“These signs shall follow.” The Gospel of words and power.
There is a great scene from My Fair Lady where the main character, Eliza Doolittle, is being pursued by a young man, who is a bit tentative in showing his feelings for her. Rather than show her how he feels (by “holding her tight”!) he uses words. Here is Eliza’s song “Show Me” in response:
Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Don’t talk of stars burning above;
If you’re in love, Show me!
Tell me no dreams Filled with desire.
If you’re on fire, Show me!
In the same way I feel that we in the Western church use a lot of “words” in the declaring of the Gospel when, clearing, we see in the New Testament from the examples of Jesus and the early apostles, that they used “words and power”!
He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. (Mk 1:38-39)
But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:11)
And He sent them [the 12] out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. (Luke 9:2)
Really, you cannot divide the two: the Gospel meant a powerful mixture of “words” about the kingdom and “works” of power.
A.B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance movement, wrote a famous handbook on healing in 1888 called The Gospel of Healing. This was his first book of more than 100 that he later wrote. In The Gospel of Healing Simpson declares that we have no Biblical right to preach the Gospel today without “signs following”. I have enclosed a long quote for our mutual benefit.
These healings were not occasional, but continual; not exceptional, but universal. He never turned any away. “He healed all that were sick.” “As many as touched Him were made perfectly whole.” He is still the same.
This was the work of Jesus’ life and God would not have us forget that He spent more than three years in deeds of power and love before He went up to that Cross to die. And we need that Living Christ quite as much as Christ Crucified….
What right have we to preach the one without the other? What right have we to hold back any part from the perishing world? What right have we to go to the unbelieving world and demand their acceptance of our message without these signs following? What right have we to explain their absence from our ministry by trying to eliminate them from God’s Word, or consign them to an obsolete past?
Christ promised the signs, and they followed as long as Christians continued to “believe” and expect them. By such “mighty signs and wonders” the Church was established in Jerusalem, Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. The unbelief of the world needs them today as much as in the Apostolic times.