SYNOPSIS – God’s Power and Wisdom are revealed in Christ Crucified, not in mighty signs and wonders, or in political power – 1 Corinthians 1:18-24.
lie being propagated by many deceivers within the church is that God is about to pour out mountains of miracles on His saints, causing a stupendous revival that will produce a “Great Harvest” of billions of souls. Apparently, it is the display of vast supernatural powers that will win hearts and awe souls into submission to the Kingdom.
Supposedly, the abundance of healings, the raising of the dead, and even nature miracles will draw billions of hearts to faith in Jesus. As Christians learn how to move “in the prophetic” and release angelic spirits, even the winds and the waves will obey them. At last, the “roaring lion of Judah” will make his presence known. Alas, these self-anointed “prophets” are preaching a very different Jesus than the one who died on Calvary then rose from the dead on the third day.
This is not to say that God does not intervene miraculously to meet human needs, only that the display of supernatural powers is not the vehicle by which millions of men and women will be converted into true disciples of Jesus Christ. Instead, God has chosen to use the proclamation of a crucified Messiah – His Death, Resurrection, and Exaltation to reign from the “right hand of God.”
The proposition that displays of miracle-working power will bring billions of souls into the kingdom does not lineup with experience or what Scripture teaches. It certainly does not jive with how the world or the Jewish nation responded to Jesus the last time.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus performed healings and cast out demons. The crowds were impressed. They had never seen any of the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, or priests do anything like his miracles. Yet, during his ministry, only the demons that Jesus cast out recognized him as the Son of God. Even his closest disciples could not see the forest for the messianic trees. And later, many of the same Jews who were so impressed by his supernatural displays abandoned Jesus when he did not conform to their messianic expectations, with some even demanding his death.
At one point, Peter was on the verge of understanding the truth when he declared Jesus to be the Messiah and the Son of God. Well, that is, until he explained just what it meant to be God’s anointed one – Betrayal, suffering, unjust death – At which point, Peter rebuked him, and with Satan’s own words no less.
In the gospel of Mark, the only human to recognize Jesus prior to his resurrection was the very Roman centurion in charge of his execution squad —
(Mark 15:39) – “When the centurion, who stood by over against him, saw that he so gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God”). Only in his self-sacrificial death is God’s Messiah and Son revealed and understood.
In the gospel of John, Jesus declared that when he was “lifted up, then you will know that I am the one.” Not his miracles but his crucifixion would reveal his kingship – “If I am lifted up from the earth, then will I draw all men to me.” It was on the cross that Jesus was “glorified,” not when he raised Lazarus from the dead, as great a miracle as that was.
Despite all his powerful miracles, in the end, Jesus died alone on the cross, rejected by the Jewish nation, abandoned by his disciples, and crushed by Rome’s might.
Jesus instructed his disciples to take up their crosses daily and follow in his footsteps. When he was offered political power by Satan, he refused it. He was not politically naïve; he understood the nature of the beast.
To his disciples, he taught–
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their great ones tyrannize them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant, and whosoever would be first among you shall be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Nowhere does the New Testament promise that a final great harvest of souls will be gathered into the Kingdom due to mighty miracles and displays of supernatural powers by a super spiritual church operating in the “prophetic.” If anything, it predicts a final apostasy before the end, preceded by a horde of deceivers bent on misleading the elect and a beastly entity out to wage war against the saints. Rhetorically, at one point in his ministry, Jesus asked – “When the Son of Man comes, will he find the faith in the earth?”
Yes, Jesus was exalted after his resurrection and now reigns from God’s “right hand,” but that came at a very great cost to the Lamb of God. As Paul explained, Jesus took on the “form of a slave, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, the death of the cross, therefore God has highly exalted him.” We want power and exaltation but only by finding a way around the Cross.
The book of Revelation is most instructive. John, writing to the seven churches of Asia, described himself as a “fellow participant” with them in the “tribulation and the kingdom and the perseverance of Jesus.” One definite article modifies all three nouns – Each item is a part of a single whole. To live in the “Kingdom” means “tribulation” and “perseverance,” not vast magical powers with which to impress one’s neighbors.
The seven churches of Asia were summoned by Jesus to “overcome,” persevering through trials, deceptions, and persecution. The healthiest of the seven assemblies, the church at Smyrna, endured “tribulation” but was promised even more of the same – “You will have tribulation ten days: be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.” Believers who do “overcome” reign with Jesus, but they must “overcome” in the very same manner he did:
“To him that overcomes, I will grant to sit with me in my throne, just as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” – (Revelation 3:21).
Overcoming believers conquer the Dragon by “following the Lamb wherever he goes,” which means suffering, persecution, perseverance, possibly even martyrdom. The saints overcome “by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, even that they love not their lives unto the death.”
The Apostle Paul declared that Christ crucified is a great “scandal” to Jews and incomprehensible “folly” to Gentiles. The idea that God achieved final victory over Sin, Death, and Satan by means of the unjust death of a powerless messiah is contrary to human wisdom and experience. Yet Paul called the Cross of Christ the very power and wisdom of God. Furthermore, understanding this is what it means to be truly “spiritual,” and to “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (1 Corinthians 1:18-24).
And this is the real problem today – Christ crucified is something we do not understand, and an example we do not wish to follow.