We are living in a day that is consumed with the desire to see signs and wonders of God. Miracle hunters fill stadiums in search of signs and wonders that would amaze them or heal them or satisfy their curiosity about the existence of God. There is no lack of self proclaimed prophets who are willing to perform such signs and wonders for the seekers. Like a WWE Wrestling event—it’s filled with drama and action, but it’s really a hollow shell—it’s something other than the real thing.
During the Old Testament days, Moses warned the Israelites regarding false prophets (see Deut. 13). In the days of Jesus, the Prophet greater than Moses had arrived and the people were awestruck by his sovereign power. It was like nothing they had seen before. Yet, almost everyone was attracted to Jesus because of the signs and wonders rather than his gospel (John 6:1-2). In Matthew 12:38-42, a crowd of the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus looking for a sign. Jesus responded, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt. 12:39).
Does God still perform miracles in our day? Absolutely. In fact, the great miracle that God continues to perform among us is the salvation of a lost sinner as God miraculously brings the person to life spiritually. However, we also know that God is capable of hearing our prayers and bringing healing and restoration of health to a hurting or sick person as well. While God is still in the miracle business, we must admit that the sensationalism and craving of signs and wonders that we see today is not in alignment with what we see happening in the apostolic days. Below are five red flags to look for in a minister or ministry that falls into the category that Jesus himself warned about during his earthly ministry.
Beware of Replacing Bible Exposition
Today’s Word of Faith movement and many of the branches of the charismatic movement as a whole major on signs and wonders rather than plain Bible exposition. In many circles today—the Bible has become boring and irrelevant. One charismatic pastor in my town instructs his people to walk through the local mall “blowing the Holy Spirit” on people. Meanwhile, scores of church members in our town couldn’t tell you the difference between the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mark. We are living in biblical illiterate times, and we don’t need less preaching, less exposition, less theology, and less Bible teaching in search for signs and wonders. Jesus warned, “an evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign” (Matt. 12:39). Jesus has already provided us with the ultimate sign in his resurrection from the dead.
As we examine the early church—even in a day when the miraculous gifts were normative and operative in the life of the local church—the people were centered together on the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. The regular preaching and teaching of the Bible in a systematic manner known as expository preaching (verse-by-verse) is necessary for the health and vitality of the body. When a church is hyper-focused on miracles and minimizes doctrine—the church will be like a sailboat on the ocean without a rudder. John MacArthur observes:
Any sensationalism inevitably is frustrated by the law of diminishing returns. People are never satisfied. They always want one more sign, one more miracle, one more show. To have maintained His influence over the people by the use of miracles, Jesus would have had to produce greater and greater sensations. Because the natural, carnal heart can never be satisfied, this year’s miracle would have become next year’s bore. His followers would only have been lovers of sensation, not lovers of God. 
Beware of Veiling the Gospel
If you listen to many of the charismatic teachers today, you will often hear them providing statistics about how many people were healed or delivered from evil spirits in their last meeting as opposed to how many were impacted with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In jail ministry circles, it’s extremely common to hear lessons on how to be filled with the Spirit and speak in tongues as opposed to how to be reconciled to God through the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross.
We must remember that God doesn’t bring people to heaven by miracles, signs, and wonders. He brings people out of darkness and into the marvelous light of Christ by the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16; Acts 26:18). When you hear of teachers who focus on miracles, deliverances, healings, tongues, and various other signs and wonders but they talk very little about the gospel—run for the hills.
Beware When Signs and Wonders are For Sale
Once upon a time, Simon the Sorcerer offered to pay for the power of God because his power looked like child’s play in comparison to the power of God in the lives of the apostles (Acts 8:18-19). Peter responded with some stern language for the magician:
May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me (Acts 8:20–24).
It’s common today to hear of false prophets offering people signs and wonders for a “seed gift” offering. When you hear of the power of God being put up for sale, run for the hills. Such a person is a charlatan and has no business speaking on behalf of God. Don’t be fooled into such monetary scams. Like hucksters who prey upon the elderly with phone scams, such false prophets prey upon God’s people by using God’s name and they seek to lead even God’s elect astray (Matt. 24:24).
Beware When Signs and Wonders Are Made Ordinary Rather Than Extraordinary
In Jesus’ day, people were coming from all around Galilee to see the miracles of Jesus. They were extraordinary. The same thing was true of the apostles. The miracles that were associated with the apostles were connected to Jesus and they were not widespread and common. In today’s confused religious culture—the signs and wonders have become ordinary rather than extraordinary. Almost everyone who appears on religious television proclaims himself or herself to be a prophet or prophetess of God. We must pause and ask ourselves why do we see more signs and wonders in our day today than we did at the close of the biblical canon and the spread of God’s church?
According to the Word of Faith teachings—there is such power in the words we use—if we simply speak God’s Word and use certain religious vocabulary it will cause miracles to happen instantly. Why is this formula not used in the days of the early church? With such a common formula of merely speaking God’s Word and commanding things to happen—wouldn’t the extraordinary miracles associated with the office of an apostle become normative as they are now performed by the average person who professes the name of Jesus? Wouldn’t that render a miracle something other than miraculous?
Beware When Signs and Wonders Cause People to Miss God
The very purpose of signs and wonders in the days of the early church was to point people to God. It was to put on display the lightening and thunder of God’s sovereignty. However, in our present religious culture—it’s very common for people to be awestruck with the signs and miss God. The wonder and amazement is placed on something that happened rather than on God himself. This is exactly where the people were in Jesus’ day as they begged him to make the sky dance or turn colors—but they were bored with the fact that the One who spoke the universe into existence was standing in their presence clothed in human flesh. Jesus rebuked the people in his day for their craving for signs and we see those sobering words in Matthew’s Gospel:
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed (Matthew 16:1–4).
- John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 1-7, (Chicago: Moody, 1985), 94-95.