….and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, ESV
I have been reading the Gospels lately in my daily devotions, and while reading to keep my mind occupied during long treks across Lima’s public transportation, and noticed one line I’d never noticed before. I should back up and phrase that differently–it’s that I’ve never noticed it before, because I had. But I had never thought about it before. Jesus stated of some of these cities he’d gone and preached and performed miracles;
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:20-24, ESV)
The specific point of reference Jesus uses for what would have provoked Sodom, Gomorrah who were the cities destroyed by fire and brimstone for their wickedness. Leonard Ravenhill has a book titled “Sodom had no Bible”, and though I’ve never read it, the title alone is provokative enough to realize, they were judged on the basis of wickedness, not the knowledge of the holy. When angels came to rescue Lot and his family, the sons in law–probably engaged, but not married, for the text goes on to state his daughters were virgins–scoffed and weren’t interested in leaving. In fact, when the people were pounding on the door to Lot’s house demanding that the men who had come be given over to them that they may have sex with them, Lot offered his daughters (what a nice father) instead, so they could do as they please. At any rate, I say all that to point out it was a pretty twisted and wicked culture, from what we already know in the Genesis account.
Yet, Jesus doesn’t say “if my preaching” were preached in those cities, they would have repented. But if his mighty works were done in them they would have repented. Think about that for a moment. Acts 10:38 says
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
If Jesus had done these things in their midst, Sodom, Tyre and Sidon would still be around in that day. Clearly, signs, wonders, miracles, healings, deliverances and the supernature of God are important parts of the Gospel. Paul understood this and that’s why he didn’t orate good speeches alone, but demonstrated the power of Christ as well.
When you see someone miraculously get out of a wheel chair, or a preacher of the Gospel “read your mail” and share the secrets of your heart, it makes it all the more compelling and impossible to ignore that God is real, and if you are an enemy of His, miracles confront you you with the reality of this. True miracles are going to cause a conviction that forces man to make a decision–either repent and turn from his sins, or walk away and deny this and continue in his sin, which will result in death and separation from God. Mere preaching and good argumentation alone does not have nearly the effect of laying hands on an atheist and supernaturally destroying the cancer ravaging their body, and replacing it with the life flow of the love of God. Paul knew this, and sought to ground people in the power of God, not the power of good sounding reasoning.