A Question I Was Asked:

Can Sinners and Unregenerate People Work Miracles?

Can sinners and unregenerate people work miracles? How can you explain Matthew 7:21-27? If these miracle workers are not called by God how come that they can work miracles? Why does God allow deceivers to work miracles? Why does He authorize it?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us look at this section of Scripture:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matthew 7:21-27, NIV).

I wish I could give a full and comprehensive answer here but I have to be honest and say that this is one area in which - at present - we can only see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12).

I am going to address this question by making just a few points:

1. Why Does It Say that God Did Not "Know" These People?
God knows about everything and everybody on this planet, so we need to discover what this comment means. God did, of course, know of these people as individuals, but He did not "know" them as His called and faithful servants. In short, they were apparently spiritual impostors.

So we must keep in mind that the biblical phrase 'to know' can vary in meaning. We might look at 1 Samuel 3:7 as an example here. Jesus was referring to 'knowing' spiritually those "who are His" (2 Timothy 2:19). Jesus knows those who are saved and those who are not. In Matthew 7:23, Jesus was saying that the accused had never had a saved relationship with Him. They had not truly followed Him and His teachings, though this is what they had professed to others.

2. How Can the Unsaved - On At Least Certain Occasions - Perform Miracles?
At the present time we cannot give a full answer here but we do know this is possible. Whether they are performing wonders through the power of Satan (which seems probable) or however else, there are scriptural examples of this happening. God even used Balaam to prophesy (Numbers 22:5-24:25) even though he "loved the wages of unrighteousness" (2 Peter 2:15; Numbers 31:16; Jude 11). Though divination and sorcery was clearly condemned under the laws of Israel (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:11), God nevertheless allowed a medium or witch from Endor to see Samuel's "spirit ascending out of the earth" (1 Samuel 28:11,13). So just as God has providentially used wicked nations to accomplish His will (Habakkuk 1:5-13, for example), He has, on occasion, allowed evil, or wrongly-motivated people to perform certain signs and wonders. A person could be motivated, even possessed, by Satan, but nothing can happen unless God allows it and He does occasionally allow people to have deceptive powers. Somewhere within this He is working out His purpose.

Today God allows uncalled, insincere and improperly motivated preachers to preach the Gospel, or a kind of "gospel" (Philippians 1:15-18), again God is working out His purpose; there is a sense that even hearing the Name of Jesus is good for people and will often prompt then to study further, even if the messenger is defective. There are multi-million dollar "Christian ministries" out there right now who are preaching a perverted gospel message and making themselves wealthy. Of course, these people will come into condemnation. God allows them to operate because this is a fallen world and Satan still rules - yes, He is defeated at the cross of Christ - but there are just a few more years to run before the Kingdom of Heaven rules on this earth, as it does in Heaven. Until then, we can learn lessons from these people and their greed. There are learning examples everywhere here.

3. God Can Use People For a Period of Time.
A person, even a ministry, might have started off 'right' with God but greed or vanity took over. So certain works, or even wonders, might have been sanctioned by God yet He later withdrew His Spirit. Because God has used a person to work one or more miracles in the past to accomplish His will, that does not mean that every one of those individuals were always right with God. Let us remember that though God gave the apostles power to "heal the sick" and "cast out demons" (Matthew 10:8; 17:21), one of these men turned out to be wrongly motivated, ultimately betraying Jesus for a sum of money (John 6:64-71).

I have read - and so have you - about men of faith who seemed to start off right but then seemed to go into vanity and a hunting for personal prestige. A few men of faith later sought unwise alliances with 'prosperity gospel' men and the sincerity of their ministry was ruined. It sometimes seems that the more people seek for prestige, power and influence the less God is with them. In the end, one is on his/her own.

4. They Were Simply Liars!
Many of those claiming great things in Matthew 7 are probably simply liars. Today ministries can claim many things but not be expected to produce real evidence of those things. In a big, spectacular financially-strong 'Christian ministry' window dressing alone can be very alluring and persuasive - especially to the more naive.

Robin A. Brace. January 23rd, 2016.