Reading: Matthew 10
(Context: Jesus sends the disciples out on a “Missions Trip” to Jews only, because the Kingdom was offered to them alone, at this time. Jesus also knew that they would be rejected, and that He as their King would be rejected, so He also instructs them on how to behave as preachers of the Gospel of the Kingdom when He is gone and they are to reach the entire world. Divine insight is seen here as He predicts both the near and far future, obviously.)
The Pentecostal movement is very large and popular in South America, especially those that teach Prosperity Gospel (“God wants you to be rich, famous, and healthy”, Joel Olsteen is the American equivalent), and do healing miracles. Loud music, dancing, and the amped feeling of adrenaline is a great attraction to the Latin world, meaning they often come to church for themselves and never understand Christ, nor live for Him. It is a sad, sad case, and so-called Evangelical churches are full to breaking point here in South America with people who have never heard or understood the Gospel, and are therefore being led straight into hell. The latter critique applies mostly to the Neopentecostal, or Ultra Pentecostal movement, for many can and are saved in the Charismatic movement, though it depends mostly on the preacher and his understanding and love for Scripture, as with any church.
When I read Matthew 10 this morning I couldn’t help but think about the so called “Miracle Workers” that I often see advertised here in South America. I have spoken openly against them, from a Biblical basis, mainly because I love the people who are being openly deceived by such greedy and cancerous men and women who pretend to speak for God but really only please themselves. It is against them that my anger is directed, so let me provide a brief critique, from Jesus Himself.
Jesus is just about to send out a large group of both disciples and followers to preach the “Kingdom of Heaven” to the Jewish countryside. First though, He gives them detailed instructions for this special task:
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.” (Matthew 10:5-10)
Many Pentecostal “miracle workers” salivate over this passage, knowing that in this passage these disciples were given the ability to raise the dead, heal the sick, and do amazing supernatural acts. The error is to think that this passage applies to them. It doesn’t. First of all, these instructions were by a pre-resurrected Jesus, who had still not been rejected as King, therefore the mystery of the Church Era had not even been revealed. Second, the instructions were given to Jews to preach only to Jews, therefore the ” Evangelism” here has more to do with accepting Jesus as a human savior, not a soteriological/spiritual Savior. Lastly, Jesus subsequently speaks about their role once they were rejected, knowing it would take place. He instructs them to go to the Gentiles, but the part about miracles is left out.
Let’s say though, just for the sake of argument, that this passage does indeed apply to us today, in today’s Church. What if miracles were for today (even though clearly the ability to do miracles has disappeared as anyone who has studied history and the Church Fathers can clearly tell. Actually, Church Fathers called heretics those who attempted to do miracles and prophecy after the times of the Apostles (see: Montanism))? What if healing was truly still possible, and the dead could even be raised from the dead?
Now, obviously God is not limited, He can do whatever He wants to do whenever He wants to do it. Remember though, Abraham, Job, Samuel, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, Isaiah, among others never saw nor did a miracle. Miracles are usually understood to begin new dispensations, or eras in history of the world, in God’s book.
But what if. What if a preacher could talk to God and for God, with new revelation? What if he could perform great signs? What if he could speak in tongues? What if the Spirit could cause men and women to fall on the ground in the power of the Holy Spirit (and not of a demon, as has been regularly reported)? Wouldn’t that be amazing! Sign me up!
Tell me, miracle worker, thou enlightened one, why do you not heed Christ’s teaching? He says: “…[G]ive without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts…”
The amount of money that is available to such miracle workers is amazing, as they basically preach: “Give me your money, and I’ll give you God’s blessing!” While people are fascinated about the possibility of being healed (what an opportunity!), they are making millions off of people’s hopes and fears. Sure, a “laborer deserves his wages”, but it is very different to receive support to live on, and quite another to ask for it in order to do your job. Paul explains this in great detail to the Corinthian church, emphasizing the necessity of paying those who work full-time for God, but that the preacher, missionary, elder, pastor, etc. should never demand or expect it.
One last think, you miracle worker. If you really could heal, what are you doing at stadiums and large, opulent churches? Why are you not in the hospital and at the funeral homes? It is only too obvious that you do not heal, and cannot heal. You are an embarrassment to the Church, and you are of the group that will one day say “Lord, Lord,” but He will reject you, for you loved more your life than the true one that only He can give to you.
Let me now end with an encouragement to true Biblical preachers. True churches are often small, full of sinners, embattled with struggle, and often somewhat disheartened. The Ultra Pentecostal churches, on the other hand, are growing, expanding, and full of money, music, and energy. Take heart, we are not of this world, that is why they reject us, and His message. If they rejected our Master, how much more will they reject us? If you find yourself too accepted, you might be on the wrong path, for He promised rejection, not acceptance, poverty not riches, and sickness instead of health. Perhaps we will see times of blessing, but if you love Jesus more than this world, nothing will be able to take away your inner health, joy, and knowledge of future and great riches. Invest in the heavenly bank, embrace the true Gospel, and do not give up hope.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:13-21)