Mark 16:16-20

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 6, 2005


We left off last week as Jesus gave His final marching orders to His disciples:

(Mark 16:15 NKJV)  … "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Some people would teach that you need to be baptized in order to be saved.  But read this verse carefully.  Jesus doesn’t say that lack of baptism leads to condemnation, but lack of belief leads to condemnation.

Jesus said,

(John 3:16 NKJV)  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

You and I along with every human being on this planet have a huge problem.  The problem is called sin.  We do things that are wrong.  We do things that end up separating us from God.  And to get this problem fixed, there is a price to be paid.  The price to get sin removed is death.
And that’s why Jesus came, to die of us.  He paid a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.
And now all God asks of us is to turn Him and trust that His Son has paid for our sins.
Paul wrote,
(Eph 2:8-9 NKJV)  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, {9} not of works, lest anyone should boast.

We have been saved by grace, by the gracious gift of God sending His Son to die for us.  And that gift becomes real in our lives when we learn to trust – to “have faith” in Jesus.

It’s faith that’s essential to salvation.  Baptism is important because Jesus commanded us to be baptized.  Baptism is important because it is an outward way of showing what God has done for us on the inside. It is a public way of telling others that you follow Jesus.

But you aren’t saved because you were baptized.  You are saved because you believed.

:17 "And these signs will follow those who believe:

Some folks take these next two verses to an extreme. They feel that these same things ought to be happening all the time in every believer.  They feel that if you are a true believer, that you need to go out and start doing these things.  They take this as a list of “things to do”.

But Jesus doesn’t say to go out and do these things, He says these things will “follow”.  As we look at these things, you will see that they “followed” the disciples.

:17 In My name they will cast out demons;

(John 14:12 NKJV)  "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

In Acts 16, there’s a story of how Paul was being followed around town by this gal who was possessed by a demon.

(Acts 16:18 NKJV) And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And he came out that very hour.

:17 they will speak with new tongues;

The gift of tongues is the ability to speak in a language that you have not learned by any natural means.

The disciples spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4)

The gift of tongues is also a beautiful way to pray and give God praise in a person’s devotional time as well (1Cor. 14:2).

But not everyone will have the gift of tongues. Paul wrote that not everyone will have the gift of tongues (1Cor. 14:30).

There are many spiritual gifts and the Holy Spirit is the one who decides who gets which gifts. And each person’s combination of gifts makes them a unique part of the church. Each person in the church has a special role to play. Each person is needed in the church. It’s important for each of us to learn more and more about the things God wants us to be doing, and to do them. But no one has all the gifts.  Not everyone will speak in tongues.

:18 "they will take up serpents;

In 1910, a fellow named George W. Hensley was preaching on this passage in Mark.  He finished his message by taking a large rattlesnake out of a box with his bare hands.  He handled if for a few minutes, then ordered his congregation to handle it too or else be “doomed to eternal hell.”  Hensley died at 75 years old on July 25, 1955, from … snake bite.

From there, the practice began to spread, mostly through the small, Pentecostal churches in the Appalachian Mountains.  After a few people began to die, the practice also “died down” a bit as well.  Today, there is an estimated 2,000 people who still follow this practice.

In their church services, they will bring out a box with poisonous snakes and if you are “led by the Holy Ghost”, you will take a turn at picking up a snake.  According to an article in the National Geographic, the people don’t believe that they won’t get hurt or die.  They simply believe that they are commanded by this verse to take up serpents and so they do it.  The churches that tend to do this are family-dominated churches, and within these families, there have been lots of experience with people losing limbs and people dying.  One of the pastors they interviewed from Georgia, Junior G. McCormick:  “Some people were bit, and I believe God was ready for them and their time had come,” he said. “I was bit 14 times, by rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and I never used anti venom—all I had was just Jesus. I’ve been bitten badly, but I’ll go back the next week and take them out [serpents] again.”

I find it fascinating that these groups tend to be rather “in-grown”.  They are mainly made up of families that have grown up in the church and stay in the church.

They’ve confused the command with “what follows”.  Instead of “going” and “preaching” the gospel to the world, they are picking up snakes.

While some churches twist this verse and have snake handling services, there is a wonderful example of the real thing happening in the book of Acts.

Paul had been arrested and was being transported to Rome when he and his shipmates were shipwrecked during a storm. They were able to swim to an island where the natives rescued them on the beach.  As they were building a fire, Paul gathered a bundle of sticks for fuel.  A snake had been hiding in the sticks and struck Paul in the hand.

(Acts 28:4-6 NKJV) 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." {5} But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. {6} 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.

From that incident, God was able to work through Paul to minister to the people of Malta, healing the sick and preaching the gospel.

:18 and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them;

For some people, this might be why they pray before dinner …

I think on our Russia trip this year, the strangest looking food was the stuff we ate on the plane between Paris and Moscow. I’m sure a lot of people were praying before they ate (or didn’t eat).


