Do I not truly believe if I have not done things such as handling deadly snakes or drinking poison unharmed?

Q. I am perplexed by Mark 16:15-18, “These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they 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.”  Is Jesus saying that in order to have eternal life, we must exhibit the signs he has outlined? While I  believe and have been baptized, I do not speak in tongues and have not cast out demons.  In all fairness, I have not tested the snake theory or tried to drink any deadly thing, but I am not sure that would be wise.

Jesus is not saying that in order to have eternal life, we must exhibit the signs he is describing. He says quite clearly just before outlining these signs, “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved.” (And baptism itself is an expression of saving belief, not a further requirement for salvation.) Then he adds, about those who have shown that they believe this way, that these signs will accompany them. But the signs accompany the whole community of believers, so it is not the case that each individual believer needs to have every sign in order to be sure that they are saved. So, put that snake back in its cage, put down that deadly drink, and rest assured in your salvation!

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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