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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Should Biblical Churches Be Marked By Signs & Wonders? (Part Two)

In response to my post a few days ago, “Should  Biblical Churches Be Marked By Signs & Wonders?”, my good friend Lem has commented again as follows (my responses are in blue.)
Since you use the absence of the word “ALL” to interpret “them” in the verses of Mark 16:16-18, shall we do the same thing for hundreds of other bible verses that do not contain the word “ALL” in it?  If we first just look at the three verses mentioned in Mark.
Mark 16:15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18They 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.
If I were to apply the same method of interpretation to verse 15, I might be tempted to think that not ALL people should go into the world and preach the gospel, for the verse did not say: “And he said unto ALL of them”  OR “And he said unto them ALL” OR“ Go ye ALL into the world” OR “Go ALL of ye into the world”
If I were to apply it to verses 16 and 17, I would be tempted to interpret that Jesus did not use the word “Whosover” and used the word “He” (in verse 15) instead, AND therefore since “He” is more singular than “them” (plural in verse 17),  I would conclude that not ALL that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and not ALL that believeth NOT shall be damned. 
Why should the absence of ALL in verse 17 cause us to reduce the meaning of the word “them” to “not ALL”.  If we were to use the same rule of thumb to interpret all the other verses in the bible with the word “them”, I think we’d have some serious troubles.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12)
Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent (John 6:29)
While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. (John 12:36)
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; (John 17:20)
Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. (1 (Corinthians 14:22)
In all the verses above, I have always interpreted (and I’m pretty sure anyone you ask would do so to) the word “them” to mean “all inclusive”.
When I look at the verse in John 14:12, I’m led to interpret Mark 16:16-18 in the same light. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”            To me, greater works means more signs and miracles than what Jesus did.   (Are you sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He spoke these words, Lem?  To do this one justice, I’ll address this in another post.)In this verse, it clearly says “He that believeth”.  It is no different in meaning when this phrase is used in other verses such as:
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.  (Mark 16:16)
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)
Ok…so you’re probably wondering about what I think about God’s designation of functions and spiritual gifts in the church as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12. Yes, I agree that these verses would put those verses in Mark and John in perspective.

Hi Lem,  It is primarily because of I Cor.12 which teaches us clearly that not all believers have the gifts of tongues or healing etc that I believe we are to understand Mark 16 as I suggested earlier. But that is not the only reason. Other reasons for this are as follows:
(1) God cannot lie. (Titus 1:2)  Mark 16:17&18 is clearly a promise of God and, as I mentioned in my last post, God has kept every aspect of that promise.  However if we understand it to mean that He promised that all of those signs would follow every believer, then God is clearly a liar since all of those signs have clearly not followed every believer!  But since we know that God cannot lie, we know that to understand the text in that way is wrong!
(2)Mark 16:17,18 is not a conditional promise, i.e. it is not conditioned on any obedience or performance of believers.  If, for example, Jesus had said, “These signs shall follow them that believe who pray fervently enough and fast regularly enough”,  then we could conclude that if those signs don’t follow me then I’m just not praying fervently enough or fasting regularly enough!  But the fulfillment of that promise has absolutely nothing to do with us or our performance! It is entirely God’s responsibility!

Lem continued: However, if I was to take each one of these spiritual gifts, I’d have to honestly face the fact that most of what I’ve seen is not from God.

I know I’m getting off the topic, and it may appear like I’m judging. No, I believe, I’m discerning instead. Judging implies condemnation of others. Discernment implies knowing truth from falsehoods.

It’s relatively easy for man to imitate the gifts of teaching, helping people, managing and speaking in tongues, and these you see plenty of. In addition, even many of these are not from God (i.e. false teachers).

