From Plainer Words

The Jews Require A Sign

Posted in: 2007
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 8, 2008 - 5:13:51 PM

April 30, 2007


1 Corinthians 1:22 says, “For the Jews require a sign.” The Jews had a right to expect a sign. A sign was an indication to them that the LORD (Yahweh) was dealing with them in a particular manner. A sign meant a signal, a beacon, a monument, an omen, a token, or an evidential miracle.

The word, “sign,” first appeared in Exodus 4:8. The first mention of a word in the Bible generally sets its meaning. Read Exodus 3:7 to 4:9 and notice that Moses was talking with the LORD about the Hebrew children. The LORD told Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters: for I know their sorrows;” (Ex. 3:7).

The LORD proceeded to tell Moses that the time of Israel’s deliverance was now to be accomplished. Of course, Moses had some doubts because he had tried to deliver the children of Israel 40 years earlier, and it resulted in him spending 40 years “on the back side of the desert.”

Moses, in his earlier attempt to free Israel from hard taskmasters, made a mess of it for the enslaved Israelites did not believe him. They asked, “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?” (Ex. 2:14).

So, 40 years later, it was only natural for Moses to be concerned about the children of Israel believing him. In Chapter Four, Verse One, Moses said, “But, behold they (Israel) will not believe me, nor harken unto my voice for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.”

So, the LORD replied to Moses, “What is that in your hand?” Moses said, “A rod.” Then, the LORD told Moses to cast it to the ground. When he did, it turned into a serpent. Then, Moses took it by its tail, and it turned into a rod. The LORD then told Moses that he should do this in front of Israel.

“That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee” (Ex. 4:5).

Then, the LORD had Moses put his hand to his chest; when he withdrew it from his bosom, it was “leprous as snow.” Then, Moses placed his leprous hand to his chest and, again, withdrew it, and it was healed for “it was again as his other flesh.”

The two miracles demonstrated to Moses were to be demonstrated to the enslaved Israelites. The LORD told Moses, “if they will not believe thee, neither harken to the voice of the first sign (i.e., turning the rod into a serpent and back again) that they will believe the voice of the latter sign (i.e, leprous hand)” (Ex. 4:8).

If they would not “believe also these two signs,” the LORD told Moses to take water from the river and pour it onto the ground, and it will become blood.

Thus, we see the reason the Jews “required a sign.” With the birth of the nation of Israel, God raised up Moses, and he showed them signs that they might believe. Signs were absolutely connected with Israel. The first mention of “signs,” in the Word of God, associated them with Israel in order to demonstrate to them that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “hath appeared unto” the one showing the “signs.”

Signs were Moses’ credentials to Israel. We read in Deut. 18:15, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee …like unto me.” As Moses was the first deliverer who demonstrated signs and wonders, God was going to raise up a Greater Deliverer, a prophet likened unto Moses, Who would have “signs” as His credentials to Israel. Israel was told to look for a Second Moses—their True Deliverer. Therefore, Israel had a right to look for and see “signs.” The LORD (to wit, Yahweh) began His dealings with the nation by showing and promising them signs.

After Moses delivered them from Egyptian bondage, he reminded them, “the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with SIGNS, and with WONDERS” (Deut. 26:8).

The student needs only to consult a concordance to see that Israel was brought up on “signs,” for “signs” was the birthright for the nation of Israel.

When “God, who at sundry times … spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,” (Heb.1:1), He confirmed what He said in “divers manners.” In plainer words, it was with different signs. The different signs were as a signal, or a token, that God was, indeed, speaking through the mouths of the prophets. God confirmed, or bore witness to the prophets’words with signs and mighty works. Certain prophecies relating to Israel were attested to by signs in connection with their fulfillment, as in Isaiah 7:11, 14: 20:3; Jeremiah 44:29; and Ezekiel 4:3: 12:6; 24:24, 27.

So, from Moses to Christ, the LORD confirmed His Word through the mouth of the prophets many times with signs. When the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Moses, showed up as a “minister to the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers,” God bore witness to what Christ said to Israel with mighty signs, wonders, and miracles.

For, indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ was the Prophet likened to Moses for which Israel had been told to look. Hebrews 1:2 further states that the LORD GOD spoke to Israel “by His Son.” While Christ confirmed the promises with signs, and wonders, and miracles, this ministry of Confirmation had the added weight that the signs performed were the very ones which the Old Testament Scriptures foretold He would perform! Notice two of such verses.

“And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness” (Isa. 29:18).

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing …” (Isa. 35:5-6).

In fact, in Matthew 11:2-6, these were the verses Christ appealed to when the disciples of John the Baptist asked, “Art thou he that should come, or should we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3).

It is essential to an intelligent understanding of the Scriptures to notice that signs were connected with Israel; not other nations, or people. Signs were used to confirm that the LORD was dealing with the Jews— not the Gentiles.

After Old Testament times, when God spoke to Israel by the prophets, and after God spoke to Israel by His Son, He spoke, again, to Israel “by them that heard” His Son (Heb. 2:3). Those who had heard the Son were the Apostles: for after His ascension, God kept speaking to Israel by those who had been taught by Christ Himself.

During the Book of Acts, God kept speaking to Israel through “them that had heard Him” (Heb. 2:3). He was also “bearing witness both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost” (Heb. 2:3-4). Those who had heard the Son had an additional confirmation given to their testimony by the added weight of the “gifts of the Holy Ghost.”