Little Johnny and his family were having Sunday dinner at his Grandmother’s house. Everyone was seated around the table as the food was being served. When little Johnny received his plate, he started eating right away. “Johnny, wait until we say our prayer,” his mother reminded him. “I don’t have to,” the little boy replied. “Of course you do,” his mother insisted, “we say a prayer before eating at our house.” “That’s at our house,” Johnny explained, “but this is Grandma’s house and she knows how to cook!”

Though we don’t have any recorded examples of this happening in the book of Acts, this is something I like to ask God for when we pray for loved ones who are needing to go through chemotherapy …

:18 they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

sickarrhostos – without strength, weak, sick

recoverkalos – beautifully, finely, excellently, to be well

Literally, “they will have beauty”

I think this is a wonderful privilege that we as believers have, to pray for those who are weak, those who are broken, and those who are sick.  And when it’s appropriate, we have the privilege of laying hands on them and praying for them. And God does heal today.


Don’t confuse the command with what follows …

I think the mistake is confusing what Jesus commands with what simply follows us as we follow Jesus.
The command comes in verse 15:
(Mark 16:15 NKJV)  "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
Keep the first things first.  It’s God’s heart that we focus on what He’s commanded us – to tell others about Jesus.
Let Him take care of what follows.

:19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.

:20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.


Resurrection Power

We’ve talked about how the death of Christ on the cross affects us now. 
(Rom 6:6 NKJV)  knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

There is a sense that Jesus’ death was also our death.  And the result is that my “old man”, my “sin nature” no longer has power over me so that I have to do what it says.

But along with the power of the cross is the power of the resurrection.  Paul writes,
(Rom 8:11 NKJV)  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

As a believer in Jesus, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is now living inside of me.  I am not just “dead to sin” and live my life like a walking zombie, like a walking dead man.  I now have the life of Christ inside of me.  I now have the ability to “live” for God.

This power comes through the Holy Spirit.  It comes as I learn to yield my life to the Holy Spirit.  It comes as I learn to allow the Spirit to empower me.  It comes by saying “yes” to God.

After His resurrection, Jesus said,
(Acts 1:8 NKJV)  "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

The power would come from the Holy Spirit.  It was power to enable us to be His witnesses.

Jesus said,
(John 7:37-38 NKJV)  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. {38} "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

This is where the power comes from.  It comes from being thirsty.  It comes by simply asking and trusting.

I’ve been reading a new book, about Billy Graham (The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, Harold Myra, Marshall Shelley)
…As he focused and energetically began preaching and receiving ever more invitations to speak, he sensed increasingly that his eloquence could not persuade or transform.  His deepening humility was anchored in fact.  He knew he was not an outstanding speaker and that his personal charisma was not enough to fulfill the great call he felt weighing upon him.  He had entered a life of helplessness – helpless to do this work that was far larger than his capacities.
As he found some success as an evangelist, he continually sought a greater connection and empowerment.  During a mission to the British Isles, he met a young Welsh evangelist named Stephen Olford, who had the spiritual qualities Billy longed for. “He had a dynamic … an exhilaration about him I wanted to capture.”  After hearing Olford preach on being filled with the Holy Spirit, Billy approached him and said, “You’ve spoken of something that I don’t have.  I want the fullness of the Holy Spirit in my life too.”
Olford agreed to set aside two days when Billy was scheduled to speak at Pontypridd, just eleven miles from the home of Olford’s parents.  The two would talk and pray during the day, pausing long enough for Billy to preach at night.
“This is serious business,” Billy told him.  “I have to learn what this is that the Lord has been teaching you.”
In the small stone hotel, Olford led Billy step by step through the Bible verses on the Spirit’s power, which had produced Olford’s profound spiritual renewal a few months earlier.  The effects of the mentoring, however, were not evident in that evening’s service.
“Quite frankly,” said Olford later, “his preaching was very ordinary.  Neither his homiletics nor his theology nor his particular approach to Welsh people made much of an impact.  The Welsh are masters of preaching, and they expect hard, long sermons with a couple of hours of solid exposition.  Billy was giving brief little messages.  They listened, but it wasn’t their kind of preaching.”  The crowd was small, passive, and to Billy’s invitation, unresponsive.
The next day Olford continued the instruction, telling Billy that he “must be broken” like the apostle Paul, letting God turn him inside out.
“I gave him my testimony of how God completely turned my life inside out – an experience of the Holy Spirit in his fullness and anointing,” said Olford.  “As I talked, and I can see him now, those marvelous eyes glistened with tears, and he said, “Stephen, I see it.  That’s what I want.  That’s what I need in my life.””  Olford suggested they “Pray this through,” and both men knelt on the floor.
“I can still hear Billy pouring out his heart in a prayer of total dedication to the Lord,” said Olford.  “Finally, he said, “My heart is so flooded with the Holy Spirit!”  and we went from praying to praising.  We were laughing and praising God, and Billy was walking back and forth across the room, crying out, “I have it!  I’m filled.  This is a turning point in my life.”  And he was a new man.”
As Billy recalls the experience years later, “I was beginning to understand that Jesus Himself was our victory, through the Holy Spirit’s power.”
That night, when Billy preached, “for reasons known to God alone, the place which was only moderately filled the night before was packed to the doors,” said Olford.  “As Billy rose to speak, he was a man absolutely anointed.”
Members of the audience came forward to pray even before Billy gave an invitation.  At the end of the sermon, practically the entire crowd rushed forward.
“My own heart was so moved by Billy’s authority and strength that I could hardly drive home,” Olford remembers.  “When I came in the door, my father looked at my face and said, “What on earth happened?”  I sat down at the kitchen table and said, “Dad, something has happened to Billy Graham.  The world is going to hear from this man.””

