Why did the Samaritan believers not receive the Holy Spirit upon believing in Acts 8?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Absolutely, Acts 8:14-17 is most unusual: “[14] Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: [15] Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: [16] (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) [17] Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”

Some today take these verses to teach that after we trust Christ, we must obtain a “second blessing.” They say there is a mysterious, hair-raising “Holy Ghost” encounter to be experienced after the moment of salvation. Others will even go so far as to say that the Holy Spirit does not always immediately come to the believer upon faith in the Gospel of Grace. We can avoid all this confusion and disagreement if we just handle the Book of Acts as God designed it.

The events in Acts are not the standard way God always dealt with anyone or even how He deals with us today. Never forget that Acts is a transitional Book. Anyone who reads it in its entirety can see how it begins one way (chapter 1) and ends totally different (chapter 28). Why? God is gradually moving from Israel’s prophetic program to our (the Body of Christ’s) mystery program. The Dispensation of Law is fading and the Dispensation of Grace is rising. As for Acts 8:14-17, it does not concern us. It has nothing to do with the Lord’s current dealings with man. Though it is terribly abused, we do not have to fear it. We can learn from it if we are willing to hear it!

In short, Acts 8:14-17 is proof that the Samaritans must submit to Jerusalem. Why is this reconciliation even necessary? Samaria—central/northern Israel—had broken away from Judah (and capital city Jerusalem) after King Solomon’s death. Over 900 years prior to Acts, Solomon’s idolatry brought about this second course of chastisement (Leviticus 26:18-20). Study carefully 1 Kings chapters 11–12. The Northern Kingdom (frequently called “Samaria” or “Ephraim”) forsook David’s royal line and formed new dynasties of kings. Those 10 northern tribes were ultimately taken into Assyrian Captivity circa 722 B.C. David’s house continued ruling the Southern Kingdom, Judah and Benjamin, until the Babylonian Captivity beginning in 606 B.C. The divided kingdom—Israel (north) and Judah (south)—will be reunited under the New Covenant.

Look at Ezekiel chapter 37, God prophesying of the day when Israel and Judah would both again be merged under the political authority of the house of David: “[15] The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, [16] Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and for all the house of Israel his companions: [17] And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. [18] And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these? [19] Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.

“[20] And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes. [21] And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: [22] And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all. [23] Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. [24] And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.” (Notice especially verses 22 and 24.)

Like the Jews, the Samaritans were descendants of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson (see John 4:4-6,12). However, the Samaritans were half Gentile by blood, the result of Jews and Assyrians intermarrying centuries before Christ. This explains the animosity between Jews and Samaritans that John chapter 4 highlights most vividly.

In Matthew chapter 10, when commissioning His 12 Apostles, the Lord Jesus said: “[5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The 12 Apostles were instructed not to preach to Gentiles—and that included Samaritans. Later, in light of the Holy Spirit being poured out in Acts chapter 2, Jesus changed those orders: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

With Acts chapter 8 opening, believing Jew Philip visits Samaria. He preaches Jesus Christ to them before Apostles Peter and John come from Jerusalem (pointing back to our opening passage and question). Philip preaching to Samaria is a rebuke to unbelieving Israel. Here, the despised Samaritans are trusting Jesus Christ and yet the full-blooded Jews are not! The Jews looked down upon the Samaritans because the Samaritans were part Gentile by blood. Samaritans being converted to Christ was God the Holy Spirit’s way of signaling to Israel that they—the full-blooded Jews—were most wretched (unbelieving).

Focus now on Acts 8:14: “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:….” Peter and John were Apostles of the Jerusalem Church. They were to be (and will be) the rulers of Israel in the ages to come (see Matthew 19:27-28). Israel here is the Northern and Southern Kingdoms reunited (the second course of chastisement reversed). All Jews—even the Samaritans—must surrender to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is “the city of the great King” (Matthew 5:35). The political revolt of the 10 northern tribes must be overturned. They will come back under the head of Jerusalem (the Davidic line). By the Samaritans allowing two of the chief Jerusalem Apostles to impart the Holy Spirit to them, the Samaritans demonstrate that they have returned to David. Here is a foretaste of the New Covenant, the agreement that will be inaugurated at Christ’s Second Coming (Acts 3:19-21; Romans 11:25-29; Hebrews 8:8-13; Hebrews 10:15-17; Ezekiel 36:21-38)!

Also see:
» Who will be Israel’s King in the Millennium—Jesus Christ or David?
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
» Could you explain Acts 19:1-7?

What about snake-handling?


by Shawn Brasseaux

“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” (Mark 16:18).

Friend, have you ever heard of handling venomous serpents in religious services? As you read in the above verse, the Holy Bible indeed mentions such a practice. Yet, should we participate in it? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Situated mostly in the “Appalachian” (eastern) and southeastern United States, roughly 100 snake-handling churches exist today on the North American continent. They are usually small assemblies with a Pentecostal or Charismatic background. A special room is maintained to keep the snakes until such “ceremonies.” Some practitioners say that snake-handling demonstrates one’s faith and salvation. Others believe it is necessary for salvation. Whatever the case, they all believe the “Holy Ghost” has come upon them and is now manifesting Himself. They supposedly express their faith in a literal interpretation of the Bible by picking up serpents. (Later, we will treat the Scripture verses to which they appeal.)

Obviously, such endeavors involve great risks. “Worshippers” will pet venomous vipers, hold them, let them slither across their bodies as they dance, sing, roll on the floor, jump, and perhaps “speak in tongues.” There are dozens upon dozens of documented reports of people dying from snakebites in such religious ceremonies. These injuries do not have to be fatal, as medical treatment can be sought. However, that treatment is often refused. They believe God will get them through the pain and help them survive, or He will take their life if it is their time to go. It is better to “do the will of God,” they say, than go to a hospital and receive anti-venom. One such minister, who died some years ago, was bitten nine times before a venomous snakebite killed him. He never once received any medical help and actually lost a part of a finger—then he ultimately lost his life!


Snake-handling religionists say that they “take the Bible literally.” At first glance, it seems they are correct. But, do they really follow the Bible literally? In the ensuing pages, we aim to evaluate that claim by examining the two passages they quote to defend their practice.

Their primary proof text, of course, is Mark chapter 16: “[16] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. [17] And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; [18] 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.”

Indeed, the Bible does say that the above miracles “shall” result. Notice the certainty—it is not “might” or “may,” as in maybe so and maybe not. These supernatural abilities “shall” (not “may” but “shall”) be given to “them that believe.” There is a 100% probability—no question!—that these events will occur. If we take the Bible literally, it does endorse casting out devils (evil spirits). If we interpret the Bible at face value, it does sanction speaking with new tongues (languages never formally learned). If we take the Bible at face value, giving it the literal meaning, it says people will take pick up snakes and not be harmed. If we take the Bible literally, people will drink “any deadly thing” (poison) and they should have no fear of dying. If we are believers in a literal Bible text, we know people will “lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (rather than die). What are we to do, then? Should we practice these things?