“The Jews require a sign” and rightfully so. However, the Jewish leaders had seen and heard of hundreds of “signs” delivered by the Lord Jesus Christ, but they were still in a state of denial and rebellion. After He thoroughly rebuked them (Matt. 12:31-37), the Pharisees steped up and demand they see a “sign.”

“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:” (Matt. 12:38-39).

The Pharisees had already just witnessed a “sign” when the Lord Jesus cast out a devil of a man who was “blind, and dumb” (Matt. 12:22), but, here in Matthew 12:38, they said, “Master, we would see a sign.” They didn’t really want to see another sign; they desired to “trip-Him-up” in some manner. That is the typical manner of those who deny Truth, by insisting upon seeing more proof! They are never satisfied with PROOF. That’s why we refuse to waste our time with modern-day “Pharisees.” The chief characteristic of New Testament Pharisees was their envy of those who taught Truth, including our Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise, today’s “Pharisees” manifest this same characteristic.

Yes, “the Jews require a sign.” God had promised them signs. Throughout “The Acts of the Apostles,” Israel stood before God as a nation. And, as long as Israel was a nation, He confirmed and bore witness to His purposes with signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost.

The Acts Period abounded with signs. The Twelve Apostles had their testimony confirmed with signs. Not only that, BUT, those who “believed and were baptized” had signs following them. Mark 16:17-18 stated that “these signs shall follow them that believe.” The signs enumerated are: the casting out of devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, drinking deadly poison without harm, and healing the sick.

After the Lord told His disciples this, He ascended into heaven; then we read, “And they (i.e., the Apostles) went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen (Mark 16:20).

The signs were to confirm that the Lord was working with them, even though He was in heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ did, during the Acts Period, and will, during the Kingdom, do a work while He is enthroned in heaven.

At the very first mention of signs, Exodus 4, we notice that signs were given to Moses to confirm that he was on a mission of the LORD. From Exodus 4 to the Ascension of Christ, signs accompanied the message from God. As it has been pointed out, this act of confirmation continued, after Christ ascended into heaven, throughout “The Acts of the Apostles.” Signs, wonders, and miracles prevailed as long as Israel stood before God as a nation.

If we can determine when Israel was set aside as a nation, then, we can make an intelligent determination when signs, wonders, and miracles were set aside.

The Apostle Paul ministered to the dispersed nation of Israel during the time covered by the Book of Acts. He, too, was one “that heard the Son.” However, Paul was privileged to have heard the Son after His Ascension. Paul was the last man to have seen and heard the resurrected Jesus Christ. Thus, the Lord spoke to Paul, numerous times, after his Damascus Road experience in Acts 9. In fact, the Lord confirmed what Paul preached with mighty signs and wonders—even more so than the Twelve.

“I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Cor. 12:11-12).

“For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles” (2 Cor. 11:5).

“Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:19).

Therefore, as one who had heard the Son, Jesus Christ, God certainly bore witness, “both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost” (Heb. 2:4), to what Paul both said and did during “The Acts of the Apostles.”

As diligent students, we should notice that the miraculous signs which began with Moses carried clear- through the 28th Chapter of Acts. Notice the beginning and the ending of signs. Signs began with Moses showing “he was sent from God” to lead Israel out of bondage (Ex. 4). They ended with Paul pronouncing spiritual blindness upon Israel in Acts 28:25-28. God began his dealings with the nation by showing signs (Ex. 4). He ended His long and patient dealings with Israel by withdrawing signs at Acts 28.

The student should take note of the record that signs, wonders, and miracles continued until the very last chapter of the Book of Acts. It is noteworthy to recognize that there is NO INDICATION that signs, wonders, and miracles were gradually phased out during “The Acts of the Apostles.” Many folks imagine that God began withdrawing the miraculous signs after Acts 13, as well as, the Gifts of the Spirit. This illusion fits in very well with their theology. It also fits in with their theology that the Church, which is His Body began sometime between Acts 2 and Acts 28. They are unable to agree among themselves whether the Church, which is His Body began at Acts 9, Acts 13, or even Acts 22. But, of course, this is merely speculation. The Word of God knows nothing of this concept. As a matter of fact, the Bible clearly indicates that signs and the miraculous ended abruptly at Acts 28:28.

The first sign dealt with a serpent (Ex. 4:2-4). The second sign dealt with healing (Ex. 4:6-7). The last two signs we noted in the long narration of Israel are those of a viper biting the Apostle Paul (Acts 28:3-6) and Paul healing a man of a bloody flux, plus he healed many others on the isle of Melita (Acts 28:8).

Israel was set aside. To wit, temporarily placed in abeyance, with the solemn words of the Apostle Paul in Acts 28:28:

“Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it”

With the setting aside of Israel, we find her blessings set aside, also. Therefore, there has been no need for evidentiary signs since then.

Israel’s national existence, as far as God was concerned, ceased at the close of Acts 28. Signs ceased with Israel’s national existence. They were buried in Israel’s grave until the “times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3: 21) when the Lord begins His restoration of Israel’s Kingdom, and He calls them from their graves.

God’s present purpose is centered among Gentiles and the Church, which is His Body. Signs are in no way, shape, or fashion associated with this present calling! This calling is strictly of GRACE—for by grace are we saved through faith, and that faith is not self- originating; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

Whatever might seem to be signs, wonders, and miracles in this age are not in harmony with God’s present purpose as made known in His Word. Therefore, they must be fakes! He has always worked in harmony with His Word, rightly divided.

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