A Question I Was Asked:

Don't Mark 16:17-20 and Luke 11:13 Say That We Should Heal Today??

Can you tell me what Mark 16:17-20 and Luke 11:13 mean in context? Pentecostal and Charismatic churches will tell you this is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and that we should have the same power that the Apostles once had. How about this?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us consider this:

17. "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18. 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." 19. After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:17-20).

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13).

Okay, we need to be sensible and utterly honest about this. Charismatics know (whether they will admit it to you, or not), that they do not have this power of healing today. Privately, several well-known charismatics have admitted this to me. Lamentably in the case of extremist "healing ministries," a form of auto-suggestion, or hypnotism has taken over. People are pushed to the ground in an act of "healing," and several such people do feel fine for a few hours afterwards but the next day all the ravages of their diseases return. This is not what occurred back in the first century, where even the very shadow of Peter the Apostle passing over the sick was apparently sufficient to heal them - I mean really heal them, not just employ some trick of auto-suggestion. Look at this:

12. The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. 13. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. (Acts 5:12-16).

Notice there that "the apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people..." (verse 12). These were the signs of the Apostles. See 2 Corinthians 12:12; Acts 2;43; Acts 5:12. And notice also here that "...all of them were healed" (Acts 5:16). Not just some, or apparently some. Yes, these signs "did accompany those who believed" (Mark 16:16) - back then. The writings of the early Church indicates that there are no references to these "gifts" continuing much beyond about A.D. 100, although on occasions of God's choosing, spectacular manifestations could still occur, it seems especially where the Gospel suddenly went to an entirely new area.

So the New Testament is plain that dramatic occurrences accompanied the ministry of Jesus, then the ministry of the Apostles - all occurring in the First Century AD, neither can we neglect claims that - in certain times and places of God's choosing - certain of these dramatic signs have returned. Beyond that, the instruction to the Church is simply for the elders to offer prayers for the sick (James 5:13-15). Perhaps as an example of the new, lower profile post-apostolic healing ministry, we may note that both Paul and Timothy were apparently not granted healing for certain health problems. See 2 Corinthians 12:7 and 1 Timothy 5:23.

So when Scripture states "these signs will accompany those who believe..." it refers to the ministry of the Apostles. One should always bear all of Scripture in mind during good Bible interpretation - not just preferred parts. Information from the entirety of the New Testament shows that much of the charismatic movement has been seriously wrong in this area of teaching.

For more information on this topic, see also What are the Signs of an Apostle?

Robin A. Brace. July 27th, 2016.