Friend, here is what we cannot do. We cannot deny the Word of God. The Bible speaks of exorcism in Mark chapter 16. It mentions speaking with “new tongues.” God’s Word says to “take up serpents.” It speaks of “drink any deadly thing” and “it shall not hurt them.” It supports physical healing—laying lands on the sick and them being cured. By this point, friend, you may find the Bible revolting. You might even want to throw it away completely! Would it surprise you then that some, to sidestep this most vexing passage, have actually argued (because they firmly believed) that Mark 16:9-20 does not belong in the Bible text? Indeed, such people exist… more than you and I realize!!


It is a sad commentary, but people have been trained to discard any Bible verses they do not understand. Here is an excellent case in point. Textual critics have influenced many to believe and claim that Mark 16:9-20 is not (!) inspired of God because it is “not in the two oldest and most reliable manuscripts.” Of the 600-plus surviving manuscripts that contain Mark, only two omit the passage in question—Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. How can two manuscripts overrule the testimony of 600-plus others? “Scholars” argue that those two are “the most ancient” manuscripts, preferred because they are assumed to be closer to the original writings of the Apostles. This, of course, is a faulty assumption for two reasons.

Firstly, the notion that “minority is best” is silly. If God’s intention was to use two manuscripts to preserve His Word, then why did the saints of old bother to make all the thousands of copies we presently have? Why do textual critics scrutinize 5,500-plus New Testament manuscripts when all they “need” (claim to need) are Vaticanus and Sinaiticus? By their own admission, those two manuscripts have tainted and divergent texts—and the blemishes and discrepancies are “settled” by appealing to other manuscripts. Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are not as reliable as they declare!!

Secondly, “oldest is best” means that alterations to the Bible text occurred long after it was written rather than immediately after. Such a claim is utterly foolish. False prophets and false teachers were conducting “ministries” while Jesus’ Apostles preached in the first century! It would be downright absurd to assume no one corrupted the Bible text until centuries later… especially since we have verses to prove there were Bible corrupters during the days of the Apostles!

Second Thessalonians 2:2 says, “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” Here is a false letter—someone forged it and pretended like Paul wrote it! Paul himself reminded us in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” Finally, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “[13] For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. [14] And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. [15] Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”


At this point, you sense that this author is advocating the retention (rather than the deletion) of Mark 16:9-20. We should not throw it away simply because two faulty manuscripts eliminate it. The Bible shows us that God the Holy Spirit will preserve His Word through a multiplicity of manuscript copies (Deuteronomy 17:18-20; Psalm 12:6-7; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; et cetera). We do not “re-construct” a “lost” Bible text using a few ancient manuscripts. This is where the textual critics are in their thinking, and it is nothing but human viewpoint. It is not how God views His Word, and it is not how we should understand it either.

Dear reader, maybe you think of this author as a “kook” or “nut” for claiming the bizarre passage of Mark 16:9-20 as inspired of God, genuine, and worthy of our faith as the rest of Scripture. If we keep it in the Bible, does that mean we have to practice its baptism for salvation, casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, drinking any deadly thing, and laying hands on the sick for them to recover?

Let it be known that this passage is actually a “Bible buffet” like none other—a “pick-and-choose” frenzy!!! You will never find someone doing all of verses 16-18, but only snippets. Most Protestants reject the baptism for salvation, but Roman Catholics and Catholic-sympathizing Protestants enjoy verse 16. Some people like to cast out devils and speak in gibberish today in religious services (verse 17). As noted earlier, an even smaller group of church members will pick up snakes (verse 18). Who drinks the poison and survives (verse 18)? Of course, a great number will grab the end of verse 18—lay hands on the sick to heal them. Mark 16:16-20 is not this either/or situation that Christendom has made it out to be. One or two sections of the passage should not be seized; all of it goes together, and all must be taken. All of it is valid at once and it all works exactly as the verses say.

If you have been following thus far, another question has been surely prompted. “Brother Shawn, if these verses are true, then why do people die while joining in ‘faith healing,’ why do they perish from snakebites, why do they lose their lives after drinking poison? Is this not contradictory to the Bible’s declarations? Does God not care to keep His people from such evils? Did He not promise to protect believers in Jesus Christ?” Dear friend, these are wonderful questions. As Bible believers, we have no need for embarrassment or disappointment. God’s Word has the answers. If we are truly willing to look in His Book with open hearts and minds, sincere in our quest, we will be inundated with a flood of illumination. Watch and see!


Whenever the verses do not work like they say they will, religionists dismiss the activity and dispel the awkwardness by declaring, “The sick person died because of a lack of faith! If he had faith in God, the snakebite would not have been fatal! She should have drunk that poison believing the Lord would protect her! It was just that person’s ‘time to go!’” As you can imagine, friend, these comments are but little comfort to grieving loved ones. Furthermore, such excuses draw the mockery and ire of Bible-haters and Christ-rejecters everywhere. Their response runs along the lines of: “Look at those ignorant hillbillies believing in their book of fairytales! We are people of logic and not blind superstition! Organized religion is the enemy of progress in our society! I abandoned the Bible years ago because of such nonsense! No thank you, I can do without that ‘Jesus’ they praise and worship with snakes and poison!”

How can the average Christian respond? Other than silence, there is a weak answer. They adopt the aforementioned view of the textual critics: “That passage of Mark 16:9-20 is not inspired of God, so it was not backed by the power of God anyway.” This position, while often assumed to be the “safe” one, just undermines the authority of the Bible. It further confuses the minds of the lost people mocking the Book they already hate! To take a negative view of Holy Scripture is to agree with them. As they see it, if Mark 16:9-20 is not of God, why bother to believe ANY of the Bible is? We want to be careful here, friends. Be quite careful here. The Gospel of Grace is in jeopardy.

Mark 16:9-20 belongs in the Bible text, but that still leaves us with a problem. Suppose you take the verse of snake-handling as your own, and you have full confidence in God’s Word—“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them…” (Mark 16:18). So, you take up a rattlesnake, you let it slither on your body, and then it strikes you, sinking its fangs deep into your skin. As you collapse to the floor, the venom coursing through your veins, you cry out with your last breath, “Oh, God, You said nothing would happen! I trusted Your Word and you failed me!” You die.

Any Bible skeptics observing the above situation have all the “proof” they need (they believe) to show “God” is nothing but a figment of our imagination. Snickering, they shake their heads. “Me? Believe the Bible? Never in a million years!” For the rest of their lives, they carry the memory of this appalling experience with them. They venture out on a perpetual crusade, shouting at every Bible-believer, “Go away! What foolishness your Christianity is! Let me tell you about that snake-handling episode I witnessed….” What is saddest of all is that they have been just as deceived as the snake-handlers—confusing Christianity with religion—and now they go around confusing millions of others. More and more people grow opposed to Scripture, all because of misunderstandings.


