Signs, Wonders, Heresy and Love for God

By John Piper – March 26, 2008


Does God have designs for deceptive signs and wonders? Does he have purposes for heresies?

From the time of Moses to the end of history, this has been and will be an issue. Jesus promised that “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). These are not little tricks. They are great signs and wonders. Great. But aimed to deceive.

Paul said that “the coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and signs and wonders of falsehood, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). “Signs and wonders of falsehood” is a literal translation to show that the falseness of the signs and wonders is not that they aren’t real miracles, but that they lie about reality. They are real miracles, and they lead away from Christ.

Similarly, to the end of the history—especially at the end of history—false teaching and heresies will dog the church. “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4.3-4).

At the other end of history, things have been this way from the time of Moses. And it is Moses who answers our two questions: Does God have designs for deceptive signs and wonders? Does he have purposes for heresies? Here’s the key passage:

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, “Let us go after other gods,” which you have not known, “and let us serve them, you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)

Notice five things:

First, Moses tells us that signs and wonders in the service of heresy really happen. They are not tricks. “If a prophet . . . gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass. . . .” They really do come to pass. It is not smoke and mirrors. These are supernatural, but not in the service of truth.

Second, some miracle workers aim to draw believers away from the true God. “If he says, ‘Let us go after other gods . . .’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet.” In other words, some heresies (“let us go after other gods”) are endorsed with miraculous signs and wonders.

Third, God has a design in these deceptive signs and wonders, and he has purposes for the heresies they support. He mentions one of these designs and purposes: “For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” When temptation happens from man, a test is happening from God. This is God’s design in the deceptive signs and heresies.

Fourth, love for God is what God is testing. “Your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Fifth, I conclude from this that the heart that loves God sees through miraculous deception. Love for God is not based mainly on miraculous power. It is based on seeing through miraculous power to true divine beauty. Therefore, love for God is a powerful protection against heresy, even when it comes with miraculous confirmation.

Understanding these five things from Deuteronomy 13:1-3 helps protect us from deceptive signs and wonders and from heresies. But understanding is not enough.Love for God is both the aim of God’s testing and the means by which his tests are passed. Understanding awakens us to our need to love him. But love for God sees through deceptive signs and wonders to the falsehood they support and flees to Christ.Love for God sees through the heresy and holds fast to him. May God deepen our love to him so that it has this kind of penetrating, protecting power.

© Desiring God

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

Are Experiences a Valid Source of Truth?

by: John MacArthur

John MacArthurWe are going to embark upon a study of the Charismatic movement, the contemporary Charismatic movement that surrounds us in the Evangelical Church. Back in 1977, to be exact, I preached a series on the movement, or maybe a little even before that year. But a book came from it which I spent 1977 writing. That book was entitled, “The Charismatics.” And now we are about a dozen or more years beyond that publication, and I felt that it is time for an update. And from this series will come another book entitled, “Charismatic Chaos.” I believe that book will be released sometime after the first of next year.

So many Christians are confused by the theology and the experiences of Charismatic people. And they have become so visible because of Christian television, radio, books, magazines, and because their ministries are so aggressive that we all are inundated by them through direct mail. Television and the media has spread this movement, it has created for them a tremendous platform. In fact, it is probably not far from the truth to say that most people would assume that Evangelical Christianity is what the Charismatic movement represents, because it is such an exposed movement.

But we must deal with it in line with 1 Thessalonians 5:21, and that is to examine it carefully, to determine what is true and what is not. Now as we embark upon this examination, I want you to know at the very outset, that I love my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, and I have no intent to convey anything other than love for them. I think in the movement there are many who are not genuinely saved, and I am equally concerned about their salvation. My purpose is not to debate them, pitting our theology against theirs, but to call them to the test of Scripture, to drop what Amos called the “plumb line,” to see if they are straight with the Word of God.

I have to say at the very outset that a rather powerful intimidation factor works against those who wish to deal with this movement Biblically. To critique Charismatic doctrine or practice is commonly viewed as inherently unloving, inherently unkind, inherently divisive, and even blasphemous. I have personally been accused of blaspheming the Holy Spirit by calling this movement to the test of Scripture. Anybody who wants to answer the movement; to confront the movement; to measure it by Scripture; can be intimidated. Because it is very hard, then, to find a platform to speak about the movement. It runs almost rampant like wildfire.

Continue reading here.