|Study 2: The Spirit of God
Definition | Inspiration | Gifts of the Holy Spirit | The Withdrawal of the Gifts | The Bible The Only Authority | Digressions (Is the Holy Spirit A Person?, The Principle of Personification, Calvinism, "Ye shall receive the . . . Holy Spirit", "These signs shall follow") | Questions
Digression 8: "These signs shall follow them that believe" (Mark 16:17).
It has been argued from this, that anyone who truly believes will receive the miraculous gifts. However, this proves too much - "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" (Mk. 16:18). This is no promise of things which might theoretically happen if the believer had enough faith; these were sure promises of what would definitely be done by believers. Unless miracles of this magnitude are clearly performed, the promise of this verse cannot apply to us at the present time. You may recall how Paul was able to hold a poisonous snake without being bitten (Acts 28:3-7), resulting in the confirmation of his preaching as being from God.
Of all the charismatic Christians who have claimed to possess the gifts during the past one hundred years, there has been no realistic evidence of such powers being exercised. Unless every believer can and does perform signs of such magnitude, this promise cannot apply today. This leaves us with the conclusion which we have already drawn from our survey of Bible teaching about the Spirit: these miraculous gifts were possessed by the early Christian believers in the first century, but they ceased to be possessed after the New Testament Scriptures were completed.
The final verse of Mark 16 suggests that the miracles "following" those who believed were for the specific purpose of confirming the spoken word of the Gospel: "These signs shall follow them that believe...they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following" (Mk.16:17,20). Once that spoken word was written down in completeness, as we now have it in the New Testament, there was no more need for the miraculous signs to follow those who believed.
Footnote: So widespread are the claims of present possession of the Spirit gifts that in 1989 two public debates were held between a Charismatic Christian Pastor, John Liliekas, and two Christadelphians, Mr. John Allfree and the present writer. The motion was: "Are the Miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit Possessed Today?" Invitations were sent to many churches throughout the U.K., resulting in a combined audience of over 1,000. It is reasonable to assume that the very best 'evidence' for the current possession of the gifts was presented. A transcript of the proceedings is available from: The Dawn Book Supply, 66 Carlton Road, Nottingham NG3 2AP, England.