Does the existence of a passage in God’s Word automatically necessitate that we follow it as though it is applicable to us? To wit, can we be Scriptural (follow the Bible) and not do God’s will? Indeed, friend, we can. How dangerous it is to mishandle God’s Word! If we isolate Mark 16:18, we can say, “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.” Yes, that is what the Bible says, so now let us go do that! Hold on just a second. There is another verse we should look at first.

“Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” (Genesis 6:14). Friend, God says to go and build a giant boat of gopher wood. Man did not say that—GOD said it! When are you going to follow the Bible as it reads here? If you have any common sense at all, you would say, “Brother Shawn, God did not tell me to built that boat. God told Noah to build it.” You would be right, my friend. How silly of this author to grab a verse out of context! Maybe he should have read verse 13 first? “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” Yes, you are correct. This author was wrong. A Bible verse is not necessarily written to us to follow.

You ask any snake handler, faith healer, or poison drinker if they follow Genesis 6:14 and they will laugh at you. They would be justified in finding levity in the matter, too. However, they are manifesting inconsistency. They refuse to take Noah’s verse as their own but they will steal Israel’s verse! They laugh at one instance of folly yet claim another for themselves! Such is the madness of religion, dear friend, the subtlety of Satan’s policy of evil and the deception of human emotions. Not only must we use the Bible, we must also rightly divide the Bible. It is most hazardous to be Scriptural and not also be dispensational.

Whether you recognized it or not, friend, you just rightly divided the Word of Truth! Instead of trying to follow Genesis 6:14, you knew God was speaking to Noah. You understood God was not addressing you. The LORD God gave Noah some information to believe and act in accordance with, but that was God’s Word to Noah. This is a simple illustration of the heart of dispensational Bible study. Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” When we “rightly divide” the Bible, we recognize distinctions God has made in His Word. It is important to see that God says different things to different people at different times in history. The Bible is a progression revelation; more information is disclosed as time passes.

The most fundamental right division that God has made in His Word—and we would do extremely well to recognize it—is between prophecy and mystery. We need to compare two verses to begin to comprehend how God has set up the Holy Bible. We will look at Acts 3:21 and Romans 16:25.

Acts 3:19-21: “[19] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: [21] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

This is the Apostle Peter preaching to the nation Israel. It is what the Bible calls “prophecy”—defined as that “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” When God created man and commissioned him to function on the Earth, Adam was given revelation as pertaining to God’s earthly purpose. Notice Matthew 25:34: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:….” Since man’s creation, God has endeavored to establish His kingdom on the Earth. When Adam sinned, sided with Satan (the Devil), mankind became God’s enemy. Once the nations rebelled against God at the Tower of Babel, He responded by forming the nation Israel (Genesis chapter 12). Israel is the means whereby God will have an earthly people, individuals who can then accomplish His will on the Earth.

Now, we will look at another passage of Scripture. Turning to Romans 16:25-26, we read: “[25] Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, [26] But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:….”

In addition to prophecy, we have something in Scripture called “the mystery.” While God was unveiling prophetic information, He was simultaneously withholding mystery information. He never told anyone that secret until a certain point in time in the Bible. In Acts chapter 9, He began to show that secret to man. This event was the salvation and commission of the Apostle Paul. Paul thus wrote Romans 16:25-26—“the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now [as in Paul’s ministry] is made manifest.”

As we already discussed, God instituted the prophetic program to concentrate on establishing His earthly kingdom. However, what about Heaven? After all, Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” There is more to creation than Earth, so what is God’s method for establishing His kingdom in the heavenly places? We know nothing about that until we come to Paul’s apostleship. In Pauline doctrine, God reveals the secret of His will—how He will gather all governmental authority in His Son Jesus Christ, not just on Earth (prophecy), but also in the Heavenly Places (mystery). Paul’s books, Romans through Philemon, speak of God’s heavenly people. This group is called the Church the Body of Christ. We would do well to read summary verses.

Ephesians 1:9-10: “[9] [Father God] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:….”

Colossians 1:16-20: “[16] For by him [Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [17] And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [19] For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; [20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”

As Peter addressed the nation Israel (Acts 3:19-21), so Paul addressed the Gentiles or all nations. Romans 11:13 says, “For I [Paul] speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:….” What happened to God’s earthly program with Israel? Will He ever bring it to fulfillment? Is it abrogated forever because Israel crucified Christ? Have we replaced Israel? What is God doing today? Paul’s ministry and writings, Romans through Philemon, provide detailed answers. We have no reason to be ignorant, and yet that is exactly where most church members are today. They have not used the Bible rightly divided, and thus split off into thousands of opposing sects, denominations, factions. Immense spiritual darkness covers their hearts and minds. It is like they have no Bible, no revelation from God, at all!

Now, let us return to our previous comments about God’s earthly kingdom. The Bible says, “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22). In other words, God uses miraculous demonstrations—signs and wonders—to teach Israel various and sundry lessons (doctrine). When the Lord Jesus Christ showed up in the Books of Matthew through John, His earthly ministry, He had come to convert idolatrous, deceived Israel to Father God. Jesus was Israel’s long-promised King, so the good news God had for Israel was aptly termed “the Gospel of the Kingdom.”

Matthew 3:1-2: “[1] In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, [2] And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 9:35: “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”

Matthew 10:5-8: “[5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [8] Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Luke 8:1: “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,….”

The common theme in the above verses is, obviously, “the Gospel of the Kingdom,” but also miracles that confirm that message being preached. To demonstrate that God’s earthly kingdom was within Israel’s grasp, the signs of that kingdom were unmistakably evident. There would be no devil possession in the earthly kingdom of God (Zechariah 13:1-2); therefore, Jesus and His Apostles cast out evil spirits. There would be no bodily illness in the earthly kingdom of God (Isaiah 35:3-6); consequently, Jesus and His Apostles performed healing miracles. These were “the powers of the world to come,” Hebrews 6:5 remarks. Such “gifts of the Holy Ghost” signified that God’s earthly kingdom, “the world to come,” was near (Hebrews 2:3-5). Israel could have entered by faith in Jesus Christ!

All this was said—and yes, this author understands, it is a lot—simply to bring us back to Mark 16:16-20. The background has been painstakingly laid (thank you for your patience, dear reader), so now we can notice and better understand the context of the passage under consideration. Verse 15 is the context, so we need to begin there. Jumping in at verse 16, 17, or 18 is completely unwise!!

Mark 16:15-20: “[15] And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. [16] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. [17] And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; [18] 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. [19] So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. [20] And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”

Verse 15 introduces this whole section as involving the preaching of “the gospel.” What is that Gospel message? Is it the Gospel of Grace that we preach today, as commonly assumed? No! Just days earlier, the Lord Jesus spoke of this gospel of the kingdom” in Matthew 24:14—“this” is a highly important word. The signs and wonders of Mark chapter 16 do not apply to our Gospel. It applies to “the gospel of the kingdom”—if, if, and I know that is a big if!!!—we believe the Bible instead of blindly following religious tradition. Look at the close of Mark chapter 16: “[20] And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” Does this not sound like what we were just discussing about validating the Gospel of the Kingdom? Indeed, it does! Do you see, friend, how the Bible just flows together so beautifully when we rightly divide it, comparing Scripture with Scripture, and keep religious tomfoolery and church tradition out of it?

