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 instructions.

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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