But miracles, gifts of healing and prophesying are not easy to imitate. Yes, the devil can do these things. But so can God. What am I saying? I just want to see more of God’s works (the glory of God) and not man’s works. That is all.
The third reason that I believe we must understand Mark 16:17,18 as I mentioned is…
(3) The dispersal of spiritual gifts (including the miraculous sign gifts) is according to the will of God (I Cor.12:11). If you or I were in charge of distributing spiritual gifts, we would likely do it quite differently, but God has not given either of us that responsibility. So rather than expressing our disappointment that God doesn’t do things the way we would like, our responsibility is to exercise faithfully the gift(s) which He has given to us.   Our eyes could be quite critical of the ears because “they just don’t see it!”  But God never intended that ears should see anything!  The ears could be critical of the eyes because “they just won’t listen!” But God never intended that eyes should hear anything!

But as the ears listen and communicate to the head all that they hear and as the eyes watch and report to the head all that they see, and as the nerves sense and report to the head all that they feel, and as all the muscles receive and obey the directions which the head sends to them….the body functions quite well!  So too, in the Body of Christ, we will only function in a healthy manner and edify the body if we fulfill the functions for which we have been uniquely fitted by God and obey the directions which the Head (the Lord Jesus) speaks to each one of us.
It is this that the apostles emphasized and that which I am seeking to emphasize on this blog….that the churches of which we form a part will only function in a biblical manner as we hear, acknowledge and obey apostolic traditions which have been passed down to us from the Head!

As always, your comments and responses are always encouraged and welcomed!


  1. Off course, I cannot put my head on the block that this is what Jesus meant. In fact, there are many verses I’m not sure about these days. That’s why I said I feel very unqualified or inadequate to debate these issues.

    However, ask any averaged Christian, and I’ll bet that’s the way people WOULD interpret the word “greater”. In fact you can look at Matthew Henry’s Commentary on John 14:12-14, and you’ll find this quote:

    1. Two things he (Jesus) assures them of:—
    (1.) That they should be enabled to do such works as he had done, and that they should have a more ample power for the doing of them than they had had when he first sent them forth, Matt. 10:8. Did Christ heal the sick, cleanse the leper, raise the dead? So should they. Did he convince and convert sinners, and draw multitudes to him? So should they. Though he should depart, the work should not cease, nor fall to the ground, but should be carried on as vigorously and successfully as ever; and it is still in the doing.

    (2.) That they should do greater works than these. [1.] In the kingdom of nature they should work greater miracles. No miracle is little, but some to our apprehension seem greater than others. Christ had healed with the hem of his garment, but Peter with his shadow (Acts 5:15), Paul by the handkerchief that had touched him, Acts 19:12. Christ wrought miracles for two or three years in one country, but his followers wrought miracles in his name for many ages in divers countries. You shall do greater works, if there be occasion, for the glory of God. The prayer of faith, if at any time it had been necessary, would have removed mountains. (End of Quote)

    What on earth would Jesus mean by “greater” to you then? Ok, you said you would address it in another post, so I’ll leave it.

    You seem to place so much emphasis on 1 Cor. 12 to negate the possibility of “all” signs mentioned in Mark 16: 17-18. Ok, let’s say it isn’t ALL. I must hasten to ask – do you even see just ONE sign? Have you heard anywhere on earth that just ONE GENUINE sign exists? I have only heard, but have never seen, and it’s usually in the third world countries. And if over there, why not here? And if not there, then Mark 16:17-18 would mean absolutely nothing to me.

    Why do you use 1 Cor 12 to negate, when there are other verses such as John 14:12 and Matthew 21:21 that seem to put Mark 16:17-18 in the positive?

    You also mention that Mark 16:17-18 is not a conditional promise, that it is not conditioned on any obedience or performance of believers. However Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29 seem to imply this that it is.

    In fact, why are you so negative, when I seem so positive (I’m just joking)?


  2. Hi Lem,
    Great to hear from you again. I trust most of the quesytions you have asked will be answered in my post today "Greater Works?"

    I sincerely hope that mine is not a negative approach at all but rather a biblical one which takes into account all that the scriptures teach!

    Your brother in Christ,