The Cessation of New Testament Supernatural Gifts - Part one
Study 5 - The Cessation of New Testament supernatural gifts - Part two
Study 6 - The Errors of Tongue Speaking
Study 7 - The Error of Faith Healing - Part one
Study 8 - The Errors of Faith Healing - Part two
Study 9 - The Errors of Demon Possession - Part one
Study 10 - The Errors of Demon Possession - Part two
Study 11 - The Errors of Demon Possession - Part three
Study 12 - The Error of Claiming the Gift of Prophecy
Study 13 - The Errors of Claiming 'Words of Wisdom' and 'Words of Knowledge'
Study 14 - The Errors of Claiming the gifts of Discerning Spirits & Interpreting Tongues
Taking up serpents
Able to drink poison
Raising the dead
These four aspects of working miracles were given in the New Testament church, cf. Mark 16:17,18: 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; Acts 9:40: But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
As we have already dealt with the errors of demon possession we are coming to consider the remaining three.
1. The errors of the gift of taking up serpents. Extreme charismatics believe that handling serpents should be practiced today. They base this upon the words of Luke 10:19: 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. Reference is also made to Paul's circumstances in Acts 28:1-6 where he cast off the viper and it did him no harm: And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. 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. 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. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 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.
A man called George Hensley introduced snake handling practices into the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee, around 1910. Hensley became the founder of a modern snake handling movement in the Appalachian Mountains. However, he died from a fatal snakebite in 1955.
In 1998, another snake-handling evangelist, John Wayne "Punkin" Brown died after being bitten by a timber rattler snake at the Rock House Holiness Church in rural northeastern Alabama. Members of his family tried to pass off his death as an heart attack. However, his wife had died three years previously after being bitten while in Kentucky.
In 2006 at a church in Kentucky a woman named Linda Long aged 48 was bitten by a snake at a Sunday service at East London Holiness Church. She died at University of Kentucky Medical Center about four hours after being bitten, according to newspaper reports at the time.
In 2012, a Pentecostal pastor and snake handler called Mack Wolford died from a rattlesnake bite he had received on his thigh while performing an outdoor service in West Virginia. His father had died in the same fashion in 1983.
Is this in keeping with New Testament practice? Most certainly not. Acts 28:1-6 gives an example of what situation this practice might take place in. It doesn't warrant playing about with dangerous animals and using them as a form of entertainment in the Church service. Paul didn't know the viper was in the wood he picked up. Neither did Paul set out to be bitten, it was purely accidental. It is this type of circumstance that this gift was exercised. Like the others it evidently passed away.
2. The errors of the gift of drinking poison. It is worth noticing that there are no examples in New Testament history of any of the Apostles or their immediate successors drinking poison and it not harming them. This is the only special gift that has no example of its usage in the New Testament. This is not to say that it didn't happen at some stage in the early New Testament Church.
Extreme Charismatics have engaged in this practice as well believing that they could drink that which was poisonous to their bodies and survive. Yet again it is a foolish thing.
Christians have in the past died from being given the wrong medication, others have died accidentally drinking something that poisoned their system. Where is this gift in these circumstances?
3. The errors of the gift of raising the dead. Believe it or believe it not, there are some Charismatics that believe they have the power to see the dead raised. Dr. Chauncey Crandall is the author of a book entitled Raising the Dead, in which he explains how this can and has happen. He relates as an example the circumstances of a 53 year old man called Jeff Markin who was raised from the dead by Dr. Chauncey Crandall prayer on 20th October 2006. Dr. Chauncey Crandall was working in the emergency room and this man was pronounced dead. Yet Dr. Chauncey Crandall prayed over him and his life was restored.
If this is possible then these gifts must have continued in the New Testament Church contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. What we believe is not decided by experience or practice or reported happenings. It is decided by what the scriptures clearly teach.
Interestingly, many Charismatics will have no time for their fellow Charismatics who believe in handling serpents, drinking poison and raising the dead. This begs the question: why not? Surely all the New Testaments gifts presently exist, and are to be exercised, or else none of them exist and none of them are to be sought and exercised. We can't pick and choose which ones we desire to have! It is all not nothing!
In going through these studies we have sought to show that these gifts were for the infant stage of the New Testament Church. That when the New Testament church matured [became 'perfect' cf. 1 Corinthians 13:10; James 1:25], and had the complete canon of Scripture these gifts ceased with the dying out of the Apostles and their immediate successors.