Succumbing to the Lie of the Snake
On Saturday, February 15, 2014 Pastor Jamie Coots was doing what he regularly did at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro, Kentucky - handling snakes. Another preacher, Cody Winn, reported:
The star of National Geographic's reality show Snake Salvation refused the help of ambulance attendants and went home, where he died a short time later.
Following Biblical Precedent?
So was Coots following the commands of Scripture and simply didn't have enough faith?
The passage snake handlers use is from Mark 16, where we read:
14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands onsick people, and they will get well."
To begin with, this is an often disputed passage, because the earliest, and therefore most reliable, manuscripts do not contain anything after verse 8.
Second, in context, Jesus was talking specifically to His eleven disciples, not all followers throughout history. After Jesus returned to heaven the disciples did heal the sick, drive out demons, raise the dead and speak in tongues. In Acts 28 we see an instance of Paul gathering brush. As he was putting the brush on a fire a viper was driven out by the heat and bit him. When the unbelievers he was with saw that he remained unharmed they decided that he was a god.
In the early days of Christianity, before the New Testament was written, miracles often took place to authenticate the fact that the disciples preaching the Gospel were from God. Once portions of the New Testament were written and future generations began preaching the Gospel, such miracles became less necessary. People could hear and read the Scriptures for themselves Hebrews 4:12 states:
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
What is most important is the Gospel message itself, not miracles such as surviving snake bites.
Finally, Jesus Himself has told us not to put God to the test, as these serpent-handlers are doing. In Matthew 4 Satan led Jesus to stand on the highest point of the temple, overlooking the city of Jerusalem:
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
It's easy to see this is exactly what the snake-handlers are doing.
So has this incident shown that the Bible is unreliable? Not in the least. Satan knows how to quote Scripture, and, unfortunately, the snake-handlers have been listening to him.