"Andthese signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast outdevils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents;and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall layhands on the sick, and they shall recover." Mark16:17 and 18.
Mark 16:17 and 18 are probably two of the mostcontroversial verses in the entire Bible. Some use this passage as licenseand even a challenge to play with snakes in "worship services".Some use it as a commission to "divine healing," "speakingin tongues," and on and on. So far I've not known of anyone tryingto drink poison, but in this context of interpretation I don't know whynot, and won't be surprised if I hear of it.
There are other areas of error that I thinkare just as grievous. One of them is to deny the existence of this passagein the original scriptures, and the other is to ignore the preaching andteaching of it, as if it were not in the Bible. It is in the Bible and itmeans something. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to study and learn whatGod's message is in this passage.
There is the group or category of people whouse it to support questionable miracles. They have real problems. First,most of them choose their own miracle but don't feel obliged to do themall. Secondly, they are plagued with trial and failure, which is totallyinconsistent with basic Bible pattern.
The ultra-dispensationalist who says a changeis brought about in dispensation, and thus something that believers wereto do in that time, the same category of believers are not to do now, alsohas one basic problem. His dispensational "enlightenment" is inno wise a clear revelation from scripture, but must be established by cuttingthe scripture into little slices. This always leads to error.
In my opinion the answer to the problem, asin every case, is: (a) to realize that the Bible has something to say inevery passage, (b) to remember that every passage must agree with everyother passage when rightly interpreted, (c) to let it say just what it says,and (d) to study it carefully enough and long enough in the light of thewhole Bible to know what it says.
As usual our context will not leave us wondering,if we stay with it. Verse 20 says, "And they went forth and preachedeverywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word, with signsfollowing." Verse 17 says, signs shall follow. Verse 20 says, signsfollowed. We must conclude that verse 20 is a fulfillment of verse 17, buta question is then raised because verse 17 says, "Signs shall followthem that believe," while verse 20 is directly referring to thoseto whom the Lord spoke verse 19, and not all believers. Can they then bethe same people as the "believers" of verse 17? I am very surethat they are the same people exactly and exclusively. In other wordsthe believers of verse 17, who were to be followed by signs, were not allrecipients of the gospel, but those particular persons to whom the messageof verse 15 was committed. Simply moving back to verse 14 will helpto solidify this. We read in verse 14, "Afterward he appeared tothe eleven" What was the occasion of His appearance? It was twofold.First, He rebuked them for their unbelief, concerning His resurrection.His words to Thomas on this subject were as follows: "And be not faithless,but believing" (John 20:27). It was in direct relationship to the enjoinedfaith of verse 14, that the commission of verse 15 is given, and that themiracles of verse 17 and 8 are promised.
In Mark 10:1-8 and Luke 9:1-6 we find 12 mencalled and given supernatural (apostolic) powers. Please read it and understand.In Luke 10:1-9 we find seventy others being given similar powers. We thenfind the apostle Paul being designated the apostle to the Gentiles and giventhese powers. This is a total of 83 men. There is good Bible evidence,if you care to study through the book of Acts that Matthias, Philip, Stephen,Barnabas and Silas all were among this seventy. You will never find a singlerecord of any man in the New Testament performing a miracle except Jesusand men which Bible evidence would put within this eighty three.
There is another area of study that sheds muchlight on this subject, and corroborates the above thesis, and that is themeaning of the word believe, in this context. We must never build a doctrineon a single word or a word definition, but on the other hand, we must notassume that we understand a Bible verse, unless we know the meaning of thewords in the verse, and understand those words in their contextual definitions.This word believe in Mark 16:17 is the Greek word (pisteuo). Themeaning of the word according to Strongs Greek dictionary is as follows:To have faith (in, upon or with respect to a person or thing) i.e. tocredit; to entrust (especially one's spiritual well being to Christ): -believer,believe, commit (to trust) put in trust. In the context of this passagethe word means much more than simply to hear the gospel and believe it.It refers to those men whose lives were committed to that gospel. They hadreceived it, they were committed to it, and now their very lives were investedin it, but much more particularly it was committed to them. Theywere entrusted with it. In order to explain and give credibility to thisinterpretation, let me show you some other places where this Greek wordpisteuo is used and how it is translated. From each passage, I willcopy a clause or phrase and the word translated from pisteuo will be identifiedby bold faced print. Titus 1:3, "But hath in due times manifested hisword through preaching, which is committed unto me." - Luke16:11, "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon,who will commit to your trust the true riches?" John 2:24, "ButJesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,"- Rom 3:2, "Because that unto them were committed the oraclesof God." - I Cor. 9:17, "A dispensation of the gospel is committedto me". - Gal. 2:7, "The gospel of the uncircumcision was committedunto me," I Thes. 2:4, "But as we were allowed of God to be putin trust with the gospel, even so we speak". Every one of thesebold faced words are translated from the Greek word pisteuo, theidentical word translated believe in Mark 16:17. These are just a few examples.Many more could be given. Don't you see how very definitely this pointsto the commission to preach and the entrusting, to men, the gospel. Youcan also readily see how much more this corresponds with the account inNew Testament scripture, than does the snake handling activities of today.I am not trying to put anybody down, I am simply trying to get at and toteach Bible truth. I think the evidence that lies in this assures us thatthe believers of verse 17, are those spoken to in verse 14 and spoken ofin verse 20, and not all believers in general, as referred to in verse 16.
According to this passage they were to confirmthe word. Wherever miracles were performed in the New Testament they wereafter this fashion. They were never used to draw a crowd, promote a preacher,or for any of the basic purposes for which they are used today. You neverfind the apostles announcing or advertising them ahead of time. You neverfind them referring back to a miracle they performed. In fact, if my memoryserves me right, no New Testament writer records his own miracle. Thesemiracles were worked, by God, by their hands, to confirm the word. The indicationis usually that they had no previous intention of performing it, but wereunexpectedly led by God at the very moment.
It should also be noted that every single recordedgift of tongues followed or accompanied the preaching of the word by oneof these men, who were definitely given these apostolic gifts. Try to findin the New Testament an exception to these principles. You won't find it,in a single area except those "lying wonders" performed by theanti-christ and his co-workers.
Dear sign seeker, I speak to you in love. Thesesigns followed the early preachers of the word, confirming their message,while the revelation of the New Testament was being given. When the perfectword of God was complete those signs passed away. I Cor. 13:9 and 10. Iftoday you are still seeking signs, you are discounting the word of God,which records them as having been a perfectly sufficient confirmation. Faithcometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Faith whichmust be derived from more than that, cannot be saving faith. Read very carefullyLuke 16:24-31. May God bless you. Amen.