Nana Yaw Aidoo
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 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. (Mark 16:17-18).
I believe this text just like every other text in the Bible. And I have no doubt in my mind that “them that believe” in the 17th verse is a reference to those who believe in the 16th verse and not to the apostles alone as some erroneously claim. That men other than the apostles did the things mentioned in the text (see Acts 8:5-7), proves that the gifts in Mark 16:17-18, weren’t limited to the apostles alone.
However, the mere fact that Christ made such a statement and also the fact that the signs were not limited to the apostles alone, do not mean the signs follow believers today. Evidently, Jesus Christ stated something that would be the portion of believers during that period when the apostles would carry the Gospel to the world. What many fail to realize however is that, He did not state how the signs would follow believers. In order to know the how there is only one proper way to go about it and that is to allow the fulfilment of the “Great Commission” in the book of Acts to be its own inspired commentary. By so doing, we will realize that the how, or the means by which these signs followed those who believed, was the laying on of the hands by an apostle on those who had believed.
In the book of Acts, we see that many believed the gospel preached by the apostles and yet, until the apostles laid hands on them (i.e the believers), only the apostles are said to have worked or had the ability to work miracles, signs and wonders. (see Acts 2:43; 5:12). Not until Acts 6, when the apostles laid hands on some believers, is it written that any man other than an apostle, worked a miracle, sign or wonder (Acts 6:8). Therefore, unless Jesus Christ lied—an impossibility (cf. Titus 1:2)—then the only conclusion is that the signs of Mark 16:17-18 followed those who had believed, only when an apostle laid hands on them. Thankfully, that is also the inspired conclusion. Let us note one such inspired text.
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet He was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money (Acts 8:14-18, Emph. NYA).
Surely, no one can misunderstand this text. Notice that the Samarians upon becoming believers, didn’t immediately receive miraculous ability (i.e. the Holy Ghost). Notice also that Philip couldn’t impart such an ability to the Samarians because he wasn’t an apostle and, thus, apostles had to be brought in from Jerusalem so the new believers could receive miraculous ability. Friends, this was the means by which signs followed believers. Other passages for consideration are Acts 19:1-6; Romans 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:6).
Since there are no apostles living today (that’s right!), based on the qualifications in Acts 1:20-22 and Acts 10:39-41, these signs no longer follow those who believe. There has to be an apostle present to lay hands on the believer for the signs to follow him. Thus, when the last apostle died and the last man with these gifts died, the gifts vanished from the face of the earth.
By studying Scripture in its context, rightly dividing the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15), combining the entirety of God’s Word on this (and any) issue (Psa. 119:160) and allowing the Bible to be its own interpreter, we can, and will, arrive at the right interpretation as touching Mark 16:17-18.