Some argue that there is not one instance of snake-handling in Scripture (this, other than their “oldest is best” textual argument previously mentioned, is their “strongest” reason for rejecting Mark 16:18). While it is true that no Apostles ever took up venomous serpents to “worship God,” there is an interesting account in the Bible of a deadly viper attacking Paul and it not harming him. This is the second proof text of today’s snake-handling crowd, so it behooves us to examine it now.

Acts chapter 28: “[1] And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. [2] And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. [3] And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. [4] And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. [5] And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. [6] Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”

It may help if you re-read that lengthy excerpt, dear friend. What was Paul doing? Was he handling snakes while singing hymns and dancing around that campfire? Of course not! He was gathering wood for the fire, and, without warning, a snake lashed out at him and bit him. This is certainly not like the serpent-handling of modern religion. Paul was not playing around with snakes to “praise God.” He was not seeking injury or deliberately attempting to put himself in harm’s way as fools do in religion today. Now, that may sound harsh, but it must be said. Today’s snake-handling is just plain foolishness.

There is no one operating in faith with snake-handling today. It is not the God of the Bible working. The Spirit of God will only do what the Word of God says, and the Word of God says the Holy Spirit is not doing this today. Such abilities have no relation to us the Church the Body of Christ. We are not waiting for the earthly kingdom of God. We are not looking for the signs of the coming kingdom on Earth. We are not preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. Hence, we never read in Paul’s epistles (Romans through Philemon) about laying hands on the sick, casting out devils, and picking up venomous serpents. They are signs of Israel’s kingdom program, and that program is temporarily suspended while God is dealing with us in the Dispensation of Grace. Read Romans chapters 9-11 for all the details. Also see our “Can you explain Paul’s ‘Acts’ ministry?” article linked at the end of this study.)

So, you probably want to ask another question: “Brother Shawn, what is the explanation for what snake-handlers are doing today? If it is not God the Holy Spirit, then who or what is behind such a practice?” Such people feel an adrenaline rush, an emotional high, and they misinterpret it as the Holy Spirit of God coming upon them. “His presence” is actually nothing but deceptive emotions completely out of control! We naturally fear wild and dangerous creatures, and our bodies react by producing adrenaline (which “stirs us up” to fight or take flight!). Moreover, religion can have an extremely powerful influence over our hearts and minds, just as alcoholic beverages (Revelation 17:2). Therefore, we have to constantly (daily) stay in the Bible rightly divided. It guards our minds and hearts against Satan’s policy of evil. Do not forget, you can follow God’s Word and be completely out of God’s will. Not only do we use and quote the Bible, we use and quote the Bible rightly divided!

In addition, here is something else to consider about Acts chapter 28. Notice how the Holy Spirit is careful to write in verse 6 that there was not so much as swelling on Paul’s body. Not only did he not die, there was absolutely no indication he was even bitten!! He did not cry out in pain or fall to the ground. You look at snake-handling religionists’ bodies today, friend, and you see various scars. Some have permanent bodily impairment—missing or deformed fingers, limited hand dexterity, and so on. (And, of course, you can find them in the cemetery as well!!) They speak of suffering “excruciating” pain. One such minister claimed he hoped to never die in such a horrible manner. He eventually died from… of all things… a fatal snakebite!

Okay, so we understand that Mark chapter 16 is indeed God’s Word, but it is not God’s Word to or about us. What do we do now? Is there any hope in understanding this mysterious passage as it relates to Israel’s program? Will anyone ever successfully/safely practice the snake-handling passage of the Bible? Yes! (Just not us, and just not today!)


The operating system of Israel’s program is the Mosaic Law (also called the Old Covenant). If Israel disobeyed God’s Word, she would be punished. He would use hardship to try to correct her misbehavior. Leviticus chapter 26 details those curses or chastisements. Notice: “[21] And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. [22] I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate. [23] And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; [24] Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.”

Did you catch verse 22? What will the LORD God do to rebellious Israel? Will He not send wild animals to attack and kill them? Yes, He will. As an illustration, read 2 Kings chapter 2: “[23] And he [Elisha the Prophet] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. [24] And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. [25] And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.” These young people mocked JEHOVAH God’s messenger, and so the LORD God introduced a new phase of intensified judgment (the chastisement phase described in Leviticus 26:22).

Numbers chapter 21 speaks of God judging Israel for her unbelief and wickedness: “[5] And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. [6] And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. [7] Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. [8] And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. [9] And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Paul’s commentary in 1 Corinthians 10:9 summarizes—“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.”)

Before the Lord Jesus Christ ever spoke of those serpents in Mark chapter 16, God had already judged Israel with wild beasts—including venomous snakes. He used His creation, the animal kingdom, to punish the faithless, idolatrous Jews. Notice now Jeremiah 8:17: “For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.” Remember, God sent literal snakes to kill rebels amongst the Jews in Moses’ day, and Jeremiah says it will happen once more.

As we look beyond our Dispensation of Grace, friend, to when Israel’s program resumes, God must finish Israel’s stages of punishment. The curses of Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28 will be brought to the full, and then God will cause all these times of suffering to disappear with the Second Coming of Christ. Israel, believing Israel, will be blessed of God as they enter His earthly kingdom. Unbelievers will be consumed in His wrath, but Israel’s believing remnant will survive!

The Apostle John provides the final piece of the “snake-handling” puzzle. We read in chapter 6 of the Book of the Revelation, yet future from us: “[7] And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. [8] And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Notice the wild beasts are consuming humans like never before. Unbelievers will perish. However, believing Israel will physically survive because God has promised them victory over serpents (and, by extension, all harmful creatures). Mark 16:15-20 is part of the Divine commission that Israel will follow in the end-times. Friend, it has nothing to do with us! Remember, dispensational Bible study! Notice the audience of the passage before you claim the passage as your own!! This is taking the Bible literally!

By the way, before we summarize and conclude, let us listen to Exodus chapter 4: “[1] And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. [2] And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. [3] And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. [4] And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: [5] That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.”

Snake-handling was one of the signs the LORD God gave Moses the ability to perform to convince unbelieving Israel. If you continue reading the passage, the second was the miracle of physical healing (verses 6-7—another Israeli kingdom sign, remember!!). Snake-handling symbolizes spiritual deliverance, exorcism (casting out devils—Satan is a snake or deceitful being in character, as Genesis 3:1, 2 Corinthians 11:3, and Revelation 20:2 show). No matter what Satan would do, God would ultimately deliver Israel from Satan’s grip. This was the purpose of Moses’ snake swallowing up the snakes Egypt’s satanic magicians had “conjured” (Exodus 7:10-13). Israel will have similar victory in the end-times, freedom from Satan’s control. The snake will harm the unbelievers, but Israel’s believing remnant will survive!


