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Don't Test God

In May 2012 Mark Wolford died after handling a rattlesnake during service. He’d just turned 44 and he said, “It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good ‘ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers.” Yesterday I read about Jamie Coots who died Saturday after he was bitten by a snake and refused medical treatment. He’d previously survived a bite that cost him most of the middle finger on his right hand, not seeking medical attention then either, letting it rot to black before it finally broke off. It’s unfortunate the first incident didn’t serve as a gracious warning to stop what he was doing.

Maybe Mark and Jamie had really good intentions. Maybe they wanted to show their faith in God. Maybe they were trying to make God look good. Maybe they were trying to increase the faith of others. Maybe they were trying to convince people that God protects His children. Instead, they created tragic situations. Wives lost their husbands. Children lost their fathers. Parents lost their sons. People lost their friends. There can never be a good outcome when there’s at best a misunderstanding of Scripture, and at worst a twisting of it.

Jamie, Mark and others with the same beliefs base their actions on Mark 16:18 (and if you’re interested, here’s a great message by John MacArthur and an answer on GotQuestions.org  discussing Mark’s Gospel ending at verse 8, excluding this often misunderstood and misapplied verse). The only parallel situation in Scripture is when Paul was bitten by a snake and unharmed (Acts 28:3-5), but it would be wrong to look at that situation and believe it’s normative or prescriptive for us.

As much as Mark and Jamie’s deaths hurt those closest to them, the greatest tragedy is the shame their actions brought on Christ and His Church. Unbelievers look on and say, “Man, Christians are crazy.” When Mark died I remember the number of comments I saw criticizing Christianity, and with Jamie’s death the same is taking place. After David’s sins with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam 11) God told David, “By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Sam 12:14) and that’s what I think whenever I read about situations like this.

There are at least two errors at work in these situations:

  1. First, there’s a misunderstanding of Scripture. This goes all the way back to The Fall when the serpent tried to get Eve to question what God had – and hadn’t – said: “Did God really say…? (Gen 3:1). The devil has always wanted people to question and misinterpret God’s Word.
  2. Second, there’s a testing of God. Even if it’s under the guise of faith, you’ve got people trying to force God to act and submit to their will, instead of humbly submitting to His will.

Snakehandling

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4 thoughts on “Don't Test God

  1. Funny this should be brought up now – the Lord at work I guess. I just finished reading this last week and jotted down the scripture numbers because it was confusing to me. I asked Curtis what he thought about it last night and he was going to study it a bit and get back to me. It doesn’t make sense to me that Jesus would say you will know believers because they can and will do these things – cast out demons, handle serpents, drink poison, speak a language they don’t know and lay on hands to heal the sick – yet I have never seen a believer do any of these things except speak in tongues and heal the sick with prayer and the laying on of hands. Feeling a bit confused…

    1. Hi Mary,
      Cool timing!

      Great question/observation. I’ve never seen believers do any of those things either. Sure hope those aren’t the evidence of salvation or I’m not going to feel too confident about myself :).

      As you can tell from my post, I think the chapter should end at verse 8.

      There are other places in Scripture that tell us how we’ll “know” or recognize believers. For example, James 2:14-26 makes it clear believers have works in their lives as evidence of their faith. Of course I would say those works wouldn’t include handling poisonous snakes or drinking poison.

      Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruits of the Spirit, so it would be much more appropriate to say that if the Holy Spirit is present in someone’s life those fruit should be seen.

      Maybe the clearest verse is John 13:35 where Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

      1 John 5:13 says, “These things (referring to what John wrote previously in his letter) I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” So it also seems like John’s letter contains ways for us to know we’re believers.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Scott

      1. We discussed this for quite awhile tonight. Curtis and I both have a very hard time with saying the scriptures are infallible and then deciding part of it doesn’t belong. After reading the various articles about why the end of Mark doesn’t belong I can see that point of view and perhaps agree with it. However, Curtis is going the opposite direction. He believes Jesus’ words were directed at the apostles. The baptism mentioned would be one of fire from the Holy Sprit not of water and the signs and miracles would be performed by the apostles, not just anyone who believed. He understands it as Jesus giving them “what for” for not believing he was alive and commanding them to go out and perform these signs to prove to people they have been sent by the living Christ to make them believers. I guess it really doesn’t matter which view point is correct. I just worry that if we Christians start dissecting the bible it will give nonbelievers reason to not believe – why should they believe it if we don’t. I have chastised my Catholic sister for not believing the bible as written. She thinks all those stories about Noah and Jonah and such were made up to illustrate how God wants us to behave. I ask her how she decides which stories in the bible to believe. I would hate to think that could be thrown back in my face someday! So you can see I’m still a bit confused and I’m sure this conversation has only ended for this evening. I have no doubt we will be kicking this around for quite some time!

        1. Mary,
          There are wonderful Christians on both sides of the discussion about the end of Mark’s Gospel. It definitely wouldn’t fall into the area of “hills to die on.”

          If I believed those remaining should be part of Mark’s Gospel (and I’m not convinced they shouldn’t be), I would agree with Curtis about the words being directed at the apostles.

          I’m sorry for the confusion Mary. If you (and Curtis have time) you should listen to that message by John MacArthur; not so much because it discusses the end of Mark’s Gospel, but because of what it says about the infallibility of Scripture. I really hope you’ll listen to it. I think it will really, really encourage you and ease the concern/questions regarding Scripture’s infallibility as that’s the main point of the sermon.

          Scott

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