Jesus was about to leave the disciples and this was His last chance to talk to them in person. Do you think His words would be some of the most important of all His conversations with them? Wouldn’t you think He’d want to summarize all His teachings into a few short things the “duh-ciples” can remember and retain?
15 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. 16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak new languages. 18 They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick and heal them.”
As with many of our recent discussions, we can choose to either believe these verses as is, or try to interpret what is being said. As with all my dBrag postings, I pray before hand for the Holy Spirit to show me some truth in the chapter I’m reading.
Today, however, I find myself with more questions than answers.
First, verse 16 is one of the verses used by people I know who believe that you are not saved until you are baptized. They say you can believe, but if you’re not baptized, you’re not saved. In other words, it is only when you are baptized that you receive the Holy Spirit. Others believe that you are saved upon repenting and accepting Jesus Christ as your “personal Lord & Savior” and that baptism is commanded by Jesus, but is simply a sign to other believers and the world that you’ve given your life to Him. I know there are many other scriptures that mention what you must do to be saved that don’t even mention baptism. And, there’s always that story about the thief on the cross. I’ll be honest – in my mind I’ve always used the “leave that to someone smarter than me” approach – or the “it’s a personal thing” approach to avoid controversial conversations about baptism. Still, I’ve had wise people explain both sides to me, using multiple verses to back them up. Men smarter than me have been debating this issue for eons.
For me the bottom line is: I believe, I’ve asked Jesus Christ into my heart AND I’ve been baptized, so it’s not an issue. Perhaps more study is in order.
Speaking of controversy, do I need to bring up the whole casting out of demons, speaking in tongues, poison drinking and snake handling? It’s so easy to say, “oh, that was only for that time and not for us today.” The thing that bothers me about that is, how do I know when to use that thinking and when do I not?
If we use that logic for these verses, then we might also say, witnessing or honoring the Sabbath is not for today, or helping widows and orphans is no longer a priority. I think it’s that kind of thinking that has damaged our morals in our culture today. It takes away all hope and power in our faith as we ask God to heal our sick friends or protect our children from danger. What’s the point if God is up in heaven, passively watching us go about our business?
No, I choose to believe the words of Jesus at the end of this chapter for what they are. With the Holy Spirit’s help, I will try to live my life expecting the miraculous and amazing provisions of my Heavenly Father who knows no limitations. Like the sometimes dim-witted disciples, it’s not always easy for me to understand many things Jesus is trying to get across, but I pray for more faith. And, faith comes by hearing – and hearing by the Word of God.
Now, tomorrow we start the book of Revelation. Hang on to your hats, gents. This could be good!