Particularly in the southeastern United States, one will discover small religious groups that participate in snake-handling ceremonies. Why this extreme behavior? Is it Scriptural to handle venomous vipers with the understanding that they will not harm us? What are we to believe if deadly snakes do strike and kill Christians?

If you follow religious news, you will occasionally find an article about an individual who has died at church because of a snakebite. This person was said to be “weak in faith.” Had he or she believed God when holding the snake, the snake would not have bitten. While we should certainly take the Bible literally—as we do any book, right?—there is a second key to keep in mind when approaching the Scriptures. We have to be very careful to look at contexts. If we take the Bible literally when it endorses snake-handling, should we not also take it literally when it says such a practice is not given to or about us members of the Church the Body of Christ?! We cannot claim a passage in “faith” when faith is also believing the passage when it says we are not its audience! Mark 16:15-20 is all about the Gospel of the Kingdom; it has absolutely nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with Israel during the end-times.

First Corinthians chapter 14: “[37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” In snake-handling circles, “the Holy Ghost takes control of them.” It is all about “feelings.” Yet, if the Holy Spirit were truly leading them, they would listen to these verses that the Holy Spirit penned! Paul is our apostle (Romans 11:13), and God through him commands us no such things about handling snakes, drinking poison, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils, water baptizing, and so on.

The test for spirituality today in this the Dispensation of Grace is not whether or not one handles venomous snakes, speaks in tongues, drinks poison, heals the sick, raises the dead, or even keeps the Saturday Sabbath. According to the Holy Spirit (see verses above), spirituality today is measured according to whether or not an individual pays attention to Pauline revelation. The Lord Jesus Christ committed to Paul the Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 3:1-2), so it naturally follows that the Spirit of God would lead us to listen to the words He spoke to us in the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. Again, there is nothing in Pauline revelation about taking up venomous snakes. Such instructions have a special place on the Bible timeline (future from us). When we “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we recognize that those directions do not apply to our time. Friend, right division is literally a life-or-death situation in this case. Playing with harmful snakes may be fatal… and we will die such a painful death while quoting Scripture!!

Also see:
» Does Mark 16:18 teach that chemotherapy will not harm us?
» Should I speak in tongues?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?

Can you explain 1 Corinthians 14:36?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Why is 1 Corinthians 14:36 part of Scripture? Notice what it says: “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” It is best to look at this verse by pairing it with the next two: “[37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

Paul the Apostle—or rather the Holy Spirit through Paul—is concluding a three-chapter discussion of spiritual gifts. Chapter 12, verse 1, had already introduced it: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”

The Corinthians have been led to believe that experiences and emotions are the validating criteria of spiritual truth. In other words, they are the Charismatics of today. They are abusing spiritual gifts, although they believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding them. Actually, their sinful flesh is operating in Corinth, not the Spirit of God. The Corinthians are immature in their thinking and behavior. “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Corinthians 14:20). “[1] And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. [2] I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. [3] For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Chapters 12–14 are thus written to correct the thinking of these “ignorant brethren.” After thoroughly outlining the operation of the spiritual gifts (chapter 12), and their temporary nature (chapter 13), the Holy Spirit takes much time and space in chapter 14 to address two particular issues. The Corinthians are ignoring the gift of prophesying (preaching) and focusing almost entirely on the gift of tongues. As that final chapter of the “spiritual gifts” section winds down, we come across some summary verses.

“[36] What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? [37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

This passage underscores the issue of authority. Who is the authority in Corinth? Is it the Greek philosophers that have misled these saints? Or, is it the women who are trying to take control? Perhaps the tongues-speakers are the authority? Those with the supernatural experiences and wild emotions? None of them! The authority is the Word of God, the Holy Bible.

“What? came the word of God out from you?” This rhetorical question is intended to make the Corinthians think. Did they originate God’s Word? No, Paul brought God’s Word to them (Acts chapter 18). They are not the authority; therefore, they need to pay attention to God’s Word here and reform!

“Or came it unto you only?” God’s Word did not come to them only. They were not the issue. The emphasis should not be on them, and yet they have been using spiritual gifts to draw attention to themselves. God’s Word is for the benefit of everyone, not just a select few who exercise “showy” spiritual gifts. They need to stop being so selfish and fleshly.

“If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” If someone is speaking on God’s behalf (“prophet”), if someone is led by the Holy Spirit (“spiritual”), then he or she will listen to the inspired words of the Apostle Paul here. These are not Paul’s opinions; they are “the commandments of the Lord.” To refuse the advice in 1 Corinthians 12–14 is to snub God’s instructions!

Paul is God’s spokesman to us Gentiles, “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). The Lord Jesus Christ directly selected him to be His speaker to us. Paul alone has been granted apostolic authority that we may know the things of God as pertaining to us outside of the nation Israel and her prophetic/earthly program. What is the Dispensation of the Grace of God to us? What about the mystery program and God’s purpose and plan for the heavenly places? What is God’s will for the Church the Body of Christ? We apprehend this information by listening to the Holy Spirit’s words found in the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward” (Ephesians 3:1-2).

“But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Verse 38 is a stinging reproof. Although these three chapters of 1 Corinthians 12–14 were supplied to defeat spiritual ignorance, some Christians would still refuse to listen. They would choose to remain uninformed in order to continue doing what they wanted to do. To wit, they had already decided to keep their vain religion, and would not be persuaded—even by God Himself! They would keep claiming for themselves the authority that Almighty God had given to the Apostle Paul. Millions of Christians are like this even today. Once they see dispensational Bible study, they avoid it because it threatens their denominational system. So as to retain their preconceived theological traditions, they willfully ignore Paul’s apostleship. If they refuse to listen to us as we gently and lovingly guide them in the Scriptures rightly divided, the Bible says we need to leave them alone. There are plenty of other people for us to reach!

Also see:
» What is 1 Corinthians 12:3 talking about?
» Why do people get angry when we share right division?
» Must one be a “King James Bible Pauline dispensationalist” to have eternal life?

What is 1 Corinthians 12:3 talking about?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible opens 1 Corinthians chapter 12 with the following: “[1] Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. [2] Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. [3] Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” What exactly is verse 3 talking about? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Remember, the context is “spiritual gifts” (verse 1). In fact, chapters 12 through 14 cover the operation and abuse of spiritual gifts, various special capacities the Holy Spirit gave the early Christians. Verse 2 of chapter 12 here speaks of “dumb idols”—idols that do not have the ability to speak. These dead idols, because of satanic deception in pagan religion, were believed to communicate “divine” words to their worshippers (Psalm 115:4-8; Psalm 135:15-18; Habakkuk 2:18-19).

