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Those Who Believe in Mark 16:17

First of all, I will mention that the gospel of Mark 16:9-20 is a hotly contested subject among scholars today. Many argue that it’s not an authentic part of Mark’s gospel. The reason is that it was not part of some of the earliest manuscripts that we have. Many scholars say the scriptures mentioned should not be in Mark’s gospel, while others say it’s okay and belongs right where it is. Most Bibles keep verses 9-20 in them but add footnotes explaining that these verses could have been added at a later time during the process of making copies. If that’s true, it means that Mark ended his book in verse 8. I only bring this up because everyone has a right to this knowledge. I have no problem believing these verses to be true. They line up with the other gospels, and I also believe that I have witnessed things very similar to this account from the Lord. With that said, I want to address a different subject here. 

 

The idea of the believer who has signs following him is an important teaching in our gospel. We must understand it correctly to ensure that we have the right expectation of what needs to happen and who will do such works with signs following. It’s easy to put all believers in the same pot and call them equal. But there is a reason the apostle Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11. This teaching will help us be confident in what we believe and teach us not to think more highly than we ought to think about ourselves. 

Mark 16:15-18

 

First, let’s examine the specific scriptures that I want to look at more closely. These verses will be very familiar to our readers because they are often quoted outside of the context of the chapter. Let’s start with Mark 16:15-18 (KJV) first.

 

15 And he said unto them, Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who believes 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.

To start, I want to address this subject by asking: Who are those who believe in Mark 16:17? Many have often answered that if you’re a believer and have been baptized, this believer is you. I want to address this idea in this teaching and shed some light on another crucial perception. It will be apparent to you that the believers who have signs following them in Mark 16:15-18 are the apostles. Jesus is not speaking to every believer. He is not telling everyone who is baptized and believes that they will do these works and that these signs will follow them. When Jesus appeared, it was to His apostles, and when you keep that in mind, you will also see that it was the apostles who did these works with signs following, in the Bible, not just any believer. (If you haven’t read my teaching on “The Young Believer” (teaching #16 on the home page), I encourage you to read it because it will help bring context to this teaching.)

These verses have been used many times in a general reference to tell everyone that these signs will follow them when they become believers. 

 

  • In Jesus’ name, you will cast out devils.

  • You will speak with new tongues.

  • You will take up serpents.

  • If you drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt you.

  • You will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

 

While the point is somewhat valid that a believer will manifest these signs, the question comes down to what kind of a believer is Jesus talking about? It hasn’t always been made clear that Jesus is talking about a specific believer in these three verses. I believe these verses are powerful to promote the works of a believer, but we must use them in the right context to demonstrate what Jesus is saying. If you have read my teaching on “The Young Believer” (teaching #16 on the home page), you know that there are many different diversities of the believer in the body of Christ. I hope we all get to experience each part of these diversities for ourselves in our lifetime, but it’s unlikely that all will do so. We will all partake of the believer, but it will most likely be in part for most people. (Many people are not ready to lay their lives down for this kind of belief.)

 

 

Mark 16:15-18 in context. (Includes verses 9-20)

 

Now I want to read the verses of Mark 16 and include the verses before and after verses 15-18. We will read Mark 16:9-20. When you read, notice the bolded parts as I emphasize that it was the disciples of Jesus who were not believing that Jesus resurrected after hearing the testimonies of those who saw Him after His resurrection. Every bolded word highlights when the apostles were being spoken to. This acknowledgment will be significant because this will show that these verses are not just for any believer; they are specifically for the apostles to learn how to do the works of God.

 

9 Now, when He (Jesus) rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it12 After these things, He appeared in another form to two of them, as they walked into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Afterward, He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table, and He rebuked (upbraided) them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw Him after He had risen. 

