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Can someone explain me these passages about the effect of poison?

  • Who is immune to poison?
  • Why do they have this trait?
  • Why isn't anyone today immune to poison?

Mark 16:17-18

17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

Luke 10:19

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

Acts 28:3-6

3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

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Just curious, in looking at your posts, it appears to me that your purpose is not to learn anything about Christianity, but rather to ask questions that are thinly veiled attempts to discredit it. Am I reading this correctly? If so, have you read the faq? This site is not a debate forum, it is a collection of knowledge ABOUT Christianity -- not a place to belittle its constituents or challenge the validity of their belief system. Questions asked under false pretense just to 'make a point' will be closed as Not Constructive. –  David Stratton Oct 9 '11 at 17:11
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No, not at all. Your own beliefs do not not preclude you from asking questions, but all questions must be directly related to Christianity. I ask them because I don't understand those questions and would like to hear answers not only from atheists, but also from experts. –  Sven Oct 9 '11 at 17:20
    
Mark 16:9-ff is almost certainly a later addition. Most don't consider it part of the original. –  gmoothart Oct 10 '11 at 17:19
    
See also: Should Mark 16:9-20 be in the Bible? –  dancek Oct 12 '11 at 1:55

3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I can't answer this definitively, but I can tell you what I've come to as a conclusion. The community can vote as to whether or not they agree, and I'm sure someone else would have a different answer, but here goes.

Looking at how God's method of communication has changed over time, it should not be surprising that such "gifts" are not as common as they were. When it came to the Apostles and the early Church, God was specifically working to establish His Church. These signs and wonders were accompanied by preaching of the Gospel.

In fact, if you look at the miracles performed by Jesus Himself, you'll see that He performed them as a demonstration of His authority, and if you look at them in total, they display that He is God. http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/miracles.htm In other words, He didn't perform them merely to amaze people, He did them to support His teaching, authority, and claims about Himself.

With the Apostolic miracles, and those of the early Church, the pattern is similar. The miracles accompany the preaching of the Gospel, or serve to establish the authority of the Apostles, and early Church. Once the authority has been established, there is no further need for God to "prove Himself". He's already done so. He had already revealed Himself, and He did say specifically that if we don't believe in the Scriptures, why would we believe Him. (John 5:46). How many times does He have to prove Himself before we believe?

A similar pattern can be seen throughout Scripture. In the beginning, He walked with Adam and Eve and spoke to them personally. With Moses, He spoke from a burning bush. Later, He spoke to the people through Moses, and then through the prophets.

Also, God had shown anger several times throughout Scripture towards them that seek after signs, when He had already revealed Himself. He tolerates it at first, even though He recognizes it for what it is (temping God) (Exodus 17:7) but He is still angered by it. (Psalm 78:18-20)

Jesus also rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for the same thing. (Matthew 16:4)

That said, there are still those around today who believe that these verses are to be taken literally, and that they still apply today. These would be the snake handlers in a few Pentecostal denominations and sub-groups that so many people love to make fun of.

As for me, personally, I don't dare practice these rituals. It's not that I don't think that God could protect me from snakes and poisons. It's more that I know that this would be, to me, a test of whether or not He truly would. In other words, my actions would be a deliberate tempting of God. I fully believe that He could do it, but I don't want to make Him angry because He could just as well let me die simply because I had the audacity to test Him. Who am I to test Him?

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The answer to your question is exactly analogous to asking "who has the gift of healing?". We know that it is not everyone.

We only have one story of survival of snakes/poison, and it is significant that it is accidental. Paul did not say "I'm telling you the truth, and to prove it I'll pick up this deadly snake". He picked it up by accident, and God used that.

So the likely answer is that God gives the gift of poison immunity to people who need it because they have involuntarily taken poison and who he wants to survive it.

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Good, constructive question. Two verses here:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)

Faith is a gift.

If you have the tiniest faith, you can literally make a mountain jump into the sea, survive scorpion bites.

The controversy comes when we assume that our efforts of prayer, study, clean living, and willing God into our lives gives us a heroic share of faith not seen before. We ignore the literal truth that faith is a gift (we will take an extra helping through our efforts, thank you) and then we ignore the literal truth that snakes will not harm those with faith.

This answer is influenced by reading Luther's Theology of the Cross and Tullian Tchividjian's sermons, but I don't have any quotes from either on the topic.

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