Friday, August 19, 2005

Rethinking Basic Discipleship

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature … And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:15-18)
The Lord Jesus gave this commission to His disciples, and it is all part and parcel of preaching the Gospel — the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Notice first that there signs which will follow those who believe. Notice also that these signs will not merely follow the disciples, but will actually be performed by the disciples in the name of Jesus.

Jesus said, In My name they (those who believe) will:
  • Cast out demons.
  • Speak with new tongues.
  • Experience divine protection.*
  • Lay hands on the sick, and the sick will recover.
[*The bit about taking up serpents and drinking anything deadly is not a command to perform, but a promise of protection in case those things should happen. On the island of Malta, while Paul was collecting wood for the fire, he was accidentally bitten by a deadly snake. He should have immediately fallen ill and died — but he didn’t, and this increased his credibility with the islanders (Acts 28:3-6). Early Church history records the incident of a Christian leader who was deliberately poisoned but was not harmed by it.]

If these things are to follow those who believe the Gospel, how is it that so often they do not. We can trace the history of when and how these things began to fall away from the mainstream Church (Francis MacNutt does a good job of this in The Healing Reawakening: Reclaiming Our Lost Inheritance).

A lot of it was given up when the church developed the clergy/laity distinction (readily found in tradition, but not in the Bible). Only a special class of Christian was considered fit to pursue these ministries, and they pursued the less and less. When pride set in, they were not able to perform them even when they tried.

So there was a drought of these signs, but not a complete absence. They still turned up in many times and places in the history of the church. The attitudes of the institutionalized Church carried over into the Reformed and Evangelical Church and the signs were absent in these churches as well, not altogether, but to a significant degree.

Another reason for the lack is that the Gospel has often been limited, in modern Reformed and Evangelical churches, to salvation from sin. But Jesus never did this. Everywhere He went, He was always teaching and preaching the kingdom of God, casting out demons and healing all kinds of sickness and disease. Even His death on the cross was not limited to forgiveness of sin. The meaning of “salvation” in Scripture is much broader than that. The Greek and Hebrew words refer to deliverance, healing, wholeness, prosperity, and being rescued from whatever you need to be rescued from. And the name of Jesus in Hebrew, Yeshua, is actually the Hebrew word for salvation, so even His name includes healing and deliverance.

Is it any wonder then that whenever the Gospel is preached and believed, we should see people healed and delivered from demonic affliction? No, what we really ought to wonder about is when we don’t see those things.

Because of many of the traditions of the Church and the limiting of the Gospel to nothing more than the forgiveness of sins, many Christians have not been taught to expect these signs to follow. In fact, they have been taught to NOT expect them, even to reject the idea that they should happen at all.

Consequently, there is a big hole in their discipleship. For if these things — casting out demons, speaking in tongues, experiencing divine protection, and healing through the laying on of hands — are supposed to follow those who believe, then out not the basic instruction of new believers include how to minister and walk in these things?

Let that percolate a while (or if you prefer — Selah).

The need for these things has not disappeared. The Church has just largely forgotten how to minister them. Isn’t it time to rethink basic discipleship?



Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church
Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit
in the History of the Church

by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.