Some people still wonder if snake handling Christians are being biblical. Now I’ve never been to a snake handling church, so I’ll not pretend to know all there is to know about them. But the elephant in the room (or in this case a snake) is this practice of snake handling, and that’s something I know I can touch on.
Verses backing Snake Handling
Let’s check out the basis for this practice. There are a few biblical verses that are used to defend this activity.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 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.
19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
This is a piece of scripture that is used kinda like a permission slip. And the next text found in Acts verifies it…
3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
None of these are wrong at all, but are examples of what a Spirit filled believer can do in God’s service while on this earth. The big deal here are the intentions of the heart concerning these things. Also the ability to take these verses (along with any other) in the correct context.
Putting God’s Word into Context
OK, let’s take a look at the first one in Mark 16. And these signs shall follow them that believe. Wait a second, he said follow. In other words these signs shall trail behind as evidence that they are them that believe. Kinda like leaving a wake behind you as a speed boat would in the water.
In my name shall they cast out devils. In all the Gospels and also the book of Acts, possessed people were most often brought to either Jesus or the apostles. This is a good indicator that God is setting up scenarios to be glorified and to set free someone who is either at worst possessed, or at best afflicted. (Matthew 8:16, 8:28, 9:32, Acts 8:7) They didn’t show up to cast out devils, they wound up casting out devils because they showed up. There’s a difference in intent.
Moving along, and they shall speak with new tongues. Tongues is a part of one’s prayer life. Paul says to do it whenever you can, but doing it publicly isn’t all that effective due to nobody having a clue what you’re talking about. Unless of course you are in a situation where somewhere in the church there’s someone with the gift of interpretation. By the way, nowhere does it say that it’s a sin to do this in church or at some form of a gathering. Either way, it’s not a badge that you show people to prove that you are Spirit filled. That’s pride. Intent!!!
And here it is: And they shall take up serpents. But let’s attach the rest of it: and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. Alright, why aren’t people taking a shot of cyanide or a glass full of battery acid before or after handling the snakes? It would be the faithful thing to do wouldn’t it? What’s the difference? Why is it that God would keep you from being bitten from a snake but you don’t have the same faith to drink poison and think you’d be OK? Know why? Because there’s a good chance that the snake probably won’t bite you in the first place. But it’s a sure thing if you gulp down a big old glass of cyanide you’re going to die! They have a name for that, SUICIDE!
I’m not going to keep on going through all of these verses cause I think I’ve made the point that you really need to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying whenever you read anything in the Word of God. Correct context is there, you just need to be able to discern it.
The best context concerning these matters of snake handling Christians would be when Apostle Paul was bitten as described above in Acts 28:3-6. Paul wasn’t looking for snakes to mess with, he was gathering wood for a fire. He was bitten, God protected him.
I have been working on a theory that I haven’t done the work yet to make a post out of, but here’s the gist of it. If God gives you a word concerning your endgame, nothing that happens between when he told you and that final hour will kill you. Look at Paul. He was told earlier on that he must face Caesar in Rome (Acts 23:11). Nothing that happened between the moment he received that word from the Lord, and the execution of that word, could kill the Apostle. Including a snakebite. Look at the Old Testament prophets like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jonah, etc.. They had a mission that was given by God directly, and as long as they didn’t go out of their way to die or turn from God completely, I believe nothing that would come against them would kill them. Just a thing I’m studying and working on…
What Would Jesus Do?
When Jesus was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus’s handling of the second temptation cancelled out the sense of attempting to dabble in misrepresenting God’s Word any farther. Satan took some scripture out of context attempting to trip up Jesus (much in the same manner snake handling is taken out of context).
When Satan told Jesus to voluntarily throw himself off the top of the temple to prove that God would protect him, Jesus said,”It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” He didn’t jump off to force God into doing something, nor would I think that Jesus would run around looking for snakes to force God to keep him from getting bit.
I’ve used the word intent a few times in this post.