Psalm 91:9-13; Mark 16:17, 18
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Above is a photo of the Codex Sinaiticus, one of the two oldest and most complete manuscripts of the complete Bible! The word Codex means that the manuscript is in book form instead of written on a scroll. We will see more of the significance of this ancient copy of the Bible in a moment.
The second featured Scripture of God’s Protection is Mark 16:17 and 18:
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My [Jesus’] name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink any- thing deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
This Scripture is controversial because some scholars say the whole section of Mark 16:9 through 20 was not in the original Biblical autographs (manuscripts), while others say those twelve verses belong there. Here is the note in the New Scofield Reference Bible concerning this section:
Verses 9–20 [of Mark 16] are not found in the two most ancient mss. [manuscripts], the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus; others have them with partial omissions and variations. But the passage is quoted by Irenaeus and Hippolytus in the second or third cen- turies.
Here is more information on the two manuscripts mentioned:
- The Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in 1844 by Constantine von Tischendorf in Saint Catherine’s Monastery located on Mount Sinai. Written in Koine (common) Greek, it is generally dated to about the middle of the fourth century (350 AD). Tischendorf postulated it to be one of the fifty Bibles commissioned by Roman Emperor Constantine in 331 AD. While the entire New Testament is present, there are several parts that are missing or read differently than our modern Bible. One of the main omissions is Mark 16:9 through 20, which includes Mark’s brief version of the resurrection and Jesus’ post-resurrection ministry!
- The Codex Vaticanus is named for its housing in the Vatican since the fifteenth century. It is another Greek codex manuscript containing most of the New Testament (missing is text from Hebrews 9:14 through Revelation, including Philemon). Some scholars consider it slightly older than the Sinaiticus, and some think they are both from Emperor Constantine’s 331 AD order to produce fifty copies of the Bible.
Scofield also mentions Irenaeus and Hippolytus.
- Irenaeus was the disciple of Polycarp who was the disciple of the Apostle John. In 184 AD Irenaeus wrote in Book 3, chapter 10 of Against Heresies, “Toward the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says, ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God.’” (compare with Mark 16:19).
- Hippolytus, in the year 220 AD, wrote Apostolic Tradition. In Book 8, he quoted Mark 16:17 and 18, also alluding to verse 15:
With good reason did He [Jesus] say to all of us together, when we were perfected concerning those gifts which were given from Him by the Spirit, ‘Now these signs shall fol- low those who have believed: in My name they shall cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they happen to drink any deadly thing, it shall by no means hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.’ These gifts were first bestowed on us the apostles when we were about to preach the gospel to every creature, and afterwards were of necessity afforded to those who had by our means believed, not for the advantage of those who perform them, but for the conviction of unbelievers.
- Several other early church fathers alluded to Mark 16:9 through 20.
The point is, the last twelve verses of Mark 16 were recognized as part of the original gospel of Mark at least 150 years before the codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were written!
Why were these dozen verses eliminated from the gospel of Mark? I have a theory why Mark 16:9 through 20 is missing from these two manuscripts! Read again Mark 16:17 and 18 above, noting especially the signs that are to follow those who believe:
- The signs: “…cast out demons…speak with new tongues…take up serpents…drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them…lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” How many of these signs are regularly evident in today’s churches?
- They were evidenced in the New Testament church!
But it takes faith in and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ for these signs to be manifested in a Christian’s life!
A history-making declaration was proclaimed by the Roman emperor Constantine when he issued The Edict of Milan in February, 313 AD. Four months before he had faced Maxentius, who desired to become emperor. Maxentius had superiority of a larger and better equipped army. But as Constantine marched to engage his enemy, he looked up at the sun and saw a cross above it with the Greek words meaning, “In this [sign] conquer.” That night in a dream, Christ appeared to the emperor and explained that he was to use this sign against his enemies.
Many in the empire became Christians! But for many, it was the expedient thing to do! They were ‘Christian’ in name but not in heart commitment!
And so, Christianity was ‘watered down’!
Mark 16:16 describes the beginning of a true Christian life: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
- I do not adhere to the teaching that a person must be baptized to become a Christian. There are historical incidences where true believers were not baptized!
In 320 AD forty soldiers of the Roman Army refused to offer sacrifice to the emperor. As punishment, they were whipped and then sentenced to die on an ice-covered pond in Sevaste (in the modern country of Turkey). If they relented and offered the sacrifice, they would live. Instead they raised a prayer: “Lord, there are forty of us engaged in this battle; grant that forty may be crowned and not one be wanting from this sacred number.”
But one soldier eventually crawled off the ice, only to die of shock when placed in a warm bath. One of the Roman guards surrounding the pond saw a vision of angels ready to crown the martyrs and clothe them with rich robes! When he then saw the one crawling off the ice, he stripped off his clothes and joined the thirty-nine faithful – once again, forty martyrs!
That one was not baptized! But surely he is in heaven with his Lord!
- Baptism should be one of the first things a new believer should do, showing his identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism by full immersion is a beautiful picture of that identification, and water is the perfect medium to show that.
I suppose you could dig a hole in the ground, place the new Christian in the ‘grave,’ cover that one over with dirt, and then dig him or her up again! That would also picture our association with the Savior. But….that buried one just might not be dug up in time!
- “He who believes…will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16). The Greek word for believes is πιστεύω (pronounced pist-yoo’-o), and meaning, “…to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), that is, credit; by implication to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ)….” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary).
Such belief involves giving oneself to the Savior “…heart…soul…mind, and…strength…” (Mark 12:30).
- It means crucifying daily the old sinful nature (self), so the new godly nature can be controlled by the Holy Spirit! (see Mark 8:34-38; Galatians 2:20).
- It means in every decision praying the prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42).
It is that kind of commitment, that kind of faith, that will result in…
...these signs [following]...those who believe: In [Jesus’] ...name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink any- thing deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17, 18).
In order to ‘make Christianity easier’ for nominal believers, it was easier to take Mark 16:8 through 20 out of the Bible (the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus testifying to this), than to train immature Christians “…up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).
All this to say…
cited in Mark 16:17 and 18,
is valid for believers today!