So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. (Acts 14:3)
Paul and Barnabas went on their mission to the city of Iconium, where they continued to use their strategy of preaching in the synagogue. They used the synagogue as their entry point to preach Jesus Christ, relying on the spirit of Lord. As a very gifted person, Paul performed many miracles, such as healing sickness, driving out demons, resurrecting the dead, and he was healed from a poisonous snake bite.
According to our current thinking, why didn’t Paul heal the sick and drive out demons to attract people and make them believe? Instead, they mainly preached the gospel, using truth instead of miracles to attract people. Only when necessary did they use signs and wonders to bless others, or when God took the initiative to perform miracles through their hands. The purpose was to prove the truth of the Word of God. The reason why Paul did this was that he knew there was a primary focus and then there was a secondary focus. He knew that God's Word was more important than miracles. He wanted people to believe in the Word of God, not delight in miracles.
We hope that when we preach the gospel, there will be miracles and wonders so that more people can believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord. But what we see in this verse is that we should not spend all of our time and energy on the pursuit of miracles, but we need to put our effort into preaching the gospel. But today there are many churches and many people who are putting the cart before the horse and like to put a lot of time and energy on the secondary and ignore the Word of God which is the most important thing.
For example, many charismatic churches today spend a lot of time and energy in the pursuit of miracles and wonders to attract people to the Lord, but in the end, they use these to promote themselves and show how spiritual they are. But if some people come here to believe the Lord, their faith, which is based on miracles, is unreliable and unsound. As Augustine said: what they gained by curiosity, will disappear completely through arrogance.
Our faith is built on the Word of God, not on miracles. The Word of God is God itself, but miracles are not necessarily of God. So we must understand the difference between the two. When we don’t use miracles to preach the gospel, people will develop their faith by believing in the Word of God. But if we use miracles to preach the gospel, this kind of faith will not be unreliable.
Although some churches today do not spend a lot of time and energy in pursuing miracles and wonders, they may use a similar approach in other pursuits. For example, some churches today are building large and magnificent churches. They are willing to spend a lot of money and energy on this to attract people to the church. However, they are unwilling to spend more time studying the truth and preaching the truth. Some churches are very happy to hold various activities to attract people, but they neglect God's Word. This is why some churches have long worship services and the number of programs has been increased because people like music and performances. Some churches have opportunistically used this method to attract people, making worship seem the same as a concert. As a result, less time is spent preaching and the evangelistic part of Sunday worship service is shortened. Some churches have even canceled the preaching session at Christmas.
Because they can’t distinguish between what is most important and what is secondary, so other things have replaced the truth of the gospel. This is a practice that seduces into religion, but the result is that they are actually made the children of hell. Because these beliefs are not based on the truth of the gospel, but on the hay and straw, so the beliefs are not only unreliable but also biased. These people have values that are still of this world; they have never been renewed by the gospel, so their so-called beliefs will one day collapse.
Therefore, when we preach the gospel today, we must clearly distinguish between things of primary and secondary importance. We must put the preaching of the Word of God first, rather than spending a lot of time and energy pursuing miracles or other things. We should use the truth of the gospel to attract people to the Lord so that people's beliefs are built on that truth and their lives will be truly changed.
(Note: The author of this article is a full-time co-worker of a grassroots church in Fujian)
-Translated by Abigail Wu