 

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: in my name, they will cast out devils; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 

 

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

 

After reading this in context, it’s easy to see that Jesus was talking to His apostles. He appeared to the eleven to have this conversation about the believer. The apostles created the need for this visitation by having unbelief. After He appeared, He rebuked them for not believing the word preached to them by witnesses of His resurrection. Remember, Jesus needed a replacement in the earth to fill His earthly absence. He chose these eleven men to be His witnesses for after He ascended to heaven. Not every believer was called to take His place in ministry. That idea doesn’t line up with the scriptures at all. It would be wrong to expect everyone to have these signs working in their lives. God has called and chosen certain ones by prophecy to do the works mentioned in Mark 16. There will always be others as the body of Christ continues forward, but those who are ordained of the Lord will do His works. It’s necessary to let God do the choosing of who He calls and sends. Our responsibility is to be faithful with what He has called us to and what He has given us.

 

To fix the unbelief in His apostles, He appeared to them to tell them that the signs of His ministry will follow the ones who believe. The ones who believe as Jesus does. Verses 15-18 was for His apostles, not everyone who believed. Jesus was skillfully teaching His apostles how to work the Spirit. All those who believed the apostles were delivered of devils and serpents. They were taught with new tongues, healed of sickness, and recovered. Many of them who heard the apostles preach spoke poisonous words to the apostles, but it did not hurt them. That’s because they were believers who were at the level that Jesus was. These men were carefully chosen and ordained by Jesus to be the Christ in the earth. Not every believer will be at the level of Jesus as they live on the earth. To put that kind of expectation on people would be very dangerous.

 

 

The origin of conflict.

 

Let’s clarify a little further. The conflict we have about the believer comes from verses 16-17. Verse 16 says he that believes and is baptized will be saved. It is assumed that “he who believes” in verse 16 is the same one who believes in verse 17. These signs follow “those who believe”. This is where the mistake is made. The right understanding is that the apostles preach to him, who believes in verse 16. It’s the apostles who are the believers in verse 17. It is not the same believer in both verses. When Jesus appeared to His apostles, He came to tell them one more time to stop being unbelievers because these signs will follow you when you believe. He had to make this clear so that the apostles could do what He commanded them to do. That’s why He was talking to the apostles in verse 17, the ones who would do the same works that He did and greater. They could believe on this level because Jesus had already imparted it to them over the last three years of training.

 

We know the apostles believed Him because verse 20 says, “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. 

 

 

What about the other believers?

 

This way of thinking shouldn’t remove hope from all the believers reading this. Instead, it should remove the heavy burden of needing to do works beyond your understanding. It should strengthen you where you are. You can be part of the body that does the works of God that He gives you to do. You’re still a believer, even if these signs are not following you in this manner. There are also other signs that follow believers besides these.

 

Do I believe that all believers can have these signs in their life? Yes, but to say that all believers will have them is a wrong expectation to put on yourself. Everyone who takes that on themselves as a believer and thinks they’re going to go forth and do all of those things is setting themselves up for a fall. Don’t tempt the Lord or yourself by lusting after signs that the Lord doesn’t back. The only way to say that these scriptures are for every believer is if you said it by prophecy. In that case, it would be an example to others of what they have to come to. The apostles were ready to hear it when it was spoken, and that’s why they could do it.

 

With that said, I do not want to limit God in any way. If the Lord anoints you to do the works of God, by all means, obey the Lord. I’ll be cheering on the works of God in your life and in the body of Christ. If God blesses you with the experience of an apostle or any other gifts to the church, He will make room for that gift for you to work it. If He doesn’t, then keep believing in what He gives you and bless the body of Christ with what you have. This teaching should add soberness to how we approach this master teaching that Jesus gave His apostles. I hope you take it to heart, and it makes the believer in you trust those who are sent by Him more than ever before

 

One last thing. Believers will manifest different things in the Spirit. You may experience some of these signs, and you may not. Again, it depends on what the Lord gives you and sends you to do for Him. (Read “The Young Believer” #16 on the home page to learn more about this.) The sure thing to focus on in the beginning as a believer is the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-26. These fruits are the words that all believers bear in their life because these fruits are the nature of God. Your entire life as a believer will be focused on restoring His likeness that was lost in the beginning. Then, when you’re walking in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. That sounds like a believer to me!

 

Galatians 5:16 Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

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