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
In our last article we made some preliminary remarks about a question from one of our readers concerning the harmony of these two passages. In this article, I wish to say something about the meaning of the signs and wonders mentioned in both the passages.
The two passages harmonize in this way. The words of Mark 16 were spoken to the disciples during the appearance of the Lord at the time of His ascension. 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. This is, of course, not at all impossible, and Jesus often repeated Himself when teaching His disciples about important matters.
At the time of the Lord's ascension He 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 to accompany the apostles as they preached 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.
Many teach that the signs and wonders spoken of by the Lord still accompany the Church in its preaching today. The trouble is that the people who hold this view have become so enamored with their signs and wonders that they almost never preach any more, but lay all the emphasis on their signs. The Lord made preaching the important task; signs and wonders would go along with the preaching to confirm the truth of the preaching.
It was necessary that the preaching be confirmed because the Scriptures were not yet completed. How were people to tell that what the apostles taught was the truth? In some measure they could, of course, use the OT Scriptures as the Bereans did. But because of the difficulties of verifying the truths of the gospel by Scripture, God graciously gave miracles. Even Jesus Himself told the Pharisees that if they did not believe Him because of what He said, they ought to believe Him for His work's sake, for His works testify of Him.
The miracles were not arbitrary as is the case with those who appeal to signs and wonders. Every miracle spoke of some fact of the gospel. For example, the healing of blind people demonstrated in a remarkable way that salvation, preached in the gospel, gave spiritual eyesight to spiritually blind people.
Now that the Scriptures are completed, we are able to verify all the truth of Scripture with Scripture itself. Scripture is sufficient for our salvation. If we want more than Scripture, we not only make ourselves wiser than God, but we cast a slur on the Scriptures and we mock their greatness. Those who want signs and wonders despise the Word.
We ought not do this. We ought to be satisfied with the Scriptures. In them we ought to sink our spiritual roots. In them we will find salvation.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 17
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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