27 October, 2007
Thou Shalt Not Tempt The Lord Thy God
A few years ago, Jimmy R. Williams and Buford
Pack died at Newport, Tennessee after taking strychnine as a
demonstration of their faith in God. Both refused medical attention. I
read with sorrow the story of the death of these two Holiness Church of
God in Jesus' Name ministers. It is sad because it was a needless act
and because it was of absolutely no spiritual value. Both men left
large families of children.
It is tragic when sincere people, misunderstanding God's Word, bring
such terrible consequences on themselves. The wise men of Athens
worshiped God in ignorance (Acts 17:23). So do some today.
It is true that the apostles of Jesus could work miracles by the power
of God (Acts 5:12). It is also a fact that Jesus promised those
apostles that truly believed on him, "in my name shall they cast out
demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they
shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark 16:14-18).
Note, however, that he did not command them to drink poison or to take
up serpents. Rather, "if" they should drink any deadly thing, it would
not hurt them. We read of no instances where early Christians displayed
or tested their faith by handling snakes or drinking poison. Why?
Obviously, they did not so understand the Lord's statement to require
it. We do read of Paul accidentally being bitten by a serpent and
suffering no harm (Acts 28:3-6). That Luke mentions this
event in his chronicle suggests that it illustrates the meaning of Mark
16:17-18. When Jesus was tempted by Satan to cast himself off the
pinnacle of the temple some 90 feet to the pavement, he said, "Thou
shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God"(Matt. 4:7). To intentionally
jeopardize our lives or safety, even in the name of Christ, or to
demonstrate faith, is not in accord with Jesus' conduct or
A careful study of the New Testament shows that the purpose of
apostolic miracles was to confirm them and their message as from God,
"they went forth and preached...the Lord confirming the word by the
signs that followed" (Mark 16:20). (See also Hebrews 2:3-4). Paul in I
Corinthians chapters 12 and 13 discusses the whole range of
supernatural gifts and then points out that those gifts were "in part"
or partial in nature. But said he, "when that (neuter gender) which is
perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away"(13:10). That
which was "in part" was the miraculous gifts such as
mentioned in Mark 16:17-18. That perfect thing which was to come was
the completed, New Testament revelation. It is called "the perfect law
of liberty" (Jas. 1:25, also II Tim. 3:16-17). When the final books of
the New Testament were completed by John the Apostle, from 90- 96 A.D.,
miraculous gifts ceased to be given.
If the gifts still were in the world, and exercised by the Holiness
church of God in Jesus' Name, someone would have 'laid hands" on the
dying men and they would have recovered. If that had failed, surely
someone would have raised them from the dead, like the apostles did.
(Compare Acts 9:36-43, 20:7-12). Inasmuch as they could not do those
miracles, it is no wonder the poison demonstration failed.
I appeal to those honest sincere members of those churches who hold
such ideas to give serious consideration to these matters lest others
suffer needlessly from their misconception of the will of God. There is
a vast difference between faith and foolishness.
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