Now we get to verse 3, the passage under discussion: “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Ghost through the Apostle Paul issues some understanding as related to “speaking” in religion. Actually, the theme is speaking in tongues (dealt with extensively in chapter 14—although chapter 12 here briefly touches on it in verses 10, 28, and 30—chapter 13 references tongues in verses 1 and 8).

While it is often claimed that speaking in tongues is strictly a Christian practice—supposedly “the initial evidence of the baptism with the Holy Ghost”—this is really a misconception. For instance, the heathen (spiritually-darkened, satanically-inspired Gentiles!) of the Old Testament had their own “ecstatic utterances,” “heavenly languages,” “private prayer languages.” The God of the Bible had absolutely nothing to do with these phenomena. Consequently, we cannot automatically assume a modern-day episode of “speaking in tongues” is the work of God the Holy Spirit.

Turn to Isaiah chapter 8: “[19] And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? [20] To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” This “peeping and muttering” involved various guttural sounds, chirping (yes, like a bird), high-pitched (but barely audible) utterances, incantations that supposedly summoned the dead. God told the nation Israel to go “to the law and to the testimony”—the Law of Moses, the Word of God, is the standard. If Israel encountered any “peeping and muttering” in religious circles, she was to ignore the “speaking phenomena” and listen to the Word of God. Satan was attempting to corrupt her with witchcraft, devil worship, necromancy, et cetera. The Bible was to take preeminence over the experience!!

It was this “peeping and muttering” religious system out of which the Corinthians came. Back to 1 Corinthians 12:2 for the proof: “Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.” The only reason these idols are said to be “dumb” is to emphasize the fact that they are mute; they cannot talk! Many commentators, though, have no idea how to handle verse 3: “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” Dear friend, as long as we keep verse 2 in mind, verse 3 is ever so easy to grasp.

The Corinthians had allowed various religious experiences, supernatural encounters, and emotional highs, to distract and entertain them. You can see this dominate the Charismatic Movement today. The authority in that system is not the Holy Bible, sound Bible doctrine. It is all about emotions and experiences. They “felt” a certain way (warm, fuzzy feelings; great love; inexplicable peace; and/or abundant joy) and/or they “saw” a certain event (miracle healing, vision, dream, angelic appearance, speaking in tongues), and this caused them to believe it must be from the God of the Bible. Scripture means nothing to them—unless it teaches something they want to teach or do. They completely disregard verses that are contrary to their claims. Indeed, they may be sincere or kind people, but remember Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” No what they say, or believe, they are deceived! Their emotions have misled them! The experience is their authority, not the Bible. Such dangerous ground on which they tread!

“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” In 1 Corinthians 12:3, the Holy Spirit urges the saints at Corinth to look beyond experiences because they are not the final authority. We gauge whether or not the God of the Bible is involved with a particular system or activity by looking at its underlying doctrine. In other words, it does not matter what the phenomenon is, it must align with the Word of God rightly divided. Again, this is not something new with the Apostle Paul. Remember, we can find the idea in the Old Testament. Isaiah the Prophet spoke of it; Moses talked about it as well.

Deuteronomy chapter 13: “[1] If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, [2] And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; [3] Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. [4] Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. [5] And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.”

The LORD God warned Israel to be extremely careful concerning people who would perform miracles, claim to have supernatural dreams, or say they had received a supposed “word from God.” No matter what the experience was, if the message being taught did not conform to the Mosaic Law, the experience was from Satan and thus Israel was to ignore that person. Yea, rather, God Himself commanded Israel to execute that false prophet by stoning! When you think about it, such a procedure would rid us quite quickly of today’s false teachers! The standard is not the miraculous or supernatural experience, but the Holy Bible. This is what God is teaching in 1 Corinthians 12:3; the verse is a test to expose false teachers. Speaking in tongues alone does not automatically validate it as the work of the Holy Spirit. The message is what matters most. What is being communicated by the speaking in tongues?


“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3). When the tongue speaker was talking, was Jesus said to be accursed (separated) or was He said to be Lord? That is, was He being slandered/criticized or praised/glorified? What is most important is the doctrine being conveyed, rather than the experience itself. The Holy Spirit will never lead someone to say in tongues that Jesus is accursed, but the Holy Spirit will lead someone to say in tongues Jesus is the Lord. Again, speaking in tongues alone was not necessarily validation! The message is what mattered, and if it did not agree with God’s Word through the Apostle Paul, it was false. Some people in Corinth “speaking in tongues” were frauds, pretenders (like “tongue-speakers” of today). If Jesus was being accursed, spoken evil of, the charlatan “tongue-speakers” were exposed!


By the way, as for the gift of tongues operating today, the answer is no. Tongues was a temporary spiritual gift operating during the Acts period. It ceased when Paul’s provoking ministry to Israel ended (Acts closed), when the Bible canon was completed.

First Corinthians chapter 13 says: “[8] Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. [11] When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. [12] For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. [13] And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

Spiritual gifts were temporary; they were not meant to last forever. When they were operating, God laid out guidelines that were to be followed concerning their exercising (see 1 Corinthians chapter 14—below). God wanted them to focus on the message rather than on the experience. No matter how enjoyable the experience was—awesome, appealing, fascinating, exciting—the words said were most important. If the message could not be understood, then there was no way to ascertain a meaning. It was false, Satan’s counterfeit. If it were gibberish or inaudible sounds (like today), it would profit nobody. There is no edification, no spiritual enlightenment, and no understanding imparted. No sound Bible doctrine is being communicated. It is nothing but a satanic mockery of God’s ministry.

First Corinthians chapter 14: “[1] Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. [2] For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. [3] But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. [4] He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. [5] I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

“[6] Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? [7] And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? [8] For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? [9] So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. [10] There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

“[11] Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian [foreigner], and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian [foreigner] unto me. [12] Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. [13] Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. [14] For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

“[15] What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. [16] Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? [17] For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.”

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Also see:
» Should I speak (or pray) in tongues?
» What about modern “faith healing?”
» What is the “that which is perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10?

Does Mark 16:18 teach that chemotherapy will not harm us?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Recently, a friend who claims to have the “spiritual gift of healing” was telling me that Christians battling cancer could withstand the effects of chemotherapy because the Bible says we can drink any deadly thing and it will not hurt us. She cited Mark 16:18: “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.” We can endure cancer treatments because no deadly thing can harm us? Is that really what the verse is teaching?

The above scenario is just another example of the deception and confusion in the Charismatic Movement. There is no logic or sound Bible thinking in this religious system. Firstly, if God were still operating the gift of healing (which He is not), then why do we have cancer threatening our lives in the first place? Before we claim the “drink any deadly thing” as referring to chemotherapy, we need to read the whole verse. “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.” If the “drinking any deadly thing” part of the verse is to be claimed, why not also follow the “lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” portion? See, we are following bits and pieces of verses, not entire verses. If God has given us the ability to heal the sick, including those stricken with cancer, why do they have to endure the poison of chemotherapy at all? Would not their cancer be healed, and be totally nondependent upon drugs anyway? It does not make any sense; it is nothing but a terrible mishandling of the Scriptures.

