Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ (Romans 15: 17-19, NIV). Emphasis mine.
TWO KINDS OF “SIGNS AND WONDERS”
Besides the strength of institutional and family “grooming,” treated in part 2, whether it is grooming used to abuse children sexually or for any other purpose related to the how Roman Catholics might be prepared, indoctrinated or influenced to remain in the Church and to not question many explicit or implicit beliefs or traditions, I can’t leave this topic without citing what, for me, is another powerful reason a lot of Roman Catholics, particularly of the older generations, stay with the Roman church: Catholic “signs and wonders.”
There are two very different definitions of signs and wonders in the Scriptures, however, and I don’t think many Catholics (let alone many believers from other denominations) have been taught this or how to tell the difference.
In a nutshell, the difference can put as this question: Does the sign or wonder glorify Jesus Christ, or does it glorify signs and wonders, the “worker” of same, or even another christ altogether?
Signs and Wonders, Definition #1
From instructions given the Disciples in the fourth chapter of the book of Acts regarding signs and wonders that most people tend to apply to any “supernatural” phenomena, comes this definition: Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus (v. 30).
In this verse and context, “signs” comes from the Greek word, sémeion – “of miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him…”
In the same verse, “wonders” comes from the Greek word téras – “a miraculous wonder, done to elicit a reaction from onlookers; an extraordinary event with its supernatural effect left on all witnessing it, i.e. a portent from heaven to earth.”
Note that the emphasis in each definition in this context is on Jesus Christ, God (the Father) and the power of the (Holy) Spirit versus another christ, god, or spirit.
Signs and Wonders, Definition #2
Conversely, the same words with different meanings are used in Scripture to address the other kind of supernatural phenomena that comes from other christs, gods, and spirits. Consider: For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).
This warning was given by Jesus in answer to what the Disciples could expect in the “last days” that Bible scholars believe are here, now, but which have always existed where Satan attempts to counterfeit God’s real power and work*.
These kinds of supernatural phenomena include (from definition B for “signs”): events “by which men are deceived…ascribed also to false teachers, false prophets, and to demons.”
How To Tell The Difference
Jesus gave clear instructions regarding how to discern whether or not a preaching, teaching, sign, and/or wonder comes from the Holy Spirit or another:
(When) the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come. 14He will glorify Me by taking from what is Mine and disclosing it to you. 15Everything that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will take from what is Mine and disclose it to you.… (John 16:13-15).
So again, that which is of the real God by the real Spirit glorifies the real Jesus.
The Counterfeiter, however, is brilliant.
Note: it is not always easy, however, to discern whether or not this miracle or healing or deliverance or other supernatural even comes from the real God or some other god or con man, but Gospel writer John provides this test:
1Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. For many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2By this you will know the Spiritof God:Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and is already in the world at this time.… (1 John 4:1-3).
But the meaning of “confess,” here, does not mean to just parrot the words; it is rendered as a profession, that is, “to declare openly and voluntarily…fully implying the yielding or change of one’s conviction.”
A clear confession/ profession that no demon will ever make.
Nor will any lying false christ, teacher, or con artist.
Consider: 1 John 2:22—Who is the liar, if it is not the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, who denies the Father and the Son.
Nevertheless, a person may still need to apply critical thinking to unpack the real meaning behind what might sound Scriptural but that also sounds just a little “off”. For further clarification he or she may need to do a careful “Berean” type study of the Word of God, in context, and with prayer. Discernment follows.
The most dangerous of the counterfeiters, in my view, are those who teach by sleight of tongue and inference that “signs and wonders” shall follow the preaching of “signs and wonders” instead of preaching the Word of God after which there are signs that accompany it. In this group I would include the so-called Word Faith preachers.
RE: Catholic Counterfeiters
Roman Catholicism has a long tradition of special people, events, objects, and phenomena that are deceptive as well.
For most of this collection of Catholic “supernaturalalia,” one might call it, applying the test of Who (or who) validates what is considered “blessed,” or “sacred,” is not the Word of God but the doctrines and teachings of Roman Catholicism. The most phenomenal of the experiences were those of the official Roman Catholic saints.
Roman saints are not what Scriptures teach as saints, i.e., believers, but are dead Catholics who had some extraordinary experiences (or lived particularly holy lives) and because of whom certain phenomena resulted after their deaths. Estimates of the number of “canonized” Catholic saints vary from approximately 800 to approximately 8,000.
An example of such validating phenomena are the roses said to have fallen down from heaven on the death of St. Therese of Lisieux who is also known as “The Little Flower.” Praying to her in what is called a “novena” promises the Catholic that St Therese will herself bring the prayer to God for an answer.
For a list of official Catholic saints, their “feast days” (some of which are also “Holy Days of Obligation“) and commemorative medals, etc. (which one would want to have “blessed” by a priest for full spiritual effect), and what holiness and/or phenomena has validated them for canonization (or a least “beatification”–defined with canonization), see here, but there are many resources.
What has become quite popular just now, particularly among non-Catholics, are certain “mystical practices” from the lives and practices of certain Catholic saints that may include altered physical states, also thought to be of the real God.
Note: in some cases, such states might be confused with lack of sleep, food, outside contact and/or certain types of chanting (which can affect the mind) as well as the influence of pagan practices, and in some cases demonic influence.
Self-inflicted torture is also sometimes employed to achieve altered “spiritual states,” and is a common theme from the lives of many saints. For an interesting discussion of many of such phenomena, here is a summary by a former Roman Catholic nun. There are many other such references.
There are elements of Roman Catholicism that are based on Scripture, but there are far, far more that are not, particularly when it comes to signs and wonders.
They do not pass the Scriptural “test,” discussed, above.
They do not proceed from the Word of God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, as promulgated by the Holy Spirit, but from Roman Catholic teachings.
And here is another set of standards, if you will, by which to judge if the spirit a preacher, teachers, prophet, healer, or miracle worker is promoting is the Holy Spirit or some other.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22).
Can you see how all the mystical razzle dazzle and amazing physical, mental, and psychological phenomena available in every Roman Catholic Church (some of it for sale in the vestibule) further entices and entraps many sincere people who have just never heard of the both the Scriptural warnings–and safe guards when it comes to such things ? This is true of more and more Protestant churches these days, too.
But of course, and beware, among every group of false preachers, teachers, and prophets, there are those who well know the power of such spiritualalia, and who use it for greater control.
Beware of the wolves.
*For more Scriptures on false signs and wonders see:
Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
and many false prophets will arise and mislead many.
For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders that would deceive even the elect, if that were possible.
2 Thessalonians 2:9
The coming of the lawless one will be accompanied by the working of Satan, with every kind of power, sign, and false wonder…