The Function of Miracles–Part 3

“God wants so much to invade this world with the reality of what was purchased on Calvary. But He waits for a people who will live the normal Christian life, putting themselves at risk, constantly tapping into the invisible resources of heaven that have been standing idle.” [511]–Bill Johnson, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind

These two sentences very eloquently convey the yearning hopefulness of Pentecostal faith. And they suggest the astonishing dignity that God grants his people. He has named us his agents; he waits for us to begin doing his work. Until we begin, he waits.

Can I just say yes?

Johnson goes on:

“We have the exact authority Jesus has at the right hand of the Father. We are entitled and empowered to be His “House,” His embodiment on earth. As a Christian at this very moment, you have absolute liberty and access to heaven.”

Here I have some hesitation. Do we have Jesus’ exact authority? I think not exactly. In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says that “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.  Therefore go….” It seems to me that we have delegated authority. We have the authority to do what Jesus says to do, and not more. It is true, of course, that Jesus longs to do “on earth as it is in heaven,” and that he has chosen us as his agents in that. But of necessity agents are humble. They follow directions. It is an open question whether we have the authority and the liberty to replicate heaven on earth fully, now. What seems more accurate to me is that we are to pray patiently and persistently that God would do “on earth as it is in heaven.” We have a crucial role in that prayer being answered. But it is not an autonomous, absolute role. Just because something is good in God’s sight does not necessarily mean we are charged to bring it about.

Years ago, when John Wimber was blowing a fresh charismatic wind into the church, he  had an unquestionable fascination with resurrection. Early in his ministry, at least, he clearly believed that he would see people raised from the dead, and he was extremely eager to see it. When I studied and interviewed him, I didn’t really understand why he stressed that so much. Now, though, I see it made perfect sense. If we are meant to bring all the qualities of heaven to earth here and now, then it follows that we must raise people from the dead.  There is no death in heaven.

Here is an important question to ponder: does God have a sense of timing in bringing his Kingdom to fulfillment? Is the delay in the fulness of the Kingdom a matter of human unfaithfulness? Or are we servants of some lengthy process that God oversees?

Undoubtedly the latter position is a great refuge for cowards. If I don’t see God at work, don’t blame me, it’s God. One great strength of Pentecostals is activism: they tend to put all on the line. They take risks. Still, I want to make a case for careful humility, too. God is in charge of the universe, not me. I must do what he tells me to do. But I should be wary of taking charge.

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2 Responses to “The Function of Miracles–Part 3”

  1. Kent Philpott Says:

    Thank you, helpful comment. Fine lines are drawn between what Bill Johnson presents and your critique, and that is the difficulty. I can be drawn in as I am also want to see the triumph of God on earth. We indeed are servants, slaves more properly, and it is position of humility.

  2. Paul Vander Klay Says:

    I find your book reviews on your blog very helpful. Thanks for these.

    I have long felt that Pentecostalism is only partially a theological label but also partly a cultural slide. Central to it is a perspective on anthropology and worldview.

    Johnson I think accurately reflects a lot of the language I hear from Pentecostals but part of my “yeah but” when it comes to finding support for this perspective comes from Jesus’ use of miracles. One might ask what aspect of “heaven” Jesus’ ministry intended to transport. Would not a formula for an antibiotic have saved more lives than all of Jesus’ miracles or some basic education in sanitation and clean water? Central to accounts of Jesus’ miracles seemed to be a communication not just of God’s commitment to shalom but also the nature of our rebellion and Jesus’ relation to both the age of decay and the in-breaking of the imperishable.

    This obviously gets into some things more lengthy than a blog comment. Some of my thought on this are here in a post from last year http://paulvanderklay.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/seeking-a-kingdom-vocabulary-with-traction/

    Anyway, thanks again for continuing to blog this helpful stuff. pvk

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