Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 8, 1952

"Signs Of Mark 16:17,18"

Felix W. Tarbet, Casper, Wyoming

The mighty works of Jehovah are not confined to signs. Signs merely point the way to things that are more important. As you drive down the highway you observe signs of all kinds. Those signs tell of hotels, restaurants, garages, banks and many other business establishments. The owners of a business expend very little effort and money on signs in comparison to what they spend in the actual operations of their business. The power behind those operations is much greater than the power that is visible in the signs.

We would not detract one iota from the signs which accompanied the believers during the time that the Bible was being written. They were very important; they were profitable; they were necessary. They were signs of the Divine authorship of the words spoken and written by the prophets, apostles and other inspired men.

Moses needed a sign to prove that God was with him. He said: "For they will say, Jehovah hath not appeared unto thee." (Exodus 4:1) God gave him two signs. Moses' rod turned to a serpent when he cast it on the ground, and tuned back to a rod again when he picked it up. His hand became leprous when he put it into his bosom and took it out, and his leprosy was healed when he put his hand into his bosom the second time and took it out. Then God said to him: "And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the latter sign." (Exodus 4:8 — emphasis mine). After this, God even gave him more signs to use in case the first two were not sufficient.

Just so, the apostles needed proof that God was speaking through them. When Jesus gave them the commission to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" he gave them this promise: "And these signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name they shall cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 16:17,18). The last verse of the chapter tells of the command to the apostles being carried out, and of the Lord's fulfillment of His promise in connection with the signs. "And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed."

A study of the book of Acts will bring to light the fact that each of the signs predicted by Mark 16:17,18 did accompany the believers, one or more times, in the preaching of the word. (There is no inspired record of anyone "drinking any deadly thing", but Jesus said, "If they drink any deadly thing". He did not say that they would do so.) All of these things predicted by Jesus were called "signs" by Him. Mark says that the Lord was "confirming the word by the signs that followed." This is all that is ascribed to the signs in this passage.

In view of the opposition that they were meeting as they preached the word the apostles and other Christians prayed: "And now, Lord, look upon their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants boldness to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy Holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4:29,80.)

Thus it can readily be seen that they asked for the "signs and wonders" in connection with speaking God's word.

The people of Samaria had been deceived by Simon. But "the multitudes gave heed with one accord unto the things that were spoken by Phillip, when they heard, and saw the signs which he did. For from many of those that had unclean spirits, there came out crying with a loud voice: and many that were palsied, and that were lame, were healed." (Acts 8:6,7). We can see that the signs, that Phillip did, caused the people to realize that the words he spoke were from God.

In emphasizing the fact that he was really and truly sent from God, or in other words, a true apostle, Paul said: "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works." (2 Cor. 2:12.)

There is no record of the apostles or any members of the New Testament church healing for the mere sake of healing. There are no records of their performing any other miracles except to bear witness to or to confirm the word.

God can answer the prayer of a Christian for his daily bread without miraculously putting a loaf of bread on his table. He can answer that prayer through the ordinary processes of nature. Jehovah can, and does, answer the prayers of Christians in behalf of the sick and injured. But He is not forced to perform miracles to heal the sick and make the lame walk. He can work through the natural powers which He, Himself, created.

If a person believes the Bible, he has no need whatsoever for a miracle or a sign. Miracles, or signs, were for the benefit of unbelievers, not believers. "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to the unbelieving." (1 Cor. 14:22). Those who clamor for miraculous signs, today, are insulted if called "unbelievers". No believers are made, today, by the so-called miraculous signs. They believe (in the signs) first, and then they see (?) the signs.

(to be continued)