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. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. Mark 16:17-20
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:43-47
One of our readers sent in these two passages with a question implied in this statement: "These two passages appear to contradict each other, though I accept they do not."
I wish the reader had been a bit more specific on precisely where the contradiction seemed to be. No contradiction seems to me to be present in these two words of God. Perhaps, if, after my remarks, the reader who submitted the question still has a problem, he or she could send in a more specific question. In the meantime, we shall deal with these two passages and say a few things about them, for there are some important ideas found in them.
The first thing we will want to notice is that not all Bible scholars accept the last part of Mark's gospel as genuinely a part of Scripture. Even my own AV has a note after Mark 16 which reads: "Verses 9 to 20 of the last chapter are omitted by the two oldest Greek manuscripts. Other authorities have a different ending to this Gospel." This is the only place in this entire printing of the AV where such a note appears.
I mention this rather in passing because, if my Bible has such a note, perhaps other printings of the AV have the same. And I do not want our readers or any other people of God to be confused on the matter. I have no desire to enter the arguments for or against. For our purposes it is sufficient to assert, with all the emphasis I can muster, that the entire section belongs to God's Word, that it is misleading, to say the least, to speak of 2 oldest manuscripts which omit the passage, and that there is no reason in the text itself why this should be omitted. We may be confident that it belongs to Scripture.
The second comment I wish to make is that I appreciate very much the sentiment expressed in the last words of our reader's comment: ". . . though I accept they do not." This statement expresses the faith with which every child of God must come to Scripture. Many point to seeming contradictions in Scripture to prove that God's Word contains errors. We may not do this.
An important point is wrapped up in our approach of faith. We do not argue about contradictions, nor do we attempt to defend the Word of God by a rational demonstration that such contradictions do not exist. We assume that, because Scripture is God's Word, there can be no contradictions. The fact that it is the Word of God does not depend on our successful efforts to demonstrate that no contradictions exist. We know they do not. It is God's Word. There cannot be any.
We do desire to understand Scripture as much as we can. Hence we compare one passage with another because we are to interpret Scripture with Scripture. If it seems to us as if a passage in one place contradicts a passage in another place, the reason is our poor understanding, not Scripture's weaknesses and proneness to human error. The arrogant and proud sinner sits in judgment over Scripture. The humble child of God comes to learn of its truth.
The two passages harmonize in this way. The words of Mark 16 were spoken to the disciples during one of the Lord's appearances. This is suggested by vs. 19, which begins: "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven." However, this interpretation presupposes that Jesus gave His great commission twice: once when He appeared to his disciples in Galilee (Mt. 28:16-20), and the second time at his ascension.
At the time of the Lord's ascension Jesus not only gave His disciples the mandate to go into all the world to preach the gospel, but he also told them what miracles he would perform while preaching the gospel everywhere. We have a record of every one of these miracles as actually happening during the apostolic age -- with the exception of "if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them," although Scripture's silence must not be interpreted as meaning that it never happened.
Mark also makes clear that the main work of the apostles was preaching; and it is added that the Lord confirmed their word with the signs of which He had just spoken (Mk 16:20). The narrative in Acts repeats this, and tells us that "many wonders and signs were done by the apostles;" and that the church flourished and grew and lived in blessed unity and peace.
And so the picture is one of the fulfillment of the Lord's Word as the apostles performed the work necessary to carry out the Lord's command; and the blessings on the church as they did these things.
In our next "Newsletter" I want to say a few things about these signs and wonders.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 16
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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