Secondly, the verse says that “drinking” deadly things will not harm Jesus’ audience. Chemotherapy does not necessarily involve drinking anything. The drugs can be administered on the skin, as an injection, or as an infusion. According to the United States National Cancer Institute, chemotherapy is: “Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, or infusion, or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or biologic therapy.” In that case, if you have the gift of healing, chemotherapy is totally unnecessary! (Dear friends, you can only fake it so long before reality catches up with you.)

The Lord Jesus Christ spoke of “drinking any deadly thing” in light of a future period. Mark chapter 16 is the commission Israel’s Little Flock will carry out during the seven-year Tribulation. These various signs and wonders are not to or about us as members of the Church the Body of Christ. “The Jews require a sign,” 1 Corinthians 1:22 says. However, we are not Jews. Never once does our Apostle Paul, in the Books of Romans through Philemon, tell us that drinking a deadly thing will not hurt us. That is because Mark 16:18 is not God’s Word to or about us. Mark chapter 16 has a special place on the Bible timeline and it not our Dispensation of Grace. It is Israel’s end-time commission. Confusion and duplicity will result when we fail to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Revelation chapter 8 explains why Jesus spoke of drinking deadly things: “[8] And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; [9] And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. [10] And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; [11] And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

In His righteous judgment, God will poison the waters—particularly in the Middle East, and especially the Mediterranean Sea—during the future seven-year Tribulation. As per Mark 16:18, Israel’s believing remnant will be able to survive this lack of potable water. It will be a sign that they are believers in Jesus Christ. They will be able to drink the poisoned waters and it will not hurt them, exactly as the Lord Jesus said! Friend, do you see how much more sense the Bible makes if we leave religious tradition out of it and just let the Scriptures interpret themselves? The commission in Mark chapter 16 has nothing to do with us.

Also see:
» Is a Christian a “poor testimony” for taking medication?
» What about modern-day “faith healing?”
» Should I “speak in tongues?”

Should women speak in church?


by Shawn Brasseaux

These inquiries stem from 1 Corinthians chapter 14: “[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Why are Christian women instructed here to be silent? How is it “a shame” (disgraceful) for them to talk in the assembly, especially with regards to asking questions?

Firstly, this “speaking” is not normal dialog. If we look at the context (verses 1-33 especially), we see the background is the spiritual gifts of prophesying (preaching) and speaking in tongues. The gift of tongues is the supernatural (Holy Spirit) empowerment of speaking in human dialects never formally learned (see Acts 2:1-11—especially verses 6-11). It has nothing whatsoever to do with some ecstatic, “angelic” gibberish that “God alone understands.”

According to our opening verses, men only (never women!) were to exercise the gifts of prophesying and tongues. The implication is that if women ever did prophesy or “speak in tongues,” it was NOT the Holy Spirit controlling her. Friend, contrary to what you might have seen and heard in Charismatic circles, God the Holy Spirit never, ever leads a woman to exercise the gifts of prophesying and tongues. It is the working of her sinful flesh, the working of Satan, but never the working of the God of the Bible. That is what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 14:34. While you may not like it, while you may hate it, you cannot change it! Just leave it alone and believe it! 🙂

What about verse 35? “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Again, this is not normal, everyday chitchat. It is something excessive and distracting, particularly women dominating the congregation. Women serve roles in the local assembly, but not in places where they appear to be functioning as men. The order of creation and marriage is man followed by woman. That pattern carries over into the local church.

First Timothy 2:11-15 tells us God’s plan for the functioning of the local assembly: “[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” This is the proper cross-reference to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

If a woman is usurping the authority over the man in the local assembly—or even in the marriage relationship—there is opposition to how God designed human life to operate. Satan will use this disorder to undermine those associations. If the Lord Jesus Christ is to be honored and glorified, the man leads in God’s Word (right way) while the woman follows him. First Corinthians chapter 11, verse 3, also written to the Corinthians, please note, says: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Ephesians chapter 5 adds: “[21] Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. [22] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Unfortunately, because of sin, life is greatly complicated. Two problems arise concerning the marriage relationship and the local church arrangement. Firstly, the man may not lead in God’s way (right direction), so the woman who wants to do right must go against him. Sadly, he is not operating as God planned, so she has to act independently. Secondly, the man who does lead in God’s way (right direction) may encounter a woman who refuses to follow him because she wants to do wrong. Regrettably, she is not functioning as God intended. Such clashes hinder—and if left unaddressed will eventually destroy—the marriage and the local assembly. You had better believe it, friend, you had better believe it!!

There is spiritual safety when a woman follows her husband in sound Bible doctrine. Satan’s goal (he is most wise) is to remove the woman from the follower position and place her into the leader position, thereby defeating both man and woman—and ultimately disrupting God’s work in the marriage and local church. Go back to 1 Timothy 2:11-15, which describes how Satan manipulated Eve to stop following Adam, and how Adam willfully chose not to guide his wife when she did stop following him!! This is exactly how the human race fell… how sin made its entrance into the human condition. We would be fools to dismiss the role of the sexes as trivial and fluid. Today’s “gender identity” and “sex identity” exploration fads are most dangerous. They are the Adversary’s way of upending human society, especially marriages (families) and local churches.

For sake of emphasis, we read from 1 Timothy chapter 2 again: “[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

Returning to 1 Corinthians chapter 14, there were women preachers and women tongue-speakers in Corinth. The Holy Spirit through Paul thoroughly condemned them. Once more, we read: “[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Some may not like it, but that is what the Bible says. Let God be true, but every man a liar.

Why would the Holy Spirit forbid women from asking questions? Well, remember, it is the Corinthian women specifically. “Let YOUR women keep silence in the churches….” They were notorious for being disruptive, domineering, and masculine. This is the key to understanding the “women and head coverings” issue dealt with earlier in chapter 11. Christian women in Corinth were taking away from the men’s ministry there. Therefore, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul admonished them to cease their wayward activities. (For more information, see our head coverings study linked at the end of this article.)

It has been said, more than once, that the modern Charismatic Movement would die out in a day if the women were removed from their roles. The same could be said of the Corinthian assembly—and that is exactly why the Holy Spirit wrote what He did through Paul. That mockery of Jesus Christ’s ministry was not to be ignored as “petty immaturity.” It was to be shut down entirely and immediately. Such words of rebuke thunder throughout unruly Christendom even now. “Let YOUR women keep silence in the churches….” Women (usurping the authority of the men) and men (failing to lead) are such a scourge in so many assemblies. Dear friends, the Church the Body of Christ has done such a pitiful job in learning these lessons from Corinth. After 2,000 years, even with the completed Word of God in our hands, professing Christians are struggling to get down even the basics in local church operations. No wonder they are so riddled with error!

