Should Snake Handling Be Practiced In Worship Today?
Over the years, there have been many tragic deaths as a result of denominational preachers handling snakes in the worship assembly - tragically they are bitten by a poisonous snake and die. Many of these snake handlers will attempt to point to the Scriptures to justify their use of snake handling today, such as Mark 16:17-18, "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover".
While the church was growing to maturity during the miraculous age in the first century A.D., Acts 28:3-6 mentions a case where the promise of Mark 16:17-18 was fulfilled: "But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.' But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god." After the natives of the island saw that Paul was unaffected, they were open and more receptive to Paul's message.
There is a stark contrast between modern snake handlers and the apostle in that Paul was not even affected by the venomous bite. Why do some denominational snake handlers die by the poisonous snakes they handle, but Paul walks away unscathed?
One of the principles of hermeneutics (the science of interpreting the Scriptures) is that there is a clear distinction between the age of miracles and the fact that God does not work miracles today. Miracles were performed in the days of the early church because it was to validate and confirm the new message of God's revelation, which has been completely given (2 Peter 1:3; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13). The promise of snake handling was directly tied to the purpose of the miraculous age - confirming the word of God (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4). The word of God has been confirmed by the recorded miracles written down. Please consult our question on the Q & A section: What Are The Differences Between What Denominations Claim As Miracles Today And What The Bible Teaches?
Thus, when a person tries to take that which had a specific purpose, a specific time frame, and attempt to apply it today, it is certain to lead to tragedy! Miraculous handling of poisonous snakes passed away with the passing of miracles (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). Furthermore, it was never used as part of Christian worship in the first century A.D. (hence added by man, Matthew 15:8,9).
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