01 April 2007

A word to those who demand signs, wonders, and private messages

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote space at the beginning of each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Wait for Signs and Wonders," a sermon Spurgeon preached on the last Sunday morning in October of 1869.

ou are acting the part of an idolater. What does an idolater do? He says, "I cannot believe in an unseen God; I must have a golden calf or an image, that I can see with my eyes and touch with my hand."

You say just the same. You cannot believe God's naked word, you demand something you can feel, something you can see. Sheer idolatry. Do you not see it? You make your own feelings and emotions, or strange impressions, to be more worthy of trust than even God himself. You make them idols, and put them into God's place. You, so far as you can, undeify the Deity.

O tremble at such a crime as this!
C. H. Spurgeon


Coram Deo said...

There's no arguing with Spurgeon's spot-on message in this sermon snippet.

In my view this same error was the root cause for Christ's stinging rebuke of the Pharisees when He said in Matthew 16:3-4:

And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

Of course the problem herein lies in the fact that when "seeking after a sign" fallen man is in actuality setting his own sinful and corrupted reasoning up as the judge and jury to "try the evidence" for the existence of the Sovereign Creator and Judge of the universe! How patently absurd on its face!

Fallen man due to his sinful nature would make an idol god of himself as the highest court of appeals and ultimate authority through which all information from the outside world is processed. This massive logical failure is in direct contravention to God's commands for submission and obedience to His ultimate authority.

Sinful man seeks to usurp the throne of God in his heart in favor of his own sinful reasoning, but God Almighty will not subject Himself unto sinful man. Man comes to God on God's terms, and God's terms are the only terms that matter.

Daniel said...

Oh dear, that sure will strike a nerve with some people here.

Unknown said...

Charles Spurgeon = Hammer.

I don't believe anything that man ever said lacked courage.

You've just GOT to love him...

danny2 said...

someone should have explained to mr spurgeon:

Charles, you can be right and go into your corner with your trophy above your head and claim victory, but what good does that do in the long run? Readers who disagree walk away with a really nasty taste in their mouth and maybe never return. And if your goal is to have all comments either singing your praises or only looking for a battle, then you are well on your way . . .


Stephen Newell said...

I think a pic of a Costco meat chub would be appropriate here. Especially for those of us who by the grace of God don't live in Costco country.

HeavyDluxe said...

[Y]ou demand something you can feel, something you can see... You make your own feelings and emotions, or strange impressions, to be more worthy of trust than even God himself.

Even add an "Amen!" from over in my corner of the continuationist camp...

candy said...

Danny2. Was that really necessary? Reminds me of my middle schoolers. Sigh.

John H said...

Hmm. Christ seems to be less particular about avoiding things we can feel and see in addition to "God's naked word". After all, he instituted baptism and the Lord's Supper.

In other words, Christ intends us to receive his blessings and to know him through the visible and tangible as well as through what we hear. Perhaps it is the downplaying of these visible and tangible gifts by many Reformed churches that has led people to seek the visible and tangible in the wrong places.

In other words, while Spurgeon makes it sound as if the desire to encounter God in the visible and tangible is inherently wrong, in fact it is more a case of looking for the right things in the wrong places.

northWord said...

wow, and I thought that His Grace was sufficient..did I miss something?

FX Turk said...

... crazy federal visionists ...

donsands said...

"to know him through the visible and tangible as well'

John, could you give a couple examples for us? And please don't take this the wrong way. I'm truly curious, and am willing to learn.

John H said...

John, could you give a couple examples for us?

Happy to.

The particular examples I had in mind were baptism and the Lord's Supper. These are means by which God's word (the gospel) comes to us through the visible and tangible means of water, bread and wine.

To that could be added preaching itself. God doesn't pipe his word direct into our minds; he has ordained that his word will come to us principally through that word being proclaimed and preached. (I have in mind both the public reading of Scripture and the actual sermon, here.)

Also, that word comes to us not merely as individuals, but as part of the visible and tangible community of the church.

In all these things, it is the same word of grace by which salvation comes to us. This isn't about setting up something in addition to the word of God. I'm just saying we cannot set up a false dichotomy between some abstract, disembodied, "naked word of God" and the visible and tangible means ordained by Christ by which that word comes to us.

Northword: I don't know if your comment was a response to mine, but I hope this further comment has clarified that I am not talking about things we add to God's grace, but the means by which we receive God's grace as proclaimed to us in the gospel.

donsands said...

Thanks John. I agree with those examples.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a verse somewhere that says that if they did not believe Moses they might believe signs and wonders?

I am wondering if Spurgeon ever read that verse.

northWord said...

To john h - no no, not at all, it was a knee-jerk response at the titles' words "those who demand signs wonders and pm's",
sorry bout that.

John H said...

@James Kime: the reference you have in mind may be Luke 16:31, which in fact says the precise opposite. In this verse, Abraham tells the rich man:

If they [the rich man's brothers] do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

IOW, signs and wonders and other "special" revelations are of no use in converting someone who refuses to listen to the publicly-proclaimed message of the gospel.

@Northword: Thanks for the clarification. :-)

Unknown said...

Love the quote, and even agree with it!!!

Jesse P. said...

coram deo said: "In my view this same error was the root cause for Christ's stinging rebuke of the Pharisees when He said in Matthew 16:3-4"

I think there is an important distinction that must be made between modern day charismatics and Pharisees: Pharisees doubted Christ, while Charismatics have faith in him.

When the Pharisees demanded a sign, they were challenging God in unbelief to do something to make them believe.

Charismatics, on the other hand, already do believe, and their expectations for a sign flow out of their faith in God.

I think this is an important distinction. Does our demand for a sign flow from faith in God? So for the Pharisees the answer is no, their demands were challenges to God. Charismatics have a fundamentally different disposition than the Pharisees do, one of trust and faith in God.

This is how one person can say "God give me a sign" and be displeasing to God, and another person expect the same thing and be perfectly pleasing to God, because one person does it out of faith and the other in direct challenge. It is our heart that matters.

The difference is faith, without which it is impossible to please God.

Spurgeon was speaking to people who were demanding signs in order to believe God. Most charismatics these days already believe God and their expectations for signs flow out of that belief.