths already taught.
It would be well to observe also that when Jesus fed the five thousand (Jn. 6:1-14) the crowd was already present. Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes because He had compassion on the people. This miracle was a consequence of the drawn crowd rather than being done for the purpose of drawing a crowd. The fact that a great multitude followed Him because they saw His signs (Jn. 6:2) was merely the consequence. The fact remains that the motive of Jesus in performing miracles was not to draw the crowds. The feeding of the five thousand (about the number of the men seated) fulfilled the purpose of His miracles. “When therefore the people saw the sign which he did, they said, This is of a truth the prophet that cometh into the world” (Jn. 6:14).
I presume the querist has reference to the church and not individuals. I see nothing amiss in a prearranged meal and Bible study in a private home. But to use the miracles of Jesus to justify church sponsored meals, entertainment and recreation to draw people to the gospel is a misuse of the Scriptures.
The gospel is the power of God to save souls (Rom. 1:16), and God intended it to be the means of drawing men to Him. Jesus declared in Jn. 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself”. The question is, how are men drawn to Christ? They are drawn by His teaching. He plainly stated this when He answered the Jews in Jno. 6:44, 45, “No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me.” This should be clear enough as to how men are drawn to Christ. They are drawn by teaching, hearing and learning (Rom. 10:17). This is a far cry from drawing people by church sponsored social activities, as is being practiced by some of our brethren. If they would resolve to adhere to a “thus saith the Lord,” they would cease putting the church in the social business. The church is a spiritual institution and has a spiritual message for a lost and dying world. It is not the business of the church to attract people by providing youth camps, social or “fellowship” halls and bus ministries. The business of the church is to support the preaching of the gospel (1 Tim. 3:15). There is no substitute for plain, simple unadulterated preaching.
When some brethren will see what the mission of the church is and drop their social provisions to draw crowds, then at least one thing will be eliminated that divides us. We unite upon what the Scriptures authorize. We divide over what they do not authorize.
Guardian of Truth XXVI: 5, p. 66
February 4, 1982