You might say, “But that was Billy Graham, I’m just me …”


China: how 12-year-old Li rescued 3,000 miners
As another wave of persecution swept through China in the 1950’s, pastor Li was arrested in the southern province Guangdong. He was convicted of “counter-revolutionary activities” and sentenced to work in an iron ore mine in farthest north-eastern China. Li’s wife and five children, including a new-born baby, had no other means of support; they decided to join pastor Li on his 2,000-mile journey to Heilongjiang, where they would perhaps be able to visit him occasionally, and would be close by should he be miraculously released. They sold everything they owned and bought tickets for the week-long rail journey. When they arrived, they used old boards and a tarpaulin to build a rickety hut on the road to the labor camp. Pastor Li worked as a slave for 14 hours every day, with miserable food, in temperatures well below freezing. He died after three months. When the family heard the news, they were desperate and deeply depressed. His wife saw no future, and wanted to die. She neglected the children terribly. Finally, she told the children that she would have to look for a job. The eldest daughter said “No, mother, you cannot go to work. The baby needs you. He cries for you the whole day long. I will go to work.” The 12-year-old girl went to the Director of the labor camp, and told him “My father was sent to this God-forsaken place because of his love for Jesus Christ. That was his only crime. He was a good man, who loved people and helped them. Now he is dead, and we have no food, no money and no place to live. We can’t even return to the south. I would like to know whether there is some work I could do in the camp.” The Director remembered pastor Li, and recognized the girl as his daughter. He gave in to the tiny glimmer of compassion in his heart, and said “I have a job for you, but it is boring, and pays badly.” She took the job immediately.
The Director took her to the place where 3,000 prisoners worked in the iron ore mine. He asked her “Do you see that red button? Your job is to stand next to the button all day, and if someone tells you to press it, you must do so immediately. That is the alarm button, which sets off a siren deep underground. When they hear the siren, the miners get out as fast as they can. You must never press the button by accident, but only when one of us tells you to.” So little Sister Li stood next to the button day for day, week for week. She and her family were overjoyed when she was paid for the first time, although it was only a few dollars. One afternoon, she suddenly heard a voice saying “Press the button!” She turned around, trying to find out who had spoken, but there was nobody there. She heard the same voice again a few moments later, saying “Quickly! Press the button, now!” There was still nobody to be seen, and she started to think she was losing her mind. She should only press the button in an emergency, and everything looked normal. Seconds later, she heard the voice again, saying “Sister Li, press the button, now!” with great urgency. Only then did she realize that it was her Lord speaking to her. She did not understand why she should press the button, but she knew she had to obey. The siren sounded, and 3,000 men came up to the surface as fast as they could, confused and curious to find out what had happened. The Director came running out of his office, demanding to know why she had pressed the button. Only a few moments after the last prisoner had left the mine, the area was shaken by a large earthquake. The whole mine collapsed, and nobody has been able to return to it to this day. An eerie silence spread when the earthquake was over, everyone looking at the fragile figure who had pressed the red button. Finally, the Director managed to ask “Comrade Li, how... how did you know that you had to press the red button?” Li answered as loud as she could, saying “The Lord Jesus Christ told me to press the red button. He told me three times before I did it. Jesus Christ is the only way you can come to know the true and living God. He loves you, and has just demonstrated his love by saving your lives. You must turn from your sins and give your lives to him!” All 3,000 prisoners and the director knelt and prayed that Jesus would forgive them and come to live in their hearts. (Source: Asia Harvest Newsletter #80,

God wants to use each of us.  The power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you and I.

Some may become great evangelists like Billy Graham. 
Others of us might only push a button.  Some may lay a hand on a sick person and pray.  Others might start by going out to coffee with a friend and just listening.
God wants to work.  Will you let Him?  Will you yield yourself to Him?