Sometimes, even now, women will dominate question-and-answer sessions in local church settings or Bible conferences. Whether inadvertently or deliberately, it is still awkward, not conducive to learning, and contrary to Christian behavior. If one lady persists, or a group of ladies persist, in inquiry after inquiry after inquiry, it puts the authority and attention on them (when it should be on the [male] preachers and teachers—they have the task of teaching the Word of God). The (male) leaders should have the group’s attention, for God has given the teaching ministry over the whole group. (Go back to 1 Timothy 2:11-15—“[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”)

This author can just hear the objections, the critical remarks, to the study thus far. He will be swift to address them. This has nothing to do with men being more special or better than women. This is not misogyny. God the Holy Spirit does not hate women, and neither does this author. Again, the idea is headship. Someone has to take the lead and, because of creation, that is the man. Our sisters in Christ need to be very careful here, and not repeat the mistakes of the Corinthian women in Christ.

In all fairness, we are not going to leave out our Christian brothers. Friends, this is going to be offensive as well, but it must be said. If a lady in the assembly has an abundance of Bible questions, it is highly likely that her husband is at fault. The more she asks, the worse he appears. Why does this author say that? The Bible commands in verse 35 of 1 Corinthians chapter 14: “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” As noted earlier, God Almighty has given the husband the job of being his wife’s Bible teacher. If the wife knows little to nothing about Scripture, it is not the preacher’s fault! While she is responsible for her own decisions, the blame is (to a large degree) on her husband! Her husband is to be her spiritual guardian, and how he has failed miserably!! This was Adam’s fault—and, again, remember how the human race fell thereafter! It is a very serious matter, a grave issue indeed. Do not brush it off. He should take her home, and, in love, instruct her in their God’s words. At home, she can learn quietly without disturbing everyone in public. This is what Paul was urging the Corinthian men to do with their wives.


First Corinthians chapter 14 is controversial, a most “hot-button” issue: “[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

Surveying the entire First Epistle to Corinth, we could use several descriptors for their assembly. Two of the obvious ones are “chaotic” and “confused.” There were great disruptions, and Satan absolutely reveled in their Biblical ignorance, spiritual immaturity, and complete foolishness. Saints (yes, saints!) were abusing spiritual gifts, drawing attention to themselves. In our study here, we saw that women were not playing the submissive role. Rather, they were boisterous, overassertive, and unruly. Men were refusing to take the leadership roles and/or they were being outright rejected in leadership roles. Saints (yes, saints—women!) were drawing attention to themselves by preaching, speaking in tongues, and asking too many questions in public. The men in Corinth were failing to function as leaders and the women were overbearing instead of following.

As to be expected when God’s design is ignored, the Corinthian group suffered greatly from spiritual madness and mayhem. Hence, the Holy Spirit through Paul told the Corinthian women to keep silent and ask their husbands at home. There were simply too many disruptions, distractions, spectacles, and commotions—all dragging down the Lord’s ministry in Corinth. It is “a shame for women to speak in the church” (GOD says that Christian women who are not submissive in the local church and marriage relationship are disgraceful!!). It does not mean that women are forbidden to converse at all within the church building. It means they are not to exercise the gifts of prophesying and tongues. They are not to lead the entire congregation. The men in the assembly were to stop being wimps and set things in order.

Yes, women can speak in church. Indeed, they can ask questions. However, as we saw with the Corinthians, they can get carried away and draw the whole assembly into Satan’s trap. When women assume leadership positions—namely, teaching men—this is extremely threatening to all involved. We all (women and men) need to guard against this and see that it does not occur in our local churches!

Also see:
» Should Christian women wear head coverings?
» Should a woman lead a group in prayer?
» Should women serve in the ministry?

Does the Bible teach that mental illness is really devil possession?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Sometimes, people assume that the Bible considers mental illness as nothing more than devil possession. Even today, some dismiss God’s Word as “unscientific” because they suppose its human writers did not understand intellectual disabilities and bodily illnesses. The Bible writers—so-called “benighted bumpkins”—explained every physical affliction with the wanting description of “devil possession.” However, there is a verse that corrects the critics’ misunderstanding. The Bible writers are not confused; the Bible critics are.

Matthew 4:24 is just that verse: “And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” But, first, before we address this Scripture, we want to ask a question. Why were these healing miracles so vital to Christ’s earthly ministry? Were they designed to simply give suffering people relief, to remove difficulties from their lives?

Matthew 4:17 tells us at the very beginning of His ministry: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Lord Jesus Christ traveled the highways and byways of Israel in Matthew through John and preached and healed every type of bodily affliction, disease, and disability. Matthew 9:35 reports, “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease among the people.” In order to validate His preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom—God’s earthly kingdom now within Israel’s grasp—the Lord Jesus performed numerous miraculous demonstrations. Jesus Christ was God manifest in human flesh, and He was proving Himself to be just that to Israel!

Luke 8:1 says, “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing [demonstrating by miracles] the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,….” And, Matthew 12:28: “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” You may also check Matthew 8:16-17 (cf. Isaiah 53:4), Matthew 10:5-8, Matthew 11:4-6 (cf. Isaiah 35:3-6), Mark 16:16-20 (especially verse 20), Luke 4:18, and Acts 2:22 for additional references.

Hebrews 2:3-5 summarizes: “[3] How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; [4] God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? [5] For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” Finally, Hebrews 6:4-5: “[4] For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, [5] And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,….”

These physical deliverances (miracle healings and casting out devils) were foretastes, or previews, of the worldwide liberations that would occur when Jesus Christ would return at His Second Coming to reign over Israel in the Earth (see Isaiah 33:24 and Zechariah 13:2). This kingdom is yet future—we know of it as “the Millennium,” or “the 1,000-Year Reign of Christ.” Now that we understand the purpose of the miracles of Christ’s earthly ministry (and the ministries of His apostles), we can address the issue of mental illness and devil possession.

The word “lunatic” is not in technical usage today, but it is still commonly applied to someone suffering from mental illness. You have probably already noticed the word resembles “lunar”—as in, the Moon. Friend, you would be correct in making that connection. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the word “lunatic” originated from Old French lunatique, from late Latin lunaticus, from Latin luna ‘moon’ (from the belief that changes of the Moon caused intermittent insanity). The word first appeared in the 1300s, so it has been around for quite a long time.

Religious people, usually bound by superstition, or those who hear and believe them, may say that those suffering mental illness (or even physical illness) are really just “devil possessed.” However, the Bible would disagree. If we return to Matthew 4:24, notice: “And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.”

The Bible writers—in this case, Matthew—some 2,000 years ago knew there was a difference between “those which were possessed with devils” AND “those which were lunatick.” Being devil-possessed and being mentally ill were obviously not the same affliction according to the Spirit of God. There is even a demarcation between those “sick… with divers diseases and torments” AND “those which were possessed with devils.” Physical illness is not necessarily related to devil possession.

God’s Word cannot be shamed here. It is in perfect accordance with what we understand today.

Also see:
» Why did Jesus Christ heal on the Sabbath day?
» Is there “healing in the Atonement?”
» Can you explain Paul’s ministry during Acts?