Mark 16:14-18 – “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” NKJV
My title question is a valid one and a question that I have received more varying answers than I could have imagined. Some take this passage and relegate parts of it to bygone eras, the disciples, and the 1st Century Church and yet include other portions as valid for today. Who makes that decision?
At what point in this passage did Jesus say, “This part is for now and this part will continue from generation to generation?” I have had some use or attempt to use 1 Corinthians 13:10 as their argument against anything miraculous or the operation of the gifts of the spirit today. It reads: “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part will be done away.” The assertion is that the recognized Bible fulfills that which is perfect and therefore many things are no longer valid or appropriate for today.
Hold on Nellie! Let’s back up a few verses in 1 Corinthians 13 to verse 8 and begin evaluating what the apostle said in its fullness. He said, “Love never fails…” I get that because love and God are eternal therefore if we are to experience, operate in, and demonstrate God we will have love present always. So far so good, right?
Then he says, “But whether there are prophecies, they will fail…” So, we toss prophecy out the window under this interpretation. Next, he says, “Whether there are tongues, they will cease…” The assertion is that tongues are not for today but what tongues are we talking about? Then we come to a major problem where the apostle says, “Whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away…”
I must ask, who is going to attempt to argue that knowledge has vanished? Wouldn’t that be counterintuitive because the Bible dispenses knowledge and is filled with instructions to seek knowledge? However, if we are to follow the interpretation to its logical conclusion, we toss knowledge out the window too. What are we left with? Love! Now, I would never argue that we would be better off with love as the driving force for our world but how can we conclude that is what God was talking about?
What do we do with James 5:13-18? “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. AND…”
I must caution that the “and” is important because the next words declare, “AND the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” The remainder of that passage we tend to receive and embrace when it suits our doctrinal view and interpretation but reject when it touches things we have relegated to bygone eras, or not seeing, or do not believe. Who decides which we can pick and choose?
The writer of Hebrews makes a powerful statement and one that is difficult to square with the view that we are to take some of God’s promises and directives as valid for today and relegate others to history. It says in Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” If He is and He is then we might need to reexamine what we contend is for not and what is not. Next, we discover 1 John 4:17 which speaks about perfected love and its power and then adds something spectacular, “…because as He is, so are we in this world.” As He IS, not was and not will be but AS HE IS, so are we in this not the next world?
I cannot help but ask why God would tell us to do something if He did not mean for us to do it? That, to me, is nonsensical and God is never nonsensical. Virtually all believers embrace, “Go into all the world and preach…” However, many have declared that only the 1st-century church had miracles because they needed miracles to establish the church.
Let me ask, “If miracles got people’s attention back then, why do we think they would do less today? If miracles opened doors for preaching the gospel, then why would it do less today?” I confess I do not want to pick up snakes and have no intention of doing so. However, I fully believe that if I were to, as happened to Paul, accidentally encounter one I could expect God to perform a miracle for me. Also, knowing that there is a literal side to this I am convinced there is also a spiritual aspect to the serpents and while the slithering critter is definitely in the scope interpretation, I believe demonic powers are as well and that old serpent, the devil and his crowd are also rendered powerless when we go in Jesus name.
Someone asked me if I believed in divine healing, and I quickly answered yes! I have personally experienced it in my own body. One occasion was when I broke the radial head in my right arm playing softball in a church league. I saw the X-rays and heard the reports of the doctors declaring that it was broken and depressed enough to require surgery. Ten days later, at my insistence X-rays were taken and the diagnosis was a perfectly healthy right arm was in the film. Bones do not heal in ten days naturally, but God healed mine.
I had parathyroid cancer and my doctor declared that what had transpired was a miracle and beyond medical possibility. I saw God heal my mother of a broken back where she was paralyzed. I have seen other miracles of healing. Then they asked, “Why is it that everyone doesn’t get healed?” Now, that is admittedly a perplexing question.
I have prayed for some who have not been healed, but that does not diminish my confidence in the Promise of God to Heal. Some people believe that those who are not healed do not have enough faith. If I believed that a person was not healed solely because I did not manifest enough faith, I would go into such depression or become so calloused.
I had an evangelist once say, “Well, they just didn’t have enough faith.” He absolved himself of any responsibility and blamed the person needing healing. I cannot square that with James 5, nor can I square it with many other passages of scripture. The truthful answer is, I Do Not Know! I believe in every promise God has given and understand that faith or the lack thereof is a part of any equation, but I also know that I am not God and some things I wrestle with and am not casually willing to just say, “Oh well, the providence of God” and absolve myself from responsibility. No, I want to continually seek God to be and become a person that walks in the fullness of His promises and follows His directives fully.
So, I choose to believe that if God says it, He means it! I choose to believe that if He is, and He is, the same yesterday, today, and forever then what He declared to the apostles He speaks to me today! You can agree or disagree, and I will leave it to you and God to sort it out. But, if you are sick, I will lay on of hands, anoint with oil, and pray and believe that the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous avails much.
God bless you as you enjoy all His blessings on this wonderful day!