Question: We are trying to stand to defend the faith and have come across people believing in the evidence of gold dust, jewels from heaven – stuff from the Toronto guys ages ago. Is God limited in the way he performs miracles today in the modern era? If there is no example in the Word, then basically it’s not from the Holy Spirit but another spirit? Are we “limiting” God by unbelief? Where do we draw the line between these “new miracles” and miracles mentioned in the Scriptures? If we stick to the Word-based miracles only—is that limiting God?
Response: We have had opportunity to see these areas of concern close up and have heard statements such as “touch not the Lord’s anointed,” or “don’t quench the Spirit with your unbelief.” This attitude is one of the weaknesses of the Pentecostal, or Charismatic, movement. According to 1 Thessalonians:5:21, we are to “prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” Since the Lord is not politically correct, “all things” means “all things,” including the things that are His. There is a direct implication that the Lord is confident that the things that are His will stand the test. So, no, we do not limit the Lord by the test. In fact, testing is what He commands.
Further, the signs and wonders movement turns the biblical model upside down. Too many are going from place to place seeking to have an experience. The biblical model shows us people who were seeking God, who then, in turn, had an experience.
Peter and John were not seeking an experience as they “went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer...” (Acts:3:1). They sought God in prayer. It was God who drew their attention to “a certain man lame from his mother’s womb [who] was carried [and] laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple” (v. 2). We know the “experience” and opportunity created as the formerly lame man entered “walking and leaping and praising God.” The experience was something arranged and orchestrated by God, not by a controlled setting, music, or other stimuli.
As you point out in your [full] letter, there is no end of fraud that has been uncovered. The “gold dust” falling from heaven has sometimes been scientifically tested, as in the case of Brazilian evangelist Sylvania Machado. As Charisma magazine reported, “John Arnott of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF) canceled a scheduled four-day appearance by Machado after sending a sample of the flecks that cascaded from her head on the first night for testing. A geochemist at the University of Toronto concluded the specks did not contain any gold or platinum but were some type of plastic film” (www.charismanews.com/news.cgi?a=145&t=search.html, cited 5/7/01).
Satan always seeks to counterfeit the genuine. When Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, it became a serpent. Pharaoh’s sorcerers, however, “….also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods” (Exodus:7:11-12). Up until the sorceror’s serpents were swallowed, their “feat” might have been convincing to some.
God’s servants are not validated by the most amazing miracles. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah:8:20). Some point to Acts:16:20, which reads, “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” Please note, however, the “signs” confirmed the “word.” The word remains the focus. There may be all sorts of wonderful signs, but if the word is deficient, the signs are of no value.