They Shall Take Up Serpents… ‘In Jesus’ Name’
On February 15, 2014, 42-year-old Pastor Jamie Coots died after being bitten by a rattlesnake during a church service. Jamie Coots is the pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro, Kentucky and the star of a network reality show “Snake Salvation”. Pastor Coots refused medical treatment, but chose instead to go home and pray.
“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents, and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18 NKJV). Pastor Coots and others have interwoven the handling of dangerous snakes into the gospel.
My heart goes out to Pastor Coots’ family, his congregation and his friends. As a Christian, I can say that Pastor Coots was undoubtedly a man of great faith because it takes a lot of faith to handle a rattlesnake in a church service. But is handling deadly vipers the core of the salvation message? Should we be building entire ministries around a single verse in the bible?
What is the gospel?
Too often the gospel is misquoted, misunderstood and taken out of context. Often when we read the Bible we come to a verse of scripture that jumps right out of the page at you. That verse becomes alive and you assert it as a revelation from God. But it is only a portion of the good news that God has for us. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness and perfect obedience to God. Jesus has done for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves. So we should ask this question: Is there more to the good news of the gospel than believing that God will deliver you from the poisonous bite of a venomous viper?
Satan Tempted Jesus, but yet Jesus did not test God
After Jesus was baptized he [Jesus] was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. “Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” (Matthew 4:5-11 NKJV).
The devil was trying to get Jesus to kill Himself by jumping off the high point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God throw Yourself down [jump to prove to me that you are the Son of God]. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you ‘ and ‘In their hands they hands they shall bear you up so that you won’t dash your foot against a stone.’ Satan is always trying to get us to prove who we are in Christ and who God is to us, but our answer should always be “thou shalt not tempt the Lord your God. For it is written of God, “I AM who I AM” (Exodus 3:14 KJV).
The good news of the gospel is more than just handling serpents to prove a point. If we have to prove that God will deliver us from the bite of a poisonous snake, what’s the point? Where is our faith? The word of God should never be taken out of context so as to test God. The devil tried the same trick on Jesus, but He passed on it. He knew that God would deliver Him and there was no need to test what He already knew.
People depend on the Church for the truth
There are people out there who do not know God’s word and they depend on the church (those who know Jesus and who have been born again) to explain the word of God to them, to be examples for them to follow, that they may obtain the promises written therein and that Jesus might be glorified. As I recall reading my Bible, the price Jesus paid for our salvation as He was so violently lynched, had nothing to do with handling serpents, but it had everything to do with love.
The sum total of the Gospel is that we learn to love. The Pharisees got together to test Jesus so one of them asked, "'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV).
When we read the entire scripture about the signs that should follow those who believe in Jesus we see much more than handling serpents. “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:15-18).
So if we are going to look for the signs that proclaim that follow believers of Christ, should we not be looking for all of the signs and not just one in particular? These are the signs: cast out demons; speaking in tongues; handle serpents; drink poison; lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
It is true that if anyone follows Jesus that there are certain signs that should follow them, but if we must test God to prove whether or not His word is true, then our faith is not genuine. Faith that has to see to believe is not really faith.
Should we test God? Post your comments.
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