THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION
Larry Ray Hafley
From Illinois: "Mark 16:15-18-As the `Great Commission' was given to the 12 disciples and these signs in verses 17 & 18 were also given, do you possess any of these signs today?"
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; 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 lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mk. 16:15-18).
No, I do not possess power to perform any of the above signs and neither does any one else. Observe why this is true.
First, if these signs were to be possessed by all believers, all who do not possess them are unbelievers.
Secondly, if these signs were to be possessed by all believers, but not all believers were enabled to do them, the promise of Jesus failed.
But did Jesus promise that all who believed would be able to cast out devils, speak with new languages, take up serpents and drink deadly liquids without harm, and heal the sick? If he did so promise, either (1) one possesses these powers or else he is an unbeliever, or (2) Jesus' word was false since all believers do not possess them-as he allegedly promised. These conclusions apply with equal force to the saints of the first century. In the New Testament, not all the believers were able to perform these signs. Many thousands were converted (Acts 2:41; 4:4), yet only the apostles performed miracles for a time. "And many wonders and signs were done by the apostles" (Acts 2:43). "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 4:33). "And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people" (Acts 5:12). Not until the apostles laid their hands on the seven ministers do we find anyone performing miracles except the apostles (Acts 6:6, 8): In Acts 8:12, a large segment of the population of Samaria believed on the Lord, but ~ they were not immediately enabled to perform the signs of Mk. 16:17, 18. It was not until the apostles laid their hands on them that they "received the Holy Ghost."
Perhaps the most convincing proof that not all believers were able to work the signs of Mark 16 is the Corinthians.
1. All the Corinthians had been washed, sanctified, and justified "in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11).
2. All the Corinthians had been "baptized into one body" and all had been made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).
Now, if the promise in Mark 16 is to all believers, we shall expect to find all the Corinthians performing these signs, for they came behind in no gift (1 Cor. 1:7). But is this the case? No, they were not all able to heal; they were not all able to speak in languages (1 Cor. 12:29, 30); therefore, the promise of Jesus did not mean that every believer would be able to work the five signs. This is evidence that the apostles did not interpret Jesus' words to mean that all believers were to perform the five signs, so why should we do so?
If One, Why Not All?
Those who use Mark 16:17, 18, as proof that miracles are for believers today generally avoid taking up serpents and drinking poison. If one of the signs of Mark 16 is for all believers today, all of them must be. Who is it that claims the gift of tongues that will drink "any deadly thing?" Is there a group that claims the gift of healing who will handle a cuddly Cobra? If they did, it should not hurt them, but even if it did hurt them, they could have hands laid on them, and they would recover. Any one care to demonstrate their signs? "Thou bast tried them which say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars" (Rev. 2:2). Those who claim the signs will not agree to a test lest they be found liars. "Prove all things" (1 Thess. 5:21).
The signs of Mark 16 were to follow believers for a specified and limited period. Jesus told the apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. While they were fulfilling that charge, the signs were to follow them that believed. This work of preaching to every creature was accomplished in the lifetime of the apostles-"Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10:18). The gospel "was preached to every creature which is under heaven" (Col. 1:6, 23; Titus 2:11). The signs were to follow during the time necessary to proclaim the gospel to all the world. Mark says this is what occurred. "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following" (Mk. 16:19, 20). They were to preach everywhere. The signs were to follow. They preached everywhere, and the signs did follow (Cf. Acts 14:3; Heb. 3:4).
"But," someone asks, "if the signs were to be limited to the time when the gospel was being preached, why would not belief and baptism also be limited to the same period?" This question fails to distinguish between the gospel and the signs that confirmed the gospel. Belief and baptism are conditions of the gospel that must last as long as the gospel or as long as men sin and need to be saved. The Lord confirmed "the word with signs following." The word is one thing; the signs are another. The word with its conditions continues, but the signs have been done away.
We have shown that: (1) the promise of Jesus in Mk. 16:17, 18 did not extend to all believers even in the first century; (2) the promise of Jesus includes more than tongues and healing; (3.) the word was preached, and the signs confirming that word followed; (4) the word, the gospel, is to be separated from the signs; (5) the signs have ceased, consequently no man today possesses any of them.
Truth Magazine XIX: 44, pp. 690-691